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Oh My! Oh Maya!

By Daniel Hubbard | December 23, 2012

Once again the world has failed to end on schedule. Now I guess I’d better write a blog post.

I love calendars, I’m not equally fond of the end of the world. I love using calendar peculiarities to solve genealogical problems, I don’t like the thought of my data being engulfed by a sea of fire or whatever the apocalypse du jour happens to be. Where the idea that a calendar cycle coming to an end would signal the end of the world isn’t something that I’m really clear on. I suppose it starts with the impression that the calendar that we use just seems to run on and on implying that perhaps we were not clever enough to figure out when it would end and after which we wouldn’t need to track time any longer. That another calendar does not seem to do that must mean that they (the Maya) had some secret knowledge. Of course we have calendar cycles within our calendar as well. They just don’t seem so mystical to us.

I won’t predict the end of the world based on the ominous sounding “weekend” but we shouldn’t be so surprised by calendar cycles when we experience one every seven days. Nor is the impeding need to change our 2012 calendars for 2013 calendars particularly worrying. We have a leap year almost every four years without unease. If you study the workings of our calendar you will also learn that we have a 400 year cycle of skipped leap years. It is all fascinating and it is all useful knowledge for understanding how our ancestors viewed time and recorded time but not so good for predicting the end of the world.

Apple Picking at the Apocalypse

Have you ever thought about how our ancestors experienced predictions of the end of the world? That thought popped into my head a few days ago as the latest end approached. I love to connect the branches of people’s ancestry to the little branches of history. In my own family I happen to have a little information on it too. Back in the 1840s, a sect known as the Millerites believed that the end would come soon. First sometime between March of 1843 and March of 1844. When nothing happened, the date April 18, 1844 was considered. The appointed day came and went and a new date, October 22, 1844, was settled upon. Some Millerites decided not to waste their time with a harvest that they would never need to consume. That is where my family’s connection to the end of the world appears. the Rev. John Walborn of Middletown, Pennsylvania had two apple trees full of fruit just waiting to be picked but he saw no reason to bother. My distant relative, Rev. Walborn’s neighbor Michael Brestle, offered to pick the apples if Walborn let him keep half for his efforts. Walborn replied “No, you shall do no such thing; gather them and keep them all. I shall not want them, neither will you.” Michael picked 8 bushels of apples October 21 and lived to enjoy them.


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Topics: Calendars and Clocks, Forgotten History, Uncategorized | No Comments »

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