What is the Maya Calendar? The Maya calendar is a system of complex and highly developed calendars created by the Maya Civilization of pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This series of calendars, includes a sacred 260-day calendar, called the Tzol'kin, a 365-day calendar called the Haab, and a 52-Haab cycle called the Calendar Round, which synchronised the Tzol'kin and Haab cycles.
The importance of time in the Maya culture? The Maya believed that time was cyclical instead of the western conception of linear time. This means that they thought that time repeated itself, so therefore, if they knew the past they could predict the future. By understanding time, they Maya could gain power over their world.
The Tzol’kin The Tzol'kin calendar combines twenty day names with thirteen numbers to produce 260 unique days. It was used to determine the time of religious and ceremonial events and for divination.
Divination The Maya believed that each day of the Tzol’kin had a character that influenced events. The Maya had a shaman priest, whose name meant day keeper, that read the Tzol’kin to predict the future. When a child was born, the day keeper would interpret the Tzol’kin cycle to predict the baby’s destiny. For example, a child born on the day of Ak’abal was thought to be feminine, wealthy, verbally skillful, and possibly a liar, cheat or complainer. The birthday of Ak’abal was also thought to give the child the ability to communicate with the supernatural world, so he or she might become a priest shaman or a marriage spokesman. In the Maya highlands, babies were even named after the day they were born on.
End of the world?
The turn of the great cycle is conjectured to have been of great significance to the Maya, but does not necessarily mark the end of the world. According to the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Maya, they were living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three worlds that the gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world where men were placed. The Maya believed that the fourth world would end in catastrophe and the fifth and final world would be created that would signal the end of mankind.
The last creation ended on a long count of 220.127.116.11.0. Another 18.104.22.168.0 will occur on December 21 2012, and it has been discussed in many New Age articles and books that this will be the end of this creation or something else entirely. However, the Maya abbreviated their long counts to just the last five vigesimal places. There were an infinitely larger number of units that were usually not shown. When the larger units were shown (notably on a monument from Coba), it is expressed as 22.214.171.124.126.96.36.199.0.0.0, where the larger units are evidently supposed to be 13s in all larger places. In this age we are only approaching 0.0.0.0.0.0.13.0.0.0.0, and the larger places are nowhere near the 13s that would match the end of the last creation.
This is confirmed by a date from Palenque, which projects forward in time to 188.8.131.52.0.0, which will occur on October 13, 4772. The Classic Period Maya obviously did not believe that the end of this age would occur in 2012. There will be a Baktun ending in 2012, a significant event being the end of a 400 year period, but not the end of the age.
- Source of most of this text
- Maya calendar on hermetic.ch
- Maya calendar on michielb.nl, with conversion applet from Gregorian calendar to Maya date
- Convert date from Maya long count to Gregorian calendar
- Maya calendar on halfmoon.org
- Maya Time Keeping
- Current Tzolkin round on Sipp.org
- Maya Calendar and Links on diagnosis2012.co.uk
- Maya Calendar on xoc.net
- Joe Monzo's interpretation of the Maya longcount
- "The How and Why of the Mayan End Date in 2012 A.D." by John Major Jenkins, May 23rd, 1994 (conjunction of the sun and the Milky Way occurs on the winter solstice of 2012)