Mexico's Maya heartland greets dawn of new era
People gesture toward the the Kukulkan temple in Chichen Itza, Mexico, Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. Ceremonial fires burned and conches sounded off as dawn broke over the steps of the main pyramid at the Mayan ruins of Chichen Itza Friday, making what many believe is the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar. Some have interpreted the prophetic moment as the end of the world. The hundreds gathered in the ancient Mayan city, however, said they believed it marked the birth of a new and better age. (AP Photo/Israel Leal)
MERIDA, Mexico (AP) — Dec. 21 started out as the prophetic day some had believed would usher in the fiery end of the world. By Friday afternoon, it had become more comic than cosmic, the punch line of countless Facebook posts and at least several dozen T-shirts.
At the ruins of the ancient Mayan city of Chichen Itza, thousands chanted, danced and otherwise frolicked around ceremonial fires and pyramids to mark the conclusion of a vast, 5,125-year cycle in the Mayan calendar.
The doomsayers who had predicted apocalypse were nowhere to be seen. Instead, people showed up in T-shirts reading "The End of the World: I Was There."
Vendors eager to sell their ceramic handicrafts and wooden masks called out to passing visitors, "Buy something before the world ends."
And on Twitter, (hash)EndoftheWorld had become one of the day's most popular hash tags.
For the masses in the ruins, Dec. 21 sparked celebration of what they saw as the birth of a new and better age. It was also inspiration for massive clouds of patchouli and marijuana smoke and a chorus of conch calls at the break of dawn.
The official crowd count stood at 20,000 as of mid-afternoon, with people continuing to arrive. That surpassed the count on an average day but not as many as have gathered at the ruins during equinoxes.
People watch in a ceremony at the Iximche archeological site to mark the end of the 13th Oxlajuj B'aktun in Tecpan, Guatemala, as the sun rises on Friday, Dec. 21, 2012. The end of the 13th Oxlajuj B'aktun marks a new period in the Mayan calendar, an event only comparable in recent times with the new millennium in 2000. While the Mayan calendar cycle has prompted a wave of doomsday speculation across the globe, few in the Mayan heartland believe the world will end on Friday. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo)
The boisterous gathering Friday included Buddhists, pagan nature worshippers, druids and followers of Aztec and Maya religious traditions. Some kneeled in attitudes of prayer, some seated with arms outstretched in positions of meditation, all facing El Castillo, the massive main pyramid.
Ceremonies were being held at different sides of the pyramid, including one led by a music group that belted out American blues and reggae-inspired chants. Others involved yelping and shouting, and drumming and dance, such as one ceremony led by spiritual master Ollin Yolotzin.
"The world was never going to end, this was an invention of the mass media," said Yolotzin, who leads the Aztec ritual dance group Cuautli-balam. "It is going to be a good era. ... We are going to be better."
Ivan Gutierrez, a 37-year-old artist who lives in the nearby village, stood before the pyramid and blew a low, sonorous blast on a conch horn. "It has already arrived, we are already in it," he said of the new era. "We are in a frequency of love, we are in a new vibration."