So now, Tuesday the 11th, is an Imox day (Imix in Yucatec).
The Maya have a few trepidations about Imox. Well, okay, maybe more than a few….
I remember one evening I was talking to a shamaness who was born on Imox. I told her that was my nawal too. She said, “What number?” I said, “Ten.” She said, “I’m a three.” I said, “What does that mean?” She said, “That means you’re even crazier than I am.”
Yes, Imox is said to be about craziness. It is a day when the time spirit, the energies moving weirdly through the world, the media and its demented mass consciousness, anything that’s both collective and cuckoo, can grab you and seize you and lead you astray.
That’s because it’s all right brain, no left brain, no logic. The up side: Imox is the nawal of the great ocean, which means it symbolizes the collective unconscious, the group mind. Sometimes people born on Imox can be masters of the phantasmagoric. Walt Disney, Federico Fellini and Orson Welles were all born on Imox days.
And my shamaness friend may not have been very precise when it came to clock time or other real world events, but when spirits were present and needed to be sent to the Otherworld in a positive way, guess who got the phone call?
This is a day to pray for clarity a day, for healing illnesses of the mind. Upon this day we pray for good mental health, both for ourselves and for all those around us. We pray that our dreams and visions may bring us beauty and wisdom rather than delusion and craziness. Since this day has a strong connection with water, to be close to a flowing river or stream or the ocean is beneficial upon this day.
Today, you may not trust your logic. But you can trust your visions and dreams.
And then, of course, it’s a 7. In many Maya communities, the ritual cycle goes from Day 6 through Day 9. In Xela, they do ceremony on the 7 days as part of the ritual cycle, but in Momos, just an hour away by chicken bus, they skip the 7. It is sometimes called a number of death and endings. Why? Because any day sign will recur in the following sequence: 1, 8, 2, 9, 3, 10, 4, 11, 5, 12, 6, 13, 7. So you see, 7 is the end of things. As I mentioned yesterday, the deepest level of meaning for the wisdom of the tzolk’in is said to be contained in the Popol Vuh. So the first pair of Hero Twins is called 1 Junajpu and 7 Junajpu, and they go to the Underworld to face the lords 1 Death and 7 Death. This is just like saying the “alpha and omega” or “the beginning and end” of the Hero Archetype, the beginning and end and totality of the Death Archetype, etc.
This is why we count the day signs of a Mayan horoscope by way of 9’s and 7’s. 9 is the number of life because we spend nine months in the mother’s womb; 7 is the number of death, as mentioned above. As the well known K’iche’ astrologer Roberto Poz once remarked to me: “It takes both life and death to weave the tapestry of a complete human being.”
So you see… On some days it is appropriate to go out into the world and take action in life. On other days, it is appropriate to turn within, meditate, catch up on your dream journal, and so on.
Happy meditations, everyone!
Today would be 6 Ahau if we were speaking Yucatec. If we were speaking K’iche’, we would call it 6 Ajpu, or sometimes even 6 Junajpu.
Now those who have read the K’iche’ Mayan Creation Epic, the Popol Vuh, will be thinking that Junajpu, sometimes spelled Hunahpu, is one of the Hero Twins who journeys into the Underworld to defeat the Lords of Death in a cosmic handball game which will give birth to a new world age. And you will be correct! And for those who don’t know, here’s a piece of cool Mayan trivia: The hieroglyph for Ajpu is the face of the hero Junajpu, and the reason his mouth is a circle is because… he was a blowgun hunter!
They used to tell me that ALL twenty day signs could be found, somewhere, within the pages of the Popol Vuh, and their meanings, as embodied in the great epic, constituted their deepest and most esoteric level of meaning. In this sense, the meaning is that Junajpu is the ultimate cosmic ancestor of us all, the hero who initiated a new world age, and that is why this is the day of the ancestors.
In Momos, it was never difficult to know that it was an Ajpu day, even if you’d been out of the loop for a while and had forgotten to count the days. I lived near to the cemetery, and I could always see the smoke of ritual fires rising from behind the cemetery walls as traditionalists lit fires and did ceremony at the graves of their ancestors. That was how you could tell that it was an Ajpu day.
