The Maya Calendar
The Maya calendar is a much more complex and orderly system than the Gregorian calendar. Since the signing of the Guatemala Peace Accords in 1996, there has been a resurgence of interest among the Maya in the calendar and Maya spirituality. The Maya calendar consists of several calendars which run concurrently. Among the best known are the solar calendar or Aab’ consisting of 365 days, and the Cholq’iij calendar, which consists of 260 days.
Day Names and Glyphs of the Maya Calendar
Each day of the year in the Maya calendar consists of four glyphs that give each day a name. The first two glyphs come from a 260-day ceremonial calendar, known as the Cholq’iij. The last two glyphs are from the 365-day solar calendar, the Aab’. With this dual calendar system, each day has a unique name that combines Cholq’iij plus Aab, which is not repeated for fifty-two years.
The first two glyphs represent the day in the Cholq’iij calendar. The first symbol is a number, while the second, a glyph, is the day-name. The numbers run from one to thirteen, and then repeat. There are also twenty day-names that rotate in order and then repeat. The combination of thirteen numbers with twenty day-names yields the calendar of 260 days. Each number is linked with each of the twenty day-names at some point in the 260-day cycle.
The last two symbols of each day express the day in the 365-day solar, or Aab’, calendar. The last glyph is the name of the month. The Aab’ calendar contains eighteen months of twenty days each, for a total of 360 days. In addition, there is one month of five days—days that are considered unlucky—that brings the total to 365 days. The third symbol represents the number of the day within the month—but the days don’t run from one to twenty, but rather zero to nineteen. The first day of the month, zero, is called the “seating” of the month and is represented by the glyph chum, and not the glyph for zero.
The Maya Numbers
Top: Tz’utujil Maya version of Yucatec Maya
Middle: Yucatec Maya
Bottom: Traditional Tz’utujil
The Maya Day Names
Top: Tz’utujil Maya
Bottom: Yucatec Maya