Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Maya Long Count and Galactic Alignment: the work of John Major Jenkins

12  . 19   . 19  . 17 . 17

 :||   ::|||    ::|||    :|||    :|||

As discussed in the previous post, the famous Maya Long Count is approaching that momentous point at which the final place rolls back to zero, increasing the place before it by one.  

In this case, that place before it also rolls back to zero when asked to increase by one, causing the place before it to increase by one, which again is already at the point at which it too will roll to zero when it increases by one.  This, of course, causes the place before it to also roll to zero, causing the first place in the five-glyph series to increase to 13, followed by four zeros -- the start of a new cycle.

As this is published, December 18th is just beginning here in California, and so the series of glyphs above shows a "17" (or two dots each representing a single tally and three bars representing five apiece) at the final space (this is the count for the 18th of December this year, according to most modern analysts of the Maya Long Count).  It can only go up to 19 before it rolls to zero and increases the count in the previous space -- it will reach 19 (four dots and three bars) on December 20th and "roll over" on the 21st.

Also mentioned in the previous post is my belief that the renewal of the Long Count has more to do with celestial renewal than with any supposed prediction of catastrophe, whether from being "cut off from the galactic center by the interposition of the sun" (as some have alleged to be the cause of impending disaster) or from the earth finally becoming fed up with supposed overpopulation and carbon emission (as others maintain).  

This assertion -- that the Long Count most likely commemorated the precessional cycles and anticipated the arrival of a new precessional dawning -- is also discussed in my 2011 book, and in the "Happy New Year 2012" blog message published at the end of December of last year.  The fact that the Long Count counting system described above appears to have been deliberately fashioned to incorporate certain precessional numbers (particularly 7,200) and to measure out roughly one-fifth of the entire estimated "Great Year" or "full circle" of precession appear to support the assertion that the Long Count points to precessional renewal (which, of course, can also point to both cosmic and individual renewal at all kinds of levels, based on the ancient teaching of the harmony between the macrocosm and the microcosm).

As mentioned in other previous posts on this subject, I believe that the thorough and deliberate analysis of John Major Jenkins on this subject is extremely compelling.  John Major Jenkins has been studying the evidence related to the Long Count and its significance for nearly thirty years, including much time spent at ancient sites in modern-day Guatemala and Mexico and among the contemporary Maya themselves.  

His Galactic Alignment theory of the Long Count's celestial meaning (which he shows to have almost certainly had additional layers of significance relating to rebirth, renewal, and the transcending of the duality that many ancient wisdom traditions link to "the Fall") is perhaps best summarized in a 2001 article entitled "Izapan Cosmos: a brief survey of Izapan iconography and astronomy in the Group F ballcourt,"  which gives a short version of his theory and supports it with numerous diagrams, photographs and maps.

Using the evidence at Izapa, he shows that there are multiple reasons to believe that the Long Count was pointing to the time when the Winter Solstice sun (which is already a sunrise of annual rebirth, in that it marks the period in which the sun ceases its southern movement and shortening of days, and turns back towards the north and begins the lengthening of days) would rise against the backdrop of the Milky Way galaxy, and the Great Rift (or Dark Rift) in the galaxy near the bulge of the galactic center, which the Maya associated with birth (the bulge being seen as symbolizing an expectant mother, and the Great Rift as the birth canal).  

[Readers of this blog may want to go back and review the discussions of the sun's motion at Winter Solstice here, here, and here, and to check out the discussion of the concept of "heliacal rise" here and here].

Mr. Jenkins reviews the evidence in that article, which include the symbology of the monuments and the alignment of the Maya Ball Court (whose ball going through a circular goal almost certainly symbolizes the same solar rebirth, as Mr. Jenkins demonstrates), along with numerous photos and diagrams.  He expands on this evidence in much greater detail in his books (which can be found here on his website).

To understand the motion of precession that Mr. Jenkins is explaining, take a look at the drawing he includes right in the middle of the article linked above, just below his drawing of the Ball Court at Izapa and to the right of it Stela 60, and just above his full-color drawing of the dramatic Stela 67.  That drawing shows the rising band of the Milky Way galaxy in the east on the morning of the Winter Solstice sunrise at Izapa.  

The drawing shows the Milky Way drawn four times.  In the top position, marked as 6000 BC, the Milky Way band (with the galactic nuclear bulge and the Dark Rift or birth canal) is well above the horizon at Izapa as the Winter Solstice sun begins to rise.  However, as we have discussed in previous posts such as this one and this one, the mechanics of precession act to "delay" the celestial background over the centuries, such that the familiar landmarks slowly show up at a lower place in the sky on the expected day than they were before.  

Thus, as the drawing in the article shows, the Milky Way will be successively lower and lower in the sky on the morning of Winter Solstice sunrise, until it is lying along the Izapa horizon as the Winter Solstice sun begins to dawn.  This significant alignment, which the ancient Maya astronomers calculated to take place in 2012, creates a powerful astronomical picture of rebirth.  The Winter Solstice sunrise, already a symbol of annual rebirth, aligns with the birth canal of the galaxy.  It is such a powerful motif that we can understand why the ancient Maya were counting down towards 2012.

