The Haab as a Solar Calendar

The Maya understood the positioning on the earth in relation to the sun and the rest of the solar system. From this, as well as their understanding of the mathematical concept of zero, they were able to create an incredibly accurate solar-based calendar of 365 days, just like our current one.

This calendar is named the Haab, which means ‘vauge’ in the Mayan language. The Haab is made of 19 months, with the first each having 20 named days made of number-glyphs combinations. The last month only held 5 days, to account for the non-exact nature of the way earth travels around the sun. They did this rather than have leap years like we do, so that calendar did not fall out of sync with the changing of the seasons, which was highly important for an agricultural based society. 

The Haab calendar is still used by some Maya communities today in Guatemala and Mexico. It remains an important part of modern Maya culture and provides a unique way of understanding time. 

Maya sun

Predictions of the Haab

There are 19 months in the Haab; the first 18 consist of 20 days, while the final month only has 5 days. This final month was called Wayeb and was considered unlucky and the Maya would try to not do anything important or different like traveling on these days to avoid ill fortune . 

Haab was used to track the movements of the sun and moon in relation to earth. It was also used to understand and predict eclipses, the equinox and solstices, and other astronomical events. Such important astronomical events were held in high esteem for the Maya and were days that held significant cultural and religious importance. Rituals and ceremonies would be conducted on important buildings or plazas in the cores of the cities in accordance with these astronomical events.

Together with the Tzo’lkin (260-day sacred calendar) made up the Long Count, which the Maya used to understand deep time, the same way that we use BCE or CE with the Gregorian calendar. In that way, the Maya were able to understand time and history very much like we do today, just with a different starting point then our date of 0 CE. 

The Meaning on the Months and Days

Haab months

The Haab Months

Each of the 18 months of the Haab had a patron deity that ‘ruled’ over the next 20 days. Each day had unique characteristics that were determined by the deity that ruled it. For example, days ruled by Chac, the god of rain, are said to be good for planting, while days ruled by Ah Puch, the god of darkness, are said to be bad for hunting. 

By understanding the characteristics of each day, farmers and others can make better decisions about when to plant, harvest, or take other actions. But it wasn’t just farmers who kept track of these days. The kings and priests would have as well, and would have performed certain rituals and ceremonies based on the days and meanings they had. 

The Haab calendar is used to track the seasons and understand when certain events will occur, such as time of year when the seasons would change. This was important to know, so that the timing of planting and harvesting food could take place, as well as preparing for the rainy season. 

The names of the months are listed below (with their meaning/translation in brackets)…

Pop (Mat)

Wo’ (Black Conjunction)

Sip (Red Conjunction)

Sotz’ (Bat)

Tzec (Death)

Xul (Dog)

Yaxk’in (First/New Sun)

Mol (Water/Jade)

Ch’en (Black Storm)

Yax (Green Storm)

Sak’ (White Storm)

Keh (Red Storm)

Mak (To Cover/Enclose)

K’ank’in (Yellow Sun)

Muwan (Owl)

Pax (Planting Time)

K’ayab’ (Turtle)

Kumk’u (Ripe Maize/Granary)

Wayeb (Misfortune/Nameless Days) – The Unlucky final month of 5 days only.

The Maya had many calendars

Mayan Alphabet. Close up of hieroglyph or glyph writing system found in Copan (Honduras), Tikal (Guatemala) and Chichen Itza, Palenque, Uxmal, Yaxchilan, Bonampak (Mexico).

The Maya calendar is comprised of three distinct calendars- the Haab, the Tzolk'in, and the Long Count. Each calendar served a different purpose in Maya society. The Haab, or "civil" calendar, was used to schedule ceremonies and rituals. 

The Tzolk'in, or "sacred" calendar, was used for divination and predicting auspicious days for certain activities. It was comprised of thirteen weeks of twenty days each. It would have been this calendar that would be most similar to the Greek-based system of astrology that is commonly used today.

The Long Count was used to record historical events and track the passage of time. It consisted of a sequence of numbers that were reset to zero every 5,125 years. Together, these three calendars allowed the Maya to keep track of time in a highly accurate and sophisticated way.

Understanding Maya culture and mythology

The Maya calendar is a complicated system of interlocking cycles, used by the ancient Maya to keep track of time. Although it was no longer regularly used after the Spanish Conquest, today it can still be used to help us understand Maya culture and mythology. 

The Maya believed that time was divided into a series of cycles, each lasting for a certain period of time. By tracking the progress of these cycles, they were able to make predictions about the future and tell when important events would take place. 

The Maya calendar is also rich with symbolism, and many of the symbols used in its design have specific meanings. For example, the sun-god Kinich Ahau is often represented as a jaguar, while the god of death, Ah Puch, is usually depicted as a skeleton. Understanding the symbolism of the calendar can help us to better understand Maya culture and beliefs.

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