What is Haab
The Haab’ is part of the Maya calendric system. It was the Maya version of the 365-day calendar known to many of the pre-Columbian cultures of Mesoamerica. Unlike the Tzolk’in, another Mayan Calendar system with no obvious relation to an astronomical or geophysical cycle, the Haab’ approximated the solar year.
|2||Wo’||black conjunction||11||Sak’||white storm|
|3||Sip||red conjunction||12||Keh||red storm|
|7||Yaxk’in’||new sun||16||Pax||planting time|
|19||Wayeb’||five unlucky days|
The Haab’ comprises eighteen “months” of twenty days each, plus an additional period of five days (“nameless days”) at the end of the year known as Wayeb’ (orUayeb in 16th C. orthography).
Bricker (1982) estimates that the Haab’ was first used around 500 BCE with a starting point of the winter solstice. The Haab’ was the foundation of the agrarian calendar and the month names are based on the seasons and agricultural events. For example the thirteenth month, Mak, may refer to the end of the rainy season and the fourteenth month, K’ank’in, may refer to ripe crops in the fall.
The Haab’ month names are most commonly referred to by their names in colonial-era Yucatec (Yukatek). In sequence, these (in the revised orthography) are as seen on the right: Each day in the Haab’ calendar was identified by a day number within the month followed by the name of the month. Day numbers began with a glyph translated as the “seating of” a named month, which is usually regarded as day 0 of that month, although a minority treat it as day 20 of the month preceding the named month. In the latter case, the seating of Pop is day 5 of Wayeb’. For the majority, the first day of the year was Seating Pop. This was followed by 1 Pop, 2 Pop … 19 Pop, Seating Wo, 1 Wo and so on.
Inscriptions on The Temple of the Cross at Palenque shows clearly that the Maya were aware of the true length of the year, even though they did not employ the use of leap days in their system of calculations generally. J. Eric Thompson wrote that the Maya knew of the drift between the Haab and the solar year and that they made “calculations as to the rate at which the error accumulated, but these were merely noted as corrections they were not used to change the calendar.”
There are at least two inscriptions with periods of 1508 Haab from Palenque which equates to 1507 tropical years, or 550420 days. This gives the Maya approximation to the tropical year at being 365.2422 days, being more accurate than the Gregorian Year currently used across the world today. 1508 Haab also incorporates 29 full Calendar Rounds, and two codices, the Codex Laud and Codex Mexicanus also records the 1508 Haab intervals.
The five nameless days at the end of the calendar called Wayeb’ were thought to be a dangerous time. Foster (2002) writes “During Wayeb, portals between the mortal realm and the Underworld dissolved. No boundaries prevented the ill-intending deities from causing disasters.” To ward off these evil spirits, the Maya had customs and rituals they practiced during Wayeb’. For example, people avoided leaving their houses or washing or combing their hair.