You are on page 1of 432

The Ritual Practice of Time

The Early Americas:


History and Culture

General Editor
Alexander Geurds, Leiden University

Editorial Board
Willem Adelaar, Leiden University
Nikolai Grube, Bonn University
John Hoopes, University of Kansas
Maarten Jansen, Leiden University
Arthur Joyce, University of Colorado
Michael Smith, Arizona State University
Eric Taladoire, Sorbonne
Laura Van Broekhoven, National Museum of Ethnology, Leiden

VOLUME 4

The titles published in this series are listed at brill.nl/eahc


http://www.brill.nl/eahc
The Ritual Practice of Time

Philosophy and Sociopolitics of


Mesoamerican Calendars

By

Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo

LEIDEN BOSTON
2014
Cover illustration: redrawn by Kirsten Berrum. From left to right: 1. Classic Maya sign for
Wayhaab of the 365-day calendar. Drawing by Mark Van Stone (Kettunen 2011: 59), 2. Classic
Maya sign (notational variant) for zero. Drawing by Harri Kettunen (Kettunen 2011: 48), 3. Classic
Maya sign (head variant) for zero. Drawing by John Montgomery (Kettunen 2011: 48), 4. Classic
Maya sign for Ajaw of the 260-day calendar. Drawing by Mark Van Stone (Kettunen 2011: 57) and
5. The calendar sign Ome Acatl (2 Reed) with attached a fire-drill (Folio 2r, Codex Mendoza).
Drawing by John Montgomery (Boone 2000: 41, fig. 13b).

Library of Congress Cataloging-in-Publication Data

Pharo, Lars Kirkhusmo.


The ritual practice of time : philosophy and sociopolitics of
Mesoamerican calendars / by Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo.
pages cm. -- (The early Americas : history and culture ; volume 4)
Includes bibliographical references and index.
ISBN 978-90-04-25235-6 (hardback : acid-free paper) -- ISBN
978-90-04-25236-3 (e-book) 1. Maya calendar. 2. Mayas--Rites and
ceremonies. 3. Maya philosophy. 4. Aztec calendar. 5. Aztecs--Rites
and ceremonies. 6. Aztec philosophy. I. Title.

F1435.3.C14P43 2013
529.32978427--dc23

2013026055

This publication has been typeset in the multilingual Brill typeface. With over 5,100
characters covering Latin, IPA, Greek, and Cyrillic, this typeface is especially suitable for use in
the humanities. For more information, please see www.brill.com/brill-typeface.

ISSN 1875-3264
ISBN 978-90-04-25235-6 (hardback)
ISBN 978-90-04-25236-3 (e-book)

Copyright 2014 by Koninklijke Brill NV, Leiden, The Netherlands.


Koninklijke Brill NV incorporates the imprints Brill, Global Oriental, Hotei Publishing,
IDC Publishers and Martinus Nijhoff Publishers.

All rights reserved. No part of this publication may be reproduced, translated, stored in
a retrieval system, or transmitted in any form or by any means, electronic, mechanical,
photocopying, recording or otherwise, without prior written permission from the publisher.

Authorization to photocopy items for internal or personal use is granted by Koninklijke Brill NV
provided that the appropriate fees are paid directly to The Copyright Clearance Center,
222 Rosewood Drive, Suite 910, Danvers, MA 01923, USA.
Fees are subject to change.

This book is printed on acid-free paper.


contents v

Contents

List of Figures. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . ix
Acknowledgements. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . xi
xii
Introduction. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 1
Mesoamerica and Ritual Calendars of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 2
Ritual Practice of Time as an Analytic Theoretical Concept. . . . . . 4
Comparative Methodology of a History of Religions Explication of
Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9
The Organisation and Structure of (Ritual) Calendar Time. . . . . . 11
Cosmogony and Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 11
Cosmology (Space) and Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Eschatology and Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
Sociology and Politics and Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 12
The Religious Quality and Order of Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . 13
The Ritual Symbolic Temporal Importance of the 260-day
Calendar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Structure of the Book . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 13
Note on Correlation and Orthography . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 14

I The Ritual Practice of Time of the Long Count Calendar of the


Classic Maya Civilisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 17
1. The Ritual Sequential (Interval) Structure of the Long Count
Calendar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 19
2. Methodology of Analysing the Ritual Practice of Time of the
Long Count Calendar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 21
3. Cosmogonies and the Ritual Practice of Time and Space. . . . . 23
4. Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 67
5. The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 82
6. The Philosophy and Religious Ritual Practice of Linear Divine
Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 119

The Ritual Practice of Time of the 260-day Calendar and the 365-
day Calendar of the Postclassic Yucatec Civilisation . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 151
vi contents
II The Ritual Practice of Time of the 260-day Calendar of the
Postclassic Yucatec Civilisation: The Burner Ceremonies of
Quadripartite 65-day Intervals. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 153
1. Interval Rituals of the 260-day Calendar in Mesoamerica. . . 153
2. Sources and Research History. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 154
3. The 260-day Calendar of Mesoamerica. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 156
4. The Quadripartite Ritual Sequential Interval (65-days)
Structure of a Cycle of 260-days. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 159
5. The Starting and Termination Date of the 260-day Calendar.161
6. Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 163
7. A Spatial-Temporal (Quadripartite) Ritual . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 164
8. A Symbolic Agricultural Temporal Ritual. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 166
9. The Ritual Practice of the Quadripartite Interval Sequence
of the Four Burner Periods (65-days) of 260-days. . . . . . . . . . . 167

III The Ritual Practice of Time of the 365-day Calendar of the


Postclassic Yucatec Civilisation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
1. The Cyclic Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating
Ritual. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 169
2. Sources and Research History. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 171
3. The Postclassic Yucatec New Year Ceremony as a Rite de
Passage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 176
4. The Ritual Structure of the Mesoamerican and the European
Catholic Liturgical 365-day Calendar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 188
5. An Interval Ritual: A Ritual Transition from Xul to Yaxkin
and Mol within the Postclassic Yucatec 365-day Calendar . . . 191
6. Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time and Space. . . . . . 196
7. A Spatial-Temporal Ritual. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 200
8. The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . 202
9. The Year Bearer: A Deified Burden of Time of the Cyclic 365-
day Calendar . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 211
10. The Postclassic Yucatec New Year Festival as an Agricultural
Ritual. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 214
11. Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (Anti-Structure): A Ritual
Structuring of Cyclical Agricultural Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 223

