The Mayan calendar uses the Long Count to calculate and pinpoint important cosmic events and significant historical and cultural cycles. Classic Period Maya employed the Mayan calendar, as their Sacred Calendar, referring to the Long Count as the Great Cycle. The current Great Cycle began in 3114 BC and terminates on the long anticipated end date of December 21, 2012. Endless speculation accompanies the end date, much of it apocalyptic in nature. In reality however, the end of the Long Count more specifically suggests a new awakening and a spiritual shift that is likely to prove beneficial to all mankind. While it is currently popular to speculate the onset of extraordinary disaster it is more likely that December 21, 2012 will effectively mimic Y2K with a similar lack of fanfare other than the unavoidable parties and doomsday media events concocted by speculators.

The Mayans believed in multiple cycles of human emergence where the gods created the world with high intentions and hope for the continual emergence of a more perfect being to worship them. This concept was universally shared by the Maya, the Toltecs and the Aztecs. At the root of this philosophy is a belief that the world is never static. It is continuously being created and evolved in search of a divine stability that can only be attained through the prayers and devoted spiritual deeds of the people.  Specific time periods within the Mayan calendar are associated with these ongoing creation cycles.

The Mayan Calendar and the Long Count

Mayan Calendar

The Mayan Calendar

The Maya recognized a solar year of 365 days, but the Long Count in the  Mayan calendar is mathematically based on a 360 day period called a “tun” which translates to the word “stone” in the Mayan language. Twenty stones or twenty “tuns” comprised the next unit of measure called a “k’atun” and twenty “k’atun”s comprise a “bak’tun”.  Thirteen “bak’tuns” make a Great Cycle which is comprised of 5,200 “tuns” and 260 “k’atuns.” Specific Long Count dates are ordered with the bak’tun followed by the the k’atun, the “tun” , the” winal” (twenty days) and the day (k’in). Hence any given date consists of the appropriate number f these elements  as counted forward from the creation date in 3114 BC.

These are the basic elements of the  Mayan calendar, but the Maya also incorporated longer time periods such as the   ”p’iktun” which constituted 8000 “tuns”, nearly half again as long as the Long Count.  The Maya conceived of these as Great Ages among which were even longer periods such as the” Akalabtun” which consisted of 160,000  ”tuns”  or the “kinchiltun” with 3,200,000 “tuns.” While these periods are somewhat tedious to calculate for most of us, scholars of the 2012 Mayan calendar thoroughly understand them and many note that the significantly longer periods suggest that the end of the Long Count may be highly significant in terms of spirituality, but not necessarily apocalyptic.