© BY JOHN MAJOR JENKINS
Twentytwelvology. You won’t find it in Webster’s dictionary. Not yet. But believe me, before this decade is out, we’ll have that as well as plenty of 2012 -isms and -ographies.
“The 2012 Phenomenon” was recently the subject of a paper written by anthropologist Robert K. Sitler.1 The sub-title of his paper brings focus to his approach: “New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar.” In his assessment of the writings and statements of popular writers, New Age teachers, and independent researchers (including myself), he sorts the wheat from the chaff and exposes “merely tangential connections to the realities of the Mayan world.” To his credit, he distinguishes the serious work done by myself and Geoff Stray2 from the wild and unfounded speculations of other writers.
Sitler’s area of focus is the Long Count calendar and its 2012 end-date, which is the subject of growing interest and controversy – not so much among academicians, who dismiss it as irrelevant, but among spiritual seekers and people interested in the wisdom attained by ancient civilisations. So, what’s all the clamour and confusion about? What is the Long Count calendar?
The Long Count Calendar
An archeological site that’s been known about for decades preserves an open secret about the culture that invented the Long Count calendar. Izapa, in southern Mexico a few miles from the Guatemala border, was the chief ceremonial observatory of “the Izapan civilisation.”3 It was the transitional culture between the older Olmec civilisation and the emerging Maya, and enjoyed its heyday between 400 BCE and 50 CE. My investigation of Izapa’s carved monuments and the site’s astronomical orientations have revealed a great deal about how they understood the Long Count calendar.4
The earliest monuments carved with Long Count dates were found in the region of Izapa and have been dated to the 1st century BCE. The Long Count notation uses bars to represent 5 and dots to represent 1. Five place values are almost always used, representing the following periods of days:
Kin = 1 day
Uinal = 20 days
Tun = 360 days
Katun = 7,200 days
Baktun = 144,000 days
Thirteen Baktuns equal 5,125 years, which is one World Age in the Maya Creation mythology. The Long Count calendar was recorded on monuments and ceramic vessels for almost a thousand years. Most of the dates refer to local mundane events, like king crowning ceremonies. Some of the Long Count monuments, however, refer to mythological events that occurred at the beginning of the current World Age. Scholars have figured out how the Long Count calendar correlates with our own, so we know that the fabled dawn time – when all the place values were set to zero – occurred on August 11, 3114 BCE. This should be written 0.0.0.0.0 in the Long Count, but the monuments that speak of this date call it 188.8.131.52.0. This is less confusing than it appears, because the two accountings are equivalent. In the same way that 1300 hours (military time) equals 1:00 p.m. (civil time), the Long Count resets to 0 when 13 Baktuns are completed.
This tells us something important about the structure of the Long Count calendar and its chronology of World Ages. Every 13 Baktuns (5,125 years), the Long Count resets to zero. Thus, we should expect that when the Long Count again reaches 184.108.40.206.0, it will reset to zero, the cycle of time will begin anew, and a new World Age will commence. As mentioned, several so-called Creation monuments describe events that occurred in 3114 BCE, during the end-beginning nexus of the previous World Age turnover. The texts associated with these Creation monuments state that “Creation happens at the Black Hole,” at “the Crossroads,” and “the image” will appear in the sky. At that time, a new Solar Age begins and the Sun Lord gets reborn. Creation Lord deities are often portrayed attending the rebirth of the world, including one called Bolon Yokte K’u who is closely associated with God L of the Mayan pantheon.
He is portrayed on the ceramic Vessel of the Seven Lords which contains the date 3114 BCE.5 This doesn’t mean the vessel is 5,120 years old; it simply means that the Classic Period Maya were documenting, around 700 CE, their thoughts about the fabled dawn time.
Mayan Time Philosophy and 2012
Although the philosophy of cycle endings that we find on these Creation monuments refers to past events in 3114 BCE, it can also be applied to the next 13-Baktun cycle ending, which falls on December 21, 2012. Some scholars have been unwilling to accept this analogy, asserting there are no Long Count monuments that refer explicitly to 2012. As we will see, this position can no longer be maintained. Moreover, one scholar understands quite clearly the analogical relationship between the period ending of the previous World Age (in 3114 BCE) and other period endings, great and small, throughout Mayan history: “Zoomorph P and Altar P’ [at Quirigua] were commissioned by Sky Xul as the primary commemorative monuments for his third period ending festival on 220.127.116.11.0 [September 13, 795 CE]. As a celebration of cosmic renewal, the period-ending was considered to be a replay of the events of cosmogenesis, which occurred on 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u [18.104.22.168.0 in 3114 BCE].”6 This means that we can identify a generalised principle of the Mayan concept of period endings: each period ending in the Long Count, including all the various place value levels, were seen to be like-in-kind replays of the great period-ending event that occurs at the end of the 13-Baktun period. As such, the next 13-Baktun period-ending (in 2012) should be a big replay of the events described for 3114 BCE. That scenario involves the rebirth of the Sun Lord from the sky-earth cleft.