IV The Ritual Practice of Time of the 52-year Calendar of the


Postclassic Aztec Civilisation. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 231
1. The Cyclic 52-year Calendar and the Aztec 52-year Calendar
Ritual of 1507 AD (Ome Acatl, 2 Reed) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 232
contents vii
2. Sources and Brief Research History. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 236
3. The Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating Postclassic
Aztec 52-year Ritual as a Rite de Passage. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 243
4. Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 253
5 A Spatial-Temporal Ritual. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 262
6. Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 265
7. The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . 295
8. Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (Anti-Structure): A Ritual
Structuring of Historical-Political Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 328

V A Comparative Analysis of Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337


1. The Heterogenous Data. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 337
2. The Structure of Time: Interval and Calendar Ending/
Calendar Inaugurating Rituals . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 343
3. Calendar Ending/Calendar Inaugurating Rituals of the
260-day Calendar, the 365-day Calendar and the 52-year
Calendar. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 345
4. The Structure of the Ritual Temporal Practice. . . . . . . . . . . . . . 345
5. Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 347
6. The Spatial-Temporal Ritual Practice . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 349
7. Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 351
8. The Sociology of the Ritual Practice of Time . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 356
9. The Politics of the Ritual Practice of Time. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 360
10. The Cultural Ritual Practice of Time of Various Calendars . . . 365
11. An Ordering and Structuring of Deified Calendar Time in
Polymorphous, Poly-semantic and Poly-functional Ritual
Practices. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 377
12. The Symbolic-Temporal Principle of the 260-day Calendar
in Mesoamerican Religion(s). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 380

Bibliography. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 387
Index. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 419
420
viii contents
Contents
List of Figures ix
Acknowledgements xi
Introduction 1
Mesoamerica and Ritual Calendars of Time 2
Ritual Practice of Time as an Analytic Theoretical Concept 4
Comparative Methodology of a History of Religions Explication of
Rituals of Time 9
The Organisation and Structure of (Ritual) Calendar Time 11
Cosmogony and Ritual Practice of Time 11
Cosmology (Space) and Ritual Practice of Time 12
The Eschatology of Ritual Practice of Time 12
The Sociology and Politics of Ritual Practice of Time 12
The Religious Quality and Order of Ritual Practice of Time 13
The Ritual Symbolic Temporal Importance of the 260-day Calendar 13
Note on Correlation and Orthography 14
Chapter One 17
THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE LONG COUNT CALENDAR OF THE CLASSIC MAYA 17
1.The Ritual Sequential (Interval) Structure of the Long Count Calendar 19
2.Methodology of Analysing the Rituals of Time of the Long Count Calendar 21
3.Cosmogonies and the Ritual Practice of Time and Space 23
4.Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time 67
5.The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time 82
6.The Philosophy and Religious Ritual Practices of Linear Divine Time 119
THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 260-DAY CALENDAR
AND THE 365-DAY CALENDAR OF THE POSTCLASSIC
YUCATEC CIVILISATION 151
Chapter Two 153
THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 260-DAY CALENDAR
OF THE POSTCLASSIC YUCATEC CIVILISATION: THE BURNER CEREMONIES OF QUADRIPARTITE 65-DAY INTERVALS 153
1.Interval Rituals of the 260-day Calendar in Mesoamerica 153
2.Sources and Research History 154
3.The 260-day Calendar of Mesoamerica 156
4.The Quadripartite Ritual Sequential Interval (65-days) Structure of
a Cycle of 260-days 159
5.The Starting and Termination Date of the 260-day Calendar 160
6.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time 163
7.A Spatial-Temporal (Quadripartite) Ritual 164
8.A Symbolic Agricultural Temporal Ritual 166
9.The Ritual Practice of the Quadripartite Interval Sequence of the Four Burner Periods (65-days) of 260-days 167
Chapter Three 169
THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 365-DAY CALENDAR OF THE POSTCLASSIC YUCATEC CIVILISATION 169
1.The Cyclic Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating Ritual 169
2.Sources and Research History 171
3.The Postclassic Yucatec New Year Ceremony as a Rite de Passage 176
4.The Ritual Structure of the Mesoamerican and the European Catholic Liturgical 365-day Calendar 188
5.An Interval Ritual: A Ritual Transition from Xul to Yaxkin and Mol within the Postclassic Yucatec 365-day Calendar 191
6.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time and Space 196
7.A Spatial-Temporal Ritual 200
8.The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time 202
9.The Year Bearer: A Deified Burden of Time of the Cyclic 365-day Calendar 211
10.The Postclassic Yucatec New Year Festival as an Agricultural Ritual 214
11.Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (Anti-Structure): A Ritual Structuring of Cyclical Agricultural Time 223
Chapter Four 231
THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 52-YEAR CALENDAR OF THE POSTCLASSIC AZTEC CIVILISATION 231
1.The Cyclic 52-Year Calendar and the Aztec 52-Year Ritual of 1507 AD (Ome Acatl, 2 Reed) 232
2.Sources and Brief Research History 236
3.The Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating Postclassic Aztec 52-year Ritual as a Rite de Passage 243
4.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time 253
5A Spatial-Temporal Ritual 262
6.Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time 265
7.The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time 295
8.Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (Anti-Structure): A Ritual Structuring of Historical-Political Time 328
Chapter Five 337
A COMPARATIVE ANALYSIS OF RITUAL PRACTICES OF TIME 337
1.The Heterogenous Data 337
2.The Structure of Time: Interval and Calendar Ending/Calendar Inaugurating Rituals 343
3.Calendar Ending/Calendar Inaugurating Rituals of the 260-day Calendar, the 365-day Calendar and the 52-year Calendars 345
4.The Structure of the Ritual Temporal Practice 345
5.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time 347
6.The Spatial-Temporal Ritual Practice 349
7.Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time 351
8.The Sociology of the Ritual Practice of Time 356
9.The Politics of the Ritual Practice of Time 360
10.The Cultural Ritual Practice of Time of Various Calendars 365
11.An Ordering and Structuring of Deified Calendar Time in Polymorphous, Poly-semantic and Poly-functional Ritual Practices 377
12.The Temporal Principle of the 260-day Calendar in Mesoamerican Religion(s) 380
BIBLIOGRAPHY 387
INDEX 419
list of figures ix

