Mayas marking the end of an era

3rd Dec 2012

A religious ceremony has been held in Mexico to signal the end of a 394-year era in the Mayan calendar.

The Mayas measure time in Baktuns, which each last 394 years. This year sees the end of the 13th Baktun, which began back in 1618, with the 14th starting a few days before Christmas around December 21.

A ritual-filled celebration with dancing and incense called the New Fire ceremony was held in a park in Mexico City. But the Mayas were upset they were not allowed to hold ceremonies at the ancient temples in the Maya region of Mexico.

Francisco de Anda, the press director for the government's National Institute of Anthropology and History, said ceremonies were banned from such sites as a matter of preservation and visitor safety.

He cited the spring equinox in 2011 when about 35,000 people visited Chichen Itza on a single day.

In Mayan culture the number 13 is believed to be sacred but the 13th Baktun has not been lucky for the Mayas as it included the destruction of their temples and their holy writings in the wake of the arrival of the Spanish in Mexico.

Jose Manrique Esquivel, a Mayan priest who took part in the New Fire ceremony wearing a feather headdress and body paint, expressed hoped the next Baktun would be more positive.

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