One of the most talked about dates in our future seems to be centered around one date. December 21, 2012. Just about every prediction calling for
end times uses this date in accordance to the Maya Calender ending on this day. Why did it end? What is the Maya Calender? I've read several posts
here about the Mayan Calendar, but not one post that specifically talks about the Calendar, so I did some reasearch on it..
In this thread, I'm going to try and explain just what the Maya Calender is, how it was developed, and why it ended. And from here, the topic is
open for whatever discussion you desire.
The Maya Calendar was the center of Maya life and their greatest cultural achievement. The Maya Calendar's ancestral knowledge guided the Maya's
existence from the moment of their birth and there was little that escaped its influence.
The Maya used several calendars simultaneously. One of them called the "long count", is a continuous record of days from a zero date that
correlates to Aug. 13, 3114 BC, and is more precise than the Julian calendar revised in Europe in 1582. The Maya were great astronomers and kept track
of the solar and lunar years, eclipses and the cycles of visible planets. To carry out their calendric and astronomical calculations they developed a
sophisticated mathematical system (www.mayacalendar.com...
) where units are written with dots and bars are used to represent five
units. They discovered and used the zero as well as a vigesimal positioning system, similar to the decimal positioning system we use today.
So what was the Maya Calender?
In short, it was a catalog that registers all the days of a year, distributed in weeks and months, with astronomical data, such as time of sunrise and
sunset, the moon phases, or with religious information such as patron saints and festivities. It also was a time division system, all of the world's
cultures have their calendars initially lunar and afterwards lunar-solar. The Chaldeans and Babylonians passed their calendric knowledge to the
Egyptians, these in turn to the Greeks and these finally to the Romans who adopted it for their common use.
From the beginning of Maya civilization there has been a very close link between astrology and the development of the calendar. The importance of
this connection is evident considering the need to determine the times for the most basic functions of early societies such as agriculture and the
celebration of religious events. As the Maya population grew, the need for more food became indispensable and the attempts to obtain a more abundant
crop started, this was done mainly by selecting different corn varieties and by carefully coordinating the dates of cultivation with the rain
The time count used for corn cultivation must have been based on the initial Maya numeration which consisted of the number of fingers on both hands
and feet or the number 20, a kal. The observation that 13 kal (260 days) were needed from the choosing of the location for the milpa until the burning
of the felled forest patch and equal number of kal elapsed from the planting, through the growth and harvest until the corn was stored, gave origin to
the first Maya calendar.
The Tzolkin, Mayan name derived from the word tzol which means "to put in order", and kin that means "day", was a ceremony in which the priests
assigned the order of the days to realize the milpa's activities and the ceremonies related to its different phases. One Tzolkin cycle was related to
the preparation of the land and a second Tzolkin cycle was directly related to the growing and harvesting of the corn.
Some time afterwards the Maya started to notice the time it took the Sun to complete it's yearly cycle and the length of it was established in 28
thirteen-day periods which added up to 364 days, a length that did not adjust exactly to the cycle. We suppose that the astronomers and the
mathematicians had different opinions and while the former held up that the exact measure of the cycle should be used the latter insisted in having a
time period as close as possible to the real one that would make calculations simple, that is, a multiple of 20. Finally they agreed to create a 360
day year for calendric calculations they called Tun, it was divided in 18 months of 20 days, called the Uinal, each with a distinct name and numbers
from 0 to 19 were also given to their component days. Then a period of five days called uayeb was added to the Tun year and this gave birth to the
Haab calendar. In this calendar the uayeb were placed just before the beginning of the astronomical year. The Tzolkin and the Haab were then
coordinated and this gave place to the calendar round."
The Maya Calendar we find in the codices that survived the Spanish conquest and the burning of documents by Bishop Diego de Landa, at Mani, Yucatán,
México is used today to corroborate the calculations written in those codices and to calculate the dates of the Maya stelae and lintels. This
calendar is called the initial series calendar or the long count calendar and it includes the following three individual calendars which are perfectly
a).- An astronomical calendar which initiates on the date the Sun passes perpendicularly through the zenith, a day between the 24 - 26 of July each
year. Its calculated to be 365.2420 days long and was used to fix the position of the solstices, the equinoxes, the synodic revolutions of the planets
in our solar system, the eclipse nodes and other celestial phenomena. This calendar must have been the base of reference used by the Maya astronomer -
priests for their astronomical calculations which were made with a minimum of 4 decimals. Examples of this can be found in the codices.
b).- The civil calendar or Haab of 365 days is often referred to as the Vague Year. It is composed of 18 months of 20 days and one month 5 days long
called uayeb. The difference of one fourth of a day in regard to the astronomical calendar makes a periodical correction necessary through methods
foreseen by the Maya. Within this calendar runs the Tun year 360 days long which was used for calendric calculations.
c).-The Tzolkin, Mayan name that means "the distribution of the days", was a ceremony performed on the astronomical new year. In this ceremony the
astronomer - priests indicated the days in which the agricultural labor and religious ceremonies were to take place within a 260 day cycle. The
Tzolkin is also the name used to designate the most important calendar of the Maya which has also been called the sacred almanac or the Sacred Round.
