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The past few posts, of course, have been counting down to the end of the current Maya Long Count, and here in California (as in most of the world) the last setting of the "current Sun" has now taken place, although the first sunrise of the "new Sun" has not yet taken place here.
The December 21 sun has of course risen in many other parts of the world that are adjudged to be "ahead" of California in relation to the international date line, although it is debatable as to whether the ancient Maya would have conceded that they have the new Sun already -- perhaps we should consider it a new Maya Long Count only when the new Sun begins to shine on the traditional land of the ancient Maya.
Two posts back we looked at the mechanism of the Long Count itself, as well as the terrible slaughter of the Maya during the 1500s and the deliberate destruction of almost every book or scroll upon which they had preserved their ancient wisdom, science, and traditions.
One post back we looked at the Galactic Alignment theory of John Major Jenkins, which asserts that the Maya Long Count indicated an understanding of the process of precession, and that it was counting down to the day when the Winter Solstice Sunrise (already a symbol of rebirth) would take place against the backdrop of the pregnant bulge of the Milky Way Galaxy (and the Dark Rift in the galactic path which the Maya saw as a celestial birth canal). Thus, their count was anticipating a renewal of truly galactic proportions, we might say, with profound spiritual implications.
Mr. Jenkins finds many different lines of evidence to support his argument that the Long Count pointed to an ancient Maya understanding of precession -- the understanding that the action of precession would eventually "delay" the band of the Milky Way until it formed the backdrop for the rising Winter Solstice sun. Among the evidence he points to are celestial aspects of the Maya Creation story in the Popol Vuh and other surviving ancient sacred traditions, stone depictions of the birth event at the Izapa Group F site, and the imagery of the Maya Ball Court, which is aligned with the Winter Solstice sunrise location at Izapa and which featured a ball being put through a ring -- symbolic of the sun passing through the birth canal and the "rebirth" of the sun (see the article by John Major Jenkins linked in the previous post for his broad overview of the Galactic Alignment theory and some of the powerful evidence supporting this interpretation).
I've created some "rough sketches" to help the reader envision the precessional forces at work in this theory. They are generally adapted from the sketch provided in the article linked above (the sketch showing the Milky Way galaxy slowly being lower and lower in the sky on the morning of the Winter Solstice, until it finally aligns with the sunrise on that day of annual renewal).
At the top of this post, you can see a rough sketch of the eastern horizon, as we wait for the sun to rise. The Milky Way galaxy stretches up from the horizon and arcs right across the heavens, flanked on either side by the stars of Sagittarius ("left" of the galaxy and closer to the horizon) and Scorpio ("right" of the galaxy and on its way across the southern portion of the sky).
The large curved arrow indicates the direction that the Milky Way and the constellations appear to turn during the night (this is because the earth is turning in the opposite direction). They will make their way up and then towards the west. This means that the Milky Way will start from a more horizontal position and slowly arc towards "the right" of this rough sketch above, sort of like a door swinging on a hinge (in this case, a hinge that is located a bit below the horizon). The Milky Way and the two important flanking constellations shown above, in other words, will arc across the sketch in the direction of the arrow as indicated, and then sink down in the west.
The image below shows the Winter Solstice sunrise on an imagined day in the far-distant past, when the Winter Solstice sun was rising in the space "below" the constellation Sagittarius.
In other words, this is the situation on the morning of a Winter Solstice around the end of the Age of Aries and the beginning of the present Age of Pisces (see previous post which has two diagrams at the bottom showing what this means). The "Age of Pisces" takes its name from the sign in which the Spring Equinox sun appears to rise, so that means that the Winter Solstice sun would rise in Capricorn (the sign behind Sagittarius).
However, as we have discussed in previous posts and as I've also explained in a video using a helpful "analogy of a dining room," the action of precession delays the background constellations and stars over the ages. This means that over time, Sagittarius (and the Milky Way and Scorpio ahead of Sagittarius) will not be "as far" on their path when the sun comes up. Sagittarius will be "delayed" and be lower and lower in the sky, until the sun is actually rising "in" Sagittarius instead of in the space prior to Sagittarius as depicted above. The diagram below illustrates the "delayed" Sagittarius and the sun rising in that zodiac constellation:
Please note that, because of the "arcing" motion of their path (described above as a door swinging on its hinges), the Milky Way will "lay down" more horizontally as it is lower in the sky (closer to the horizon). Thus, in the diagram above, it is laying slightly more horizontally than in the previous image. This is because it has not "gotten as far" up into the sky before the sun rises on the morning of the Winter Solstice.
The above image depicts the situation during the Age of Pisces, when the sun rises in Pisces on the Spring Equinox and in Sagittarius on the Winter Solstice. As the Age of Pisces progresses, the Winter Solstice sunrise will be ever "further along" in Sagittarius, creeping closer and closer to the Milky Way (or, seen another way, the Milky Way and the zodiac constellations will be delayed bit by bit, and will not get as far into the sky when viewed on successive Winter Solstice mornings over a period of two thousand years).
