by John Major Jenkins
New Dawn Magazine
No. 97 (July-August 2006)
John Major Jenkins
is a leading independent investigator of Mayan sacred
sciences and the origins and meaning of the 2012
calendar. John has authored dozens of articles and many
books, including Journey to the Mayan Underworld, Mirror
in the Sky, Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar
Studies, Mayan Sacred Science, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012,
Galactic Alignment: The Transformation of Consciousness
According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions, and
his most recent book co-authored with Marty Matz
is Pyramid of Fire. John’s Website is an extensive
resource for studying the lost Galactic Cosmology of the
Twentytwelvology. You won’t find
it in Webster’s dictionary. Not yet. But believe me, before this
decade is out, we’ll have that as well as plenty of 2012 -isms and -ographies.
“The 2012 Phenomenon” was recently the subject of a paper written by
anthropologist Robert K. Sitler.1
The sub-title of his paper brings focus to his approach: “New Age
Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar.” In his assessment
of the writings and statements of popular writers, New Age teachers,
and independent researchers (including myself), he sorts the wheat
from the chaff and exposes “merely tangential connections to the
realities of the Mayan world.” To his credit, he distinguishes the
serious work done by myself and Geoff Stray2
from the wild and unfounded speculations of other writers.
Sitler’s area of focus is the Long Count calendar and its 2012
end-date, which is the subject of growing interest and controversy –
not so much among academicians, who dismiss it as irrelevant,
but among spiritual seekers and people interested in the wisdom
attained by ancient civilizations.
So, what’s all the clamour and confusion
about? What is the Long Count calendar?
The Long Count
An archeological site that’s been known about for decades preserves
an open secret about the culture that invented the Long Count
Izapa, in southern Mexico a few
miles from the Guatemala border, was the chief ceremonial
observatory of “the Izapan civilization.”3
It was the transitional culture between the older Olmec civilization
and the emerging Maya, and enjoyed its heyday between 400 BCE and 50
CE. My investigation of Izapa’s carved monuments and the site’s
astronomical orientations have revealed a great deal about how they
understood the Long Count calendar.4
The earliest monuments carved with Long Count dates were
found in the region of Izapa and have been dated to the 1st century
BCE. The Long Count notation uses bars to represent 5 and dots to
represent 1. Five place values are almost always used, representing
the following periods of days:
= 1 day
Uinal = 20 days
Tun = 360 days
Katun = 7,200 days
Baktun = 144,000 days
Thirteen Baktuns equal 5,125 years,
which is one World Age in the Maya Creation mythology. The Long
Count calendar was recorded on monuments and ceramic
vessels for almost a thousand years. Most of the dates refer to
local mundane events, like king crowning ceremonies.
Some of the Long Count monuments,
however, refer to mythological events that occurred at the beginning
of the current World Age. Scholars have figured out how the Long
Count calendar correlates with our own, so we know that the fabled
dawn time – when all the place values were set to zero – occurred on
August 11, 3114 BCE.
This should be written 0.0.0.0.0 in the
Long Count, but the monuments that speak of this date call it
220.127.116.11.0. This is less confusing than it appears, because the two
accountings are equivalent. In the same way that 1300 hours
(military time) equals 1:00 p.m. (civil time), the Long Count resets
to 0 when 13 Baktuns are completed.
This tells us something important about the structure of the Long
Count calendar and its chronology of World Ages. Every 13 Baktuns
(5,125 years), the Long Count resets to zero. Thus, we should expect
that when the Long Count again reaches 18.104.22.168.0, it will reset to
zero, the cycle of time will begin anew, and a new World Age will
As mentioned, several so-called
Creation monuments describe events that occurred in 3114 BCE,
during the end-beginning nexus of the previous World Age turnover.
