This is an appeal to all Maya Calendar People, and the rest us of us too, to tell us what you did when the odometer rolled over: 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in, 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in, 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in … keep repeating this mantra ….
Really, all the excitement was about one part of at least a 6 part Maya Calendar. The change took us through a truly magic number that occurs just one day out of almost 2 million days. Just like European cultures have magic numbers like Lucky 7’s, bad 13’s, etc, the ancient Maya thought 13 was special. 13 months in the religious calendar (Tzolkin calendar), etc.
Since the Long Count (a 5 digit number) gets to the value 126.96.36.199.0 only once every 5000 years, … then sometime between Dec. 21 or Dec. 23, we moved from the Maya Calendar Long Count’s first magic-number of 4-Ajau, Dios 9, 8-Kumku, through 5,126 years as 1,872,000 days, to the mysterious magic ” 188.8.131.52.0 “, when the odometer rolled over to … the magic 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in.
The mystery deepens, as this magic date is only mentioned on 2 somewhat minor stelae at minor Maya sites. For a day that is prophesied to echo through the ages, why is there no other written evidence of it found at any of the other of 10,000’s of Maya sites? Still, the Maya placed great emphasis on dates, with over 300 dates found recorded on stelae across Maya lands.
Is Dec. 21’st, The Day ?
Was this past Winter Solstice even the mystical 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in?
Consider whether we are counting days or counting elapsed time, e.g. Did they starting from 1 or zero? Counting time and counting days are not like counting coffee beans (a Maya currency).
If it is 13 hours past New Year’s Eve midnight, and I ask you what time it is, you will likely say: 1:00 o’clock ~ because an hour has elapsed since mid-day.
If I then ask you what the date is, you would tell me that it is January 1. So, one hour has elapsed since noon => “1”, but zero days have elapsed in the New Year, and yet we call it “1” too??? Can calendar experts prove the Maya counted days by elapsed time? (No…) Did the Maya Calendar start with zero or with one? (Hint, their day names in one system start counting with ZERO: as 0 … 19 to count off 20 days in a “month”.) This issue exists in our calendars in English: Consider how we define years of age for babies: Only after 365 days have elapsed, do we say a baby is 1 year old, (recognizing a zero year and counting years by elapsed time), but then we use “January 1” is used to represent the zero day of the year.
Next, consider that actual celestial events, like reports of eclipses, don’t quite line up between our Gregorian Calendar recorded dates and the Maya Calendar recorded dates. As a result of the variations, some experts calculate December 21’st as The Day, while others calculate Dec 23’rd… (The experts generally select one of 2 generally accepted “correlation” values – which creates the Dec. 21 vs Dec. 23 conundrum.) Next consider the unresolved elapsed time issue: The Day might actually be Dec. 22 or Dec. 24’th. (Notice how we slipped in cardinal vs. ordinal numbers?)
So, if nothing magical or catastrophic or cosmic happened on the 2012 Solstice – Dec. 21’st at 5:12 AM here in Mexico, …
~ then some waited until the 23’rd… or the 22’nd … or the 24’th ~
Us? We sleept-in all 4 days – enjoying time with the new nietecito in Colorado.
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Whoa, whoa, whooooooa…
Is it really appropriate to jump into the Thor v Maya topic now?
Unnnnngh… I just realized that many folks may not have previous experience manipulating the Maya Calendars, and the previous comments about the first Long Count date of 184.108.40.206.0 (aka The Day: 4-Ajau 8-Kumku and the upcoming Day: 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in = Dec 21, 22’nd, 23’rd, or 24’th, 2012), may not make much sense the first time you hear about it.
Let’s take a stab at grocking the Maya Calendar(s). The Maya Calendar has a number of systems for tracking the passing of days and tracking different (celestial) events. Just like our Gregorian Calendar, they have a 365 day solar year, called the Haab calendar, useful for farmers to know whether this is a good month to plant or not, based on the coming rainy season or coming dry season. The Haab month name for corn planting months here in Yucatan actually says to “plant your corn” in our June/July period, so the seeds and young plants get plenty of rain. The the Haab month name for November/December is corn harvest time, when the corn is nice and dry due to little or no rain = no moldy stored grain.