Somewhere towards the end of the Age of Pisces and near the start of the Age of Aquarius (that age in which the Spring Equinox sun rises in Aquarius and the Winter Solstice sun rises in Scorpio), the Winter Solstice sun will align with the brilliant band of the Milky Way galaxy, which rises dramatically between Sagittarius and Scorpio. As described in the previous post and as pointed out by John Major Jenkins in his theory, this galactic band has a prominent "bulge" (the Galactic Center or Galactic Nucleus), which the Maya described as symbolizing the cosmic mother, as well as a prominent "Dark Rift" which the Maya associated with a birth canal (they called this dark path the xibalba be, or "Road to the Underworld").
The motion of precession would eventually bring the Winter Solstice sunrise in line with this cosmic symbol of birth -- a powerful conjoining of "rebirth" symbology (the Winter Solstice sunrise already symbolizing annual rebirth as the sun stops its southward journey and the days cease to grow shorter and begin again to grow longer). This is what John Major Jenkins believes the Long Count was pointing towards. It is depicted in the image below:
Note that this theory assumes a rather startling piece of information: the ancient Maya understood the subtle astronomical mechanics of precession. This assertion is actually quite revolutionary when we consider that detecting precession is really not easy at all. The motion of precession only delays a star by a single degree in about 71.6 years -- and that single degree is only between its location on any given day a full year apart, as in, one degree of difference from one Winter Solstice to another Winter Solstice 72 years later!
Thus, to detect precession requires the ability to measure a star's location very precisely, and then to record that location somehow so that it can be compared on successive nights over the course of many years, and even after 72 such successive years the difference would be very slight. It would really take hundreds of years in all likelihood to detect the change, meaning records kept for generations, passed on, continued, and studied carefully.
Even then, when the change is perceived, there is no guarantee that those who perceive it will be able to determine the rate with any great accuracy. Conventional academia attributes the first awareness of precession in the ancient classical world to Hipparchus (c. 190 BC - c. 120 BC), although (as many have pointed out before me, and as I discuss extensively in my own book as well as in previous posts) there is irrefutable evidence that the ancient Egyptians and other cultures previous to Hipparchus understood precession thousands of years earlier. But, conventional historians still assert that Hipparchus was first, and it can be demonstrated that neither he nor his successor Ptolemy (AD 90 - AD 168) knew that precession delayed the sky by one degree every 71.6 years -- they only knew that it was "faster" than one degree every 100 years (giving themselves some margin for error).
The ancient Maya clearly possessed a much more sophisticated understanding of precession, then, than did either Hipparchus or Ptolemy! Look at the precision of their Long Count calendar, and marvel at their superior astronomical science.
Also, note that the earliest Long Count date known at present (as discussed in this previous post) was inscribed in the year 67 BC by the Maya, at Chiapas. That means that (if the Long Count anticipates a Galactic Alignment as John Major Jenkins demonstrates that it does) the ancient Mesoamericans understood precession to this astonishingly sophisticated degree no later than 67 BC. Since Hipparchus lived from 190 BC to 120 BC, this 67 BC date for an early Long Count inscription does not automatically prove that the Maya knew about precession before Hipparchus did.
However, think again about what it takes to even notice precession. It takes many decades (and more likely centuries) of very accurate observation, position measurement, position recording, and then record comparison before one can even notice that it is going on. It would then probably take many more years to come up with a theory for what is going on, as well as to make the measurements necessary to determine the rate of the precessional delay with any degree of accuracy. The accuracy that the Maya seem to have possessed was extremely precise, indicating that their investigation of this phenomenon had been going on for centuries. It is almost certain that their knowledge of precession predated Hipparchus, and yet conventional historians insist on attributing the first awareness of precession to him.
It is also probable that the Maya understood precession for some time (perhaps for hundreds of years) before inscribing the first text we have of a Long Count date. It is ridiculous to assert that they discovered precession in AD 68 and inscribed their first text with a Long Count a year later in AD 67, for example. Coming up with the Long Count would seem to be almost as involved as measuring precession, especially if (as John Major Jenkins finds ample evidence to believe) the Long Count was anticipating very accurately the alignment of a Winter Solstice sunrise with the birth canal of the Milky Way galaxy.
This information is something that really is staggering. It upsets the entire conventional picture of the ancient timeline of human development. It demonstrates a level of scientific achievement (and probably of spiritual awareness) at a far earlier date than conventional academia will admit any human beings possessed such capabilities.
This amazing achievement of the Maya is completely overlooked in most of the hype and condescending media treatment of the renewal of the Maya Long Count on December 21, 2012.
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