So today, take a pause from your busy Monday schedule to remember those who have passed before you. Do not judge them. Just love and honor them. In our own culture, we have a habit of writing twelve-step letters to dead relatives, explaining how they fouled us up with various dysfunctions, which is why we never want to think about them again. To the Maya, this sort of behavior would be just dreadful. One never speaks or thinks ill of one’s departed relations or ancestors. Who cares if Grandma ran away with a circus performer? Forget about it. Remember her smile, her canned preserves, her sense of humor… and let the dark memories pass away like the wind.
The fact that it is a 6 day should give you plenty of fuel to get things accomplished on a more worldly plane of existence. 6 is one of the most balanced days, and one of the most practical. Take advantage of the exuberant but eminently sensible 6 vibration to get things done.
I have just come upon an extraordinary bit of knowledge. Back in the 1970s, Barbara Tedlock recorded that daykeepers in Momostenango monitored the progress of the their apprentices’ spiritual development through the use of dream interpretation. Ms. Tedlock never went into details about the specific techniques practiced by the daykeepers, and they have remained unrecorded — until now. As part of the Curandera Project, I quite unexpectedly found myself recording a complete two-hour interview that detailed the process.
Hint: It is all about the tzolk’in day upon which the dream occurs.
If anyone has any interest in this type of knowledge, send me a message and let me know. I have permission to discuss and practice it with the world at large.
Dear Friends and Readers: It has come to my attention that copies of the original 1997 edition of “Jaguar Wisdom,” as published by Llewellyn, are still being marketed over the Internet. The current version as published in 2009 by Archive Press is the only version which carries the author’s approval. Marketing of the Llewellyn version is an attempt by Internet pirates to put the author out of business. Since they are able to sell remaindered copies for ridiculously low prices, they have very nearly succeeded in their efforts. To all those who have enjoyed or found value in my writings over the years, please do not support their attempts to ruin my business, as your continued support is the only way in which I shall be able to continue writing.
In another interview with Kathie Bechmann, Kenneth discusses the authentic Mayan prophecies that have been preserved in the books of
Dear friends, my new book on the Mayan Prophecies is now available. Go to http://t.co/9qN1otYr
New Mayan Prophecies e-book available! http://t.co/zjUG29pZ
The Mayan Calendar does not “end” in 2012. In his new book, “The Mayan Prophecies: The Renewal of the World, 2012-2072,” Kenneth Johnson explores the prophecies preserved in the secret knowledge books of the Yucatec Maya and their message for the years ahead. This book is available as an easy PDF download. A printed edition is planned for the near future; be among the first to purchase this unique work at a low price and save a few trees in the process. Click to purchase!
In our last blog, we introduced the nature of the Chilam Balam prophecies and discussed the most recent recurrence of a K’atun 8 Ahau (1953-73) as an example.
Let us look at a few more recent examples.
K’atun 6 Ahau began on July 20th, 1973, and ended on April 5th, 1993. The prophecies for K’atun 6 Ahau are blunt, straightforward, and not at all difficult to interpret. The Mayan text reads: Bin u tus ob coil than, tzuc achil. This may be translated as: “There will be lies and madness, and also lust and fornication.”
The context of the prophecy about “madness and lies” in the Chilam Balam books makes it clear that this is a specifically political prophecy and relates to heads of state and other leaders; the Chilam Balam books assume that there will be widespread corruption and government chicanery at this time. Few people will need to be reminded that 1974 was the year of Watergate. If the previous k’atun (8 Ahau) spelled the end of global dominance for the United States, the new one made it clear that its leaders could no longer act as they pleased without being held accountable. “Madness and lies” would bring a dose of “instant karma.”
.After the “madness and lies” of the Nixon Administration had been exposed and the Vietnam War had finally come crashing to an end, the whole tenor of American life changed virtually overnight in a remarkable “flip” of consciousness. Hedonism replaced idealism as the dominant lifestyle paradigm. The world went to the discos and started dancing.