The texts associated with these Creation monuments state that
“Creation happens at the Black Hole,” at “the Crossroads,” and “the
image” will appear in the sky. At that time, a new Solar Age begins
and the Sun Lord gets reborn. Creation Lord deities are often
portrayed attending the rebirth of the world, including one called
Bolon Yokte K’u who is closely associated with God L
of the Mayan pantheon.
He is portrayed on the ceramic Vessel of the Seven Lords which
contains the date 3114 BCE.5
This doesn’t mean the vessel is 5,120 years old; it simply means
that the Classic Period Maya were documenting, around 700 CE, their
thoughts about the fabled dawn time.
Philosophy and 2012
Although the philosophy of cycle endings that we find on these
Creation monuments refers to past events in 3114 BCE, it can also be
applied to the next 13-Baktun cycle ending, which falls on
December 21, 2012. Some scholars have been unwilling to accept
this analogy, asserting there are no Long Count monuments that
refer explicitly to 2012.
As we will see, this position can no
longer be maintained. Moreover, one scholar understands quite
clearly the analogical relationship between the period ending of the
previous World Age (in 3114 BCE) and other period endings,
great and small, throughout Mayan history:
“Zoomorph P and Altar P’ [at
Quirigua] were commissioned by Sky Xul as the primary
commemorative monuments for his third period ending festival on
22.214.171.124.0 [September 13, 795 CE]. As a celebration of cosmic
renewal, the period-ending was considered to be a replay of the
events of cosmogenesis, which occurred on 4 Ajaw 8 Kumk’u
[126.96.36.199.0 in 3114 BCE].” 6
This means that we can identify a
generalized principle of the Mayan concept of period endings: each
period ending in the Long Count, including all the various place
value levels, were seen to be like-in-kind replays of the great
period-ending event that occurs at the end of the 13-Baktun period.
As such, the next 13-Baktun period-ending (in 2012)
should be a big replay of the events described for 3114 BCE. That
scenario involves the rebirth of the Sun Lord from the
The belief that we don’t have “direct statements” about 2012
in the archaeological record ignores the plethora of pictographic
images at Izapa that portray a rare celestial alignment that appears
in the skies in the years around 2012.7
This galactic alignment is the key to understanding 2012, and it
involves the rebirth of the December solstice Sun Lord through the
Dark Rift “cleft” in the Milky Way, located between Sagittarius and
It is “the image” that appears in the sky during cosmogenesis. My
interpretation of the Mayan 2012 date comes from an
interdisciplinary examination of the carvings of Izapa, laid out in
my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. The theory has withstood
eight years of debating with scholars, and the ideas are starting to
seep into general acceptance. I say “seep” because the unaffiliated
source of the breakthroughs will probably go unacknowledged.
The process will most likely follow the sequence mentioned by
Thomas Kuhn, in his Structure of Scientific Revolutions.
First, a radical new theory
(often proposed by an independent thinker or outsider) will
be ignored by the mainstream scholars.
Then, as it starts to make
inroads, status quo scholars will vehemently criticize and
Finally, after the truth of the
new breakthrough is recognized, they will embrace it as if
they knew it all along.
The three-stage process often takes
decades, but may get turbocharged in respect to 2012, since that
date looms so close in our future.
the New Discoveries
My theory about the 2012 end-date finds contextual support in
two recent discoveries.
One is a Pre-Classic mural
depicting the Creation myth
The other is a hieroglyphic text
pointing explicitly to the 13-Baktun cycle end date,
December 21, 2012
The Mayan civilization rose to
prominence some 2,000 years ago, in the jungle forests and mountains
of Mesoamerica. The Classic Period stretched from 200 CE to 900 CE.
However, archaeologists are finding older sites with all the
hallmarks of the Classic Period, so the origins of Mayan
civilization are slowly getting pushed further back in time. One of
these sites, San Bartolo in Guatemala’s Peten rainforest, preserves
stunning murals of the Maya Creation Myth in what has been called
“the New World’s Sistine Chapel.” 8
They have now been given the early date of 250 BCE.
