Wednesday, May 6, 2009

Adventures With the Tzolkin

A little over a year ago, I read "The Mayan Factor" by Jose Arguelles. Up until this time I had never deeply considered the inner and inherent aspects of time. I was pretty excited. "Ooh look, a brand new rabbit hole!" While most of the buzz around Mayan time-keeping has focused on the end of the long count, I found I was more attracted to the Tzolkin. So I set out to find as much information about it as I could. This turned out to be... not much. I decided the way to proceed was to do my own research and let the calendar be the teacher. Many years ago I had painted a Tree of Life, incorporating my knowledge of symbols, colour and geometry. This took a good nine months or more to complete and taught me more about the hermetic qabalah than I could have imagined. The designing and execution served as a kind of meditation. I planned something similar with the Tzolkin. I decided to paint two sets of cards, twenty day sign cards and thirteen numbered ones. The stacks would sit side by side on business card stands and each day the front cards would move to the back (as in the photo). It seemed best to begin with Imix (the first day sign), and paint the cards on their proper days. I consulted my tables to find out when I could begin, and it turned out to be only three days away. Not only that, but it would be 1 Imix. I took this as a good omen. The first thing I noticed was an increase in energy, or maybe the energy was always there but I had not been aware of it's presence. In "Time and the Technosphere" Jose Arguelles wrote about the deadening effects of artificial, inorganic calendar systems. I was able to confirm this for myself. I should mention that Arguelles' proposed 13 moon Dreamspell calendar is not the Tzolkin, although he does use it's day signs and symbols. I don't know why he chose to do this. Another result of following the Tzolkin was an increase in experiences of synchronicity. Some of these were related to the timing of this project. For instance, I was curious about when my Tzolkin birthday would occur in the solar year. It turned out to be the day of my solar return. This synchronisation with the solar round occurs only once every 42 years/59 Tzolkin cycles. I am referring here to the true solar year, which is 365.241 days (not the Gregorian year of 365.25 days). This may point toward the fractal nature of time. If I had not begun this project when I did, I would certainly have missed this. Another notable coincidence was the end of this first Tzolkin cycle 13 Ahau, on the winter solstice. As I started to familiarise myself with the energies of the days, I began to notice that some were easy and pleasant for me (Cimi, Lamat, Chuen) while others were more challenging (Imix, Muluc, Cauac). The difficult days have become more managable as I've learned to adjust to their nature. If you know it's going to rain, you can plan to stay home or bring an umbrella. Another thing I did was compile a data base of the Tzolkin birthdates of family, friends and well-known people in order to reveal shared characteristics. I could only use people familiar to me so my sample base is small (142). In spite of this, there were some striking coincidences. My father married twice and both his partners were born on 10 Caban. Sigmund Freud and Carl Jung were both born on 9 Ben. Elvis Presley and Mick Jagger were both born on 2 Lamat. Charles Manson and Adolf Hitler were both born on 9 Oc. Joe Walsh, Bob Dylan and Van Morrison are all 3 Cib. There is a preponderence of powerful vocal artists born on Imix days (Rob Halford:4, Marianne Faithful:7, Robert Plant and Aretha Franklin:9, and Etta James and Janis Joplin:10). I can confidently assert that the Tzolkin is describing something real. I've found the Tzolkin easier to follow than the Gregorian calendar. I often don't know what the Gregorian date is but I always know the Tzolkin date and I have never lost count. I've never been good at routines, so this is something. The experience of making my own calendar was invaluable and I recommend it. However, a very similar one can be purchased here:


  1. Thanks for posting this.

    I actually had a plan for making my own calender, too ... a little bit more ambitious maybe (probably why it never happened.) I was thinking of carving a wooden disk, similar to the Aztec sun-disk, with the various cycles as concentric circles and wooden pegs to indicate the day. If nothing else it would've looked very cool on the wall.

    Arguelles catches a lot of flack for departing from the Mayan traditions. To his credit he's said himself numerous times that his 13 Moon Dreamspell is not the Mayan calendar, but is rather inspired by it. His reasoning, I believe, was that the Mayan calendar was an expression of Mayan culture, and what he's trying to do is create a calendar for a global culture. There are a lot of aspects of the Dreamspell that so far a I know don't appear at all in the Mayan system: for instance, the 20-day cycle of daysigns is mapped to 20 regions of the Earth, the 13-day cycle is mapped to the major joints, and the 7 day week is mapped to the chakras, thus linking together the Earth and the human body to time. I only followed it myself for a couple of months but it was a very interesting psychological excercise, one I may return to.

    Oh! And you (and anyone else of course who read this post) might be interested to read these, too:

    The Inner Dimensions of Cosmic RebirthThe Rebirth Celebration May 9-11The latter is written by the same Dr. Carl Johan Calleman, whom you link to in the sidebar (I'd actually never heard of him until yesterday ... synchronicity, thy name is Hunab-Ku....)

  2. "in Lak'ech"

    Your resonance with a new 'time' is indicative or your resonance with a new vibrational frequency. Namaste. I find the Gregorian Calendar to be very limiting, heavily linear & 'masculine oriented'. Being Wiccan AND into Mayan Cosmology, I've found a new personal 'time-keeping' more in tune with synchronicity, intuition, flow & NOWness. I don't even like using the word 'time' anymore (hence me always putting it in inverted commas!). But I do honour cycles & vibrations. I'm more inclined to go for 13-based energies than the more traditional Gregorian '12'. It just feels more complete to me - and gives me the opportunity to acknowledge the Cosmic Yin as much as the Yang. Solar energy (as active & energised as it is) is quite dominant & can be rather controlling whereas Lunar energy is yielding, allowing & 'softer'. (And YOUniversALL Energy - whoah!) I don't feel one should be forsaken for the other - instead, there should be a harmonic balance between the two polarities...

    As our collective vibration increases, many things we take for granted will inevitably fall by the wayside (our current Gregorian Calendar I believe will eventually phase out). As we align ourselves more fully with Mother Gaia and the cosmos at large...we will be yearning for a different way to experience 'time', reality and our lives.

    Thank You as always for your profoundly insightful words.

    Blessed Be,
    Another ('timely') Point of You : OM...

  3. check out for discussion of the 260-day divinatory calendar. hope to see you soon.