In the prophetic portions of the Chilam Balam books, the Maya often remark upon the sexual mores of given time periods. Unlike most Western historians, they placed importance upon the changes in humanity’s consciousness of its sexuality. During the late 1970s, sexual promiscuity reached a worldwide apex which more than justified the “lust and fornication” prophecies of the k’atun texts. During K’atun 8 Ahau, sexuality had emerged from the darkness. The Kinsey Report opened the eyes of Americans to the sexual undertones which lay beneath their seemingly puritanical society; Marilyn Monroe stood above a subway grate and delighted the world. People began to see sexuality as a beautiful thing rather than something shameful, something to be hidden in the darkness. The promiscuous 70s were in many ways a logical development of that idea, but it was a development destined to come crashing to an end. As we noted earlier, the Mayan vision of history is also more concerned with global epidemiology than are most Western historians. The second half of the k’atun was characterized by the worldwide AIDS epidemic; by the end of the twenty-tun cycle, sexuality had returned to the darkness from which it had emerged and was once again perceived as a danger rather than a delight.
After K’atun 6 Ahau came K’atun 4 Ahau, beginning on April 6, 1993 and continuing until December 21, 2012. The prophecy for this cycle is poetically phrased, but somewhat mysterious. In Mayan, it reads: Ulom kuk, ulom yaxum. This is commonly translated as: “Come is the quetzal; come is the blue bird…..”
The symbolic depth and complexity of 4 Ahau far exceeds that of any other k’atun. The number four is sacred to the Sun God, for there are four daily stations of the sun’s progress: dawn, noon, sunset and midnight. In a symbolic sense, the Sun God and his four stations also reflect the four cardinal directions and the center point. It is little wonder, then, that the cycle of 13 bak’tuns or piks (from 3114 BC to 2012 CE) both begins and ends on the day 4 Ahau.
It is common among all versions of the prophecy for 4 Ahau that the “seat” (hetz’) or geomantic center of the k’atun was Chichen Itza, which seems to have functioned as the omphalos or “world center” for all of Yucatan. As the sun is the spiritual center of the universe from which all the directions radiate, so is Chichen Itza the World Tree axis of the Yukatek Maya.
In some of the prophetic texts, K’atun 4 Ahau is associated with the southern direction. It should be remembered that the Mayan concepts of “north” and “south” can also signify “above” and “below.” Here the reference is to the Underworld Sun of midnight, experiencing his initiatory trials in the land of the dead. Part of these initiatory trials, when applied to human history rather than to individual consciousness, seem to have involved epidemics, which were believed to be a strong possibility during this k’atun period, to judge by how often they are mentioned in the Chilam Balam texts.
The real core of the prophecies for 4 Ahau, however, are to be found in the oft-repeated words: “Come is the quetzal, come is the blue-green bird.”
The quetzal bird is, of course, the symbol of the god Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent whose spirit was believed to “return” during each repetition of K’atun 4 Ahau. It is probable that Quetzalcoatl should be regarded as the “face” or deity that rules this k’atun.
Most readers will think of Quetzalcoatl as a Toltec religious teacher; such an historic individual may or may not have existed. In any case, the figure of Quetzalcoatl or Feathered Serpent as a creator god and god of the wind goes back to the very beginnings of civilization in Mesoamerica. The reference to the “blue-green bird” probably describes the Central American cotinga. Both the quetzal and the cotinga have brilliant, iridescent feathers. The quetzal’s feathers are more vividly green rather than blue, while those of the cotinga accentuate the blue. The actual Mayan words read: “Ulom kuk, hulom yaxum.” The word kuk is Mayan for quetzal, while yaxum is “the blue-green bird.”
