The Mayan 2012 Prophecies: Fact or Fiction?
“The Mayan 2012 Prophecies: Fact or Fiction?”
By Richard C. Cook
The purpose of this article is to examine the famous Mayan 2012 prophecies having to do with the so-called “end” of the Mayan calendar on the date of the winter solstice, December 21, 2012. Is it also “the end of the world,” a new beginning, or both?
To prepare the ground for our discussion, let’s talk about some spiritual symbolism. A central symbol of Mesoamerican spirituality is that of the feathered or plumed serpent—Kukulkan to the Maya; Quetzalcoatl to the Toltec/Aztec who came later.
These two cultures—the Toltec/Aztec and Maya—merged to build the great city of Chichén Itzá in northern Yucatan around the 9th century C.E. The most notable structure in Chichén Itzá is the famous pyramid temple of Kukulkan.
Of course, serpent or snake symbolism is ubiquitous in the world’s spiritual traditions. In the Bible Jesus says: “Be ye wise as serpents and harmless as doves.” The snake shedding its skin annually symbolizes renewal, rebirth, recurrence, and immortality.
Of particular importance is the image of the serpent swallowing its tail: the Ouroboros. You find this symbol throughout history: in Gnosticism; in Egyptian mythology; and in Mesoamerica. It is a symbol of recurrence; of cycles of humanity and Earth.
You also find the image of the serpent in the writings of C.G. Jung, who wrote, referring to his study of the medieval alchemists:
“The alchemists, who in their own way knew more about the nature of the individuation process than we moderns do, expressed this paradox through the symbol of the Ouroboros, the snake that eats its own tail. The Ouroboros has been said to have a meaning of infinity or wholeness. In the age-old image of the Ouroboros lies the thought of devouring oneself and turning oneself into a circulatory process, for it was clear to the more astute alchemists that the prima materia of the art was man himself. The Ouroboros is a dramatic symbol for the integration and assimilation of the opposite, i.e. of the shadow. This ‘feed-back’ process is at the same time a symbol of immortality, since it is said of the Ouroboros that he slays himself and brings himself to life, fertilizes himself and gives birth to himself. He symbolizes the One, who proceeds from the clash of opposites, and he therefore constitutes the secret of the prima materia which [...] unquestionably stems from man’s unconscious.”
For the Maya, living in a region where large and dangerous snakes abound, including the fer-de-lance, coral snake, and rattlesnake, serpent symbolism was found in daily and seasonal rituals and carved into the very stones of religious and public buildings.
The Maya viewed the serpent’s mouth as the passageway to the Underworld. Rulers and deities were depicted as being born from the serpent’s mouth upon accession to the throne. They had secret societies dedicated to the serpent in which the most profound initiations were given.
The snake conveyed life-and-death powers, the power of deity. As Kukulkan or Quetzalcoatl, it was a culture-bringer and teacher of writing and other civilized arts.
Sometimes the plumed serpent was associated with the Sun, with Maya kings being viewed as avatars of the Sun. Throughout Mesoamerica could be found the belief that at some point in the future the feathered serpent would be returning to restore the Golden Age. At Chichén Itzá, people gather to this day on the spring equinox to watch the Sun form the undulating figure of a serpent as the light descends the pyramid’s steps.
And it is interesting to note that around the time Chichén Itzá was founded in the 9th century a historic figure named Quetzalcoatl appeared in Mesoamerica. As cited in the writings of Gnostic teacher Samael Aun Weor, who was born in Bogotá, Colombia, and spent his mature years teaching in Mexico City:
“In the year Ce Acatl (895 C.E.), in the home of Iztacmixcoatl and Chimalma, Quetzalcoatl, the Nahua Cosmic Christ, was incarnated. He had a mystical and austere disposition. When very young, he practiced fasting and penance. When he was 30 years old, he was named grand priest and monarch of Tollan….Quetzalcoatl taught them how to farm the earth, how to classify the animals, how to carve precious stones, how to melt metals. He taught them about the goldsmith trade and about ceramics. Quetzalcoatl taught them about astronomy and how to use the calendar. He prohibited war. He taught them that they should sacrifice bread, flowers, and copalli instead of humans and animals. He prohibited homicide, thievery, polygamy, and any evil deed among human beings…. Quetzalcoatl talked to them about Ipalnemoani (he from whom we live), about the creation of the world, about the downfall of the human being, about the deluge, about Christ and his Gospel, about the baptism, about the circumcision, and about the cross (symbol of the immortality of life and of the regeneration of the human genre). Quetzalcoatl recommended that crosses be set upon the altars of the temples and in their homes….” (Aztec Christic Magic, p. 19-20)
So where does this take us in regard to the 2012 prophecies?
