by Roderick Marling
From the beginning of Time human beings,
from the most primitive to the most culturally sophisticated, have
followed and recorded the natural rhythms and cycles of the Earth.
The intricate dance between the Earth and the other heavenly bodies
has been the source of wonder and amazement giving rise to
innumerable stories and myths all over the world. Many of these
stores are still passed on today.
Ancient people of the Earth were concerned with these natural
rhythms and cycles because their lives and livelihood depended on
them. In certain times of the year food was plentiful in certain
regions and not in others. At certain times the rains would come, at
others they could expect the heat and drought. They also observed
that fertility was somehow linked with the cycles of the Moon.
According to these various cycles of Nature then, people began to
recognize a Cosmos of increasing complexity - repeating patterns and
cycles enfolded within even larger cycles of order. The cyclic
movements of the Sun, Moon, Planets and Stars indicated a Natural
Order to Reality that provided our ancestors with meaning and the
reassurance of continuity.
Heaven and Nature touched every aspect of their lives. Not only did
their astronomical observations indicate when to plant their crops
and when to harvest, but also where to locate their temples, how to
design their homes and even how to orientate their cities. These
people occupied a living and intelligent Universe that governed
their lives. Survival and success then, depended on how well one
could read the celestial signs.
As a brief review of the some of the most basic of these natural
cycles, we will begin with the rotation of the Earth on its axis.
Because the Earth rotates one complete revolution every 24 hours we
observe the reoccurring periods of day and night.
Unfortunately there are surprisingly large numbers of people today
that still do not understand that this daily cycle is caused by the
motion of the Earth and not by anything the Sun is doing. This could
somewhat be explained by the fact that our linguistic customs lag
centuries behind our scientific understanding, and we continue to
speak in terms of sunrise and sunsets.
Be that as it may, the next cycle we will look at is based not on
the motion of the Earth but of the Moon. The Moon revolves around
the Earth every 29.5 days, giving us the concept of the month as it
appears in its different phases from New Moon to Full and once again
back to New.
Then there is the observable cycle of the year, as the Earth dances
around the Sun in an elliptical orbit taking 365.25 days to complete
As people continued to observe the heavenly bodies they also began
to notice that some of the bright lights in the sky moved while
others stayed relatively stationary. These wandering bodies we have
come to know as the planets, and various people all over the world
took a special interest in their particular movement and cycles,
spawning a huge number of stories, myths and legends.
To those early astronomers who kept records of the movement of the
Sun, Moon and Planets one of the greatest mysteries that they
observed was the fact that every year they would wait for the Sun to
appear on the Spring Equinox or Winter Solstice at a specific place
on the horizon signaling the New Year.
Over time they were dismayed to find that the Sun no longer appeared
in the same place it did just 70 years before, but had moved one
full degree (the equivalent to the diameter of the Sun - times two).
This slow movement, called the Precession of the Equinox, causes the
Equinox Sun to appear to slip backward against the backdrop of the
Astronomers have now managed to figure out that the Earth is not a
perfect sphere by any means. It’s actually a bit flattened at the
poles and has a bulge at the equator. As a result, the gravitational
pull of the Moon and the Sun exert an uneven influence on the Earth.
Their gravitational forces try to pull the equatorial bulge toward
them. Because the Earth is spinning these forces make the axis of
the Earth wobble, shifting ever so slowly. Gradually the polar axis
that was at one time aligned with a particular star begins to shift
until it is aligned with another star.
Right now the Earth’s axis at the North Pole points to the star
Polaris – which appropriately we call the Pole Star. But 5,000 years
ago the north celestial pole aligned to the star called Alpha Draconis. Eight thousand years in the future the pole star will be
This Precessional movement then is the
same motion responsible for the shift of the location of the
Equinoxes and the Solstices. The ancient astronomers detected the
long term Precessional motion of the Sun through the backdrop of
the constellations and calculated the length of this Cycle to around
25,600 to 26,000 years.
This means that the Sun that marks the Spring Equinox which now
appears in front of the background of stars in the constellation of
Pisces, in about 500 years will rise in the constellation of
Aquarius. It will continue to shift backwards through the various
constellations Capricorn, Sagittarius, etc., until in about 26,000
years it will arrive back to the exact same point in Pisces.
The understanding of this Precession of the Equinox then gave rise
to the many myths and legends of the different World Ages. As the
Processional movement continued to shift the Equinox into a new
constellation, various cultures perceived this as a New Age or New
World. As the Spring Equinox Sun appeared to rise in the
constellation of Taurus, people perceived this as the Age of the
Bull; the Age of the Ram as it rose in the constellation of Aries;
the Age of the Fish as it rose in Pisces and so on.
