UPDATE 4-World survives as Maya 'end of days' marked in Mexico

* Mystics, hippies and tourists descend on Maya ruins

* Some believe Maya calendar predicted Earth's doom

(Updates with fresh quotes, color)

By Alexandra Alper

CHICHEN ITZA, Mexico, Dec 21 (Reuters) - Thousands of

mystics, hippies and tourists celebrated in the shadow of

ancient Maya pyramids in southeastern Mexico on Friday as the

Earth survived a day billed by doomsday theorists as the end of

the world.

New Age dreamers, alternative lifestyle gurus and curious

onlookers from around the world descended on the ruins of Maya

cities to mark the close of the 13th bak'tun - a period of

around 400 years - in the Maya Long Calendar.

Dismissing a widely disseminated myth that the Maya had

predicted some kind of apocalypse on Dec. 21, 2012, they

celebrated what they hope is the start of a new and better era

for humanity.

After the sun rose in Mexico and the world continued to

spin, the visitors to the Maya heartland gave thanks.

"I just feel love for everybody and I just feel reverent,"

said Stacey Gill, a 27-year-old radio show assistant from North

Carolina dressed all in white. "I feel completely at peace and

in stillness. Today I feel it in full force."

The end of the 13th bak'tun in the 5,125-year-old Maya

calendar had inspired pockets of fear around the world that the

end was nigh or that lesser catastrophes lay in store.

A U.S. scholar said in the 1960s that the end of the 13th

bak'tun could be seen as a kind of Armageddon for the Maya. Over

time, the idea snowballed into a belief by some that the Maya

calendar had predicted the Earth's destruction.

Fears of mass suicides, huge power cuts, natural disasters,

epidemics or an asteroid hurtling toward Earth had circulated on

the Internet, especially in recent months.

In the end, there were no reports of natural or man-made

catastrophes linked to the doomsday predictions.

To the people congregating in the imposing ruins of the city

of Chichen Itza, a focal point for the celebrations in Mexico,

it was a day for celebrations.

"It's not the end of the world, it's an awakening of

consciousness and good and love and spirituality - and it's been

happening for a while," said Mary Lou Anderson, 53, an

information technology consultant from Las Vegas.

A few minutes before the north pole reached its position

furthest from the sun on Friday, a spotlight illuminated the

western flank of the Temple of the serpent god Kukulkan, a

100-foot-tall (30-meter) pyramid at the heart of Chichen Itza.

Then a group of five tourists dressed in white made their

way across the plain, dropped their bags and faced the pyramid

with their arms raised b e fore park officials cleared them away.

As the sun climbed into the sky, a man with dreadlocks

played a didgeridoo - an Australian wind instrument - at the

north end of the pyramid. Nearby groups of tourists meditated on

brightly colored mats.

PARTY TIME

In Turkey, thousands of tourists flocked to Sirince, a

picturesque village east of the Aegean Sea that believers in a

potential cataclysm had said would be spared on Friday.

At 1:11 p.m. local time (1111 GMT), visitors to Sirince

gathered in the town square to await for the return of Noah's

Ark on a nearby hill. They counted down from 10 and applauded

when the vessel failed to appear and the world did not end.

In Bugarach, France, a village that was said to be harboring

an alien spacecraft in a nearby mountain that would enable

people to survive an apocalypse, authorities cordoned off the

area, fearing an influx of doomsday believers. But on Friday

journalists and partygoers outnumbered the survivalists.

Meanwhile in New York, Buck Wolf, executive editor of crime

and weird news for the Huffington Post, organized an end of the

world party at Manhattan's Hotel Chantelle on Thursday night.

Wearing a gray T-shirt with a black Maya calendar on it,

Wolf said he was inspired by a similar party he had attended in

1999 related to Nostradamus's doomsday prophecies. "It's all a

big scam," Wolf said. "You might as well throw a good party."

In China, the United Nations issued a tweet on its official

Weibo microblog denying it was selling tickets for an "ark" in

which people could escape the apocalypse after such tickets were

offered for sale online, albeit apparently as a joke.

Maya experts, scientists and even U.S. space agency NASA had

insisted the Maya had not predicted the world's end.

"Think of it like Y2K," said James Fitzsimmons, a Maya

expert at Middlebury College in Vermont, referring to the year

2000. "It's the end of one cycle and the beginning of another

cycle."

Companies have also had fun with the date.

On Friday, the makers of Mini cars placed a full-page ad in

the New York Times headlined, "Well, So Much For The 2014

Models." It suggested customers hurry to their local dealership

in case time was running out to buy the car.

'PURE HOLLYWOOD'

The New Age optimism, stream-of-consciousness evocations of

wonder and awe, and starry-eyed dreams of extra-terrestrial

contact circulating on the ancient sites in Mexico this week

have left many of the modern Maya bemused.

"It's pure Hollywood," said Luis Mis Rodriguez, 45, a Maya

selling obsidian figurines and souvenirs shaped into knives like

ones the Maya once used for human sacrifice.

The Maya civilization reached its peak between AD 250 and

900 when it ruled over large swaths of what is now southern

Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and Honduras.

The Maya developed hieroglyphic writing, an advanced

astronomical system and a sophisticated calendar that helped

provide the foundation for the doomsday predictions.

The buzz surrounding the Maya "end of days" has generated

massive traffic on the Internet, but the speculation stems from

a long tradition of doomsday prophecies.

Basing his calculations on prophetic readings of the Bible,

the great scientist Isaac Newton once cited 2060 as a year when

the planet would be destroyed.

U.S. preacher William Miller predicted that Jesus Christ

would descend to Earth in October 1844 to purge mankind of its

sins. When it did not happen, his followers, known as the

Millerites, referred to the event as The Great Disappointment.

In 1997, 39 members of the Heaven's Gate cult, believing the

world was about to be "recycled," committed suicide in San Diego

in order t o board an alien craft they said was trailing behind a

comet.

More recently, American radio host Harold Camping predicted

the world would end on May 21, 2011, later moving the date

forward five months when the apocalypse failed to materialize.

Sporting a long gray beard, dark glasses and a cowboy-style

jacket, Raja Merk Dove, a self-proclaimed "interplanetary

ambassador" from Asheville, North Carolina, said he believes

aliens helped the Maya build Chichen Itza, for centuries a major

Mayan metropolis, trading hub and ceremonial center, and he is

hoping they will drop by.

"I envision on a higher plane, or whatever our reality is,

that extraterrestrials and their spaceships will come and land

on top of the pyramid or wherever the landing site is, and that

they will come and mingle with the people, bringing new

information, new knowledge, new blessings," he said.

"This is one of those dates. If humanity is ready for that,

it can happen today. If humanity is not quite ready, it will

happen at a future date."

(Additional reporting by Ece Toksabay, Ben Blanchard, Morade

Azzouz, Martin Howell, Peter Rudegeair, Jilian Mincer and

Gabriel Stargardter; Writing by Dave Graham; Editing by Kieran

Murray, Simon Gardner and Eric Beech)

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