Or, How I got onto this trip about Calendars to begin with.
I don’t recall the specific time or date, but somewhere in 1999-2000 I came across references to the Mayan Calendar. Most of these were new-agey, and didn’t really clarify much about what the calendar was, or how it functioned, and at the time I found it difficult to find anything that pointed me in the right direction. Either it was archeological material, which was more focused on ruins and interpreting glyphs, or it was new age stuff, which imposed a lot of meaning that I don’t think belonged to Mesoamerican belief systems.
I continued digging stuff up, and finally found the Mayan Factor by Jose Arguelles. In retrospect, this wasn’t the most scientifically rigorous resource, but at the time, it was the first book I’d found that had any kind of description of the calendar. Mind you, a good bit of it was esoteric and flighty, but it was a far cry better than much of the other fluff I’d come across. And with this, I started learning about the Mesoamerican Calendar, began to question the Gregorian Calendar, and exploring other calendar systems in use (as well as proposed reforms).
Oddly enough, I started playing hacky-sack right around this time, and couldn’t help but think about the sacred ball game. But that’s something else entirely.
The three Wheels of Time
Although the Maya in particular were time-obsessed stargazers, and they observed celestial cycles, the essence of their daykeeping is in three interlocking calendar systems: the Long Count, the Haab and the Tzolkin. (the Maya likely called these something else). The Long Count organized days by orders of 20 (with one exception), the Haab is a 365-day calendar, the Tzolkin 260. (Note, today is 260 days before December 21st 2012 – and no, that’s not a coincidence. Unless it is, which it very well might be).
The Maya star charts survived burning by the Conquistadors. We know them asthe Dresden Codex. (give it a second, it’s big). Some of it is decoded here. As for prophecies, try the book of Chilam Balam. The creation myths are found in Popul Vuh.
I don’t want to go into this in too much detail, but this is the calendar that measures the period coming to an end December 21st 2012. It groups days by factors of 20 into larger measures of time. 20 days is a winal. 18 winal are a tun (360 days). And everything else is a factor of 20. 20 tun = 1 katun. 20 katun = 1 baktun, and so on.
13 baktun is the greater cycle (of about 5,125 years) which comes to an end December 21st 2012. More to the point, this is the fifth of five suns (the total of which is 25,625 years, about the duration of one precession of the equinoxes). There is also a lesser cycle of 13 katun (about 256 years).
This is the 365-day calendar that doesn’t make allowances for the leap year. This puts it out of synch with the seasons by about 1 day ever 4 years, which takes about 1460 years to come back around to its starting point. I guess when you live in the tropics the variance in temperature and sunlight from season to season isn’t as drastic as it is in higher latitudes (although I’m only guessing. I’m sure they still get a rainy season). Nevertheless, this was a strictly 365-day year. It was divided into 18 periods of 20 days with a 5 day period to make 365. These 5 remaining days (wayeb) were considered unlucky, as Foster (2002) writes “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters.”
I can’t say with certainty, but no doubt this had some influence on the Abysmal theme of theAbysmal Calendar.
Also of note, April 2nd 2012 was the first day of the Haab: 0 Pohp (or day 0 of the first 20-day period named Pohp).
The 260-day sacred calendar works like a cog to mesh the Long Count, the Haab and celestial cycles together.The duration has often been associated with the gestation period of a human being (which is variable, of course. Nine lunar months works out to 266 days, so it’s not too far off, and symbolically, it’s as good as anything).
Everything is gestation and bringing forth. To let each impression and each germ of a feeling come to completion wholly in itself, in the dark, in the inexpressible, the unconscious, beyond the reach of one’s own intelligence, and await with deep humility and patience the birth-hour of a new clarity: that alone is living in the artist’s life. –Rainer Maria Rilke
In Canada’s Stonehenge Gordon Freeman draws our attention to another possible explanation of the 260-day period.
Vincent Malmström, in his 1997 book Cycles of the Sun, Mysteries of the Moon, traced the 260-day sacred mayan cycle to an earlier tropical culture at 14°8 N latitude. At that latitude, 260 days correspond to the time from when the sun passes vertically overhead on the way South on August 13, to when it returns there on the way back northward on April 30. Ingenious detective work led Malmström to conclude that the 260-day sacred almanac originated on the Pacific coastal plain in Izapa, Mexico, at a date earlier than the Maya Classic Period, and that Day 1 in the almanac was August 13, 1359 BC.
Most of this I’ve gotten from Arguelles, and whether it’s true of the Mesoamericans or not, at least it’s an effective mnemonic. There are 13 major articulations in the human body (2 ankles, knees, hips, wrists, elbows, shoulders and 1 neck) and 20 digits (fingers and toes).
