When I first started following the Tzolkin I found a handful of superimposed interpretations, offered by José Argüelles in his Dreamspell system, which assisted me in getting into the unique rhythm of this 260-day cycle.
One interpretation/tool was portal days. The other was core days.
The third must be defining 1-Imix as the first day and 13-Ahau as the last.
That was back in 2010.
Since completely integrating the calendar into my everyday, back-burner/subconscious metronome, I’ve made the decision of following Kenneth Johnson’s lead to keep my entire work and research into the Tzolkin as authentic as I can possibly make it.
This is important to me mainly because there are highland Maya families and communities today living their lives on the other side of my planet, by a calendar that is their own cultural legacy. Any interpretations I might have of their calendar I can share freely with whomever is interested in knowing. But a clear line has to be maintained regarding where reports and evidence end and where opinion begins.
Right around the time Carl-Yohan Calleman’s Tun calendar turned the October 2011 corner, keeping the Tzolkin calendar ‘clean and real’ meant for me stripping it from Western interpretations, to the best of my abilities and judgement.
What does that mean? Well, for starters, taking a 5000-year-long (bak’tun) calendar’s end date and projecting the gospel of the book of Revelation on it is probably a good example of a miserable western influence and interpretation of the singularly-unique Mayan calendric system.
In appreciative retrospect, the 2012 hype was a fear-porn incentive for most people to remain irresponsible, in perpetual infancy and dependence, strung out on an authority fix, asleep and consuming. The meme had to be stripped.
But, it did bring the Mayan culture to the peeved attention of a great host of people from all around the world, which was all good and welcomed. That’s what it took.
José (10-Chuen), my pet Pascal lamb
Argüelles and his imaginative game board “Dreamspell” found himself playing the role of the usual suspect (and probably scape goat, too) in my book. Along with his very useful portal and core days. His great work must be, for a long time coming, recognized as inauthentic, destructive and untrue to the Mayan culture in general, and the Master Tzolkin specifically.
For starters, a misleading version of the Tzolkin count is included in the Dreamspell system, but the count itself is currently set 46 days ahead of the master Tzolkin (1-Caban in MT; 8-Akbal in DS). Secondly, the Dreamspell’s one significant day of the year is known as ‘the day outside of time’: the solar-cycle-based day we all know as July 25th. This makes the Dreamspell a heliocentric time meter, much like the Gregorian and other agriculture-based calendars, and a flawed one at that. It is no longer the cyclical, eternal Tzolkin.
What Argüelles , in his utter ignorance of basic math, has left out of the Dreamspell construct is of course the leap-year addition of February the 29th every four solar years. This accounts for the fact that in 2012, and again in this year, the Dreamspell calendar shows two consecutive days that have the same sun-sign and number (tone) combination in their Tzolkin reading.
This is a no-no as far as the basic mechanism of the calendar is concerned.
This has to be the one single mishap you should take on board as the tell-tale signature of amateur work, and misleading work to be sure. If there’s one good reason to let go of José’s new-age GMO Mayan soup, it is this one.
The Dreamspell is out of tune. It remains today the most important meme yet to be stripped.
A 260-bar music sheet
The way I understood José’s (still valuable) contribution was to look at the Tzolkin the way I look at a musical sheet for the first time. I personally begin at what I like to call ‘the legend’ of the score. This little map is always located across the top of the sheet, and on the top-left corner of the piece. It holds basic guidelines, like the meter, key, and scale.
Not the mention the title, which has a way of always meaning something.
Let’s say the piece is on a common 4/4 meter. So my next move is to go over the bars and add note and silence durations till I get to 4 per bar. It continues from there to other methods of getting the bearings and feel of the music, which is very individual for each musician.
The portal and core days in the Dreamspell Tzolkin represent what Argüelles has superimposed over this music piece as a guide to its dynamics. Each portal day is like a new bar of music, which intensifies, reaches the core days, and then ‘exhales’ to a conclusion. This is actually a good way to look at this evolutionary process, but it is also artificial, linear rather than cyclical (as any Mayan calendar should be), and based on personal interpretations.
As a western student, it has been convenient for me to get a sense of the entire music of the Tzolkin by following the Dreamspell’s fairy tale. But soon after I began to understand and internalize the portal and core day rhythm I realized I have to leave them behind if I am to live by the Tzolkin in a more profound, authentic, and personal way.
The map and compass
Ian Lungold used to mention the Tzolkin in some off-hand way during his presentations. As 3-Seed Paul told me recently, “Ian used to say ‘yeah, and there’s this Tzolkin calendar the Maya based everything on. It’s cool – check it out!’ and then go back to Calleman’s presentation.” It’s kind of ironic.
It’s high time to grow up and move away from the supports and illusory scaffolds that used to comfort us and tell us how to think and how to understand a deep and sophisticated native culture.
It’s up to just one person now. You guessed it.
By inspiration from José, Ian, Kenneth, Carl, and all my teachers, past and present, I thought up my own Tzolkin primer intro paragraph, and it goes:
The Tzolkin is a map of time I’m giving you. It can help you personally to know your own way around time, and probably to ‘manage’ it better. Now, whenever someone gives you a map you need to ask them at least the following two key questions, the answers to which should help you in deciding which destinations to focus on.
The first question is ‘where am I now on the map?’ and it’s the first step in navigation.
The second might be ‘where did I begin?’ or, ‘when did my instrument begin to play this musical piece?’ This is a deeper aspect of the place you find yourself today.
Then you should be all set to GO!, unless you wish to know more about the map and terrain from the one who is handing it to you. Perhaps you’ll need some more time to prepare for the journey (which you’ve always been on).
On your path of establishing your own repoire with this map, keep in mind that whatever destination you set, at any given time you’ll be moving either towards it or away from it, since time is cyclic. You’ll recognize the same issues and patterns coming back to you at regular intervals.
Remember that your own personal history is the very ground you find yourself standing on today. It cannot be simply set aside as ‘the past’ if you are to understand anything, let alone yourself and your time. This is because time is a pyramid, built one floor over the previous one. In this respect another imagery can be a that time is the wake of a ship (which is also a triangle), beginning from the prow of your now, and expanding back behind you.
Remember also that you can never be exactly at the same place in Time when the cycle repeats itself and you arrive at the same day again. For time is a spiraling pyramid of evolution. And as an integral part of it, you, like nature itself, meet similar challenges at ever-increasing levels of complexity and demand.