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Jose Arguelles' Calendrical Dreams
U kahlay katunob (calendar wheel) from Landa, Relacion de las cosas de Yucatan (1556). 
An exchange something like this occurred recently on a web forum I sometimes visit: 

Question: "Can people still keep the Maya Calendar and  use it daily?" 

Answer:  "Try Jose Arguelles.  It's New Age, but it may be what you are after."

Response:  "Thanks.  I'll get Arguelles' book, Mayan Factor, and get started with my Dreamspell experience <<Grin>>

WARNING!  Contains material offensive to the intellect. If you're reading this page because you are interested in the Maya and haven't yet come across  Arguelles' Dreamspell,  you may not want to waste time on the topic.  I've posted this page for people who have read Arguelles, and now want to know how much of it has anything to do with authentic Maya traditions. 
Arguelles' 1987 book, The Mayan Factor,  was an eclectic mix of Maya calendrics and new age philosophy.  Unfortunately, Arguelles didn't make clear how much of the calendar he described, and later named "Dreamspell",  was Maya, and how much was his own.  Although it contains much that is dubious, it offends primarily because it has given a lot of people a very mistaken impression of the real Maya calendar.

In 1992, Arguelles announced The Thirteen Moon Calendar.  This is  much more egregious nonsense. Arguelles claims that only adoption his calendrical innovation can save the world from disaster as we approach what he calls the "harmonic convergence".  In 1998 he declared that  "Arguelles is dead",  reborn (or at least renamed) "Valum Votan",  some sort of successor to the great Maya ruler Pacal (Pacal Votun to Arguelles).

Tzolk'in and Dreamspell: How Arguelles distorts Maya traditions
The Thirteen Moon Calendar: More European than Maya?
Harmonic Convergence: The pseudoscience of the end time


Tzolk'in and the Dreamspell: How Arguelles distorts Maya traditions

"The Dreamspell calendar is based upon the ancient Mayan reckoning of time. Dr. Jose Arguelles reinterpreted the Mayan cycles in a modern context and named it the Dreamspell calendar. There are a total of 20 "Glyphs" and 13 "Tones" which change successively each day until moving through all possible combinations of each glyph (Solar Seal) paired with each tone. This total is 260, which is the number of days in the "Tzolk'in", the Mayan's galactic year. In addition to a glyph and a tone, each day has one of four colors: red, white, blue, or yellow. Starting with the first tone and the first glyph, the first day of the Tzolk'in is called Red Magnetic Dragon . . ."  (Dreamspell Calendar Page)

Arguelles' Dreamspell calendar is a rather free form interpretation of the Maya sacred round of 260 days, the tzolk'in. (See the Note on the Maya Calendar on this web site for a description of the tzolk'in as the Maya actually knew it at the time of the Spanish conquest). Each day in the tzolk'in is assigned one of 20 day names and one of 13 day numbers. Arguelles uses the Maya glyphs for the day names. His translations of the day names are rather fanciful, but seem to loosely follow older but reputable sources. For example, the usual glyph for the day Imix, Arguelles' "Dragon",  illustrates a waterlily pad, and Imix is usually interpreted to mean "waterlily."  But  since lily pads decorate images of the crocodilian monster at the foot of the Maya World TreeImix been interpreted by some scholars as a symbol for "waterlily monster". Gates' out-dated Dictionary of Maya Glyphs (1931) comes closest, translating Imix as "water dragon". (For meanings of other day names, see Heart of the Sky's tzolk'in page).

.Tzolk'in Cycle
The rest of Arguelles' Dreamspell appears to be his own invention. 

Nothing in authentic Maya sources suggests that the day name glyphs are "solar seals", or that the day numbers are "tones". The four day names on which New Year may fall were associated with colours and directions, but colours do not alternate in the fashion suggested by Arguelles. Just where terms like "magnetic" [dragon] and "cosmic" [monkey] come from is not at all clear, but the source certainly isn't Mayan.