List of Figures

1. Map of Mesoamerica with cultures of the analysis. . . . . . . . . . . . . 146


2. T153-T217 & T220 & MZP-ba from Stela C, Quirigua (East side)
(B6). Autograph by Matthew G. Looper (Looper 2003: 159, fig.
5.1). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 147
3. Vase of the Seven Gods, K2796. Photograph by Justin Kerr, 2001
(Kerr 2001: http://famsi.famsi.org:9500/dataSpark/MayaVase..147
4. Full-figure signs of pik (baktun), winikhaab (katun) and haab
(tun). Autograph by Miss Kisa Noguchi (Thompson 1950: fig. 28). 148
5. Full-figure signs of winal/winik, kin and Lunar Series. Autograph
by Miss Kisa Noguchi (Thompson 1950: fig. 29) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 149
6. Female figure as Ajaw day sign. Autograph by David Stuart
(Stuart 1996: 169, fig.20). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 150
7. Page 25 and page 26 of Codex Dresden (Schele and Grube 1997:
200). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 229
8. Page 27 and page 28 of Codex Dresden (Schele and Grube 1997:
201). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 230
9. Lamina 34, Codex Borbonicus. Akademische Druck- u. Verlags
anstaltGraz (1974). FAMSI: http://www.famsi.org/research/
graz/borbonicus/index.html. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 330
10. A Sign that a knot of reed or a cord is associated with the year
sign Ome Acatl (2 Reed) with an attached sign representing
a fire-drill (Folio 2r, Codex Mendoza). Autograph by John
Montgomery (Boone 2000: 41, fig. 13b). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331
11. Folio 42R of Codex Telleriano-Remensis. Photograph in Quiones
Keber 1995: Folio 42R). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 331
12. Folio 27V of Codex Telleriano-Remensis. Photograph in Quiones
Keber 1995: Folio 27V). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 332
13. Folio 32V of Codex Telleriano-Remensis. Photograph in Quiones
Keber 1995: Folio 32V). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333
14. Folio 41V of Codex Telleriano-Remensis. Photograph in Quiones
Keber 1995: Folio 41V). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 333
15. The dates Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and Ome Acatl (2 Reed) carved
on the Teocalli (Umberger 1981a: 432, fig. 127a) . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 334
x list of figures
16. Relief on the Acacingo cliff representing figure from a picture-
plaque jade with the dates Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and Ome Acatl
(2 Reed) (Umberger 1987b: 95, fig. 43). . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 335
17. Map of the location of Huixachtitlan (Huixach[ti]tecatl) by
Miguel Prez Negrete (based on Niederberger 1987, Paleopay-
sages et archeologie pre-urbane du Bassin de Mexique, CEMCA,
Mxico) FAMSI: http://www.famsi.org/reports/01082es/index.
html . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 336
acknowledgements xi

Acknowledgements

I am grateful to Professor Saphinaz-Amal Naguib, Professor Jan Terje Faar-


lund, Professor Ingvild Slid Gilhus and Associate Professor Svein Gull-
bekk, for reading and commenting upon my research proposal for the
research fellowship.
The dissertation would not have been possible without the aid of my
parents, Ingeborg Kirkhusmo Pharo and Per Pharo. My deepest gratitude
goes to my supervisors Professor Jens Braarvig, University of Oslo and Se-
nior Scientist Dr. Sren Wichmann, Department of Linguistics, Max Planck
Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology, Leipzig. They have been excellent
ever since supervising my Magister Artium Dissertation (2001). I extend
thanks to my father, Per Pharo, for reading parts of the manuscript and my
mother Ingeborg Kirkhusmo Pharo for revising the bibliography. I am also
grateful to Professor Otto Krogseth and Professor Torkel Brekke, Univer-
sity of Oslo.
In particular the Librarian Staff at the Tozzer Library, Peabody Museum
of Harvard University and the Library of Humanities and Social Sciences
at the University of Oslo has provided me with the needed literature.
Associate Librarian for Public Services and Head of Reference, Dr. Gregory
A. Finnegan of Tozzer Library, Principal Librarians Britt Hilde Olsson and
Eli Sofie Barstad Fjeld and my mother (retired Librarian) Ingeborg Kirkhus-
mo Pharo of Library of Humanities and Social Sciences at the University
of Oslo have been fundamental and brilliant in their professional support.
I would like to express my thanks to the Department of Anthropology,
Harvard University, USA. I also express special thanks to Professor Davd
Carrasco and Professor William F. Fash for inviting me to spend the fall
term, 2004 at the Department of Anthropology, Harvard University.
I am indebted to many scholars and to previous research conducted in
the field. But I would particularly like to thank Dr. Daniel Graa-Behrens
and Professor Stephen D. Houston.
I am most grateful to the members of the doctorial committee: Professor
Davd Carrasco, Harvard University, Professor Alfonso Lacadena Garca-
Gallo, Universidad Complutense de Madrid and Professor Saphinaz-Amal
Naguib, University of Oslo. The critique and encouraging comments by
xii acknowledgements
Professor Carrasco and Professor Lacadena Garca-Gallo have been most
helpful.
I also thank Professor Carrasco for his generosity and inspiration for
making the revision of the doctoral dissertation into a book manuscript
and the invitation to be Research Associate at the Moses Mesoamerican
Archive and Research Project, Harvard University.
I thank two anonymous reviewers for valuable comments.
I am grateful to and thank the series Editor-in-chief Dr. Alexander
Geurds, Editor Ivo Romein and Production Editor Wilma de Weert for their
expertise in preparing the manuscript for publication.
I thank Illustrator Kirsten Berrum for creating the graphical reproduc-
tions of the illustrations, and for the two maps.
The book has been prepared when I have held the positions as: Affili-
ated Scholar, The Centre for Development and The Environment (SUM),
University of Oslo; Research Associate, Moses Mesoamerican Archive and
Research Project, Harvard University; Research Associate, Institute for Sig-
nifying Scriptures (ISS), Claremont Graduate University.
introduction 1