In addition to the Haab year calendar, there is a religious (Tzolkin) calendar with 260 days in a Religious Year, just like the Zodiac calendar of Sagittarius, Taurus, Libra, etc. – where there are propitious days to get married, and others when it is better to just stay in bed (read your horoscope lately?). It is believed that the Maya consulted with their local priest, who used the Tzolkin calendar to find out what days were propitious for getting married, sponsoring a ceremony, etc., while Ron and Nancy actually altered US policy based on their Astrological forecasts – affecting the whole world.
If you wait until “the moon is in the second house, and Jupiter aligns with Mars” using the Zodiac calendar, then you missed the actual planetary alignments by 2 months, while the Maya calendar nails both dates and the planetary positions, especially when watching the positions of sunrise.
Just like our Gregorian Calendar has day names (Worship the Sun Day, Worship the Moon Day, etc), the Haab (365 day) Calendar and the Tzolkin (260 day calendar) both also have mystical day names, like our Moon Day, Wotan’s day, Thor’s Day, Freye’s Day, Saturn’s (Jove’s/Zeus’s) Day, and Worship-the-Sun-Day , day names, (Monday, Wednesday, Thursday, Fryday, Saturday, Sunday). Hmmmm… Does it make a lot of sense to be honoring ancient Greek, German, Roman, and Scandinavian Gods one day each ~ 2000 years later ~ to honor a 6,000 year old Jewish tradition of 7 days?
Looking at the Maya Calendar(s) from a Math Perspective:
Instead of a clunky, difficult-to-track 7 day name system that crashes into our messy 28, 29, 30, 31 day months, (29, 30 and 31 are not nice multiples of 7), ~ the clever Maya created Haab and Tzolkin Calendars that each have their own 20 different day names, where they use the same 20 names every month of a year… This makes knowing the day name that you were born or married, really easy to track by back calculating from a known date, like today. If the Maya equivalent to our 1’st day of Janus (January) is a Moonday, then the first day of their Feb. is also a Moonday, and every first day of that Haab year’s months are all Moondays (Mondays). Think 4-Ajau, 8 Kumku … or 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in… Now that you know about the Tzolkin Calendar, remember that the 4-Ajau name in Long Count 220.127.116.11.0 date, is the Tzolkin Calendar date, and the 8-Kumku is the Haab Calendar day name for the previous 18.104.22.168.0** The new magic 22.214.171.124.0 will be: 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in
So, you can now note that the so-called Maya “Calendar” can have 3 different Calendar systems information, with 3 different naming systems, all integrated into a single “date”.
There is also another Maya Calendar that tracks the name of the Night you were born on, using a repeating set of 9 names for the Lords of the Night. This means that mystical 4-Ajau 8 Kumku as used by the Maya, is better defined by calling it: 4-Ajau, God 9 of the Night, 8-Kumku…. Got it? Well, now consider that there are another 3 – 6 more counting systems used by the Maya, where they tracked the cycles of the Moon’s rising (which modern astronomers tell us is a weird 28.3 days – 28.8 days, varying throughout time), and the rising of Venus (at least at Dzibilchaltun and Chichen Itza), etc.
**126.96.36.199.0 , wait wait wait. What’s up with these numbers as dates? I thought The Magic Day, December 21’st, 2012, ( = 12 / 21 / 12 a magical mix of 1’s and 2’s ?) … 4-Ajau, God 9, 3-Kank’in … is a Tzolkin Date name, followed by its Lord of that Night, followed by its Haab Date name?
Well, as casually mentioned above, the Maya Calendar(s) also has a “Long Count” calendar date system that uses numbers – running in parallel with the triplets of Tzolkin names, Night God names, and Haab names. In the serial numbering/counting version, the Long Count uses a sequential set of 5 digits, starting with a set of 1’s (from 0 – 19), followed by sets 20’s, then sets of 360’s, sets of 7,200’s, and sets of 144,000’s (just like our 1’s, 10’s, 100’s, 1,000’s base 10 decimal system of counting things). This Maya Long Count Calendar spans 5,126 years and 1,872,000 days in just ONE cycle – each day with its own unique day name… Why have a Long Count, on top of 3 other Calendar counting systems? Sharp ancient Maya could subtract their Long Count Birth Date from today’s Long Count day name, and tell you exactly how many days he has been alive, within seconds.
