Katun Predictions and the Nephite Record
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Katun Predictions and the Nephite Record
by David Gray
( November 2012)
What is popularly known as the Mayan Calendar is what archaeologists, anthropologists, and archaeoastronomers call the Long Count. The Long Count is a large segment of time (1/5 of the 26,000-year cycle of the precession of the equinoxes) with a definite starting and ending point. The period began on August 11, 3114 BC and it ends on December 21, 2012. The Long Count, a span of 5,125 years, was further divided by the ancient Maya into 13ths, 20ths, and 260ths. The 13th parts (394 years) were called baktuns. The 260th parts (19.7 years) were called katuns. The 20ths of the Long Count were groups of 13 katuns (256 years) sometimes referred to as the "short count." This later grouping had a long prophetic tradition. The Mayan calender is divided into different time sections. While it is not known what these were called anciently, archaeologists have named them Baktuns, Katuns, Tuns , Winals and Kins. This paper focuses on the Katun but we need to first understand the other elements of the calendar and how they relate.
A Kin represents 1 day.
Winals represent 1 Maya month. The Maya month was 20 days.
A Tun represents a 360 day year.
Katuns represent a period of 19.7 years .
Baktuns represent a period of 394.3 years
There are longer periods used in the calender but these five were generally sufficient to record dates on the monuments that the Maya erected. While the above is the most common calender cycle that the Maya used, they also used many other cycles, such as those of Venus, Mars, lunar, Lords of the night and the predictive Katun cycles.
The 256-year cycle of thirteen katuns, the "short count," was clearly a Mayan prophecy or predictive cycle. Each of the 13 katuns has a specific "fate" attached to it and the Maya believed that the occurrence, or arrival, of each katun brought with it this fate. It is the predictive or prophetic Katun cycle that this article will primarily examine. Each individual Katun in the cycle contained a prescriptive element describing what the coming Katun was going to be like.
As mentioned before, a Katun lasted for 19.7 of our (Gregorian) years. The manner of distinguishing these thirteen katuns from each other is complex, but the name of each katun in the 256-year cycle is taken from the day on which it ends, or, from the perspective of the Maya, the day it reaches completion. It turns out that each of the thirteen katuns in the cycle is indicated by a number and the name Ahau, this being the day of the 260-day calendar on which the last day of the katun falls. 13 Katuns made up the Katun cycle for a total of 256 years.
Each prophetic katun cycle was not a straight 1-13 count; instead, starting at 11 count down by twos, then starting at 12 count down by twos, then lastly the number 13.
In the several books of Chilam Balam, the influences of the thirteen katuns are stated, usually as a description of historical events that occurred during previous cycles. It becomes clear to the reader, however, that the Maya always expected history to repeat itself and it is also obvious that the ancient Maya were not very optimistic about their fate. Most of these "fates" are negative, but then this may have been was how life was for them.*
These are the predictions/prophecies of the 13 Katuns, listed in counting order:
Katun 11-Ahau: Apparently food is scarce during this katun and invading foreigners arrive and disperse the population. There is an end to traditional rule, there are no successors. Since this is the first katun it always opens up a new era. It was during the span of this katun that the Spanish began their takeover of Yucatan and imposed Christianity on the natives.
Katun 9-Ahau: This is a period of bad government where the ruler abuses his people and commits misdeeds. Rulers are so bad that they wind up losing some of their power to the priests. Carnal sin and adultery are practiced openly, by rulers and others, and it is also a time of wars. It is the katun of the "forcible withdrawal of the hand," a phrase the meaning of which is unclear.
Katun 7-Ahau: This is apparently a time of social excess including drinking and adultery, a low point in the history of the society. Governments stoop to their lowest. The "bud of the flower," an allusion to eroticism, is said to sprout during this katun.
Katun 5-Ahau: During this katun of misfortune, rulers and their subjects separate -- the people lose faith in their leaders. Leaders may be harshly treated, even hung. There is also an abundance of snakes, a great famine, and few births during this period.
Katun 3-Ahau: This katun brings changes and calamities such as drought and wars. The people will become homeless and society will disintegrate.
Katun 1-Ahau: This katun brings even worse troubles, weak rulers and destruction. Governments fall apart due to rivalries. There may also be a great war which will end and brotherhood will return.
Katun 12-Ahau: Finally a good katun. During this period government and rulers are wise. Poor men become rich and their is abundance in the land. There is friendship and peace in the land. There will be six good years followed by six bad before well-being returns.
