In a little over six months, the Mayan long count calendar will come to an end. For many believers, this means that the world as we know it will come to an end, but to what extent?
Believers of Mayan prophesy appear to be split on what that exactly means. Some believe that a true Armageddon will occur, destroying the Earth and all its inhabitants. On the other hand, there are others who contend that the end of the long count calendar signifies not so much an end, but rather, a new beginning; a period of enlightenment.
However, with so much disagreement as to what will actually occur on December 21, 2012, many are looking to the Ancient Maya for answers.
One ancient Mayan source that believers are turning to is the Popol Vuh – the source of the Mayan creation story.
The Mayan Creation Story
The Popol Vuh is believed to have been created during the mid-1500s and tells the story of the creation of the world, according to the ancient Maya.(1)
Basically, the story outlines the creation of beings to worship the gods. However, the writer contends that it took the Creators several attempts to succeed.
The first three attempts, the gods tried to make worshipers out of animals, mud, and wood. Interestingly enough, the animal and wooden creations survived.
The text claimed that the wooden creations lived on to become monkeys. However, it wasn’t until the fourth try that the gods were successful at creating human beings to worship them. According to the Popol Vuh, the gods created man from corn dough.
Also, the keepers of the Popol Vuh seemed to turn to it for consultation, not only as a description of their creation, but as an instrument of guidance. Furthermore, it was alluded to by the author that the book could predict the future.
“They knew if there would be war. It was clear before their faces. They saw if there would be death, or if there would be hunger. They surely knew if there would be strife. There was an instrument of sight. There was a book. Popol Vuh was their name for it.” 
The Popol Vuh ends with a genealogical record of the Quiche kings.
Interpreting the Mayan Stories
Many readers of the Mayan creation story interpret that modern-day humans are living in the fourth world. The previous three worlds were comprised of the three previous attempts to create beings to praise the gods.
However, it is not like all of these worlds were completely annihilated. For example, the animals and the monkeys were not destroyed. The story states, “And so the animals are humbled. They will serve those who will worship Heart-of-Sky.”
As for the monkeys, “The wooden people scatter into the forest. Their faces are crushed, and they are turned into monkeys.”
Only the mud people are destroyed as the text reads, “So Heart-of-Sky lets it dissolved away.”
Even so, it does not sound like a catastrophic event. Essentially, the Popol Vuh makes it sound like the mud people simply dissolved back into the Earth from which they came.
The Popol Vuh makes no mention of a true timeframe, but many readers associate this story with the long count calendar. By doing so, they have derived that the previous world lasted for about 13 b’ak’tuns, which is roughly 5,125 years. If this “cycle” holds true, then modern society is reaching the end of the fourth world, according to believers.
However, what exactly does that mean?
Well, if we take the Popol Vuh at face value, it could mean that one of four things would occur. We could go the way of the animals and be “humbled” to “serve those who worship the Heart-of-Sky;” whoever those may be.
Or, we could go the way of the wood people and “be scattered” from our homes and turned into somethin akin to monkeys. Or, our demise may lie similarly to the mud people, and humanity may simply dissolve back into the Earth.
There is one technical problem. According to the Popol Vuh, humanity was created from corn. Furthermore, the text claims that the gods got it right the fourth time. So it is very plausible to interpret the Popol Vuh as stating that humanity will simply survive, and the fourth world will continue on.
References & Image Credits:
(1) Brian Stross, Professor Department of Anthropology, University of Texas
(2) 2007 Popol Vuh: Sacred Book of the Quiché Maya People. Electronic version of original 2003 publication.
(3) Popol Vuh