The Long Count end date on December 21st, 2012 A.D. highlights an astronomical alignment determined by precession. The alignment occurs when the winter solstice sun conjuncts the crossing point of Milky Way and ecliptic in Sagittarius. This crossing point is where the "dark rift" in the Milky Way is, which was known to the ancient Maya as xibalba be (the Road to the Underworld) or simply "the Black Road." Linda Schele identifies the nearby crossing point of Milky Way and ecliptic as the Mayan Sacred Tree, and the modern Quiche call that spot "Crossroads."
From here, we bring in more mythology. Recognizing that Mayan myth derives to a large degree from sky observations, we can be comfortable with looking for an astronomical counterpart to practically any iconographic image we examine. I propose that the deity who manifests through the winter solstice sun is First Father, otherwise known as the Maize God or One Hunaphu (the Hero Twins' father). This figure is also related to Hunrakan (the "One Leg" god who destroyed a previous world age by flood) and Hunab Ku, the Yucatecan "giver of movement and measure." The One Ahau Sacred Day of Venus is a calendric manifestation of the same figure, and as a possible directional year-bearer, I will argue that 1 Ahau corresponds to the winter solstice quarter. First Father, Seven Macaw, the Road to Xibalba and the Hero Twins are all players in the Popol Vuh story of the creation of this present World Age, and the demise of the last. In sum, the Popol Vuh mythic complex contains mythological descriptions of the astronomical process which culminates on the Long Count end date. In a way reminscent of the Maya practice of "end naming," a literal reading of many Mayan Creation monuments indicates that Creation occurs on the tzolkin date 4 Ahau, when 13 baktuns are completed. Birth happens at the end of a process or time cycle.
The earliest version of the Popol Vuh Creation story is found at Izapa. Analysis of Izapa's orientations, calendrics, monuments and historical context reveals additional support for the thesis. Most striking is the mythic scene on Izapa Stela 11, and its orientation toward the winter solstice rising point of the sun. Stela 11 incorporates all the prominent motifs found in Izapan art, and by itself clearly encodes the astronomical meaning of the Long Count end date.
In recent years, several books have been published in England with, especially in the U.K., a good deal of success. Robert Bauval and Adrian Gilbert wrote The Orion Mystery (1992) and, in addition to becoming brief media celebs, turned Egyptology on its head. Graham Hancock produced Fingerprints of the Gods (1995) and injected some old ideas about Atlantis rising with some intriguing new perspectives. Most recently, Adrian Gilbert with Maurice Cotterell published the disappointing Mayan Prophecies which presumed to tell us why cataclysm will occur in A.D. 2012. Hancock and Bauval are presently working together on another book about Egypt. Gilbert, Bauval, Cotterell and Hancock pursue the often unrewarding path of independent research, striving to present compelling new ideas which tenured academes are too thick-skulled to acknowledge. Like England's other Fab Four, these independent researchers say we want a revolution, and offer us one. They have all at some point struggled to identify what is so astronomically special about the opening of the new millennium. They've discussed sunspots and pole shifts, magnetic field reversals and the movements of Orion, but their solutions are in disagreement and are generally unsatisfying. They have all narrowly missed finding the "key."
As pin-pointed by the end-date of the Mayan Calendar, the turn of our millennium is attended by a rare celestial alignment between the sun and our galaxy, one that has been slowly converging for thousands of years. The winter solstice sun will align with the Milky Way in A.D. 2012. Moutain Astrologer published my article on this topic in their December 1994 issue. Since then, I've written a 110-page monograph detailing evidence for my thesis. Without mincing words, I feel that this simple alignment is the answer which all those writers sought. The irony, perhaps, is that the impending solstice-galaxy alignment was first mentioned back in 1969 in Giorgio de Santillana and Hertha von Dechend's groundbreaking book Hamlet's Mill. My own research starts where they left off. It has taken 25 years to clarify how the Maya are involved in all this and to understand how the alignment marks the beginning of a new precessional cycle in humanity's spiritual and cultural work. The alignment which I believe is so critical to understanding Mayan creation mythology as well as our own impending shift also has the benefit of being a straightforward fact of astronomy; it's not the product of a labyrinth of convoluted speculations. What I offer is a synthesis of two simple facts: the astronomical alignment itself (which targets the opening of the new millennium) and the established end-date of the Mayan Calendar in A.D. 2012.