It should be remembered that the center of the universe, the origin point of the four directions, is blue-green (like jade) in the Mayan medicine wheel, and that the term yax, as well as simply describing a blue-green color, is often used in contexts that refer to “beginnings,” or to the center point or world axis. The color blue-green still symbolizes the center of all things. I have witnessed any number of Mayan fire ceremonies in which the center of the altar is decorated with blue and green flowers or candles.
In this sense, the “language of Zuyua” may be telling us that this is the k’atun in which the spiritual energy of the archetypal Feathered Serpent returns to us, over and over again, flying like a bird from the very center of all being.
Searching back through the historical record, it is astonishing to realize how often major disseminations of spiritual teaching have in fact occurred during 4 Ahau periods. It is, of course, much easier to deal with recent history than with the distant past; in many cases, the only records that exist from archaic times simply record the reigns of kings. At a time when literacy was a prerogative of those who were close to the throne, it is not surprising that all references to defeat, disaster, and unrest are deliberately expunged from the record. And so it is with references to any religious movements other than the business of the “official” state religion.
In that respect, it is highly unusual to find references to religious activity as far back as the second millennium BCE – but we do. A 4 Ahau k’atun took place from 1340 to 1320 BCE, encompassing the reign of the Egyptian Pharaoh Akhenaten (1353-1336 BCE). This unusual man has sometimes been called “the world’s first monotheist.” He declared that there was only one deity ruling the universe, and this was the sun god. He closed the temples to all the other Egyptian deities and shaped a royal cult dedicated to the divine sun. His ideas caused an uproar with many repercussions. Although the ancient Egyptian religion was reinstated shortly after his death, his monotheistic ideas were to have a resounding influence on the course of future history.
As regards the 13-pik or 13-bak’tun span of the Long Count (3114 Bc – 2012 CE), it is interesting to note that the exact midpoint of the cycle falls at 551 BC, the end of a 4 Ahau k’atun, and that this midopoint corresponds to the so-called “axial age” in which many of the world’s great religious traditions developed – the compilation of the Upanishads and the lifetime of the Buddha in India, Ezekiel the prophet in the Near East, Lao-tse and Confucius in China and the pre-Socratic philosophers in the Mediterranean. In Mayan languages, the verb is usually the most important factor in a sentence, so we should pay particular attention to the verb ulom, because it means that this spiritual energy of Feathered Serpent is in motion, emanating from the center but definitely moving with great force. This, then, was a time when the spiritual energy of the quetzal and cotinga (symbolizing the center of all things) fly forth energetically from that center to inseminate the world.
The development of “enlightenment” teachings in the region of the Himalayas stands out with particular force because important landmarks in the dissemination of those teachings (the flight of the quetzal and cotinga) also correspond to 4 Ahau cycles, though other religious traditions make an appearance as well, with teachers who represent the apex of such traditions often propounding their teachings (“coming forth”) in a 4 Ahau cycle. For example:
Scholars disagree on the exact date that the Buddhist monk Bodhidharma traveled from India to China, but the 4 Ahau cycle of 455 to 475 CE seems very close to the mark. Bodhidharma was the founder of the Shaolin Monastery, which was a nodal point for the development of the martial arts (influenced by Taoism) and for the meditative form of Buddhism that became known as Chan, and later, in Japan, as Zen.
The Chan patriarch Hui-neng died in 713, during the 4 Ahau cycle of 711-731. His principle teachings were recorded in “The Platform Sutra of the Sixth Patriarch,” which quickly spread throughout the Far East, another landmark in the development of the meditative tradition.
Scholars disagree as to whether or not there ever was an historical Toltec religious teacher who was called Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl; but if in fact such an individual ever lived, the 4 Ahau cycle of 968 to 987 is as good a guess as any for his dates.
During the era of the Spanish Conquest, it was a common belief in Yucatan that a great leader called Kukulcan (literally “Quetzal Serpent”) was none other than this exiled lord of the Toltecs, and that he was instrumental in establishing Chichen Itza as the political and religious center of the Yukatek Maya.