It is a combination of a cycle of 13 day numbers with a cycle of 20 day names (the Kin). In every 365 day Haab year there always runs a 260 day
The Maya usually described a date by specifying its position in both the Tzolkin and the Haab calendars, this alignment of the Sacred Round and the
Vague Year generates the joint cycle called the Calendar Round.
In these two wheels, the smallest with 260 teeth (left) has on each one the name of the 260 days of the Tzolkin year and the largest with 365 teeth
(right) has in their interstice the names of each of the positions of the Haab year. Since the Haab year always begins on a date 0 Pop and the Tzolkin
year can only began in a day called Ik, Manik, Eb or Caban, when 2 Ik is placed in conjunction with 0 Pop and wheel A is rotated clockwise wheel B
will rotate counterclockwise and the name of the Tzolkin day that corresponds to each Haab position falls into place.
This diagram explains graphically how the Tzolkin and the Haab calendars coordinate.
1).- The Kin
The Maya year has a basic unit called Kin, a word that means day, Sun, etc. The Tzolkin calendar has a cycle of 20 day names conbined with a cycle of
13 day numbers. Each of these 20 names has a glyph to represent it, these are:
2).- The Uinal
The Maya year is divided in 19 months, they are designated Uinal, each has a name and a corresponding glyph. Of these months, the first eighteen have
twenty days and the last one, called Uayeb, has only five. The days within a month are numbered from 0 to 19 with the exception of Uayeb which is
numbered from 0 to 4.
To write their dates the Maya used both the glyph corresponding to the different time periods and a number for each of them. The Maya developed a
unique mathematical system that uses dots for units and bars for five units. The numbers can be written vertically or horizontally. They discovered
and used the zero as well as a vigesimal positioning system, similar to the decimal positioning system used today. Its symbols and their Arabic
Since the Maya numerical system is based on 20 units, when a number higher than 19 has to be written, a vertical positioning system that grows upwards
is commonly used. Thus in order to write 20 they would place a zero in the bottom position with a dot on top of it. The dot in this place means one
unit of the second order which is worth 20. To write 21, the zero would change to a dot and for the subsequent numbers the original 19 number count
will follow in the first position. As they in turn reach 19 again, another units is added to the second position. This unit, for normal mathematical
calculations, is worth 400 (20 x 20) , so to write 401 a dot goes in the first position , a zero in the second and a dot in the third. Positions
higher than the third also grow multiplied by twenties from the previous ones. Only in the Maya calendric calculations is the third place unit worth
360 instead of 400, but after that, the rest of the positions also grow multiplied by twenties. Examples follow:
As we mentioned previously the Maya set a fixed date to initiate their calendric calculations. This date is 4 Ahau 8 Kumku which in the Gregorian
calendar used today corresponds to August 13, 3114 BC As we do today, to write any specific date they would consider the time elapsed since the
beginning of their calendar. In order to do this the days were grouped into units like today's years and centuries. Each of these units had a
specific symbol (glyph). Their system is:
Using these glyphs combined with numbers, any date can be written as the number of days that have passed since the beginning of the calendar. The Maya
wrote their dates of importance in stone monuments called stelae some of which we can still see today. Some of them are like the stela with today's
The Long Count is really a mixed base-20/base-18 representation of a number, representing the number of days since the start of the Mayan era. It is
thus akin to the Julian Day Number.
The basic unit is the kin (day), which is the last component of the Long Count. Going from right to left the remaining components are:
uinal (1 uinal = 20 kin = 20 days)
tun (1 tun = 18 uinal = 360 days = approx. 1 year)
katun (1 katun = 20 tun = 7,200 days = approx. 20 years)
baktun (1 baktun = 20 katun = 144,000 days = approx. 394 years)
The kin, tun, and katun are numbered from 0 to 19.
The uinal are numbered from 0 to 17.
The baktun are numbered from 1 to 13.