The ancient Maya apparently understood that the future alignment would have apocalyptic effects, and designed their World Age mythology to remind us of something essential. Myth, legend, or ancient message, whatever it is, clearly, it means we must all remember where we come from, where everything comes from: Mother.
We are living today in the Mayan end times. The Great Cycle of the Mayan Long Count calendar ends on the winter solstice of 2012 A.D., less than 18 years from now. Following Mayan concepts of cyclic time and World Age transitions, this is as much about beginnings as endings. In fact, it was considered by the ancient Maya to signify the Creation of a new World Age.
Scholars today are recognizing that Mayan mythology is intimately related to the celestial movements of stars, the Milky Way and certain constellations. The sources of Mayan mythology are found in the sky, and the timetable of Creation Day is pinpointed by the end date of the Mayan Great Cycle. My research into the nature of this date reveals that a rare celestial alignment culminates on it. Generally speaking, what occurs is an alignment between the galactic and solar planes. Specifically, the winter solstice sun will conjunct the Milky Way, which is the edge of our spinning galaxy as viewed from earth. Furthermore, the place where the sun meets the Milky Way is where the "dark-rift" in the Milky Way is - a black ridge along the Milky Way caused by interstellar dust clouds (See Diagram 1). This is a feature of the Milky Way anyone can see on a clear midsummer's night, away from the light pollution of industrial society. At dawn on the winter solstice of A.D. 2012, the sun will be right in this dark-rift, and the orientation is such that the Milky Way rims the horizon at all points around. Thus, the Milky Way "sits" on the earth, touching it at all points around, opening up the cosmic sky portal. The galactic and solar planes are thus aligned. "Sky portal" is just a term to describe the "opened sky" scenario apparent when the Milky Way rims the horizon. This is not to be confused with the "dark-rift" itself.
In Mayan myth, the winter solstice sun corresponds to the deity One Hunahpu, also known as First Father. The Mayan Sacred Book, the Popol Vuh, is all about setting the stage so that the Hero Twins' father (One Hunahpu) can be reborn, thus beginning a new World Age. The dark rift has many mythic identities: it is the Black Road; it is the xibalba be (the Road to the Underworld); it is a crevice in the branches of the cosmic tree (the Milky Way); it is the mouth of the Cosmic Monster (often portrayed as a frog, jaguar or snake with tree-like features); it is the birth canal of the Cosmic Mother. Overall, the dark-rift is best understood as the birth canal of the Cosmic Mother, who we may call First Mother, to complement First Father. In this way we can trace how these various metaphors are found in Mayan Creation Mythology. And the date of this alignment is, again, the end date of the 13-baktun Great Cycle - a cycle of approximately 5125 years. This all suggests that the ancient Maya were aware of the impending alignment and considered it to be of such importance to be a major transition point, the Creation of a new World Age. In mythological terms, this event is about the union of First Father with First Mother or, more accurately, the birth of First Father (the winter solstice sun - the new World Age ruler) from First Mother (the dark-rift in the Milky Way). The headline appropriate for the upcoming event is: "Cosmic Mother Gives Birth to The First God."
The slow process by which the winter solstice sun comes to conjoin the dark-rift in the Milky Way is a function of a phenomenon known as the precession of the equinoxes. This involves the slow wobbling of the earth's axis, which causes the stellar frame to slowly shift. To observers on earth, it causes the position of the winter solstice sun to slowly move in relation to celestial background features such as the Milky Way. A full cycle is completed in roughly 26,000 years. Approximately 2100 years ago, when both the Long Count calendar and the Popol Vuh were devised by the early Maya, the dark-rift in the Milky Way could be observed some 30 degrees above the dawning winter solstice sun (See Diagram 2). When these early skywatchers discovered precession, they realized that every winter solstice the cosmic birth canal was moving closer and closer to the dawning sun. The winter solstice sun was called the First Sun, the First Lord or First Father, because it is the first day of the year, the beginning of the sun's annual rebirth into increasing daylight. They calibrated the process, and fixed their Creation Mythology to the future alignment as described.
