In Mexico, new agers hope Dec. 21 brings new era

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MERIDA, Mexico -- Doomsday hour is here, at least in much of the world, and so still are we.

According to legend, the ancient Mayans' long-count calendar ended at midnight Thursday, ushering in the end of the world. It didn't happen.

"This is not the end of the world. This is the beginning of the new world," Star Johnsen-Moser, an American 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, Mr. 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.

"It is a cosmic dawn," Mr. Lemus declared. "We will recover the ability to communicate telepathically and levitate objects, ... like our ancestors did."

Celebrants later held their arms in the air in a salute to the Thursday morning sun.

"The galactic bridge has been established," intoned spiritual leader Alberto Arribalzaga. "At this moment, spirals of light are entering the center of your head, ... generating powerful vortexes that cover the planet."

Despite all the ritual and banter, few actually believed that the world would end today; the summit was scheduled to run through Sunday. Instead, participants said they were in Merida to celebrate the birth of a new age.

A Mexican Indian seer who calls himself Ac Tah, and who has traveled around Mexico erecting small pyramids he calls "neurological circuits," said he holds high hopes for today. "We are preparing ourselves to receive a huge magnetic field, straight from the center of the galaxy," he said.

Terry Kvasnik, 32, a stunt man from Manchester, England, said his motto for the day was "be in love, don't be in fear." As for which ceremony he would attend today, he said with a smile, "I'm going to be in the happiest place I can."

At dozens of booths set up in the convention hall, visitors could have their auras photographed with "chi" light, get a shamanic cleansing or buy sandals, herbs and whole-grain baked goods. Cleansing usually involves having copal incense waved around one's body.

Visitors could also learn the art of "healing drumming" with a Mexican Otomi Indian master, Dabadi Thaayroyadi, who said his slender hand-held drums are made with prayers embedded inside. The drums emit "an intelligent energy" that can heal emotional, physical and social ailments, he said.

During the opening ceremony, participants chanted mantras to the blazing Yucatan sun, which quickly burned the fair-skinned crowd.

Not all seers endorsed the celebration. Mexico's self-styled "brujo mayor," or chief soothsayer, Antonio Vazquez Alba, warned followers to stay away from gatherings today. "We have to beware of mass psychosis" that could lead to stampedes or "mass suicides, of the kind we've seen before," he said.

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