Yet another prediction of doom has come and gone without the promised Earth-shattering kaboom taking place. Many of the same New Agers that had claimed that the end of the 13th b’ak’tun in the Mesoamerican Long Count calendar would mark the beginning of a global catastrophe are now backtracking and saying that it actually marks the beginning of a new era of peace and love (Age of Aquarius, anyone?)Though end-of-the-world cruises and gatherings took place around the world, one of the chief focal points for the 2012 craze was the small town of Bugarach, France (though it was an honour the city could have done without). Located at the foot of the Pic de Bugarach, the highest peak in the Corbieres mountains in southwestern France, the tiny town of Bugarach has an official population of 200 with an economy based on agriculture. Since the Corbieres mountains are world-renowned for their breathtaking beauty, Bugarach also had a brisk tourist trade with hikers and backpackers stopping through while touring the region. Bugarach is not connected to any of France’s main highways, visitors to Bugarach need to travel there using narrow, winding roads that often overlook treacherous ravines below. All in all, not a place likely to attract much of a tourist crowd.
Beginning in the 1960s and 1970s, Bugarach also became popular with New Age and counterculture movements who believed in the “mystical powers” of the Pic de Bugarach (which was also known as the “upside down mountain” due to its unique geological features). According to cult believers, the mountain is the home of a hidden colony of extraterrestrials waiting for the fateful date of December 21, 2012 to make their presence on Earth known. The alien spaceships hidden in the mountain are believed to be meant as space Arks that would deliver the faithful to safety in the coming apocalypse.
In the years leading up to 2012, thousands of “UFOlogists” and other New Agers have purchased property around Bugarach and offered courses on spiritual enlightenment to the visiting believers (at 800 euros a week). Bugarach locals complained about their picturesque town being taken over by the influx of alien-watchers in the surrounding mountains . As December 2012 grew closer, that problem grew steadily worse and the town’s mayor even went so far as to give a public statement pleading with tourists to stay away.
To read more, check out my new Psychology Today blog post here.