Katun 10-Ahau: Although this is a holy katun, there is trouble in the land once again. This katun brings drought and famine and is a time of foreign occupation, calendar change, and sadness.
Katun 8-Ahau: This may be the worst of the katuns as both Chichen Itza and Mayapan, the two great ruling cities of Yucatan, were destroyed during its period. The texts speak of demolition and destruction among the governors, an end to greed, but much fighting. It is the katun of "settling down in a new place."
Katun 6-Ahau: This is a time of bad government and deceptive government. There is also starvation and famine.
Katun 4-Ahau: There will be scarcities of corn and squash during this katun and this will lead to great mortality. This was the katun during which the settlement of Chichen Itza occurred, when the man-god Kukulcan (Quetzalcoatl) arrived. It is the katun of remembering and recording knowledge.
Katun 2-Ahau: For half of the katun there will be food, for half some misfortunes. This katun brings the end of the "word of God." It is a time of uniting for a cause.
Katun 13-Ahau: This is a time of total collapse where everything is lost. It is the time of the judgment of God. There will be epidemics and plagues and then famine. Governments will be lost to foreigners and wise men, and prophets will be lost.
In comparing the predictive Katuns with what was happening in Nephite history at the same time, correlations that we found between the two are quite amazing.
The years that we use in the following discussion are our own calculations, so there may be some inaccuracies. However, we feel confident they are accurate to within 2+- years of the start/finish of the actual Katun.
The Nephites arrived somewhere in the Americas about 588 BC. This is according to Nephi's recounting of how long they were in the wilderness ( 8 years) and a guestimated 1 year building the boat and 1 year sailing it. This is confirmed based on the first year of the reign of Zedikiah being in 598/97 BC.
If they arrived just before Katun 8 started they would have arrived in Katun 10 . A time when it was expected that foreigners would come and take over the land. This arrival was either just before or just after Katun 8. Recall the prognosis for Katun 8-Ahau: This may be the worst of the Katuns as both Chichen Itza and Mayapan, the two great ruling cities of Yucatan, were destroyed during its period. The texts speak of demolition and destruction among the governors, an end to greed, but much fighting. It is the Katun of "settling down in a new place.”
This Katun started in 588 (590) BC. In this 19.7 year period the city of Jerusalem was destroyed and both the Nephites and the Jews were forced to settle in a new place. The Nephites where forced to settle in a new place twice.
After Nephi's time and prior to Mormon's abridgement of the record, it is hard to be precise in lining up Katuns with the years mentioned in the record.
However, we will continue to research and are optomistic about future findings.
One possible correlation is found in the Book Of Omni. Amaron, the son of Omni, describes how the wicked among the Nephites were destroyed. During this Katun (275BC – 254 BC), many of the wicked Nephites were destroyed. Possibiy the “ending of the word of god” is represented by the exodus of Mosiah1 taking those righteous Nephites and the scriptures with him, going out to the wilderness and finding Zarahemlah.
Katun 2-Ahau: For half of the Katun there will be food, for half some misfortunes. This Katun brings the end of the "word of God." It is a time of uniting for a cause.
While there are many more correlations between Nephite history and the Katun predictions we will analyze two in particular.
On 5 September, 41 AD a very significant time cycle ended. On this day the Baktun as well as the Katun ended. Katun 11-Ahau: Apparently food is scarce during this Katun and invading foreigners arrive and disperse the population. There is an end to traditional rule and there are no successors. This being the first Katun, it always opens up a new era.
What an apt way to describe what happened to the Nephites during this period. During the first part of the Katun there was the arrival of Jacob and the breakup of the population into tribes. Traditional rule ended in two ways. Firstly with the breakup of society into tribes and secondly when Christ appeared in Bountiful. The destruction that happened when Christ came may have led to a scarcity of food. It also started a new era for the Nephites.
It was also the time of the end of one Baktun and the beginning of another.
While it is not within the scope of this article to analyze Baktun prophecies in depth, a Baktun lasted 394.3 years and the end was seen as a time of renewal and change, a time when the heavens and the earth could be renewed and re-established. We propose that the coming of Christ to the Nephites just before this crucial time had a profound effect on those who heard about His coming.