Several explanations of the 260 day length of the tzolk'in have been proposed. It likely represents something the Maya observed directly. For example, an early Spanish missionary report suggests it was chosen because 260 days is approximately  the period of visibility of Venus as morning star. In any event, there is no evidence from Maya sources that it represents Arguelles' "galactic year".
The Maya tzolk'in was used to make auguries. We know quite a lot about tzolk'in augury. The Books of Chilam Balam, written by Maya priests after the Spanish conquest, contain lists of auguries. Much of the Dresden Codex.and other pre-conquest glyph books are composed of tzolk'in almanacs. The Quiche Maya of Guatemala still keep the tzolk'in (Quiche ch'olk'ij), and Quiche "day keepers" still use it to make auguries. 

The Dreamspell calendar assigns properties to each "tone" and "glyph", making it possible to read the meaning of each day in the cycle. But Dreamspell readings do not follow Maya tradition. In fact, they seem to have been indirectly derived from the Chinese I Ching, another topic on which Arguelles has written.

Tzolk'in almanac (Dresden Codex)

Thus, for example, the Chilam Balam merely report that the tzolk'in date 1 K'an is lob k'in, a "bad day." Dreamspell provides  a fanciful "oracle"  for the day, telling us that "Yellow Seed (Kan) targets and emphasizes flowering (ideas) . . . ." and that "tone 1, magnetic, [signifies] creative power and unifying purpose. . . ." (See Starrroot's Dreamspell page). There is simply nothing in authentic Maya divination that remotely resembles this "oracle.". hing nothing in nothing

Auguries in the Books of Chilam Balam  are usually simple indicators of the character of the day, identifying each as k'in utz (good) or k'in lob (bad).   According to anthropologist Barbara Tedlock who studied with a Quiche day keeper, Quiche practice is more complex, and more personalized. Thus a day might be judged  "good for you to travel,"  but "bad for you to get married on."  See Maya Augury and Prophecy in the Books of Chilam Balam for more information about authentic Maya divination.
Finally, the tzolk'in count kept by Quiche "day keepers" and recorded in glyph books and inscriptions does not match the Dreamspell count proposed by Arguelles. For example, 6 September 2002 is the day "blue cosmic monkey" or 13 Chuen in the Dreamspell calendar. A Quiche shaman would tell us that this day is 2 Imox (Imix in Yucatec). According to the Quiche, the nearest occurrence of 13 Chuen is 50 days later, on 26 October. Although this discrepancy has been pointed out to Arguelles, he has failed to provide a coherent explanation of the correlation he adopts between the tzolk'in and the European calendar.

By Quiche reckoning, the Dreamspell calendar is in error by 50 days.

Whatever else it may be, the Dreamspell calendar does not accurately preserve and respect the authentic calendrical lore of the Maya. Arguelles believes that the world view of modern technological civilization threatens the survival of humanity. He may well be right. His desire to create a new consciousness, a "dreamspell", is no doubt attractive to many people. But to do so by distorting and misinterpreting the traditions of a great aboriginal civilization is simple intellectual dishonesty.
The correlation issue.  Most scholars accept the GMT correlation between the dates recorded in Maya hieroglyphics and the Gregorian calendar.  There is an uncertainty of three days in the GMT correlation, but the version favoured by many Mayanists matches exactly with the count still kept by the Quiche Maya (see discussion of The Correlation Question on this web site).  Just where Arguelles' correlation comes from is unclear. He has claimed that "Dreamspell . . . is a precise expression of the prophetic tradition of the Chilam Balam,"  but his correlation does not appear to match any of the dates from the Books of Chilam Balam.  In addition,  the Maya calendar made no allowance for leap year.  Arguelles  does.  In the result, every time a leap year occurs in the Gregorian calendar, the difference between the Dreamspell and Quiche/GMT count is reduced by one day.  See J. M. Jenkins criticism of Arguelles' correlation and distortion of native calendrical traditions, The Key to the Dreamspell Agenda, and Geoff Stray's discussion of Arguelles' use of Maya sources, Investigating the The Origins of Dreamspell.

