In 1973, when the appearance of Comet Kohoutek coincided with a decision by members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to announce an oil embargo, the big question was whether the chunk of dirty ice hurtling through spacewould be the most spectacular celestial sight of the century, or wreak social unrest, tidal waves and earthquakes as claimed by some members of the New Age crowd. As it turned out, Kohoutek fizzled and shot past Earth without incident.Then there was the worldwide turn-of-the-century panic in the late 1990s that had corporations spending millions on computer fixes, and people around the worldstocking up on Spam, water, batteries and energy bars.The scene at the 2012 Conference here had the same giddy sense of urgency. Conference co-organizer Sharron Rose said the Maya timeline foretold
the most profoundevent in human history. Everything we know, everything we are, is about to undergo a substantial and radical alteration.
Exactly which direction to take, however, was unclear. The group is strikingly splintered, each focused on his or her own New Age theories: Spiritual teacher Jose Arguelles, for instance, contends that the Maya were prescient space aliens.And author Daniel Pinchbeck describes 2012 as a time for
the return of the Quetzalcoatl,
the mythical feathered serpent of Mesoamerica.Maya researcher John Major Jenkins drew enthusiastic applause from the crowd with a lecture in which he said that Maya hieroglyphics are rife with images of trees and animals that represent the center of the Milky Way galaxy and what he called
the Black Hole of Maya Creation mythology.
That kind of talk irritates Boston University
s William Saturno, a leading authority on the Maya, who did not attend the conference. Saturno dismissed the 2012 movement as
The ancient Maya civilization flourished in southern Mexico, Guatemala, El Salvador and Honduras, and lasted nearly 2,000 years from before the time of Jesus until the Spanish conquest in the 16th century. The culture
s achievements includedsoaring pyramids, a highly accurate calendar and intricately carved stone monuments.
I had a guy come into my office once to ask me a question about a specific Maya mural with a depiction of a hanging nest in it,
He claimed it was theexact form of a Maya Black Hole. I said,
m thinking it
s a bird nest.
These guys are loony and are making a buck in a market that has to be short-lived,
And they will continue to do so right up until Dec. 21, 2012, when theMaya calendar simply switches over like an odometer and everything is fine David Stuart, an art historian and Maya glyph expert at the University of Texas at Austin, agreed. He didn
t attend the San Francisco event.
Looking back to the ancient Maya for answers to modern problems,
is not the best use of our time or brain cells.
But astrological consultant Rick Levine, president and chief wizard of StarIQ.com, said such critics missed the point. People come to an event like this because they are hungry for information,
t need to be a New Ager to know there
s a lot of weird things going on in theworld.
Sahagun is a Times staff writer.The MayansThe Mayans, especially those who lived from 1200 B.C. to about 800-600 A.D., were simple people who had few possessions. Interestingly, they were also master as