Brief chapter-by-chapter summary
of Maya Cosmogenesis 2012

John Major Jenkins. © November 2002


Order the book here ==O== More information


More than four years after the publication of my book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012, two realities have come to my attention. First, generally speaking several misconceptions about the Maya calendar and the 2012 date persist. The misunderstandings occur in the general population of interested people as well as among academics. Secondly, and more specific to my own reconstruction detailed in MC2012, I have been chagrined to realize that, except for a very few readers and apart from the general thesis, the material in that book has been largely ignored and has remained un-integrated into popular consciousness. The deeper you go, the less can follow. I should probably limit my perspective to the realm of popular consciousness, for it is expected that the academic world will ignore and deride new perspectives for decades. However, exciting new perspectives are usually taken up much more quickly in the popular culture (the esoteric, psychedelic and metaphysical seekers out there). I am grateful that the general thesis, that of solstice-galaxy alignment in 2012, and a few other items have been acknowledged. However, it is perhaps time to summarize the salient aspects of my work that culminated in that book.


It may be unclear exactly how much of that book consists of my deeper elucidation of Mayan traditions rather than simply parroting previously accepted discoveries, as so many new books often do. To emphasize these exciting new discoveries, I will summarize the book chapter by chapter, and then summarize the major and minor items  that are new. This “in a nutshell” summary will augment a similar summary I undertook in the first two chapters of my recent book, Galactic Alignment, but will be more comprehensive. The general concern, mentioned above, regarding persistent misconceptions in the popular and academic perception of 2012, will be explored in the subsequent section of this essay.



Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 was the culmination of four years of intense research and writing. It was my seventh book since 1989. My book The Center of Mayan Time (1995) explored some early perspectives, but was only a preliminary work. Many essays and articles were written between 1995 and late 1996, and these became the main chapters of the book. The Izapa Cosmos study emerged during an intense three-month investigation that culminated in the completion of a self-standing monograph, Izapa Cosmos, in early November 1996. That’s when I realized what the work was to be about in its broadest scope. Material that became chapter 24 was written in February 1997. Chapters 17, 23 and 25, and the Introduction, were written between August and November of 1997. The copy-editing process with Joan Parisi Wilcox took place in January and February of 1998. Terence McKenna wrote his foreword in January of 1998, which I edited with his approval, and the book was more or less complete by mid-March, when I traveled to Merida to speak at the Maya Calendar Congress. There are almost 200 diagrams (originally 240) in the book, most of which I re-drew in early 1998. Several were done with the artistic finesse of my wife, Ellie. The book was printed in late May 1998.


The Contents:


The Hunab Ku poem

This poem was written in October of 1992. It was the first in a series of three poems that emerged at three-year intervals. In retrospect I now realize that they were each about one of the cosmic centers: polar, zenith, and galactic. Each center has a deity, and this scenario resonates with other situations, such as that found in Pekka Ervast’s Key to the Kalevala.


The Frontispiece art
Designed as an encapsulation of the Zenith (Pleiades) Cosmology and the Galactic Cosmology, which are located on the Galactic Anticenter-Galactic Center axis. It resembles a chakra system and thus anticipates the Galactic Chakra model elucidated in a chapter in my book Galactic Alignment. Mayan in design, I think of this complex diagram as a Hermetic symbol akin to the kabbalistic Tree of Life.



Terence McKenna was invited to write a 2,000-word foreword to my book, which he happily accepted in December of 1997. I discussed points with him and edited his first draft, which he approved right before he left for the 1998 Palenque / Uxmal conference.



I wrote this introduction in two sittings around September 1997. With no diagrams, it serves to sketch my journey with Mayan cosmology and describe the solstice-galaxy alignment in concise and simple terms. This introduction alone should drive home the magnitude and originality of this work.


I. Precession Astronomy

Time and astronomy in the development of Mesoamerican civilization. In the final two chapters of this section, precession and the relationship between mythology and astronomy are presented as keys to a central concern of Mesoamerican consciousness.


