Manataka American Indian Council





The 2012 Controversy

By Lee Standing Bear Moore and Takatoka



There is much ado in the media, on the Internet and around millions of coffee tables about the ominous date of December 12, 2012.   Is it a Maya prophesy, a minutely calculated date in time when some astrological cataclysmic event or religious shift is supposed to take place, or is it a hoax?   Many people believe that it is part of a predictable cosmic alignment, while Maya scholars believe the issue is a hoax.


The Elders of Manataka are silent on the issue primarily because adding their gentle words to the plethora loud voices being heard around the world would not add clarity, but would only serve to further confuse the issue.  The range of opinions among Manataka members on the subject of 2012 is a reflection of the larger world population, although most feel a major spiritual change or awakening is looming.  Manataka elders have their own individual opinions, but there has been no effort to create an official consensus.  And, the elders are wary of making pronouncements of a potentially spiritual nature that may be construed as creating dogma and doctrine where none previously existed.


How did the controversy begin?

Between 1987 and 1988, José  Argüelles, an American professor with a Ph.D. in Art History and Aesthetics, published two books, The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology and Earth Ascending: An Illustrated Treatise on Law Governing Whole Systems that first reinterpreted Maya inscriptions that allegedly predict a worldwide cataclysm would take place on December 21, 2012.  His forecast lay dormant for several years until it was branded as New Age Mayanism by scholars.


The Winter Solstice begins in the Northern Hemisphere and the Summer Solstice begins in the Southern Hemisphere.


According to the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar, most notably used by the Maya civilization and other pre-Columbian Mesoamerica cultures, the year 2012 completes its thirteenth  b'ak'tun1 cycle since the calendar's mythical starting point (equivalent to August 11, 3114 BC in the proleptic Gregorian calendar2, according to the "GMT-correlation" JDN (Julian Day Numbers) = 584283). The Long Count b'ak'tun date of this starting point ( is repeated, for the first time in a span of approximately 5,125 solar years. The significance of this period-ending to the pre-Columbian Maya themselves is unclear, and there is an incomplete inscription (Tortuguero3 Monument 6) that records this date. It is also to be found carved on the walls of the Temple of Inscriptions in Palenque4, where it functions as a base date from which other dates are computed. This date figures prominently in the religious syncretism of New Age Mayanism5.


"For the ancient Maya, it was a huge celebration to make it to the end of a whole cycle," says Sandra Noble, executive director of the Foundation for the Advancement of Mesoamerican Studies, Inc. in Crystal River, Florida. To render December 21, 2012, as a doomsday or moment of cosmic shifting, she says, is "a complete fabrication and a chance for a lot of people to cash in."


"The Long Count Calendar of the Ancient Mayans ends on Dec 21 2012. There isn't much information regarding what the Mayans thought would occur in 2012, but the consensus of opinion is that there will be great change. To some people this means a positive, spiritual change. Other, like myself, consider that a catastrophic event may have been predicted. Read more about the Mayan Calendar." Robert Bast


1.    B'ak'tun - A baktun is 20 katun cycles of the ancient Maya Long Count Calendar. It contains 144,000 days or 400 tuns or nearly 400 tropical years. The Classic period of Maya civilization occurred during the 8th and 9th baktuns of the current calendrical cycle. The current (13th) baktun will end, or be completed, on (December 21, 2012 using the GMT correlation). This also marks the beginning of the 14th baktun, as such a term is usually used among Mayanists.  J. Eric S. Thompson states that when a Long Count of, say, is placed in the 9th baktun, we are almost certainly committing an error, like placing the year 2009 in the 2nd millennium. However, that practice is so well established among Maya epigraphers and other students of the Maya that to change it would cause more harm than its perpetuation.


2.    Proleptic Gregorian calendar -  Most Maya scholars use the proleptic Gregorian calendar, especially when converting Long Count dates (first century BC to tenth century). It is also explicitly required for all dates before 1582 by ISO 8601:2004 (, if the partners to information exchange agree. However, neither astronomers nor non-Maya historians generally use it.  For these calendars we can distinguish two systems of numbering years BC. Bede and later historians did not use the Latin zero, nulla, as a year, so the year preceding AD 1 is 1 BC. In this system the year 1 BC is a leap year (likewise in the proleptic Julian calendar). Mathematically, it is more convenient to include a year zero and represent earlier years as negative, for the specific purpose of facilitating the calculation of the number of years between a negative (BC) year and a positive (AD) year. This is the convention used in astronomical year numbering and in the international standard date system, ISO 8601. In these systems, the year 0 is a leap year. Although the nominal Julian calendar began in 45 BC, leap years between 45 BC and 1 BC were irregular. Thus the Julian calendar with quadrennial leap years was only used from AD 1 until 1582 or later, so historians and astronomers prefer to use the actual Julian calendar during that period. But when seasonal dates are important, the proleptic Gregorian calendar is sometimes used, especially when discussing cultures that did not use the Julian calendar.  The proleptic Gregorian calendar is sometimes used in computer software to simplify the handling of older dates.


3.    Tortuguero Monument 6 -   Tortuguero (or El Tortuguero) is an archaeological site in Chiapas, Mexico which supported a Maya city during the Classic period. The site is noteworthy for its use of the B'aakal Emblem Glyph also found as the primary title at Palenque. The site has been heavily damaged by looting and modern development.  Most of the surviving monuments of Tortuguero come from the reign of B'alam Ajaw ("Jaguar Lord") who ruled from 644 to 679. These record several victories over nearby states and may indicate that both his father and son were named Ik' Muuy Muwahn. 