This is the heart of the calendar system. It combines two cycles of sacred numbers: one of 13 days, one of 20. The dates on the tzolkin are a combination of the numbers 1-13 and one of twenty archetypal glyphs. It begins with 1 Imix (that’s July 17th 2012), then 2 Ik, 3 Akbal, 4 Kan, and so on, cycling through all 13 numbers and 20 glyphs ending on 13 Ahau.
The glyphs follow a particular progression, and are intended to move from Imix (dragon) to Ahau (the sun), or from the birth of existence to realization of the highest ideal. Some of these archetypal glyphs appear in other traditions, like Cimi (death), Lamat (star), Muluc (moon), Oc (dog), and others have a distinctly Maya flavour to them, such as Ix (jaguar) or Etznab (flint).
The patterns that make up these 20 glyphs are fundamental to the calendar (at least as far as I’ve noticed through dreamspell, which isn’t exactly the same thing). Each glyph is associated with a cardinal direction, beginning with Imix (east), Ik (wind – north), Akbal (night – west) and Kan (seed – south). This sets up a pattern of four days. There is also a pattern of fives, which are evolutionary if we look at the fifth glyph of each series – Chicchan (serpent – reptilian), Oc (dog – mammalian), Men (eagle – avian), Ahau (sun – transcendental).
I was incorporating this into theAbysmal for a while, but it seemed to be a greater distraction from the essence (and really, why reinvent the wheel – particularly when the Mayans had perfected what the Olmec had begun). Instead of glyphs like those above, I used the Roman numerals from I to XX. The idea was to replace the numerals with appropriate images/archetypes. Someone could apply the Major Arcana of the Tarot (at least 20 of the 22 of them), or invent something altogether new.
I’m not sure where the image above originated (I first saw it in the Mayan Factor), however, it’s another arrangement of the 260-days of the tzolkin. I couldn’t say with any confidence what the significance of the black days are, however, it does help to figure out patterns intrinsic to this calendar. For one thing, if you read the numbers for any given glyph across the above image, the numbers alternate between two progressions. In the last column, the first, third, fifth, etc columns progress 7,8,9,10,11,12,13 the second, fourth, etc.. 1,2,3,4,5,6 – this is true for any glyph (although the starting numbers differ). There are a number of numerical patterns to be played with (not to mention Franklin’s magic square).
The tzolkin is divided into twenty 13-day periods, where the glyph that falls on the first day is used to label it. The sequence in that respect would be 1~I (imix), 1~XIV (ix), 1~VII (manik) and so on, ending with 1~VIII (lamat). Each of these 13-day periods begins with a glyph of alternating directions, beginning with east, then north, west, south and so on. Again, the repetition of different patterns throughout this structure are fun to play with, and make it an interesting fundamental component of any calendar system, particularly if one wants to grant it a goodly dose of symbol and sign.
The trouble I had combining this system with theAbysmal, was that in order for the the tzolkin and theAbysmal 365-day calendar to synchronize, the tzolkin would have to skip the leap year day (or else theAbysmal would simply do away with inserting a leap year day, in which case, it would function much as the Haab). The Maya calendars don’t insert leap year days (as far as I’m aware), they count every day and drift out of phase with the seasons.However, as a perpetual calendar aligned with the seasons, theAbysmal wouldn’t work well without the Leap Year. Which means that the 260-days would have to synchronize with the 365-days of theAbysmal, skip the leap year day (which would in turn be counted on the lunar calendar). This would fundamentally change the function of the 260-day calendar, so I wouldn’t want to call it the tzolkin (which is just a later name applied by Mayanists), but invent a new name for it. In honour of the 1980s video game, and the “mayan vs aliens” tin-hat patrol, I might just name it the space invaders calendar.
The beauty of incorporating it into theAbysmal is the mathematical weave of time periods, over the course of 4-, 5-, 7-, 13-, 28-, 52-, 91-day periods, as well as from year-to-year. For example, December 21st 2012 will be 4-Ahau (4~XX, sun). The following year, December 21st 2013 will be 5-chicchan (5~V, serpent), in 2014, December 21st falls on 6-Oc (6~X, dog), 2015 is 7-Men (7~XV), then 2016 is messed up by the leap year. So the same day progresses from year to year by increments of 1 and V. This is true for any given day of the year, provided the leap year is dealt with.
But then, that would throw the 260-day calendar out of synch with the long count… I’m unsettled.
That is the end date of the Great Cycle (in Long Count terms). Depending on the date correlation to the Gregorian, this can be December 21st, 22nd, 23rd 2012. There are other dates as well. The tzolkin date is 4-Ahau (or in theAbysmal notation 4~XX). Ahau represents the sun, and is the last of the 20 glyphs (appropriately enough).
What this also means is that today is likewise 4-Ahau, as we are 260 days before December 21st 2012. So what do you want December 21st 2012 to look like? Think on it today, and make it so.
260 Days to Dec 21st 2012
- The Mayan Calendar (vidblogdotcom.wordpress.com)