The Maya had three calendars. One was a 365-day cycle marking the solar year. Second was the sacred “Book of Days” consisting of 260-days, possibly to coincide with the period of human gestation, with the days recurring in 20-day cycles that are used for divination.
But for now we will be talking about the Long Count. The Long Count tracks time from a specific starting point, generally calculated to have been August 13, 3114 B.C.E. in our notation. The Long Count was perfected around 400-100 B.C.E. but was set up to be retroactive, establishing a start date of over 5,000 years ago and ending on the date of the Winter Solstice, December 21, 2012. It is the Winter Solstice when, as with ancient European cultures, the Sun was seen as being reborn. The name for this supreme solar avatar was Ahau, translated as “Captain Sun Disk.”
In Maya Long Count notation, any given day has five numerical designations separated by dots. The Long Count incorporated the concept of zero centuries earlier than its supposed invention in India.
The date December 21, 2012, is so momentous because it is written as 22.214.171.124.0. The number 13 designates the passage of 13 “baktuns” of 144,000 days each—actually 12, because “Day 1” was 126.96.36.199.0. From then to December 21, 2012, is exactly one-fifth of a full solar precessional cycle.
What does this mean? There has been much speculation, but relatively little solid analysis, even among professional Mayanists. The best book I know of on the subject is Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 by John Major Jenkins, from which much of this account is derived.
For centuries after the Spanish conquest, the culture and symbolism of the Maya remained a mystery. At the time of the Conquest, the classic Maya period had already ended. The great ancient cities had been swallowed up by jungle.
What was left the Spanish tried to destroy or suppress while imposing upon the natives of the Western Hemisphere the Catholic religion they brought to the New World. Centuries later, after the nations of the region gained independence from Spain, they too tried to suppress or assimilate the native Maya. Outright genocide also took place even into the 1980s.
But the Maya world is vast and resilient. Today there are seven to eight million Maya living in a large region extending from El Salvador and Honduras in the south, through Guatemala, and Belize to the states of Chiapas, Tabasco, Veracruz, Yucatan, and Quintana Roo of Mexico to the north.
There remains a powerful living culture heavily influenced by the age-old shamanistic spiritual tradition reaching back over untold millennia from its place of origin in Central Asia and Siberia across the Bering Strait down the Western Cordillera and spreading throughout the Americas. But the idea may also be found in literature that Mesoamerica was one of the regions on Earth that possessed a culture left over from the destruction of Atlantis. If so, the peoples entering the region from the less recent Siberian migration may not have found just animals and jungle but also representatives of that residual Atlantean culture.
Today’s popular Maya culture is an amalgam of the ancient teachings, whatever their sources, and the Western conquerors’ religion of Christianity, most particularly Catholicism. There remain native healers, shamans, and diviners, the latter called, significantly “skywatchers.” Westerners have come into the area in contemporary times to study and learn the ancient pathways, and a powerful revival of traditional Maya culture is underway.
“Skywatchers”—what a beautiful term. And it was indeed the sky to which the imagination of the priests, kings, and shamans turned.
In September 2012 I stood on top of the pyramid at Cobá in Yucatan as my wife Karen observed from the ground. Cobá was once a city of 30,000 carved from the jungle late in the pre-Conquest period, roughly contemporary with Chichén Itzá.
Cobá has the second-highest of all the Maya pyramids, of which every city had at least one. The steps are high, and you pull yourself to the top along a heavy rope bolted to the stones.
On top of the pyramid at Cobá is a small room with a single doorway. The room is built of stone with its door facing the front. Over the doorway is a remarkable carving of the “Descending God” hanging upside down as it emerges from the heavens.
There I spent a few minutes of meditation. There were some tourists, but we had arrived early, so the crowds were not yet on-site.
From the platform at the top I could see 360 degrees: a vast expanse of jungle spread in every direction with views unimpeded to the horizon. But as significant was the fact that you could also see the complete sky, from horizon to zenith overhead to the opposite horizon.
With eyes closed, I had a brief vision of an ancient Maya priest. His voice was crystal clear as he told me the pyramid was an astronomical observatory.
We moderns cannot even image the clarity of the view of the sky as seen in pre-industrial times. The air was more clear, with less pollution from automobiles, airplanes, and industry. And there was no modern-day light pollution.
The jungle, filled with wild animals and a vast storehouse of medicinal plants, along with the sky overhead, were the principal objects of study of a culture that has lasted continuously for thousands of years. This may be compared with the brief span of 500 years since Columbus “discovered America.”
