WISDOM | 2012 Countdown: Thoughts of the Modern Maya
As we draw closer to December 21, 2012—the end of the Mayan calendar—the 2012 buzz is catching fire outside of the blogosphere and spreading to the pages of major news outlets like NBCNews.com. This week, the rainbow colored peacock featured expert Mayan historian and anthropologist Robert Sitler, author of The Living Maya, in its science section. Funny enough, the article is titled “So who believes in Mayan apocalypse? Well, not the Maya.” What Sitler had to say:
Sitler has interviewed a number of Maya people on their thoughts on the 2012 phenomenon, starting about six years ago. At first, he said, it was a bit like asking the average American about important dates in the Julian calendar, the calendar that Europeans stopped using in 1582.
“When I first started going, nobody knew what I was talking about, nobody had ever heard of it,” Sitler said. “That’s because that calendar fell into disuse a thousand years ago.”
But intense media attention brought the calendar back to the Maya’s attention, Sitler said. Out of 100 Maya, he said, “99 of them could care less about any of it,” because they’re busy with their daily lives. But because that culture sees ancestors as a source of wisdom, many Maya welcomed the import of their own history with open arms.
“There are Maya celebrations scheduled all over Mexico and Guatemala” on Dec. 21, Sitler said.
The Maya scoff at the idea the world will end on that date, he said, but tend to see it as the beginning of a new cycle. The importance of this cycle is often tied to the political issues affecting various regions, Sitler said. One group originally from the rain forest sees the new cycle as ending the world of vegetation or requiring some sort of environmental rebalancing. Another group that has clashed with the Mexican government sees the end of the b’ak’tun as heralding their political victory.
In many ways, the 2012 fever echoes earlier writings by outsiders who simply got the Maya wrong, Sitler said.
“It is in many ways unfortunate, I would say. There’s a lot of hysteria, and the vast majority of the information online is simply inaccurate or misrepresents the situation. But there’s very little that can stop that from taking place,” he said. “People believe what they want to believe.”
In honor of doing the right thing and helping combat the misinformation Sitler speaks of, we’re making a long-overdue change to our countdown banner in this week’s post. As was recently brought to our attention via our Facebook page, the stone calendar image we’ve been employing is not in fact the Mayan calendar, but rather the Aztec calendar (How could you do this to us, Google image search!?). As it turns out, the Mayan calendar is made up of a very specific series of glyphs, as you’ll now see in all its factually-accurate glory above.
As always, we’re giving away one 2012 book a week through Dec. 21, so be sure to enter below! (See last week’s post here.)
Photo Credit: See page for author [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons