"Venus, Moon and the Tzolkin Calendar"
© February 1995 by John Major Jenkins.

What follows is a brief summary of concepts relating to Mayan cosmology I explored in my recent book Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies (Borderlands Science Research Foundation, Garberville, CA, 1994). The Maya were privy to a profound understanding of the cosmos just now being deciphered. There are a couple of basic properties that really bring home the deeper meaning of the Mayan Calendar, the tzolkin . There are straightforward connections between the cycles of Venus, the moon and the tzolkin. For example, the 260-day cycle can be used to predict eclipses in the following way. Eclipses occur, on the average, every 173.33 days. This is known as the "eclipse half-year." Three of these equal 520 days, and this is exactly two tzolkins. Thus, it was very easy for the ancient skywatchers to predict eclipses with the 260-day cycle. Furthermore, Venus is visible as morningstar for about 258 days. In general, the tzolkin is the key to a larger calendric system which can predict many astronomical cycles of the moon and planets.

On the other hand, the 260-day cycle also relates to cycles that are closer to home, so to speak. Barbara Tedlock, in her book Time and the Highland Maya (1982), tells us that there is a 260-day period between the planting and harvesting of corn in the highlands of Guatemala. Most importantly, the period of human gestation is roughly 260 days. The modern Quiche daykeeper Andres Xiloj explicitly offers this as an explanation for the tzolkin's meaning. So, the tzolkin relates as much to organic processes on the earth as to celestial cycles in the heavens. Here we have the core of the tzolkin's incredible properties: it unites terrestrial and celestial processes under one principle. Said another way, the tzolkin contains a single principle which operates equally in both the sky and on earth. Of course, this is really the "as above, so below" principle of astrology, but Mayan cosmology developed this insight with great ingenuity and sophistication. It should also be said that the tzolkin is therefore less of a human invention, and more of a profound insight into the organizational tendencies within nature. As such, it is a kind of Mayan "Unified Theory," based upon a clear insight into universal processes. This is the general framework I have developed in my work with the tzolkin.

Venus has a profound relationship with the core principle of the tzolkin. In my books on the tzolkin I have put forward the notion that the principle at the core of the 260-day cycle is none other than the Golden Proportion. I argue this by looking at the mathematics and the philosophy of the Golden Proportion, and compare it to what we know, and the Maya themselves offer, about the tzolkin. The Golden Proportion is a unique principle in nature. It determines the spirals in pine-cones, seashells, the geometry of the human body and appears in many other organic processes. In the words of Jose Arguelles, it is the principle of "self-same similarity." So, it's not strictly about spirals. The Golden Proportion is best understood in terms of "repeating patterns at successive scales," nestled chinese dolls, and musical harmonies. In human terms, reproduction itself is a process ruled by the Golden Proportion. Like the cumulative spirals on a sea shell, each successive human generation is based about what came before, yet is one step further on in the process. What I'm getting at here is simple: The Golden Proportion is a much under-rated principle in nature, and it is responsible for most of the tzolkin's properties.

I'd prefer not to get too involved in the mathematics of this in this brief article, but the relationship between the Golden Proportion and the tzolkin is actually quite simple. The Golden Proportion is usually approximated as 1.618, and is symbolized by the Greek letter PHI (rhymes with "why"). One of the qualities of this number which defines it as unique is the fact that 1.618 x 1.618 = 1.618 + 1. (In other words, PHI-squared = PHI + 1). The result is 2.618. Numerology comes into play here, because 2.618 x 100 = 261.8, which approximates the tzolkin cycle. The formula is quite simple, and underlies the amazing relationships we've already discussed: 100 times PHI squared approximately equals 260. I've received some questions about the validity of this claim, mostly on the grounds that it is not precise. The discrepency is less than 1/2 percent, not bad for any model, and the notion is supported completely by the phenomenological similarity between the tzolkin and the Golden Proportion. For example, both determine cyclic processes on earth and in the sky. We've already discussed how the tzolkin does this, as well as the relationship of the Golden Proportion to organic processes in nature. The Golden Proportion relates to celestial patterns when we remember the work of Johannes Kepler, who created his "Harmony of the Spheres" model of the solar system based upon the 5 Platonic Solids and the Golden Proportion. Kepler's theory provided a good model for the planets known in his day. More specifically, the movements of Venus and the sun provide an approximate reference to the Golden Proportion, in two ways. A cycle of Venus is said to begin with its morningstar appearance, which happens once every 584 days. Five of these cycles occur in exactly eight years. Thus, the sun and Venus have a 8:5 relationship, and 8/5 = 1.6. This approximates the 1.618 of the Golden Proportion. Even more compelling is the amazing fact that because of this relationship, Venus traces a five-pointed star around the ecliptic every 8 years! The pentagram of Old World wicca has its esoteric roots in this fact, probably going back to Egypt and the Chaldeans. Furthermore, the pentagram contains within it geometrical divisions precisely equalling 1.618.