In the old days, generations of professional priests—married with families—spent their lifetimes studying the sky. They mapped the sky thoroughly. They studied the positions of the stars and the planets, the phases of the Moon, and the movements of the Sun through the seasons.
It is likely that their perception of the night sky was aided for some by the ingestion of hallucinogenic substances from the peyote cactus and other sources. Additionally, the priests also had knowledge of esoteric meditative practices that they utilized for their own spiritual transformation.
Among these, according to Samael Aun Weor, were practices related to the raising of the spiritualized Kundalini energy from the base of the spine up through the chakras. Weor thus classifies the religion of the Maya and of the Toltecs/Aztecs as “serpentine.”
Another serpentine religion is found in the yoga teachings of India, where Kundalini was also associated with the symbolism of snakes or serpents. Others, according to Weor, were the religion of ancient Egypt, as well as those associated with Sufism, Tibetan Buddhism, and Taoism. Non-serpentine religions are those such as modern Christianity based primarily on rituals and social works. Paradoxically the Christian Bible views the role of the serpent as negative in the story of Adam and Eve.
Also among the Mesoamericans, the priests made a major astronomical discovery—the precession of the equinoxes, which is the circle traced by the Earth’s axis over a repeating period of almost 26,000 years by which the pole star changes continuously and, along with it, the position of the Earth and the Solar System in relation to our Milky Way galaxy.
The Maya had a deep understanding of the influence of the Sun, Moon, and stars which they saw as vehicles of cosmic, or divine, forces. The aspect of deity manifesting through the Sun they called the Heart of the Sky. The Sun showed its highest degree of power when it was at the zenith, directly overhead, which in the tropics occurs twice a year, except at the Tropics of Cancer and Capricorn, when it happens only once.
It was a paradox that the night sky was viewed as the Underworld, as it exhibited those aspects of the Universe revealed when the Sun seemed to rotate and sink below the horizon. It was from the Underworld—the unseen dimension—that birth and creation came into being and to which human souls traveled at death.
A major place of power in the night sky was, to the Maya, the Pleiades, a bright bluish cluster of stars regarded with awe and reverence. Located in the constellation Taurus, the Pleiades consist of several hundred stars, of which six are visible to the naked eye while a seventh is nearly visible.
As with the symbol of the serpent, there is a vast literature on the Pleiades found in the world’s spiritual traditions. To the Romans, they were the daughters of Atlas, the Seven Sisters, including Electra, from which our word electricity was derived.
The Pleiades are mentioned in the Bible and the Koran. To the Egyptians they manifested as the goddess Neith, “the divine mother and lady of heaven.” They were also associated with the Seven Fates who foretold destiny of newborns. The Japanese called them the Subaru and named a line of automobiles after them.
The Pleiades were also the first stars mapped by the ancient Chinese, who called them the Flower Stars. To the Hindus they were associated with Agni, the god of fire. The pre-Christian Europeans saw them as a mother hen and her chicks. They were known to the Maori of New Zealand and the Australian Aborigines. The Khoikhoi tribe of South Africa called them the rain bearers.
In America, there were legends of human-like visitors from the Pleiades. The Hopi of Arizona and the tribes of Paraguay, along with the Australian aborigines, considered themselves direct descendants from these visitors.
The Iroquois prayed to the Pleiades for happiness. According to Crystalinks.com, “One Native American legend ties the Pleiades to the home of a Savior. Some believe that all tribes in North America came from the Pleiades. That they are actually descendants and had been given a task by the Pleiadians to keep the Earth safe.”
Today there are practicing spiritual groups in Europe and America who believe their founders have been visited by UFOs and extraterrestrials from the Pleiades. One such visitor was Semjase, who reportedly spent several years giving teachings to Swiss farmer Billy Meier.
Among the teachers of Pleaidian concepts is Barbara Hand Clow and her husband Gary. She was formerly the publisher of John Major Jenkins’ book. Clow says that she channels Satya, a Pleiadian goddess. A number of other popular books claiming to be channelings from Pleaidians are available.
Samael Aun Weor also writes about esoteric teachings with respect to the Pleiades. In fact he makes the statement in his book The Aquarian Message that our Sun revolves around Alcyone, one of the principal stars within the Pleiades cluster. He says Alcyone has a system of rings through which our solar system will soon be passing, resulting in specific effects including climate change.
With respect to the nearly 26,000-year precession cycle, Weor says further that it is divided for humanity and the Earth into four segments: The Ages of Gold, Silver, Bronze, and Iron. The Iron Age corresponds to the Hindu Kali Yuga, the time of destruction. We are now at the end of the Iron Age, according to Weor.
