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The Book of the Year

The units of the Mixtec calendar are the day (kiwimonth (?), year (kwiya), day count (?),
and calendar round (ee dziya, ee dzini, ee toto 'one crown, garland').
The Yucunudahui and Tilantongo calendars were not only used during the Classic and
Postclassic periods, respectively, throughout the Mixteca, they were widely known in other areas
and among other peoples. The former is the calendar of Xochicalco and was also known and used
at Teotihuacan. It was ancestral to all the other calendars of the Classic period to the north of
Oaxaca. The latter was probably the calendar of the Ixcatec, Triqui, and Amusgo and was adopted
by the Chocho and Tlaxcala as well. It was the source of all the Postclassic calendars north of
Oaxaca, including Toltec and Aztec, and its writing system became the universal standard of
Central and Northern Mexico and had a marked influence on the Postclassic Zapotec and the Maya
of Chiapas and Guatemala.
In comparison with the days, the native months of the Middle American calendars are poorly
documented. As the accompanying figure (16) shows, we have complete lists of month names for
only nine Mayan and seven non-Mayan languages and partial documentation of an additional nine.
Many of the month names are obscure. They are often archaic, and they frequently refer
to ritual rather than natural symbols. Furthermore, they are historically unstable, differing
significantly between even very closely cognate languages and calendars (e.g., Quiche and
Cakchiquel, Tzeltal and Tzotzil, Choi and Yucatec, Kanhobal and Chuh). They are also
calendrically unstable. Tititl, for example, occurs as month C. or D.; Izcalli as D. or E.;
Tlacaxipehualiztli is G. in Nahuatl and Cakchiquel but F. in Quiche; Canaazi appears to be L. in
Choi but Q. in Pokom. There are numerous other examples.
Although the veintenas of the year count do seem to be referred to the agricultural year in
various tantalizing ways, they do not constitute an agricultural calendar and probably never did.
There is considerable evidence, in fact, that it was the divinatory calendar of the day count
that was most closely related to agricultural decision making. The year count was primarily a
ritual calendar for general civic ceremonial, and its primary focus was on the New Year rites.
214 There is notable agreement among the otherwise diverse calendars in the conceptualization of
the nineteenth month, which was everywhere considered to be a dangerous dead space at the
end of the year.
The year was punctuated by other ceremonies tied to the year count and the months,
though it is not always easy to differentiate them from those timed by the day count. Some of the
concepts behind the year-count ceremonies were certainly widespread and ancient and seem, on the
face of it, to have left traces in the nam-

Calendrical Index
ing of the months themselves. It is at least highly suggestive, for example, that month A was called
Xul 'End' in Yucatec and month B was called Yax Kin 'Green Time, New Time, First Time.' These
are very good descriptions of the positions of these 2 months in the Olmec calendar, which was
probably the first calendar the ancestral Yucatecans knew. At least six other Mayan languages have
preserved a similar name for month B. In a similar vein, the Totonac month B 'Middle' was the
tenth month of the Postclassic Totonac year.
Other concepts embodied in the month names of five or more different languages are summarized in the following list. The number of languages sharing the 215
concept is indicated in parentheses.


Bird (11)
Green (7)
Gather (5)
Bird (7 + )

F. White (6)
G. Flay (8)
H. Cover
(9) I. J. Owl (6)

K. Stew (7) L.
Lord (5) M.
Lord (5) N. - O.
P. -

Q. Moss (6) R. X. Lost (18?)

No one calendar ever used this collection of ritual ideas at any one time; they are simply among the
more widely current notions that provided names for the months indicated.
Figure 16b assigns English names to the months that are suggestive of their etymologies
in those cases where it seems possible to do so, in order to facilitate comparison.