Thesis (From The Center of Mayan Time)
© 1994 John Major Jenkins

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.

The following is a brief summary of my work with the alignment of the Long Count end-date:
Mayan Cosmogenesis: Cosmic Mother Gives Birth
© April 1995. John Major Jenkins.


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.

What  follows is a brief synopsis of the  author's  research into the Mayan Calendar and
Mayan Creation Mythology. An exciting breakthrough  is described which is so basic,
yet  so  startling, that many Mayan scholars have thus far refused to acknowledge it.
John Major Jenkins is an independent student of Mayan Time. He is the author of
articles for
Mountain  Astrologer, Iron  Feather Journal,  Zeitgeist, Scenezine,
World Explorer Magazine,  The Borderlands Journal,
and five books on
Mayan cosmology  including
Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and
Calendar Studies (1994)
 and the forthcoming
The Center of Mayan Time (1995)

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.

End of the Mayan Great Cycle: December 21st, 2012 A.D.

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."

World Ages: Precession of the Stellar Frame

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.

Ancient Cosmology Points To Our Immediate Future

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.

The Fever: Millennial or Mayan?

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.

Diagram 1:
The sky on December 21st, 2012 A.D.
showing a rare astronomical alignment -
the winter solstice sun is right in the
"dark rift" in the Milky Way.

Diagram 2:
Winter solstice sunrise from the early
Mayan site of Izapa, 50 B.C. Notice
the dark rift in the Milky Way, the
celestial birth canal of Cosmic
Mother, some 30 degrees
above the rising sun.

Diagram 3:
Stela 11 from Izapa shows Cosmic Father
in the "mouth" of Cosmic Mother, the
"dark rift" or "birth canal" in the
Milky Way. This is an image of
the celestial alignment which
culminates in A.D. 2012.

The  Winter  Solstice:  What, Where, and  When
(A  separate insert)

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.