Ancient Visions of a 2012 Eclipse: What the Mayan Calendar Tells Us

[Note:  Tropical dates given in this article are Gregorian unless otherwise noted.]

Get ready for a full solar eclipse coming to your planet on November 13, 2012.  This will be the final full eclipse of the current 13-baktun cycle of the Mayan Long Count, and that is just the beginning.  The significance of this event transcends even Mayan cosmology, in which, as we will see, it is deeply integrated, speaking to a unified planetary vision of natural cycles, harmonic mathemagics, and the opportunity for a radical cultural renewal.

Evidence for human interest in recording natural cycles goes back 35,000 years or more.  The earliest known artifact to express a substantial mathematical awareness, with the potential to be used in a properly “calendrical” fashion, is The Ishango Bone.  This baboon fibula was incised with 168 tally marks, and inset with a crystal, around 25,000 years ago in equatorial Africa, near the headwaters of the Nile river.  The exact purpose of the Ishango Bone is debated among scholars, but the inscribed intervals suggest its usefulness in integrating a number of factors.  The level of sophistication may be very advanced; its set of four consecutive prime numbers (11, 13, 17, 19) in particular, has generated a great deal of speculation.  The notches are arranged into three columns, two of 60 marks, and one of 48.  It has been suggested that the intervals of 60 each record a cycle of two lunar months, and the notch-lengths and spacing of all three columns may indicate the changing phases.  Also, the number 168 is a perfect multiple of 28, a number sacred to the moon in many traditions around the world, including the indigenous Igbo of Africa.

It may also be significant that in addition to the 168 incisions, the bone’s inset crystal is believed to have been used to make incisions itself.  The creative potential of the crystal is then, in a sense, the bone’s 169th element, introducing the sacred moon number thirteen (13 x 13 = 169).  The numbers 168 and 169 are the only consecutive multiples of 28 and 13 smaller than their common product 364 (= 28 x 13).  This “plus one” relationship of 168 to 169 also relates the product of 13 and 28 with the solar year:

28 x 6 + 1 = 13 x 13

13 x 28 + 1 = 365 

These same mathematical phenomena are evident in advanced calendrical computations, many thousands of years later, and on the other side of the planet, in the few surviving hieroglyphic books of the Maya.  The book known as the Paris Codex contains an almanac of years composed of thirteen 28-day intervals.  Conspicuous in this almanac is the repeated presence of the number 168.  These supposed “distance numbers” have been discussed at length by scholars, but remain an enigma, with no clear consensus emerging as to their purpose.  Less remarked upon, but also significant, is the almanac’s base day, which is 12 Lamat, the 168th day of the Mayan ritual calendar.

Out of the several hundred almanacs in the 3 principal Mayan codices, only one other utilizes 12 Lamat as its base [1].  This is the Eclipse Table of the Dresden Codex.  This Eclipse Table demonstrates such accuracy and sophistication in its ability to predict eclipses that it is one of the most widely appreciated examples of intellectual achievement by the Maya, or any of the world’s ancient cultures.  According to the evidence of Michael Grofe’s insightful, detailed analysis, as incredible as it may seem, the Maya who constructed this document were capable of predicting eclipses with an accuracy that stretches modern computer programs to their limits [2].

In addition to beginning with day 168 of the ritual calendar, the Eclipse Table also incorporates the “plus one” day 169
.  This is conceptualized in a simple fashion, by equating the base of the table, 12 Lamat, with zero, and thereby equating 13 Muluc — kin 169 — with day one.  The significance of this kin is then emphasized on the page following the table, which associates 13 Muluc with a series of large astro-numerically significant intervals.  The number 169 also plays a role in the introductory section of the Eclipse Table, in the form of a column of 13 consecutive 13s.  This column relates to the 364-day almanac of the Paris Codex, probably as a method for integrating eclipses with a number of other celestial cycles over a period of 130 years [3].

