Presently there is no universal basis for what qualifies the start of a new year. Every culture has its own set of parameters for determining it. The Chinese celebrate theirs in either late January or early February according their lunar calendar. The ancient Egyptians linked the appearance of the star Sirius and the annual flooding of the Nile river to signal the start of their new year. (Lions Gate 8/8/20) The many cultures of India celebrate the new year on various dates during the month of April. Europe’s Nordic cultures keyed it to the Winter solstice. The Celtic, Samhain, now vulgarized as Halloween, is celebrated by present day neo pagans, Wiccans and Druids as the start of their new year.
The Maori of New Zealand looked for the appearance of the Pleiades in May to signal the start of the new year. The Hawaiians also pegged their new year to the appearance of the Pleiades, but their new year fell in October.
The Aztec-Mexicans celebrated the new year in early March several days before the spring equinox. Even the Maya celebrate 2 different new years dates. One equates to February 22 and some celebrate July 26th. (Dreamspell Version)
And then there is Gregorian January 1st to mark the start of the new year for Westerners. January 1st was arrived at as the start of the new year in order to honor Julius Ceasar’s exploit as the founder of the “rational calendar”.
Contrast that line of reasoning with the fact that the new year of non-western cultures is related to some seasonal and/or astronomical aspect. The foregoing is why I refer to the Gregorian calendar as an urban calendar, for it reflects the whims of the city lords more than anything else.
The most common denominator for the start of the new year in most other calendar systems is the start of the growing season or end of the harvest season. In some cases, either of the solstices or equinoxes are recognized as the start of the year. The start of the new year for cultures other than the Euro-western is related to the agricultural, seasonal, and astronomical particulars of each region.
A Bi-Universal New Year?: Solsticial New Year
Many pre-Christian cultures of Europe’s northern hemispheric latitudes recognized the winter solstice as the start of the new year as the Sun symbolically dies and is reborn on that day.
The start of the new year cycle can be viewed as universal for those in northern hemisphere when reckoned from the winter solstice, and as defined by the life cycle changes that accompanies the attendant atmospheric conditions (rain, dryness, snow, etc) as the sun ascends and descends. The same would apply to those of the southern hemisphere, except that their new year would start with what we in the north refer to as the summer or June solstice. I prefer to designate the solstices according to the month they take place within rather than say summer or winter, because the seasons are reversed depending on which hemisphere you happen to live in.
The process of cooling and warming is minimized in most parts of the tropical regions. The most defining aspect of seasonal variation in the tropics is dry and rainy seasons. Nonetheless it is the Sun’s to and fro movement, and its attendant affect on atmospheric conditions that drives precipitation patterns. Therefore we can associate the start of the new year with the solstice that marks the start of a rising Sun for each hemisphere, since it is the rising solstice Sun that initiates the life cycle for each hemisphere.
The solstices do indeed provide us with fixed starting points for each hemisphere’s respective new year as it relates to the life cycle, but might there be a truly universal new year that applies to the entire planet as a whole regardless of local particulars?
The Arguellen Universal Calendar Proposal
Jose Arguelles proposed the universal adoption of what he calls the 13 Moon Calendar. Thirteen “moons”, or months of 28 days, plus one day would give a clean, orderly and easy to use civil calendar. (13×28 = 364 +1 = 365) I won’t go into all the reasons on why a uniform calendar is far better than the Gregorian hodge-podge we have now. But if you think about it some of the reasons should become clear. He was not the first to propose a new and improved universal calendar.
His calendar proposal is based on the Mayan Tun Uc calendar which also measures 13 months of 28 days plus one day. Arguelles anchored the start of his 13 Moon calendar to July 26th. But why July 26th? What is so special about that date? The followingquote from his website gives us his rationale.
“For many ancient peoples, including the Dogon and Egyptians of Africa and the Maya of Central America, the great star Sirius, the brightest star in the sky, was the galactic marker. The heliacal rising of Sirius – July 26 – commenced the Egyptian year”. ~ Jose Arguelles
The problem with his rational is that its mostly inaccurate. Sirius did loom large in Dogon and Egyptian cosmology, but I have yet to come across any information indicating that it had any sort of calendrical function among the Maya.
