Sacred Calendar

The Maya possessed an extraordinary interest in time and its intricate intermeshing with interdependent temporal cycles. Time was a way of being to the ancient Maya, giving their world a foundation from which life could prosper and the spirit could synchronize with the cosmos. The Maya are known to be the most sophisticated time keepers in human history, and to this day Mayan Daykeepers track time to assure abundance, direction and security.

Depending upon whom you ask, the Maya had from three to twenty calendars. According to the Mayan elders they kept twenty calendars for various purposes, some of which have yet to be disclosed. Mayans pivot all of their calendars around a vigesimal system (based on multiples of 20, as opposed to decimal) and the number twenty is a sacred numer (human’s total of ten fingers and ten toes).

There are three calendars that are known to Westerners, the sacred calendar, the Haab and the Long Count. The Mayan Cross is focused on the first two. 

A brief word about the Mayan Long Count Calendar:

This era-based calendar is the most widely known Mayan calendar in the West. This calendar covers inconceivable amounts of time and is theorized to have an end-date of December 21, 2012.  This  calendar has spawned numerous theories about what the Maya were timing, all of which we will leave for other websites and blogs to argue and unravel. The ongoing “end- date debate” will soon be over, but if you wish to learn more, consult our Credits and References page for a list of resources on this topic.      

The Mayan Sacred Calendar

The Mayan sacred calendar, known most commonly as the Tzolkin in Mexico’s Yucatan and Cholq’ij in Guatemala is the heart and soul of the Mayan calendar system of twenty calendars. This is the sacred, 260 day divinatory calendar which is based on the cycles of Pleiades. As described in the sacred book the PopulVuh, the Maya originated from the Pleiades star cluster. This awareness has been passed along for generations through the elder’s storytelling and is also encoded in the sacred calendar.

As seen in the photo below, the Mayan sacred calendar is formed in two cogged circles, the 20 day signs intermesh with the 13 numbers, presenting a new combination each day. Thirteen days, a trecena, comprises a conceptual equivalent of a Gregorian week. Twenty days equates to a month on the Gregorian layout. A full Calendar Round takes 260 days, each with its own unique energy. This cycle is the same as the gestation cycle for humans as for the corn plant at tropical latitude. It takes 52 solar years for the exact same sign and number to occur on a particular day, such as a birth day. When this occurs, one officially becomes an elder.

Except for one specimen found in Monte Alban in Mexico, you may not see the Mayan sacred calendar chiseled into any ancient stones. This calendar has lasted for millenia through the oral tradition alone. Many of today's Maya are beginning to learn about this, their own heritage. This photo was shot in the Museo de Antrpologia in Guatemala City. 

13 Numerals x 20 Glyphs = 260 Days

The Maya revere each day because days are the embodiment of deities, or Day Lords. The sacred calendar has a total of 20 Day Lords (called Day Signs or glyphs by Westerners) and 13 numbers, all of which represent archetypal energies in Mayan cosmology.  Each deity comes in the form of plant, animal, ancestor or force of nature familiar to the Maya.

Each number is created using a place rotation system, which combines only three symbols, an egg,  dots and lines, as is the numerical form of the most important Gods and Goddesses. They are the sacred “number beings” that influence the twenty Lords of the Day. Together they create a galactic tone which harmonizes with the universe.

Numeric Symbols

Think of original people drawing numbers in the dirt when looking at these ymbols. The number zero, which the Maya were the first to discover, is the shape of an egg or a shell.

If you placed the tip of an index finger in the dirt, that is number 1; two fingers is the number two; three fingers is the number three; four fingers is the number four; the back side of the hand, number five, and so on.

They are the sacred “number beings” that influence the twenty Lords of the Day. Together they create a galactic tone which harmonizes with the universe.

Both the Mayan sacred calendar and the numerals used in it are based on the sacred geometric concept of Phi, also known as the Golden Ratio, which unifies and correlates all creation. The numerals indicate the frequency with which your Day Signs are resonating.

The Sacred Count of Days

The “count of days” is a practice of Mayan daykeepers and is used in astrology, divination and ritual. An Aj q’ij in training learns “the count,” and her/his effectiveness as a daykeeper is judged on knowledge of the deity, the eloquence by which it is addressed, and the intensity with which the Day Lord is channeled. Each Day Lord has specific powers and an Aj q’j’s ability to leverage these forces determines whether or not s/he will be initiated as a Daykeeper. Eventually these abilities will establish the reputation, merit and popularity of the Aj q’i within the community.



The Madrid Codex p. 75 & 76, note the square of glyphs in the center (count of days) and the four directions