Perhaps in response to critics who have pointed out the obscurity of his correlation,  Arguelles has changed his  explanation of the origin of the Dreamspell count more than once.  Initially, he seems to have presented Dreamspell as simply the "correct" version of the ancient Measoamerican calendar, presumably used throughout the Maya zone.  Later, he suggested that the difference between the Quiche and Dreamspell counts reflects differences between Maya tradtions in highland Guatemala and the Yucatan. Elsewhere, he has claimed that his count was a post-Conquest revision of the Yucatecan tradition by the Chilam Balam.  Most recently, he has taken credit for the revision himself. 
He now claims that Dreamspell "is indeed a modern application of ancient science, and is DISTINCT from the form of the 260-day count that the living Maya in Guatemala and surrounding areas utilize."  (See Distinguishing Dreamspell from the Traditional Mayan Calendar at Thus he claims he is not guilty of  "cultural misrepresentation." Unfortunately, this disclaimer flatly contradicts what Arguelles has plainly asserted in The Mayan Factor  and other works.

The Thirteen Moon Calendar: More European than Maya?

"A 13-Moon Calendar is the logical and natural way to count the 365-day year cycle. Instead of 12 months which are 28, 29, 30, or 31 days long, the year is instead measured into 13 months, each one an even 28 days. 13 moons of 28 days each gives 364 days - plus 1 "day out of time," a day of celebration and forgiveness, to acknowledge the passing year and welcome in the new year" ( FAQ page
Despite Arguelles' claims to the contrary, his Thirteen Moon Calendar has little to do with Maya concepts of time.  The Thirteen Moon Calendar closely resembles the "pagan" or "wiccan" calendar, a modern  attempt to reconstruct the calendar used in northern Europe before the Christian era. These calendars count 13 months of 28 days, and are examples of lunisolar calendars, an Old World tradition unknown in the Americas. The synodic or lunar month (the time between new moons) is about 29.5 days. It is likely that the month was adjusted to 28 days in some pagan European calendars so that a whole number of months would approximate the solar year. (Arguelles, however, justifies the 28 day month as the average of the synodic and sidereal months. The latter is the period of the moon's revolution about the earth, about 27.3 days).
European 13 Month Calendars.  Arguelles claims that 13 month calendars were once wide-spread.  Perhaps because of the example of the wiccan calendar,  he assets that the most common calendar in pagan Europe counted 13 months.  In fact,  while a 13 month calendar was probably known to  some pagan Europeans, it does not seem to have been in wide-spread use. 

Robert Graves, basing himself on Welsh and Irish sources,  argued that the Celts kept a calendar of 13 months, which he called the Ogham Tree Calendar.   However, the only Celtic calendar that has survived intact, the Coligny Calendar (named for the French site where it was discovered) is a lunar calendar with alternating 29 and 30 day months. The "normal" year is 12 months, but is only 354 days long. About every 3 years, an additional month was added to the year to resynchronize with the solar year.  Such calendars were used throughout Europe. The Greeks, and the Anglo-Saxons,  for example, used similar systems. 

Some Germanic-speaking pagans may have counted 28 day months, though months of other lengths are also reported in German and Viking sources.  The 28 day month was likely adopted so that a whole number of months would approximate the solar year.  A 13 month year (28 x 13 = 364 days) could have been kept, presumably with an additional day to make up 365, and perhaps with a periodic leap day to stay in synchronization with the true solar year. 

13 month calendars may not have been widely used in ancient Europe,  but there is a modern precedent that seems to have influenced Arguelles. Auguste Comte proposed a 13 month calendar in 1849.  A calendar reform movement based on this proposal persisted until the 1930's, and for a time had considerable support.  Comte was the founder of modern positivism.  He believed that time- keeping has deep cultural significance.  He proposed his calendar as part of an agenda to replace religion and superstition with science and reason.  Ironically, Arguelles' proposes an identical calendar to  counter the positivist world view Comte helped shape! 

There are many "natural" ways to keep time.  The Gregorian Calendar  used by most of us is a solar calendar, contrived to stay in step with the seasons. Since the solar year is nearly 365 1/4 days long, solar calendars must intercalate a leap day about once in every four years. The Islamic Calendar  is a lunar calendar: Each month begins with a new moon, but the year does not stay in step with the seasons. Lunisolar and solilunar calendars are compromises that try to stay in step with both the moon and the sun, though they inevitably do a better job of one than the other. The Thirteen Moon calendar does a better job of keeping in sync with the sun than with the moon. Solilinar calendars that keep better track of lunar months (the Jewish Calendar and Celtic Coligny Calendar are examples) use quite complicated intercalation rules.