1. A Timeline of Mesoamerican Culture

Here I sketch the entire history of the human presence in the Americas, up through the Classic, Post Classic and post-contact periods. I suggest that the domestication of corn reveals an intelligence at work, even some 5,000 years ago, and we might expect a similar intelligence working out star mythologies and observations. Precessional knowledge is indicated as early as the Olmec site of La Venta, circa 1200 B.C.


2. Calendrics: Mapping Methods

Introduction to the Mesoamerican calendrical systems, with special focus on the two that were used in World Age doctrines, namely, the Calendar Round and the Long Count. The precessional underpinning of these eschatological systems is introduced. I explain the correlation question that is essential for understanding why December 21, 2012 is the end-date of the 13-baktun cycle.


3. Cosmology: Finding the Center

The cosmological interests of early Mesoamericans are introduced, especially the concern with “finding the center.” I review the three celestial centers that they became aware of, and the impossible-to-ignore precessional considerations. The associated cultures that gave preference to each cosmic center reveals a differentiation or shift in cosmological orientation, manifesting particularly between Central Mexico and Mayan areas to the east, circa 100 A.D.


4. Precession: The Mystery of the Ages

Since precession is the constantly recurring theme, a full explanation is given here. I provide a “foreground and background” model to easily understand precessional shifting, and sketch the evidence in the academic literature that the ancient Mesoamericans were aware of precession (more of this evidence is detailed in Appendix 2).


5. Mythology and Astronomy

Here the relations between mythology and astronomy are introduced, following the insights in Hamlet’s Mill. I provide some examples of how the Maya mythologized astronomical bodies and events, emphasizing that one astronomical feature could be mythologized in many ways. As an example of the universality of one astronomical feature, the polar axis, I sketched how it was symbolized in Egyptian, Hindu, Mayan, and Finnish mythology. 


II. The Union of Captain Serpent and Captain Sun Disk

The seven chapters in this section provide the major core of the original research and discoveries in Maya Cosmogenesis 2012.


6. The Pyramid of Kukulcan: A Cosmic Myth in Stone

The reader is already familiar with the solstice-galaxy alignment, described in the Introduction. Another type of precessional alignment was alluded to as well. My research into the symbolism of the Pyramid of Kukulcan at Chichen Itza reveals a deeper, previously unrecognized encoded knowledge, that of  the alignment of the sun and the Pleiades in the zenith. This alignment is clearly pointed to in the symbolism of the Pyramid of Kukulcan and, as a precessionally-defined era, it culminates beginning in the 21st century A.D. 


7. The True Meaning of the Toltec New Fire Ceremony

Since the sun-Pleiades-zenith alignment involves the Pleiades, I was compelled to seek the calendrical tracking method of this alignment in the New Fire Ceremony. I discovered a very simple and compelling fact about the role of the Pleiades in the New Fire ceremony, which was transplanted to and celebrated at Chichen Itza in the 8th and 9th centuries. I identify this fact, that the Pleiades were noted passing through zenith at midnight at the end of each 52-year Calendar Round, as a way to track the future converge of the sun and the Pleiades in the zenith. The eschatological implications of this situation are profound and entirely unacknowledged, even as a remote possibility, in Mesoamerican studies. To further support my reconstruction of this “zenith” or “Pleiades” cosmology, I explore the prevalence and role of zenith imagery in Mesoamerican iconography (next chapter).    


8. Zenith Imagery in Mesoamerica

In this chapter I survey academic insights into zenith imagery, including the use of staff, scepter, snake, pyramid, and year-sign symbols, as well as trapezoidal zenith-tracking instruments. This provides contextual support for the discoveries in chapters 6 and 7. What emerges then is a picture of a vast two-part cosmological system in Mesoamerica, pointing at the Pleiades in one part of the sky, and the Galactic Center in the other. That the precessional alignments in both these cosmological systems culminate over Chichen Itza in the 21st century is taken up further in chapter 12.