The Toltec Empire at Tula Hidalgo is dated, archaeologically, from c. 900 to 1100 CE. While some versions of Topiltzin’s tale place him near the end of this period, it is more commonly said that he lived near the beginning of Tula’s days of glory. If the Chilam Balam prophecies regarding “the coming of the quetzal bird” recorded for 4 Ahau cycles do in fact (as many Conquest period Maya seem to have believed) refer to the advent of Topiltzin Quetzalcoatl in Yucatan, then the 4 Ahau cycle of 968-987 would seem to fit with the archaeological evidence from both Tula and Yucatan rather well.
The 4 Ahau cycle of 1224 to 1244 falls squarely in the lifetime of the great Sufi mystics Ibn al-Arabi and Jalal-ud-din Rumi as well as St. Francis of Assisi and the Zen Master known as the Dogon.
Any attempt to date the lifetime of the historical Chilam Balam of Mani is mired in debates about changes in the Mesoamerican Calendar, but the 4 Ahau cycle of 1480 to 1500 is very close to the mark.
The 4 Ahau cycle of 1736 to 1756 encompasses the lifetime of the Zen master Hakuin. He brought the Zen tradition down from its cloud-hidden peaks and into the “floating world” of ordinary people. He is probably best remembered as the individual who, when faced with truth, lies, and life changes, simply responded: “Is that so?”
What can we say about the current 4 Ahau cycle, the one which has so recently come to a conclusion?
In many ways, the spiritual themes appear to be the same as always. The 4 Ahau cycles strongly emphasize the dissemination of what I have called the “Himalayan Enlightenment Teachings.” They also sometimes spotlight spiritual events in the history of Mesoamerica, close to the Mayan homeland.
In the present day, it is hard to ignore the vitality and energy with which Tibetan Buddhism has spread throughout the world. The Vajrayana path of Tibet has had its adherents in the West at least since the end of the 19th century, and the Tibetan Book of the Dead became a cultural icon of sorts during the 1960s. But the phenomenally rapid spread of the Tibetan path throughout the globe falls largely within the confines of the most recent 4 Ahau – 1993 to 2012.
There is another spiritual phenomenon worth mentioning in this context, though it is not as well known to the world at large. In 1996, the Guatemalan Peace Accords were signed, ending more than a decade of civil war. Part of the agreement included the right of the Maya to practice their traditional religion without persecution. In recent years, the resurgence of traditional Mayan spirituality has grown throughout Central America. Many of the Maya are turning away from Catholicism and evangelical Protestantism, and returning to the path of their ancestors. The practice of the Mayan Calendar as a Medicine Path is very much alive and well, and growing in strength. I wrote the first draft of this piece in a small room in the traditionalist community of Momostenango, while preparations were under way for the celebration of 8 B’atz’ (Yukatek: 8 Chuen), the most important day in the Sacred Calendar. In February of 2012, less than ten foreigners from various parts of the world made it to this mountain community to join the Maya in their festivities. This time (March 27) there were 45. Is it purely coincidental that worldwide interest in the Maya and their Calendar should reach an apex at precisely the same time that the Maya are experiencing a spiritual renaissance, and that all of it should take place during K’atun 4 Ahau?
Anyone who has ever studied Tibetan mandalas and also witnessed a Mayan fire ceremony cannot but be struck by the similarities in cosmological symbolism shared by both of these spiritual paths. In both traditions, there are circular diagrams that represent the four directions, and each direction has its psychological and symbolic attributes. In both cases, the directions and the axis mundi which serves as the center of all things are represented by red, white, black, yellow and green. Fire, water, and flowers serve as offerings in both traditions.
The energy of 4 Ahau is always in motion. The quetzal is flying. The beautiful cotinga is flying. And they fly from the heart of the eternal center.
In a certain way, the most recent 4 Ahau is much like others before it. The same themes play over and over again, interwoven with each other like a colorful huipil, or like the notes of a grand symphony. But during this most recent recurrence, there is one important difference. The energy generated by the 4 Ahau k’atun of 1993 to 2012 also marks the close of the 13-bak’tun or 5,200-tun cycle which began on August 11, 3114 BCE and ends on December 21, 2012 CE.
