Friday, 21 December 2012
The Midwinter Solstice and Mayan time cycles
Wow! (you might say) Lucy got up really early this morning to take these shots of the sunrise at Stonehenge, on the very day of the Midwinter Solstice!
Sorry, no, I didn't! These are shots I took late in November 2008, at sunset. It's impossible to take pictures like this of Stonehenge at the Midwinter sunrise, because a sea of people will be present and in the way, some of them latter-day Druids, and the atmosphere of timeless mystery will be ruined.
I'm not against Druids as such, nor of people wanting to witness what they do. But at Stonehenge? I do care about the probable damage to this important archaeological site - ground compaction from trampling feet, for example - and I hope that one day these crowds will move away elsewhere, perhaps to a replica Stonehenge some distance off. I want solitude and silence, not invocations and chants. Just me and the stones; my own interpretation of the event; and no high priests or New Agers, thank you. Or just me and a bare handful of miscellaneous keen photographers who have driven through the night to be there, and simply want a clear view of the rising sun. (You know, I bet this is possible on the mornings before and after the Solstice. I just might attempt a three-hour dash to Stonehenge next year, to check that out)
Today is also the day when a Mayan time cycle ends and a new one begins. Apparently our Gregorian Calendar date of 2012 coincides with the ending of what would have been the thirteenth baktun of the ancient Mayan civilisation in Mexico, and the beginning of the fourteenth. A baktun was 144,000 days. It's a bit like the year 1999 coming to a close, and the year 2000 starting, with the same kind of end-of-era, start-of-a new-century, Hail the New Millennium! significance.
You have to appreciate that the ancient Mayans were fascinated with numbers and time, and linking up astronomical happenings. Investigating large periods of time was their secular and priestly preoccupation. I personally think that despite their computational skills, they got bogged down in elaborate and pointless figurings. It was certainly no practical use against the Spanish conquistadores.
Some people living in 2012 have made a big thing about the arrival of the 14th baktun. For them it signals an era of disaster and destruction. Despite global warming, extreme weather et al, I think that's taking an unnecessarily pessimistic view. Why indeed feel bothered by the arrival of an ancient civilisation's New Year? It's a superseded calendar. In any case, what will be will be: meteors, black holes, all of it. We might as well enjoy life as best we can, and not live in fear. One thing I've noticed, in the course of sixty decades, is that tomorrow always comes. So it's no good hiding in a hole. Get out and buy tomorrow's chicken dinner, because you'll be hungry if you don't.
Oh my God. A moment of Revelation! Sixty years! Of course. It's a natural cycle!
Let's call it a Lucy Period. So from 6th July last, I have been living in a New Personal Era. And I didn't realise. That's so humbling. And yet so cosmic.
And what if your personal cycle intersects with mine? Let's not even go there.