What Did The Mayans Say?
The origins of what is now called the ‘2012 phenomenon’ lie in the Mayan Long Count calendar cycle. The ancient Central American civilization followed a calendar system which spans about 5,125 years starting from 3114 BC and reaches the end of the cycle on December 21, 2012. The Long Count calendar kept time in units called Uinals. 20 days made one Uinal, 18 such Uinals formed a Tun, 20 Tuns made up a K’atun, and 20 K’atuns formed a B’ak’tun. In Mayan legends, the end of an age would correspond with the end of 13 B’ak’tuns. Time would then be reset and the end of the calendar would be of utmost significance. Experts differ in their interpretation of this phenomenon. While some believe this simply means that the Mayan Long Count calendar will reset, others believe that the ‘end of age’ is equivalent of an apocalypse prediction.
In June 2012, Discovery News reported that an ancient Mayan text had been discovered from the interiors of Guatemala. The text confirmed the ending of the Mayan calendar on December 21, 2012. The text consists of a 1,300-year-old inscription and is believed to be one of the most important hieroglyphic finds. The text does not predict doomsday but confirms the end of the calendar.
The association of the end of the world predications with the Mayan calendar date back to the days of Christopher Columbus who believed that his discovery of the distant lands heralded the beginning of the end according to the Mayans. Later, German scholar Ernst Fordtemann interpreted the end sections of the Dresden Codex (one of the oldest written Maya books) to mean that a great flood would wipe out the world and human civilization as we know it.
Apart from the conclusions drawn by believers from the end of the Mayan calendar, a number of Doomsday theories have mushroomed around December 2012.
Astrologers have been in debate for quite a few years now about the date which denotes the beginning of the Age of Aquarius. Some astrologers have suggested that December 21, 2012 may be the date. The Age of Aquarius is said to signify a golden age of innovation, intuitive learning, freedom, and growth with the world turning towards collaborative growth and occult.
Terence McKenna predicted that the 'novelty' or the increase of the universe's interconnectedness over time reaches a point of singularity in 2012. This corresponds with major shifts in world's consciousness and evolution leading up to the end of time. Using this Timewave Formulae, McKenna predicts that the world is likely to end in 2012.
In Hindu mythology, references have been made to the end of Kaliyug, the current aeon, with the coming of God Kalki, the redeemer. Many have suggested that December 2012 may be the time when the God will arrive and the world may disintegrate into apocalypse. Millions across the world believe that the coming of Kalki is representative of a global turn towards spiritualism.
Some believes have interpreted the galactic alignment of earth apocalyptically. They believe that in 2012 the combined gravitational pulls of the Sun and the supermassive black hole at the center of our galaxy, called Sagittarius A is likely to wreak havoc on Earth. Critics point out that such a “galactic alignment” already occurred in 1998 without any disruption to Earth's course.
Another idea that gives rise to the Doomsday predictions involves a geomagnetic reversal - a reversal of the north and south magnetic poles of the Earth. This reversal could be triggered by a massive solar flare, the likes of which may never have been seen. This would release energy equal to 100 billion atomic bombs, they say. Scientists however insist that such geomagnetic reversals take anywhere between 1,000 to 10,000 years to take place and cannot be pinned to any date.
Some claim that a planet called Planet X, or Planet Nibiru is headed on a collision course with Earth and is likely to disrupt Earth's revolution causing a bump or a blast in December 2012. NASA says that any such planet headed to the earth would already be visible to the naked eye and that the existence of such a planet is sheer imagination.
The belief that the world may end in 2012 has indeed caused a certain amount of panic and anxiety in the world. An Ipsos poll conducted in May 2012 concluded that in over 21 countries, 16000 people had been experiencing anxiety over the possibility of the end of the world. Over 20% responses in China, about 13% in Japan, Korea, Russia, and Turkey and 12% in the US reflected the growing fears of the people.
In May 2012, a 16 year old girl from the UK, Isabel Taylor committed suicide over fears that the world may end. In the city of Teresina in Brazil over 100 people joined in for a mass suicide attempt on October 11, 2012, led by Luis Pereira dos Santos.
