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How to read the Mayan days of the week

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L. Cargill, Medical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP. Retired blood banker and laboratorian. Loves to write about a wide range of subjects. Enjoy!

The Mayan 2012 Prophecy

The Mayan Calendar - Names for the days:

The Mayans planned their days according to a period of time somewhat equal to two of our weeks. Their work week was twice as long as ours. The days cycled through a combination of 13 and 20 day names to constitute a Tzolkin* or a 20 day "two week" period called a Uinal. The Uinal is roughly one of our months. Eighteen Uinal (360 days) plus 5 "dead" days equal one solar year of 365 days.

This sounds very hard for us to understand as we think in periods of seven days constituting one week and a two week period would be 14 days, not 20 days.

The Maya, however, consider 10 days to be equal to one of our weeks. A two week period would therefore equal 20 days to them. The twenty day Tzolkin is the way they understand time and how to apply the day names.

*Tzolkin = count of days (any count at all, could be a week, month, year, or century)

A look at the names of the days only

A Tzolkin or "count of days" is more akin to our days/months/year. The Maya had a Haab, or common civil calendar year that went by a count of 18 "months" consisting of 20 days each. This left 5 days at the end of each solar year. The Maya considered these 5 days unlucky, perhaps even "dead" days.

Inside of the Tzolkin or 20 day cycle are 13 numbered days. These days are not named, they are just the numbers zero through 13.

But the Tzolkin has 20 days! Not 13. How does this work?

The Maya had actual names and not just numbers for 20 of the days! Now why they only counted to 13 is a mystery. They had twenty names and they knew how to count to 20, so what was the problem?

The problem was that neither the 10 day week nor the 20 day month accounted for the 365 day year. The Maya knew about the 365 day solar year and the changing of the seasons. They also knew that the 365 day solar calendar was still off by a quarter of a day. The Mayans actually observed three very distinct and separate (but meshed) calendars! They observed a solar, lunar, as well as a celestial calendar!

In fact the Mayan calendars called for a special designation for every day during a long count. The long count will be explained in a later hub and is the basis of the so-called Mayan 2012 "end of the world" prediction.

The Mayan Long Count will start again on and will be designated in the Haab calendar and Tzolkin as 3 Kankin 4 Ahau (December 21, 2012) The winter solstice will be on the 21st or the 23rd of 2012.

Experts and even Mayans disagree with the actual beginning of the current Long Count. The current thinking is that this period started ( during the summer of 11 Aug 3114 B.C.E. (Gregorian) or 13 Aug 3114 B.C.E. (Gregorian). [B.C.E. = Before the common era or Before the Christian era}

How the Mayan Solar Year Worked

Gregorian Calendar NameMayan NameEqual to:



24 hours






20 Kin or 20 Days



18 Uinal or 360 Days

20 Year period


20 Tun or 7,200 Days

394 Year period


20 Katun or 144,000 Days

7,885 Year period


20 Baktun or 2,880,000 Days

158,000 Year period


20 Pictun or 57,600,000 Days

3 Million Year period


20 Calabtun or 1,152,000,000 days

63 Million Year period


20 Kinchiltun or 23,040,000,000 days

Parts of the Mayan Tzolkin that need to be meshed together

Mayan Day CountMayan Day NameMayan Month Names





















































Here is a helpful video to explain some of the Mayan Calendar

Calculate any date into the Mayan date...

  • Calendar Converter
    Calendar Converter - Will convert any date into many different religious and secular calendar dates, including Mayan. Input the date you want to convert, then calculate, then scroll down to see the date in several different calendars.

© 2011 Lela

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Comments - More to come, check back frequently this year...

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on January 04, 2012:

I'm not sure why you are saying this is bizarre, zzron. Could you elaborate a little bit?

zzron from Houston, TX. on January 04, 2012:

This was really quite bizarre.

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on January 01, 2012:

Happy New Year!!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on January 01, 2012:

The calendar doesn't stop. It just reaches its December 31st as it were. The Mayan calendar just starts over again just like our New Year. Happy New Year!