What does this mean, and how does it affect the unfoldment of the Chilam Balam’s k’atun prophecies? We shall examine some of these issues in our next article.
Some time ago, I promised to introduce my readers to the Mayan prophetic tradition. Now it is time.
It is hard to think of a term more fraught with controversy than “Mayan prophecies.” Individuals with extremely marginal claims to be connected with the Maya – or sometimes with no claims at all – purvey various and sundry so-called “Mayan prophecies” to the New Age community at large. Under the circumstances, it may surprise many people to know that there is in fact a whole body of literature comprising the authentic prophecies of the Mayan people. They were written down in a series of manuscripts called the books of Chilam Balam. These were “knowledge books” kept in secret by Yucatec Maya shamans during the dark days of the Spanish Conquest. The ancient prophecies recorded in the Chilam Balam books were an attempt by these village shamans to preserve the wisdom of their ancestors. There are a fair numberof such manuscripts in libraries and museums, most named for the village in which they were originally housed.
Let it be understood that the Chilam Balam manuscripts are more than a group of old books sitting in museums. There is one Chilam Balam manuscript which remains in the hands of traditionalist Maya. These individuals, however, are extremely private, even secretive, so I shall not reveal their precise location. For now, it is enough to note that the tradition lives on.
But the Mayan prophecies are anything but straightforward. One evening, while I was living in the traditionalist Mayan town of Momostenango, I paid a visit to my friend, the internationally known daykeeper and spiritual guide Rigoberto Itzep Chanchavac. I found him in his study, perusing a copy of the Chilam Balam books. Don Rigoberto set the book aside, shaking his head. He remarked, “This is the most difficult literature in any of the Mayan languages.”
Thus it is with a certain amount of trepidation that I approach the subject. But I am going to give it a try.
For purposes of prophecy, the Maya used a twenty-year cycle called a k’atun. The “years” of a k’atun were 360 days rather than 365, so in our Gregorian calendar a k’atun is actually 19.7 years – interestingly enough, this is the length of the Jupiter-Saturn cycle which Western astrologers still use as a cornerstone for the prediction of political events. There were 13 k’atuns in a prophetic cycle, thus comprising 260 of such 360-day years. The k’atuns were named according to their number. Due to the mathematical properties of the Mayan Calendar, the k’atuns always unfolded in a particular order: 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, 12, 10, 8, 6, 4, 2 and 13. Each k’atun had its own prophecy, which was usually expressed in poetic or metaphorical (i.e. shamanic or visionary) language.
Scholars have argued endlessly about the age of the k’atun prophecies. Were all of them invented in colonial Yucatan, reflecting the conditions during the Spanish Conquest, or do some of them extend far back in time? I believe there is a great deal of evidence to suggest that at least some of the k’atun prophecies are of very great antiquity indeed.
The k’atun prophecies contained in the Chilam Balam books also have a formal structure; each one is comprised of a collection of elements. These are:
1. The sacred place or geomantic center which served as the locus for the k’atun’s energy. This was known as its hetz’ and literally means its “seat.” In ancient times, royal Mayan lords were seated upon special ceremonial mats. Such a mat was a hetz’, so this term tells us that each k’atun was regarded as a special entity, like a noble or an aristocrat. A cycle of sacred time is a royal personage. The various sacred centers which “seated” the k’atuns probably played an important role in the concept of Mayan geomancy or sacred earth teachings; someday the relevant patterns of sacred space may be unraveled by scholars.
2. Each k’atun also had a ruling deity. For instance, K’atun 7 Ahau was ruled by a god called Ek Chu Uah, while turbulent 8 Ahau was ruled by Kinich Kak Mo. For the most part, we no longer know what these god names mean, or who these deities were. Kinich Kak Mo seems to have been a bird deity, perhaps related to the arrogant macaw bird who perched at the top of the world tree and believed himself to be God. As for Ek Chu Uah, this may be the constellation we know as Scorpio. In fact, it is likely that many of the k’atun deities are in fact constellations, myths in the sky, for the term which means “ruler of the k’atun” is sometimes written u ich ti y ahaulil, which simply means “the face in the lordship,” but some versions say u ich ti y ahaulil tu canil, which more specifically means “the face in the lordship on high” or “the face in the lordship above,” implying that the k’atun rulers are in heaven, among the stars. But too many of these deity names are just letters scrawled on old paper, and we have forgotten their meanings.
