Wednesday, 19 December 2012

Jaguar Paw's powerful use of number

A reassuring article by Tom Holland in Saturday's Guardian discusses the supposed imminent end of the world predicted by Mayan calendar.  Holland refers to a recently-discovered Mayan reference to the date (21 December 2012 in our calendar). The king Jaguar Paw was defeated in battle in 695 CE.  To restore the confidence of his allies, he associated his time with the distant future by talking about 2012.  Holland says this was "designed to place his defeat in a reassuringly cosmological context.  Bad news was being veiled behind a recitation of numbers.  George Osborne would surely have approved."

So we have an interesting example of the use of number as propaganda to assert one's place in the cosmos.

Incidentally, if you are worried about the end of the world this week (and Holland says that a Mayan inscription refers to the world's still existing in 4772, so there wasn't unanimity in the alleged prediction), the article suggests actions that the Mayans might have taken to reduce the risk.  These include "piercing their tongues with thorns, and stabbing their penises with stingray spikes".  So those who take this seriously know what they should do.

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