When the original thirteen baktuns were created, a war was waged which caused the country to cease to exist. Little by little, however, our enemies came to hear the prophecies of Ahau; but finally even the hope of hearing Ahau is brought to an end, because of the words of opposition. When the need arises for the high authority at the head of the mat to safeguard our children, then we will feel deeply the tragedy of being captives of war; also when we are ordered to obey...
Presently at the arrival here below of a cross of iron, I will suddenly come into your presence. I will be a companion to you in prison. The Nine shall arise in sorrow, alas… And when over the dark sea I shall be lifted up in a chalice of fire, to that generation there will come the day of withered fruit. There will be rain. The face of the sun shall be extinguished because of the great tempest. Then finally the ornaments shall descend in heaps. There will be good gifts for one and all, as well as lands, from the Great Spirit, wherever they shall settle down.
Excerpted from The Chilam Balam of Tizimin, pages 15-16, translated by Maud Makemson, 1951.
Last Updated: March 19, 2012
Although it's unclear how they came by their astronomical expertise, the classical Mayans of Mexico and Central America preoccupied themselves with timekeeping. Like their counterparts in Central Asia and the Near East, they regarded the starry sky as an invaluable portal to predicting the future. The earlier Izapan and Olmec civilizations, which date back thousands of years, set the wheels in motion, enabling the Mayans to calculate the orbits of the Earth, Sun, Moon, Venus and a few other planets, plus all the eclipses in between. Various independent scholars have speculated that the Olmecs may be related to the ancient Egyptians, pointing out numerous similarities in their respective calendars and architecture. Some even suggest that both groups descended from the so-called Atlanteans, who fled for their lives when their mythical island sank in the sea 11,000 years ago.
At any rate, the Mayans' remarkable ability to calibrate the celestial clock generated the prediction that on April 21, 1519, a white-skinned race from another land would arrive from the east like "white butterflies" over the water. Thus, Hernando Cortez and his Spanish galleons were envisioned long before that gentleman had even been born. So how on earth was this stupendous feat of reckoning accomplished?
In 2007, novelist Benjamin Anastas explained in the New York Times Magazine that “Like most pre-modern societies, the Maya conceived of history not as the linear passage of time but as a series of cycles — they called them 'world age cycles' — that would repeat over and over.
"To capture these cycles, the Maya employed what scholars call the long-count calendar, a five-unit computational system extending forward and backward from their mythical creation day. All the current hoopla is due to the mathematical fact that the current world-age cycle on the long count, which began in Aug. 13, 3114 B.C., is about to reach its end, 5,126 years later, on a date given in scholarly notation as 184.108.40.206.0 — which falls, not quite exactly, on Dec. 21, 2012.”
While predictions based on repeating cycles and orbits were an everyday thing in antiquity, the Mayans got down to the brass tacks. They charted the synodic circuit of Venus, for example, to three decimal places. Their astronomers could forecast eclipses thousands of years in advance. They also managed to pinpoint the black hole at the center of the Milky Way more than 1,500 years before the rest of us. They called this region of sky the Dark Rift, or Black Road, and the womb of the Cosmic Mother. When people died, they were said to "enter the road" at this galactic hub.
The "Black Road" of the Mayans.
Of course, it was in 2002 that modern man "discovered" Sagittarius A*, and named the black hole after the contellation in which it resides. Since then, astronomers have deduced that most galaxies revolve around black holes. These powerful vaccuums serve as recycling centers, swallowing up old stars and leaving the younger ones to gather up any leftover gases. According to the scientists, the bright nucleus you see at night surrounding Sagittarius A* is a cosmic nursery. It's an analogy that dovetails nicely with Mayan beliefs.
As for the reason the Maya (or Olmecs) devised the Long Count calendar in the first place, suffice to say that this remains a subject of brisk debate. Most researchers do agree that the 5,125-year cycle encompasses a single "world age", or what indigenous Native Americans refer to as a "sun". Specifically, the Fourth Sun is thought to be ending in 2012, making way for the Fifth Sun. But if mesoamerican legends (like the one told by the Hopis) are to be believed, the transition from one Long Count cycle to the next will not be seamless.