I'm focussing on this Venus information because I want to clarify this aspect of my book, Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies . In Chapter Two, probably the most difficult chapter, I reconstruct the Venus Calendar of the ancient Maya. The modern Maya have lost the ancient Venus calendar, and what I present is a reconstruction based upon the simplest criteria. Thirteen of the 8-year pentagram cycles equal the Venus Round of 104 years. This is an important "big" cycle, because it represents the synchronization of the tzolkin, solar year and Venus cycles. This 104-year cycle is the Venus Calendar followed by the ancient Maya at cities such as Palenque and Chichen Itza. It began when Venus rose as morningstar in the east on the Sacred Day of Venus, One Ahau. This occurs only once every 104 years. Because this gradually falls out of synchronization, problems arise. The Maya developed complex corrections, and to explore them would detract from my simple presentation. The Venus Calendar was destroyed at the time of the conquest. In my book I have reconstructed the Venus Calendar, and have asked the question "when is the next Sacred Day of Venus?" My method was very simple. We simply have to locate the next time Venus rises as morningstar on the tzolkin day One Ahau. We know what tzolkin day it is because the ancient count of days is still being followed in the highlands of Guatemala by over one million traditional Maya. The count they follow is the same one followed by their ancient predecessors, those who built the great Classic cities such as Tikal and Copan. In other words, despite what many believe, the Maya are still very much alive and continue to track time according to the ancient count of days. The count that comes down to us today, still used by day-keepers among the Quiche, Cakchiquel, Tzutujil and a dozen other groups, has been followed unbroken for almost 3000 years. This information can be found in Barbara Tedlock's excellent book, cited above, or Munro Edmonson's Book of the Year . (1988). Furthermore, this was the universal Mesoamerican count also followed by the Yucatec Maya, the Toltecs, the Zapotecs of Monte Alban, the Aztecs and the Olmec as well. This is not a question even subject to academic debate, and is not very surprising considering the great continuity and coherence of Mesoamerican civilization. So, knowing the true count of days, we can look at a planetary ephemeris and find the next date that Venus makes its first morningstar appearance on One Ahau. This occurs, precisely, on April 3rd, 2001 A.D. This would then seem to be the best choice for the next Sacred Day of Venus, to begin a new Venus Round period of 104 years.

This date is just about 8 years after the beginning point of the last katun of the Long Count Great Cycle. This great cycle of 13-baktuns ends on December 21st, 2012 A.D. Katun periods are divisions of the 13-baktun cycle, each lasting 7200 days (19.71 years). This means that the final katun of the Great Cycle, the 260th katun, the 4 Ahau katun, began on in the Long Count, which was April 6th, 1993. Amazingly, Venus rose as morningstar on this day. I found it somewhat disappointing that in Dreamspell literature we were told that the final katun began on July 26th, 1992. This was simply wrong, and was quite apparent because even without a calendar one will notice that the interval between July of 1992 and December of 2012 is larger than 1 katun cycle. The fact is that the true beginning point of the last katun synchronized with a Venus rising, and I'm uncertain why this amazing calendric conjunction, based upon the true tzolkin and Long Count placement, was overlooked.

There are many Mayan mysteries to still be fathomed. Every year we learn more and more about the ancient cosmological knowledge of the Maya. Scholars are now limited by there own limited understanding of universal principles and processes, and the interpretations emerging from academia are at best disingenuous. My book is an attempt to address and elucidate some of the deeper possibilities implicit in Mayan Studies.