How many modern sophisticated, really smart modern people can tell you, right now, in just seconds of thought, ~ how many suns they have seen ~ , or ~ how many moons they have seen ~ , or ~ how many days have passed since they got married ~ or how many days since we won The Big One, WW2? Sharp thinking old-time Maya could tell you the answers in seconds… without being Rain-Man idiot-savants.
Did anybody correlate the discussion of the Long Count with 188.8.131.52.0’s format? Noting this specific date sneaks in another wonder of the Maya world: zero. They realized the value and utility of zero, not just as a point to start counting (0 – 19), but as a place holder ~ to allow the user to record, communicate, and mathematically manipulate very large numbers. For comparison, think I, II, III, IV, C, L, M, and now try to add LMXIV to MXMCXC, without converting to a decimal system. What a bear. In contrast, the Long Count system with its place-holding zeros makes such calculations easy.
Also consider: The Maya developed their elegant system blending numbers and unique names, long before the Romans committed their mathematical misdeeds using clumsy common LETTERS to represent numbers. Remember that the lowly zero was both a key part and a key realization that didn’t occur until over 500 years later in Arab and Western thought. (Didn’t you just know that we had to sneak in crediting the Maya for ~ zero ~ at some point?)
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A brief overview of these bits of information reveal:
Celestial accuracy, ease of use, precision over 1,000’s of years, and the beauty of using 20 day months for all months to give the same day name for the first of every month in a year, and the incredible insight to use regular multiples of 20 for easy computation across months, years, decades, and centuries, are still wonders never matched anywhere else in the world for nearly 2000 years.
Maybe the real wonder is in the math and the beautiful Maya minds that created such an incredible system?
So, just like Bach, Beethoven, and Mendelssohn created incredibly beautiful music that echos through the centuries, in the service of The Church, the Maya created a system of fabulous ingenious calendars to know when to plant, when to schedule a Fire Ceremony, when to anoint a King, when to go to war, and when to go get married. So, spiritual devotion driven by what is considered superstition by many today, created some of the greatest achievements of all time.
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Mystical Maya Prophesies and the Modern Prophets Who Worship at “The Alter”:
Hmmm…. lots of modern people trekked to The Alter at Chichen Itza to watch the Kukulkan feathered serpent god, descend the NW stairs of El Castillo. Surrounding and approaching The Day at The Alter, “experts” and devotees, go on and on, espousing the mystical properties and the mysterious spiritual power of “The Maya Calendar”, then talking about some specific date in their one part of the bigger Maya Calendar. Yet, somehow they get blank looks on their faces if you ask about
~ which of 260 unique day names of the Tzolkin are they referring to, and
~ which of the 360 unique Haab names are the date they are talking about, and then ask about
~ who is the Year Bearer* of that special date of theirs, or
~ which of the 9 Lords of the Night was that, which leads to
~ the Long Count day name ….
… not to mention the 2 – 4 (or more) additional Maya event tracking Calendars that are generally unknown to “official” tour guides, Maya spiritualists, and other “experts” on the Maya calendar(s) and the ancient Maya accomplishments.
So the 4-Ajau, God 9, 3-Kank’in final day of our current 1.8 million day naming cycle is further named more thoroughly named with its Year Bearer’s name: 1-Kaban…
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Done pondering the “mysteries” of the Maya Calendar(s)?
Now consider: Was one single value ~ a single day ~ in a 6 Calendar or 9 Calendar system cataclysmically or beautifully or prophetically more important than all others, to ALL the varied Maya groups across Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and Honduras?
Since this magic date is mentioned on only two stela in all of Maya-Land (most notably found at Tres Zapotes), is it possible that December 21, 2012, or 12/21/12, or 184.108.40.206.0, or 4-Ajau 3-Kank’in is just the day when the odometer rollllls over?
