"More than a collection of quaint mythology and exotic rituals, [Maya] religion was an effective definition of the nature of the world, answering questions about the origin of humanity, the purpose of human life on earth, and the relationship of the individual to his family, his society, and his gods. It is a religion which speaks to central and enduring problems of the civilized human condition: power, justice, equality, individual purpose, and social destiny." - A Forest of Kings: The Untold Story of the Ancient Maya
In the years leading up to 2012, there has been much interest in the Maya calendar. Largely, this is because the calendar will complete its 5,200-year cycle on December 21, 2012, and this auspicious event has been misinterpreted as signaling the end of the world. For the Maya, the endings of calendar period of all lengths (cycles ranged from 20 days to centuries in length) were very important and required various types of rituals and offerings to be properly recognized. Often, the best acceptable "offering" was human blood, and Maya elites engaged in autosacrificial bloodletting to appease the deity presiding over the transition in question. Combined with the detailed Maya knowledge of astronomy, the calendar system functioned as a way for Maya priests and elites to know which particular god in their crowded pantheon was ruling at a particular moment. The Maya believed that each interval of time, embedded in units like the day, the night, the solar year, the k'atun (20 year cycle), the lunar cycle, and Venus's cycle, was governed by a certain deity.