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The 2012 Phenomenon were various mythological beliefs surrounding the date December 21st, 2012, which marked the end of a 5,125 year cycle, according to the Mayan Long Count calendar.
The earliest known mention of December 21st, 2012 has been attributed to author Michael D. Coe who wrote in his 1966 book The Maya:
“There is a suggestion […] that Armageddon would overtake the degenerate peoples of the world and all creation on the final day of the 13th b’ak’tun. Thus […] our present universe [would] be annihilated [in December 2012] when the Great Cycle of the Long Count reaches completion.”
Coe’s interpretation is largely based on the ancient Mayan Long Count Calendar, which is scheduled to complete its 5,125-year Great Cycle on the winter solstice in December 2012. According to the Popul Vuh, a compilation of Mayan mythical and historical narratives, three previous, failed worlds were abolished at the end of each of the previous three Great Cycles. Thus, Coe inferred that at the end of the current Great Cycle in December 2012, an event of apocalyptic or transformative nature will occur. There are a multitude of competing theories as to exactly what will happen: some say that an interplanetary alignment will cause a series of catastrophic events, while others predict an incredible sign that will mark the beginning of a new Age. This doomsday interpretation has been dismissed by most Mayan scholars.
In 1975, the ending of the current (13th) b’ak’tun became the subject of speculation by New Age authors, who asserted it would correspond with a global “transformation of consciousness” (see Age of Aquarius, below). In Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth Age of Consciousness, Frank Waters tied Coe’s original date of December 24th, 2011 to astrology and the prophecies of the Hopi.
Coe’s interpretation was repeated by other scholars through the early 1990s, including citations in David Carrasco’s 1990 books Lowland Maya Civilization in the Eighth Century A.D and Religions of Mesoamerica: Cosmovision and Ceremonial Centers. In the late ‘90s, other researchers interpreted the end of the 13th b’ak’tun as the beginning of a new astrological Age. Meanwhile, the vast majority of Mayan scholars have openly dismissed the date’s association with apocalypse, including Mark van Stone, who said “the notion of a Great Cycle coming to an end is completely a modern invention.”
With the advent of video-sharing communities, thousands of videos discussing the 2012 doomsday have emerged online, mostly focusing on the apocalyptic interpretation of the year 2012. There are hundreds of thousands of news blogs and websites dedicated to the topic; “Ask an Astrobiologist,” a NASA public outreach website, has received over 5000 questions from the public on the subject since 2007, with some even asking whether they should kill themselves, their children or their pets.
Many of the theories relating to the 2012 phenomenon involve galactic alignment. There are various ideas about how this might happen, but the majority involve the alignment of the sun with various planetary bodies. The alignment has been interpreted in a variety of ways.
Age of Aquarius
One of the most common interpretations of the galactic alignment theory, by New Age philosophers, predicts that the alignment will bring the start of a new astrological Age on Earth. Although there is no direct evidence linking the end of the Great Cycle to any astrological phenomena, the alignment is heavily linked to astrology and New Age literature. To astrologists, the event represents the shift from the Age of Pisces to the Age of Aquarius. According to most interpretations, the shifting of the Ages is usually accompanied by significant changes in human behaviour, biological evolution, and consciousness; it is generally said that the Age of Aquarius will bring enlightenment.
While, strictly speaking, the coming of a new Age does not necessarily spell out a doomsday scenario, some have theorized that previous galactic alignments have caused catastrophic events such as the mass extinction of the dinosaurs, and geomagnetic reversals (reversal of the Earth’s magnetic poles) accompanied by drastic fluctuations the Earth’s magnetic field, and that therefore similar events will occur in 2012. It should be noted that geomagnetic reversals have occurred several times throughout the history of the Earth. It has been postulated that they could be directly or indirectly responsible for past mass extinction events, and therefore it is possible that a future reversal could cause an extinction. However, there is no way to predict future reversals, and there is no evidence to indicate that one is coming in 2012.
