Ancient Mayan Prophecies Don’t Translate Well

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It’s December 20th. Tomorrow, according to an ancient Mayan prophecy, is Armageddon. Are you having an end-of-the-world party tonight? Well, don’t do anything you’re going to regret too much the next morning. As it turns out, ancient Mayan prophecies don’t translate all that well.

The ancient Maya never predicted that the world would end today, and their modern-day descendants don’t believe that it will, either.   Today simply marks the end of the 13th “baktun,” a Mayan unit of time that spans approximately 400 years. It doesn’t signify “the end of the world” any more than the year 2000 AD did.

As Professor Rusty Barrett, a Mayan linguist at the University of Kentucky, explained on the school’s website:

“Saying that the Mayan calendar ends is sort of like saying that when our calendar gets to 9999 that it ends. Well, all you do is add a 1. The Mayan calendar is the same, but their math is a base-20 system, so when you get to 20 you just move up a unit.”

Instead of foretelling an apocalypse, Maya today see the end of the 13th baktun as symbolic of a new beginning.  In fact, according to, many Mayans are hoping for an era of relative peace, improved prosperity and heightened environmental awareness. That sounds more like the “Age of Aquarius” than anything out of Revelations.

Consequently, most Maya are just a wee bit irritated at the existence of a such a widespread cultural misunderstanding. According to Professor Barrett,

“The Maya that I work with in Guatemala have been extremely irritated with how this moment in their calendar is being represented, particularly in the U.S. and Europe. It’s something they see as entirely positive and that would only really have significance within their culture, and after seeing people outside saying that it’s this horrible, negative thing and movies like 2012 about the end of the world, they find it extremely frustrating.”

So go ahead and have that extra beer tonight…but you’d better have a good excuse for calling in to work tomorrow!