The last five days at the end of the ancient Mayan calendar year consisted of a miniature month called Wayeb’ or “nameless days”, which, because it didn’t fit nicely into the ordered cycle of the regular 360-day year, was regarded as a time of ill omen, during which demons walked the earth unimpeded by the gods, and mortals shut themselves up in their houses and abstained from work, food, speech, or anything else that might attract supernatural attention.
At first it comes across as a weird inversion of our modern day secular new years’ rituals, a paranoid, fearmongering kind of holiday, especially when you compare it to the gory Aztec interpretation, wherein if the sun wasn’t fed in blood (the heart of a sacrificed nobleman ripped out of his chest, and flames kindled in the cavity), it would die forever. On the other hand, it makes for a lot of interesting parallels with fasts and festivals of atonement in Judaism, Islam, Christianity, Paganism. Also it provides me a convenient justification for hiding in my house on New Years’ instead of venturing out in the cold to get drunk and spend money.
Here are five variations on the symbol for the nameless days in the Mayan pictography. I am unclear on the difference—whether each of these represents a different one of the five nameless days, or whether they’re the same symbol recorded with the embellishments of five different scribes. I am and shall forevermore remain bewildered by their written language. The only thing that makes any sense to me is their math.
Happy new year?