Understanding The Mayan Calendar

Via Yesica Pineda
on Oct 14, 2011
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The ancient Mayan Pyramid of Kukulkan at Chichén Itzá, Yucatan, Mexico constructed  circa 1050 was built during the late Mayan period, The pyramid was used as a calendar: four stairways, each with 91 steps and a platform at the top, making a total of 365, equivalent to the number of days in a calendar year.

The Maya calendar was adopted by the other Mesoamerican nations, such as the Aztecs and the Toltec, which adopted the mechanics of the calendar unaltered but changed the names of the days of the week and the months.

The Maya calendar uses three different dating systems in parallel, the Long Count, the Tzolkin (divine calendar), and the Haab (civil calendar). Of these, only the Haab has a direct relationship to the length of the year.

A typical Mayan date looks like this:, 3 Cimi 4 Zotz. is the Long Count date.

3 Cimi is the Tzolkin date.

4 Zotz is the Haab date.


The tzolkin is a cycle of 260 days and the haab is a cycle of 365 days.

The tzolkin cycle and the haab cycle were combined to produce a cycle of 18,980 days, known as the calendar round. 18,980 days is a little less than 52 solar years.

The “Calendar Round” is like two gears that inter-mesh, one smaller than the other. One of the ‘gears’ is called the tzolkin, or Sacred Round. The other is the haab, or Calendar Round. The smaller wheels together represent the 260-day Sacred Round; the inner wheel, with the numbers one to thirteen, meshes with the glyphs for the 20 day names on the outer wheel. A section of a large wheel represents part of the 365-day year – 18 months of 20 days each (numbered 0-19). The five days remaining at year’s end were considered evil. Any day calculated on these cycles would not repeat for 18,980 days – 52 years.

Thus the Mayas could not simply use a tzolkin/haab date to identify a day within a period of several hundred years because there would be several days within this period with the same tzolkin/haab date, so they used a third dating system which enabled them to identify a day uniquely within a period of 1,872,000 days – approximately 5,125.36 solar years. To do this they used a vigesimal (i.e. based on 20) place-value number system, analogous to our decimal place-value number system.


The Mayas used a pure vigesimal system for counting objects but modified this when counting days. In a pure vigesimal system each place in a number is occupied by a number from 0 to 19, and that number is understood as being multiplied by a power of 20. Thus in such a system:

    2.3.4 = 2x20x20 + 3×20 + 4×1 = 864

When counting days, however, the Mayas used a system in which the first place (as usual) had a value of 1, the second place had a value of 20, but the third place had a value not of 400 (20×20) but of 360 (18×20). (This may have been due to the fact that 360 is close to the length of the year in days.) The value of higher places continued regularly with 7,200 (20x18x20), 144,000 (20x20x18x20), etc.  In such a system: = 11x20x20x18x20 + 12x20x18x20 + 13x18x20 + 14×20 + 15×1
= 11×144,000 + 12×7,200 + 13×360 + 14×20 + 15
= 1,675,375.


A Maya long count date is a modified vigesimal number composed of five places, e.g., and interpreted as a count of days from some base date. There are many long count dates inscribed in the stellae and written in the codices. Calculation of the decimal equivalent of a long count yields a number of days. This is regarded as a number of days counted forward from a certain day in the past. It is the number of days since the day

The Mayas had names for periods consisting of 20 days, 360 days, 7,200 days, etc., in accord with their modified vigesimal system of counting days. A day is known as a kin. Twenty kins make a uinal, 18 uinals a tun, 20 tuns a katun and 20 katuns a baktun. Thus we have:

             1 kin    =  1 day
1 uinal  = 20 kins   = 20 days
1 tun    = 18 uinals = 360 days
1 katun  = 20 tuns   = 7,200 days
1 baktun = 20 katuns = 144,000 days

The numbers at the five places in the long count are thus counts of baktuns, etc., as follows:

baktuns . katuns . tuns . uninals . kin

A widely-accepted school of thought holds that in the Maya long count system marks the beginning of a new cycle, and so is equivalent to In this view, 13 baktuns make up a great cycle or, Maya era, of 13*144,000 = 1,872,000 days (approximately 5125.37 solar years).

The date is equal to year 3113 B.C..
The date is equal to year 2012 A.D..