With 2012 being regarded as a fearful astronomical year, people have turned to NASA for answers. NASA has featured a series of articles called - 'Beyond 2012: Why the World Won't End', '2012 – A Scientific Reality Check', and '2012: Killer Solar Flares Are a Physical Impossibility' debunking myths that the world is about to end anytime soon. “The world will not end in 2012. Our planet has been getting along just fine for more than 4 billion years, and credible scientists worldwide know of no threat associated with 2012”, says NASA. “There is no credible evidence for any of the assertions made in support of unusual events taking place in December 2012”. NASA has also refuted the existence of any planet called Nibiru and the existence of any planet on collision course with Earth.
Doomsday theorists have been pointing to the growing number of natural disasters over the past decade to support their beliefs. Starting from the Hurricane Katrina of 2005 to the Hurricane Sandy of 2012, the major storms of the world have been increasing in there severity and vehemence. The 2011 Great East Japan Earthquake and the 2011 Christchurch earthquake have been among the worst earthquakes. As of November 17, 2012, over 1450 earthquakes (intensity over 5) have been recorded this year.
According to some Doomsday believers, the number of active underwater volcanoes has been increasing over the past few decades. The harmonic tremors of volcanic eruptions are also rising. This school believes that a 74,000 year cycle of devastating volcanic eruptions has begun in 2012. This could also point to the existence of a super volcano, possibly around the epicenter of the December 2004 Tsunami.
Global warming has been on a rise. Doomsday proponents believe that the growing heat and cold waves in different parts of the world point to the beginning of the end. It is believed that the US is likely to face a series of five natural disasters in 2012. Hurricane Sandy is one considered of these. Other anticipated catastrophes include a mudslide in Washington, a tsunami in the Atlantic coast, and a major earthquake along the Mississippi Valley. In the past 2 months the world has seen a quick succession of natural disasters including Hurricane Sandy, Hurricane Nilam, devastating earthquakes in Guatemala and Myanmar. People are growing increasingly concerned about the possibility that this may point to the end of the world.
Preparing For Apocalypse
In early 2012, news reports from the US reported that over 3 million people in the country were preparing for the end of the world. National Geographic Channel ran a series called ‘Doomsday Preppers’ featuring the preparations of some of these people. Websites such as survivalblog.com and december212012.com have been reporting an increasing number of visitors each year. 46-year-old Robert Bast of Melbourne, Australia, has spent over $350,000 in trying to survive the end of the world. In Brazil, the Mayor of the City of São Francisco de Paula, Décio Colla, Rio Grande do Sul, is leading the city in its preparation for the end by building up a stock of food and other supplies. In the city of Corguinho, a special colony is being built for survivors of the apocalypse.
According to some news reports, real estate agents are making a huge profit by turning old war bunkers in the Mojave Desert into luxury living quarters. Indiana is another state where the sales of Doomsday bunkers are at a high. James Rawles, a leading prepper in the US said “Should the worst happen, it's become apparent that the Government can't provide for everybody. And now that realization is becoming more widespread”. The preppers across the world are stocking up on food, often enough to last them half a century, ammunition, water, and all essential supplies. They are also taking survival skills lessons.
In Books, Movies, and Culture
What has now come to be known as the 2012 phenomenon has inspired a number of books and movies in recent times. Graham Hancock’s book Fingerprints of the Gods deals with his interpretations of the Mayan prophecy. The popular 2009 Dan Brown novel, the Lost Symbol alluded to the date December 21, 2012 by featuring a coded number – 24562825. This was deciphered by the Washington Post.
The 2009 film, ‘2012’ was inspired by the apocalypse rage. The film became one of the most successful the year it released and collected gross earnings of about $770 million worldwide. The film’s campaign involved a large number of people from a fictional “Institute for Human Continuity” asking people to prepare for the apocalypse. The promotions were heavily criticized for causing panic.
The 2011 film, Melancholia follows the theme. In this movie by Lars von Trier and Magnolia Pictures, a new planet is depicted as heading on a collision course with Earth. The Road is another such movie. The History Channel has aired series examining the of doomsday theories. These include Decoding the Past (2005–2007), 2012, End of Days (2006), Last Days on Earth (2006), Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (2007), and Nostradamus 2012 (2008).
A number of pop music hits have also been based on the theme. The 1997 Incubus hit "A Certain Shade of Green" by Incubus, the 2010 Jay Sean Hit "2012 (It Ain't the End)”, and the 2011 Britney Spears hit "Till the World Ends" (2011) were all inspired by this phenomenon. A number of advertisements for popular brands have alluded to the phenomenon, more commonly in humor than to create panic.