End of the world 2012: Jubilation, dread as page turns on Mayan doomsday prophecy

Chichen Itza

Thousands of mystics, hippies and spiritual wanderers will descend on the ruins of Maya cities on Friday to celebrate a new cycle in the Maya calendar, ignoring fears in some quarters that it might instead herald the end of the world. Brightly dressed indigenous Mexican dancers whooped and invoked a serpent god near the ruins of Chichen Itza late on Thursday, while meditating westerners hoped for the start of a "golden age" of humanity.

"I see it as a changing of an energy, the changing of a guard, the changing of universal consciousness," said Serg Miejylo, a 29-year-old gardener originally from Connecticut. Wearing sandals, smoking a rolled-up cigarette and sporting blonde dreadlocks, Miejylo is among those joining the festivities at Maya sites in southern Mexico and parts of Central America.

But while people here were celebrating, the close of the 13th bak'tun - a period of some 400 years - in the 5,125- ear-old Long Calendar of the Maya has raised fears among groups around the world that the end is nigh.

A U.S. scholar once said it could be seen as a kind of "Armageddon" by the illustrious Mesoamerican culture, and over time the idea snowballed into a belief that the Maya calendar had predicted the earth's destruction.

Fears of mass suicides, meteorites, huge power cuts, natural disasters, epidemics or an asteroid hurtling toward Earth have circulated on the Internet ahead of Dec. 21.

Chinese police have arrested about 1,000 people this week for spreading rumors about Dec. 21, and authorities in Argentina restricted access to a mountain popular with UFO-spotters after rumors began spreading that a mass suicide was planned there. In Texas, video game mogul Richard Garriott de Cayeux decided to throw his most elaborate party ever at midnight – just in case the Earth did come to an end. Maya experts, scientists and even U.S. space agency NASA insist the Maya did not predict the world's end and that there is nothing to worry about.

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