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From Wikimedia Commons

From Wikimedia Commons

Yesterday was the End of the World according to many interpretations of the Maya Long Count Calendar.  Sadly (for some) it didn’t happen.  Or did it?

Iz from Wikimedia Commons

Iz from Wikimedia Commons

The Maya civilization is one of the most dramatic, dynamic, and interesting cultures of the AmericasErich von Daniken and Giorgio Tsoukalos of Ancient Aliens fame have drawn a vast amount of information from Mayan artifacts they claim support theories regarding ancient alien contact, asking the question–“Does this calendar prove they knew something we don’t?”  (Giorgio Tsoukalos talks about the Maya Long Count Calendar here)

The 5,000 plus year Maya Calendar, with an ending date in our life time, is a frightening thing.  Were they wrong when the world didn’t end?  Did we get the dates wrong?  I think the answer is “no” to both questions.  The date was right, the world did end, just not the way everyone thought.

Michael Meade is an educator, a storyteller, and a friend.  His work with Mythic Journeys and Mosaic Voices is inspiring, and he is an active proponent for the necessity of myth and imagination in our human make up.  His book Why the World Doesn’t End speaks to these ideas, and he talks about his book here.  Our expectation for an apocalypse or doomsday is a very human desire to hope for an end of trauma, crisis, or misery, and marks an awareness of the cycle of renewal.  He draws from his extensive knowledge and work with faith traditions and myth cycles from around the world, but I know another who works specifically with Maya traditions.

Codex VitreumPhotographed by Hawkinson Photography

Codex Vitreum
Photographed by Hawkinson Photography

A friend and mentor, Dr. Allen J. Christenson is an expert on Maya language, traditions, and beliefs.  Several years ago I was in a class of his at BYU, and made a glass book reflecting on what we were learning.  Our class was rather concerned about the Maya End of Days, and he was able to articulate context and meaning behind the calendar.  As a translator of the Popol Vuh:  The Sacred Book of the Maya, we figured he knew what he was talking about.

The calendar wound up yesterday, and the world did end.  But Michael Meade is also right.  According to Dr. Christenson, the Mayan world is in a continuous cycle of ending and rebirth.  Every time the sun goes down, the world ends, and with every dawn it is reborn.  The world ended yesterday, and it was also reborn.  And not merely figuratively.  As Christians, we take the idea of the rebirth of baptism very seriously–the old person dies and is washed away, and a new person emerges.  Dr. Christenson explained that this is very similar to how Maya view the end of the world, and the rest of us should learn something from it.

We are fraught with terrible dooms from all sides–climate change, nuclear threats, economic collapse, rampant waste and pollution.  Just as a life-changing event (like baptism for a Christian) provides an ideal point to begin a new life, the end of the world is a perfect opportunity for a new beginning.  Like the mother of all New Year’s Resolutions, but ones we actually intend to keep.

Yes the world ended, but it began again–and it’s up to all of us to make it new.