Introduction To Mesoamerican Astrology
ANYTHING CIRCULAR, which has no beginning and no end, has harmony at its root, makes me tranquil. I hoped that if I made pieces like this, people would feel the same way, understand circularity in that way, and be able to grasp it. It’s a really old symbol—I mean ancient, ancient, ancient. Everybody understands that circles have no end.
Depending upon whom you ask, ancient Mesoamerican cultures such as the Mayans, Aztecs, Olmecs, and Toltecs had anywhere from three to twenty calendars that were kept for various purposes. At the most basic, their calendar systems consisted of three main interdependent calendars—the long count, a civil calendar, and a sacred calendar. Each calendar was cyclical, meaning that a certain number of days had to occur before the cycle began again.
You are probably familiar with the long count Mayan calendar, as it rose to fame due to the date December 21, 2012, which—according to the erroneous interpretation of archeologists and not the Mayans themselves—would supposedly mark the end of days. The long count is represented as a five place notation system of ascending cycles—kins (days), winals (20-day months), tuns (360 days), k’atuns (20 tuns), and bak’tuns (20 k’atuns)—and tracks the relationship between our solar system and the universe. This famous date marked the end of the longest cycle, 13 bak’tuns, and merely suggested the beginning of a new cycle of energy. According to Toltec wisdom, the cycles of the long count vacillate between light and dark or the external perception of God and the internal perception of God (which, to me, means solar and lunar ways of being).
For the sake of astrology, we’re mainly concerned with the interweaving of the civil and sacred calendars. Both overlap as “The Calendar Round,” and every 52 years they align. The civil calendar measures secular time, and the sacred calendar measures sacred time. The civil calendar is a 365-day calendar based on the cycle of the sun and it is used for agricultural and economic timekeeping. The sacred calendar is a 260-day divine calendar based on the 9-month cycle of human gestation—a lunar or feminine approach to timekeeping. It is used for divination, rituals, and spiritual growth. Various astronomical cycles correspond to the sacred calendar, including the cycles of Venus, the Pleiades, and the Moon.
The Sacred Calendar
At the core of Mesoamerican sacred calendar are 20 day-signs and 13 numbers, all of which represent archetypal energies in Mayan cosmology. The day-signs are considered “solar” and the numbers are “lunar.” Every day, one day-sign is paired with one number, creating 260 days of completely unique energies throughout the cycle of the calendar.
Like the 12 signs of the Western Zodiac, the day-signs are descriptive of personality and potential. Unlike Western astrology, Mesoamerican day-signs are more like energies and can be used to describe more than just a person. They are archetypal energies of the Universe itself and each is represented by an animal or force of nature.
Though there are no months in the calendar, a 20-day cycle through the signs could be akin to one, and this round consists of 13-day “weeks” called trecenas. Each trecena has a certain theme and is ruled by a particular day-sign.
The 20 day-signs each have several names depending on the tradition/translation. The Yucatec (Mayan) names of these with their natural symbols are listed below:
1. Crocodile (IMIX)
2. Wind (IK)
3. Night (Akbal)
4. Seed (Kan)
5. Serpent (Chicchan)
6. Death (Cimi)
7. Deer (Manik)
8. Rabbit (Lamat)
9. Water (Muluc)
10. Dog (Oc)
11. Monkey (Chuen)
12. Road (Eb)
13. Reed (Ben)
14. Jaguar (IX)
15. Bird (Men)
16. Owl (CIB)
17. Earthquake (Caban)
18. Obsidian Knife (Etznab)
19. Storm (Cauac)
20. Light (Ahau)
HOW IS MESOAMERICAN ASTROLOGY DIFFERENT FROM WESTERN ASTROLOGY?
Mesoamerican astrology isn’t based on the movement of the planets in our solar system, but rather on the intangible energy of the universe itself, and the evolution of its creative cycle. Western Astrology is mainly concerned with the interplay of the manifestations of “The Creator,” or this source energy. Mesoamerican cultures believed that in order to have harmony in your life, you had to understand and align yourself with the universal energy itself, not just the manifestation of it.
In Mesoamerican astrology, focus is placed on the theme and energy of the present day and how you can use it wisely. You are not at the mercy of planetary alignments, but you are a creator of your own reality, completely free to utilize the energies of the day however you see fit—provided that you honor them and align yourself with them.
Mesoamerican birth charts clarify the aspect of universal energy that you have come to earth to manifest within your lifetime. The day-sign you were born under identifies certain personality characteristics and traits. Additionally, each day is assigned a “sacred number” between 1 and 13 that correlates to the cycle of the moon and imparts even more characteristics to each sign’s personality traits.
The day-signs and numbers work together like cogs in a machine to create 260 distinct character combinations. You were also born during one of the twenty trecenas, which discloses more subconscious personality qualities—deeper instincts and yearnings much like the moon sign of Western astrology.
The combination of day-sign, tone number, and 13-day period yields a unique personality, perhaps as good or even better than the Western zodiac.