Unortodox explanation of the "Mayan Apocalypse".
It all started with a few folks in the first world, calling for doomsday. The same fellows that have been praying for apocalypse since St. John wrote it over a millennia ago. The Maya, who are actually a loose combination of a larger set of different groups such as Quiches, Itza, Mopan, Yucatec etc... Where caught in the middle of this money making machine.
The Maya instead of getting a piece of the action, saw how the film "2012" had a cost of US$ 200 million and a revenue of US$ 700 million according to boxofficemojo, the film included only a fragmented mention on a TV at the start of the movie, whereas it took place in the imaginative minds of the USA.
Regardless of all the hype, when the time came in Guatemala small gatherings of hippies started to appear most of them had gone to the Rainbow Gathering a few weeks earlier in the mountains of Guatemala. Some curious folks also gathered. Then came INGUAT (Guatemala's Tourism Board) promising a new age of enlightenment, the gathering of shamans from all over the world (which ended up not happening). What did happen was a bunch of publicity banners of a local phone company, terrible accommodations to those that where actually doing the ceremony, they got stone floors and no food.
I expected this to happen in Guatemala's most famous Mayan site Tikal. So I traveled with an Itza shaman and his family to the bordering country of Belize to the mayan site of Caracol. Things where similar, but no big media was around. The indigenous groups who gathered on this site where Mopans, Yucatecs, Kekchis and Itza, mostly northern groups.
The ceremony took place in a great playa on an allready built altar made of cement, usually they are made from lime and sand, so they don't crack with the fire.
The get-together was organised by Maria a Mopan herself and a mayan sculpture artist at her home and shop everyone gathered, it was here where the Marimba, a type of wooden xylophone, was taken. The road the Caracol was safe even if it was dirt, it had been cleaned. Once the indigenous groups arrived they recieved a warning by the park guards that they should not make noise or go to the temples until the ceremony started. Also the accommodations provided where nil, luckily that was anticipated and most of the participants had hammocks.
Regardless of the troubles the first ceremony took place at sundown the 20th of december. Elders gathered on top of the largest pyramid in Caracol with candles and incense asking for permission to their grandparents. During this ceremony an american woman climbing the stairs shouted to her friend "Wait I'll just do this Maya thing", her comment sparked a tense moment, when after a while one of the Mayas attending the ceremony told her that she had offended the elders, as the elders descended a flute filled the air with a gentle melody.
After this ceremony came the vigil of the offerings, hours waiting in candlelight with the calm sound of the marimba and the loud screech of the chirimía, flute like instrument, became ethereal. As time passed waiting for the 21st the day of the ceremony.
We latter walked to ceremonial grounds people carrying the offerings in a solem procession, we passed trough the tourists's tents sometimes geting tangled in them, music playing the air was still that night, the offerings where prepared at around 2 am.
During the ceremony an old woman with two cameras and a flash came along and blinded most of the crowd, then another man burning cannabis appeared he became still after a while and joined the ceremony.
After the moon found itself behind the trees the stars where left to shine, the fire started and two shamans took control an Itza and a Mopan, they both talked in their languages and then someone gave an explanation on their behalf in english.
Trying to come up with words escapes me all I could do was take photographs as even I became part of the ceremony.
Predawn started at around 5am as the fire was burning and people where being 'healed' by the shamans in a similar fashion as a catholic communion rite, as dawn approached only few people stood by the sacred fire waiting in line to be cleansed. Then the ritual was over and everyone returned to their tents, the Itza where the lasts ones to leave the complex as they carried the marimba away from what was one special solstice.