Introduction

Mesoamericanist and historian of religions, Davd Carrasco, has comment-


ed upon the paradox that whereas history of religions and anthropology
have recognised the importance of analysing ritual practice in order to
understand culture, this emphasis has not been appreciatedwith some
exceptionsin the same way in Mesoamerican studies (Carrasco 2002:
277-278).
One of the most fascinating aspects of the civilisations in Mesoamerica
is the concept of time and the many calendars. In their sophisticated writ-
ing (so-called hieroglyphic or more correctly logosyllabic), narrative
visual (including logograms) aka pictorial, semiotic, symbolic and icono-
graphic systems, Mesoamerican civilisations recorded several calendars
(i.e. a organised computed number of time units and/or of time) founded
upon meticulous astronomical observations and mathematical epistemol-
ogy. The organised and systematised (calendar) time was and is today sub-
jected to particular ritual practices, of which I characterise by the
analytical category: ritual practice of time. A comprehensive systematic
investigationby the use of methodology and theories from the discipline
of history of religionsof the ritual practice of time of the Mesoamerican
calendar systems has, however, so far not been executed. There are a quite
a few publications about Mesoamerican calendars but many of these are
not relevant to the present subject matter, which relate to an analysis of
the ritualisation of (calendar) time.1 I therefore call attention to that the
central topic of the book is not an analysis of Mesoamerican calendars or
time per se but of the different ritual practices of calendar time.
The general theory is that calendar time, like any cultural and social
element becomes philosophically meaningful because it is practiced. Time
is given a particular significance not because it is measured but because
time is practiced in certain rituals. Or, alternately, time is effectively mea-
sured through the ritual practice.2 The theoretical and empirical objective

1Cf. for instance: Aveni (1980; 1989); Boone (2007); Bricker and Vail (1997); Broda (1997);
Brotherson (1982); Malmstrm (1997); Milbrath (1999); Paxton (2001); Read (1999); Rice
(2004; 2007); Ruggles and Urton (2007); Vail (1989; 2002); Vail and Aveni (2004); Vail and
Bricker (1998); Vail and Hernndez (2007; 2010); Van Stone (2011).
2Davd Carrasco has inspired this formulation.
2 introduction
of this book is to investigate and analyse the ritual practice of time of cer-
tain calendars observed by a selection of cultures in Mesoamerica. In this
way, it is my aspiration to contribute not only to the theory and methodol-
ogy of ritual studies in general but to enhance the knowledge of Meso-
american ritual temporal practices, religion, and in addition its various
social, political and intellectual systems.3 I commence by making some
essential definitions.

Mesoamerica and Ritual Calendars of Time

Despite the numerous particular traditions and languages, the people of


Mesoamerica had several cultural and religious traits in common. Meso-
america has been defined as a cultural-geographical region incorporating
northwestern, central and southern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize, and the
western part of Honduras, El Salvador and Nicaragua. In this area various
culturesfor instance: Maya, Nahua (Aztec), Olmec, Zapotec, Toltec,
Tlapanec, Teotihuacano, Tarasco, Otom, Mixtec etc.lived in advanced
civilisations before the European arrival, i.e. c. 1000 BC 1521 AD (fig. 1).4
Contacts existed between the different Mesoamerican cultures through
migrations, pilgrimage, trade, diplomacy, war, tribute and conquest. To
some extent, the Mesoamericans shared principles of writing and narrative
visual systems, which were for instance employed in screenfold books,
called codices by contemporary scholars. Many civilisations had a ball
game, monumental architecture, certain religious symbols, deities, rituals
and stories in common.
What interest us here is that several Mesoamericans cultures, apart from
a vigesimal counting system, also had quite a few calendars in common
in particular a 260-day calendar and a 365-day calendar, which together is
permutated into a 52-year calendar cycle called the Calendar Round.5 The
civilisations of Mesoamerica represent an especially interesting case in

3Important note to the reader: the present book is about half the length of the original
doctoral dissertation (2006)where due to the size some empirical data, overview informa-
tion and illustrations have to be left out. On the other hand, the manuscript of the doctoral
dissertation has been revised and updated.
4Paul Kirchoff originally outlined Mesoamerica as a cultural and geographical unity
(Kirchoff 1943). Other definitions of this region have been suggested as well (cf. Carrasco
2001: ix,. xiii).
5Cf. Prudence M. Rice about various theories of the origin of calendars in Mesoamer-
ica (Rice 2007).
introduction 3
world history since they operated with numerous calendars. The many
time-cycles and calendar calculations have been recorded, to some extent,
in the various Mesoamerican sources. The fundamental time units and
calendars in Mesoamerica were 13 days (Sp. trecena), 20 days (Sp. vein-
tena), a 260-day calendar, a 365-day calendar, and the Calendar Round of
52 calendar years or 18,980 days. There were also cycles of 7 and 9 days, 819
days, and 4 819 days, and a stellar calendar with observations of various
lunar and Venus appearances (Lounsbury 1981: 760).6 Mesoamerican peo-
ples meticulously dated a variety of historical, military, religious, political
and social events.7 The various calendars served different functions not
only because of the computation system but also how they were applied
by the individual culture. The calendars were accordingly respectively em-
ployed to record history, prophecy, divination, agriculture or the seasonal
cycle of nature (ecological time), astronomy etc. As documented in ar-
chaeological, epigraphic, narrative visual, colonial and contemporary eth-
nographical sources, Mesoamerican cultures executed many rituals of the
assorted calendars. The numerous calendars accordingly played a cardinal
role in the cultural and religious systems, socio-political institutions and
the daily life of the people of this vast cultural-geographical region. It is
therefore quite exciting that various extant primary and secondary sourc-
es outline Mesoamerican executed temporal ritual practices in connection
with four calendars i.e. the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar, the 52-
year calendar and the so-called Long Count calendar.8 These Mesoameri-
can ritual calendars of time are the subject of the analysis of this book. The
calendar systems have different foundation and historical development in
the many cultures of the region but this is not relevant issue to consider in
the comparative theoretical analysis (methodological model to be outlined
below) of the various temporal ceremonies.
It is important to mention that Mesoamerican religion constitutes not
a minor tradition. I emphasise, however, that the mentioned general
Mesoamerican cultural and religious elements are far from homogeneous.

