188.8.131.52.10; 18 Pax 6 Oc; 309 days left . . .
All good rumors start with a whisper of truth.
Discovering that truth is the gift that travel brings, because nothing compares to gaining knowledge first hand, on site.
So far, my journey through Mexico has taken me to the place where the Maya calendar began, as well as the place of origin for the many myths about ancient Maya beliefs. All I needed now was to read the original doomsday prophecy that so many people are talking about.
A good researcher always wants to get back to the primary source, which is exactly what brought me to the state of Tabasco and the vibrant city of Villahermosa. Despite all the speculation, urgent discussion and global hullabaloo around the so-called “Maya doomsday prophecy”, there is only one actual written record of such an event.
That record is contained in Monument 6 from the Maya archeological site of El Tortuguero, located in the Mexican state of Tabasco about 30 miles southeast of Villahermosa. Due to rising worldwide interest in the prophecy, the stone tablets were recently moved to Villahermosa and are now on permanent display at El Museo Regional de Anthropologia de Carlos Pellicer Cámara (named after the Mexican poet and traveler who first discovered the inscriptions in 1958).
The museum is open to the public from Tuesday through Sunday—thus I arrived first thing on Tuesday morning, just as the guards were unlocking the front doors. I found the general lack of fanfare around the tablets a bit odd, given the worldwide excitement around the Maya prophecy.
“Yeah, it’s upstairs,” yawned the docent, pointing up a floor. And there it was, bolted onto the wall, a flat piece of off-white stone that most of us would skip right past in most museums.
The whole of Monument 6 consists of three rectangular slabs, which were originally placed on the back wall of a ceremonial building in Tortuguero in a T-shape (a symbol that represents the wind in Mayan iconography).
The decorative narrative of Monument 6 details the life and times of “Lord Jaguar” Ahau Balam, who was born in 612 A.D. and ruled from 644 to 679 A.D. Events from the past are also highlighted on the stone, such as wars, the dedication of new buildings, a great fire, and the opening of a steam bath.
It is the final passage of Monument 6 that draws so much interest, specifically the countdown from Lord Jaguar’s life to the “final date” of the 13th baktun, or 184.108.40.206.0. According to the Maya long count calendar, that date is December 21st, 2012.
Staring at the actual carved inscription of the final passage of Monument 6 was both exciting and a little underwhelming. Like any history buff, I find any bit of old writing pretty thrilling, but as a traveler in search of hard facts, I found the handful of Maya glyphs offered me very little to go on.
When all is said and done, the Maya “doomsday” prophecy boils down to eight carved characters, of which half are crumbled and unclear. Academics still debate their specific meaning, but the translation offered at the museum is as follows:
The thirteenth baktun will end on the day 4 Ajaw; 3 K’ank’in; Will occur the descent of the god Bolom Yokté.
No fire and brimstone, or planetary collisions or global floods or polar shifts. Only a reference to Bolom Yokté, who is one of the Maya gods associated with the creation of the universe. Naming this particular deity opens up a whole new field for interpretation and speculation, since Maya gods can represent a whole host of meanings and events.
I had traveled all the way to Villahermosa for the true source of the 2012 prophecy — What I found was a damaged stone, like a tattered corner ripped from some old newspaper, printed with outdated headlines and one final cryptic sentence. Seeing the prophecy for myself popped the doom-and-gloom rumor balloon that surrounds 2012, but like all good clues, it left me with new questions.
Specifically, “Who exactly is this Bolom Yokté and what does his prophesied appearance mean for us?”
That is a very big question — one that I will try to answer as I continue to explore Mexico’s Mundo Maya.