Additionally, the Dogon did not use the star Sirius as a calendrical marker. And the start of the Egyptian new year is July 19th not the 26th and the helical rise of Sirius is also around the same time–July 19-20.
Lastly, we did not understand the concept of a galaxy until the 1920’s when we discovered, thanks to telescopes, that we inhabit one of billions of galaxies. The Arguellen account does not give us any reason whatsoever to say that July 26th is the start of some universally valid new year, even though he insists it is.
There are two testable and key parts to his universal year cycle proposal. One is that it starts on July 26th and the other is that each of its 13 months are characterized by a set of qualities in the same way that each day of the Tzolkin’s 13 day tone cycle has it particular qualities.
In other words the 13 day tone cycle is a fractal of the 13 month year cycle, as proposed by Arguelles. The first month of the 13 month year cycle carries the same qualities as the first tone of the 13 day tone cycle and so on. But this article will focus solely on the question of universal new year and its probable start date, if one exists.
So what else can be said about July 26th?
The 365 day civil calendar of ancient Mesoamerica was known as the Haab among the Maya and as the Xiuhpohualli among the Aztecs. The ancient Mesoamericans did not anchor their civil calendar to any part of the year in the way the Gregorian calendar does by adding a leap day every 4 years. This means that the start of Mesoamerica’s civil calendar year drifted by one day every 4 years.
At the time of the Spanish invasion, the first day of Mayan Haab calendar, “0 Pop”, coincided with July 26th, and hence forth the Mayan Haab was fixed to July 26th for unclear reasons. Spanish imposition is most likely the reason for the Haab’s fixation to July 26th.
July 26th is also significant for one other reason, for it is the day that the Sun is at the zenith over two of Mesoamerica’s most important pyramid sites. Teotihuacan marked the solar zenith passage date for the Toltecs and Edzna marked the July 26th solar zenith passage for the Yucatec Maya.
But there is still nothing universal about a Spanish imposition, nor are solar zenith passage dates, for they will vary according to latitude within the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.[fig. 1]
August 13th is most famous for being the alternative start date for the beginning of the Maya Long Count Cycle. There is a 2 day discrepancy between when the Long Count may have actually started. The account with the most backing says its August 11th, 3114 BCE, and that date gives us the end date of December 21st, 2012. August 13th gives us the end date of December 23rd.
The Zapotec-Shearer-Arguellen Tzolkin may be able to shed some light on that subject, but that investigation will be for another time. And after this analysis I am inclined to think that August 13th may carry more weight than August 11th. The other principle reason that August 13th is well known among Maya scholars is due to the unique timing phenomena that occurs on August 13th, at the latitude of 14.8 north. I will have to forego the extremely fascinating history behind the discovery of August 13th at the latitude of 14.8 N for this article, but I will relate what is most salient to my purpose here.
The latitude of 14.8 north has the distinction of being the place where the sun’s two zenith passage dates combine to equate interval periods of 260 days and 105 days (105 + 260 = 365). Two hundred and sixty days is the number of days in the Tzolkin cycle calendar, or the most revered body of knowledge in all of ancient Mesoamerica.
Zenith passage dates can only occur between the tropics of Cancer and Capricorn.[fig.1] As the Earth tilts on its axis, we see the Sun rise and fall in the sky over the course of the year. The tropics, or the lines of latitude just mentioned, mark the Sun’s northernmost and southernmost points of inclination and declination. The tropic of Cancer is located 23.5 degrees north of the equator, and it marks the day the Sun is directly overhead on the June solstice. The tropic of Capricorn is located 23.5 degrees south of the equator, and it marks the day the Sun is directly overhead on the December solstice.
It has been suggested by many scholars that the 260 day Tzolkin and the 365 day civil calendar were developed at the ancient ceremonial site of Izapa. Izapa is one of two major ancient Mesoamerican ceremonial centers that are located at the latitude of 14.8. The other site is Copan which is found on the border between Honduras and Guatemala. [fig.2] Izapa is located near the Mexican-Guatemalan border.
John Major Jenkins and a few others believe that the Long Count Cycle was calibrated at Izapa, and they are probably right about that, but from my vantage point I believe that neither the Tzolkin cycle nor the 365 day calendar were discovered or formulated there.