6There were many other time computations like for instance, the linear Long Count
calendar of the Olmec and Maya civilisations. For instance, a ritual structure of a 40 day-
period may be detected in the 260-day calendar of the Mixe in southern Mexico (Lipp 1993:
182-183; Duinmeijer 1997: 192). The Kakchikel of Highland Guatemala computed a 400-day
cycle (hun). They also used a cycle of c. 20 years or 8000 days (may), a 260-day cycle
(cholquih) and most likely a 365-day cycle (Recions and Goetz 1953: 28-31).
7Cf. Aveni (1980; 1989); Broda de Casas (1969), Brotherson (1982), Caso (1967; 1971),
Edmonson (1988) and Tena (1987) for general works about Mesoamerican calendars.
8The Long Count calendar is, however, only known from the Maya and Isthiman region.
4 introduction
There is no evidence supporting that Mesoamerican cultures recognised a
common identity. The designation Mesoamerica, as constructed by con-
temporary scholars, therefore serves as an ideal type (Weber 1969).
Mesoamerica has nonetheless been analysed as one religious and cultural
system by quite a few scholars. Apart from the numerous languages,
several elements of the Mesoamerican cultural and religious traditions
continue to exist, even if they are more or less modified by Catholicism
evangelised by colonial Spanish missionaries between the 16th and 18th
centuriesand today challenged by globalisation and in particular mis-
sionary representatives of US Protestantism.9 Indigenous peoples in the
Americas have, however, in many cases continued to define Christianity
within their own cultural, linguistic, philosophical and religious systems.
The languages, histories, philosophies. religions and cultural traditions are
essential parts of the Indigenous Mesoamerican (and other Indigenous
American) peoples threatened identity and important in theirs struggles
for religious, political, economic, judicial, linguistic and social rights. Un-
fortunately, apart from some Mixe aka Ayuuk (southern Mexico) and Maya
communities (Highland Guatemala)10, there are no longer any practice of
the traditional Mesoamerican calendars today. But fundamental compo-
nents of traditional Mesoamerican time counts persist among Zapotecs,
Chatinos, Mazatecs, Chinantecs, Tlapanecs and Mixtecs of Southern Mex-
ico.11

Ritual Practice of Time as an Analytic Theoretical Concept

What constitutes and how can the concept ritual (practice) of time be
defined? An enormous literature has been produced about the notions of
ritual and time, which cannot be given simple definitions.12
A substantial disagreement exists among scholars concerning the mean-
ing and function of the concepts ritual or rite (Lat. ritus).13 I shall not

9African religions have, although to a lesser degree, influenced some Indigenous reli-
gions of Mesoamerica.
10Kiche, Ixil, Akateko, Qanjobal, Mam, Popti and Chuj.
11Cf. the research project Time and Identity under the direction of Professor Dr.
Maarten E.R.G.N. Jansen at Leiden University (http://www.archaeology.leiden.edu/research/
ancient-america/mexico/time-identity/).
12Roy A. Rappaport has made an interesting theoretical analysis of time, ritual and
religion (1999: 169-235) but do not consider ritual practice of (calendar) time.
13Ritual and rite will not be used synonymously but as two separate concepts.
A ritual is the all-embracing term whereas rite is a notion for actions within the ritual.
introduction 5
provide a lengthy theoretical discussion of a definition of ritual. Ritual
alludes to a constructed practice, a formula or a pattern of repeated sym-
bolic collective sequenced actions that incorporates a reflexive activity of
the performers and frequently involves the dramatization of a story. Quite
often the religious or ritual specialistsentrusted with the preparation,
organisation and conduct of the ritualstage it as a kind of theatrical
spectacle or performance (with participants and spectators) that takes
place at a definite time (tempus ritualis) and location (locus ritualis). The
repeated, fixed, formal and structural patterns of practices formulate a
culturally specific belief and symbol system of intrinsic value. Belief or
orthodoxy and ritual or orthopraxy are interconnected. Ritual is therefore
not a thoughtless but a cognitive action. The ritual practice and the belief
system embody a coherent whole where ritual and the story concurrently
impose an order and accounts for the origin and nature of that order,
and shapes peoples dispositions to experience that order in the world
around them (Bell 1997: 21). Cultural values, ideas, social status and rela-
tions, ethos, worldview, solidarity and identity can be constructed and
expressed by ritual-symbolic practices. Rituals represent the social reality
by communicating symbols through practice. As a culturally specific strat-
egy, rituals are both a production and communication of meanings or sym-
bols (Bell 1992: 74). The ritual practice regulates the community, the
behaviour and actions of its members. Rituals are therefore linked to the
judicial, economic, religious, social and political organisation of a society.
Paul Connerton (1989: 44-45) asserts that rituals can be perceived both as
expressive and instrumental acts, even though they do not always have
strategic ends. Rituals, as repetitive acts, also imply continuity with the
past. There is a range of meanings, symbolic expressions and functions
assigned to both the story and ritual (Dots 1986: 56-60). The instrumental-
ity, character, meaning and function of the rituals define the ritual catego-
ry. From the point of view of the participant and observant, a ritual
constitutes a polymorphic entity with a multiplicity of meanings and func-
tions. Rituals are accordingly both poly-semantic and poly-functional.14

A ritual refers to a system or a collection of rites (Gilhus 2001: 124). I will not make a
distinction between the concepts ritual and ceremony.
14Cf. outline of the concepts ritual and rite by Ritualdynamik. Heidelberg Univer-
sitys Collaborative Research Center 619, August 2002 (http://www.ritualdynamik.de/index.
php?id=22&L=1).
6 introduction
Time delimits and defines a particular ritual practice. Rituals are associ-
ated with the concept(s) of time in various ways. The New Encyclopaedia
Britannica states that time (Lat. tempus): is a measured or measurable
period, a continuum or simply a computed repeatable and non-repeat-
able (succession of epochal) duration (Leach 1968: 125).15 Different quali-
ties of time abide in human experience. Time as a social, cultural, religious
and political construction cannot be understood as a universal and uniform
category. The concept of timeas it is has been construed socially and
culturallyhas many aspects since the socio-cultural context determines
the perceptions and experience of time. The nature and experience of time
vary in various cultural cognitive systems. Cultures measure or calculate
time and conceive time differently.16
The experience of the duration or passing of time is constructed, organ-
ised and systematised in chronometers called calendars. The calendar de-
lineates and measures time intervals. It represents and embodies both a
determination and a computation of time. Time is mastered by conceptu-
alisation and quantification through the calendar. Calculated (calendar)
time accordingly creates order and meaning. Time can be categorised and
classified in a variety of calendars. A calendar defines the course of time
by dates and not by events. A day, although it may be defined in different
ways culturally, may be considered to be the smallest calendar unit of time.
The purpose of the calendar is to reckon or compute time over extended
periods for time keeping. Time, as represented in a calendar system of dates
and of successive series (intervals or periods) of durations, can be math-
ematically determined by the astronomical observation and the annual
sequence of seasonal activities. But there exist many methods to create
calendars by defining abstract time units. Multiple manifestations of time