At one time many civilizations on Earth were aware of this natural
cycle of the Earth and incorporated it into their cosmologies and
concepts of Time in various ways. Each one reflecting a slightly
different interpretation and meaning, but in their different ways
they all held the Precessional Cycle as involving nothing less than
the Cosmic process of Life’s evolution, subtly influencing all of
Earth’s Life Forms to move to higher levels of organization and
complexity. It came to symbolize the Spiritual Process of Unfolding
Consciousness on our planet.
What is important here is that this belief was actually based on an
observable astronomical cycle: every 72 years the Solstice and
Equinox Sun appeared to move backward through the constellations one
degree - as a hand on a clock indicating the hours of the day. In
this Cosmic Clock however, the hand or marker in motion is the
specific location of the Equinox or Solstice Sunrise, while the face
of the clock is represented by the relatively stationary
constellations of the stars.
With this in mind then, we will now turn our attention to how this
Precessional Cycle became incorporated into the Mayan Cosmology and
how it relates to their long count calendar and specifically to the
Perhaps more than any ancient culture that we are aware of at this
point, the Mayan people were obsessed with Astronomy. Not only were
they able to project their astronomical calculations thousands of
years forward and backward in Time, but developed a recyclable Venus
calendar that was accurate to one day in 500 years and a table of
eclipses that still functions today.
They also accurately calculated
the solar year out to four decimal places. To accomplish these
impressive computations they created a sophisticated system of
mathematics utilizing place value and the concept of the zero. And
all this while Europe was still wandering around in the Dark Ages.
In a complex culture such as we find with the Maya and considering
it spanned a period of almost a thousand years, it is important to
remember that there arose different belief systems at different
times, some of which were coexisting at the same place. Just as if
we were to look at the demographics of say modern New York city, we
would find Jews perhaps living besides Moslems, Protestants and
Catholics - all entertaining different belief systems.
And so it’s appropriate here to limit our considerations of the
Mayan culture to only those beliefs that lend meaning and
significance to the auspicious date indicated in their long count
calendar - Dec.21, 2012.
As we more sharply focus in on this date, we find that one of the
indicators to its probable significance is that it specifically
designates the Winter Solstice. As this is our starting point in our
analysis then, let’s take a closer look as to what this might mean.
First of all it is good to be aware that around the world in various
past cultures, each one designated a specific time to mark the
beginning of their New Year. In ancient Sumeria and Babylon the New
Year began with the Spring Equinox. In Israel the New Year was
gradually shifted to the Equinox in the Fall, while in Northern
Europe, New Year was celebrated at the time of Winter Solstice. We
still observe this particular New Year tradition, but add a few
extra days so that now our New Year begins on January 1st.
In the context of this tradition then, the Winter Solstice on
December 21 was celebrated as the Sun’s birthday. It is the longest
night of the year and therefore the shortest day of the year. It
represented the ultimate power of the dark forces of Nature: the
long winter night when things appeared to be dead and still. And out
of the depths of this longest night the new Sun was born. From this
point on, the power of the light grows in strength and the days
slowly begin to grow longer.
The Winter Solstice then inaugurated the birth of a new solar year.
The Sun appeared to come back from its annual trip to the South and
begins its slow return in to the Northern Latitudes. The sunrise on
December 21 was believed to be like the first sunrise, and the start
of the New Year was in fact a celebration of the beginning of Time.
With this particular context in mind, we are now prepared to examine
more closely the reasons why the Winter Solstice in the year 2012 is
so important. In the Mayan long count calendar a cycle of 5,200
years ends on this date, and it just so happens that it also points
to a rare astronomical alignment. In fact this alignment only
happens once every 26,000 years.
The auspicious year of 2012 indicated in the long count calendar
illuminates the fact that the Precessional movement of the Winter
Solstice Sun will gradually bring its position into alignment with
the very center of our Galaxy.
For the Maya, this is like the last
stroke of Midnight on New Year’s Eve, only in 2012 the New Year is
the New Galactic Year of 26,000 solar years. The Galactic Clock will
be at zero point and a New Precessional Cycle will begin.
At this point you may be wondering what is so important about the
Milky Way and why were the Maya even concerned with it?
Our scientific culture has finally come realize that our planet, the
Sun, and the entire solar system had its origins at the center of
the Milky Way Galaxy. We also have recently found that our Galaxy is
70,000 light years in diameter, with most of its 400 billion stars
concentrated in the great central bulge.
Equipped with ultraviolet, x-ray and gamma-ray instruments, plus
infrared telescopes most astronomers are now convinced that at the
center of our Galaxy is a massive black hole the unimaginable seize
of millions of our suns. This is where Science and Mythology truly
meet. For what the center of our Galaxy may represent in terms of
energy and the properties of time/space, no one has a clue.
