The Mayans used two calendars: the tzolk'in or Sacred Calendar which consisted
of a 260 day year, and the Haab' or Vague Year
which has a 365 day year. Both systems have at their basis a cycle of 20 days.
The Sacred Calendar dates back to the Olmec civilization. The Mayans used it in combination with
the twenty named day
However, the twenty days were
ordered numerically in cycles of 13. Thus, the cycle starts 1-Imix,
2-Ik, 3-Akbal until 13-Ben. Then it would continue 1-Ix, 2-Men etc. The cycle finishes at 13 Ahau.
See the names and meanings of the Mayan days below.
The 365 day Haab' calendar consisted of 18 months of 20 days and one shorter month of 5
days called Uayeb, an unlucky month. See the the names of the Mayan months
below. The first day of the month was called its seating.
For example, the numbering of the month of Zip went as follows: the Seating of Zip, 1-Zip, 2-Zip etc.
The two systems ran together so a certain day would have two names, its tzolk'in
and its Haab' name. The first day of a cycle would be 1 Ixin Seating of Pop.
The two cycles would go out of step and the cycle would only start again every 52 years, a Mayan 'century'.
The Mayans also had the Long Count Calendar which measured vast amounts of time.
The Long Count Calendar is based on a 360 day year called a tun. Twenty tuns
make a K'atun (7200 days) and twenty K'atuns make a b'ak'tun (144,000 days).
Thirteen b'ak'tuns make a Great Cycle or a Sun. At the end of each Great Cycle, the Mayans
believed that a huge catastrophe destroyed most of mankind and civilization needed to re-establish itself.
At present, we are in the Fifth Sun which began on 11th August 3114 BC and will finish on 21st December 2012.
The Mayans associated this date with new beginnings and re-birth, rather than endings such as the "end of the world".
Interestingly, Venus was seen as the bringer or strife, conflict and war. The rising and setting of Venus
was seen as the most potent indicator of dark happenings. An eclipse was catastrophic.
For astrological purposes, the important information was which day you were born on. Priests and astrologers
would consult the Book of Fate to find out information concerning the fate of the
individual, the nation and religion. Because of the rotating calendar, people born at different times
of the year could share the same birth symbol.