By Ian Xel Lungold
January 1996
The last recorded date on the Mayan calendar system is—28th October, 2011. Is that the end of the world or merely the cessation of Time?
Eternity in a chart, infinity in an almanac—that would be the best way to describe the Mayan Calendar system. It might be worth our while to take a closer look at this ancient and intricately worked out mathematical structure. If not to crack all the hitherto unsolved mysteries of the universe, then at least to understand better, one of the most sophisticated cultures of all time.
And it’s the calendar system, which lies at the heart of the ancient Mayans; symbolic of the way their incredible minds functioned. It becomes easier to comprehend the entire scheme if one imagines it to be an enormous bolt of fabric, representing the timetable of reality itself, if such a thing is possible. In fact, recent scientific studies (Dr Calleman being one such researcher) conducted on the Mayan Tzolkin and Tun calendars have revealed that they actually encase all of time going back to, hold your breath, almost 16 billion years!
The boundaries of Mayan consciousness, in any case, stretched far beyond mere physical parameters. The advanced mathematical and astronomical forms used by them are ample proof of this. They used a complex mathematical system based on the number 20 instead of the usual decimal system, which uses the number 10. A dot stood for the digit ‘1’ and a bar denoted ‘5’, while a special symbol represented ‘0’. By minutely observing celestial bodies they had acquired an amazing knowledge of the positions of various stars. Ancient Mayan tables have also been deciphered, which predicted eclipses and orbits of planets. Impressive huh?
Getting back to the almanacs, the Mayans had developed a calendar which used three dating systems simultaneously—the Tun or Long Count (360 days), the Tzolkin or Divine Calendar (260 days) and the Haab or civil calendar. Apart from the civil calendar, none of them have any direct relationship to the length of the year. What’s interesting about the other two dating systems, is that unlike other traditional calendars like the Egyptian, the Julian or the Gregorian, these two do not correspond to any Earth cycles. Neither do they conform to any known orbital frequencies. These calendars in fact correlate with larger cosmic cycles instead of the customary local, physical ones.
Told you those Mayans were leagues ahead!
THE TUN CALENDAR
The basic unit of the Tun or Long Count structure is the kin or the day. Twenty kins or days make one unial and 18 unials or 360 kins make one tun which roughly corresponds to one year. Again, 20 tuns or 7,200 kins make one katun, which comes to about 20 years or two decades. And lastly, one katun or 144,000 kins is one baktun which adds up to 394 years. It might be a good idea to take a breather now, before the next series of numbers come rolling in.
Coming to the particular n umerals assigned to these dating measures, these are mostly calculated on a base of 20 or 18. The kin, tun and katun are counted from zero to 19, while the unial is numbered from zero to 17 and the baktun from one to 13. Besides these primary measures of time, the Mayan terminology also included names for lager spans of time. Some of these are the pictun (20 baktuns), the calabtun (20 pictuns), the kinchiltun (20 calabtun) and the alautun (20 kinchiltuns) which is approximately 63 million years! In all probability, after the alautun there are no names for any time spans larger than this in recorded history.
Finally, this calendar represents the number of days since the Mayan era, the first date, officially, being 13.0.0.0.0. All the units starting from the baktun to the kin are incorporated in this number, and since the baktun is the only measure numbered from one to 13 instead of from zero to 12, the first date (arguably, the day of the Creation) stands as 13.0.0.0.0 and not as 0.0.0.0.0.
THE TZOLKIN CALENDAR
The Tzolkin configuration is basically a combination of two parallel ‘day-clusters’ or what we might call ‘weeks’. Both these ‘weeks’ are unique and independent of each other—one of them consists of 13 numbers and the other of 20 names of days (these are also represented by pictorial symbols or ‘glyphs’).
