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Diagram adapted from Fig 3. "The Shape of Time and Space" p.121 from Masks of the Spirit by Roberta H. Markman and Peter T. Markman
from earth at sunrise facing east, north is to my left
sun zenith/north day zenith to sunset
day sunrise to zenith
left hand of the rising Sun
West W sunset descendent ascendent E
S night nadir to sunrise
night sunset to nadir
Words for the Horizontal Axis (Plane) Words for the Vertical Axis (Plane) In a Day In a Year
East Ascendant Morning Sunrise (in the East) Spring Equinox
North Zenith Afternoon Midday Summer Solstice (Sun at northernmost extreme)
West Descendent Evening Sunset (in the West) Fall Equinox
South Nadir Night Midnight Winter Solstice (Sun at southernmost extreme)
Looking at the directions of the daysigns as East, North, West, South makes them all two dimensional on the horizonal axis. By thinking of Zenith rather than North, and Nadir rather than South, a new dimension is added, the vertical axis. The sun begins the day on the eastern horizon (the ascendant), moves through the Zenith at midday, ends the day at sunset on the western horizon, (the descendent), moves through the Nadir at midnight, and ends the night with the beginning of a new day at sunrise again on the eastern horizon. There is a gaining of experience throughout the day exploring the external (phenomenal) world of the senses and, through the night, exploring the internal world of the mind. The four colors associated with the directions are red (East), white (Zenith), blue (West), and yellow (Nadir). Red and blue, the horizontal axis are the colors of the semi-precious stones, coral and turquoise. White and yellow, the vertical axis, are the colors of silver and gold, also precious, but precious metals rather than stones. From Time and the Highland Maya, by Barbara Tedlock Chapter 1, "Introduction" p.2-3 The Mayan word for "day" serves as a stem in words meaning "worship," as in Quiche k'ijilabal, which might be literally translated as the "means of daying," or less literally as the "observance of the days." This same word, k'ijilabal, can also mean the "place of daying'—that is, the "place of worship"; as will become apparent later, places of worship change according to what day it is. Here is a temporalization of space, expressed at the cosmic level by the Quiche words for east and west that (unlike the English terms) make overt reference to the motion of the sun: chirelabal k'ij ("at the rising of the sun") and chukajibal k'ij ("at the setting of the sun"). A similar directional terminology prevails in other Mayan languages, and most of them . even give north and south an indirect temporal dimension, that is, they are named by reference to the sun's (or the day's) "right" and "left" sides as it travels (or elapses) westward. From Time and the Highland Maya, by Barbara Tedlock Chapter 8 "Astonomy and Meteorology" p.173The directional glyphs in Classic inscriptions and Postclassic codices have been deciphered and read phonetically in Yucatec Maya as lak'k'in, chik'k'in, yax and mal, which translate as "east, west, zenith, and nadir." ... Thus, the directional glyphs associated with the moon and Venus cannot be read as referring simply to north and south, but must involve zenith and nadir. These same Classic Maya directional glyphs can also be read in Chol as hok' k'in ("east/sunrise"), k'ah k'in ("west/sunset"), xin chan ("zenith/north") and mal puy "nadir/south"). Evidence of a zenithal, rather than northern, interpretation can also be found in other Classic Mayan inscriptions on the northern panels in the eastern and western doors of Temple 11 at Copan, Honduras. In this unusual temple, consisting of two exceptionally wide, noncorbeled vaults running east-west and north-south, crossing in the center, the glyphic inscription divides into two discourse sequences that begin at the north door, in the front of the building. While the subject matter of the inscription in the north-south corridor concerns the accession of the ruler and the dedication of a reviewing stand, in the eastwest corridor the north panel on the east door contains the phrase xay tu pa chan ("crossroads of the sky"), referring to the dedication of the cross-corridors of Temple 11 itself. In this same eastwest corridor, the north panel of the west door indicates a location called ch'ul chan ("holy heaven"). Both of these texts, each located on northern panels, clearly refer to the zenith as the direction of the events in question, rather than to north.