Monuments from the early Mayan site of Izapa clearly portray, by way of mythological iconography, the anticipated astronomical alignment of the Long Count end date (See Diagram 3). In this way, the Long Count calendar and Popol Vuh Creation Mythology (portrayed on Izapan monuments and elsewhere) work together to describe the future astronomical alignment. Furthermore, scholars believe that Izapa, an unassuming early-Maya cultural center near the Guatemalan border in Mexico, is where both the Long Count calendar and the Popol Vuh myth originate.
Based upon these simple facts, ancient skywatchers in Mesoamerica were apparently aware of a subtle celestial process, the precession of the equinoxes. Knowledge of that process, and the fact that a major alignment in that process culminates at the end of their Great Cycle, strongly suggest a cosmological understanding which modern scholars have yet to explore. While today the conjunction is hidden behind the rays of the solstice sun, to early skywatchers the future convergence would have been the focus of intense calendar calculations and eschatological myth-making. As it says in the Popol Vuh: "by sheer genius, by sheer accuity, they got it done." People interested today in the scope of ancient Mesoamerican knowledge inescapably must incorporate these recent findings into their thoughts. In doing so, we can better appreciate the profound scale of the cosmological understanding possessed by ancient New World cultures, to which millions of present-day Indians in Middle America are heir.
Understanding this aspect of Mayan cosmogenesis may also help us understand our own impending millennial milestone. What is going on in the world today? Is this alignment having some kind of influence? The precession of the equinoxes is, after all, primarily an earth rhythm. Whether we call it Mayan or millennial, we are living today in the shadows of a rare celestial juncture which parallels the increasing interest in "New World Orders", "post-historic" thinking, and a major shift in world economic structure and what it means to be human. The Mayan myth seems to remind us that all life springs from the Great Mother. The transformation of cosmic recreation is already occurring. Perhaps we should look closely at this celestial alignment, imagine its meanings, and determine what this transformational shift means for future humanity. For the ancient Maya, on the far-future Creation Day which for us arrives soon, First Mother and First Father join forces to engender a new World Age.
The winter solstice is an important turning point in the year. It marks the day of least daylight and the beginning of increasing daylight, the return to the life-giving warmth of summer. To compare, the summer solstice occurs exactly six months later and marks the longest day of the year. The two equinoxes in March and September mark the two days when day and night are exactly equal. Thus the year is divided into four seasons, and the two equinoxes and two solstices are thought of as directional "pillars" supporting the year. Seasons occur because the earth's plane of rotation is tilted in relation to its orbital plane around the sun. As the earth orbits the sun throughout the year, the length of daylight waxes and wanes accordingly. The four "pillars" of the year designate significant moments in the yearly cycle, and highlight seasonal changes which human beings everywhere still anticipate and plan by.
Religions around the world, including Native Religions and Christianity, share the winter solstice as an honored holy day attended by celebration, festivals and ceremonies. It is often thought of as the most important of the seasonal quarters. The winter solstice marks an extreme moment in which the solar light and "life" energy is at its lowest. The old year is gone and the embers of the New Year are just beginning to stir. This naturally gave rise to the idea that the sun had died and was born anew - the origins of the resurrection concept. We all feel the effects of winter and summer, we all abide by the rhythms set by the solar year and marked by the solstices. Today we still celebrate New Years Day roughly in line with the winter solstice, and many people today set aside December 21st as a day of special celebration, inviting friends over or even organizing outdoor ceremonies. In our times, in the years surrounding A.D. 2012, the winter solstice has added significance.
The ancient Maya noticed that the winter solstice sun was slowly moving towards the Milky Way. Two great markers in the sky were converging, presenting a rare celestial juncture. Their calendar accurately tells us when this will occur, and it meant more than the birth of a new solar year. It meant the beginning of a new Great Cycle of time, the resetting of the great celestial star-clock of precession and, perhaps, an unprecedented shift in the nature of human consciousness and civilization.