9. The Long Count: Galactic Alignment in 2012

A close and realistic examination of the parameters of the Galactic Alignment, based on actual sky observations and astronomy software modeling. The galactic equator, Galactic Center, and solstice meridian are distinguished and explained. Contrary to accusations that I ignore these considerations, here, as in my 1995 book The Center of Mayan Time, I openly discuss the precise calculations of the alignment.


10. Maya Creation: The Stellar Frame and World Ages

Almost a stand-alone piece that summarizes galactic alignment perspectives thus far. I specifically address the ideas of Linda Schele and ask why they wouldn’t apply to the other crossing point of the Milky Way and the ecliptic (the one near the Galactic Center, rather than the one near Orion in her interpretation). As with all the other chapters, I cite respected academic studies to document and support my own conclusions.


11. The Cosmic Symbolism of the Maya Ballgame

As with many of my other sub-discoveries, my unraveling of the galactic alignment within Mayan ballgame symbolism has flown completely under the radar. And yet the conclusions are based on understood iconography of the ballgame and are consistent with its accepted meanings. Like Mithraism’s association with the Galactic Center that I explored in my recent book, the Mayan ballgame’s connection with the Galactic Center is transparently obvious, and the dearth of feedback or commentary on my elucidations is baffling. 


12. Chichen Itza Cosmology: Maya-Toltec Reconciliation

The implications in this chapter could be expanded into a full-length book. Here I sketch a model of historical development in Mesoamerica, driven by cosmological and eschatological pursuits. The two precessional cosmologies that I have reconstructed indicate a split in the Mesoamerican psyche, manifesting in two divergent traditions that flowered in Central Mexico (Toltec / Nahuatl) and in the east (Mayan). Chichen Itza’s renaissance in the 9th century was stimulated by Central Mexicans who fled the fall of Teotihuacan. They brought the New Fire tradition and its associated Zenith Cosmology to Chichen Itza. However, Chichen was originally informed by the Mayan eschatological concept of galactic alignment and so a reconciliation symbolic of a unification of the ancient schism in the Mesoamerican psyche had to occur. It did occur, via the relocation of the Zenith Cosmology further north, effecting an astronomical convergence of the two precessional eschatologies such that they would both culminate in the 21st century. This pact between the two worlds, between two eschatological perspectives, is symbolized by the union of Captain Sun Disk (the Galactic Cosmology) and Captain Serpent (the Zenith Cosmology), which is depicted all over Chichen Itza. Though portrayed with pseudo-historical avatars, the union was essentially cosmological. We could think of it as the union of the Galactic Center and the Galactic Anticenter.


Part III. Maya Cosmogenesis

This section was intended to explore miscellania related to birthing, creation concepts, shamanic conjuring, and cosmogenesis. Each chapter presents original research and insights.


13. The Birth of the Hero Twins

Much of my book is based on the principle that mythology and astronomy go together. In this chapter I take up identifications offered by Popol Vuh translator Dennis Tedlock to decode likely dates of the Hero Twins’ “cosmological conception”. In other words, the story of their conception as it appears in the Popol Vuh contains well-defined astronomical parameters. That the Hero Twin story goes at least back to Izapa, circa 100 B.C., defined for me a general epoch in which to search for (with astronomy software) the alignment of astronomical parameters that defined the conception of the Hero Twins. Above all other dates explored, the date on the winter solstice of 165 B.C. is found to be the most likely candidate. This is when Jupiter, Venus, and an old moon aligned with the dark-rift on a winter solstice. This approach to finding the astronomical date of the Hero Twins’ conception, and thereby their likely time of entry into early Mayan consciousness, has no precedent in the academic literature, although similar methods are employed to date events in the codices.  


