"END OF THE WORLD, I WAS THERE": THE END OF 5,125-YEAR CYCLE IN MAYAN CALENDAR



MERIDA, MEXICO, DECEMBER 21, 2012 (PHILSTAR) Dec. 21 started out as the prophetic day some had believed would usher in the fiery end of the world. By Friday afternoon, it had become more comic than cosmic, the punch line of countless Facebook posts and at least several dozen T-shirts.

At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thousands chanted, danced and otherwise frolicked around ceremonial fires and pyramids to mark the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.

The doomsayers who had predicted apocalypse were nowhere to be seen. Instead, people showed up in T-shirts reading "The End of the World: I Was There."

Vendors eager to sell their ceramic handicrafts and wooden masks called out to passing visitors, "Buy something before the world ends."

And on Twitter, (hash)EndoftheWorld had become one of the day's most popular hash tags.

For the masses in the ruins, Dec. 21 sparked celebration of what they saw as the birth of a new and better age. It was also inspiration for massive clouds of patchouli and marijuana smoke and a chorus of conch calls at the break of dawn.

The official crowd count stood at 20,000 as of mid-afternoon, with people continuing to arrive. That surpassed the count on an average day but not as many as have gathered at the ruins during equinoxes.

The boisterous gathering Friday included Buddhists, pagan nature worshippers, druids and followers of Aztec and Maya religious traditions. Some kneeled in attitudes of prayer, some seated with arms outstretched in positions of meditation, all facing El Castillo, the massive main pyramid.

Ceremonies were being held at different sides of the pyramid, including one led by a music group that belted out American blues and reggae-inspired chants. Others involved yelping and shouting, and drumming and dance, such as one ceremony led by spiritual master Ollin Yolotzin.

"The world was never going to end, this was an invention of the mass media," said Yolotzin, who leads the Aztec ritual dance group Cuautli-balam. "It is going to be a good era. ... We are going to be better."

Ivan Gutierrez, a 37-year-old artist who lives in the nearby village, stood before the pyramid and blew a low, sonorous blast on a conch horn. "It has already arrived, we are already in it," he said of the new era. "We are in a frequency of love, we are in a new vibration."

But it was unclear how long the love would last: A security guard quickly came over and asked him to stop blowing his conch shell, enforcing the ruin site's ban on holding ceremonies without previous permits.

Similar rites greeted the new era in neighboring Guatemala, where Mayan spiritual leaders burned offerings and families danced in celebration. Guatemalan President Otto Perez Molina and Costa Rican President Laura Chinchilla attended an official ceremony in the department of Peten, along with thousands of revelers and artists.

At an indigenous South American summer solstice festival in Bolivia, President Evo Morales arrived on a wooden raft to lead a festival that made offerings to Pachamama, Mother Earth, on a small island in the middle of Lake Titicaca.

The leftist leader and 3,000 others, including politicians, indigenous shamans and activists of all stripes, didn't ponder the end of the world, just the death of the capitalist system, which Morales told the crowd had already happened amid "a global financial, political and moral crisis."

"The human community is in danger because of climatic reasons, which are related to the accumulation of wealth by some countries and social groups," he told the crowd. "We need to change the belief that having more is living better."

Despite all the pomp, no one is certain the period known as the Mayas' 13th Baktun officially ended Friday. Some think it may have happened at midnight. Others looked to Friday's dawn here in the Maya heartland. Mexico's National Institute of Anthropology and History even suggested historical calculations to synchronize the Mayan and Western calendars might be off a few days. It said the Mayan Long Count calendar cycle might not really end until Sunday.

One thing, however, became clear to many by Friday afternoon: The world had not yet ended.

John Hoopes, an assistant professor of anthropology at the University of Kansas, was at the ruins, using the opportunity to talk about how myths are created.

"You don't have to go to the far corners of the earth to look for exotic things, you've got them right here," he noted.

End-of-the-world paranoia, however, has spread globally despite the insistence of archeologists and the Maya themselves that the date meant no such thing.