But to the ancient Maya the Milky Way Galaxy represented the
Cosmic Mother from which all Life was birthed. They saw our Galactic
Mother stretching out across the night sky and somehow recognize the
place where we all had come from. And the great central bulge at Her
center they perceived as the Cosmic Womb.
Within the central bulge
there is what looks like a dark corridor, known as the dark rift. To
the Maya it was referred to by many names but the most pertinent
here is their reference to this area as the "birthing pace".
beginning to get the picture here?
Considering then the significance of the 2012 date in the Mayan
calendar, it has been discovered that this year specifically points
to a period of time when the December Solstice Sun aligns with and
arises out from the backdrop of the dark rift, the "Galactic Birth
Canal" in the central bulge. It's as if the Sun is actually being
birthed anew from the Galactic Womb.
The Mayan Cosmology was not written in a
book, but in the very stars above their heads. The meaning of this
story was not revealed through the study of obscure interpretations,
but through correspondence of associations assigned to the
individual parts in the story.
All we need to do is recognize those
original associations and the story unfolds all by itself. Just as
in our culture we have built up associations between the Winter
Solstice, the New Year and the birth of Jesus Christ "the Son of
God" who came into this world as "a savior of mankind".
With the Maya we have discovered another story associated with the
Winter Solstice, the New Year and the fate of people on Earth. The astronomical alignment of the Precessional Cycle of the Winter
Solstice and Galactic Center represents the "Zero Point" on the
Cosmic Clock, thus marking the beginning of the New Age in our
evolutionary journey in consciousness. It tells us that a New Sun is
born, a New Year has dawned, a New Galactic Cycle has begun, and the
transformation of our World is well underway.
The big secret in this particular story is that we need not wait for
the Winter Solstice in the year 2012 to recognize that we are
entering into this time of profound transition. For according to the
most recent astronomical calculations the Solstice Meridian actually
coincided most precisely with the Galactic Equator between 1998 and
Just as the Earth’s equator divides the planet into two hemispheres
of North and South, the Galactic Equator is the astronomical term
for the dividing line of the Milky Way, separating the Galaxy into
two halves. Similar to the time of the Equinox when the Sun appears
to cross the Earth’s Equator and thus enters into a new hemisphere,
so too in 1998 the Winter Solstice Sun began to cross over the
Considering that the Sun is so large (about one
half a degree wide) and the motion is so slow, our Sun will not be
completely across the Equator and fully into the new Galactic
Hemisphere until 2018.
So we need to understand then that the Mayan 2012 date is simply an
indicator to this 20-year period of transition – the birthing
process of the New Age and the beginning point of the New Precessional Cycle of 26,000 years.
I find it almost the height of irony that the descendants of those
white Europeans who came to the "New World" to bring enlightenment
and salvation to the indigenous population, would now find buried
here in some remote jungle
a stone calendar/clock telling them what
Time it is.
A calendar or clock not foreign to their own cultural
background, but one that actually incorporates and fulfills their
most expansive vision of cyclic Time, the Precessional Cycle. This
"Great Year" was long known to the Sumerians, Babylonians, Egyptians
and the ancient Greeks but lacked a point at which it began or
ended. Somehow down through the Ages that knowledge had been lost.
Perhaps the greatest gift the Mayan culture has given our world is
the Zero Point to the Precessional Cycle of 26,000 years. Through
the 2012 date in their calendar, they have indicated the importance
of the Galactic Equator and it relevance to the Precessional Cycle,
thus giving us the ability to now pinpoint the exact Time on our
Over the span of the 20 year transitional period as the Solstice Sun
crosses the Galactic Equator and moves in to a new hemisphere, we
will indeed witness the falling away of the old structures and the
birthing of the new. For those who have eyes to see we are actually
witnessing the birth of a planetary civilization.
And the very
logistics involved in this process will determine that the old
values of the Nation States which was primarily based on competition
and exploitation will have to eventually give way to a collaborative
effort, where cooperation will be the dominate social value. This
will arise not out of some new political, social or economic theory
but the very desire of the human species to continue to survive and
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The Shaman's Path. David Feidel, Linda Schele, Joy Parker.
William Morrow and Company, New York. 1993.
Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. John Major
Jenkins. Bear & Company, Santa Fe, New Mexico, 1998.
Beyond The Blue Horizon – Myths &
Legends of the Sun, Moon, Stars, & Planets. Dr. E.C. Krupp.
Oxford University Press, New York, 1991.
Stairways to The Stars – Skywatching
in Three Great Ancient Cultures. Anthony Aveni. John Wiley &
Sons, Inc. New York. 1997