December 21, 2012 / 1:50 PM / 5 years ago

UPDATE 4-World survives as Maya 'end of days' marked in Mexico

* Mystics, hippies and tourists descend on Maya ruins
    * Some believe Maya calendar predicted Earth's doom

 (Updates with fresh quotes, color)
    By Alexandra Alper
    CHICHEN ITZA, Mexico, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Thousands of
mystics, hippies and tourists celebrated in the shadow of
ancient Maya pyramids in southeastern Mexico on Friday as the
Earth survived a day billed by doomsday theorists as the end of
the world.
    New Age dreamers, alternative lifestyle gurus and curious
onlookers from around the world descended on the ruins of Maya
cities to mark the close of the 13th bak'tun - a period of
around 400 years - in the Maya Long Calendar. 
    Dismissing a widely disseminated myth that the Maya had
predicted some kind of apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, they
celebrated what they hope is the start of a new and better era
for humanity.    
    After the sun rose in Mexico and the world continued to
spin, the visitors to the Maya heartland gave thanks.
    "I just feel love for everybody and I just feel reverent,"
said Stacey Gill, a 27-year-old radio show assistant from North
Carolina dressed all in white. "I feel completely at peace and
in stillness. Today I feel it in full force."
    The end of the 13th bak'tun in the 5,125-year-old Maya
calendar had inspired pockets of fear around the world that the
end was nigh or that lesser catastrophes lay in store.
    A U.S. scholar said in the 1960s that the end of the 13th
bak'tun could be seen as a kind of Armageddon for the Maya. Over
time, the idea snowballed into a belief by some that the Maya
calendar had predicted the Earth's destruction.
    Fears of mass suicides, huge power cuts, natural disasters,
epidemics or an asteroid hurtling toward Earth had circulated on
the Internet, especially in recent months. 
    In the end, there were no reports of natural or man-made
catastrophes linked to the doomsday predictions.
    To the people congregating in the imposing ruins of the city
of Chichen Itza, a focal point for the celebrations in Mexico,
it was a day for celebrations.
    "It's not the end of the world, it's an awakening of
consciousness and good and love and spirituality - and it's been
happening for a while," said Mary Lou Anderson, 53, an
information technology consultant from Las Vegas.
    
 
    A few minutes before the north pole reached its position
furthest from the sun on Friday, a spotlight illuminated the
western flank of the Temple of the serpent god Kukulkan, a
100-foot-tall (30-meter) pyramid at the heart of Chichen Itza.
    Then a group of five tourists dressed in white made their
way across the plain, dropped their bags and faced the pyramid
with their arms raised b e fore park officials cleared them away.
    As the sun climbed into the sky, a man with dreadlocks
played a didgeridoo - an Australian wind instrument - at the
north end of the pyramid. Nearby groups of tourists meditated on
brightly colored mats.
    
    PARTY TIME
    In Turkey, thousands of tourists flocked to Sirince, a
picturesque village east of the Aegean Sea that believers in a
potential cataclysm had said would be spared on Friday.
    At 1:11 p.m. local time (1111 GMT), visitors to Sirince
gathered in the town square to await for the return of Noah's
Ark on a nearby hill. They counted down from 10 and applauded
when the vessel failed to appear and the world did not end.
    In Bugarach, France, a village that was said to be harboring
an alien spacecraft in a nearby mountain that would enable
people to survive an apocalypse, authorities cordoned off the
area, fearing an influx of doomsday believers. But on Friday
journalists and partygoers outnumbered the survivalists.
    Meanwhile in New York, Buck Wolf, executive editor of crime
and weird news for the Huffington Post, organized an end of the
world party at Manhattan's Hotel Chantelle on Thursday night.
    Wearing a gray T-shirt with a black Maya calendar on it,
Wolf said he was inspired by a similar party he had attended in
1999 related to Nostradamus's doomsday prophecies. "It's all a
big scam," Wolf said. "You might as well throw a good party."
    In China, the United Nations issued a tweet on its official
Weibo microblog denying it was selling tickets for an "ark" in
which people could escape the apocalypse after such tickets were
offered for sale online, albeit apparently as a joke.
    Maya experts, scientists and even U.S. space agency NASA had
insisted the Maya had not predicted the world's end.
    "Think of it like Y2K," said James Fitzsimmons, a Maya
expert at Middlebury College in Vermont, referring to the year
2000. "It's the end of one cycle and the beginning of another
cycle."
    Companies have also had fun with the date.
    On Friday, the makers of Mini cars placed a full-page ad in
the New York Times headlined, "Well, So Much For The 2014
Models." It suggested customers hurry to their local dealership
in case time was running out to buy the car.
    
    'PURE HOLLYWOOD'
    The New Age optimism, stream-of-consciousness evocations of
wonder and awe, and starry-eyed dreams of extra-terrestrial
contact circulating on the ancient sites in Mexico this week
have left many of 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.
    The Maya civilization reached its peak between AD 250 and
900 when it ruled over large swaths of what is now southern
Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.
    The Maya developed hieroglyphic writing, an advanced
astronomical system and a sophisticated calendar that helped
provide the foundation for the doomsday predictions.
    The buzz surrounding the Maya "end of days" has generated
massive traffic on the Internet, but the speculation stems from
a long tradition of doomsday prophecies.
    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 did not happen, his followers, known as the
Millerites, referred 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
in order t o 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.
    Sporting a long gray beard, dark glasses and a cowboy-style
jacket, Raja Merk Dove, a self-proclaimed "interplanetary
ambassador" from Asheville, North Carolina, said he believes
aliens helped the Maya build Chichen Itza, for centuries a major
Mayan metropolis, trading hub and ceremonial center, and he is
hoping they will drop by. 
    "I envision on a higher plane, or whatever our reality is,
that extraterrestrials and their spaceships will come and land
on top of the pyramid or wherever the landing site is, and that
they will come and mingle with the people, bringing new
information, new knowledge, new blessings," he said.
    "This is one of those dates. If humanity is ready for that,
it can happen today. If humanity is not quite ready, it will
happen at a future date."

 (Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay, Ben Blanchard, Morade
Azzouz, Martin Howell, Peter Rudegeair, Jilian Mincer and
Gabriel Stargardter; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Kieran
Murray, Simon Gardner and Eric Beech)
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