Although the Maya offer us the most definitive, precise examples, these same patterns are found throughout the ancient world.  One of history’s most mathematically sophisticated calendrical traditions existed among the Essene Jewish community at Qumran during the final centuries of the BC era.  The principal calendar of this community was of 364 days, which incorporated, to at least some degree, cycles of 13 and 28.  Of paramount importance to this calendrical tradition was the cycle of priestly courses, which determined the rotation of responsibility for the administration of temple activities among the 24 priestly divisions of Israel.  Each division succeeded in turn for a period of one week, defining a full 24-week cycle of precisely 168 days (= 24 x 7).

The ritual importance of the number 168 is also evident in 14th century England’s chivalric Order of the Garter.  Like King Arthur’s legendary Knights of the Round Table, this order was organized by the number 13.  Furthermore, the order’s founder, King Edward III, is said to have worn a mantle embroidered with 168 garters, with one additional garter — the 169th — worn around his leg.

Thousands of years earlier, the neolithic culture of England had constructed megalithic monuments demonstrating an impressive astronomical awareness.  The earliest stage of construction at Stonehenge included a circle of 56 stations (= 28 x 2), known today as the Aubrey holes.  This circle is believed to have functioned as an eclipse calculator through integrating cycles of 13 and 28 days [4].  During this same period, another megalithic site known as Woodhenge was built just two miles to the west, composed of 168 distinct post holes.

More intriguing connections to these matters are found in the Egyptian legend of the death of Osiris.  According to Plutarch’s account of this legend, after an important interval of 28 years (being either his age or reign) Osiris met his destiny at the hands of his adversary Set (Typhon) on the 17th day of the month Athyr.  As Plutarch further relates, Set is associated with eclipses and a polygon of 56 sides [5], suggestive of the Aubrey holes just mentioned.  According to the calendars of Plutarch’s time, the date of Set’s “eclipse” of Osiris — 17 Athyr — corresponds to November 13.  (This concerns the Alexandrian/Coptic calendar of Egypt and the Julian calendar of Rome.  The correlation is within one day of November 13 by tropical Gregorian reckoning for 100 AD, approximate date of Plutarch’s Moralia.)

Incredibly, November 13 also corresponds to both the first day of the Mayan Eclipse Table (in 755 AD), and to the full solar eclipse of 2012, the last such event of the Mayan calendar’s famous 13th baktun.  Just let that sink in for a moment.

Before going further, it is important to acknowledge some of the complex subtlety inherent in Mayan astronomy, as exemplified by the Eclipse Table.  The Mayan Long Count date at the base of the Eclipse Table is  In the traditional correlation (which I fully accept), this actually corresponds to November 10, 755 AD, meaning day one of the table — 13 Muluc — would correspond to November 11.  According to astronomical models, however, November 12-13 would more accurately synchronize to the new moon at this time.  The main body of the table appears to address this discrepancy with the inclusion of “warning stations”.  The recorded intervals of the table identify individual days, but each interval is accompanied by three consecutive day-signs, which define a three-day range in which an eclipse might be expected.  This three-day leeway, and the associated astronomy, has played a significant role in debates over the calendar correlation, with many scholars proposing a shift of two days (familiar through various references to either December 21 or 23 as the end of the 13th baktun), such that November 13, rather than November 11 would be day one of the Eclipse Table.

In my studies of Mayan timekeeping, I have come to realize that such discrepancies are typically deliberate (note that “warning stations” are exceedingly rare in Mayan almanacs), and, far from indicating any sort of imprecision, often act as windows into insights even more profound than the literal reading would suggest.  Therefore, one might view the November 11 correlation as particularly relevant to the traditional count, and the November 13 discrepancy as a sort of initiatory mystery.

With this in mind, it is worth taking a look back at the year 2010.  At this time the traditional Mayan day-count demonstrated the exact same relation to the tropical year as it did in 755 AD, the year of the Eclipse Table’s base date.  That is, November 11, 755 AD (Gregorian) and November 11, 2010, were both 13 Muluc in the traditional count.  This type of synchronization with the tropical year has a probability of occurring once in 260 years.  (A similar synchronization with the strictly 365-day haab occurs every 52 years.)  Although an eclipse did not occur on either of these two dates, the year 2010 was notable for a full lunar eclipse that took place on the day of its southern solstice, exactly two years before the end of the 13th baktun.

