End of the world prophecies duped

By Marysa Burchett and Ben Haines

The sun sets and the day ends. The sun rises yet again to start a new day. Leaves fall, plants die, and seasons change. Winter eventually turns to spring. This is a reoccurring cycle in our lives.

A fear that has also been reoccurring is the Mayan prediction of the end of the world. The threat that the world will end on Dec. 21, 2012 has people panicking as well as trying to disprove the Mayans’ prophecies.

Archeologists, anthropologists, and researchers alike have been studying the Mayan texts, hieroglyphs, culture, etc. in order to assure the world will not end.

“[The] Maya recognized that the natural world, the cosmos, and even their own bodies functioned according to observable cycles: To locate themselves within these cycles they tracked the movements of planets, the moon, and the sun,” wrote Zach Zorich in his article, “The Maya Sense of Time.”

Zorich wrote that there are 2 types of calendars: a 260-day count, an approximate cycle of the human pregnancy and a 1, 872,000-day “Long Count” which began on their culture’s founding date (either August 11 or 13, 3114 B.C.) and ends on Dec. 21 or 23, 2012.

“There may be something that happens, but there will be a new beginning,” said Carrie McLachlan, professor of Philosophy and Religion of WCU.

The calendars in which the Maya used were circular, not only in shape but in their view of time. These time cycles have been said to be like a turning wheel and will continue into a new cycle just as plants do in agriculture. McLachlan elaborates on this by saying that there are several cycles within a large cycle in the Mayan culture.

She said the Mayan kings had to go through a cycle from “the underworld to the celestial realm to be reborn as a sun and then come back to the Earth.” Another cycle is evident in their agriculture. “You sow the seeds in the spring and you harvest in the fall and then winter [comes],” said C. McLachlan.

“The Mayas did make prophecies, but not in a fatalistic sense, but rather about events that, in their cyclical conception of history, could be repeated in the future,” said Alfredo Barrera, a Mexican archeologist from the National Institute of Anthropology and History, according to Fox News.

The Mayans believe in a circular sense of time, not linear, as Westerners or Europeans do. As professor of Philosophy and Religion, Dr. James McLachlan said, kings wanted to link their lineage back to Jesus and ground their significance and dynasty as important, so time became more linear and dates and years began to matter in a linear sequence.

“Western religions tend to see history as linear. Beginning, ‘the creation’, ‘Garden of Eden,’ ‘the Fall,’ then you have a central event like Jesus and the resurrection, then the end, ‘the Last Judgment,” said McLachlan.

While continuing on the subject of the Bible and apocalyptic texts, Dr. McLachlan noted that in Greek the word “apocalypse” means revelation. He continues to explain that a revelation is an unveiling of the meaning of things within our lives. Humans are looking for a meaning in life; whether it be in time and in the world around us. These texts are what people turn to for guidance in the prophecies.

He said that there is a positive element from these predictions because it is about hope. In a biblical sense, death will end and you will be reunited with the ones you love and the world will mean something.

Within the Mayan calendar system, Dec. 21, 2012 marks the end of their 13 baktun (calendric cycle). According to Peter Spotts of the Christian Science Monitor the Mayan did not intend for the world to end but for a cycle to end and another to start.

After death, the Mayans believe in rebirth or regeneration just as Christians believe in eternal life. The world may not end but instead be reborn.

The Cherokee prophecy

In Cherokee culture, there is a prophecy that foretells of a time of ultimate hardship and virtual extinction for the Cherokee people.

“In that time, it will be as if when you look around, there are no more Cherokees left,” said Thomas Belt, Cherokee language instructor at WCU and a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma.

“It talks of a time of great famine,” Belt said, “a time when all things around us will seem to be ending, when life itself will be in jeopardy.”

The prophecy does not specify what conditions will signify the arrival of that time. Exactly what hardships the Cherokees will face is open to interpretation.

“It’ll be a time in which things just simply are not the way they are supposed to be, however one wants to interpret that.” said Belt. “That can be geophysically, that can be socially, that can be governmentally, and it might be all of those things at once.”

However, the Cherokee prophecy ends on a hopeful note. It describes the time of great sorrow eventually leading to a point of rebirth and revitalization for the Cherokee people.

“Shortly thereafter will be a time of renewal, a time in which things will come back to what they are supposed to be for us,” Belt said. “It doesn’t contain anything specific about the rest of the world, but it talks about us as a people.”

The Cherokee view of life and death is that our physical life on this planet is the first of seven stages of existence. Dying is the process by which we transition to the next stage and everyone who has ever lived on this planet is still with us, just in another realm of existence.

“In the Cherokee belief, there is no apocalyptic end that we can foresee,” said Belt. “We are taught that all that is will always be. All of life and creation is eternal.”

No one knows when the time of sorrow followed by rebirth is supposed to come.

“We really don’t know when that will be,” said Belt, “and we don’t know how bad it’s going to get yet.”

Belt speculated that the disappearance of Cherokees as predicted by the prophecy might be less literal and more indicative of cultural loss.

“If we are not living the way that we are supposed to, if we are not who we say we are, then we are something else,” Belt explained. “If you’re not what you’re supposed to be then people wouldn’t see you. They would see you as something else, but as a Cherokee you wouldn’t exist, even if you were still alive.”

“However one wants to interpret that, it seems to indicate a time in which our culture and our people will be under some kind of a threat of completely disappearing,” said Belt.

It is difficult to fully convey the scope of Cherokee lore in a different language because of the inherent cultural context in which stories are passed down through generations.

“These things are handed down in our language, which is a little bit different in its meaning,” Belt said. “We only approximate what that means when we try to translate those things into English.”

No one knows exactly how long ago this Cherokee prophecy came to be. According to Belt, stories passed down by tradition say the Cherokee people did not become who they are until they received their laws, which they call the Laws of God, as well as their fire. The prophecy came about after that establishment of the Cherokee nation.

“We can’t put a time frame on it,” said Belt. “It was just in the beginning.”

This prophecy is still handed down through generations of Cherokees to this day.

Philosophy and Religion Professor Carrie McLachlan’s slideshow based on her research of Native American and Mayan prophecies.