14. A Hawk, A Cross, and a Mouth

Drawing again from academic work, here that of Judith Remington and Barbara Tedlock, I take a step farther a Quiché Maya myth relating to the region of Aquila (the Eagle or “Hawk” constellation) and the dark-rift in the Milky Way. Related material among the Chortí and Yucatec Maya is explored connecting the iconography of mouths and crosses, frogs and birds. The basic demonstration here is that the dark-rift was conceived as a mouth as well as a birthplace.


15. The Man Who Was Swallowed by an Alligator

Very related to the previous chapter, here I explore the “monster mouth” motif as a doorway to another world. This chapter consists of my prosaic retelling of a profound and quite funny Quiché Maya story that I found in an obscure linguistic journal (where it was translated from Quiché literally with no effort at prose style). My previous experience in editing Finnish translations helped me to flesh out the real story in good prose. I identified parallels with an episode in the Popol Vuh, as well as the shamanistic overtones it contains and its astronomical underpinnings. Reconstructing a folk-tale to such depth was inspired by Eva Hunt’s book The Transformation of the Hummingbird, which was in turn inspired by Victor Turner’s methodology (Forest of Symbols).


16. Shamanic Tools, Thrones, and Birth Portals

Shamanism, with its values, intentions, cosmologies, and methods, finally gets full treatment in this chapter. In terms of the end-date alignment, sacred plants were clearly used at Izapa during the time that the Long Count and the Creation Myth were formulated. Sacred mushrooms, DMT toads, trans-dimensional wormholes, throne symbolism, and cosmos-as-mother are explored. In addition, I briefly sketch the “black hole” in Mayan Creation texts, taken up in more detail in Appendix 4


17. Conjuring Creation

This chapter developed around the role of shamanic kings as conjurers—evoking into local space-time the energies of a higher-dimensional order. Some related material on channeling was attached almost as an afterthought, as well as a mentioning of the the Aztec tzitzimime as monsters of the end times. Ironically, I received several comments on this dispensable material, whereas the original work found in other chapters in this section of the book have hardly ever received comment. The chapter ends with a reiteration of the role of the Great Mother in Maya cosmogenesis (the footnotes to this passage were almost excised from the book but are very important).   


Part IV: Izapa Cosmos

This section was a stand alone monograph, completed in late 1996, that I knew would be central to the investigation. How else to understand the 2012 date than to study the site that invented it?


18. Ceremonial City of the Ancient Skywatchers

Examines the archaeological background, context, and development of Izapa as a unique ceremonial center in time and space. It was a mysterious transitional culture between the older Olmec and the emerging Maya.


19. Southern Mesoamerica, 200 B.C.: The Izapan Civilization

Sketches the alignments, architecture, astronomical concerns, and mythological sculptures of Izapa. Compares Izapa to nearby sites and bioregions.


20. Izapan Calendrics

Explores the unique astronomical calendrics used at the latitude of Izapa, as well as the development of the Long Count calendar, identifying the Izapans as its creators. Precessional considerations are identified.


21. Izapan Astronomy and Cosmology

Here, unique relationships between the Big Dipper and the December solstice sun are explored in the context of the Hero Twin myth that is portrayed on Izapa’s monuments. A dialectic between Seven Macaw and One Hunahpu is reflected in astronomical movments over Izapa. Precession is identified as a central concern of the Izapans. The fall of Seven Macaw is identified as the precessional fall of the Big Dipper farther away from the North Celestial Pole. The demise of the Olmec is related to this cosmological shifting, as the Maya took up the cause of One Hunahpu—the December solstice sun and its precessional shifting towrd the Galactic Center / dark-rift area.


22. The Monumental Message

The messages of the three monument groups are explored in the context of their reference to the three cosmic centers: zenith, polar, and galactic. Special focus is placed on the ball court group, which encodes the mythological (even theological) meaning of the end-date alignment of the solstice sun with the galactic equator in 2012. 


23. Initiation into the Izapan Mysteries

This chapter takes a first-person look at the experiences of an Izapan initiate of some 2,000 years ago. Different in tone than the scholarly examinations in other chapters, here we imaginatively enter into the life of the ceremonial city and journey into the Heart of Sky.