I won’t get into my version now, but I will say that I believe that the Ancient Mesoamericans (AMA) sought out the place where the two primary measures of time, the Tzolkin and solar cycles met in perfect harmony.
Such a place would be nothing less than the place where the “Heart of Earth” meets the “Heart of Heaven” within their worldview. The Heart of Earth being the 365 pulses (beats) that we experience as a day-night cycle, and the Heart of Heaven being the 260 pulses of the Tzolkin cycle. In other words, the Tzolkin was regarded as the primary or cosmic timing standard. The implication is that the solar cycle is a local timing standard, particular only to our unique place in time and space, but nonetheless supremely relevant to why our solar system harbors life.
In order to show what is meant by the foregoing, let’s begin with the Sun at the December solstice. On the Sun’s northward journey it crosses the zenith over Izapa on April 30th.
The Sun continues climbing until it stops its northward journey on the June solstice, or the day the sun is directly over the tropic of Cancer, and once again begins its southward journey toward the winter solstice. On its southward journey it will again be directly over Izapa on August 13th for its second zenith passage.
Please note that our warming season from winter to summer solstice corresponds to when the earth’s northern hemisphere is tilted toward the sun and the opposite is true in the winter time.
April 30th to August 12th equals 105 days and from August 13th to April 29th there are 260 days. (260+105=365) The two solar zenith passages are separated by 105 days in the former interval, and by 260 days in the latter.
The interval from August 13th to April 29th places the December solstice smack dab in the middle at 130 days or one half of a Tzolkin Cycle.
Furthermore, there are 52 days from the summer solstice to August 12th, and we well know that the number 52 was highly revered by the AMA for its meaning within their understanding of time.
August 13th would be the equivalent of our January 1st and August 12 would be the same as December 31st.
But why August instead of April?
August 13th came to be known among the AMA as “the day the world was born” and “as the place where time began“. But why did they pick the August zenith passage date over the April zenith passage to anchor the “day the world was born”, and mark the start of the new year and the Long Count cycle?
The one thing that comes to mind is that they recognized the December solstice as the start of the solstice to solstice year cycle, and so that would make the August zenith passage the second or completing zenith passage date, hence completing the centering aspect of the Sun’s passage and the next passage date is a full 260 days away with the winter solstice perfectly balanced between the 2 zenith passage dates.
We must remember that one of the AMA’s most important cosmological quests was worldcentering, therefore they would value counting the year cycle from center point to center point, rather than from extreme point (summer solstice) to extreme point (winter solstice) so to speak. Following this line of reasoning, I looked to the night sky to see if it could shed some light on this subject.
I set my astronomy software to 3114 BCE to see if the night or day sky at the zenith time over Izapa might reveal something telling about why else the August 13th zenith date might have been favored over April 30th. I discovered that the Milky Way straddles the north-south meridian at midnight in such a way as to form a perfect cross just 20 degrees from the zenith. The four quarters of the world are made manifest by such an event, and the observer is at the very center of it all. On April 30, the Milky Way is not perpendicular to the zenith meridian until the dawn.
The actuality of the evening’s most revered object, the Milky Way, forming a cross with the north-south meridian at the zenith and at midnight, on the same day that the day-time’s most revered object, the Sun, is at the zenith only reinforces the idea of August 13th as the center of space and time in the most literal of terms.
There is one other consideration, and that is the agricultural season. The first corn crop is sown to coincide with the start of the rainy season around the end of April-start of May – the time of the first zenith passage. The first harvest happens right around the middle of August or near the second zenith passage. We know that harvest time is often a factor for pin pointing a year cycle start date among other cultures, but this aspect, unlike the first two, is not a universal condition, and we are looking for universal parameters.
August 13th: Ancient Mesoamerica’s Universal New Year
It seems that August 13th was regarded as the start of a universal new year among all major pyramid building cultures of Mesoamerica. It has been found that at least one major aspect of almost every major ceremonial center has an axis or focal point of some sort aligned with the sunset of August 13th. In other words it was widely acknowledged that Izapa was situated at the “Heart of Earth” and that the work done at Izapa was supremely important to the foundation of Mesoamerican cosmology.
In acknowledgement of Izapa and August 13t, other ceremonial centers oriented at least one major structure toward the sunset of August 13th. In other words Izapa represented nothing less than the place where the tangible fulcrum of earthly time, and the intangible fulcrum of cosmic time met in perfect harmony.