THE TZOLKIN Sacred Calendar

The tzolkin, known as the sacred calendar, is a cycle of 260 days. Each tzolkin day is denoted by a combination of a number from 1 through 13 and a name from the set of twenty (in the order: Imix, Ik, Akbal, Kan ….):

The days cycle through the numbers and through the names independently. The sequence of tzolkin days thus runs:

1 Imix 2 Ik 3 Akbal 4 Kan . . . 13 Ben 1 Ix (here we repeat the cycle of numbers) 2 Men 3 Cib 4 Caban 5 Edznab 6 Cauac 7 Ahau 8 Imix (here we repeat the cycle of names)  9 Ik 10 Akbal . . .

 The cycle of (13) tzolkin day numbers combined with (20) tzolkin day names repeats each 260 days. Later on we will explore why this calendar of 260 days was consider divine and sacred.

Among the living Maya the 260-day calendar has various roles:

  1. To keep track of the energies of the day,
  2. To calculate birth energies of different individuals,
  3. To determine the celebration of holidays,
  4. To base healing practices on,
  5. For prophecy, and
  6. For divination of individual destinies.

Mayan Civil Calendar – Haab dates

The Mayas also maintained a so-called “civil” calendar, called the “haab”. This was similar to the Gregorian calendar in that it consisted of months, and within months, of days numbered consecutively. However, unlike the Gregorian calendar, the haab cycle is made up of eighteen months of twenty days each, plus five days at the end of the year. The eighteen names for the months (in the order: Pop, Uo, Zip …) are:

Pop Xul Zac Pax Uo Yaxkin Ceh Kayab Zip Mol Mac Cumku Zodz Chen Kankin Zec Yax Muan

The five extra days formed the “month” of Uayeb, meaning “nameless”. The five “nameless” days were considered unlucky. One did not get married in Uayeb. The haab cycle thus consisted of 18×20 + 5 = 365 days, the integral number of days closest to the mean solar year of 365.2422 mean solar days.

The sequence of days from the first day of the year to the last thus runs as follows:

 0 Pop 1 Pop ... 19 Pop 0 Zip 1 Zip ... 19 Zip 0 Zodz ... 19 Cumku 0 Uayeb ... 4 Uayeb

For most of Maya history the first day of Pop was denoted by 0 Pop and the last by 19 Pop. However, on the eve of the Spanish conquest the first day of Pop began to be numbered 1, and the last day 20 (except for Uayeb), so that the year began with 1 Pop and ended with 5 Uayeb.

The tzolkin and the haab are each cycles of days; the former is a cycle of 260 days and the latter is a cycle of 365 days. When specifying a day the Maya usually used both the tzolkin date and the haab date, as in 4 Ahau 3 Kankin. For the Mayas these two cycles ran together and concurrently, as shown by the following sequence of days:

Tzolkin date10 Ben
11 Ix
12 Men
13 Cib
1 Caban
2 Edznab
3 Cauac
4 Ahau
5 Imix
6 Ik
7 Akbal
8 Kan

12 Imix
13 Ik
1 Akbal
2 Kan
3 Chicchan
4 Cimi
5 Manik
6 Lamat
7 Muluc
Haab date11 Kayab
12 Kayab
13 Kayab
14 Kayab
15 Kayab
16 Kayab
17 Kayab
18 Kayab
19 Kayab
0 Cumku
1 Cumku
2 Cumku

19 Cumku
0 Uayeb
1 Uayeb
2 Uayeb
3 Uayeb
4 Uayeb
0 Pop
1 Pop
2 Pop

Since 260 = 4x5x13 and 365 = 5×73, the earliest that a tzolkin/haab date combination repeat is after 4x5x13x73 = 18,980 days, or just short of 52 solar years. This cycle of 18,980 days is called the Maya calendar round.

Maya long count dates are often given in association with the corresponding tzolkin/haab date, as in:

       3  Chicchan 8 Kankin    12  Caban     0 Yax      6  Kan       0 Pop      9  Muluc      7 Yax      3  Cib        9 Uo

A particular tzolkin/haab date recurs every 18,980 days, whereas a long count date (assuming that the long count starts over at on reaching recurs every 1,872,000 days (once in 5,125.37 years). The combination of a long count date and a tzolkin/haab date occurs only once every 136,656,000 days (approximately 374,152 years or 73 Maya eras).


Like Einstein said : “If you can’t explain it simply, you don’t understand it well enough”.  I had to go back to the basics before we can even talk about energy shifting, divination or end of Time. We all have heard 2012 is the “end” of the Mayan Calendar, Calendar which is infinite and never ends according to its system. Nonetheless all these theories about how the world will end, seem to distract from the fact that the Mayan calendar measures a constant cycle of beginning.

The Mayan Calendar speaks of  human consciousness and earth evolution, within a pattern of energy shifts within cycles of nature. Like the Hindu calendar it measures periods of higher consciousness, and periods of lower consciousness, all related to our  Universal electromagnetism and Solar activity. No “hokus pokus”.

