Now, you’ve probably heard rumours that the Mayan Calendar predicts the world will end on December 21st, 2012. Today, in other words. But since I’m writing (and you’re reading) this blog, I’m assuming that didn’t happen. Which is no big shock to most of us, especially the Mayans.
In the Western world, we currently use what is known as the Gregorian Calendar. Other cultures, however, have calendars of their own. The Mayan Calendar is all about cycles, and actually consists of several calendars, each concerned with a different timescale.
The Mayan Tzolk’in calendar lasts 260 days, whereas the Haab calendar is 365 days long. These are subdivided into shorter cycles, but also combined to form the Calendar Round, lasting 52 Haabs (which equals 18,890 days, or just under 52 years).
To chart longer periods, the Mayans developed a different (and incredibly accurate) calendar, known as the Long Count, which is also made up of cycles of various lengths. It has been calculated that the start of the Long Count corresponds with August 11th, 3114 BC of the Gregorian Calendar.
One of the cycles within the Long Count is the B’ak’tun, lasting 144,000 days (or a little over 394 years). Today represents the end of the 13th B’ak’tun of the Long Count.
All sorts of significance has been placed on this date, although mostly by non-Mayans. While the end of the 13th B’ak’tun is important to the Mayans, it’s not in an apocalyptic kind of way.
In fact, some Mayan inscriptions mention dates still in the future (one corresponds with October 21st, 4772, for example). Think about it… if the Mayans really thought the world was going to end today, why bother referring to a time beyond that?
During a trip to Mexico last year, we were lucky enough to talk to some actual Mayans. They told us that the whole idea that the Long Count predicts the world ending on December 21st 2012 is utter nonsense. And surely they should know, it’s their calendar, after all.
If anything, this is a time of celebration for the Mayans, marking the start of a new cycle in their calendar – a bit like our New Year, except this event only happens every 394 years! To me, that sounds like a reason for a party, not doom-and-gloom!