THE WINTER SOLSTICE (DECEMBER 21, 2012) MARKS THE START OF A NEW ERA
December 21, 2012 marks the conclusion of a b’ak’tun—a time period in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar which was used in Central America prior to the arrival of Europeans. Although the Long Count was most likely invented by the Olmec, it has become closely associated with the Maya civilization, whose classic period lasted from 250 to 900 AD.
Unlike the 260-day tzolk’in still used today among the Maya, the Long Count was linear rather than cyclical, and kept time roughly in units of 20: 20 days made a uinal, 18 uinals (360 days) made a tun, 20 tuns made a k’atun, and 20 k’atuns (144,000 days or roughly 394 years) made up a b’ak’tun.
Maya Date 22.214.171.124.0 (December 21, 2012)
The Long Count’s “zero date” was set at a point in the past marking the end of a previous era and the beginning of the current one, which corresponds to 11 August 3114 BC in the Gregorian calendar. This means that the current era will also have reached the end of its 13th b’ak’tun, or Mayan date 126.96.36.199.0, on 21 December 2012.
The end of the 13th b’ak’tun did not mark the end of the calendar but the start of a Sun or new era. Most major current Mayanist scholars agree that there is nothing in the Maya or Aztec or ancient Mesoamerican prophecy to suggest that they prophesied an apocalypse of any sort in 2012. The Maya did not conceive the end of the 13th b’ak’tun as the end of creation of the work as many have suggested.
Tonalpohualli, Sacred Nahuatl Calendar
In the Nahuatl Calendar that is very similar to the Maya Calendar, the date December 21, 2012, corresponds to the following temporal coordinates:
The tonalli or day sign of December 21, 2012, is Nahui-Xochitl (Four-Flower). The digital (Four) corresponds to the number in the 13-day wheel of time. Xochitl (Flower) is the last day sign of the 20-day wheel of time. This tonalli is governed by Xochiquetzal (Flower Feather). the Protector of Poetry and the Arts. The new era in the Aztec tradition is called Xochitonatiuth (Flower Sun). Xochitl symbolizes beauty and truth, especially that which speaks to the heart who knows it will one day cease to beat. Xochitl reminds us that life, like the flower, is beautiful but quickly fades. Xochitonatiuth announces a new era whose main symbol is Xochitl (Flower), that stands for the best in nature and humanity.
In the Maya calendar the Long Count date 188.8.131.52.0 strongly signifies a new beginning. According to the Maya, the end of the previous era and the start of our current era will occur on a day 4-Flower with the Long Count date 184.108.40.206.220.127.116.11.18.104.22.168.22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.0.0.0.0. falling on the winter solstice, the start of the return of the summer, further emphasizes the quality of a new beginning.
The thirteen day period (trecena) that starts with day Ce-Ollin (One-Movement) is ruled by Tlazolteotl. This trecena is governed by the goddess of cotton and weaving, of sexuality and childbirth, she who is the Eater of Sins and the Mother of all Seasons waiting for us at the end of our life journey. The year in the Aztec calendar corresponds to Ce-Calli (One-House).
Francisco X. Alarcón, award-winning Chicano poet and educator, is the author of twelve volumes of poetry, including, From the Other Side of Night: Selected and New Poems (University of Arizona Press 2002). His latest book is Ce•Uno•One: Poemas para el Nuevo Sol/Poems for the New Sun (Swan Scythe Press 2010). His most recent book of bilingual poetry for children is Animal Poems of the Iguazú (Children’s Book Press 2008). He teaches at the University of California, Davis. He is the creator of the Facebook page, POETS RESPONDING TO SB 1070.
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