Returning to the Maya, the Pleiades were also associated with the serpent. In the language of the Yucatec Maya, the word for the Pleiades—tzab—is the same as for the rattles on the rattlesnake.
On the particular species of rattlesnake in Maya land, the snake has a small circle below the rattles that seems to be a face. This, it is said, symbolizes the Sun.
The Maya, like other indigenous peoples, saw creation as symbolic of the omnipresent Spirit that fills the world. So the rattlesnake, which is everywhere in Maya sculpture, mirrors the energy of the sky, including the night sky which, through the Pleiades, is again connected with Kukulkan and Quetzalcoatl. Speaking figuratively, John Major Jenkins says that the Pleiades “took flight” to the zenith where they joined the Sun, their flight like that of a serpent with wings.
But there is more, because the Maya viewed as one of the fundamental keys to viewing the night sky the relationship of celestial objects to the location of the Milky Way Galaxy.
The bulge at the center of the Milky Way, the Galactic Center, is like a pregnant woman and had special significance as the birthplace of souls. Shamans were believed to enter the Galactic Center in trance in order to gain knowledge.
According to John Major Jenkins, “the four-dimensional Maya Sacred Tree is the cosmic crossroads formed by the Milky Way and the ecliptic (the path followed by the planets, Moon, and Sun [in our Solar System].” From this point come the four sacred roads—the Black, White, Green, and Red, also revered by the Sioux Indians of the North American plains. Another name for the Sacred Tree was the Navel of Creation.
The cross itself was a powerful Maya symbol, appearing in its most impressive form in a mausoleum sculpture in the city of Palenque in northern Guatemala. The Franciscan brothers who followed the Conquistadors into the New World saw the cross symbolism as a sign the native Maya had a strong spiritual consciousness. In our day, Maya shamans assert that Jesus and the Christian saints visited their land far in the past and blessed the Maya traditional teachings. A similar account of a bearded white man bearing sacred teachings is found in the legends of North American tribes as well.
But to return to the Milky Way: when viewed in the night sky, it has a dark band shaped like a mouth. At the far end of the Milky Way when seen from Earth at certain times, you will find the Pleiades. At the other end of the starry display you find a constellation that we know in Western tradition as Scorpio, a snake-like creature. So the Milky Way itself becomes a gigantic serpent and again is assimilated to the plumed serpent Kukulkan or Quetzalcoatl. This assimilation of the snake to the Milky Way was also reflected in Maya monumental sculpture.
The dark band, also called the “Great Rift,” is a very dense cloud of space dust blocking the light from the stars behind it. The Quiché Maya call it the “Road to the Underworld” or “Black Road.” The Sun can enter this road and travel to the Underworld to the Creation Place in the Heart of Creation. There is even a suggestion by John Major Jenkins that the Maya symbolism anticipates modern speculation that at the center of the galaxy lies a gigantic black hole.
The Sun will in fact be moving through this dust cloud starting on December 21, 2012. The Earth will remain within the cloud for three to five months.
It is only once every 26,000 years, a periodicity caused by precession, that the Sun lines up in this way with the Galactic Center; i.e., when it merges with the very focal point of celestial power. When we view the Galactic Center as the heart of plumed serpent, we can see why the Maya saw the winter solstice of 2012 as so auspicious; i.e., as the end of one World Age and the start of another—the Fourth transitioning to the Fifth, according to some accounts.
As John Major Jenkins writes, “…the astounding property of the Long Count end-date, revealing how it structures World Ages, is the simple fact that the December  solstice Sun will be in conjunction with [the Galactic Sacred Tree] on the Long Count end-date.”
According to these teachings, there could be no more meaningful and auspicious cosmic event affecting planet Earth and its inhabitants. And it is clear that such symbolism is not accidental or incidental to the Maya. Indeed it is central to their world view. Their whole mythology and cosmology was constructed over a span of untold millenniums to anticipate the December 21, 2012 date.
Now what does all this really mean? Does it mean the end of the world? Or does it means a possibly cataclysmic transition marking a major new beginning?
Granted, these teachings are deeply encoded, at least to Westerners trying to decipher so many mysteries, not only in the silent stones of the endless Maya ruins, but also in the great Maya epic the Popol Vuh, translated so powerfully by Dennis Tedlock. In this book, the characters, such as the Hero Twins, are actually celestial objects like the Sun, Moon, Earth, and Galaxy.
We should also note that there is a very auspicious celestial event that precedes the December 21 date. On May 20, 2012, only three months from today, there is a rare conjunction of the Sun and the Pleiades at the zenith; i.e., directly overhead. But overhead from where? Once again we speak of the pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico.