Realizing that the murals were threatened by looters in the area,
archaeologist Bill Saturno recorded the paintings by holding
a flatbed scanner sideways against the walls and taking over 350
digital scans. They were digitally pieced together to reveal a very
early rendition of the Maya Creation Myth, involving five trees of
The mural is incomplete in sections, having crumbled over the
centuries, but two of the Sacred Trees preserve an
interesting feature. Toward the base of the trees we can see a paw
sticking out. This feature has been noticed on other portrayals of
Mayan Sacred Trees, and has been identified as a jaguar paw, perhaps
representing one of the Hero Twins, Xbalanque.
“Balan” means jaguar, similar to “Bolon” (“nine”) and the two terms
are often used in word puns. In fact, they are sometimes
interchangeable in hieroglyphic passages. The two meanings likewise
reinforce each other, as jaguars were night creatures ruled by the
nine Lords of the Night. We’ll come back to this in a moment.
Another important fact of the San Bartolo Creation Trees is
how closely they resemble trees portrayed at Izapa, the origin place
of the Long Count calendar. Upon close examination, we can see that
the trees combine caiman and tree symbolism, and the caiman’s head
is at the bottom, in the roots of the tree.
Izapa Stela 25, 10, and 27 all contain
this inverted caiman tree, and are widely acknowledged to
represent the Milky Way. The caiman’s mouth represents the “Dark
Rift” in the Milky Way – the “Black Hole” of Mayan Creation
mythology. Likewise, the Bird Deity in the branches of the San
Bartolo trees are often found in the Izapan trees, and represents
the Big Dipper constellation.9
He must fall from his tree before the Sun Lord can be reborn at the
end of the Age.
This simple comparison means the “Creation Myth” at San Bartolo
utilizes the same astronomical features the Izapan Creation Myth
does. Those features are central to how the 2012 alignment of the
solstice Sun and the Milky Way was encoded into Mayan myth.
Another new discovery involves the recent translation of a text
from Tortuguero, a Classic Maya site north of Palenque, which
explicitly points to December 21, 2012. Drawn by Sven
Gronemeyer and translated by Mayan epigrapher David Stuart,
the legible part of the text reads:
“At the end of 13 Baktuns, on 4 Ahau
3 Kankin, 188.8.131.52.0; something occurs when Bolon Yokte
Since the verb glyph describing what
happens is effaced, scholars have stated that the text doesn’t
really tell us much, but in fact it does.
First off, scholars now have to
acknowledge we do have a hieroglyphic text which refers
explicitly to the ending of the current 13-Baktun cycle, in
Secondly, a usual suspect in Mayan
creation narratives is present, Bolon Yokte. This means
that 2012 was thought of as a cosmogenesis, a creation or
recreation of the world.
I’ve been arguing this for years,
debating doomsayers as well as scholars who would like to think that
2012 is irrelevant within Mayan time philosophy.11
But, as expected, we can now see that 2012 is to be thought of as a
We can also determine something very intriguing about the name of
the Creation Deity who is present in both 3114 BCE and in 2012 CE.
Bolon Yokte means bolon (nine), y- (plural),
ok (foot), -te (tree). Although bolon means
“nine,” the word is a homophonous pun for balan (jaguar).
Mayan folklore and hieroglyphic texts often combine the two
designations, for dramatic effect or for emphasizing how the
Jaguar God is one of the nine Lords of the Night (the
we have an alternate identification for the Creation Lord Bolon
Yokte which means something like “jaguar at the foot/feet of the
Perhaps the plural “feet” refers to two feet: the foot of the jaguar
and the foot of the tree. Thus, the jaguar foot or paw at the foot
of the Creation tree likely represents the Creation Lord Bolon
Yokte. He was present at the last World Age creation in 3114
BCE and he will be present at the next one, in 2012.
But why is he there?
