The Grand Wayeb and the New Year Bearers for 2013-2032
Two things about the haab, or 365-day solar calendar used by Mesoamerican cultures such as the Maya, Aztec, Toltec and many others, have remained unknown to anthropologists and archaeologists: how was it adjusted for what we call “leap day,” and how and when did they change from one set of Year Bearers to another.
The Year Bearer is one of four nahuales, or spirits, from the 260-day tzolkin, or sacred calendar, that rules the first day of the solar year. It is known that various Mesoamericans used different sets of Year Bearers at different times.
And most scholars concur that the Maya, for one, studied time and the movement of the stars and planets closely enough that they realized that the true length of the year was 365.252 days and somehow adjusted for it.
It was not until 2003 that esoteric knowledge of certain Ki’che’ Maya in Guatemala was published and answered both questions. This was in a book called Concepcion Maya del Tiempo y Sus Ciclos (The Maya Conception of Time and Its Cycles), by Pelico, Lopez, Poroj and Xivir). It remains controversial, but is beginning to gain acceptance by more Ki’che’ as well as other Guatemalan Maya.
In order to understand this system, the workings of the 365-day solar calendar, or haab, must be known. The haab consists of 18 months of 20 days each, for a sub-cycle of 360 days. Then a five-day month called the Wayeb concludes the year. These were called the “nameless days,” a time for reflection on the past year and preparation for the coming new year and the new Year Bearer. The best thing to do during the Wayeb was to stay at home and avoid potential troubles.
Because no one has known when and how to change Year Bearers since the arrival of Cortez and the conquistadors, contemporary Maya as well as Western scholars, have been recycling the same four – Deer, Earth, Road and Wind.
The Grand Wayeb
According to the authors of Concepcion Maya del Tiempo y Sus Ciclos, the Year Bearers changed every 52 years as a result of adjusting the solar calendar for “leap day.” The 52-year calendar, also called the Calendar Round or the Pleiades Cycle, is based on the number of possible combinations of dates in the 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar: 18,980 combinations adds up to 52 of our years, not adjusted for leap year.
After the five-day Wayeb at the end of each 52-year Calendar Round, a Grand Wayeb was introduced. This is a 13-day time unit. But they did not add 13 days to the solar calendar. Instead, they stopped counting the solar calendar for 13 days. This has the same effect as adding one day every four years (52 divided by 13 is 4). Which explains how the solar year was adjusted.
The New Year Bearers
But they continued counting the days of the sacred calendar during the Grand Wayeb. As a result of this and the Grand Wayeb, the Year Bearers changed every 52 years.
According to the Ki’che’ Maya authors of Concepcion Maya del Tiempo y Sus Ciclos, the previous Calendar Round ended on March 5, 2013, and a new set of Year Bearers arrived on March 6 with 1 Eagle. In 2014, the Year Bearer will be 2 Sun; in 2015, 3 Snake; in 2016, 4 Dog, Then they recycle, with different coefficients, until the next Grand Wayeb and new Calendar Round in 2032.
When the Mesoamerican 260-year calendar is considered, it becomes clear that this system makes sense, because each nahual has a turn at being Year Bearer.
Few Maya today, in particular the various Councils of Elders, subscribe to the Grand Wayeb system and the new Year Bearers. But it beginning to be debated and accepted by more and more spiritual guides and day keepers in Guatemala.
The implementation of a 13-day cycle at the end of each Calendar Round had already been mentioned by Mexican scholar Luis Arochi in La Piramide de Kukulkan y Su Simbolismo Solar (1981) and by Yucatecan Maya shaman Hunbatz Men in The Eight Mayan Calendars (1983), though neither explained it in detail or mentioned how it affected the Year Bearers.
For more information on the Grand Wayeb and the new Year Bearers, see this site, which is in Spanish: Espiritualidad Maya.
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