Although they are not part of the Long Count, the Mayas had names for larger time spans. The following names are sometimes quoted, although they are
not ancient Maya terms:
1 pictun = 20 baktun = 2,880,000 days = approx. 7885 years
1 calabtun = 20 pictun = 57,600,000 days = approx. 158,000 years
1 kinchiltun = 20 calabtun = 1,152,000,000 days = approx. 3 million years
1 alautun = 20 kinchiltun = 23,040,000,000 days = approx. 63 million years
The alautun is probably the longest named period in any calendar.
Logically, the first date in the Long Count should be 0.0.0.0.0, but as the baktun (the first component) are numbered from 1 to 13 rather than 0
to 12, this first date is actually written 18.104.22.168.0.
The authorities disagree on what 22.214.171.124.0 corresponds to in our calendar. I have come across three possible equivalences:
126.96.36.199.0 = 8 Sep 3114 BC (Julian) = 13 Aug 3114 BC (Gregorian)
188.8.131.52.0 = 6 Sep 3114 BC (Julian) = 11 Aug 3114 BC (Gregorian)
184.108.40.206.0 = 11 Nov 3374 BC (Julian) = 15 Oct 3374 BC (Gregorian)
Assuming one of the first two equivalences, the Long Count will again reach 220.127.116.11.0 on 21 or 23 December AD 2012 - a not too distant
The date 18.104.22.168.0 may have been the Mayas' idea of the date of the creation of the world.
What is the Tzolkin?
The Tzolkin date is a combination of two "week" lengths.
While our calendar uses a single week of seven days, the Mayan calendar used two different lengths of week:
* a numbered week of 13 days, in which the days were numbered from 1 to 13
* a named week of 20 days, in which the names of the days were:
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
As the named week is 20 days and the smallest Long Count digit is 20 days, there is synchrony between the two; if, for example, the last digit of
today's Long Count is 0, today must be Ahau; if it is 6, it must be Cimi. Since the numbered and the named week were both "weeks," each of their
name/number change daily; therefore, the day after 3 Cimi is not 4 Cimi, but 4 Manik, and the day after that, 5 Lamat. The next time Cimi rolls
around, 20 days later, it will be 10 Cimi instead of 3 Cimi. The next 3 Cimi will not occur until 260 (or 13 x 20) days have passed. This 260-day
cycle also had good-luck or bad-luck associations connected with each day, and for this reason, it became known as the "divinatory year."
The "years" of the Tzolkin calendar are not counted.
What is the Haab?
The Haab was the civil calendar of the Mayas. It consisted of 18 "months" of 20 days each, followed by 5 extra days, known as Uayeb. This
gives a year length of 365 days.
The names of the month were:
1. Pop 7. Yaxkin 13. Mac
2. Uo 8. Mol 14. Kankin
3. Zip 9. Chen 15. Muan
4. Zotz 10. Yax 16. Pax
5. Tzec 11. Zac 17. Kayab
6. Xul 12. Ceh 18. Cumku
In contrast to the Tzolkin dates, the Haab month names changed every 20 days instead of daily; so the day after 4 Zotz would be 5 Zotz, followed
by 6 Zotz ... up to 19 Zotz, which is followed by 0 Tzec.
The days of the month were numbered from 0 to 19. This use of a 0th day of the month in a civil calendar is unique to the Maya system; it is
believed that the Mayas discovered the number zero, and the uses to which it could be put, centuries before it was discovered in Europe or Asia.
The Uayeb days acquired a very derogatory reputation for bad luck; known as "days without names" or "days without souls," and were observed
as days of prayer and mourning. Fires were extinguished and the population refrained from eating hot food. Anyone born on those days was "doomed to a
The years of the Haab calendar are not counted.
The length of the Tzolkin year was 260 days and the length of the Haab year was 365 days. The smallest number that can be divided evenly by 260
and 365 is 18,980, or 365×52; this was known as the Calendar Round. If a day is, for example, "4 Ahau 8 Cumku," the next day falling on "4 Ahau 8
Cumku" would be 18,980 days or about 52 years later. Among the Aztec, the end of a Calendar Round was a time of public panic as it was thought the
world might be coming to an end. When the Pleaides crossed the horizon on 4 Ahau 8 Cumku, they knew the world had been granted another 52-year
Although there were only 365 days in the Haab year, the Mayas were aware that a year is slightly longer than 365 days, and in fact, many of the
month-names are associated with the seasons; Yaxkin, for example, means "new or strong sun" and, at the beginning of the Long Count, 1 Yaxkin was
the day after the winter solstice, when the sun starts to shine for a longer period of time and higher in the sky. When the Long Count was put into
motion, it was started at 22.214.171.124.0, and 0 Yaxkin corresponded with Midwinter Day, as it did at 126.96.36.199.0 back in 3114 B.C.E. The available evidence
indicates that the Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons twice in 188.8.131.52.0 or 1,101,600 days.
