Mayan calendar, doomsday talk focus of event

LSU professor Mary Jill Brody expects to be finished grading papers and preparing for Christmas with her family when Dec. 21 comes around.

Brody’s plans for the day don’t seem particularly out of the ordinary — unless you believe Dec. 21 of this year, a Friday, will mark the end of the world.

The ancient Mayan Long Count calendar, which begins on Aug. 11, 3114 B.C., and ends Dec. 21, 2012, has some people talking about an apocalyptic countdown throughout the years that will stop for good on Dec. 21.

Brody, an LSU geography and anthropology professor who specializes in linguistics and Maya culture, is not one of the doomsday believers.

“Why all the mystical hooha and hype? Because it’s sort of new age. People want to believe. There’s a romanticism about it,” Brody said during a recent interview in her book-crowded office on LSU’s campus.

The calendar, she said, “is just a resetting of the odometer. It’s like New Year’s Eve. The world is not going to end.”

Brody, who has been studying the Maya people for 30 years, knows as much as anyone about the culture that has flourished in areas of Mexico and Central America.

She is giving a talk on the Maya Calendar and the predicted doomsday prophecy Thursday at 6:30 p.m. at the Ascension Parish Library in Gonzales.

Brody, who has visited the Chiapas area of Mexico many times in her 30-year career at LSU, said people should be fascinated by the fact that the living Maya people today speak 30 different languages in Mexico and Guatemala.

So why do some modern people believe the Mayan calendar is the source of the end times?

Christopher Hunte, a sociology professor at Southern University for 36 years, said people who believe in some form of destiny are the ones who latch on to something like the end of the world on the Mayan calendar.

“Some people look forward to the end. Some people like the idea of a do-over or a clean slate. Some people are depressed about what’s happening in the world and they hope for a better life,” Hunte said.

Many people, Hunte said, either believe or want to believe that there is something beyond every day life.

Brody said she doesn’t think there are very many people who actually believe Dec. 21 is going to be the end of the world.

“If people truly believe it, they would be taking action, right?

“How do you prepare for the end of the world? Run around buying batteries? I don’t know,” Brody said.

Sister Eve, who has been a practicing fortune teller and psychic in Baton Rouge for more than 40 years, said there might be a kernel of truth in what the ancient Mayans may have predicted in the calendar.

“My own personal belief is Dec. 21 will not be the end of the world.

“But there will be lots of significant changes,” Sister Eve said by phone recently.

When asked for specifics, she was vague: “There will be more threats to the world. More terrorist activity. Something will happen, but it won’t be the end of the world.”