In another excellent article in which he summarizes and explains his theory, this time on the Graham Hancock website, John Major Jenkins says:
As I've been able to show through an interdisciplinary analysis of the academic literature, synthesizing material from ethnographic starlore, archaeoastronomy, linguistics, mythology, and iconography, the solstice-galaxy alignment was conceived as the union of the male principle (December solstice sun) with the female principle (the Milky Way's center). The region of the Milky Way that the solstice sun will unite with contains not only the nuclear bulge of the Galactic Center (which, by the way, is recognizable with the naked eye) but also a "dark-rift" feature caused by interstellar dust. The modern Maya call this dark-rift or Great Cleft the xibalba be- the Road to the Underworld. This feature is the key to understanding the rebirth metaphor of the 2012 end-date, for it was also conceived, in Maya symbology, as the birth canal of the Great Mother (the Milky Way).

The concept of Father Sun being reborn at the end of the age is very similar to the events in Maya Creation mythology (the Popol Vuh) in which First Father / One Hunahpu is reborn in the underworld ballcourt. The ballgame metaphor, too, encodes the alignment. If we look at accepted notions of ballgame symbolism, we learn that it is basically about the rebirth of the sun on the temporal levels of day, year, and World Age. The sun is reborn daily at dawn, yearly at the December solstice, and, in terms of World Ages, on December 21, 2012-when the December solstice sun aligns with the Galactic Plane, which is the precession cycle's "finish line." The dark-rift that lies along this plane is the "goal" toward which the December solstice sun, as the gameball, moves over many millennia. In this way, the Maya conceived of the gameball going into the goalring as a replication of cosmic time's end-game. Finally, yet another way that the solstice-galaxy alignment was encoded into basic Maya institutions involves King accession rites. Here, the king, as a shamanic journey, must be initiated into kingship my journeying into the "cosmic center"-something Siberian shamans have been doing for a long time. In the Maya tropical lands, however, the cosmic center is not the Polestar but the Galactic Center, identified by the nuclear bulge- the womb of the Milky Way mother toward which the "sun king" precesses. Precession reveals the king's slow procession to ultimate enthronement in the heart of time and space. But for the sake of kingship in local space-time, he makes an initiatory vision journey into the celestial heart to be anointed and given the power of rulership and sacred knowledge.

This is the core of how the solstice-galaxy alignment of 2012 was encoded by ancient Maya thinkers into their basic institutions. In my book I call this end-date idea-complex "the Galactic Cosmology."
The diagrams below may assist readers in further conceptualizing the mechanics that bring the December solstice sunrise into alignment with the glorious band of the Milky Way.   The first diagram shows the Age of Pisces, which is coming to an end (the exact end-year is a subject of debate and some disagreement). 

I have added a red line which indicates the constellation-signs in which the equinox sunrise takes place (again, remember the concept of heliacal rise -- a couple previous posts dealing with that concept are linked above).  The red letter "E" shown in Pisces (on the left) and Virgo (on the right) indicate that the equinox sunrise takes place in these zodiac constellations during the Age of Pisces.  For the northern hemisphere, the March equinox is the spring and gives the Age of Pisces its name.  During this age, the solstices (marked with a blue line) are in Gemini (at the top, marked with "JS" for "June Solstice") and Sagittarius (at the bottom, marked with "DS" for "December Solstice").  In the northern hemisphere, of course, the December Solstice is the Winter Solstice.

However, as the mechanism of precession slowly delays the backdrop of the heavens, the ages will finally shift as they have before, and the zodiacal constellation of Pisces at the Spring Equinox will be replaced by Aquarius (the "preceding" sign -- hence "precession"), ushering in the Age of Aquarius.  The situation will then be as shown in the diagram below:

Note that the red line of the equinoxes now indicates Aquarius (marked with a red "E" in the lower left) and Leo (red "E" at upper right).  The blue line of the solstices has shifted too, and now designates Taurus (June Solstice, upper left) and Scorpio (December Solstice or Winter Solstice, lower right).  

The important point to understand is that the Milky Way in the night sky rises between Sagittarius and Scorpio.  You can see these brilliant constellations in the stunning video linked at the top of this post: click on the image of the Milky Way lying almost horizontal above the eastern horizon.  This should help to imagine the celestial backdrop that John Major Jenkins is discussing in his articles, and which his theory maintains is the key to understanding the significance of the Long Count and 2012. 

Even if it is not yet the official start of the Age of Aquarius, you can now understand why the Maya understood the December Solstice sunrise to line up with a year in that transitional period in which we are shifting from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius.  Because this shift brings the Winter Solstice sunrise from Sagittarius (in the Age of Pisces) to Scorpio (in the Age of Aquarius), that sunrise will pass through the band of the Milky Way (which rises between Scorpio and Sagittarius) at some point during that transition.  The Maya calculated it to take place THIS YEAR, on this December Solstice.

This discussion should help us to begin to understand the amazing significance of the Maya Long Count.  John Major Jenkins is to be commended for his diligent work in uncovering the evidence that supports this Galactic Alignment understanding of the Maya Long Count cycle.   Finally, this understanding of what the Maya Long Count may mean should also serve to raise our respect for the incredible astronomical and mathematical sophistication of the Maya who anticipated this event well over two thousand years ago, incorporating both a masterful understanding of the subtle motion of precession and also a profound awareness of the symbolic language of our earth, sun, and galaxy -- and the connections between macrocosm and microcosm spanning many levels of consciousness.