Wednesday, December 21, 2011

The Mayan Calendar

It turns out I suddenly find myself needing to know the plural of apocalypse. ~ Buffy the Vampire Slayer
The countdown clock begins today. In just 366 days (leap year, you know) the world is coming to an end.
The Mayans were calendar nuts. They had a solar calender (Haab) that consisted of 18 months that were twenty days long plus a five day festival of human sacrifice to make up the difference. They had a lunar calendar (Tzolkin) that had twenty months with 13 days each that matched the human gestation cycle.

Those two calendars were merged into a 52 year cycle that was used for divination. The end of each 52 year cycle was was a time of renewal when household utensils were destroyed and fires extinguished.

Then there is the famous Long Count Calendar. The basic Long Count Calendar Year is 5,125 years duration. Twenty of those achieve a 26,000 year epoch marked by the full precession of the winter solstice alignment with the galactic center. According to the Mayans there are five such epochs totally some 130,000 years.

The last Long Count Calendar Year began on August 11, 3114 BCE and is due to end on December 21, 2012. It marks the end of the fifth (and final) epoch when the sun at winter solstice will again align with the center of the Milky Way.
A Side Note: 26,000 years ago was the height of the last Ice Age. Humans had recently driven Neanderthals into extinction.
What exactly is supposed to happen next year depends on your imagination. Such Mayan writings that have been translated suggest climatic upheaval. Add the Mayans to the Christian belief that the world has just got to end any day now (Really, it's just gotta!) and Republican certainty that armageddon is better than four more years of Barack Obama. We have the perfect storm for the End of Days prediction business.

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