15In a short article E. R. Leach has reflected upon the problem of translating the English
word time (Leach 1968). Leach points out that various qualifying terms for time cannot
easily be translated into another European language despite the fact that the English word
time is rendered as temps in French, Zeit in German, tiempo in Spanish, tid in
Norwegian etc. There can be various expressions of the word time, which are not synonyms
in a given language. The problem of finding an equivalent to this term is even more acute
in languages outside of Europe and the Western world (Leach 1968: 124). The Hopi language,
for instance, contains no words corresponding to the western notion of time according
to a classic study by Benjamin Whorf (1975). The same can of course be said about translat-
ing ritual or ceremony.
16Scholars have catalogued the diverse organisations of time in various cultures. Cf.
for instance Nilsson, 1920; Evans-Pritchard 1939; 1940; Leach 1961; 1965; ONeil 1976; Bloch
1977; Howe 1981; Fabian 1983; Aveni 1980; 1989; Gell 1992; Munn 1992; Geertz 1993.
introduction 7
are unified in various calendars. This makes time a diverse term that must
be interpreted and analysed in diverse ways.
Calendar time represents an aspect of the concept of time. As instru-
ments that order time in a chronological sequence, calendars structure and
classify reality in various cultures and, as Wayne Elzey writes, they function,
as temporal maps of the world (Elzey 1974: 107-108). Calendars constitute
social contracts made to serve the needs of society.17 For that reason the
question of the accuracy of a calendar is not always relevant. A calendar
founded on a certain set of rules is accurate if the prescribed rules are
upheld. Calendars can be transmitted in an oral, visual or a written (semi-
otic) tradition. The various periods or units of time are systematised and
organised to serve practical needs. Calendars can be employed to plan
agriculture, hunting and migrations. In addition, they can be applied in
divination, prognostication, prophecy and historiography. The calendars
may determine civil and religious events serving as a social contract. In this
way, the calendars uphold a cultural identity and the social and political
order. They furthermore create a connection between the human world
and the non-human (divine) world. The calendars may accordingly have a
sacred status. The emphasis in the present analysis is the cultural, social,
political, philosophical and religious context and use (e.g. practice) and
not the function and calculation of the calendar, even given the fact that
the operational aspect of the calendar has consequences for its religious,
philosophical, political, social and cultural application.18 The socio-polit-
ical and religious organisation of various societies emphasise different
dimensions of time and make use of necessary ritual strategies towards the
specific cultural organisation of time. What time is, how it is computed,
the type of calendar that has been applied to measure it, and the political
and social use of time (through imposing temporal disciplines within the
cultural context) are topics that have been treated extensively in the schol-
arly literature. This book will not contemplate time or calendar time as

17L.E. Doggett. Calendars. Reprinted from The Explanatory Supplement to the Astro-
nomical Almanac, P. Kenneth Seidelmann, editor, with permission from University Science
Books, Sausalito, CA 94965published by Fred Espenak. NASA/Goddard Space Flight
Center, Code 693 Greenbelt, Maryland 20754 USA on Fred Espenaks Eclipse Home Page:
sunearth.gsfc. nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html.
18L.E. Doggett. Calendars. Reprinted from The Explanatory Supplement to the Astro-
nomical Almanac, P. Kenneth Seidelmann, editor, with permission from University Science
Books, Sausalito, CA 94965published by Fred Espenak. NASA/Goddard Space Flight
Center, Code 693 Greenbelt, Maryland 20754 USA on Fred Espenaks Eclipse Home Page:
sunearth.gsfc. nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html.
8 introduction
concepts. The aim is not to ask philosophically or anthropologically what
time is, but rather how some selected societies experience and conceive
time through their ritual practices of calendar time.
The ordering of time is one function of a ritual or festival, as Leach puts
it. Time is also measured, structured and organised through the succession
of the ceremonies (Leach 1968: 125-126; 132-135; Plessner 1957: 237-239). The
notion of time in a cultural system is symbolically expressed through its
calendars and rituals, its rites priodiques (Hubert and Mauss 1909; Du-
mzil 1935-1936). Time is disciplined through an organisation in calendars
and by its associated ritual practices (Leach 1968: 135). As noted, it is the
ritual practice of calendar time or computed, systematised and organised
temporal units that is the subject of this booki.e. how time, delimited,
systematised and organised in calendars is observed in ceremonies. I in-
troduce a novel theoretical category, namely that of ritual (practice) of
(calendar) time, where time itself is the ritual protagonist or subject. I
define ritualised time or ritual (practice) of time as an abstract analytic
ceremonial category relating to the meaning of ritual celebrations of time
periods of a culture. In many cultures there is a religious importance of a
temporal periodicity.19 Rituals of time constitute a ceremonial completion
and an introduction of a given period of time where the time-intervals,
time-endings and inaugurations of time periods are observed in the ritual
practice. Various rituals within a calendar period do, however, not neces-
sarily occur at the end of a time period. They can recur on the same crucial
date within the calendar, not as a ritual celebration of a beginning or and
ending of time, but as a recollection of important events.
A differentiation must further be made between the celebration or per-
formance of rituals of the time of the world, society or community and rite
de passage of the time of the life of the individual human being, which
mark the individuals social development, like birth, initiation to adulthood
or puberty, marriage and death according to the biological calendar, which
creates order and definition to the bio-cultural life cycle of the human be-

19Not every culture incorporates rituals following a calendar. For instance, ceremonies
of the Apache and Navajo of the southwestern part of North America are performed only
when necessary to restore health and secure blessings in order to survive (Taylor 1991: 58).
H.B. Nicholson classifies this phenomenon noncalendric ritualism e.g. non-periodic
ceremonies not regulated by calendars like rite de passage in the life span of human beings,
dedication of monuments and structures, inauguration to a religious office, daily domestic
rituals etc. (Nicholson 1971a: 435-436). We must accordingly make a distinction between
what Pierre Smith categorises as periodical as opposed to occasional circumstances,
that is, regular (calendar) versus extraordinary (occasional or special) rituals (Smith 1982:
108-109).
introduction 9
ing. As can be surmised, it is the former, which constitutes the topic of the
present explication.

