Analyzing the Mayan Calendar Freak-Out of 2012

Boom. Ahh. Screeching. These are the sounds of human pain, and pain is what every human fears. In modern times, the idea of a doomsday has always been in the mainstream: raptures, meteors, zombie apocalypses. Some have even been made into TV shows. However, there is one doomsday idea that actually had people scared for the date December 21, 2012. What that day meant to a lot of people was the end of the world according to the Mayan Calendar. While many were genuinely afraid of the end of times, most of them were uneducated about what the end of the Mayan calendar actually signified.

The “end” of the calendar is actually not the end of the calendar. The Mayan Calendar has different cycles. For example, the end of the b’ak’tun cycle, the most recent cycle, was December 21, 2012. The entire b’ak’tun cycle lasted for 144,000 days. It was also the end of a cycle of thirteen b’ak’tuns, the beginning of which was on August 11, 3114 B.C.E. That cycle of thirteen b’ak’tuns is called the Long Count, and according to scholars, this literally defined the Classic Period of the Mayan civilization.1

Cubans participating in a ritual | Courtesy of AFP/Getty, from The Telegraph

Since the end of the b’ak’tun cycle and the Long Count cycle both coincided on the winter solstice of 2012, many people thought the sun would also align with the equator for the first time in 26,000 years.2 This eventually caused widespread panic; however, there actually was nothing to worry about. Since many people did not know that the end of the calendar only signified the end of a period, they began to freak out as the Gregorian calendar reached closer to that December 21. They began protesting, screaming at everyone “the end is near,” and some people even began stockpiling candles and essentials, and survival shelter sales were ever increasing.3 People then waited, and waited. Finally, the day arrived… and… nothing happened. People were shocked, and life went on. Workplaces and cities kept on their pace, unfazed by the threatening context behind the date.

An Artist’s Depiction of an Evil Mayan | Courtesy of Zuma World

Many people truly believed this would happen: this day meant death and doom, something people have always been scared of. These people were ready to be taken, for many people felt this was a prophecy of some sort. They thought the readings of Nostradamus, the Book of Revelation, Hopi Prophecy, and others had some truth to them, rendering this idea of a calendar prophesying the end of the world realistic.4 Some anticipated some sort of pick-and-choose session where Jesus would come back to Earth to save His people (Christians) and leave the rest behind.

The meaning of this 2012 phenomenon, now a debunked theory, is that people fantasize about a doomsday; they fear it, for they see it as a real possibility because of both their fantasies and the plethora of theories to read about. The idea of an apocalypse will always be appealing to some, for the end of times can show who a person truly is. Since most of this was widespread online hysteria, and not taken too seriously by most people, with hindsight now, we can see that it was clear that “this wouldn’t happen.”5

  1. Robert K. Sitler, “The 2012 Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar,Nova Religio: The Journal of Alternative and Emergent Religions, Volume 9, Issue 3, (2006): 25; V. Bohm, B. Bohm, J. Klokocnik, J. Vondrak, J. Kostelecky, “Dating of Mayan calendar using long-periodic astronomical phenomena in Dresden codex,” Serbian Astronomical Journal, Issue 186: (2013): 54.
  2. Sarah McCarry, “Is the World Going to End in 2012?” Scholastic Scope Vol. 61, Issue 5: 18 (2012).
  3. Nick Allen, Malcolm Moore, and Tom Parfitt, “Mayan apocalypse: panic spreads as December 21 nears,” The Telegraph, (2012).
  4. Carl Johan Calleman, The Mayan Calendar and the Transformation of Consciousness (Simon and Schuster, March 25, 2004), 1-2.
  5. Stephanie Pappas, “After Mayan Apocalypse Failure, Believers May Suffer,” Live Science, (2012).

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58 Responses

  1. I have a vivid memory of the days prior to December 21, 2012. It goes to show that if enough people are convinced by rumors or ideas, hysteria will result. I enjoyed reading the article because it gave me a better understanding of the Mayan and Gregorian calendar and gave insight into why some believed the world was going to end.

  2. I remember the week of December 21, 2012. I wasn’t scared, I was curious. I remember thinking how a race that ancient, one that had no knowledge of space was able to “predict” the end of the world. The news was reporting that people were scared and hoarding food and survivor gear. I never once thought that the end of the world was near. I was scared of the potential harm that could occur when people rally behind something and lose their common sense.

  3. I remember exactly what was going on leading up to this scare. I remember being in 8th grade and giving a care in the world about this so-called end of the world dilemma. I was not worried about it at all because if the end of the world was really happening I wouldn’t be freaking out at all because I know God has a plan for everything and if it was time then it was time.

  4. Reading this article brought back many hilarious memories. I can relate to those people who were not scared or over planning about the supposed “end of the world” in 2012. As messaged in the article, many Christians who believed the 2012 craze, thought that it would be the day that Christ would return. Being a Christian myself, I felt a little embarrassed at that. I’m on the side that believes that no one can or will know the true date or time when Christ returns. Just sharing my thoughts, very good article!

  5. i remember this date very clearly because there was widespread panic all over the place and then the release of the movie 2012 didn’t really help. There was a mix though, some people believed and some people just knew it wasn’t true because of their religious views. this article captured just exactly the feeling of these people was and why there was absolutely no reason to panic. it explained the fear from the people who were experiencing it and the people who were witnessing it.

  6. I remember this day really clearly. I knew it was related to the mayan calendar but I never had any idea about the cycles. I found the article itself a little repetitive yet overall, informational. Who debunked the theory and when would have been interesting to add in there. Or maybe give a little more background on the mayans themselves.

  7. Reading this article it brings back memories from when I was younger and people were going crazy about this so-called doomsday. I find the actual meaning of the Mayan calendar really interesting. The idea of an apocalypse is believable for many people, so I could see how people would panic because of the idea that the end was near.

  8. Honestly, people are way too over-dramatic. But me being a business major, I see the economic effects of this fear, and the ability to capitalize on that market. As the article states, people would be willing to spend a serious amount of money to evade what humans fear the most: death. This is very lucky for the people in the shelter, ammunition, and canned food business, as most fear death.

  9. I thought it was so interesting to read that the mayan calendar had an actual meaning behind it as in it had cycles. Growing up hearing about 2012 I never knew the actual facts to justify the validity of the rumors. So it was interesting to read this article. The picture depicted of an evil mayan was depicted which was an interesting work of art to look at. This article was very informative and to the point.

  10. Reading this article actually brings a lot of memories, I remember I had a friend whose mother really believed that it would be the end of the world and it was really funny to see all the preparations she made. Besides that I totally agree that a great cause for this fear is uneducated people, if people had actually read about it Im sure they would have avoided themselves a huge waste on supplies.

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