Deceitful December: Maya mayhem, controversy caused by catastrophic long count calendar

Brandon Bills

Y2K came and went without incident, and hopefully the same holds true for the year 2012.

The Mayan Long Count calendar, the longest of several calendars used by the Mayans, ends Dec. 21, 2012. There is little information available as to what the Mayans believed would happen on this date, but that hasn’t stopped some members of the new age movement from finding the date significant. Many believe some sort of change will occur, possibly a spiritual one. Others believe the world will come to an end.

“This is one stock in trade of apocalyptist religion,” said Barry Crawford, professor of religious studies. Crawford attributes apocalypticism to the human need for closure, resolve and to have questions answered. He explained that apocalypses usually include cataclysm or catastrophe, along with a final judgment of mankind.

People frequently make predictions about when the world will end, but none have proven to be true. When the end of the world is given a date and that date passes without incident, those who made the prediction quickly change their story.

“Usually, people just adjust the time tables,” said Crawford. “It’s hard to keep an apocalyptist down.”

The belief that the world will end in 2012 has quickly spread across the Internet. Sites like seek to make people aware of the coming end, and to sell merchandise. A search of will return numerous books on the subject.

As Dec. 21, 2012 nears, expect interest in the date to intensify. During the summer of 2009, a film entitled “2012” will hit the big screen. The movie is from the director of “Independence Day” and “The Day After Tomorrow,” and stars John Cusack, Amanda Peet and Woody Harrelson.

“Don’t get caught up in it,” said Lori Spurgeon, academic adviser at the Center for Undergraduate Studies and Programs. “It’s a big marketing scheme.”

Spurgeon has had a deep-seated passion for Mayan culture since visiting Mayan ruins in 1979. Since then, she has read extensively about the people. Spurgeon said the end of the Long Count calendar would have been significant to the Maya as signifying the beginning of a new age, but it wouldn’t have signaled the end of the world.

Crawford said that the Maya probably viewed time as cyclical. Therefore, they probably didn’t believe that the world would ever come to an end.

“It could be that the Mayans were not at all interested in a final judgment,” said Crawford.

2012: Fact or Fiction?

Here are some interesting tidbits to keep in mind when deciding whether you believe the Long Count calendar means the end of the world.

According to the Bible, we will not be able to predict the day that the world will end. Matthew 24:36 says, “Nobody knows about that day or hour, not even the angels in heaven, nor the son, but only the Father.”

Many experts say that the calendar isn’t counting down to the end, but will begin a new cycle.

Isaac Newton predicted the world would end in 2060. A book by David Flynn says that his approximations were inaccurate and the end of the world was actually more likely to come in 2013.The poles are predicted to begin shifting in 2012, but this happens once every 250,000 years.

The Earth may cross the galactic plane in 2012, which occurs once in 33 million years.