Black Hole Alignment
Another common interpretation of galactic alignment involves the supermassive black hole located at the centre of the Milky Way galaxy, Sagittarius A*. It has been theorized that, due to the alignment, the black hole will exercise some type of magnified gravitational influence on the solar system, despite being over 30,000 light years away. Theories usually involves extreme distortions in the Sun’s gravitational field, which may cause asteroids or planetary bodies to collide with Earth, as well as extreme tides and earthquakes on Earth itself. Similar planetary alignments occurred in 2000 and 2010, with no adverse effects observed on Earth.
Nibiru Collision Scenario
Another theory predicting a doomsday in 2012 is the so-called Nibiru Collision Scenario. It predicts that a large planetary mass named Nibiru (or Planet X) will collide with Earth in 2012. The theory was first proposed in 1995 by a woman from Wisconsin who claims that aliens implanted a communication device in her brain and warned her of the impending collision. Since the Mayans had an advanced understanding of astronomy, many who believe the Nibiru theory believe that the Maya foresaw the collision and thus predicted the end of the world. Nibiru’s existence is largely eschewed by the scientific community. Despite this, there are a large number of conspiracy theories surrounding NASA’s supposed covering-up of Nibiru’s existence.
Not surprisingly, extraterrestrial aliens are often mentioned in context with the 2012 phenomenon. Current Google searches come back with nearly 16.5 million hits for “aliens December 21st 2012”. The French mountain of Bugarach (considered sacred by the locals) is a key topic, as the local population claim that it will be at this place where aliens will rescue them on the 21st of December. Proponents of the Ancient Astronaut Theory are staking out December 21 as “Ancient Ancestor Day”, in the same way that others celebrate Earth Day. Several books recently on the market are making the case of tying aliens and the apocalypse together, and even the final episode of the SciFi series “X-Files” gives a nod to this idea by picking 12/21/2012 as the first day of the impending alien colonization/invasion in the story canon.
A numerological formula called Timewave Zero, devised by American philosopher Terence McKenna, models the “novelty,” or interconnectedness, of the universe. The formula predicts a singularity in 2012, indicating that the universe’s “novelty” will become infinite, and that all conceivable events will occur at once. This was supported by McKenna’s interpretation of the King Wen sequence in the ancient Chinese divination method known as Yì Jīng (or I Ching). This theory bears some similarities to the coming of the new astrological Age, as they both predict drastic shifts in human biological and sociocultural evolution.
In Popular Culture
The History Channel has produced a handful of special series on doomsday, such as Decoding the Past (2005–2007), 2012, End of Days (2006), Last Days on Earth (2006), Seven Signs of the Apocalypse (2007), and Nostradamus 2012 (2008). The Discovery Channel also aired 2012 Apocalypse in 2009, suggesting that massive solar storms, geomagnetic reversal, earthquakes, supervolcanoes, and other drastic natural events may occur in 2012.
The phenomenon has produced hundreds of books, including Dan Brown’s bestselling novel The Lost Symbol. The 2009 disaster film 2012 was inspired by the phenomenon, and was publicized with a stealth marketing campaign in which TV spots and websites from the fictional “Institute for Human Continuity” called on people to prepare for the end of the world. The film features cataclysmic natural disasters which cause fundamental shifts in the Earth’s geography. Despite poor critical reviews, the film became one of the most successful of the year, grossing nearly $770 million worldwide.
There have also been a number of pop music hits containing references to the 2012 doomsday, including “A Certain Shade of Green” (1997) by Incubus, “2012 (It Ain’t the End)” (2010) by Jay Sean, and “Till the World Ends” (2011) by Britney Spears.
Project Mayhem 2012
In June 2012, YouTuber rEVOLUTIONART2012 uploaded an Anonymous call to action (shown below, left) urging people to leak sensitive documents from their workplaces. Called “Project Mayhem 2012,” the video used imagery and quotes from the 1999 film Fight Club and George Orwell’s 1949 dystopian novel 1984. In September, two Pastebin files associated with the project appeared, the first nothing that the planned project is a “reality-hacking wargame” calling for creative people to join together and make the government afraid of its people through hacking and art. The second document contained instructions, encouraging people to download documents containing lies and evidence of illegal activity in their workplaces and putting them online at 11:11 AM local time on December 21st, 2012. A website[30 with a countdown to that time, referred to as “The End of Fear” was launched soon after, featuring more quotes from 1984.
