Dec. 14 2011 11:08 AM

Breaking down the crackpots’ analysis of the Maya calendars

eddeckersandiego
Edwin Decker
Well, 2012 is almost upon us. On Dec. 21 of that year—according to an interpretation of an ancient Maya calendar—the world is supposed to end. To that I respond, “Thank Christ Quetzalcoatl! It’s about frickin time!”

One of my greater pleasures in life is observing the hilarious backpedalings of certain crackpot prophets when the horrifying doomsday scenarios they champion don’t arrive. A recent example is radio minister Harold Camping, whose explanation for his incorrect rapture prediction was to claim that God was still collecting data. Then he predicted a new, modified rapture date, which came and went without so much as a single frog falling from the sky.

This is why I can’t wait for Dec. 22, 2012. Because there will be not one, but thousands of kooky soothsayers who will have to backpedal like hell once Mayageddon is proven to be horse shit. And I know it’s horse shit for three reasons:

The first is because I’m not an idiot. I realize, as a person with a full-functioning brain, that human beings are unable to predict what’s going to happen when they step out the door tomorrow morning, much less what will happen 5,126 years in the future.

The second is because the Mayas made no such prediction. There are no ancient hieroglyphs, no tomes, nor scrolls, nor scriptures that say, “Homies-of-the-future, beware! The world ends in 2012. Sucks for you, yo.”

“There are no Maya prophesies that seem to claim the world is going to end,” said Dr. Mark Van Stone, an expert in Maya hieroglyphs and author of Science & Prophecy of the Ancient Maya, in a recent KPBS interview. Stone said that 2012 is mentioned only once in any known Maya inscription, and all it says about what will happen on that date is that a minor god, named Bolon Yokte, will float down to Earth and “dress up.”

Yup, that’s what they believed. He was going to dress up, probably in some sort of ritualistic beak-and-feather costume, and prance around like a bird in flight.

And there’s your impending 2012 holocaust: “Oh no, look, everyone! Bolon Yokte has descended upon Earth to set the oceans on fire, unleash a plague of carnivorous locusts and produce a sexy-vampire serial for the Lifetime Channel! Oh, the horror, the horror, the hor—. Uh, wait a minute. What’s Bolon doing now? Is that a Big Bird suit he’s putting on? Never mind.”

The Mayas never predicted an apocalypse. That was our own idiotic, superstitious interpretation of the fact that a Maya calendar “ends” in 2012. And I put “ends” in quotation marks because it’s not quite the right word. “Reverts” is the better word. There are no endings in the Maya calendar. In fact, the Maya calendar is not a single calendar at all; rather, it’s a series of 17 calendars, all of which have different cycles. For instance, the trecena calendar was on a 13-day cycle, the calendar round (a combination of other calendars) was roughly a 52-year cycle, containing the most common calendar, the tzolkin, which used 260-day intervals.

It’s all quite confusing and I barely scratch the surface of understanding any of it; however, for the purposes of this discussion, all we need to know is that the calendar that “ends” on Dec. 21, 2012 (called the long count calendar), is on a 5,126-year cycle, after which a new cycle (or b’ak’tun) begins. So, saying the world will end in 2012 because that’s when the cycle reverts is like saying it will end on Saturday, because that’s the last day of the week.

The third reason I know that Mayageddon will not happen is because the Mayas were morons. That’s right, I said it. And before I get a bunch of angry letters from MLAAD (Maya League Aligned Against Defamation), let me clarify: What I mean is, they were primitives—maybe not when compared with other civilizations of the time, but compared with more modern cultures of, say, the last 1,000 years, the Mayas were dumb as thumbtacks.

Of all the civilizations and religions in history that predicted different doomsday scenarios, we’re supposed to believe it’s these guys who had it right? The same geniuses who believed people are made of corn? The Einsteins who sliced open their penises with stingray spines to facilitate communication with deceased ancestors? The Darwins who drowned pre-pubescent children in order to satisfy a cranky rain god? The rocket scientists who divined the future by talking to birds. We’re talking about the Maya, who hung beads in front of their babies’ faces in order to cross their eyes permanently—these are your go-to guys for credible predictions? I wouldn’t let a Maya pick my next football parlay, let alone when I can safely start maxing out my Visa for an Armageddon credit blowout.

Still not convinced, crackpot prophets? OK, how about a bet? If the Mayapocalypse doesn’t arrive on schedule, you have to dress in a ceremonial beak-and-feather costume and walk around Horton Plaza with a sign that says “Bird brain.” And if the prophecy does come true, I have to give you my spot in the bunker I built when Y2K was upon us. Yeah, I know—silly me. But I was afraid I would get hit by one of those planes that were supposed to drop out of the sky.


Write to ed@sdcitybeat.com and editor@sdcitybeat.com. Edwin Decker blogs at www.edwindecker.com. Follow him on Twitter @edwindecker or find him on Facebook.

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