Monument 6 from Tortuguero is currently generating discussion as it includes the only known inscription depicting the end of the current 13-baktun era in 2012. Grube, Martin and Zender have stated it refers to “the end of the 13th b’ahktun which we will see in the year 2012” and as to what will happen, they say, “…utom, “it will happen” (O4) followed by something that we cannot read (P4) and he “will descend” yem (O5). The last glyph begins with ta followed by something. However, this is not the end of the world.”  This happy interpretation is supported by Marcus Eberl and Christian Prager :


“The events associated with this Baktun end are partially eroded; yet, they involve the “coming down” of B’olon ’Ok. The same verb is used as part of dedication events and seems to have had not a destructive – as might be expected from B’olon Yokte’ K’uh – but a positive connotation.” 


Gillespie and Joyce and also Houston and Stuart have concurred that the inscription on Monument 6 concerns the god(s) Bolon yokte K’uh - specifically


“…a calendrical event in the early 21st century AD, at which time, apparently, the god may 'descend'.”


Stuart has recently given a more complete translation: “"The Thirteenth Bak'tun" will be finished (on) Four Ahaw, the Third of K'ank'in. ? will occur. (It will be) the descent(?) of the Nine Support (?) God(s) to the ?."


Gronemeyer gives an epigraphic analysis and calendrical reconstruction of Monument 6 in his Master’s thesis, with illustrations. (Maya_site)


4.    Palenque -  Palenque (Bàak' in Modern Maya) is a Maya archeological site near the Usumacinta River in the Mexican state of Chiapas, located about 130 km south of Ciudad del Carmen. It is a medium-sized site, much smaller than such huge sites as Tikal or Copán, but it contains some of the finest architecture, sculpture, roof comb and bas-relief carvings the Maya produced.


5.    New Age Mayanism - The Mesoamerican Long Count calendar forms the basis for a New Age belief, first forecast by José Argüelles, that a cataclysm will take place on or about December 21, 2012, a forecast that mainstream Mayanist scholars consider a misinterpretation, yet is commonly referenced in pop-culture media as the 2012 problem.


6.    José Argüelles (b. January 24, 1939, Rochester, Minnesota) is the founder of Planet Art Network and the Foundation for the Law of Time. He holds a Ph.D. in Art History and Aesthetics from the University of Chicago, and has taught at numerous colleges, including Princeton University and San Francisco Art Institute. He is the identical twin brother of poet Ivan Argüelles.


He gained notoriety for his role in the Harmonic Convergence event, and his mystical book about the Maya calendar, The Mayan Factor: Path Beyond Technology. This book first popularized the Hunab Ku symbol. After Mayan Factor's financial success, Jose and his wife Lloydine produced "Dreamspell: The Journey of Timeship Earth 2013" and a game/tool "Telektonon: The Talking Stone of Prophesy". The former is the source of Arguelles' 13 Moon/28 Day Calendar.  


Criticism: Although Argüelles states that his tools and calendar are clearly not a Mayan calendar, much criticism of it focuses on the fact that his works remain completely unsupported by any professional Mayanist scholar. Amongst many criticisms leveled at it, it is pointed out that the interpretation merely co-opts an ancient tradition by recasting it in New Age terms, unknown, unused and undocumented among the Maya. Many of Dreamspell's influences come from non-Mayan sources, such as the I Ching and pop psychology. What's more, Argüelles' calendar is based on a different day-count than the traditional Mayan calendar. As mathematician Michael Finley notes:  "Since the 365 day Maya haab makes no provision for leap years, its starting date in the Gregorian Calendar advances by one day every four years. The beginning of Arguelles' year is fixed to July 26. Thus his count of days departs from the haab as it was known to Maya scribes before the Spanish conquest. Arguelles claims that the Thirteen Moon Calendar is synchronized with the calendar round. Clearly, it is not."  His calendar is also not correctly synchronized with that observed by the Maya. For example, in the traditional count January 1, 2005 is 5 Muluk, while in the Dreamspell it is 2 Etznab.  Argüelles countered this criticism by stating that his calendar is "correct and biologically accurate...for the whole planet", and that he is the "heir of the legacy of Pacal Votan and the instrument of his prophecy, Telektonon". Argüelles is now one of several individuals who have contributed to the spread of Mayanism, a collection of beliefs based on metaphysical speculation about the ancient Maya.


Common 2012 Prophecies from around the World

Hopi Prophecy - Predict a 25yr period of purification followed by the End of Fourth World & beginning of the Fifth.
Mayan Prophecy - Call it the 'end days' or the end of time as we know it.
Maori Prophecy - Say that as the veils dissolve there will be a merging of the physical & spiritual worlds.
Zulu Prophecy - Believe that the whole world will be turned upside down.
Hindu Prophecy - Kali Yuga (end time of man) The Coming of Kalki & critical mass of Enlightened Ones.
Inca Prophecy - Call it the 'Age of Meeting Ourselves Again'.
Aztec Prophecy - Call this the Time of the Sixth Sun. A time of transformation. Creation of new race.
Dogon Prophecy - Say that the spaceship of the visitors, the Nommo, will return in the form of a blue star.
Pueblo Prophecy - Acknowledge it'll be the emergence into the Fifth World.
Cherokee Prophecy - Their ancient calendar ends exactly at 2012 as does the Mayan calendar.
Tibetan Prophecy - Kalachakra teachings are prophesies left by Buddha predicting Coming of the Golden Age.
Egypt Prophecy - According to the Great Pyramid (stone calendar) present time cycle ends in year 2012 A.D.