What if we align ourselves with our cosmic affluence and accept once and for all that we are part of the Cosmos and as such, we are also cosmic bodies governed by the same natural laws that govern everything in the Universe. If we are made of the same elements as the sky, the trees, the rivers, the stars, maybe is not that wild to think that the moon does make us “lunatic” and the planetary activity is part of our butterfly effect. As Earthlings, we might as well pay attention to Venus.

After all, everything in the Universe is vibration and time does not exist, but only to measure space. Time and space are the dimension we live in. Your awareness of WHERE you are and WHEN you are there represent the present moment YOU are in.

The Maya studied Time as the 4th dimension, necessary to understand in order to get to the 5th dimension of Spirit.

Anyway…to be continued…



www.yeyeorganicpop.com Planetary Moods ~



About Yesica Pineda

Yesica Pineda is a time and space traveler, viajera del tiempo y el espacio. Yeye is a musician, yogini, and writer, who thinks of herself as stardust creating the Universe, and loves the feeling of positive vibrations. She is the founder of the multilingual portal for the encounter of the worlds, Namaste La Onda Natural. You can also read her work at Destino Magazines®, Baja.com®, BajaTraveler2016®, and follow her column here at Elephant Journal. She is a social media lover, and as the lead producer of Namaste Conscious MultiMedia, Yeye produces Yoga Videos in Spanish for www.Gaia.com and leads live power yoga & music events at 101 Namaste SJ art district®, and every full moon you can enjoy live music, friends, and nature by the Sea of Cortez at El Ganzo in Los Cabos, where she and her husband Justin Miller present Full Moon Yoga with Planetary Moods. She is a Vipassana Meditator. Born and educated in Mexico City, she has fully lived and continue studying in Los Angeles, CA; Boulder, Colorado; and Los Cabos, Mexico. Countries she has travelled include USA, Mexico, Colombia, Peru, Spain, Holland, Turkey, and New Zealand, and beautiful Islands such as Hawaii and Puerto Rico. She is a traveller of the worlds. She lives with her family and two dogs somewhere in the Universe. She believes in Love. To follow her Planetary Moods you can hear in Soundcloud at WaterWalkers or Yeyeorganicpop. Or, visit her website.


15 Responses to “Understanding The Mayan Calendar”

  1. Tanya Lee Markul says:

    Yeye, you make my head spin in a great way!!

    Posting to Elephant Yoga on Facebook and Twitter.

    Tanya Lee Markul, Yoga Editor
    Join us! Like Elephant Yoga on Facebook
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  2. yeye says:

    happy spinning!

  3. yeye says:

    Beautiful Bob 🙂

  4. Lezlee says:

    Very interesting ~ thank you :o)

  5. Lori says:

    What I came to appreciate about the Mayan Calendar, at least as I came to understand it back in 1995-96, was that the numbers 1-13 related to the Lunar and, therefore, feminine aspect while the 20 days related to the Sun and the masculine aspect. In the combination of 13 x 20, female x male, not only do you have a total of 260 days, but it also happens to be roughly the gestation period of a human infant.

    In addition, the way the cycles interrelate, there is a forward and retrograde motion, which matches the "precession of equinoxes" mapped by the transit of the moon "backwards" in its monthly cycles through the 365 day solar cycle.

    To me, the Gregorian calendar over emphasizes the masculine, in part by subverting the natural passage of the 13 Lunar months of 28-29 days into the 12 month cycles of 28- 31 days.

    It may seem like a small difference, but who knows how much that has actually contributed to some of the other "imbalances" in our culture, especially with respect to how we value women or feminine expressions of energy relative to men or masculine expressions of energy?

    As I said, the balancing of these aspects in the Mayan Calendar is what drew my attention to it in the first place, and, interestingly enough, it was my further study of the Mayan Calendar after my initial exposure that, somewhat indirectly, led to my "finding" my Guru, only a few months later. : )

    Maybe how we choose to keep track of time in the future will be something else that will need to be reconsidered carefully, by all those who would like to be part of a more balanced and peaceful world? : )

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  7. yeye says:

    Thank you Lezlee 🙂

  8. yeye says:

    Great contribution to the post Lori! Thank you 🙂

    Maybe how we choose to MANIFEST time is what is to be considered, peace is a state of mind, the world is peaceful already. 🙂


  9. […] They say the end of the world is coming! […]

  10. […] 2012 is the end of the Mayan Calendar. Was this intentional, or did they run out of room on the rock? Many indigenous peoples believe […]

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