While debating with 2012ers on this blog and elsewhere I usually encounter the argument that the Maya elders believe that the world will be transformed or end on December 21, 2012 and that they have been the guardians of this knowledge for millennia. The Maya elders are therefore the most reliable sources according to this reasoning. That is simply not true. After my recent comment on Jenkins’s review of David Stuart’s book I decided to pick up Jenkins’s latest book (The 2012 Story) that had been lying around in the “to read pile” for a couple of months. I wanted to know how his hostility towards Maya academia has emerged throughout the years. It must for sure be frustrating to always be misconceived and be blamed for creating (or participating) in the avalanche of nonsense that comes along the 2012 phenomenon. I will deal with that in future posts.
In his book I soon encountered the way in which the 2012 phenomenon came into contact with the Maya elders. The 2012 phenomenon is all dependent on the GMT-correlation constant and since this black boxed concept reveals many assumptions that both academics and Jenkins share, so eloquently exposed by Gerardo Aldana, I have no longer much confidence in the various Gregorian dates given for a Long Count or Calendar Round inscription. Much of the so-called astronomical data supposedly encoded in the inscriptions (such as Jupiter and Saturn conjunctions) will be hopelessly irrelevant if the correlation is wrong. Hence, I also believe that the core idea of the winter-solstice alignment as seen from Izapa is flawed. This is because the GMT correlation depends on a continuity of the tzolkin count in the highlands of Guatemala. The main problem is that this count repeats every 260th day. Other sources must therefore be amassed in order to secure which tzolkin cycle is at stake. It is these sources that Aldana questions (the Venus table, the de Landa equation, etc.). Thompson simply correlated these other sources so that they would line up with the highland data. Some of these adjustments are quite questionable (see my posts on Aldana’s article). So when a Maya elder say that something will happen on or around December 21, 2012, you should know that all this depends on a particular correlation constant created by Western scholars that is about half to a century old, not millennia. In fact, the Maya elders encounter with the 2012 phenomenon only dates back a little more than 25 years.
Jenkins mentions Hunbatz Men and he is probably the first of the Maya that began to be affiliated with the 2012 phenomenon. Hunbatz Men came in contact with Argüelles in 1985. Hunbatz is a Yucatec Maya and had no tzolkin tradition to rely on and he began to rely on Argüelles own invented day-count system that had no relation to the true tzolkin. The next important infiltration of New Age ideas into the Maya area came with Ian Lungold’s visit to Don Alejandro Cirilo Perez Oxlaj in the fall of 1998. Lungold brought along Jenkins’s book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 and had portions of it translated to Don Alejandro. Apparently he was intrigued by Jenkins’s ideas and in January 2000 these ideas appeared in Don Alejandro’s own “prophecies”. On page 171 Jenkins says that “we’ve already seen a tendency, in the connections between José Argüelles, Hunbatz Men, and Aluna Joy Yaxkin, for a reinforcing interplay to develop between writers and Maya elders, especially when a popular movement driven by temple tours and New Age gatherings is at work.” As mentioned in an earlier post, Calleman, as a friend of Lungold, also relies on Don Alejandro for his own calendar correlation.
It does not stop there. Many of the 2012 prophets of non-Maya origin prefer to claim that they have received this wisdom from Maya elders (talk about circular logic). It is believed to give them more credit. Jenkins refers to an interview of the Maya teacher Carlos Barrios by Stephen McFadden where Jenkins ideas showed up but was instead attributed to Maya daykeepers. This distorted view was later adopted by Lawrence Joseph is his book Apocalypse 2012 where he says he received the wisdom and tradition from his visit to the Maya elders who actually told him whatever Jenkins had written.
One should also remember that the late Maya epigrapher Linda Schele led workshops for the Maya in Guatemala. This became part of the Maya movement, the revitalization movement that emerged in Guatemala during the civil war which I have covered elsewhere. Since Jenkins idea of the Galactic alignment partially goes back to Schele’s and the Tedlocks’ archaeoastronomical work from the late 1980s and early 1990s one can easily see how a ground already had been established for adopting these ideas. We can also see these processes in a much longer perspective that William Hanks shows for the Yucatan. He shows that the Colonial Maya language, Maya reducido, emerged to incorporate Christian ideas. I assume that similar processes occurred in the highlands of Guatemala. So when apocalyptic ideas come from a Maya elder it is most likely the effect of Christian influence (not syncretism) or the simple fact that the highlands of Guatemala was under the influence of Central Mexican ideas for centuries before the conquest (ideas that entered Popol Vuh which may not have existed in the Late Formative highlands).
In short, the supposed millennia old tradition of the 13 Baktun prophecies that comes from Maya elders goes back to the research by some Mayanists and Jenkins that are just a few decades old. Just the fact that plenty of 2012ers believe this is wisdom that has been kept intact for centuries show that they are easily fooled by money mongers that distort facts to be able to cash in on people’s ignorance. Then these 2012ers show up on my blog and calls me and other academics ignorant of this greater scheme. It just makes me laugh.