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on January 01, 2012:

True! I could just live without a clock completely. Half the time I have no idea what the actual date is? Lol. But I don't run on a schedule like that.

I think it's Super fascinating! With a capital S! They were so incredibly smart and they didn't do things for simply no reason. I wish we did know why they did and why they stopped exactly where they did!

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on January 01, 2012:

The Long Count calendar is the celestial calendar of the Maya. It syncs up with itself every 5,000 or so years. It is the mysterious part of the Mayan calendar that most people don't understand.

It's easy to see how they calculated the days and months and the solar year. But we don't know why any civilization would need to predict things over thousands of years. The Mayans predicted all of the solar and lunar eclipses as well as the Milky Way galaxy alignments. Why?

Only sophisticated astronomers need to know about precession and the movement of the planets.

Most cultures just get along with the earth's rotation around the sun, maybe throw in a bit of axis wobble to predict the seasons, but after that, who cares?

Kelly Umphenour from St. Louis, MO on January 01, 2012:

Ha! How did this get by ME? lol Super cool...I had no idea that their weeks were not put a heck of a lot of work into this and it is superb! I did try to look some of that info up but it was too complex for me. Great job..I can't wait to see the next one - I knew about the long count days but don't "get it."

Up and everything!

drbj and sherry from south Florida on December 31, 2011:

Finding an easy way to understand the calendar Maya,

Is giving me a headache, Holle, I'm off to the playa.

Beach, to you, m'dear.

Here's to a Happy New Year

Lela (author) from Somewhere near the heart of Texas on December 31, 2011:

Hi barbergirl - very few of us have a grasp on the Mayan Calendar. Mostly because it is really 3 calendars, not one.

Hi Bob - the village on Cozumel is called San Gervasio and it was dated back to 100 B.C.E. The entire island was dedicated to the Mayan Goddess of medicine, fertility, and weaving - Ixchel. Mostly occupied by the Itzas of Quintana Roo, San Gervasio is well preserved and is noted for the temple of the red hands. I have visited there many times. It's a lovely site.

The Mayan culture is still very much alive. Almost all of Guatemala is Mayan and sites are still being discovered in Quintana Roo, Belize and other Central American areas. The language is still spoken commonly in the area and recent breakthroughs in the Mayan writing system have been made. There is a great deal more to Mayan life than we know. They are kind of reclusive.

Hello Lew - Actually, the Mayan can calculate dates even further back than 3114 B.C.E. Their math and observations of the celestial sky are extremely sophisticated and advanced. The Maya are credited with inventing the concept of zero in mathematical calculations. Even though they were not around before the pyramids were built (as far as we know), they do have dates inscribed in glyphs that go back that far. Why they would need to do that is anyone's guess.

Hi gogogo - I am trying my best to get a grip on writing more hubs this year. I hope to be posting more explanations of the Mayan Calendars soon. Thanks for stopping by!


gogogo on December 31, 2011:

Enjoyed your article as I am an avid reader of all things about the Mayan culture, looking forward to reading more from you

LewSethics on December 31, 2011:

Very interesting. If the Mayans began their 'long count' in 3114 BCE then that would put their science (theoretically) a half thousand years before the egyptian pyramids.

Getting things in historical perspective is always cool, I didn't realize the mayans went back so far, so I looked it up and it seems you may have misunderstood some of your research. The Mayan culture only dates back to about 500 BCE, but according to their Creation Myth the world was created on or about 3114 BCE. Maybe I misread your info.

But, well done! We need more articles like this.

diogenes from UK and Mexico on December 31, 2011:

Hi dear. The Maya were a complex and interesting race, I read a lot about them once and spent some time in Cozumel where they had a famous village (preserved) and some old buildings. Their ancestors still survive, but rather like the North American Indian, their culture and way of life has almost gone. Bob

Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on December 30, 2011:

Very interesting. I never really understood the whole Mayan calendar and it still seems rather confusing... although you sure do seem to have a grasp on it!

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