By the late 1880's it had been discovered that the Classical Maya civilization had developed a complex and highly precise calendrical system that tracked the movements of the universe and recorded great cycles of time. It was many more years, however, before agreement was reached on correlations between this ancient timekeeping system and the contemporary Gregorian calendar. Reflecting the work of researchers Goodman, Martinez, and Thompson, the GMT correlation, as it is known today, has been found to match the calendrical count still in use by Guatemalan daykeepers who have kept the count going, unbroken, for thousands of years. A two day variation on this is used by some archaeologists, as a result of a slightly different approach to decipherment. January 1st, 2008, for example, correlates as the Maya date 8 KAN using the GMT and as 6 IK using the 2 day variant. Through use of this correlation it is possible to access and explore a variety of time-oriented cycles, including the Tzolkin (the sacred "Count of Days" that forms the basis for all Mesoamerican calendrical systems), the Haab (a 365 day cycle involving 18 months of 20 days + a shorter period of 5 days), the 52 year Calendar Round, and the Long Count ( a multi-layered system for tracking and recording large cycles of time). The 4 AHAU end date for the current Great Cycle of 5200 Long Count years would correlate as December 21st, 2012 using the GMT and December 23rd, 2012 using the 2 day variant. (Long Count years are composed of 360 days, not 365.) This GMT correlation is sometimes referred to as the Classical count since it correlates with dates that were used in the Classical era city of Tikal.

From the perspective of the Gregorian calendar the day correlating with "New Year's Day" in the Maya Calendar Round "moves" every 4 years to accommodate the extra "leap" day. In the year 2000 the Gregorian correlation for the Classical Mayan New Year was April 5th. In 2009 the correlation date for the New Year was  April 3rd (11 Ik 0 POP), Long Count date 12.19.16.4.2. In 2010 the correlation date for the Classical Mayan New Year will be April 3rd (12 Manik 0 POP), Long Count date 12.19.17.4.7.

Please Note: There is a direct synchronization between the 260 day cycle of the Tikal era Classical Maya Tzolkin and the contemporary Guatemalan Cholq'ij calendar. However, with regard to the 365 day Haab cycle, that determines the "Year-Bearers", there is a variance between the "seating" of the New Year in the Classical system (which coordinates with 0 POP, as shown above) and the date that the new "Bearer of the Year" appears in the present day Guatemalan system. In Guatemala the Year Bearer for 2010 arrived on Feb. 22nd (11 Manik).  

                    

                                 Some Basic Principles

- The most fundamental component of ancient Mayan calendrical timekeeping is the 260 day Tzolkin, which combines 20 unique days with 13 numbers to create a cycle of 260 days which are continuously counted, without skipping any days or counting any days twice. Although one or two word descriptors can do little more than hint at the deeper meanings and cosmological associations that pertain to each of the daysigns the following notations reflect some of the energies that are aligned with each:       

 

  *DAYSIGN   ABBREVIATED MEANING       DAYSIGN  ABBREVIATED MEANING    
Imix               Alligator, Birth   Chuen         Monkey
Ik       Wind, Life   Eb         Road, Grass
Akbal            Night, House   Ben         Reed
Kan       Lizard, Corn   Ix         Jaguar, Wizard
Chicchan       Serpent,Lifeforce   Men         Eagle, Sage
Cimi       Death, Transition   Cib         Vulture, Owl
Manik       Deer, Hand    Caban         Earth, Movement
Lamat       Venus, Rabbit   Etznab         Flint, Mirror
Muluc       Water   Cauac         Storm, Rain
Oc       Dog   Ahau         Sun, Lord, Flower
 *Yucatec names are used here since these are the most commonly recognized.

 

- The Tzolkin combines with the Haab to form a "Calendar Round", which interlocks the 260 days of the Tzolkin with the 365 days of the Haab. Given that the Maya Haab does not incorporate extra days for the leap year it would take 52 years less 13 days before any specified Maya day would return to any given Gregorian date. One's Gregorian birthday, for example, would correlate with a different Maya day each year. The Maya equivalent would not show up again until 13 days before one's 52nd birthday.

- Authentic Mayan timekeeping is primarily solar, based on a solar-oriented cosmology. Lunar aspects are incorporated into extended Long Count calculations.

- According to the GMT the Gregorian date of July 26th (which is thought to be "New Year's Day" within one "popular" contemporary timekeeping system inspired by the Maya calendar) last coordinated with the Maya New Year for only a four year period during the early 1540's. Moreover, during that time the date, in actuality, would have been July 16th Julian, since the Gregorian calendar reform had not yet taken place. Within the Classical system of timekeeping the date of the Mayan New Year "precedes" in Gregorian time every four years to accommodate the Gregorian leap year. As discussed above, as of the early 21st century the Classical Mayan New Year correlates with early April. This traditional count, therefore, is known as a "moveable" system in conjunction with the Gregorian equivalent.

Shortly after the Spanish Conquest in the early 1500's adjustments were made to Mesoamerican timekeeping systems in some (but not all) locations so that these systems could be "frozen" into alignment with the European (then Julian) calendar. If you have been following a "13 Moon" system with  "days out of time" or days counted twice for the leap year, you have been following a "newly created" system  based on a frozen count that is considerably out-of-synch with traditional Mayan timekeeping practices. For further information pertaining to these issues please see the article by John Major Jenkins at http://edj.net/mc2012/manifesto.htm  

For a concise overview of many key components of Mayan timekeeping, we recommend http://webexhibits.org/calendars/calendar-mayan.html.  A date converter and very colorful wall calendar can be found at http://www.mayan-calendar.com/ . Our calendar, tied in with our Timekeeping Tools, also includes an overview of key components of Classical Mayan timekeeping systems, including a brief overview of meanings associated with daysigns and number signs. Information on the Guatemalan Mayan Cholq'ij Calendar as used by contemporary Mayan daykeepers can be found at www.sacredroad.org 

Our recent publication: Manual for the Soul: A Guide to the Energies of Life is now available on our companion Website http://www.whitepuppress.ca

                                                                       ęCopyright 2001-2010 ArtsPaquinMayaworks

 

 

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