Dozens of schools in Michigan canceled classes this week amid rumors of violence tied to the date. In France, people expecting doomsday were looking expectantly to a mountain in the Pyrenees where they believe a hidden spaceship was waiting to spirit them away. And in China, government authorities were cracking down on a fringe Christian group spreading rumors about the world's end, while preaching that Jesus had reappeared as a woman in central China.

Gabriel Romero, a Los Angeles-based spiritualist who uses crystal skulls in his ceremonies, had no such illusions as he greeted the dawn at Chichen Itza.

"We'll still have to pay taxes next year," he said.

As if to put the final nail in the coffin of such rumors, Bob McMillan of the University of Arizona's Lunar and Planetary Laboratory confirmed Friday that no large asteroids are predicted to hit anytime soon.

And Bill Leith, a senior science adviser at the U.S. Geological Survey, noted that as far as quakes, tsunamis and solar storms for the rest of the day, "we don't have any evidence that anything is imminent."

Still, there were some who wouldn't truly feel safe until the sun sets Friday over the pyramids in the Yucatan peninsula, the heartland of the Maya.

Mexico's best-known seer, Antonio Vazquez Alba, known as "El Brujo Mayor," said he had received emails with rumors that a mass suicide might be planned in Argentina. He said he was sure that human nature represented the only threat Friday.

"Nature isn't going to do us any harm, but we can do damage to ourselves," he said.

Authorities worried about overcrowding and possible stampedes during celebrations Friday at Mayan sites such as Chichen Itza and Uxmal, both about 1 1/2 hours from Merida, the Yucatan state capital. Special police and guard details were assigned to the pyramids.

Yucatan Gov. Rolando Zapata said he for one felt the growing good vibes, and not just because his state was raking in loads of revenue from the thousands of celebrants flooding in.

"We believe that the beginning of a new baktun means the beginning of a new era, and we're receiving it with great optimism," Zapata said.

In Mexico, New Agers Hoped Dec. 21 Brings New Era

MERIDA, Mexico (AP) Doomsday hour is here, at least in much of the world, and so still are we.

According to legend, the ancient Mayans' long-count calendar ends at midnight Thursday, ushering in the end of the world.

Didn't happen.

"This is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of the new world," Star Johnsen-Moser, an American seer, said at a gathering of hundreds of spiritualists at a convention center in the Yucatan city of Merida, an hour and a half from the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.

"It is most important that we hold a positive, beautiful reality for ourselves and our planet. ... Fear is out of place."

As the appointed time came and went in several parts of the world, there was no sign of the apocalypse.

Indeed, the social network Imgur posted photos of clocks turning midnight in the Asia-Pacific region with messages such as: "The world has not ended. Sincerely, New Zealand."

In Merida, the celebration of the cosmic dawn opened inauspiciously, with a fumbling of the sacred fire meant to honor the calendar's conclusion.

Gabriel Lemus, the white-haired guardian of the flame, burned his finger on the kindling and later had to scoop up a burning log that fell from the ceremonial brazier onto the stage.

Still, Lemus was convinced that it was a good start, as he was joined by about 1,000 other shamans, seers, stargazers, crystal enthusiasts, yogis, sufis and swamis.

"It is a cosmic dawn," Lemus declared. "We will recover the ability to communicate telepathically and levitate objects ... like our ancestors did."

Celebrants later held their arms in the air in a salute to the Thursday morning sun.

"The galactic bridge has been established," intoned spiritual leader Alberto Arribalzaga. "At this moment, spirals of light are entering the center of your head ... generating powerful vortexes that cover the planet."

Despite all the ritual and banter, few here actually believed the world would end Friday; the summit was scheduled to run through Sunday. Instead, participants said they were here to celebrate the birth of a new age.

A Mexican Indian seer who calls himself Ac Tah, and who has traveled around Mexico erecting small pyramids he calls "neurological circuits," said he holds high hopes for Friday.

"We are preparing ourselves to receive a huge magnetic field straight from the center of the galaxy," he said.