Months in the Thirteen Moon Calendar do not begin with new moon, but it does preserve the average number of lunar months that occur (in whole or part) in the solar year. With addition of an extra day at year end, it  counts 365 days. Arguelles' also adds a leap day,  but calls it a "void day", outside the normal count of days in the year.

What about the Gregorian Calendar?   Arguelles has claimed that the Gregorian Calendar is an "unnatural" system of time-keeping  imposed by the Catholic Church.  In fact, it is a  revision  of the Julian Calendar adopted by Julius Caesar in 45 BC.   Pope Gregory sponsored the revision  in 1582 to resynchronize the calendar with the seasons.  Recently, Arguelles' followers seem to have muted  criticism of the Church, and focused instead on Caesar:
"In truth, Rome's purpose in imposing the Julian calendar on the people they conquered was to take away [their]  power . . .  Invariably, this calendar was imposed on people who were utilizing the 28 day, 13 moon calendar system. These were people who were very in tune with nature, because of their connection to time as a natural cycle. . . .  Caesar imposed a false time upon them. A time which would take them out of step with nature."  (The Dreamspell Story)
In fact, the Gregorian Calendar in based on the "natural cycle" of the solar year.  The 1582 calendar revision was made because the length of the solar year is a bit less than 365.25 days, and the error had accumulated since Caesar's time.  The leap year rule adopted by Pope Gregory ( which omits leap year in century years not divisible by 400) keeps the calendar year to within .003 days of the true solar year.  Because the 13 Moon Calendar has a less sophisticated leap year mechanism, it does a poorer job of keeping in step with the seasons. 

The only arbitrary feature of the Gregorian Calendar is its months of unequal length. The months are a lunar element carried over from  an older Roman calendar. This was, like the Greek and Celtic calendars, a lunar calendar with alternating 29 and 30 day months to approximate the 29.5 day lunar month.  Because 12 lunar months of 29.5 days amount to only 354 days,  Caesar's astronomers made calendar months a bit longer than lunar months.  Interestingly, the Julian months originally alternated between 30 and 31 days (though February was 30 days only on leap years). Thus each calendar month was one day longer than the months in traditional lunar calendars. Augustus Caesar upset this harmony by renaming a month for himself (August), and stole a day from February to make it as long as Julius Caesar's month (July).

13 month calendars solve the problem of fitting lunar months into the solar year by adding a month and making the months shorter (rather than longer) than the true lunar month.  While this is perhaps neater, it is as arbitrary as Caesar's solution.  The Celts who devised the Coligny calendar did a better job of keeping track of new moons, but they did not use a 13 month calendar.  Neither, for that matter, did most of the other peoples conquered by Rome. 

The Maya kept track of many calendrical and astronomical cycles. The core of their calendar was the Calendar Round, which combined the 260 day tzolk'in and the 365 day haab. Although the Maya kept track of the solar cycle,  the haab made no provision for leap days. It was set to exactly 365 days to make it more easily commensurate with other calendar cycles. The Maya also kept track of the moon, counting lunar months of alternatively 29 and 30 days to keep in step with new moons, as in Old World lunar calendars.  But the lunar months were distinct from the haab, which was divided into 18 winals of 20 days (with a five day period, the Wayeb, at year end).

Maya astronomy and calendrics was motivated by an effort to make all the cycles of time tracked by the scribes commensurate.  The Maya approach to this task was fundamentally different than the methods adopted by Western calendar reformers from Caesar to Arguelles. Rather than attempting to make other cycles fit into the year, the Maya sought to discover common multiples of cycles. They did not, for example, try to adjust either the year or the lunar month to fit a whole number of lunar months into the year. Instead, they observed the moon long enough to discover that 405 lunations = 46 tzolk'ins (260 x 46 = 11,960 days). If new moon occurs on (for example) the tzolk'in date 1 Imix, it will occur on the same date exactly 46 tzolk'in cycles later. There is nothing similar to this approach in Old World calendar theory, or in Arguelles' 13 Moon Calendar. 

Arguelles' characterization of leap days as "void days" outside the normal count of days in the year appears to be an effort to equate his 365 day year with the haab.  But since leap days are not ignored, they still throw the haab and Arguelles' calendar out of synchronization.  The Maya approach avoids the need to intercalate a leap day at all.  The relationship between the haab and the true solar year was fixed by them by the equation 1507 solar years = 1508 haabs (365 x 1508 days), not by introducing the concept of the leap year.

