MERIDA, Mexico — According to legend, the ancient Mayans’ long-count calendar ended at midnight Thursday, ushering in the end of the world.
“This is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of the new world,” Star Johnsen-Moser, an American self-proclaimed seer, said at a gathering of hundreds of spiritualists at a convention center in the Yucatan city of Merida, an hour and a half from the Mayan ruins at Chichen Itza.
“It is most important that we hold a positive, beautiful reality for ourselves and our planet. ... Fear is out of place.”
As the appointed time came and went in several parts of the world, there was no sign of the apocalypse.
Indeed, the social network Imgur posted photos of clocks turning midnight in the Asia-Pacific region with messages such as: “The world has not ended. Sincerely, New Zealand.”
In Merida, the celebration of the cosmic dawn opened inauspiciously, with a fumbling of the sacred fire meant to honor the calendar’s conclusion.
Gabriel Lemus, the white-haired guardian of the flame, burned his finger on the kindling and later had to scoop up a burning log that fell from the ceremonial brazier onto the stage.
Still, Lemus was convinced that it was a good start, as he was joined by about 1,000 other shamans, seers, stargazers, crystal enthusiasts, yogis, sufis and swamis.
The Maya, who invented an amazingly accurate calendar almost 2,000 years ago, measured time in 394-year periods known as baktuns. Some anthropologists believe the 13th baktun ends Dec. 21. Still, archaeologists have uncovered Mayan glyphs that refer to dates far, far in the future, long beyond Dec. 21.
In any case, people around the world have or are celebrating the day. Here are some of the other key destinations:
FRANCE: According to one rumor, 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 here is bad news for those seeking salvation: French police, some on horseback, were blocking outsiders from reaching the Bugarach peak and its village of some 200 people.
RUSSIA: For $1,500, a museum offered salvation from the world’s end in former Soviet dictator Josef Stalin’s underground bunker in central Moscow — with a 50-percent refund if nothing happened. The bunker, located 210 feet below ground, was designed to withstand a nuclear attack. All 1,000 tickets were sold.
BRITAIN: Hundreds of people converged on Stonehenge for an “End of the World” party that coincides with the Winter Solstice.
SERBIA: A local legend has it that Mount Rtanj, a pyramid-shaped peak, once swallowed an evil sorcerer who will be released on doomsday in a ball of fire that will hit the mountain top. The inside of the mountain will then open, becoming a safe place to hide as the sorcerer goes on to destroy the rest of the world. Cultists began to arrive in droves even before Friday.
TURKEY: A small village known for its wines, Sirince, also has been touted as the only place after France’s Bugarach that would escape the world’s end. But on Thursday, there were more journalists and security officials 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 came from, but the idyllic village in western Turkey is close to an area where the Virgin Mary is believed to have lived her final days, and some New Agers reportedly believe the region has a positive aura.
ITALY: Another spot said to be spared: Cisternino, in southern Italy, plans a big party Friday with hot-air balloons and music in the main piazza.
CHINA: A fringe Christian group has been spreading rumors 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.
Those detained are reported to be members of the group Almighty God, also called Eastern Lightning that preaches Jesus has reappeared as a woman in central China.
U.S.: Giorgio A. Tsoukalos, producer and host of the History Channel’s “Ancient Aliens,” is throwing a party in New Orleans on Friday where he will descend onstage in a mock spaceship. Tsoukalos is a leading proponent of the idea that ancient myths arose from visits by alien astronauts, an idea rejected by many mainstream researchers.