Three hundred and sixty-five days is the measure of earthly time and 260 days is the measure of cosmic time. Heart of Earth and Heart of Sky are two very important metaphors in Mesoamerican cosmology, for they too, like so many other cultures, recognized that everything emerges from some infinitesimal center place.
The perceptible Heart of Sky is the zenith, and also from Izapa they discovered the intangible, but supreme center of our local universe, or the heart of our Galaxy.
So it was that they developed the Long Count to calibrate when Father Sun would be reborn from the Cosmic Mother. (Jenkins Maya Cosmogenesis). By doing so they achieved the holy grail of Mesoamerica’s other great quest known as Worldrenewing.
For more on the concepts of Heart of Earth-Heart of Heaven and Cosmic and Earthly time, please see Cosmic Time Meets Earth Time: The Numbers of Supreme Wholeness & Reconciliation Revealed
Before concluding I want to go back to July 26th. As mentioned earlier the zenith of July 26th was marked by the ceremonial centers of Edzna in the Yucatec Maya lands, and at Teotihhuacan – land of the multi-culturally composed Toltecs.
Edzna was the first major ceremonial center of the Yucatec Maya and Teotihuacan was the major ceremonial center for the highland Toltecs. The pre-imminent Maya scholar Vincent Malmstrom thinks that the northern periphery of grand Mesoamerican culture, as marked by Edzna and Teotihuacan, switched the official start of the new year from August 13th to July 26th.
According to Malmstrom, a calendar reform of sorts took place in the year 48 CE, in which July 26th became the new “new year” start date for the Yucatec region and Teotihuacan, since both centers were built where the sun is at the zenith on July 26th.
We don’t know exactly what prompted this change, but Malmstrom thinks it had to do with having a “locally relevant new year”. It may have been a political tactic to establish Edzna as the new power center of an emerging civilization.
Even so they continued to acknowledge the universality of August 13th as they made sure that one axis of a major pyramid was oriented toward the setting sun of August 13th. August 13th became a foundational orientation to many if not all major ceremonial centers.
Earlier I mentioned that the Maya civil calendar, the Haab had been fixed to start on July 26th at the time of the Spanish invasion. Thus the prominence of July 26th in the historical record was doubly reinforced, since the roving start date of the civil calendar, and the July 26th solar-zenithal passage new year are two distinct ways of measuring the year cycle.
Recently I met a Maya man from Guatemala, and he did confirm that July 26th is still recognized as the first day of the new year, and this had nothing to do with the Arguellen proposition to create a new universal calendar with July 26th as its start date. Arguelles it seems borrowed the start date for his universal calendar proposal without giving full disclosure as to why he had chosen that date.
August 13th has a couple of strong reasons as to why it’s a prime candidate for a universally valid start of the year. July 26th is another serious choice because of its strong presence in the historical record. However, there are problems with the July 26th date because we have yet to discover any universally valid properties to that day.
Whatever the case, the month of August looms large in the historical record as it relates to the story of 2012 and Mesoamerican history. The following list of events only seems to affirm the significance of the time period called August:
- Either August 11th or 13th is the start date of the Long Count Cycle.
- Hernán Cortés began his march on the Aztec capital on August 16th, 1519.
- The Aztec Empire fell on August 13th, 1921.
- The atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki happened on August 6th and 9th respectively.
- Tony Shearer fulfilled the prophecy of the 13 Heavens and 9 Hells prophecy cycle by calculating its end date on August 16th-17th, 1987. The fact that Arguelles was able to successfully convoke a global gathering on those two dates (Harmonic Convergence) lends even more weight to mid-August as some sort of peak moment in the solar cycle. Harmonic Convergence was a major event in the history of humankind, for it was the world’s first global ritual event and it took place before the internet was publicly available.
Those of you familiar with my article on Anticipating Personal and Collective Shifts in relation to MAC Time Science, should consider mid-August 13 as a cycle juncture window. A cycle juncture window is a period of time before and after a cycle ending zero date or August 12th in this case. Shift-type events are most likely to happen during a cycle juncture window; review the article in question for more details.
May you all have a joyful August 13th!