The Aztec or Mexica calendar wheels have been a source of fascination for centuries. It was not just a way to keep time – it was a complete philosophy of time in which every day had a religious significance. They also believed that time went in cycles – ultimately in the repeated destruction and recreation of the world. The universe was viewed as a very delicate equilibrium in constant danger of being disrupted by shifting powers of the gods and of the elemental forces in their lives. This view added up to the Aztecs essentially having two pretty much independent calendars, one related to the seasons and one to more sacred matters.
The Aztecs weren’t the only people that thought this way. Many peoples around the world have thought of time as cyclic. The belief in reincarnation, for example, is a reflection of this, as is the idea of karma (“what goes around comes around”). The idea of cycles of time goes back at least 3,000 years, but was probably much older, and was common in Mesoamerica.