| CHICHEN ITZA, Mexico
CHICHEN ITZA, Mexico Dec 21 Thousands of
mystics, hippies and spiritual wanderers will descend on the
ruins of Maya cities on Friday to celebrate a new cycle in the
Maya calendar, ignoring fears in some quarters that it might
instead herald the end of the world.
Brightly dressed indigenous Mexican dancers whooped and
invoked a serpent god near the ruins of Chichen Itza late on
Thursday, while meditating westerners hoped for the start of a
"golden age" of humanity.
"I see it as a changing of an energy, the changing of a
guard, the changing of universal consciousness," said Serg
Miejylo, a 29-year-old gardener originally from Connecticut.
Wearing sandals, smoking a rolled-up cigarette and sporting
blonde dreadlocks, Miejylo is among those joining the
festivities at Maya sites in southern Mexico and parts of
But while people here were celebrating, the close of the
13th bak'tun - a period of some 400 years - in the
5,125-year-old Long Calendar of the Maya has raised fears among
groups around the world that the end is nigh.
A U.S. scholar once said it could be seen as a kind of
"Armageddon" by the illustrious Mesoamerican culture, and over
time the idea snowballed into a belief that the Maya calendar
had predicted the earth's destruction.
Fears of mass suicides, meteorites, huge power cuts, natural
disasters, epidemics or an asteroid hurtling toward Earth have
circulated on the Internet ahead of Dec. 21.
Chinese police have arrested about 1,000 people this week
for spreading rumors about Dec. 21, and authorities in Argentina
restricted access to a mountain popular with UFO-spotters after
rumors began spreading that a mass suicide was planned there.
In Texas, video game mogul Richard Garriott de Cayeux
decided to throw his most elaborate party ever at midnight -
just in case the Earth did come to an end.
Maya experts, scientists and even U.S. space agency NASA
insist the Maya did not predict the world's end and that there
is nothing to worry about.
"Think of it like Y2K," said James Fitzsimmons, a Maya
expert at Middlebury College in Vermont. "It's the end of one
cycle and the beginning of another cycle."
A NEW DAWN?
New Age optimism, stream-of-consciousness evocations of
wonder and awe, and starry-eyed dreams of extra-terrestrial
contact have descended on the ancient sites this week - leaving
the modern Maya bemused.
"It's pure Hollywood," said Luis Mis Rodriguez, 45, a Maya
selling obsidian figurines and souvenirs shaped into knives like
ones the Maya once used for human sacrifice.
In Chichen Itza, below a labyrinth of gray and white Maya
pillars, a circle of some 40 tourists sat meditating silently on
At one point, a woman in a pink shirt said "the golden age
is truly golden" and asked the group to find a form of light to
take them to another dimension. The meditation then resumed.
Moments earlier, indigenous dancers wearing white linen,
bright feathers and beads shook maracas and the seed pod of the
flame tree to the beat of drums at the foot of the Temple of
serpent god Kukulkan, a focal point of Friday's celebrations.
"We ask all the brothers of the Earth that Kukulkan
dominates the hearts of the entire world," said one of the
dancers, raising his arms towards the sky.
The Maya civilization reached its peak between A.D. 250 and
900 when it ruled over large swathes of what is now southern
Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras. The Maya developed
hieroglyphic writing, an advanced astronomical system and a
There is a long tradition of calling time on the world.
Basing his calculations on prophetic readings of the Bible,
the great scientist Isaac Newton once cited 2060 as a year when
the planet would be destroyed.
U.S. preacher William Miller predicted that Jesus Christ
would descend to Earth in October 1844 to purge mankind of its
sins. When it didn't happen, his followers, known as the
Millerites, refereed to the event as The Great Disappointment.
In 1997, 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult, believing the
world was about to be "recycled," committed suicide in San Diego
to board an alien craft they said was trailing behind a comet.
More recently, American radio host Harold Camping predicted
the world would end on May 21, 2011, later moving the date
forward five months when the apocalypse failed to materialize.
Such thoughts were far from the minds on Friday of gaudily
attired pilgrims to Chichen Itza seeking spiritual release.
"What I hope is that I let go of all the old belief system
and all the past and I just enter into a new reality that is
even better," said Flow Lesur, 48, a Frenchwoman now living in
California who teaches underwater yoga in her spare time.
Faun Rouse, a 78-year-old visitor from Colorado, was
thinking of a different kind of inner contentment when asked how
she would mark the coming of a new epoch. "With a big steak and
lobster dinner, then fly back on Saturday," she said.
(Additional reporting by Karen Brooks, Jilian Mincer and
Gabriel Stargardter; Editing by Dave Graham, Kieran Murray and