Tuesday, January 23, 2007

The Maya predicted Watergate?

I get positively irritated by these "Mysteries of the Ancients"-type shows they show on cable these days. The current episode of the History Channel's Decoding the Past series is discussing the ancient Maya (recently glammed up by Mel Gibson). I have studied a lot about the Maya, so I know that many of their facts are accurate. What frustrates me is the real subject of the show: "Mayan Doomsday Prophecy."

Basically, the Maya calendar, which truly was more complicated and more accurate than our own, relied on two types of time systems: a 52-year calendar round, or "short count" comprised of two interlocking calendars, a 365-day solar one and a 260-day agro-religious one (most people didn't live to see more than one); and a much longer "long count" equal to about 5,125 of our solar years. This long count that we are in started on August 11, 3114 BC, and ends on December 21, 2012 - barely 6 years from now (okay, about 5 years 11 months). Most likely, the next one will start on December 22 of that same year, though we may not be around for it.

From a reading of the invaluable Chilam Balam books, the secrets of the soothsayers, we know a lot about the Maya of Guatemala that we may never have known. Apparently, so sooths the History Channel, they also predicted important events during every 20-year (or 20-tun) cycle (or k'atun). They probably meant every 20 k'atun cycles (1 b'ak'tun), or 400 tuns (or tunob).

One prophecy coincided suspiciously with the arrival of the Spanish in Mesoamerica. Okay, fair enough. I don't know about what the rest of the show was saying. But what the heck, why go for accuracy when you're sexing up the Maya? One thing that I certainly didn't know (and there are many things I don't know, I admit): the Maya predicted the American Revolution. Our revolution. In true Nostradamean fashion, they also foretold our Civil War, the assassination of President Kennedy, and the upheaval of the 1960's. I didn't hear much about anything that might have happened to the Maya; I turned it off, lest I hear anything about 9/11 or Dreamgirls' recent snub for a Best Picture nomination.

Okay, this has nothing to do with food, I totally confess. But I am now hungry for Maya (as opposed to Mexican) food. I know, this is a rarity in the United States, but it is out there (and check out the book False Tongues and Sunday Bread for some good Maya home cookin'). The best Maya restaurant I can think of is the Casa Maya, which is about, oh, 3000 miles away, in Mentone, CA. I'll be visiting there in about two and a half months. I also have a friend, a native of Richmond, VA, but now in Redlands, CA, who make a mean cochinita pibil. If I must give up and go for Mexican instead (which isn't such a bad thing), I can check out this post from the Too Many Chefs blog (I just found it while searching for Mexican cuisine).

Well at least now I know what I'm getting for dinner this weekend.


Maram said...

Very interesting way of thinking. I know what you mean about the prophesies, although I think they were correlating their down periods on calendar with certain down times we experienced. As a countdown to 12 21 2012, the eb and crest of their day counting relates somehow to our world as we have been historically experiencing it. Who knows? Believe in love and you shall be free! How was the spicy food?