0. Ahau | 1. Imix | 2. Ik | 3. Akbal | ||||
4. Kan | 5. Chicchan | 6. Cimi | 7. Manik | ||||
8. Lamat | 9. Muluc | 10. Oc | 11. Chuen | ||||
12. Eb | 13. Ben | 14. Ix | 15. Men | ||||
16. Cib | 17. Caban | 18. Etznab | 19. Caunac |
It is important to remember that the Tzolkin Calendar is not used for year-counts but for parallel day-counts using both the name and the number week. So, if the last digit of a date according to the Tun is zero, the corresponding day in the Tzolkin name week has to be, Ahau. And if it is, say, three, then the day according to the name week will be Akbal and so on. But an individual day in the Mayan counting system is usually identified by both the number as well as the name week, which is why a day is likely to be something like 4 Imix and not just Imix. Another point worth keeping in mind is the fact that both the ‘weeks’ change on a daily basis and hence the day after 4 Imix will not be identified as 5 Imix, but rather as 5 Ik and it goes on as 6 Akbal and 7 Kan and so on. The next time a day is named Imix, happens 20 days later and this time around it gets to be called 11 Imix. And the next time a day gets to be 4 Imix doesn’t happen till 260 days later (260 being the product of 13 and 20—the numbers respectively of the number and the name week, beautiful, isn’t it?). The official first day of the Mayan calendar after taking into account both the Tun and the Tzolkin systems happens to be: 13.0.0.0.0. 4 Ahau.
These two calendars work in beautiful synchronicity and the number 20 is chiefly responsible for this. The smallest digit in the Tun Calendar is 20 (20 kins making up one unial), and the named week in the Tzolkin Calendar is made up of 20 days too. Moreover, both the calendars are structured in nine phases or stages. In the Internet article, Mayan Calendar Applied it has been pointed out that the Mayan calendar system interlaces the Binary and the Fibernaci sequences—the two sequences, which govern our entire biological as well as chemical world in unison—together to create the perfect fabric representing the complex concept of Time in the Universe. These sequences are synthesized into the ratio of 13:20 in the calendars. It’s interesting to note that this ratio of 13:20 has a direct bearing on diverse facets of human existence—some of the more interesting facts are that there are 13 lunar cycles in a year and the human reproduction cycle likewise follows this lunar cycle. Again, 20 amino acids form each individual codon of the human DNA and 260, the product of 13 and 20, is the number of different cells that the human body is made up of.
The Tun calendar of 360 days was regarded as a sacred calendar since it coincided perfectly with both the idea of ‘cycles of creation’ as well as the divine concept of Time being cyclical (since any given circle will always be 360°). Arguably, researchers believe that this calendar represents the evolutionary macrocosm while the Tzolkin calendar corresponds with the microcosmic time scale. Researchers of the Mayan calendars provide ample proof for their beliefs. On comparing the two calendars with our evolutionary passage, a distinct pattern emerges—under close inspection, each shift of the Maya calendars correspond with major landmarks in evolution. To quote the Mayan Calendar Applied:
The longest and still running cycle has been 15 billion years long. Its product, was the living cell so it is called the Cellular Cycle. The next cycle of evolutionary development was the Mammalian Cycle, (first animals) which started some 820 million years ago. Next came the Familial Cycle, a consciousness stage of the first monkeys 40 million years ago. The Tribal Cycle follows, (2 million years ago) developing Homo erectus and winding up with Homo Sapiens. From there Consciousness began to form Cultures (102,000 years ago) and thereafter the National Cycle began (3115 BC) when the first nations were formed, we started writing and the first pyramids were built. The Planetary Cycle came to full strength in 1992 with the invention of the Internet. The 8th or Galactic Cycle, began on 1/5 1999. The last or Universal Cycle will get completed on 10/28 2011.
It’s a frightening proposition—time ending, barely a few steps from where we stand at present—but dare we ignore the wisdom of these great people? At best, we might hope for a bit of miscalculation from the makers of this awesome calendar system or better still—wait for an alternative to the fourth dimension.
In the meantime, lets follow the Mayans and try to open out our consciousness to broader possibilities. Maybe that’s what their calendar’s all about—other worlds and other planes of existence.
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