3. There is also the food (uah) and drink (haa, literally “water) which characterized each k’atun cycle. Metaphors involving food are common among the Maya to this very day; during my months in Momostenango I don’t actually recall any time when spiritual teachings were given unless food was also present. The mystical code language which Jose Arguelles called “the language of Zuvuya” (a Nahuatl version of the word which is more properly spelled Zuyua in the Chilam Balam books) did in fact exist, but was largely a secret metaphorical way of speech involving images based upon food. When a Mayan lord asked for the green blood of his daughter and for her arm, he was speaking Zuyua to ask for green Mayan wine and the branch of a balche tree. The “food and drink” of any k’atun is part of its essential prophetic meaning.
4. The “burden of the k’atun” was the heavy load of history which the k’atun lord bore upon his back, like the cargo of stones strapped to a man’s back which is so often seen in ancient iconography to represent the burden carried by time. The word for “burden” or “cargo” was kuch.
5. The “word” (thaan) of the k’atun was the essential prophetic utterance, perhaps descended from the mu’ut or prophecy which may have been uttered by shamans at ceremonies held as far back as Classic Period times. The thaan of the k’atun is always expressed in mystic poetry. For example, the thaan for K’atun 8 Ahau is “the shields descend; the arrows descend” (Emom chilal, emom halal). The thaan or essential prophecy for K’atun 4 Ahau is “the quetzal bird is coming; the blue green bird is coming” (Ulom kuk, ulom yaxum).
Now we can begin to look at the text for an actual k’atun prophecy, paying attention to all the components.
“8 Ahau k’atun was the ninth part of the k’atun to be counted. Izamal was the seat of the k’atun. They were to arrive for the second occasion. Descended are the shields; descended are the arrows over Champoton, where they are planting their carvings in the walls to end the desire of Kinich Kak Mo to be the seat where the k’atun cycle returns.” (Adapted from Munro Edmonson’s “The Ancient Future of the Itza,” a translation of the Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin.)
The introduction to the text tells us that this is a prophecy for 8 Ahau K’atun. The Chilam Balam books usually count the k’atuns beginning from 11, thus 11, 9, 7, 5, 3, 1, 12, 10, and then 8 makes 8 Ahau K’atun the ninth one in the series. Izamal is the hetz’ or geomantic sacred center where the energy of the 20-year cycle had its focus in terms of earth energies. In all likelihood, the phrase “descended are the shields, descended are the arrows” constitutes the thaan or genuine prophetic utterance for the k’atun, since this is a rhymed couplet written in a metaphorical or visionary style. Kinich Kak Mo, as mentioned, was a very tricky deity, a Yucatec version of the arrogant macaw who saw himself as God; no wonder the text speaks of a necessity to end his selfish desires. Each scribe recorded the prophetic essentials of the ancient texts but also included his own commentary on current events, as if to let other shamans know how the ancient prophecy was working out this time around; references to “arriving for the second occasion” or strife in the neighborhood of Champoton probably comprise such commentary.
The Maya regarded K’atun 8 Ahau periods as times when empires fell, typically due to war and strife – “the arrows and shields descending.” They may have had good reason to believe that the prophecy was true.
The 8 Ahau k’atun of 672-692 may mark the time when refugee groups from the constant “star wars” that ravaged Classic Maya kingdoms like Tikal, Calakmul and Palenque made their flight into Yucatan. Equally importantly, archaeologists now date the collapse of Teotihuacan, the great “city of the gods,” to the middle or end of the 7th century, which makes this 8 Ahau cycle an excellent candidate for the fall of that empire as well.
