2012 - Science Or Superstition?/Segment/8

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The Long Count Calendar and the Galactic Alignment

JMJ: There are still daykeepers that are following in an unbroken way, the ancient Tzolk'in calendar. However, there is another calendar, the Long Count, that basically fell into disuse over eight centuries ago. This is the calendar that gives us the 2012 end date. In the Long Count calendar there are cycles, and the longest cycle is a period of 13 Baktuns, which is a period of 5,125 years. This 13-Baktun cycle was conceived of by the Maya as one world age. So it's a key to the Mayan doctrine of world ages that we find in the creation mythology. And scholars now know how to correlate the Maya calendar with our own calendar. We know that the 13-Baktun cycle end date falls precisely on December 21st of 2012. [Talk]

AM: The Long Count develops to a much greater degree in some sites, to lesser degree in others. Some sites will only utilise the 260-day count and most of their hieroglyphic inscriptions to not incorporate the long count. Other sites will develop more complex cycles, such as the 819-day cycle that Palenque developed. The calendar is manipulated and utilised in different sites to a different degree, but we can say that throughout the Mayan world that system was prevalent during the middle-to-late classic period, it being abandoned shortly after the decline and subsequent abandonment of some of these great sites. [Talk]

JMJ: Why did the Maya pick 2012 to end this vast cycle of 13 Bakuns? For the Maya, the important thing always happens at the end of the cycle. So at the end of the cycle you have this galactic alignment. Now, my approach to the galactic alignment has been to look into the Maya traditions, and try to understand how the Maya encoded this galactic alignment into their core traditions, such as the Maya creation mythology, the ballgame symbolism, other Maya traditions, such as the king-making ceremonies, and what I found is that the December solstice Sun and the Milky Way, and these different astronomical features that are involved in the galactic alignment. For example, there's a feature called the dark rift, the great cleft in the Milky Way. This is precisely where the December solstice Sun is going to be converging with the Milky Way - at the dark rift. These astronomical features are front and center in the Maya creation mythology. [Talk]

AM: For a long time already we've been aware that the fundamental aspects of the epigraphy and the writing system of the Maya involved calculations of time and those were determined to be related to astronomical cycles. So we understand that from a very early time astronomy was very influential in the creation of an ideology. [Talk]

JMJ: One of the ways that the ancient Maya encoded their understanding of cosmology including precession and including the galactic alignment was through mystery play. For example, the mystery play of the Maya creation myth. It has to do with the ballgame and how the hero twins must kick the ball into the goal ring. Well, the Maya populace could come to see the mystery play and they would observe that and could understand it in the literal way of the play unfolding before you, but to those who were sensitive to the deeper esoteric or symbolic meaning of the mystery they would know that the game ball is a symbol for the December solstice Sun, and when the hero twins are trying to kick the game ball into the goal ring - the goal ring being the dark rift in the Milky Way - the whole mystery play and the ball game is a story that encodes the galactic alignment process. [Talk]

AM: A number of hieroglyphic inscriptions situated throughout the Maya world tell us that the concept of creation was a pan-Mayan phenomenon. Each site, it seems, had their own version of that mythology. In this way we see that there is a uniqueness to each site but still maintain a very strict adherence to a philosophy that was universal. And so, we can say that Palenque, for example, developed a complex relationship to those ancestral deities and a moment of creation, and express it in a beautiful way that was unique to Palenque. [Talk]

JMJ: The Maya have a concept of a sacred tree, or a crossroads. It's basically the cross formed by the Milky Way where it crosses over the ecliptic. The ecliptic is the path followed by the Sun, Moon, and planets. So in the sky you have this cross, also referred to as the sacred tree and it manifests in Mayan symbolism and iconography. For example, at the classic period site of Palenque the great ruler Pacal was buried and his sarcophagus lid has a very famous carving on it, depicting him falling into the underworld at death. He's basically entering the dark rift. So the dark rift is at the centre of the sacred tree formed by the Milky Way and the ecliptic. And it's right there on his sarcophagus lid. The Maya kings were shamanistic. Pacal is seen to be a visionary shaman figure. And the shaman had to journey into the cosmic centre. That's where he was able to retrieve the sacred power of rulership. So that image of Pacal on his sarcophagus lid is not simply an after-death image, it's an image of the shaman journeying into the cosmic center - into the dark rift - to retrieve the sacred, other-worldly powers of rulership. [Talk]

BVD: One of the most important temples ... in Palenque is the Temple of Inscriptions. That's the tomb of the most important king of the city, Pacal. And it's one of the most beautiful temples in all of the Mayan world. [Talk]

JMJ: Going hand-in-hand with visionary shamanism, which was a journeying into the outer cosmos in a spiritual sense, was an interest in the actual astronomical sky. At Palenque, near the famous square palace building, in that complex of buildings there are several very interesting areas that are like courtyards. They are rectangular areas surrounded by walls about three feet high. It's now believed that these were once filled with water, and Mayan astronomers and visionary calendar priests would sit around this, and at night the sky would be reflected in the still water of these rectangular pools. This is how the Maya did their stargazing. It's very interesting because instead of looking up at the sky they were looking down at the sky reflected in the water. Very interesting, because for the Maya, the sky at night was envisioned as the underworld flipped upside-down. So all the stars and planets that are moving around and doing alignments in the sky were actually the activities of the underworld deities. This is a really interesting idea because is shows how apparent opposites, like sky and underworld are integrated in the Mayan concept. [Talk]

2012 - Science Or Superstition?/Segment/9