It appears it isn't the end of the world as pessimistic forecasters doomed to fail
Managers running the winter solstice celebrations at Wiltshire’s stone circle sites today fear there may be more people turning up than in previous years – because they think today will be the end of the world.
Strange predictions that December 21, 2012, will herald the apocalypse, or at least some kind of world-changing event, have been growing across the world, with the authorities from China and Russia to the US struggling to cope with panicking populations.
Sites that have become associated with the 2012 phenomenon, including a pyramid-shaped mountain in Bulgaria and a mountain in France, are said to be expecting hordes of people trying to survive the end of the world, but at Stonehenge and Avebury in Wiltshire, the National Trust is generally only a bit worried about people getting wet and cold.
The apocalyptic predictions stem from today’s date apparently being the end of the Mayan 5,000-year ‘long cycle’ calendar, but the Mayans themselves have tried in vain to reassure people across the world that this merely means they have to get a new calendar. Today is the shortest day of the year and the winter solstice in the pagan calendar, which historically would have been the most important moment in the year for those who built and worshipped at Stonehenge.
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As darkness fell yesterday afternoon, the start of the longest night was marked in the village of Alton Barnes in Wiltshire – midway between Avebury and Stonehenge – with locals laying candles around the outline of the white horse on the side of the Vale of Pewsey.
They gathered this morning from around 10.15am to mark the solstice point of 11.11am.
At Stonehenge and Avebury, pagans will brave the cold and rain to mark the sunrise. Jan Tomlin, the general manager for the National Trust’s Wiltshire Landscapes, oversees Avebury and the area around Stonehenge.
She said: “The winter solstice is normally quite a quiet occasion compared to celebrations in the summer, although with this year being the end of an era in the Mayan calendar, there may be more people gathering at Stonehenge and at Avebury than normal. The National Trust has asked people who do not normally visit the winter solstice to check the weather forecasts carefully and to be fully prepared for the conditions.
“We would simply remind people that it is often colder than expected around the stones both at Stonehenge and at Avebury. We suggest that anybody wanting to celebrate the solstice should bring extra layers to wear, check the weather forecast before you go and, if you are visiting with friends, stay together,” she added.
A WORLD OF WORRIERS
Here are some of the world’s key doomsday destinations.
France: According to one rumour, a rocky mountain in the French Pyrenees will be the sole place on earth to escape destruction. A giant UFO and aliens are said to be waiting under the mountain, ready to burst through and spirit those nearby to safety. But there is bad news for those seeking salvation: French gendarmes, some on horseback, are blocking outsiders from reaching the Bugarach peak and its village of some 200 people
One believer, Ludovic Broquet, a 30-year-old plumber, made his way to the mountain after a year of preparation, hoping to find a “gateway, the vortex that will open up here (at) the end of the world”.
Local residents are angry at having their peace disturbed. “What is going on here is the creation of an urban legend,” fumed resident Michele Pous, who blamed those who spread internet rumours.
Russia: For 1,500 dollars (£920), a museum is offering salvation from the world’s end in former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s underground bunker in central Moscow – with a 50 per cent refund if nothing happens. The bunker, 65 metres (210ft) below ground, was designed to withstand a nuclear attack Now home to a small museum, it has an independent electricity supply, water and food – but no more room, because the museum has already sold out all 1,000 tickets.
Serbia: Some Serbs are saying to forget that sacred mountain in the French Pyrenees. The place to go will be Mount Rtanj, a pyramid-shaped peak in Serbia already drawing cultists. A local legend has it that the mountain once swallowed an evil sorcerer who will be released on doomsday in a ball of fire. The inside of the mountain will then become a safe place to hide as the sorcerer goes on to destroy the rest of the world. In the meantime, some old coal mine shafts have been opened up as safe rooms for the dozens who have arrived already.
Turkey: A small Turkish village known for its wines, Sirince, has also been touted as the only place after Bugarach that would escape the world’s end. But yesterday there were more journalists and security officials present there than cultists to the great disappointment of local restaurateurs and souvenir shop owners. Nobody was quite sure where Sirince’s alleged powers to survive the Mayan doomsday come from, but the idyllic village in western Turkey is close to an area where the Virgin Mary is said to have lived her final days.
Italy: Another spot said to be spared: Cisternino, in southern Italy, plans a big party with hot-air balloons and music in the main piazza. ‘Nobody will want to sleep anyway as they await the end of the world,’ Mayor Donato Baccaro was quoted in the newspaper La Stampa.
China: A fringe Christian group has been spreading rumours about the world’s impending end, prompting Chinese authorities to detain more than 500 people this week and seize leaflets, video discs, books and other material.
United States: For some, doomsday will be a chance for mockery. Giorgio A Tsoukalos, producer and host of the History Channel’s Ancient Aliens programme, is throwing a party in New Orleans where he will descend on-stage in a mock spaceship.