Mayan Prophecy and 2012

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Mayan Prophecy and 2012

The Mayan culture was ancient and impressive, technologically advanced and sophisticated at a time when Europe was struggling through the Dark Ages. But the modern Mayan culture is little understood by outsiders. Most outsiders know little except for pyramids and sensational pronouncements that play upon images of arcane mystery. A huge number of hoaxers have arisen to prey upon that ignorance and upon people’s fears for the future.

Most of these anxieties focus on false claims about the year 2012, and get spread through popular culture including a Hollywood film. There actually are no Mayan prophecies about 2012, only false claims. These pseudo prophecies are based on misunderstandings fostered by deliberate misinformation about the Mayan calendar. The Mayan calendar, contrary to misconceptions spread by hoaxers, does not end in 2012. Only the current cycle ends in 2012. The calendar actually predicts events as late as the year 4777. It also does not predict the end of the world, and Mayan people are neither expecting nor fearing any apocalypse.

The Tortuguero Monument 6 is the only Mayan architecture to possibly predict an event in December 2012. Its markings are also damaged, making a full reading impossible. The monument says, “Bolon Yokte (god of change) will descend to ‘Black’ and do (?)” The cryptic message could be interpreted to mean any number of things. Most scholars argue the message is actually speaking about the time it was created, not the future. [1]

Much like with the years 1999 and 2002, as 2012 approaches the number of hoaxers who spread appeal to fear by spreading false information continues to grow. Hoaxers who spread misinformation about 2012 and Mayan prophecies include Cesar Mena Toto, who calls himself Hunbatz Men. Mena poses as a Maya day keeper, but he has no Mayan followers, only white American and European New Age believers. Jose Arguelles is another hoaxer, a Mexican-American from Oregon who poses as Maya. Carl John Calleman is a Swedish toxicologist who bases his claims about 2012 on fanciful and long discredited colonial-era writers. Carlos Barrios is a criollo (Spanish, with no Native ancestry) Guatemalan who poses as a Maya elder. Terence McKenna was a British author who advocated psychedelic drug use and pseudo sciences such as numerology. None of these hoaxers have any expertise in Maya belief, history, or tradition, and none are given any credibility by scholars or actual Maya. Their motives for spreading these hoaxes include desire for attention, seeking to build a cult following, and above all, financial gain. [2]

Actual Mayan Prophecies

What many people fail to ask themselves is: why would ancient Mayas prophecies be concerned with people the Maya did not yet knew existed? Those who claim Maya prophecies are of concern to non-Maya (themselves generally white Europeans and Americans) show themselves to be self-centered and Eurocentric or western-centric. In fact, every set of prophecies that have come from actual Mayan people, books, and traditions are, not too surprisingly, trying to predict the future for Mayas. The only Mayan prophecies that mention whites actually express the hope that whites will go away.

The title of the Mayan holy book Chilam Balam translates as “Interpreter-Jaguar". The jaguar is a revered animal in Mayan belief. The book contains K'atun, or prophecies that are twenty year eras that repeat every 256 years. The K'atun for 1992-2012 also applies to 1736-1756 and 1480-1500. The K’atun for this era says, "The quetzal shall come, the green bird shall come. Ah Kantenal shall come. (Kante is a tree with yellow dye.) Blood-vomit shall come. Kukulkan shall come with them a second time. The word of God shall come." The prophecy is vague enough to interpret it as predicting any number of events. There is no mention of 2012 marking the end of the world.[3]

The Popol Vuh translates as "Council Book" or "Book of the Community." The Popul Vuh is the account of a noble Maya family of the Quiche Maya. The book links their family line back to the First Parents of Mayan lore. The book also describes the exploits of the Hero Twins, culture heroes Hunajpu and Xbalanque, who are seen as special protectors of Mayas. The book further describes an account of the Four Creations of the Maya World, the creation of Quiche nation, and Maya history up to 1550. Like other actual Mayan prophecies, there is no mention of 2012.[4]

In the mid nineteenth century, a third prophecy came from the Talking Crosses. The Talking Crosses were wooden and stone crosses that Mayan accounts say spoke to their elders in the Yucatan. (Crosses were part of Mayan religious symbolism long before missionaries brought Christianity.) The Talking Crosses urged Mayas to rise up and fight for independence from criollo (white) Mexicans who exploited and abused them. The Talking Crosses are widely believed to be the catalyst that began and sustained the Caste War in Mexico that lasted many years, nearly succeeding in winning independence for the Yucatan from Mexico. The Talking Crosses spoke of whites disappearing, leaving all land to the Maya. Again, this Mayan prophecy has no mention of 2012, or specific dates of any kind. Far from seeing doom and gloom, the Talking Crosses prophecies are quite hopeful in foreseeing better times, though vague in stating when. Like all Mayan prophecies, they are focused almost solely on the Maya themselves.[5]

One of the most common misconceptions, amazingly, is that there are no or few Maya still around. Six million Maya live today in the Yucatan in Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and the US. (Most Mayas in the US fled from a civil war in Guatemala and an uprising in Mexico in the 1980s.) There are no signs any actual Mayas expect the world to end shortly. Mayan leaders who visit the US frequently express frustration that so many believe the falsehoods about their calendar and their beliefs.[6]

In 1999 and 2000, many New Age believers traveled to Mayan communities, expecting to witness either the end of the world or the dawning of a new golden age. Many gave away or destroyed all their possessions. When the expected change did not happen, many were forced to rely upon the generosity of Maya villagers, themselves mostly very poor farmers and laborers. Mayas provided food and temporary shelter to the now penniless Americans and Europeans until the New Agers’ family and friends could rescue them. Similar events involving those deluded by New Age hoaxes may happen again in 2012, but the world will not end.


  1. Mark Van Stone, “FAMSI-FAQs about 2012,”, accessed 8-25-10
  2. All of these operators are extensively debunked at For Toto, see For Arguelles, see Barrios and Calleman are both debunked at McKenna is most extensively debunked on his 2012 ideas at All sites accessed 8-25-10
  3. “FAMSI-FAQs about 2012.”
  4. bid. The Popul Vuh,, accessed 8-25-10
  5. “FAMSI-FAQs about 2012.” The Talking Crosses have been written about extensively by historians, most notably in The Machete and the Cross: Campesino Rebellion in Yucatan by Don E. Dumond, University of Nebraska Press, 1997
  6. “FAMSI-FAQs about 2012,” “2012 isn’t the end of the world, Mayans insist,” originally posted at, reposted at, accessed 8-25-10