2012: The End of an Era

So… 2012 is with us at last. For some of you, it’s just another year, but for others – of whom I am one – this date has been writ large on our consciousness for a long time now.

I can’t remember when I first heard 2012 set as a date apart, but I think it was in the mid 80s when I was a first becoming immersed in shamanic practice, learning the dreaming and all that goes with it. Then, one of my rather more dangerous teachers had been given a crystal skull, although she clearly had no idea what it was for or really how to work with it. Still, it was a cool thing to have on her altar , to scare the newcomers, which really wasn’t necessary: she was far scarier than any lump of carved crystal, however life-like it may have been.


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Growing older, growing up, I left that group and forgot about the Maya and 2012 and became increasingly absorbed in shamanic dreaming, and the Boudica: Dreaming series of novels that both grew out of it and were its clearest expression in the modern world. That was in the late 90s, easing on past the turn of the millennium. If we’ve ever experienced a golden age in our lifetimes, that was it. The world was such a different place then: house prices had not yet gone completely mad (though they were clearly heading that way), global warming was only just beginning to make headlines, and the deniers hadn’t organized themselves into such powerful lobbies, the dangers of the global economy weren’t even on our radar.

In 2006, with the Boudica series finished, I saw an article on the crystal skull that’s in the British Museum and went to look at it, hidden away in a corner, where nobody would ever go if they weren’t not actually looking for it.

I would dearly like to think they’ve moved it somewhere more open for 2012, but doubt that they have.

Even locked in its cabinet, there was a raw power to it that set all my writer-nerves jangling, and brought back the half-memories of myths and legends I’d heard in the shamanic circles with my mad, bad teacher.

2012: THE CRYSTAL SKULL Manda Scott

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But back in 2006, the idea that there was any kind of cataclysmic ending in 2012 was, if not inconceivable, at least very hard to imagine. Reading the Mayan myths, three things became very clear, the first of which was that the Jesuits did way too good a job of destroying the Mayan texts, so we don’t have nearly enough to go on. Of all the cultural vandalism visited on innocent peoples by the hierarchies of power, the Auto da Fe of the Mayans has to rank amongst the most invidious.

But beyond that, what became obvious was that, while the Popul Vuh legends do speak of the various ages of man, and say that each one was destroyed; once by fire, once by earthquake, once by flood, we have no real evidence to suppose that the end of this Mayan Era was necessarily thought to be another wave of destruction.

But nevertheless, it is the end of an era. We may not have much left in writing, but we have monuments with exquisite, intricate carvings and much has been done to increase our understanding of them in the years since 2006. Then, it seemed plausible that the Maya had set 21/12/12 as their end-date of a 13-baktun cycle. Now, it seems almost certain.

Which means, in turn, that the Maya, who flourished in the middle of the first millennium CE, set the zero-date of their (fantastically complicated) calendar back in 3114BC, which makes about as much sense as a Viking deciding to do the same: the date is so far before the beginning of their civilization that there are no records of their having been around at that time.

But the Maya were not the Vikings and while the latter had supreme seafaring skills, the Maya were mathematicians and astronomers of a standard that leaves the rest of us standing. Even leaving aside that they developed the concept of zero long before anyone in the west thought of it, they were also capable of predicting astronomical events to very tight date spans. They calculated the true lengths of the lunar month and the solar year to three decimal places before we knew what decimal places are (and they were right: we found that when we finally developed computers capable of the same calculations) – and they were able to predict the forthcoming ‘galactic alignment’ when the plane of the ecliptic intersects with the galactic centre, in exact terms. The alignment takes place once very 25,700 years and lasts for 36 years within that ‘era’. 21/12/12 is the mid-point of the 36 year cycle.

So that’s the – very impressive – astronomy. The Maya knew these events, knew their dates and set their entire calendar so that it would roll over next winter solstice.

But what does it mean?

Over the next twelve months, you’re going to read, see and hear endless discussions about the implications of the t13 baktun end date. There will be folk plugging everything from the arrival of Planet X, to sun flares, to pole reversals to show that the world is going to fall apart.

You can, of course believe them. If your mind stretches far enough, you can believe them all at once.

For myself, I genuinely think we’re heading for a paradigm shift. We’re either going to fall prey finally to the forces of reaction; the ‘money markets’ and the power-hungry men who drive them.… or we’re going to take a step back, shift from relentless head-mind into heart mind, realise that money isn’t everything, that the 99% function very nicely without the patronage of the 1% and that the ‘Occupy’ movement has, at its heart, the right message: that we need to devise an entirely new way of being; one based on community, on trust, on care, on passion and compassion.

We can only change the world one person at a time, and that person is us. But if each of us makes 2012 the year of our change, between us, we might be enough. Happy Hogmanay, as we used to say in the Glasgow of my childhood. May your New Year bring you all you need, and not everything you want.

© 2011 Manda Scott