We can therefore derive a value for the Mayan estimate of the year by dividing 1,101,600 by 365, subtracting 2, and taking that number and
dividing 1,101,600 by the result, which gives us an answer of 365.242036 days, which is slightly more accurate than the 365.2425 days of the Gregorian
(This apparent accuracy could, however, be a simple coincidence. The Mayas estimated that a 365-day year precessed through all the seasons twice
in 184.108.40.206.0 days. These numbers are only accurate to 2-3 digits. Suppose the 220.127.116.11.0 days had corresponded to 2.001 cycles rather than 2 cycles
of the 365-day year, would the Mayas have noticed?)
In ancient times, the Mayans had a tradition of a 360-day year. But by the 4th century B.C.E. they took a different approach than either
Europeans or Asians. They maintained three different calendars at the same time. In one of them, they divided a 365-day year into eighteen 20-day
months followed by a five-day period that was part of no month. The five-day period was considered to be unlucky.
So why December 21, 2012?
Scholars have known for decades that the 13-baktun cycle of the Mayan "Long Count" system of timekeeping was set to end precisely on a winter
solstice, and that this system was put in place some 2300 years ago. The very fact that the Maya were able to pinpoint a winter solstice far off into
the future - has not been dealt with by Mayanists. And why did they choose the year 2012? One immediately gets the impression that there is a very
strange mystery to be confronted here.
One of the main reasons Mayanists state for the end of the calendar during 2012, is because it was the end of the cycle. Some 400 years before their
current cycle ended, they erected the next cycle, that would end in 2012. For all the same reasons we don't continue our current calendar thousands
of years into the future; there's just no feasible reason to do so.
What else Mayanists say:
The turn of the great cycle is conjectured to have been of great significance to the Maya, but does not necessarily mark the end of the world.
According to the Popol Vuh, a sacred book of the Maya, they were living in the fourth world. The Popol Vuh describes the first three worlds that the
gods failed in making and the creation of the successful fourth world where men were placed. The Maya believed that the fourth world would end in
catastrophe and the fifth and final world would be created that would signal the end of mankind.
The last creation ended on a long count of 18.104.22.168.0. Another 22.214.171.124.0 will occur on December 21, 2012, and it has been discussed in many New Age
articles and books that this will be the end of this creation or something else entirely. However, the Maya abbreviated their long counts to just the
last five vigesimal places. There were an infinitely larger number of units that were usually not shown. When the larger units were shown (notably on
a monument from Coba), it is expressed as 126.96.36.199.188.8.131.52.0.0.0, where the larger units are evidently supposed to be 13s in all larger places.
In this age we are only approaching 0.0.0.0.0.0.13.0.0.0.0, and the larger places are nowhere near the 13s that would match the end of the last
This is confirmed by a date from Palenque, which projects forward in time to 184.108.40.206.0.0, which will occur on October 13, 4772. The Classic Period
Maya obviously did not believe that the end of this age would occur in 2012. There will be a Baktun ending in 2012, a significant event being the end
of a 400 year period, but not the end of the age.
The other theories:
Now this is where my research hit a bumpy road. I had to read about 200 pages of theories and documents and I still can't find a solid explanation
of why the Mayans ended on this date. The best I could find, is the article linked below. But it's still quite edgy.
I'm some what disappointed in myself, and the material I read. I figured that if I read, researched, and understood the Mayan Calender, then I could
come up with a feasible explanation. All of the scienctific websites completely dodged this topic, and after spending nearly a week reading into this
subject, compiling this huge post, and then diving into the 'why' of 2012, I was bombarded by tons of really off the wall 'new age' theories. So
I really can't give you a profound reason as to why the calender ended on this day..
This is the historic article, published in 1994, that first connected the end-date alignment with known concepts among the Maya. This is where I
pointed out that the xibalba be (the dark-rift in Sagittarius) and the Sacred Tree (the crossing point formed by the Milky Way where it crosses over
the ecliptic in Sagittarius) are essential keys to understanding how the Maya conceptualized the end-date alignment and encoded it into their mythic
Is there something significant we should know about the Winter Solstice date of December 21, 2012? Yes. On this day a rare astronomical and Mayan
mythical event occurs. In astronomic terms, the Sun conjuncts the intersection of the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic. The Milky Way, as most
of us know, extends in a general north-south direction in the night sky. The plane of the ecliptic is the track the Sun, Moon, planets and stars
appear to travel in the sky, from east to west. It intersects the Milky Way at a 60 degree angle near the constellation Sagittarius.
