The Mayan Calendar and the End of the World

About a year and a half ago I sat on a “Pagan Panel” with such luminaries as Selena Fox, Christopher Penczak, Raven Grimassi and his wife Stephanie Taylor, and Damh the Bard (plus a few others whose names escape me right now). I have no business being on those types of panels (haven’t done enough, and this was a year before Raise the Horns was a thing), but I’m strangely good at doing them. I’ve always been a much better speaker than a writer (there’s something about public speaking that captures my sense of humor better than the pixilated page) and it shows in those type of situations.

A lot of times a panel discussion will have a particular theme, or all of the questions will be somehow related, this was one extremely open ended with a wide range of questions. One of those questions was about the Mayan Calendar and how its end might effect us (as Pagans) and the world in general. Let me stress how much I like and respect all of those people, and that I consider some of them friends in a very real sense, but I found many of their answers on the question surprising. Most of them were so serious, talking about “great cosmic shifts” and how the end of the Mayan calendar marked the “start of a New Age” in our planet’s existence. When the panel finally got around to my answer (I was near the end as we were taking turns talking at a long table) I answered the question as honestly as I could with something along the lines of “Well, when December 21st comes around I’ll probably be at the bar.”

To be completely truthful I probably won’t be at the bar on the 21st, but I still like my answer. To me, the real issue is why does anyone really care what the Mayan Calendar does (and doesn’t) say and why does it seem like such a big issue in the Pagan Community? I don’t worship any Mayan gods or celebrate any Mayan holidays that I know of. I have nothing against Mayan gods or Mayan holidays, it’s just never been my thing, and I haven’t met many Modern Pagans* who have made it a thing either. It just seems intellectually dishonest to appropriate one thing from a culture and then nothing else. I’d be OK with someone making a big deal out of the Mayan Calendar issue if their actual worship and beliefs were somehow tied to that culture. It would probably also help if there was actually some truth to the whole 2012 Phenomenon.

It’s true that the long-count of the Mayan Calendar ends sometime in the next few weeks (there is some disagreement on the date), but the Mayan calendar doesn’t necessarily end. The Mayans made reference to dates far past this year’s Midwinter, so they obviously didn’t believe the world was going to come to an end that night. If people want to believe that there’s going to be some major shift in consciousness at the end of the year, that’s fine, but I still haven’t seen anything that makes me believe in that approach. To me it feels like an attempt to attach a degree of significance to something simply because people are talking about it.

I’m not trying to insult the Mayan Calendar, it’s a beautifully complex thing that my math-troubled mind can barely comprehend. There are just lots of calendars out there, and I don’t know why we’ve suddenly decided the Mayan Calendar is the most important of them. Even as I type these words I know that I shouldn’t be surprised by it all. We attach all kinds of significance to the dates on calendars, even though the dates on those calendars were created by human hands, not godly ones. Most of us still remember the hysteria over the year 2000 (I’m so glad I didn’t stockpile any canned goods or I’d still be eating canned peas, which I hate!), and there was hysteria in the years 1000, and 1600, and 1900 too. Humans love hysteria and getting worked up about stuff. If the Goddess has something big planned it could happen at any moment, I don’t think she’s relying on the Mayan Calendar to dictate when our attitudes should change.

As the 21st rapidly approaches I do find myself nominally worried about a few things related to the Mayan Calendar. My biggest fear is that there will be several ironic hipster jackass parties related to the date. If you’re having one, I have ritual to go to that night so I won’t be making an appearance, besides I don’t wear skinny jeans anyways. My second big fear is that the hype around December 21 2012 might revive interest in the 2012 movie, which is one of those “so horrible it’s almost good” type of films. Did you know that John Cusack can outrun an earthquake? Me neither, at least until I saw that movie.

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While I’ve been approaching this whole issue with tongue planted firmly in cheek, it does have serious consequences. There are lots of scared kids out there, and concerns about suicide. The more people fixate on this issue the worse it will get. There’s probably more disinformation out there than real information. Perhaps a ritual asking for clarity and level-headed thinking would be most beneficial. There’s so much worry over impending doom that the official blog of the United States felt that a post was a necessary. Of course the government saying something makes me wonder if something is going on after all (also why does the government have an official blog?).

On that note, if you’re having a big End of the World Party or a Giant Shift in Consciousness Ritual I wish you all the best, but I’ll be celebrating the Solstice like I normally do. There will be a ritual, some presents, a lot of candle light, and at the end of the night a few pints of cider. Happy Solstice or end of the world or whatever else you might be celebrating that night.

*You might be thinking to yourself, “well Jason, Mayans still exist and they are pagan,” and you’d probably be right (though I don’t think they’d call themselves pagan), but I have yet to meet a Modern Western Pagan (the kind that might stumble upon this blog) whose world-view has been overly shaped by Mayan religion or culture. On this blog I also use the word pagan a particular way.

(An earlier version of this post featured a picture of the Aztec Calendar, whoops!)

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About Jason Mankey

Jason Mankey has been involved with Paganism for the last twenty years, and has spent the last ten of those years as a speaker, writer, and High Priest. Jason can often be found lecturing on the Pagan Festival circuit, so you might just bump into him. When not reading and researching Pagan history he likes to crank up the Led Zeppelin, do rituals in honor of Jim Morrison (of The Doors), and sing numerous praises to Pan, Dionysus, and Aphrodite. He lives in Sunnyvale CA with his wife Ari and two hyper-kinetic cats.


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