A most convincing comparison between Nephite history and Katun predictions is the destruction of the Nephite nation. Katun1 started in 376 AD when Mormon states that the Nephites no longer had power over the Lamanites when they came to battle in their full strength. This Katun brings even worse troubles. Weak rulers, destruction, and governments falling apart due to rivalries mark the years prior to a great war which will end the nation(s). Eventually, brotherhood will return.
As with the Katun 11-Ahau prediction mirroring the coming of Christ, so too does this katun prediction seem to mirror the closing days of the Book of Mormon. The great war between the Nephites and the Lamanites did end the Nephite nation. From the Lamanites' point of view brotherhood did return as there were only a very few unorganized Nephites remaining .
2 September, 385 was half way through the Katun. Though of minor significance to the Maya, It was the day that Mormon chose to make his final stand against the Lamanites. We presume that Mormon chose this day, as he wrote a letter to the King of the Lamanites outlining his desire to gather to Cumorah for a final battle. Had the Lamanites commenced the battle immediately, it would have been an inauspicious day for them to do so, according to their beliefs.
The evidence of the relationships between the Katun predictions and the history of the Nephites seems quite compelling, However, It may be only coincidental due to our interpreting events to fit what we have found in the Katun predictions. But, one reliable element of the Katuns is the dates. The fact that major dates outlined in the Book of Mormon correspond to the start of Maya Katuns may be another evidence that the Book of Mormon is an ancient Mesoamerican record that was translated by Joseph Smith.
* The Maya Katun Prophecies by Bruce Scofield (This article was originally published in Alternate Perceptions, issue #37, 1996.) Scofield notes we have recently lived through katun 6-Ahau: 1973-1993. During this period there was deceptive government (Watergate, Iran/Contragate) and we did have an actor for a president. There has also been an acute awareness of famines in Africa. The last time this katun occurred was between 1717 and 1736. During this period the "South Sea Bubble," a major business failure caused a financial panic, and in England, the old and young "Pretenders" continued to claim the throne. It was during another katun 6-Ahau, this one from 1460 to 1480, that the Spanish Inquisition was established and Lorenzo the Magnificent ruled Florence. Finally, katun 6-Ahau of 1204 to 1224 saw the Children's Crusade, an example of mass deception if there ever was one.
And what of the present katun, katun 4-Ahau? According to the Maya inscriptions, the katun began on 4/6/1993 and ends with the entire Long Count/creation epoch on 12/21/2012. Following the prophecy scheme of the cycle of the 13 katuns listed above, we could expect scarcities and the arrival of great leaders. It is also the katun of "remembering knowledge and writing it down." It does appear that in the past this katun coincided with a questionable measure of stability in the world and also significant advances in the written word. For example, katun 4-Ahau lasted from 1224 to 1244. During this time Frederick II took Jerusalem, but he took it diplomatically. The next time this katun came up was between 1480 and 1500. Clearly, this was a period of great voyages and discoveries -- but things were also relatively stable politically which made exploration possible. This period also marks an important period of growth in printing. Katun 4-Ahau came up next between 1736 and 1756. Interestingly, it was during this period that the first encyclopedia was published. The War of the Austrian Succession 1740-1748 did bring a settlement of territories and a measure of stability, and there were a number of alliances formed during this time as well. Power kept shifting, but did not erupt in an all-out way. Such may actually be the case from 1993 to 2012.
Finally, the present Long Count/creation epoch of the Maya comes to an end on December 21st (the winter solstice), of 2012. What will the katun that begins this new era be like? The Maya regarded katun 2-Ahau as half good and half bad, a time of uniting for a cause, but also as the katun during which came the "end of the word of God." And what does that mean? It is true that in previous 2-Ahau katuns there were great religious or ideological crises. Between 1500 and 1520 the Aztecs were conquered and forced to convert to Christianity. Also in 1517 Martin Luthor started the Protestant Reformation. 256 years later, between 1756 and 1776, the ideas of liberty and the rights of countries and individuals became a growing trend and this led to the American colonies declaring independence from England. One could say that a new era was indeed dawning, although it took a few more katuns before it could stand on its own two feet. Quite possibly some of our most taken-for-granted beliefs, secular and religious, will begin to lose cohesiveness and credibility after 2012, paving the way for a genuinely new age. If the Maya were right, then don't be disappointed with the uneventful millennium, the year 2000, hang on for the real changes that should begin twelve years later in 2012 and culminate with katun 13-Ahau which starts in 2032.