The belief that we don’t have “direct statements” about 2012 in the archaeological record ignores the plethora of pictographic images at Izapa that portray a rare celestial alignment that appears in the skies in the years around 2012.7 This galactic alignment is the key to understanding 2012, and it involves the rebirth of the December solstice Sun Lord through the Dark Rift “cleft” in the Milky Way, located between Sagittarius and Scorpio.
It is “the image” that appears in the sky during cosmogenesis. My interpretation of the Mayan 2012 date comes from an interdisciplinary examination of the carvings of Izapa, laid out in my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. The theory has withstood eight years of debating with scholars, and the ideas are starting to seep into general acceptance. I say “seep” because the unaffiliated source of the breakthroughs will probably go unacknowledged.
The process will most likely follow the sequence mentioned by Thomas Kuhn, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions. First, a radical new theory (often proposed by an independent thinker or outsider) will be ignored by the mainstream scholars. Then, as it starts to make inroads, status quo scholars will vehemently criticise and attack it. Finally, after the truth of the new breakthrough is recognised, they will embrace it as if they knew it all along. The three-stage process often takes decades, but may get turbocharged in respect to 2012, since that date looms so close in our future.
Understanding the New Discoveries
My theory about the 2012 end-date finds contextual support in two recent discoveries. One is a Pre-Classic mural depicting the Creation myth and the other is a hieroglyphic text pointing explicitly to the 13-Baktun cycle end date, December 21, 2012.
The Mayan civilisation rose to prominence some 2,000 years ago, in the jungle forests and mountains of Mesoamerica. The Classic Period stretched from 200 CE to 900 CE. However, archaeologists are finding older sites with all the hallmarks of the Classic Period, so the origins of Mayan civilisation are slowly getting pushed further back in time. One of these sites, San Bartolo in Guatemala’s Peten rainforest, preserves stunning murals of the Maya Creation Myth in what has been called “the New World’s Sistine Chapel.”8 They have now been given the early date of 250 BCE.
Realising that the murals were threatened by looters in the area, archaeologist Bill Saturno recorded the paintings by holding a flatbed scanner sideways against the walls and taking over 350 digital scans. They were digitally pieced together to reveal a very early rendition of the Maya Creation Myth, involving five trees of paradise.
The mural is incomplete in sections, having crumbled over the centuries, but two of the Sacred Trees preserve an interesting feature. Toward the base of the trees we can see a paw sticking out. This feature has been noticed on other portrayals of Mayan Sacred Trees, and has been identified as a jaguar paw, perhaps representing one of the Hero Twins, Xbalanque.
“Balan” means jaguar, similar to “Bolon” (“nine”) and the two terms are often used in word puns. In fact, they are sometimes interchangeable in hieroglyphic passages. The two meanings likewise reinforce each other, as jaguars were night creatures ruled by the nine Lords of the Night. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
Another important fact of the San Bartolo Creation Trees is how closely they resemble trees portrayed at Izapa, the origin place of the Long Count calendar. Upon close examination, we can see that the trees combine caiman and tree symbolism, and the caiman’s head is at the bottom, in the roots of the tree. Izapa Stela 25, 10, and 27 all contain this inverted caiman tree, and are widely acknowledged to represent the Milky Way. The caiman’s mouth represents the “Dark Rift” in the Milky Way – the “Black Hole” of Mayan Creation mythology. Likewise, the Bird Deity in the branches of the San Bartolo trees are often found in the Izapan trees, and represents the Big Dipper constellation.9 He must fall from his tree before the Sun Lord can be reborn at the end of the Age.
This simple comparison means the “Creation Myth” at San Bartolo utilises the same astronomical features the Izapan Creation Myth does. Those features are central to how the 2012 alignment of the solstice Sun and the Milky Way was encoded into Mayan myth.
Another new discovery involves the recent translation of a text from Tortuguero, a Classic Maya site north of Palenque, which explicitly points to December 21, 2012. Drawn by Sven Gronemeyer and translated by Mayan epigrapher David Stuart, the legible part of the text reads: “At the end of 13 Baktuns, on 4 Ahau 3 Kankin, 22.214.171.124.0; something occurs when Bolon Yokte descends.”10
Since the verb glyph describing what happens is effaced, scholars have stated that the text doesn’t really tell us much, but in fact it does.
First off, scholars now have to acknowledge we do have a hieroglyphic text which refers explicitly to the ending of the current 13-Baktun cycle, in 2012. Secondly, a usual suspect in Mayan creation narratives is present, Bolon Yokte. This means that 2012 was thought of as a cosmogenesis, a creation or recreation of the world.
I’ve been arguing this for years, debating doomsayers as well as scholars who would like to think that 2012 is irrelevant within Mayan time philosophy.11 But, as expected, we can now see that 2012 is to be thought of as a world renewal.