This two-year interval highlights another famous discrepancy known as the Dreamspell.  The Dreamspell is a modern interpretation of the Mesoamerican ritual calendar, which, while popular, has not been taken seriously by many scholars.  Interestingly, however, during the final years of the 13th batkun, the discrepancy between the two counts is such that a day in the traditional count will be followed 2 years and 2 days later by its Dreamspell equivalent.  Therefore, November 11, 2010 — the traditional day 13 Muluc — is followed 2 years and 2 days later by November 13, 2012, when the Dreamspell day 13 Muluc and the final full eclipse of the 13th baktun coincide.

The formulation of the Dreamspell did not arise out of a conscious effort to manifest this particularly remarkable synchronicity; it is based on a reading of patterns and discrepancies in the monuments of ancient Palenque and the colonial era books of Chilam Balam.  To simplify, the main criteria places the baktun shift of 2012 in a year named 7 Cauac, signifying ‘the time between incarnations’, in conjunction with a discrepancy of 47 days.  The canonical Solar New Year of the ancient Maya (as distinct from their 365-day haab) corresponds to July 26, which was observed throughout the Yucatan and the Chilam Balam tradition.  The final such Solar New Year of the 13th baktun occurred on the traditional day 12 Eb, 47 days before 7 Cauac.

This New Year was determined by observing solar zenith (no shadow) at the latitude of Edzna, a pioneering Mayan astronomical center, where the courtyard of the main acropolis contains a gnomon for the purpose.  Edzna shares this latitude, and a number of other characteristics, with the great city of Teotihuacan in central Mexico.  Both cities are laid-out in a virtually identical manner with respect to horizonal astronomy, and both experienced early stages of construction at virtually the same time.  This early stage corresponds roughly to the Long Count’s transition from the 8th to 9th baktun, a date memorialized in the books of Chilam Balam as the beginning of the pyramid-building phase of Mayan civilization.  This baktun shift of 41 AD occurred in a year in which the July 26 zenith at Edzna also coincided with the beginning of the 365-day haab of the Classic Maya, on the traditional day 7 Cauac — an astoundingly uncommon convergence of factors. [6]

The coincidence of 7 Cauac with July 26 in the first year of this important era of Mayan history also entails the occurrence of 13 Muluc on November 13.
  Furthermore, the phases of the moon during this year also correspond to the Eclipse Table and 2012, placing the new moon within one day of Nov 12.  In 41 AD, however, the eclipse did not occur with 12 Lamat / 13 Muluc, but one month earlier.  This indicates a whole other level of synchronization, having to do with the 26,000-year cycle of stellar precession.  In the 1971 years between 41 AD and 2012 the the fixed stars have shifted with respect to the tropical year by approximately 28 days, describing the arc of Earth’s orbit over one lunar month.  The stellar configuration of Earth’s November skies today, corresponds to the configuration of October 2000 years ago. Therefore, according to a galactic frame of reference, the solar eclipses of the 41 AD and 2012 baktun shifts are nearly identical. 

This phenomenon is intrinsically related to the human understanding of precession.  The measurement of eclipses in relation to the fixed stars is one of the chief means by which Hipparchus was able to introduce the concept to Old World astronomy, and it has been suggested that a similar approach was taken by the Maya, with the Pleiades star cluster — important throughout Mesoamerican cosmology — as their point of reference [7].  The luni-stellar alignments of 41 AD and 2012 are such that both years witnessed eclipses with the sun, moon, and Pleiades all in alignment. (The eclipse of May 20, 2012 had its own set of remarkable circumstances, which I have explored elsewhere.)  To appreciate this, on the evening of November 13, whether you are in a position to view the eclipse or not, notice that the Pleiades (that unmistakable glittering jewel) will be rising in the east just after the sun sets in the west.  Reflect that you are witness to the same celestial patterns as the great moon sages, 5 baktuns past.

