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No gloom or doom as crowds usher in new age at Maya monument

Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters

A tourist raises her hands during a group meditation ceremony near the pyramid of Kukulkan at the Chichen Itza archaeological site on Dec. 21. Hundreds gathered to greet the sunrise on a day that marked a new age on the Maya calendar.

Tourists, mystics and Maya priests accentuated the positive this morning at Mexico's best-known Maya monument, the El Castillo pyramid at Chichen Itza, on a day that some thought would bring catastrophe.

For years, doomsayers warned that the end of a grand 5,125-year cycle in the Maya timekeeping system would signify the end of the world as well. Some feared that Dec. 21 would be marked by solar blasts, earthquakes, superstorms or other planetary disruptions. But the hundreds who flocked to El Castillo took a different message to heart.

"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," Mary Lou Anderson, a 53-year-old information technology consultant from Las Vegas, told Reuters.

Reuters reported that the rituals at Chichen Itza began just before the winter solstice, as dawn was breaking. A spotlight illuminated the western flank of El Castillo, a 100-foot-high pyramid that was built sometime between the 9th and the 12th centuries to serve as a temple to the Maya serpent god Kukulkan. Then a group of five English-speaking tourists, dressed in white,  made their way across the plain, dropped their bags and faced the pyramid with their arms raised. 

As the sun climbed into the sky, a man with dreadlocks played a didgeridoo at the north end of the pyramid, while a group of tourists meditated on brightly colored mats.

The visitors said they came to Chichen Itza not to face the world's end, but to make a new beginning. "I hope something happens to make me a better person," said Graham Hohlfelde, a 21-year-old student from St. Louis, Mo. "If I can get a little cosmic help, I won't turn it down."

Israel Leal / AP

Visitors and the El Castillo pyramid are silhouetted by the rising sun at Chichen Itza on Dec. 21, a day that some feared would bring disaster. Ceremonial fires burned and conches sounded off as dawn broke over teh steps of the pyramid, marking what many believe is the conclusion of a 5,125-year cycle in the Maya calendar.

Victor Ruiz Garcia / Reuters

Traditional costumes as well as T-shirts were worn by those attending Friday's rituals at Chichen Itza's El Castillo pyramid.

Pedro Pardo / AFP - Getty Images

Hundreds of onlookers - some holding mobile phones - raise their hands during rituals at Mexico's Chichen Itza archaeological site.

More about the non-apocalypse

This report includes information from Reuters.

Alan Boyle is NBCNews.com's science editor. Connect with the Cosmic Log community by "liking" the log's Facebook page, following @b0yle on Twitter and adding the Cosmic Log page to your Google+ presence. To keep up with Cosmic Log as well as NBCNews.com's other stories about science and space, sign up for the Tech & Science newsletter, delivered to your email in-box every weekday. You can also check out "The Case for Pluto," my book about the controversial dwarf planet and the search for new worlds.