COMMON LONG COUNT AND SHORT COUNT
Like a fractal wave, the Maya saw history as replicating itself on different scales. Like the Tzolkin, the Long Count (and associated Short Count) calendar is also built on the interplay of the sacred numbers 13 and 20. In addition the symbolism of the day-sign AJAW rises to the forefront.
In its abbreviated usual form, the Long Count is a 5 positional system based on vigesimal (base 20) counting. Note that this system makes use of zero for the first time in human history. Represented as a simple oval or more elaborated shell-like sign, zero is equated with completion, a key concept in the Maya understanding of Time.
The 5 periods of the Long Count are:
Kin = 1 day
Winal = 20 days
Tun = 360 days
Katun = 7200 days
Baktun = 144000 days
Each period is multiplied from the one before it by a factor of 20, with the exception of the tun: 18 winals makes 360 days — an approximation of the solar year.
A 13-katun cycle forms the prophetic Short Count calendar.
A 13-baktun cycle forms the abbreviated Long Count calendar.
Time is seen as distance, a road traveled. Recorded events are separated by distance numbers: intervals of rest-completion follow periods of bearing the burden of time. Great temporal journeys are undertook by the Lords of Time. At the resting point, once their share of travels is completed, they pass the burden onto the next set of gods, who then carry the bundle of days farther. Corresponding to calendar period endings, it becomes critical to commemorate and ritually facilitate these transitions to ensure the proper renewal of time. Calendar rites are always repetitive in nature, forever folding past and present. Tending to time periods to ensure their proper coming and going becomes much tending a cornfield: once the cycle of growth is complete, periods are harvested and ‘replanted’ or ‘repeated’.
KATUN PERIOD: 20 ROUNDED YEARS
Backbone of the native system of time reckoning. Katuns are considered living gods enthroned every 20 yrs. These period-endings are seen as an echo of the day of Maya Creation and celebrated with the erection of stelae and 'stone binding' rituals (‘katun’ means 20-tun ending or closing stone). In Maya iconography, bundles of time become legitimate thrones to sit upon and rule from. The equation: Time periods = enthroned rulers (mythic & historical) = erected stones. (See above)
This period, among other astronomical connections, is equivalent to the Jupiter/Saturn synodic cycle [99.3% accuracy] — which other astrologically-minded cultures also thought was the key to long-term time analysis.
13-KATUN PERIOD (SHORT COUNT): 260 ROUNDED YEARS
Above all others this prophetic implies the notion that history is based on familiar recurring patterns. Giving us a flow of time that is readable and an exercise in pattern recognition. Past, present, and future are folded onto one another, forming a single patterned history. Prophecy is understood as an active and participatory reflection of events and trends of the past.
This period is equivalent to Pluto's orbital period [97% accuracy] and double the Uranus/Pluto synodic period [99.3% accuracy].
BAKTUN PERIOD: 400 ROUNDED YEARS
Completion and renewal of the Baktun involves a recitation of Maya creation, ancestry, and the setting up of the 4 directions.
13-BAKTUN PERIOD (COMMON LONG COUNT): 5200 ROUNDED YEARS
This period constitutes a complete Sun, Age, or Great Cycle. The Long Count date 220.127.116.11.0 (corresponding to 8-11-3114 BCE) marks the creation of the world. (See above)
This period is equivalent to 1/5 of a full precessional cycle [99.4% accuracy].