The Sacred round (Guatemala Highlands: chol q’ij, Yucatec: tzolk’in) is an enigmatic ritual calendar that was extensively used in Mayan inscriptions and codices. Symbolism related to the Sacred round is also observed in the Popol Vuh. The Guatemala highland peoples knew the Sacred round as chol q’ij, meaning "count of days". The Yucatec Maya use a Sacred round known as the tzolk’in, meaning "division of days".[1]

Maya sacred roundEdit

Terrestrial cyclesEdit

A Sacred round is a 260-day calendar that is based on terrestrial cycles for the planting of maize crop.[2] The zenith transit days may have been significant for agriculture along the south coast of Guatemala because April 30 occurs just before the rainy season. Modern Maya plant their corn at the end of April or early in May. In the August 13 zenith transit, the Maya initiate its current era in this day, approximating been related to the gestation period of a human life.

Day cyclesEdit

All Maya sacred round cycles run 260 days,[3] consisting of numerals 1 to 13 alternating against a cycle of twenty day glyphs. On the fourteenth glyph, the numeral cycle starts over again at 1. A Sacred round spans 13 months having twenty days each, until a total of 260 different combinations of numerals and glyphs complete the full cycle. (13 numerals x 20 day glyphs = 260 combinations).[4].

In the Guatemalan highland sacred round (Chol Q’ij), the cycle starts with the day glyph B’atz’ (Chuwen) and ends with T’zi (Ok). The Yucatec sacred round (Tzolk'in) starts with Imix’ (Imox) and ends with Ajaw (Ajpu), following in the same order. The meanings of the glyphs, between the Highland and the Yucatec, may slightly vary in meaning, as well as the type of glyph used.

Signs and numbersEdit

Each day sign represented by a glyph, and its accompanying daily numeral has their own spirit. They are often referred to as naguales or "spirit guides". The naguales embody the essential myths and archetypes of the ancient lands of the Maya. They rule certain elements or aspects of life being the primary archetypes of human character. The day signs carry a masculine energy, while the numbers are considered feminine in nature.

Each of the twenty day signs hold the sacred role of shaping and influencing the character and destiny of a person, which is based on the combined energies of their Mayan birth sign and number. For the Maya, each person brings with them their innate character, abilities, professional preference, and other traits already at birth.[5] The chol q’ij may even have been used by midwives, because 260 days can be counted from the 20 day period of human conception, when the heart of the fetus starts to beat, until birth.

The numbers one to thirteen, that accompany the day signs, modify the nature of the day. Low numbers, such as 1, 2, and 3 are considered "gentle". The middle numbers 7, 8, and 9 are stable. The high numbers 11, 12, and 13 are "violent".[6]

Day keepersEdit

A person’s birthday matching the day of a Sacred round glyph helped to determine if they were meant to be a Day keeper. Children born on Ak’bal, Kaban, K’an, Kimi, Ben, Eb, Manik’, Lamat, Ix, and Men have “lightning souls”, the ability to receive messages from the external world. The “lightning” is said to be felt in the blood. Once accepted for training, apprentice day keepers begin a schedule of visiting shrines on special days.[2]

See alsoEdit


  1. Mayan Calendar: Tzolk'in
  2. 2.0 2.1 Barnhart, 2005, p.113
  3. Kettunen & Helmke, 2008, p.39
  4. Pitts, 2009, p.48, 49
  5. LUCITA Inc., (2013). The Mayan Calendar Portal: tzolk'in
  6. Elin C. Danien & Robert J. Sharer, 1992. New Theories on the Ancient Maya, UPenn Museum of Archaeology, 9780924171130, p.218-219


  • Barnhart, Edwin L. (2005 revision). The First Twenty-Three Pages of the Dresden Codex: The Divination Pages
  • Foster, Lynn V. (2005) Handbook to Life in the Ancient Maya World, Oxford University Press, 9780195183634
  • Harri Kettunen & Christophe Helmke (2008), Introduction to Maya Hieroglyphs: Workshop Handbook
  • Pitts, Mark. (2009) Maya Numbers & The Maya Calendar: A Non-Technical Introduction to Maya Glyphs, Book 2

External linksEdit