THE TZOLKIN: THE COUNT OF DAYS
The Tzolk'in is the Sacred Calendar that the Maya utilized for their own sacred personal journey. It is both a master calendar providing a unifying pattern for all creation and the hub of the Mayan calendar system.
The meaning of the Tzolk’in is mostly given as “the count of days” [but] it may also be translated into “pieces of the sun” and by inference to “pieces of divine creation”, which may come closest to its true meaning given that among the Maya, the sun has often been identified with God.*
The Tzolk’in calendar is based on a system of twenty named day signs, combined with thirteen numbers to produce 260 unique days (13x20=260). Despite popular convention declaring that the start of the Tzolk'in is 1 imix, there is in fact no "beginning" and no "end" to the Tzolk’in. It is an eternal, cyclical calendar which is not related to or dependent upon astronomical cycles, "end dates", or any other linear phenomena or concepts. To our knowledge, no contemporary Maya village starts the Tzolk'in New Year on 1 Imix. In Momostenango, Guatemala, the K'iche' Maya celebrate on 8 B'atz' (Chuen).
In the upper navigation links, you can see one titled "the daily tzolkin." This is the same set of calendar rings as in the "calendar" link, but it allows you to calculate the Day sign/Number combination for any day since 1900, including loved ones' birthdays, special occasions, important events, or simply today's date.
Use the Daily Tzolk'in to learn about the combinations of sacred energies—once the wheels stop turning, you can click on the day signs or tone symbols to open up a dialog that will tell you more about their meanings.
The Meaning of the Day Signs and Numbers
The K’iche’ Maya of highland Guatemala refer to the core of the Tzolk’in as the “Sacred Counter of Days and Time.” The day signs and the numbers of the Tzolk’in each have their own spirit, or essence; in addition, the day signs are often referred to as “naguales,” or spirit guides that rule certain elements or aspects of life. This is because the day signs are considered to be the primary archetypes of human character—in fact, they embody the essential myths and archetypes of the ancient lands of the Maya. The day signs carry a masculine energy, while the numbers are considered feminine in nature; but these concepts do not carry the same meanings that they do in “industrialized” societies. (For a more detailed discussion on this, please see “The Numbers” section immediately following.)
Each of the Tzolk’in’s twenty day signs holds the sacred role of shaping and influencing the character and destiny of a person, which is based on the combined energies of their Mayan birth sign and number. For the Maya, each person brings with them their innate character, abilities, professional preference, and other traits already at birth. This is why it is so important to respect our children and allow them to grow into the people they were born to be, rather than to impose our own desires and dreams upon them. This of course applies to us, as well—easy to say, much more difficult to achieve, but it is the first step to true self-realization. The Maya understand this innately; for many of us, it takes a bit of reminding since our lives overflow with a deluge of media messages telling us who the marketers want us to be.