(Note that all 4 of these solar eclipses — April 19, 41 AD, October 14, 41 AD, May 20, 2012, and November 13, 2012 — are either total, annular, or hybrid, meaning, as opposed to partial eclipses, they all exhibit a perfect alignment between sun, moon, and Earth.)

This 5-baktun cycle is approximately equivalent to one thirteenth of a full precessional cycle of 26,000 years, which takes us back to the Ishango Bone origins.  Recalling that this artifact was discovered at the headwaters of the Nile, it is interesting to consider that according to Egyptian cosmology “an intricate logic links the moon with the Nile through the number 28.” [8]

We have seen one aspect of this “intricate logic” in the eclipse of Osiris by Set, and, through profound synchronicity, its connection to 2012 and the reckoning of the Maya.  There is yet more.  The Egyptian calendar of Plutarch’s time — the Alexandrian, or Coptic calendar — is still maintained by traditional groups in Egypt to this day, as is a structurally identical calendar in Ethiopia.  These calendars usually observe New Year’s Day on September 11, as they did in 2012.  Recalling that the Dreamspell discrepancies highlight an interval of 47 days related to July 26 and 7 Cauac, notice that the Coptic New Year of September 11 occurs exactly 47 days after July 26, and September 11, 2012 was 7 Cauac in the traditional Mayan calendar.

What is the agency behind these incredible synchronizations?  Is it all just a case of apophenia, or does there exist some common thread of intention or attunement?  I will leave it to the reader to decide, but can’t suppress my amazement at the outlandish degree of correspondence.  The numbers, the cycles, the timing; I hope I have done them some justice.  There is currently a popular strain of scholarly backlash against myths of “peaceful stargazers” and the “noble savage”, such that promoting the wisdom of indigenous traditions, or suggesting that ancient people attained levels of achievement that we cannot appreciate today, is liable to elicit accusations of naivety, prejudice, or even racism.  It is not my intention to romanticize ancient or indigenous people, but there exists a potential for harm in this backlash; it can be invoked by those who really are prejudiced, who do have ulterior motives, who, for whatever reason, are threatened by the idea of ancient wisdom.

For 5 baktuns indigenous cultures have been under threat.  For 5 centuries they have faced extinction.  The shift of the 13-baktun cycle is not just another date on just another calendar.  It marks a singular opportunity for people of good faith to recognize, and reflect on our collective connection to the ancient world and the cycles of nature.  Far more than a simple tally of days, the Long Count represents a truly remarkable intellectual and spiritual legacy.  And it’s not over yet.

One cycle gives way to the next.  The thirteenth baktun ends, Baktun Thirteen begins; and we ride the wave of a new 13-moon cycle.  The November 13 eclipse occurs on the Dreamspell equivalent of 13 Muluc, interpreted “13 Moon”.  As anyone remotely familiar with the Dreamspell knows, the “13 Moon” calendar is its principal touchstone.  This 13 Moon calendar is essentially the same as the 13 x 28 almanac of the Paris Codex, the chief difference being the day of the New Year.

The base of the Paris almanac is believed to correspond to that of the Eclipse Table, and marks the beginning of five 364-day years (364 x 5 = 260 x 7).  Over these 5 years the 364-day cycle shifts with respect to the tropical year by 6 or 7 days, a discrepancy addressed by the almanac’s green correction numbers.  Within this 6 or 7-day interval is November 8, which is 260 days — one cycle of the ritual calendar — before July 26.

From the “13 Moon” full solar eclipse of November 13, 2012, if we add the 260-day discrepancy, and then apply the 5-year Paris almanac to the Dreamspell, we arrive at the first day of a 13 Moon year, beginning on the day “13 Moon”.  A full lunar eclipse occurs on the following day.  Welcome to the New Time!


