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 really enjoyed this article as I remember this crazy event that had people going insane and even build forts. It was so crazy they also have a movie of what could’ve happened. I really liked the descriptive paragraphs that helped me understand a different side and the mains more. Definitely will do more research and look it up on youtube to get more information about 2012 doomsday.

  2. I think this article was a good reflection on what we all can remember as everyone seemed to have some sort of fear in the back of their mind. Personally I didn’t believe the world was going to end on December 21st, and I think that was because I thought to myself “Why would someone pick a day 4 days before Christmas to end the world?” That seemed just rude. Luckily we can all laugh about it now remembering the end of the Mayan calendars cycle on December 21, 2012 as just a small spook.

  3. It was interesting to read an article that started out with onomatopoeia, but I did feel like it was a unnecessary to put it there, and slightly awkward for it to be at the very beginning. It probably would have been better towards the middle of the paragraph. What really stood out for me was the fact that the author used Doomsday as a correlation to December 21, 2012 and they both go hand-in-hand. The use of the Mayan vocabulary words wasa good touch to help the reader understand the calendar.

  4. Ah yes, the “good old days” when I was twelve years old and people believed this stuff. Sadly I was one of them, but I always did question why people kept using the Aztec calendar when they were talking about the Mayans. Surprisingly, I don’t remember many people in the area actually believing in that. I’m very thankful that this article shed some light on the cycles in the Mayan calendar.

  5. I love the way you ended your article. That ” they fear it, for they see it as a real possibility because … The idea of an apocalypse will always be appealing to some, for the end of times can show who a person truly is.” It made me wonder and think about back when 2012 was about to end, people began to act out because “it was the end” but maybe they were just showing their true colors and used “the end of the world” as an excuse to show them. It’s crazy how we all went through this event together but have our own memories of this day.

  6. I remember December 21, 2012 as the last day of school before Christmas break my senior year of high school. It was all anyone could talk about in the weeks leading up to it, and I have to admit that I was honestly terrified. When that day came and passed like any other day I felt the relief and I felt silly for buying in on the doomsday hype.

  7. This article was such a good article that went into detail about the interpretation of the Mayan’s prediction of the end of the world! I remember being in middle school talking with my friends and we truly believed that the world was going to come to an end. Seeing the movie 2012 also heightened this affect. This just goes to show that many things can be falsely interpreted and we must be careful in what we choose to believe.

  8. this article took me back to the sixth grade. I so vividly remember the crazy freak out about the world ending. I remember people saying after the day was supposed to end, they were all saying how it wasnt the end of the calender, just the end of the cycle, like the article states. Great article, just wish it was a little bit longer, with some more information.

  9. I found this article interesting because of how it details the Mayan Calendar scare of 2012. I do not know why a person would believe the world was going to end on December 21, 2012, even though the Mayan calendar was ending that time. I knew some people from high school that were going around, saying the end of the world is coming. Overall, this article was good.

  10. This was a very informative article to read because I remember very clearly that I really thought the world was going to end and I wasn’t ready for the “end”. This interested me to read because not too long ago last year a second doomsday appeared but not too many noticed. It was great to know that it was all a misunderstanding but it shows that we should be careful on what we find.

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