Terry Kvasnik, 32, a stunt man from Manchester, England, said his motto for the day was "be in love, don't be in fear." As to which ceremony he would attend on Friday, he said with a smile, "I'm going to be in the happiest place I can."

At dozens of booths set up in the convention hall, visitors could have their auras photographed with "Chi" light, get a shamanic cleansing or buy sandals, herbs and whole-grain baked goods. Cleansing usually involves having copal incense waved around one's body.

Visitors could also learn the art of "healing drumming" with a Mexican Otomi Indian master, Dabadi Thaayroyadi, who said his slender hand-held drums are made with prayers embedded inside. The drums emit "an intelligent energy" that can heal emotional, physical and social ailments, he said.

During the opening ceremony, participants chanted mantras to the blazing Yucatan sun, which quickly burned the fair-skinned crowd.

Violeta Simarro, a secretary from Perpignan, France, taking shelter under an awning, noted that the new age won't necessarily be easy.

"It will be a little difficult at first, because the world will need a complete 'nettoyage' (cleansing), because there are so many bad things," she said.

Not all seers endorsed the celebration. Mexico's self-styled "brujo mayor," or chief soothsayer, Antonio Vazquez Alba, warned followers to stay away from gatherings on Friday. "We have to beware of mass psychosis" that could lead to stampedes or "mass suicides, of the kind we've seen before," he said.

"If you get 1,000 people in one spot and somebody yells 'Fire!' watch out," Vazquez Alba said. "The best thing is to stay at home, at work, in school, and at some point do a relaxation exercise."

Others saw the gathering as a model for the coming age.

Participants from Asian, North American, South American and European shamanistic traditions mingled amiably with the Mexican hosts.

"This is the beginning of a change in priorities and perceptions. We are all one," said Esther Romo, a Mexico City businesswoman who works in art promotion and galleries. "No limits, no boundaries, no nationalities, just fusion."

Gabriel Romero, a Los-Angeles based practitioner of crystal skull channeling, was so sure it wasn't the end of the world that he planned a welcome ceremony for the new age at dawn on Saturday, when he would erect a stele, a stone monument used by the Mayans to commemorate important dates or events.

The Maya, who invented an amazingly accurate calendar almost 2,000 years ago, measured time in 394-year periods known as baktuns. Some anthropologists believe the 13th baktun ends Dec. 21. Still, archaeologists have uncovered Mayan glyphs that refer to dates far, far in the future, long beyond Dec. 21.

Yucatan Gov. Rolando Zapata, whose state is home to Mexico's largest Mayan population and has benefited from a boom in tourism, said he, too, felt the good vibes.

"We believe that the beginning of a new baktun means the beginning of a new era, and we're receiving it with great optimism," Zapata said.

He said thousands of tourists and spiritualists are expected for Friday's once-in-5,125-years event. "All the flights to the city are completely full," Zapata said.

The Yucatan state government has even invited a scientist to speak about the Large Hadron Collider in Switzerland, to debunk the idea it could produce world-ending rogue particles, a concept popularized by author Steve Alten in his recent book "Phobos, Mayan Fear."

Alten suggests the rogue particles "tiny black holes" could unleash earthquakes that might cause a huge tsunami, but acknowledges that linking such events to Dec. 21 "is author's license."

"It's science fiction theory, I'm a science fiction writer," he told The Associated Press.

The European Organization for Nuclear Research, however, has listed a number of odd subatomic phenomena "magnetic monopoles," ''vacuum bubbles" and "strangelets" that could play a role in the next apocalypse scare.

All of it amused Deyanira de Alvarez, a tourist from Mexico City, as she snapped a photo of the countdown clock mounted in the Merida international airport showing just over two days left to "the galactic alignment."

"My grandmother says that people have been talking about (the world ending) ever since she was a little girl," De Alvarez said. "And look, grandma is still here."


Chief News Editor: Sol Jose Vanzi

Copyright, 2012 by PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE
All rights reserved


PHILIPPINE HEADLINE NEWS ONLINE [PHNO] WEBSITE