[1] Bricker, Harvey M. and Bricker, Victoria R., Zodiacal References in the Maya Codices,       from The Sky in Mayan Literature, ed. Anthony F. Aveni, 148-183, Oxford University Press, 1992: 153-154

[2] Grofe, Michael John. 2007. The Serpent Series: Precession in the Maya Dresden Codex. PhD dissertation, Davis: University of California, 2007: 142-143

[3] Grofe pp.154-157

[4] Sir Fred Hoyle suggested a method of calculation involving 4 markers around the circle. Two of these markers, corresponding to the lunar nodes, would be moved on a yearly basis. Of the other two, one would be moved two holes every day, completing a full circuit in 28 days, while the other would be moved every 13 days.  (Gregg, DP, The Stonehenge Codes: A New Light on Ancient Knowledge?, 2010: 212-213.)

[5] For his discussion these matters, see Plutarch, “Isis and Osiris”, translated from The Moralia by Frank Cole Babbitt, vol. 5 Loeb Classical Library 1936: 103-109, 75 <Retrieved 9/24/2012>

[6] Although July 26, 41 AD was 7 Cauac, the first day of the Classic haab occurred 2 days earlier on July 24.  This reflects different traditions of “year bearer” observation, which shifted over time.  Edzna played a crucial role in recording these shifts, and according to the Chilam Balam tradition, the first day of the haab in 41 AD would indeed have fallen with 7 Cauac on July 26.  Note the relation of the 2-day year-bearer shift to the 2-day “warning station” discrepancy of the Eclipse Table.  My discussion of Edzna is based on the work of Vincent Malmstrom, and it should be noted that while invaluable, Malmstrom’s chronological analysis is based exclusively on the non-traditional (GMT+2) correlation, and is not 100% consistent.

[7] Grofe p.108

[8] Quote from Krupp, E. C., Echoes of the Ancient Skies: The Astronomy of Lost Civilizations, Courier Dover Publications 2003: 18.  See Plutarch p.105.  I discuss this more in-depth in my article “Planetary Culture of 13 Moons Part I: The Ancient Artifacts”.

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2 total comments on this postSubmit yours
  1. OK, great, and so what?… CONCRETELY what should I do about it?
    Again the same blah-blah and brainwash about 2012, the Maya and so on.
    I guess and I will go back to my siesta.

  2. First of all my birthday is November 13. Second of all I studied the Dreamspell Calender beside Jose Arguelles for 7 weeks in 1999. Your idea of “Intricate logic” within “ancient wisdom” goes a bit deeper than you are “peace-mealing” together. What you Aaron Woolrich from Reality Sandwich are designing for us to consider is the idea of the 5 Baktuns approximately 394 years in length beginning in AD 41, and ending in 2012 have similar November 13 Eclipses. Have you heard of the 13 Katun cycle 256 x 5 yielding 1280 years, 690 years less than 5 Baktuns? Tell me, I am wrong to place Linda Schele’s date for the Paris Codex in Scorpio in 690 AD which is the difference between 5 Katun-Ahau’s of 256 years and 8 Baktuns, 30 years shy of 2000, i.e. 1970 years? Nevertheless I understand your overall logic with the 168-169 phenomena but the rabbit bone-hole “Goethe” deeper. What you are ending up doing, by supporting “the new time” is only a rehash of how the British Empire stole the 13×13 secret and gave it (the nature of the beast) to build the American Dream. To complete your journey here on earth you must at sum-point or another consider that in reality you don’t know where in time 41 AD is, i.e., the beginning of the eighth so-called baktun of the anointed one? Or do you? Was it 2647 + 41 = 2688, or, 3433 + 41 = 3474 BC, or 4004 + 41 = 4045, or 4388 + 41 = 4429 or 4557 + 41 = 4598, or as late as 4969 + 41 = 5010? I can show how the mystery of the placement of Baktun number 8, is solved by the 210 stone layers of the Khufu Pyramid. For one who looks closely you should know the answers to that.

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