In 669 B.C.E., the Mayan people erected a stela at Tortuguero near present-day Tabasco, Mexico. Originally a T-shaped structure, the stela now exists in seven, badly damaged pieces. One of these fragments, the right wing, bares the only known Mayan description of the 2012 prophecy.
Translating the information contained on the stela has been difficult. Much of the stone has eroded away, and removed important glyphs that could fill in valuable details about the 2012 predictions. However, most scholars believe that the inscription points to December 21, 2012 as the end of the present baktun, or Great Cycle of man, as recorded by the Mayan Long Count Calendar. According to the stela, the deity Bolon Yokte will play a critical role in the completion of this cycle.
The image of Bolon Yokte is important in deciphering the Mayan 2012 prediction. Bolon Yokte represented many aspects such as war, conflict, and the underworld. Because of these correlations, many people have assumed that the Tortuguero stela depicts a time of great suffering. However, a closer inspection of the role of Bolon Yokte reveals other possibilities.
A common motif in Mayan iconography is that of the Tree of Life. For the Mayans, the tree represented the stable center of the world. Its roots, trunk, and branches bound together the three realms of the underworld, earth, and heavens. Often in these depictions, a jaguar paw is shown at the base of the Tree of Life. Recently, some scholars have argued that the jaguar paw represented the deity Bolon Yokte as the physical representation of the axis of the world.
Bolon Yokte can also be found on many artifacts that depict the Mayan creation story. His presence in these stories suggest that he was also considered a god of creation. Putting these three aspects of the god together reveals a very different interpretation of the Tortuguero stela and the Mayan 2012 prediction.
As the Great Cycle comes to completion, the fourth age of man will pass from the earth. In this context, Bolon Yokte represents the force of destruction that will remove the present age of ego and materialism. However, time does not stop at the end of the Great Cycle. A new Long Count will begin, ushering in the fifth age of man. Bolon Yokte transforms from a god of the underworld to a god of creation. Through him, humanity is reborn into an age of greater consciousness and spiritual awakening. As the axis of the world, Bolon Yokte remains to observe the new age of man until the next Long Count comes to an end.
The ancient Mayans did not predict the end of the world on December 21, 2012. Instead, they foresaw a time of great change, ushered in by their god Bolon Yokte. Modern Mayans teach that it is our responsibility, as witnesses to this great transition, to repair the imbalances of the earth and our own spirits. By accomplishing this, we lay a strong foundation for the next Great Cycle.