Comparative Methodology of a History of Religions Explication of


Ritual Practice of Time

Due to the limited access to pre-European/pre-Christian primary and sec-


ondary sources to the ritual practices of calendar time, I intend to explicate
the ritual practices of the noted four major calendarsThe Long Count
calendar, the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar and the 52-year cal-
endarof three cultural groups of Mesoamerica respectively: the classic
Maya culture, the postclassic Yucatec Maya culture and the postclassic
Aztec culture.
As aforementioned the Long Count calendar is only known from the
Maya and Isthiman region. It is moreover important to note that informa-
tion about calendars exists from many other Mesoamerican cultures but
alas there are no extant sources to their ritual practices of time. There is
for instance information about the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar
and the 52-year calendar from the Zapotec and Mixtec but no data of their
ritual practices of time. Furthermore, there is a quite lot of information
about the Aztec (Nahua) 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar but
not much of the ritual practice of time of these two calendars.20 The anal-
ysis accordingly considers the ritual practice of time of the following cal-
endars of the respective civilisations:
1. The Long Count calendar of the classic Maya (and to a lesser degree
the Short Count calendar of the postclassic Yucatec Maya).
2. The 260-day period/calendar (The Burner Periods) of the postclassic
Yucatec Maya.
3. The 365-day calendar of the postclassic Yucatec Maya.
4. The 52-year calendar (aka Calendar Round) of the postclassic Aztec.
The classic Maya civilisation is the only Mesoamerican culture recognised
in the extant sources to have used all these calendars in question: The Long
Count calendar, the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar and most prob-
ably the Calendar Round of 52 years.21 Except for the Long Count calendar,

20Cf. section V of the book.


21Isthmian (epi-Olmec) inscriptions of Tehuantepec in southern Mexico record 260-day
calendar, 365-day calendar and Long Count calendar notations (Stuart et al. 2005: 7).
10 introduction
the ritual practice of time of the Mesoamerican calendars are essentially
recorded in pre-colonial, colonial and postcolonial ethnographic sources.
Scholars today enjoy the benefit of the recently deciphered logosyllabic
inscriptions as a primary source for the classic Maya culture and to a less-
er extent of the Yucatec Maya speaking groups of the early postclassic pe-
riod. This analysis does not contain new decipherments but rely upon
previous extensive work of epigraphers. I have, however, examined the
reading of the discussed inscriptions for my philological explication. The
postclassic Indigenous narrative visual (with logographic signs) manu-
scripts (aka codices) and colonial accounts by Spanish Catholic ethnogra-
pher missionaries represent the principal sources about the celebrations
of the rituals of time of the 260-calendar, the 365-day calendar and the
52-year-calendar in the postclassic period. I carefully supplement these
sources with ethnographic data from principally contemporary Maya cul-
tures, which to a certain extent celebrate rituals of time of the 260-day
calendar and the 365-day calendar.22 The character of the various compiled
sources will be methodologically reflected upon and presented individu-
ally in the course of the analysis. It is significant to underline that ritual
practices of timein the different cultural communities, which used var-
ious interlocking calendarsdo not interact.
As the title of this book suggests, the ritual temporal analysis explores
the philosophy and sociopolitics of the aforementioned four Mesoameri-
can calendars, which I classify as religious. The category philosophy
signifies how the ritual practices reflect the conceptions of time of Meso-
american intellectual systems: the organisation and structure of calendar
time; the mathematical logic of calendar time; the origin of the world (cos-
mogony) related to time; space (cosmology) and time (spatial-temporality);
whether there were eschatological notions of a final ending of time. The
category sociology signifies the social meanings and functions the ritual
practice of time hold for society and social groups. Intimately related to
the sociological subject, there is a politics of time where the ritual practice
of time quite often constitute an instrument for the power of the aristo-
cratic elite and ruling lord. The philosophy and sociopolitics of the ritual
practices of calendar time is religious since the ritual practice of calendar

22This is because I analyse the pre-European/pre-Christian ritual practice of these


calendars from the Maya culture. As noted, besides various Maya cultures, the traditional
260-day calendar is in use today in the Mixe culture.
introduction 11
time pertains to the phenomenon of religion. For this reason, the analysis
is written from the theoretical perspective of the discipline of history of
religions. The concept religion signifies how various people in their prop-
er languages classify and conceive beings, places and phenomena as be-
longing to non-human categories set apart from the human sphere (cf.
Pharo 2007). A similar reverence can also apply to time, which may be
ritually venerated because of its religious significance. A systematic explo-
ration of the ritual practice of time of the above-mentioned Mesoamerican
calendar systems using the lens of the discipline of history or religions is
therefore accordingly undertaken. A methodology of history of religions
requires, however, enquiring consistent systematic and comparative ques-
tions to the ritual practice of time of each of the four calendars respec-
tively. I employ the following analytical model, explicating the ritual
practice of time regarding to:

The Organisation and Structure of (Ritual) Calendar Time

Every time interval and calendar has its own character, consequently each
ritual practice of time has a proper identity. The nature or quality of the
time period or calendar system is decisive to the meaning of the ritual
practice of time. The temporal structure and organisation of the 260-day
calendar, the 365-day calendar, the 52-year calendar and the Long Count
calendar inform about the perception, purpose and the character of the
respective ritual practices. Fundamentally, the structure of time is either
cyclical or linear. Cyclical time can be perceived of as a conception of rep-
etition. This means that time is infinite and recurring, organised in a de-
termined repetitive sequence. Conversely, linear time is progressive,
chronological and non-repetitive. These two basic conceptions or princi-
ples of time (cyclic vs. linear) outline a cultures perception of the past, the
present and the future.

Cosmogony and Ritual Practice of Time

Rituals can be authorised and be given meaning through stories about past
events, which can be ceremonially imitated and/or commemorated
(Dumzil 1935-1936: 242-243). The ritual practices of time might therefore
be associated with actions of the remote past when the time of the calen-
dar was initiated and also when the world and human beings were created.
12 introduction
The meaning of the ritual practice of time can accordingly be perceived in
relation to the story of the cosmogony. Primarily, in order to determine
whether the ritual practice of time constitutes a re-enactment of the orig-
inal acts of the deities at the cosmogony as a symbolic rebuilding or recre-
ating of the cosmos (space) and/or a renewal of time.