The Thirteen Moon Calendar bears only a very faint resemblance to the Maya calendar.

The haab and the solar year.   Since the 365 day Maya haab  makes no provision for leap years, its starting date in the Gregorian Calendar advances by one day every four years.   The beginning of Arguelles' year is fixed to July 26.  Thus his  count of days departs from the haab as it was known to Maya scribes before the Spanish conquest.  Arguelles claims that the Thirteen Moon Calendar is synchronized with the calendar round.  Clearly, it is not. 

Arguelles' misunderstanding of  the Maya calendar is explicable.  He  found the July 26 date in the post-Conquest Books of Chilam Balam .(which record it as July 16 in the old Julian calendar). Though it was not part of their calendar, the Maya measured the solar year as the time between summer zenith passages of the sun.  These occurred about July 16 in the 16th C. Yucatan.  The Maya realized  the European calendar is a true solar calendar, and thus a convenient tool for  keeping track of zenith passages.  For this reason, the Books of Chilam Balam record July 16 rather than January 1 as the beginning of the Christian year.  The haab remained distinct as long as the traditional calendar was  in use.  But  calendrical knowledge was proscribed by the Church, and gradually lost in the Yucatan.  Thus it is not surprising that the last revisions of the Books of Chilam Balam  (likely in the late 18th or early 19th Century) confused  the haab and Christian year. 

Ironically, Arguelles was misled by  a Christianized and confused remnant of the Maya tradition.  The Quiche of Guatemala  still retain much of their calendrical knowledge. They still know the relationship between the haab and tzolk'in, and celebrate New Year at the beginning of the haab,  which is still fixed in the calendar round,  not in the Christian year.   A Quiche shaman  would not see the point of Arguelles' "void days", which simply distort the traditional count of days and the auguries made using it. 

The Harmonic Convergence: The pseudoscience of the end time

Despite its clear departure from Maya calendrical ideas, Arguelles claims that the Thirteen Moon Calendar is essential to prepare for the culmination of the cycles of time kept by the Maya. The end date of the Maya long count  will be reached in 2012 AD. According to Arguelles, Maya prophecy confirms the apocalyptic visions of the Koran and Book of Revelations.  This he calls the "harmonic convergence". He claims that the "galactic Maya" returned in 1987.  We must now  prepare for the end of the epoch by adopting the Thirteen Moon calendar. Arguelles initially warned that the new calendar must be in place by 1995, but now seems to tacitly allow more time.

"If the human race does not reject the current twelve-month Gregorian Calendar and replace it by the new Thirteen Moon 28-Day Calendar by July 26, 1995, it will very soon bring about its own self-destruction.

Changing calendars . . .  is a planetary ultimatum. The Thirteen Moon Calendar Change is the spearhead of a peace plan that calls for a universal cease-fire on July 25, 1995 . . . and a five-year follow-up program, Pax Cultural Pax Biospherica . . ."  ( Manifesto of the Thirteen Moon Calendar Change Movement


The end of the long count. Classical Maya creation accounts suggest that the present world began after dissolution of a previous world that had lasted 13 baktuns (about 5125 years).  The long count  measures the time elapsed since creation.  It was reset to zero at creation of the present world. It will reach 13 baktuns again in 2012 AD.  Although no Maya text actually tells us explicitly what the Maya believed would transpire in 2012 AD, the end of the cycle was no doubt regarded as a highly significant time of transition between epochs.  Arguelles nevertheless claims to know what 2012 AD will bring.  He tells us it is  "the closing out . . . [of]  the evolutionary interim called Homo Sapiens. . . . At last, Earth will be ready for the emergence into inter-planetary civilization.  [A] great voltage will race through this finally synchronized and integrated circuit called humanity. ”  Whatever else can be said of this, it is not something Arguelles learned from the Maya.

Why is changing the calendar the key to our salvation?  According to Arguelles:.