The K’atun 8 Ahau of 1185-1204 is the date traditionally given for the fall of Chichen Itza. One of the Chilam Balam chronicles places the event in 1194.
After the fall of Chichen Itza, the states of the Yucatan reconstituted themselves in a confederacy called The League of Mayapan, with that city as the central point of administration. But the League of Mayapan also fell due to internecine strife, an event which most scholars place in the middle of the 15th century, bringing us once again to an 8 Ahau k’atun( 1441-1461).
During the 8 Ahau k’atun of 1697-1717, the last independent Mayan kingdom, the city of Tayasal on Lake Peten Itza near Tikal, finally surrendered to the Spanish. Why? Because their king pointed out that it was an 8 Ahau k’atun, thus time for his empire to fall, as empires always fell at such a time.
One may well ask: Is this pattern – if indeed it is a pattern rather than mere “coincidence” – applicable only to Mesoamerica, or does it have a universal, global significance? While I make no pretense to having studied all the 8 Ahau k’atuns which have occurred since the Mayan “creation date” of August 11, 3114 BC, there are at least two which stand out strongly due to their powerful significance for the history of the world at large:
In the 8 Ahau of 354-34 BC, the world’s mightiest empire was Persia. In this K’atun 8 Ahau, it was conquered by a monarch from the second-rate Greek kingdom of Macedon; he consequently became known as Alexander the Great.
In the 8 Ahau of 416-435 CE, barbarian incursions brought the Roman Empire crashing down, thus initiating what Western historians commonly refer to as “the Dark Ages.”
Let us examine the most recent occurrence of an 8 Ahau k’atun, which began on November 2, 1953, and ended on July 19, 1973. The K’atun 8 Ahau of 1953 to 1973 begins with the conclusion of the Korean War and ends just before the fall of Saigon. During the first half of these twenty years, the United States was at the apex of its time of hegemony over the globe. It was the superpower of superpowers.
Many historians have theorized that it was the Vietnam War that brought the “American Empire” to an end. College students and minorities launched themselves into protest and rebellion. In terms of the Mayan prophecies, the turbulence of the 1960s was not the beginning of a “revolution,” but the foreseeable end of a tottering giant.
By the end of the k’atun, it was plain that the United States could not win the war in Vietnam. The developing “Third World” had flexed its muscles against the empire and had achieved success. The global hegemony of the United States had come an end. While that nation would continue to be a major world power, it would never again enjoy the reign of absolute dominance which it had come to enjoy from the beginning of the 20th century to the end of the Vietnam War. The “shields and the arrows” had “descended.”
While it is reasonable to assume that the end of the 5,125-year cycle in 2012 was intended to indicate a major change in cycles of history, it is silly to assume that it was ever meant to be an “end date.” The Maya recognized cycles within cycles, some of them infinitely longer than the one that extends from 3114 BC to 2012 CE. That span of years is made up of 13 bak’tuns, a unit of time which is comprised of 20 k’atuns. The prophetic k’atun cycle weaves in and out of the larger cycle of bak’tuns but is separate from it. There is every reason to believe that the Maya believed that humanity would still be here and that the prophetic cycle of 13 k’atuns would still be rolling through its courses at the end of the 20-bak’tun cycle in 4772 CE.
In our next article we shall examine the prophecies for K’atun 6 Ahau (1973-93) and K’atun 4 Ahau (1993- 2012).
But we can also study the k’atun prophecies for the k’atuns that come after Dec 21, 2012 CE. The Maya left us prophecies for all of these time periods.
From December 2012 until 2032 will be K’atun 2 Ahau: “Halfway down is its food, halfway down is its water”.
From 2032 until 2052 will be K’atun 13 Ahau: “For five days the sun shall be eclipsed. Then it shall be seen again.
From 2052 until 2072 will be K’atun 11 Ahau: “The heavenly fan and heavenly bouquet shall descend. The drum and rattle of Bolon Oc Te shall resound.”