The cosmic cross formed by the intersecting Milky Way and plane of the ecliptic was called the Sacred Tree by the Maya. The trunk of the tree, the
Axis Mundi, is the Milky Way, and the main branch intersecting the tree is the plane of the ecliptic. Mythically, at sunrise on December 21, 2012, the
Sun - our Father - rises to conjoin the center of the Sacred Tree, the World Tree, the Tree of Life..
This rare astronomical event, foretold in the Mayan creation story of the Hero Twins, and calculated empirically by them, will happen for many of us
in our lifetime. The Sun has not conjoined the Milky Way and the plane of the ecliptic since some 25,800 years ago, long before the Mayans arrived on
the scene and long before their predecessors the Olmecs arrived. What does this mean?
Due to a phenomenon called the precession of the equinoxes, caused by the Earth's wobble that lasts almost 26,000 years, the apparent location of the
Winter Solstice sunrise has been ever so slowly moving toward the Galactic Center. Precession may be understood by watching a spinning top. Over many
revolutions the top will rise and dip on its axis, not unlike how the Earth does over an extremely long period of time. One complete rise and dip
constitutes the cycle of precession.
The Mayans noticed the relative slippage of the positions of stars in the night sky over long periods of observation, indicative of precession, and
foretold this great coming attraction. By using an invention called the Long Count, the Mayans fast-forwarded to anchor December 21, 2012 as the end
of their Great Cycle and then counted backwards to decide where the calendar would begin. Thus the Great Cycle we are currently in began on August 11,
3114 BCE But there's more.
The Great Cycle, lasting 1,872,000 days and equivalent to 5,125.36 years, is but one fifth of the Great Great Cycle, known scientifically as the Great
Year or the Platonic Year - the length of the precession of the equinoxes. To use a metaphor from the modern industrial world, on Winter Solstice CE
(Common Era) 2012 it is as if the Giant Odometer of Humanity on Earth hits 100,000 miles and all the cycles big and small turn over to begin anew. The
present world age will end and a new world age will begin.
Over a year's time the Sun transits through the twelve houses of the zodiac. Many of us know this by what "Sun sign" is associated with our
birthday. Upping the scale to the Platonic Year - the 26,000 year long cycle - we are shifting, astrologically, from the Age of Pisces to the Age of
Aquarius. The Mayan calendar does not really "end" in 2012, but rather, all the cycles turn over and start again, vibrating to a new era. It is as
if humanity and the Earth will graduate in the eyes of the Father Sun and Grandmother Milky Way.
Why should we care about the Mayans today? Is there anything we can learn from them? The trees give us oxygen to breathe and help create the
nourishing rains upon which we depend, sustaining life. We are missing these rains in places where the trees have been cut down or burned. Fires begin
that nature can no longer extinguish. For the Mayans, trees were intermediaries between the physical and spiritual worlds, and absolutely essential to
life. They believed that without the tree man could not survive and that "with the death of the last tree comes the death of the human race."
The ancient carved stones and the stars themselves tell us we are on the brink of a new world age. There is no reason not to take a leap of faith into
imagining what may be in store. We may trust that it is time for humanity to awaken into a true partnership with each other, with the Earth, and the
Cosmos. By accepting this partnership we may claim our birthright and become Galactic Citizens who care for and sustain the planet, thus sustaining
ourselves. This is clearly the challenge of our times. Yet, arriving just in time and on schedule is the Winter Solstice dawn on the day we may
remember that we are truly Children of the World.
Here are some more theories:
There have been many projected dates for the ending of the Mayan calendar, ranging from 1957 to 2050. The 2012 end-date was defined by the Thompson
Projection. Thompson's projection used a day-by-day count to cross -reference the Mayan to the European calendar rather than a count of years. This
bypassed the problem of year names in the Gregorian system. Jose & Lloydine agreed with Thompson's 2012 date. More importantly, the 2012 date works
with the hard facts evidenced by the accuracy of the July 26, 1992 Time Shift. Terence McKenna and Peter Meyer's Timewave Zero software that graphs
time as a fractal demonstrates by graph the accuracy of the winter solstice of 2012 as the correct end-date of the Mayan calendar with graph anomalies
appearing in the months of July.
Hope this bit of research helps people better understand not only the date, but how it was contrived and what it may mean..