If you've been delaying the Christmas decorations because you believe the Mayan calendar predicts the end of the world will be Dec. 21, it's probably time to get to the Christmas tree lot and pull the lights out.
Gabrielle Vail, a Mayan expert and a research scholar at New College, will team up with Jeff Rodgers, director of the Bishop Planetarium, to discuss the myths about the Mayan calendar and astronomical events. The pair will discuss the Mayan myth and put it into context Wednesday from 7 p.m. to 9 p.m. at the South Florida Museum's Bishop Planetarium, 201 10th St W, Bradenton.
“Gabrielle Vail is one of the world's most respected Mayan scholars, so we couldn't ask for a better perspective on what the Mayan calendar really has to say about the end of the world,” Rodgers said.
Vail has spent her academic career learning Maya hieroglyphics and studying their writings, culture and calendars. She is currently teaching a class at New College on how to read the Mayan heiroglyphics.
Vail says there are many misconceptions about the Maya. If you look at their calendar alone, the Mayans kept three calendars. The one that has prompted the end of the world predictions was their "long count calendar" — a 5,125 year calendar. The calendar began August 11, 3114 B.C. and ends Dec. 21, 2012.
She said the Mayans wrote about dates beyond Dec. 21, 2012 "well, well into the future, trillions of years." They also wrote about dates before the 5,125 year calendar began.
The calendar was designed as a historical tool to talk about rulers' lives. They followed astronomical events and cycles and were able to predict eclipses into the 21st century based on their observations of the sky.
Rodgers, who collects Apocolypse kits as a hobby, said those observations wouldn't have included solar flares, which are one of the myths around the doomsday predictions. They also wouldn't have chronicled observations about the Milky Way.
"New age ideas and spiritualism give people the idea that these cultures have knowledge we don't have," Vail said.
People believe the doomsday predictions, so much so that they are taking pilgrimages to the areas that the Mayans settled in Mexico's Yucatan. Some people plan on being there on Dec. 21 to witness the end of the world.
There have been books and television shows that support the idea. Scholars have written books to combat the spread of those ideas, but there books don't seem to be as popular as the end of the world books, social media and internet sites.
Because people have embraced the misinformation about the Mayan calendar and the end of the world, Vail has gone around the world to try to set the record straight. She wants to educate people about the culture she has studied while also alleviating fears that have spread to teens and children.
The discussion will take plave in the planetarium where Vail and Rodgers will use the night sky to illuminate the Mayans fascination with the solar system and what it meant to them.
Tickets to this event are $10 for Non-Museum Members and $8 for Museum Members.
On Dec. 15 from 7 to 8 p.m. the Museum will host another related program "2012: The Return of the Goddess"
The program is a listening experience composed by artist Paul Ramshaw who was inspired by myths surrounding the Mayan Calendar and ripples of gravitational waves predicted by the Theory of Relativity. The ambient musical arrangements will be accompanied by subtle, complimentary graphics projected on the Planetarium dome.
“Paul Ramshaw's work has earned international acclaim. With 2012: The Return of the Goddess, Paul has created an evocative blend of art, science and culture that captures the expanse of time and mythical cycles of rebirth," Rodgers said. "It is a uniquely impactful work that invites both introspection and connection with the grand scales of the cosmos.”
Tickets to this event are $10.