Rev­el­ers cel­e­brate dawn of Mayan era

Thou­sands chant, dance at ru­ins of an­cient Mayan city.

Austin American-Statesman - - THE SECOND FRONT - By Mark Steven­son Peo­ple at­tend a cer­e­mony Fri­day at the Kukulkan tem­ple in Chichen Itza, Mex­ico. Bud­dhists, pa­gan na­ture wor­ship­pers, druids, fol­low­ers of Aztec and Maya re­li­gious tra­di­tions, and oth­ers cel­e­brated at the site. Is­rael leal / AP

MERIDA, MEx­IcO — Dec. 21 started out as the prophetic day some had be­lieved would usher in the fiery end of the world. By Fri­day af­ter­noon, it had be­come the punch line of count­less Face­book posts and at least sev­eral dozen T-shirts.

At the ru­ins of the an­cient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thou­sands chanted, danced and oth­er­wise frol­icked around cer­e­mo­nial fires and pyra­mids to mark the con­clu­sion of a vast, 5,125-year cy­cle in the Mayan cal­en­dar.

The doomsayers who had pre­dicted apoc­a­lypse were nowhere to be seen. In­stead, peo­ple showed up in T-shirts read­ing “The End of the World: I Was There.”

Ven­dors ea­ger to sell their ce­ramic hand­i­crafts and wooden masks called out to pass­ing vis­i­tors, “Buy some­thing be­fore the world ends.”

And on Twit­ter, #End­oftheWorld had be­come one of the day’s most pop­u­lar hash tags.

For the masses in the ru­ins, Dec. 21 sparked cel­e­bra­tion of what they saw as the birth of a new and bet­ter age. It was also in­spi­ra­tion for mas­sive clouds of patchouli and mar­i­juana smoke, and a cho­rus of conch calls at the break of dawn.

The bois­ter­ous crowd in­cluded Bud­dhists, pa­gan na­ture wor­ship­pers, druids and fol­low­ers of Aztec and Maya re­li­gious tra­di­tions. Some kneeled in at­ti­tudes of prayer, some seated with arms out­stretched in po­si­tions of med­i­ta­tion, all fac­ing El Castillo, the mas­sive main pyra­mid.

Cer­e­monies were be­ing held at dif­fer­ent sides of the pyra­mid, in­clud­ing one led by a mu­sic group that belted out Amer­i­can blues and reg­gae-in­spired chants. Oth­ers in­volved yelp­ing and shout­ing, and drum­ming and dance, such as one cer­e­mony led by spir­i­tual master Ollin Yolotzin.

“The world was never go­ing to end, this was an in­ven­tion of the mass me­dia,” said Yolotzin. “It is go­ing to be a good era. ... We are go­ing to be bet­ter.”

Sim­i­lar rites greeted the new era in neigh­bor­ing Guatemala, where Mayan spir­i­tual lead­ers burned of­fer­ings and fam­i­lies danced in cel­e­bra­tion. Gu­atemalan Pres­i­dent Otto Perez Molina and Costa Ri­can Pres­i­dent Laura Chin­chilla at­tended an of­fi­cial cer­e­mony in the de­part­ment of Peten, along with thou­sands of rev­el­ers and artists.

De­spite all the pomp, no one is cer­tain the pe­riod known as the Mayas’ 13th Bak­tun of­fi­cially ended Fri­day. Some think it may have hap­pened at mid­night. Oth­ers looked to Fri­day’s dawn here in the Maya heart­land. Mex­ico’s Na­tional In­sti­tute of An­thro­pol­ogy and His­tory even sug­gested his­tor­i­cal cal­cu­la­tions to syn­chro­nize the Mayan and West­ern cal­en­dars might be off a few days. It said the Mayan Long Count cal­en­dar cy­cle might not really end un­til Sun­day.

One thing, how­ever, be­came clear to many by Fri­day af­ter­noon: The world had not yet ended.

Yu­catan Gov. Rolando Za­p­ata said he for one felt the grow­ing good vibes, and not just be­cause his state was rak­ing in rev­enue from the thou­sands of cel­e­brants flood­ing in.

“We be­lieve that the be­gin­ning of a new bak­tun means the be­gin­ning of a new era, and we’re re­ceiv­ing it with great op­ti­mism,” Za­p­ata said.

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