Regardless, mainstream archaeologists discount the notion that the Mayans attached any apocalyptic significance to the end date of December 21, 2012, which is the winter solstice in the northern hemisphere. Many New Age commentators and Mayan spiritual authorities, on the other hand, argue the date augers the start of a profound spiritual transformation of mankind. For some, it's reminiscent of all the "Age of Aquarius" chatter back in the 1970's. For others, a doomsday event must surely be in the works.
Stepping from One Sinking Civilization to Another
While the ancient Izapan civilization is given credit for perfecting the Long-Count calendar around 100 B.C., they likely inherited the science from the Olmecs, who first arrived in Central America around 3000 B.C. According to some investigators, this enigmatic clan first washed up on the shores of the Yucatan about 600 years before the ancient Egyptians built the Great Pyramid of Giza.
An Olmec head discovered at La Venta, Mexico clearly indicates an African lineage. Below, a stela from the same site appears to depict a miner.
The standard line of the western scholars holds that mesoamerican people descended from Asian immigrants who crossed the Bering Straits land bridge during the last ice age. But that theory, known as Clovis-First, has been under attack for years.
Genetic studies and geologists investigating our climatic past suggest there were multiple migrations to the "New World" over a much longer span of time, as well as different entry points. The Maya's own history states that their ancestors crossed an ocean from the east, after leaving a place they called Tulan.
In Book of Destiny: Unlocking the Secrets of the Ancient Mayans, Guatemalan writer Carlos Barrios speculates that Tulan may be another name for Atlantis. It's an idea that would resonate with amateur history detectives. Many believe both the Egyptians and Mesoamericans are descended from survivors of Plato's fabled utopia, which crashed into the sea around 9500 BC. The word "atl", which means water, has been traced back to Central America (and curiously, the Basque region of Spain).
Barrios cites the Mayan holy book known as the Popol Vuh, which seems to indicate that Atlantis lay somewhere outside the Bahamas:
Their passage over the sea when they came was clear, as if there were no sea at all. They crossed over on stones. They came here, and the stones were protruding in a row in the sand... Stepping stones they are called, pulled up out of the sand that path they used to cross the sea, which divided and they came here.
Interestingly, in 1968 an underwater roadway made of stone was located off the coast of the Bimini Islands in the Bahamas. Dubbed the Bimini Road, the discovery was predicted by the American clairvoyant Edgar Cayce back in 1930. Cayce said he expected this revelation to dispel any lingering doubt about the existence of Atlantis. Barrios notes in his book that the earliest Mayan pyramid, known as the Tulum, was built along the shore of Mexico near Cancun, which is directly west of the Bimini Road.
Naturally, mainstream academics are not buying any of this. The road beneath the sea, they maintain, is a natural rock formation bearing no sign of manmade technology.
The Bimini Road
And then there's this anomaly to consider: Stone statues and other artifacts dug up in Mexico indicate that the Olmecs apparently descended from Black Africans. Author Zecharia Sitchin made a compelling case in his popular series of books, The Earth Chronicles, arguing that the Egyptian "god" Thoth was actually a real-life figure. A specialist in calendar-making (including the one we use today), Thoth is said to have sailed eastward along the "ocean stream" after being exiled by the Sun god Ra from Egypt around 3100 B.C.
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Excerpt from the Book of the Jaguar Priest. By Maud W. Makemson.
"The Maya Calendar." By Maud W. Makemson. Astronomical Society of the Pacific Jan. 1947.
"Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Awakening?" By Geoff Stray. New Dawn 11/1/09
"The Final Days". By Benjamin Anastas, New York Times Magazine 7/1/07
"Why the Creation Cycles do not end December 21, 2012, but October 28, 2011." By Carl Johan Calleman.
"The Road to Bimini." By Vanda Osmon.
"What is Galactic Alignment?" By John Major Jenkins.
"2012: End of the 5th Sun." By Will Hart
The Book of Destiny : Unlocking the Secrets of the Ancient Maya and the Prophecy of 2012 (2009) by Carlos Barrios.
The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness (2004) by Carl Johan Calleman
The Maya Cholqij: Gateway to Aligning with the Energies of the Earth (2004) by Gerardo and Mercedes Barrios.
The Mayan Prophecies (1995) by Adrian Gilbert and Maurice Cotterell.
The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology (1987) by Jose Arguelles.
Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman's Path (1995) by David Friedel, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker.
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date, and Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions. By John Major Jenkins.