Not only that but, with the Sun being aligned between Earth and the Pleiades, there is also a conjunction of the Moon. That means, of course, that on that day there is a solar eclipse. This annular eclipse (where the Moon is entirely in front of the Sun though not covering it completely) will travel from China, across the Pacific south of the Aleutian Islands, then down across the western U.S., ending in Texas. Along the way the eclipse will pass almost exactly across the sacred lands of the Hopi, Navajo, and Pueblo Indians in Arizona and New Mexico, including the famed Taos Pueblo north of Santa Fe.
Modern man has largely lost touch with the magical level of consciousness by which the timeless archetypes understood by the Maya take meaning. But whether we understand or not, changes to our world are indeed likely. At the same time, the world is obviously dividing itself between the forces of renewal and those of stiffening resistance and reaction by all social, political, economic, and cultural/religious structures.
Of course, under pressure, that which stiffens and is the least resilient must shatter. We do not know how this will occur, whether the old skin of the world will be shed simply like a snake sheds its skin, or through a more destructive process.
And what do the Maya themselves say?
As quoted on the SERI Worldwide website, Carlos Barrios, Maya elder and priest of the Eagle Clan, says:
“Anthropologists visit the temple sites and read the inscriptions and make up stories about the Maya, but they do not read the signs correctly. It’s just their imagination. Other people write about prophecy in the name of the Maya. They say that the world will end in December 2012. The Mayan elders are angry with this. The world will not end. It will be transformed.
“We are no longer in the World of the Fourth Sun, but we are not yet in the World of the Fifth Sun. This is the time in-between, the time of transition. As we pass through transition there is a colossal, global convergence of environmental destruction, social chaos, war, and ongoing Earth Changes.”
He continues: “Humanity will continue, but in a different way. Material structures will change. From this we will have the opportunity to be more human. We are living in the most important era of the Mayan calendars and prophecies. All the prophecies of the world, all the traditions are converging now. There is no time for games. The spiritual ideal of this era is action.”
Continuing, he says: “All was predicted by the mathematical cycles of the Mayan calendars. — It will change –everything will change. Mayan Day-keepers view the Dec. 21, 2012 date as a rebirth, the start of the World of the Fifth Sun. It will be the start of a new era resulting from and signified by the solar meridian crossing the galactic equator and the Earth aligning itself with the center of the galaxy….
“This process has already begun. Change is accelerating now and it will continue to accelerate. If the people of the Earth can get to this 2012 date in good shape without having destroyed too much of the Earth, we will rise to a new, higher level. But to get there we must transform enormously powerful forces that seek to block the way.”
Carlos tells a story about the most recent Mayan New Year ceremonies in Guatemala. He said that one respected Maya elder, who lives all year in a solitary mountain cave, journeyed to Chichicastenango to speak with the people at the ceremony. The elder delivered a simple, direct message. He called for human beings to come together in support of life and light.
Says Carlos: “Right now each person and group is going his or her own way. The elder of the mountains said there is hope if the people of the light can come together and unite in some way. We live in a world of polarity — day and night, man and woman, positive and negative. Light and darkness need each other. They are a balance.
“Just now the dark side is very strong, and very clear about what they want. They have their vision and their priorities clearly held, and also their hierarchy. They are working in many ways so that we will be unable to connect with the spiral Fifth World in 2012.
“On the light side everyone thinks they are the most important, that their own understandings, or their group’s understandings, are the key. There’s a diversity of cultures and opinions, so there is competition, diffusion, and no single focus.”
Carlos says: “We need to work together for peace, and balance with the other side. We need to take care of the Earth that feeds and shelters us. We need to put our entire mind and heart into pursuing unity and unity now, to confront the other side and preserve life.”
Change is coming, and given the present low level of consciousness of present-day humanity with its obsession with war and material possessions, it could be traumatic. The world today, seen in its broadest dimensions, is presently in a state of collapse as, shown by the horrible fratricidal wars of the past century and many other symptoms too numerous and obvious to mention.
Prophets such as Samael Aun Weor, who studied the teachings of the Mesoamerican cultures intensively, say that the next world will emerge only after terrible cataclysms. But Weor and others add that the seeds of the next era are being formed today by people who are awakening spiritually but who still must face a host of daunting trials and temptations.
So have the Maya, through their calendar, really delivered such a stern message to humanity? I believe they have. Can we continue to live oblivious to this message? That is for each person to decide for himself or herself. But we should be aware that failure to heed such clear warnings could have colossal consequences both individually and for the human race and planet Earth.
© 2012 by Richard C. Cook