Part V: Gazing into the Galaxy

Two summational chapters.


24. The Forgotten Galactic Paradigm

This chapter encapsulates the primary elements of the Galactic Cosmology.


25. Back to the Center: The Message of the Mayan End-Date

My obligatory attempt to sum up the meaning or message of the end-date alignment, which because of the profound nature of the event, is quite a task. I took a stab here at pointing out certain scientific theories to provide an empirical model of the alignment’s “effects”, but end with a prosaic description that is decidedly more metaphysical in scope. 


The Appendices


App1: A Brief History of An Idea

I wanted to provide a clear record of the modern background to the solstice-galaxy alignment idea, as far as I was aware at the time. I’d add a few more writers to the list, including David Frawley and Patrizia Norelli-Bachelet. People assume that I claim to have discovered the alignment, which, as this appendix clearly shows, I never have. My contribution resides in taking it all many steps further in showing how the Maya encoded the end-date alignment of 2012 into their core institutions, such as the Creation myth, the sacred ballgame, and king-making rites. The discussion is thus no longer the province of New Ages fantasts, but becomes viable for scholars to seriously look at. If only they would.


App2: Mesoamerican Precessional Knowledge: In the Literature

A more in-depth treatment of what scholars have had to say about the likelihood that the Maya were aware of precession, and calculated it. Aveni, Brotherston, Hunt: The conclusion is resoundingly supportive of the probability, even though it is downplayed by other scholars.

App3: Space-Time Maps of the Sun and the Pleiades in the Zenith

Path-breaking exploration of Zenith-Cosmology dynamics as a function of latitude. Includes adapted astronomical tables laid over Mesoamerican geography to illustrate the precessional flow of the sun-Pleiades-zenith alignment. Tables indicate why a range of dates is required, especially at the latitude of Chichen Itza.

App4: Evidence for a Black Hole in Maya Creation Texts

The observations in this appendix did strike a responsive chord in some readers. Though epigraphers have failed to make certain connections in their own material, the fact  remains that a glyph translated as “black hole” indicates the location of Maya Creation events. I propose that this glyph refers to the dark-rift in the Milky Way with a possible secondary reference to the Black Hole that some believe resides in the Galactic Center.

App5: Response to Counterarguments

I anticipated a set of arguments against my theory that scholars were likely to bring up; specifically, Linda Schele’s preference for a 20-baktun cycle and Floyd Lounsbury’s 2-day correlation shift. Many people still invoke the positions of these scholars as a kind of inviolable conventional wisdom, when in fact on both accounts the conclusions of these scholars fail mild standards of rational sense making. The unabridged version of this appendix is here

App6: Recent Breakthroughs in Decoding Ancient Cosmologies

Addressing popular “independent research”, I attempt to provide clarity on certain misconceptions and poorly argued theories. My application of reason to the information in The Mayan Prophecies reveals contradictory statements and a lack of internal consistency. It is lamentable that such books are successful in the market place even when the research is shoddy and the conclusions are inconsistent with Mayan time philosophy. Other books (e.g., Sullivan’s Secret of the Incas) are acknowledged for solid contributions.


End Notes

20 pages of end-notes (many in-depth comments provided here, with exhaustive and comprehensive citations to academic sources).



24 pages of bibliography (see unabridged bibliography at:


Excised Chapters (posted on my web site):


Commentary on Hamlet’s Mill

An essay distilled from a 40,000-word manuscript I wrote in 1994. Excised from the published book for space reasons.


Olmec Antecedents: The Watershed

A solid contextual piece showing how the concepts and astronomical features related to the solstice-galaxy alignment were present in germinal form even among the Olmec. This well-illustrated essay was based largely on the articles by Schele, Taube, Reilly, and others in The Olmec World (1995).




A separate statement on various
misconceptions related to my work,
to 2012, and to the galactic alignment.




John Major Jenkins. © 2002.