On December 9th, a lengthier version of the first communique was uploaded to YouTube (shown above, right) announcing 10 days of leaked corporate, financial, military and state documents that had been gathered beginning on December 12th. Though the project has been covered on Russia Today, I Am Bored and Cyber Warzone, no major leaks have come out as of December 20th.
The National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA) has been preparing for December 21st since as early as 2007, when they launched the site Ask an Astrobiologist to field a variety of questions about the universe. On December 11th, the agency published a video titled “Why the World Didn’t End Yesterday” (shown below), dating it December 22nd, 2012. The video confirms with the head of NASA’s Near-Earth Object Program, Don Yeomans, that there are no known asteroids or comets set to collide with the earth on December 21st. By December 20th, NASA revealed they had been receiving 200 to 300 phone calls and emails per day, two and a half times their normal volume. Many of these messages were coming from children and teens who are so worried they claim they cannot eat or sleep.
Between late November and early December, authorities in China arrested nearly 100 people from seven provinces for spreading rumors of the Mayan apocalypse. Many of those arrested were members of the cult Church of Almighty God who were asking people to hand over all their possessions in order to be saved on December 21st. Others were charged with disturbing public order after handing out red dates and walnuts, whose pronunciations sound similar to the phrase “escape in time” in Chinese. Despite the arrests, people in China were found buying arks and a furniture maker named Liu Qiyuan designed survival pods (shown below) made out of steel and fiberglass that come equipped with water, food and oxygen tanks.
Throughout November and December, survival gear retailers including Ready to Go Survival and First Aid Global saw increases in emergency kits. Several hotels have also cashed on in the impending apocalypse, offering special deals for December 21st, including The Curtis in Denver. who offered a “Party LIke There’s No To-Maya” package for $12,021 which included a private party, freeze-dried foods, gas masks, access to a tattoo artist and a brunch on the 22nd. Travelers also began to flock to a mountain range in Serbia, who saw a 30% increase in tourism. Additionally, restaurant chain T.G.I. Friday’s planned “Last Friday” celebrations (shown below) in six US cities boasting Mayan Margaritas.
As December 21st, 2012 approached, 33 schools in Michigan decide to close for the holidays two days early to avoid any incidents that may be influenced by the recent Sandy Hook elementary school shootings or with the Mayan doomsday rumors. While the superintendent Matt Wandrie noted that all rumors of threats had been looked in to and debunked, he noted that the students were distracted by all the misinformation and chose to cancel school, activities and sporting events on December 20th and 21st. Though these may have been the only schools whose closings made national news, internet culture blog Twitchy gathered a series of tweets from students associating the words “school,” “Friday” and “bang” or “shooting.”
Who ever go to school Friday gone feel like they in a chief keef video you gone here so much bang bang BANG!!— Ra’Quon Glenn(@Super_Man32) December 20, 2012
As Redditors living directly west of the International Date Line began to see midnight on December 21st, many began boasting on Reddit that the Mayan prophecies were wrong, with posts from New Zealand and Australia hitting the front page with more than 2400 points each. A handful of additional Reddit posts were linked on Cnet.
In the days leading up to the 21st, many people voiced their concerns and theories on Twitter. On December 19th, the word “Mayan” was mentioned 113,487 times and #apocalypse was used 9809 times. “End of the World” was used 335,986 times, compared to the previous days 98,733 mentions.
There was a large spike in 2012-related searches towards the end of 2009, coinciding with the release of the film 2012 in November of that year. There has also been a dramatic upswing in searches for “2012 maya” since the beginning of January. In addition, searches for “nibiru” have remained relatively high compared to other strings; this is due to the large number of conspiracy theories surrounding the supposed planet.
South China Morning Post – Qinghai officials crack down on Church of Almighty God cult