What is wrong with the Mayan calendar?

Seriously – what’s wrong with it?

2012 approaches… and what will happen? Probably nothing special.

For those who have been on the moon the last years: Since some time ago, many New Age followers propagate the end of days for 21st or 23rd December of 2012. Not much of a news, one could say, cause there have been literally hundreds of dates that were predicted at the end of the world in the last 2000 years.

Starting with St. Hippolyte predicting 500 A.D., cause the earth got created 5500 B.C. and would only last 6000 years. (We know St. Hippolyte as the saint of La Noche Triste)
We lately had predictions about the year 2000, which was a big fashion year for astrologers, cult leaders and prophets from all around the world.

St. Hippolyte of Rome
"Mark my words: 500AD! End of world!"

So now it’s 2012. Why?

Well, simply put, one of the three Mesoamerican calendars shows a special date there. To be exact, it’s the Long Count Calendar. Pre-Columbian calendars were very different to the counting methods in Europe, for example. At any time, two calendars were used:
– one for civil issues, counting 365 days on 18 months with each 20 days and 5 additional days of pretty bad luck. It was called “Haab'” (maya) and “Xiuhpohualli” (nahuatl).
– another for a not yet secure reason, however with 260 days, organised in 13 months of 20 days. This one was called “Tzolk’in” and “Tonalpohualli”

The combination of both gave a century of 52 years, in which every day had an unique identifier. The end of such a ‘decade’ was very significant, as it was the time, where the people awaited the coming of the 5th cataclysm and tried to avoid it by massive sacrifices.

That can be nicely seen on the Aztec Sun Stone, which is not a calendar but probably a sacrificial stone – it shows the four already passed cataclysms however.

"I am Tonatiuh, not some calendar, you know... and definitely not Maya!!"
picture: El Comandante/wikipedia/cc-by-sa

For long term calculations – and especially the Maya did some of them – the Long Count Calendar was introduced, probably by the Olmecs, and adopted by the Mayas.

Unlike the other two calendars, this one didn’t end and it wasn’t cyclic, but linear, open ended like our year counting, so to say. It contains of four base20 variables and one of base18. An example notation would be “”. – 1 day, k’in – 20 days, wina – 360 days, tun (only 18 Winal!) – 7200 days, k’atun – 144000 days, b’ak’tun

An exact day during the any time could be exactly given by using the long count notation being completed by the two other calendars. An exact day could then be “ 8 Ajaw 13 Pop” for example.

The change of each b’ak’tun would have been a big celebration for the people, I mean. It only happens approximately every 394 years; that’s a reason to party. However, at the beginning of the 14th b’ak’tun, some people say that there is the beginning of a new creation, cause at the last 14th b’ak’tun, it was the same. is the date to be exact. This date will be reached at the 22nd of December 2012. So the day after will be The beginning of a new year.

That’s it! That’s all there is… A happy new year!

There is no end of the calendar, just a very rare change of digits. Mix that however with some New Age researches from the 70s and you get a very interesting story about falsely translated ‘prophecies’ and stuff… No serious Mesoamericanist could so far find any evidence of this day being part of a special prophecy connected to a doomsday of any sort.

I suggest we simply celebrate and shout “Happy new b’ak’tun!” when the day has finally arrived.

For so long, have a good 6 Cib everyone,

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19 Responses to What is wrong with the Mayan calendar?

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