"The clouded mental field of humanity operating at the artificial, accelerating machine frequency of 12:60 is actually at conflict with the innate 13:20 timing frequency of the planet and the galactic whole. The Earth's resonance is registered at 7.8 Hz. This number is a fractal of 78, which is a multiple of 13 (x6), and hence, a function of the 13:20 timing frequency. Unless humanity shifts its mental frequency it will bring about a greater and greater dissonance, resulting in the type of disaster that destroyed the planet Maldek, producing the asteroid belt. . . . The Thirteen Moon Calendar Change [is] . . . the first stage of Earth ascending to its sacred dimension". (Arguelles,  "Earth Ascending and the Arrival of the Galactic Culture")
What can be said in response to this kind of fantasy? It certainly has nothing to do with Maya calendrics or prophecy except that the numbers 13 and 20 appear frequently in the Maya calendar. How division of the year into 12 months and the hour into 60 minutes could somehow interfere with the "innate timing frequency of the planet" is far from clear. But let's just focus on how Arguelles "discovers" that the Maya/13 Moon calendar corrects this dissonance. Arguelles' argument turns out to be an exercise, like Maurice Chatelain's revision of the Maya calendar, in numerological slight of hand.

Arguelles assigns a "7.8 Hz resonance frequency" to the Earth. The numerical value of a frequency depends on the units chosen to represent it.  The Hertz (Hz) is an arbitrary unit of measurement defined by modern physics. Even if the Maya knew something about vibrational frequencies, they would hardly have measured them in Hertz.  Arguelles manages to link the magic number 13 to the "innate timing frequency" of the Earth only by  first specifying this frequency in modern units. But even if we allow this, his mathematical manipulations to get from 7.8 to 13 are highly suspect.

He first multiplies 7.8 by 10, because, he says, 7.8 is a "fractal" of 78. Actually, of course, it is a decimal fraction, not a fractal (which is a very different thing. See the fractal pattern graphed at the left). This may seem innocuous enough, just "getting rid of the decimal",  but a number and its decimal fraction have a special relationship only in our decimal (base 10) number system, an Old World invention unknown to the Maya. The Maya used a base 20 number system in which 7.8 and 78 have no special relationship. Finally,  for reasons that aren't clear (except that it gives the answer he wants), he divides 78 by 6 to produce 13. 

 I suppose Arguelles might have multiplied by 20 rather than 10, and then divided by 12 to get 13 --- but wait, I guess he couldn't do that --- 12 is a "bad" number!

Worse yet, the Hertz is defined in terms of  "cycles per second", and the second is of course defined as 1/60th of a minute, which is 1/60th of an hour. Thus the critical value of 7.8 Hz that Arguelles converts to 13 through dubious  number juggling takes it meaning from the "12:60"  time measurement Arguelles finds so objectionable. The whole exercise is circular nonsense.
Schumann resonance frequency. The "resonance"  referred to by Arguelles appears to be the Schumann resonance frequency, a component of the natural electromagnetic radiation (radio waves) in the Earth's atmosphere. This Background radiation is the source of much of the static heard on radio receivers, though the Schumann component, produced primarily by lightening strikes, is too low frequency to be picked up by ordinary receivers.  See Schumann Resonance at Space Physics.

SRF is much variable than Arguelles suggests.  SRF is produced by waves resonating between the Earth's surface and the ionosphere, which reflects radio waves.  A well defined cavity like an organ pipe produces a pure "tone" and "over tones", but  because the height of the ionosphere varies with time and place, the resonance in the Earth's atmosphere produces a  lot of "noise",  a more or less continuous range  of frequencies.  There is usually a peak at about 7.8 Hz, but others occur at 14, 20, 26, 33, 39 and 45 Hz. 

This "Schumann resonance frequency"  is hardly the "innate timing frequency of the Earth", much less the galaxy. It is only one among many natural electromagnetic phenomena.  Nor could the Earth be destroyed by "dissonant frequencies".  Arguelles seems to have in mind the shattering of a wine glass by a strong vibration (such as a sound wave) that is resonant with the natural vibrational frequency of the glass. But SRF is not analogous.  SR  waves are radio waves, not vibrations in matter.   In any event,  the timing of our activities  with the Gregorian calendar and clock does not produce radio waves either resonant or dissonant with SR radio waves.  Time-keeping produces no radio waves at all. 

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Michael John Finley   Saskatoon, Saskatchewan,  Canada  May 2002 (Revised May/Dec 2003)