Mayan Apocalypse!

Book cover for The Book of Destiny by Carlos Barrios We just lived through the numerically ominous date 12/12/12 unscathed, but what will happen on the day of the Winter Solstice, 12/21/12? December 21, 2012 is a day of reckoning, according to the Mayan Long Count calendar, and some predict the world will end forever on that date. Who were these ancient Mayans?

The Mayan civilization is thousands of years old; many descendants still live scattered throughout the Yucatan Peninsula, encompassing southeastern Mexico, Guatemala and Belize. From approximately 250 to 900 A.D.—known as the classic period—they built an innovative ancient civilization that collapsed almost as quickly as it started, leaving behind an elegant and intricately designed calendar, the Tzolk’in or Long Count Calendar.

The most comprehensive book about the Mayans and their prophecies in the library’s collection is entitled: “The Book of Destiny: Unlocking the Secrets of the Ancient Mayans and the Prophecy of 2012” (Harper, 2009) by Carlos Barrios. This richly researched and illustrated compendium of all things Mayan details the origins of Mayan symbols, expressions and signs—otherwise known as “glyphs.” Characterizing the Maya as “one of the most mysterious and amazing civilizations ever to have existed,” Barrios, a Mayan descendant himself, analyzes each symbol, expression and prophecy. The book also provides a calendar table for 1900 through 2012 and a chapter about determining your Mayan sign.

Predictions of the end-times have often been ludicrous, and how better to spoof the many bizarre theories out there than a recipe book? “Apocalypse Cakes: Recipes for the End” (Running Press, 2011) by Shannon O’Malley, includes recipes for Global Warming Hot Apple Pie, the Shifting Poles Pineapple Upside-Down Cake, Robot Uprising Artificial Food Cake, Human Cloning Egg Cakes, and, perhaps most important, 2012 Mayan Chocolate Cupcakes, featuring a dash of cinnamon and white frosting.

The library also has more serious books about survival. “How to Survive the End of the World as We Know It: Tactics, Techniques and Technologies for Uncertain Times” (Plume Publishing, 2009) by James Wesley Rawles discusses surviving global economic crises, environmental disasters and nuclear winter. Rawles’ recommendations include living independent of government assistance and moving to rural retreats to stave off the worst calamities. The book also talks about food storage, so, if worst comes to worst, we’ll know how to keep our Mayan Chocolate Cupcakes fresh.

This obsession with the Mayan prophecies is somewhat recent. According to J. Allan Denelak’s book “2012, Extinction or Utopia: Doomsday Prophecies Explored” (Llewellyn Publications, 2009), “No date in recent history has become as popular with end-times proponents as has the year 2012… It did not come into our modern consciousness until comparatively recently, making it something of a Johnny come lately in terms of prophetic date-setting.”  In other words, perhaps we had to get over the hump of Y2K before civilization could concentrate on yet another collapse!

Please visit our rotating display near the second floor reference desk at the Columbia Public Library to see additional books about the Mayan prophecies.  Also, if you would you like to learn more about the Mayan Calendar and its prophecies, please attend the presentation “End of Creation: A Mayan Prediction” by Robert Smales, associate professor of Latin American history at the University of Missouri, which will be held at 7 p.m. on Dec. 19 at the Columbia Public Library.

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