Let the hand-waving begin !
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To Maya Calendar experts, who have read the glyphs, studied the steale, and pondered the 6 – 9 different counting systems within the Maya calendar, and done all the base 20 math, they equate this change in just one system of Maya event counting, the Long Count, to being exactly like an old-school car odometer getting to 220.127.116.11.0.0.0 => 100,000 miles
=> a 1 in the 100,000 thousands place and Zeros in the 1’s, 10’s, 100’s, 10,000’s places
It may be similarly fun to watch the Long Count roll from 18.104.22.168.19 (or 12/19/19/17/19 equivalent to our 12/20/2012 ) to the Mystical Magical 22.214.171.124.0.
Which is awfully similar to modern “sophisticated” people counting down from Dec 31’st of 1999 to Jan. 1 of 2000…. Happy End of the Century ! – with all it’s mystical religious month names (Janus looking forward and back/January) and mysterious religious day names (Thor’s Day/Thursday).
(Ignore that when the Julian-Catholic calendar started, the first century was actually 1 – 100 AD, and the second century started at 101 AD, and the convention continued for the next 19 centuries, until the over-eager “I-want-it-now” generation jumped the gun by a full year in 2000 – where the 21’st century actually started in ~ 2001 ~ .)
(Dratted, pesky elapsed-time thing pops up again.)
So, with all the references on expat web blogs and forums criticizing and complaining about ” Maya calendar kooks “, and “their” gathering at Chichen Itza for 2012’s Winter Solstice, is their celebration really so different from the $Trillions that Americans, Canadians, Brits et al spent preparing for “Y-2K” and billions of people celebrating around the world, with parties and gatherings of 100,000’s of people on Dec. 31, 1999?
(Which ironically was the wrong year to celebrate the “Beginning of the 21’st Century”.)
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Where will you be on 126.96.36.199.0?
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and to all the people who follow the Roman Catholic Calendar of Pope Gregory:
But, but, but, don’t all rational people find the Maya Calendar, 2012 End of the World, New Age stuff … nonsense…?
A quick google search shows skads of skeptical comments about the Maya, their Maya Calendar and the (supposedly kooky) upcoming Dec. 21, 2012 Solstice event. Is the 20 day month, predictable, mathematically near-perfect, Maya Calendar system of 6 calendars (or more), really any more nonsense than the US/Canada/England/Europe using a Roman Catholic calendar, that honors the old German/Scandinavian Gods and Greco-Roman Gods once every 7 days, honors Sun worship and Moon worship, and honors Roman Gods in many months, has nonsensical 28, 29, 30, & 31 day months that generally do not fit even multiples of 7 our day weeks, which came from a 6,000 year old Jewish tradition?
And then our supposedly superior ( nonsensical ) Roman Catholic calendar only relatively recently was adopted outside of Catholic and Protestant Countries, partly because of its gross inaccuracies – so our Gregorian – kluged Catholic Calendar – was not even universally adopted until recent times.
Is it really admirable to choose a system that is fully off a whole day every 4 years, and off yet more days at the turns of the centuries, … a wacky calendar that required us to just completely throw out a block of 10 whole days, because of Rome, the Vatican, & Pope’s poor of math skills? Yes, the old Church calendar had to jump from the 4’th of October to the 15’th in the 16’th Century, and the Russians & Greek Orthodox folks waited until 1917, when they had to delete 13 days.
So, which really is the nonsensical calendar?
One that does not allow easy counting of days, throws out a block of 10 – 13 days, adds an extra day every few years, honors at least 4 different pantheons of Gods from 2,000 – 6,000 years ago, mixing in token worship of the Moon and Sun every seventh day. ~ or ~ A calendar system that is accurate through 52 year cycles, and 5,000 year cycles, and has a mathematical precision and accuracy unmatched in the rest of the world’s calenders?
(though, I do like that this issue and article came up on Thor’s Day (Thursday) ).
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Feel free to copy while giving proper attribution: YucaLandia/Surviving Yucatan.
© Steven M. Fry
Read on, MacDuff.