Saturday, December 31, 2011

#365 / Freaked Out

Me parece como estaba ayer, pero fue hace veinte años que estudió español con Consuelo España en Cabrillo College y aprendí algo del calendario de los Mayas.

I took Spanish 29 at Cabrillo College in the Fall of 1991. The course was called "La Cultura y Civilizacion de Mexico," and was taught totally in Spanish. A research project was assigned, and I was told to research (totalmente en español, claro) the Mayan system of numbers (and the Mayan calendar). I wrote a report, and made a class presentation, and I have gone back into my filing cabinets to pull out the materials from my class, to see if these materials reveal why I have been "freaked out" about the end of the Mayan calendar (in 2012) ever since this class at Cabrillo. Unfortunately, my papers were not that revealing.

The Mayans had two calendars. Their "normal" calendar, which had 365 days, and was called Haab, was organized in 18 months of 20 days each, with a five day "extra" month at the end of each year. That calendar, in other words, though the days were organized differently, was essentially the same as European calendars, reflecting the reality of Earth's annual trip around the sun. The second Mayan calendar, however, called the Tzolkín, had only 260 days; it was a sacred calendar. At least as of 1991, no one had really produced a good explanation of the basis for the Tzolkín.

When the two calendars were integrated, as they were, they produced recurring periods of exactly 52 years. Each day during that 52-year period had an individual "name," under this dual calendar system, and at the end of the 52-year period, the "name" of the next day would be the same exact "name" of the day that had started the calendar 52 years previously. Obviously, this could cause confusion. In order to eliminate that confusion (or so it is speculated), the Mayans developed a "long count" calendar, as opposed to the "short count" calendar which always ended after each 52-year cycle. It is this "long count" calendar that ends (as I understand the calculations) on December 21, 2012.

What is pictured in the cartoon above, if I am not mistaken, is not the Mayan calendar, but the Aztec calendar. The Aztec calendar was similar to, but different from the Mayan calendar, which has been called the "most accurate" calendar ever produced. I don't think, in other words, that is actually a "lack of space" that compelled the Mayan long count calendar to end in 2012.

Maybe it was the judgment that the Mayan calendar is the "most accurate" calendar ever produced that "freaked me out," when I did my research in 1991. Whatever the reason, I have thought, since that time, that there would be something special about 2012. I still have that feeling.

Without being too "freaked," I am looking forward to next year!

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