We can also determine something very intriguing about the name of the Creation Deity who is present in both 3114 BCE and in 2012 CE. Bolon Yokte means bolon (nine), y- (plural), ok (foot), -te (tree). Although bolon means “nine,” the word is a homophonous pun for balan (jaguar). Mayan folklore and hieroglyphic texts often combine the two designations, for dramatic effect or for emphasising how the Jaguar God is one of the nine Lords of the Night (the Underworld).12 Thus, we have an alternate identification for the Creation Lord Bolon Yokte which means something like “jaguar at the foot/feet of the tree.”
Perhaps the plural “feet” refers to two feet: the foot of the jaguar and the foot of the tree. Thus, the jaguar foot or paw at the foot of the Creation tree likely represents the Creation Lord Bolon Yokte. He was present at the last World Age creation in 3114 BCE and he will be present at the next one, in 2012.
But why is he there? Probably because the spotted jaguar pelt symbolises the stars of night, and the mouth of the jaguar represents the Underworld Portal, which is seen in the sky as the Dark Rift in the Milky Way. This “Black Hole” in which Creation happens also represents the birth cleft of the Great Mother, the Milky Way.
In 2012 the December solstice Sun Lord will have shifted into alignment with the Dark Rift, after making a centuries-long precessional journey though the stars of the night sky. The Sun Lord, and the Age, will be reborn.
We now have a Mayan inscription, from the Classic Period site of Tortuguero, that refers directly to the end of the current World Age of the Long Count calendar. The text indicates the event is to be thought of as a world renewal.
The deity attending the world renewal, Bolon Yokte, was present during the previous World Age shift, in 3114 BCE, and he is a guardian of the portal of rebirth at the Dark Rift “Black Hole” in the Milky Way’s “nuclear bulge” – the Galactic Centre. He waves to us, as the jaguar paw, from behind the base of the Creation Tree on the recently discovered Creation murals from San Bartolo.
These are exciting times as we recover the lost knowledge of the ancient Maya skywatchers. Especially so, since the world-transforming renewal date in the Maya Long Count calendar is right around the corner. That ancient wisdom speaks for a grand precessional paradigm, of how we on Earth experience galactic seasons of change, of how our Sun moves into rebirth at the celestial Black Hole at the base of the Creation Tree.
December 21, 2012 signals the commencement of a new World Age, one that has successfully transformed, purified, and renewed the previous cycle of time. An essential component of this is conscious human participation, a willing openness to the process.
As we pay attention to the changes going on around us and tune into our own evolving journey through the 2012 experience of renewal, we all become twentytwelvologists. Not only by having studied it in the primary sources of Maya Creation texts, but by living it.
Let’s convene in 2013 and share what we’ve learned.
Footnotes:1. Robert Sitler, “The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar” in Nova Religio, Vol. 9, Issue 3 (www.ucpress.edu/journals/nr/).
2. Geoff Stray, Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy? A Complete Guide to End-of-Time Predictions, Vital Signs Publishing, 2005. See also his extensive Diagnosis 2012 website www.diagnosis2012.co.uk
3. Michael Coe, Mexico, Thames & Hudson, 1962, pp. 99-101.
4. John Major Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, Bear & Company, 1998.
5. Michael Coe, “The Hero Twins: Myth and Image” in The Maya Vase Book, ed. Justin Kerr, Kerr Associates, 1989.
6. Matthew G. Looper, “Quirigua Zoomorph P: A Water Throne and Mountain of Creation” in Heart of Creation: The Mesoamerican World and the Legacy of Linda Schele, ed. Andrea Stone, University of Alabama Press, 2002, p. 199.
7. See http://alignment2012.com/mayan2012statements.html.
8. William Saturno, “The Dawn of Maya Gods and Kings” in National Geographic, January 2006.
9. Freidel David, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker, Maya Cosmos: Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path, William Morrow and Company, 1993; David Kelley, “Mesoamerican Astronomy and the Maya Calendar Correlation Problem” in Memorias del Segundo Coloquio Internacional de Mayistas 1:65-95, Universidad Nacional Autónoma de México, 1989; Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland Maya, University of New Mexico Press, 1982.
10. See the “Tortuguero” thread at http://groups.google.com/group/utmesoamerica; Sven Gronemeyer’s website www.sven-gronemeyer.de/
11. The argument that a 20-Baktun period has precedence over a 13-Baktun period is faulty. See http://alignment2012.com/app5.htm
12. In fact, Bolon Yokte is associated with one of the three primary gods of the Mayan pantheon, called the Triad Gods. At Izapa, the three primary monument groups are associated with three cosmic centres (zenith, polar, and galactic) presided over by three avatars or deities. For more on the triad cosmology pioneered at Izapa, see chapter 21 in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 and http://Alignment2012.com/bolon-yokte.html.