If you’re reading this, you have likely already noticed that the world has not ended. Were the Mayan’s wrong? Well, not exactly.
While it’s impossible to say with certainty that the world will not end on any given day, there is no reason to believe that this one is different from any other. As it turns out, the “prediction” gleaned from the Mayan Long Count calendar was vastly inaccurate and in fact a gross misinterpretation of the facts.
Imagine an archaeologist from 5,000 years in our future finding your 2012 Cutest Baby Animals! wall calendar and jumping to the conclusion that, since there are no more entries past December 31st, our civilization must have been predicting that the world was going to end. Of course, we know that the 2012 edition of our calendar is not our whole calendar – it is simply a one year chunk of it. We just start counting again at January 1st 2013 and go on our merry way. Happy New Year!
Well, the Mayan calendar works the same way. Check out these articles, here and here to see how the Mayan Long Count calendar actually works. It is actually quite sophisticated and has the ability to count into the millions of years and beyond, just like the Gregorian one that we use.
That said, there is still certain significance to today’s date, according to the Mayans. In fact, today marks the end of the 13th b’ak’tun. A b’ak’tun is a long period of time – approximately 144,000 days – and 13 of them was considered by the Mayans to be the “cycle of creation.” It was this terminology that led to the myth of a Mayan Armageddon. What happens when this cycle of creation is over? Does everything end? Well, in a word, no.
Consider that the Judeo-Christian mythology says God created Heaven and Earth in 6 days, and on the 7th He rested. This gives rise to our 7-day week with Sunday as the day of rest. So then, this “cycle of creation” is 7 days long. But does the world end every Sunday? Of course not, we just start over again on Monday and begin working our way to the next weekend.
The Mayan calendar is no different. Of course, there is much more significance placed on the date because the cycle is considerably longer. Thirteen b’ak’tuns is over 5,000 years, so it’s probably more akin to our millennium celebration of the year 2000. In fact, the Mayans would refer to it as a time of “rebirth” and worthy of celebration. But, tomorrow they will begin counting in the 14th B’ak’tun beginning a shiny new cycle of 13.
So welcome to 188.8.131.52.1, and Happy New B’ak’tun!