Contributed Papers

Lord of the Maya Creations on his jaguar throne: the eternal return of Elder Brother God L to preside over the 21 December 2012 transformation

John B. Carlsona1a2

a1 Center for Archaeoastronomy, P. O. Box X, College Park, MD 20741-3022, USA

a2 University Honors College, University of Maryland, College Park, MD 20742, USA email:


Speculation about what ancient Maya texts have to say about 2012 is becoming a global phenomenon in popular culture. This speculation, largely apocalyptic, is more often based on acquaintance with historical Western interpretations than on familiarity with the texts themselves and their cultural contexts. This paper approaches the 2012 phenomenon through close readings of Maya texts and images considered within the contexts of historical and contemporary Maya culture and Western scholarship. It focuses on images of mythological events depicted on two Late Classic Maya vessels: the ‘Vase of the Seven Gods’ (Kerr no. 2796) and the ‘Vase of the Eleven Gods’ (Kerr no. 7750). These images are interpreted as representing deities, gathered in ‘cosmogonic conclave’, preparing to re-create the world with their sacrifices at the last completion of a great cycle and the beginning of a new 5,125-year 13-Bakˈtun Maya ‘Long Count’. The rites of passage are presided over by an enigmatic Venus-warrior/sacrificer deity previously known only as God L. God L's principal name and nature had remained undeciphered and his identity obscure until the author's researches resulted in the decipherment and ‘reading’ presented here. This study offers an explication of why God L, whom the author has demonstrated is the Maya god of tobacco among his many aspects, takes the senior role in presiding over these 13-Bakˈtun completion rituals and why it is reasonable to hypothesize that the same entities would be back for the fulfillment of the present cycle in 2012.

(Online publication July 26 2011)


  • Maya calendar;
  • 2012 phenomenon;
  • Maya God L;
  • tobacco flasks;
  • Venus;
  • Maya cosmology;
  • Maya cosmogony