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Prof.: Mayans Would Be Partying

SANTA FE, N.M. — If you’re reading this after sunrise on Dec. 21, you may have noticed that the world hasn’t ended.

Despite Internet and media rumblings – where do they all come from, anyway? – about the Mayan long count calendar ending with today’s winter solstice, and the world ending along with it, people in the know say that’s a bunch of bunk.

As a matter of fact, if the ancient Mayans were transported to this moment, they’d probably be partying, according to Khristaan Villela, professor of art history at the Santa Fe University of Art and Design. He’s a Mesoamerican scholar who can read those ancient glyphs and has researched that civilization.

“For ancient Mayans, this would be a Y2K event,” he said. “There would be great celebrations, not trepidation, on their part. There would be inscriptions saying, ‘I was there when the calendar change happened.'”

And that’s what it is: a flip of the calendar. Today completes 13 Baktun cycles of 400 years since 3114 B.C.

But it’s a cycle, not an end, Villela said.

“The Long Count (calendar) was a vast time period to anchor the acts of living people,” he said. “Mayans were paying attention to a lot of different cycles.” Their idea of history was cyclic, with time almost folding back on itself like a cloth; we tend to see history as very linear, he said.

They used the Long Count, Villela said, to record events of Mayan elites and the lives of the gods and ancestors. Common people didn’t use the Long Count, he added.

As a matter of fact, Mayans stopped using the Long Count calendar at all after the Spanish conquest in the Yucatan, when they switched to concentrating on 20-year cycles instead, he said.

One scholar is confident enough of the continuation of time and the world’s existence to schedule a January talk in Santa Fe.

William Saturno, assistant professor of archaeology at Boston University, is coming Jan. 24 for a 6:30 p.m. lecture, sponsored by the School for Advanced Research, on “From the Myth of Kings to the Math of Kings: Art, Science, and the Ancient Maya,” at the New Mexico History Museum auditorium.

“He’s an optimist,” dryly joked SAR spokeswoman Jean Schaumberg.

He’s also the guy who led a crew that uncovered a mural, discovered in 2010 in Xultún, Guatemala, that includes calculations of dates 7,000 years into the future, according to a National Geographic report.

So much for the world ending.

The Mayans never predicted that would happen, according to Villela. The 2012 date only occurs twice in inscriptions – one in Mexico, one in Guatemala – in a “by the way” mention, he said.

So why all the hype?

NASA even has put up a website ( rebutting a host of claims about things such as a planetary blackout, a Planet X hurtling toward Earth, polar shifts or major planetary alignments. Not gonna happen, any of it, they say.

Human predisposition?

Humans seem to be predisposed to predictions of the end of the world, often based on certain mathematical cycles, such as our own century or the Mayans’ Long Count calendar, Villela mused. From Christians believing in the Rapture to New Agers reading significance into ancient beliefs, “both are participating in the desire to see a better world,” he said.

And some activities in Santa Fe are focused on, not ending the world, but transforming it to a better condition.

On Saturday, Conscious Evolution Santa Fe is sponsoring an event that will tie in to a worldwide Internet live video stream ( focused on “co-creating positive change.” The local event, which includes meditation, drumming and ecstatic dancing, will be 1-4:30 p.m. at the Center for Spiritual Living, 505 Camino de Los Marquez.

The attention to the Mayan calendar, combined with other indigenous and ancient prophecies, prompted this solstice event, according to spokeswoman Sherrie Moran. The event was prompted by author Barbara Marx Hubbard and her ideas of “a new humanity that is healthy, sustainable and peaceful,” according to Sharon Gonzalez-Alei, organizer of the Santa Fe event.

“It’s to bring people together, to get people to commit to become participants in the co-creation of a new world,” Moran said. “It’s to have each of us individually achieve greater consciousness and awareness. It’s up to each of us individually.”

And this is intended to be a beginning for positive change in Santa Fe, she said, estimating that some 60 to 80 people may attend. “We will look at what is happening in Santa Fe and do brainstorming on creating new things.”

And last Saturday the Oracle Theatre and Santa Fe Performing Arts presented “Birth of Humanity,” what it called “a uniquely Santa Fe experience” with a performance of dance, music, theater and more.

“According to ancient and modern prophecy, a shift is coming for all humanity that will give up refuge, peace, collaboration and an awakened heart,” a news release announcing that event said.

Concerning the modern interpretations of this calendar change, Villela recalled an interview with a traditional Mayan he read reports of recently.

“(He) said, if it allows humans to be more mindful about how we’re damaging the planet, to love one another, it can’t help but be a good event.”