Probably because the spotted jaguar pelt
symbolizes the stars of night, and the mouth of the jaguar
represents the Underworld Portal, which is seen in the sky as
the Dark Rift in the Milky Way. This “Black Hole” in which
Creation happens also represents the birth cleft of the Great
Mother, the Milky Way.
In 2012 the December solstice Sun Lord will have shifted into
alignment with the Dark Rift, after making a centuries-long
precessional journey though the stars of the night sky. The Sun
Lord, and the Age, will be reborn.
We now have a Mayan inscription, from the Classic Period site of
Tortuguero, that refers directly to the end of the current World Age
of the Long Count calendar. The text indicates the event is to be
thought of as a world renewal.
The deity attending the world renewal, Bolon Yokte, was
present during the previous World Age shift, in 3114 BCE, and he is
a guardian of the portal of rebirth at the Dark Rift “Black Hole” in
the Milky Way’s “nuclear bulge” – the Galactic Centre. He
waves to us, as the jaguar paw, from behind the base of the Creation
Tree on the recently discovered Creation murals from San Bartolo.
These are exciting times as we recover the lost knowledge of the
ancient Maya skywatchers. Especially so, since the
world-transforming renewal date in the Maya Long Count calendar is
right around the corner. That ancient wisdom speaks for a grand
precessional paradigm, of how we on Earth experience galactic
seasons of change, of how our Sun moves into rebirth at the
Black Hole at the base of the
December 21, 2012 signals the commencement of a new World Age, one
that has successfully transformed, purified, and renewed the
previous cycle of time. An essential component of this is conscious
human participation, a willing openness to the process.
As we pay attention to the changes going on around us and tune into
our own evolving journey through the 2012 experience of renewal, we
all become twentytwelvologists. Not only by having studied it
in the primary sources of Maya Creation texts, but by living it.
Let’s convene in 2013 and share what we’ve learned.
1. Robert Sitler, “The 2012
Phenomenon: New Age Appropriation of an Ancient Mayan Calendar”
in Nova Religio, Vol. 9, Issue 3 (www.ucpress.edu/journals/nr/).
2. Geoff Stray, Beyond 2012: Catastrophe or Ecstasy? A Complete
Guide to End-of-Time Predictions, Vital Signs Publishing, 2005.
See also his extensive Diagnosis 2012 website
3. Michael Coe, Mexico, Thames & Hudson, 1962, pp. 99-101.
4. John Major Jenkins, Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, Bear & Company,
5. Michael Coe, “The Hero Twins: Myth and Image” in The Maya
Vase Book, ed. Justin Kerr, Kerr Associates, 1989.
6. Matthew G. Looper, “Quirigua Zoomorph P: A Water Throne and
Mountain of Creation” in Heart of Creation: The Mesoamerican
World and the Legacy of Linda Schele, ed. Andrea Stone,
University of Alabama Press, 2002, p. 199.
Mayan “Statements” and Beliefs About 2012
- The Evidence.
8. William Saturno, “The Dawn of Maya Gods and Kings” in
National Geographic, January 2006.
9. Freidel David, Linda Schele, and Joy Parker, Maya Cosmos:
Three Thousand Years on the Shaman’s Path, William Morrow and
Company, 1993; David Kelley, “Mesoamerican Astronomy and the
Maya Calendar Correlation Problem” in Memorias del Segundo
Coloquio Internacional de Mayistas 1:65-95, Universidad Nacional
Autónoma de México, 1989; Barbara Tedlock, Time and the Highland
Maya, University of New Mexico Press, 1982.
10. See the “Tortuguero” thread at
11. The argument that a 20-Baktun period has precedence over a
13-Baktun period is faulty. See
12. In fact, Bolon Yokte is associated with one of the three
primary gods of the Mayan pantheon, called the Triad Gods. At
Izapa, the three primary monument groups are associated with
three cosmic centres (zenith, polar, and galactic) presided over
by three avatars or deities. For more on the triad cosmology
pioneered at Izapa, see chapter 21 in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 and