Cosmology (Space) and Ritual Practice of Time

The cosmology is outlined at the creation of the world, which explains the
primordial ordering of time and space. Time may be associated with space
in some calendars. In the chronovision and cosmovision of Mesoamerican
philosophy it is important to consider whether the various categories of
time were associated with a complementary notion of space expressed in
spatial-temporal rituals.

Eschatology and Ritual Practice of Time

Eschatological and apocalyptical conceptions and anxieties of a final ter-


mination of time can motivate the celebrating of rituals. Potentially, a
ritual of time may function as a crisis ceremonial for the community,
involving a profound psychological aspect. In such a case the survival of
the world (space and time) and human beings may depend upon the ritu-
al practice of time, but only if it is observed in an appropriate manner. An
eschatological conception connected to the specific calendar ultimately
decide the meaning of the ritual practice of time.

Sociology and Politics and Ritual Practice of Time

The ritual practice of time are to be analysed not only as an intellectual or


philosophical but also as a social and political phenomenon. The nature
and character of the ceremonial performance, comprising participant per-
formers and observers of various social groups, affect the social meaning
and function of the ritual. Determining which social groups were allowed
to take part in the ceremonial events is important in deciding the sym-
bolic status and role of the ritual practice of time in the community. This
is also an issue of gender, in identifying whether and in what manner wom-
en were engaged in this ceremonial practice. The status and role of the
introduction 13
religious (ritual) specialists23 and the people of the community who per-
form and participate in the ritual of time of the various calendars are ac-
cordingly examined. In addition, the ritual practice of time is evidently
affiliated to social and economic institutions like for instance agriculture,
which importance were crucial in pre-industrial Mesoamerican societies.
A sociological analysis of ritual practice of time is moreover intimately
connected to power and politics. The ideology of the political, social, eco-
nomic and military (aristocratic) elite constructs the social patterns and
the fundamental temporal conception. A politics of ritual of time sym-
bolically endeavour to influence and control the past and/or the future
with the purpose to serve the interests of the nobility either/or the ruling
regent.

The Religious Quality and Order of Ritual Practice of Time

A calendar is not only a chronometrically instrument. The quality or ontol-


ogy, i.e. the religious significance and meaning, of time has extraordinary
importance, as opposed to the quantity of time or scientific time where
calendar time is simply abstract mathematical duration with no historical,
socio-political, economic, astronomical, philosophical or religious asso-
ciations. We shall see that rituals of (calendar) time were observed in order
to bring the preternatural and human into harmony and order (i.e. struc-
ture) accordingly overcoming symbolically a temporal anti-structural
chaos.

The Ritual Symbolic Temporal Importance of the 260-day Calendar

I argue that among the numerous Mesoamerican calendars there is one


predominant calendar. This is the 260-day calendar, which mathemati-
cally and religiously has a particular significance in Mesoamerican tempo-
ral philosophy and practices. In addition, in various manners it is
intimately related to and decides the meaning of the Long Count calendar,
the 365-calendar and the 52-year calendar.

23I employ the concept religious specialist instead of: priest, prophet, medicine
man, calendar specialist, diviner, ritual expert, magician etc.
14 introduction
Structure of the Book

The structure of the book comprises five parts:


I. The ritual practices of time of the Long Count calendar of the classic
Maya civilisation.
II. The ritual practice of time of the 260-day calendar of the postclassic
Yucatec civilisation: The Burner Ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day
intervals.
III. The ritual practice of time of the 365-day calendar of the postclassic
Yucatec civilisation.
IV. The ritual practice of time of the 52-year calendar of the postclassic
Aztecs civilisation.
V. A comparative analysis of the ritual practice of time.
Each part can be read independently. Part V summarises the major theo-
retical issues addressed in parts IIV in a comparative manner. In addi-
tion, chapter 8 of part V examines the limited information of the existence
of rituals of time of different calendars simultaneously performed within
a single culture.

Note on Correlation and Orthography

I make use of the generally accepted original correlation of Goodman-


Martinez-Thompson (GMT) 584, 283 for the conversion of the classic Maya
Long Count calendar into the Gregorian calendar.24
The transcription of the inscriptions is set in bold types. Logographs are
expressed in capitals; syllables and vowels are rendered in lower case. The
transliteration is set in lower case and in italics.
In 1988 Maya scholars in Guatemala established the Academa de las
Lenguas Mayas de Guatemala (ALMG). One of the organisations most
important contributions was the reform of the orthographies of the Mayan
languages by Indigenous linguists. For instance, Popol Vuh is spelled
Popol Wuj and Cakchiquel is written Kaqchikel according to the new
official orthography. I will follow the orthography established by ALMG
when it comes to the spelling of the classic Maya inscriptions. Conversely,
the orthography of the Yucatec colonial sources will be applied in the

24Cf. Martin and Skidmore for a recent discussion of the 584283, 584285 and 584286
correlations (2012).
introduction 15
analysis of the rituals of the postclassic Yucatec 260-day calendar and 365-
day calendar.
The calendar names of the classic Maya for the 365-day calendar are
rendered in classic Maya, as reconstructed by Wichmann (2000a). The 260-
day calendar of the classic Maya is kept in Yucatec because the correct
pronunciation of the day names is not known.
I prefer using the term veintena (score) to month when designating
the 20 day units of the Mesoamerican 365-day calendar.
I have employed the Nahuatl translation of Fray Bernardinho de Sa-
hagns Florentine Codex by Charles E. Dibble and Arthur J. O. Anderson
(1950 1982) and Primeros Memoriales by Thelma D. Sullivan (1997) into
English. Quotations from Sahagn into Nahuatl follow Dibble and Ander-
son and Sullivans orthography.
References to illustrations are given in List of figures. Except fig. 3, they
are redrawn by Illustrator Kirsten Berrum. I thank Barbara Kerr and Justin
Kerr for permission to publish the photograph of K2796.
16 introduction
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 17

Chapter One

THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE LONG COUNT CALENDAR


OF THE CLASSIC MAYA CIVILISATION

The constructed denomination Maya comprises c. seven or eight million


people who speak a Mayan language today (there are 29 extant Mayan
languages). The various contemporary Mayan peoples constitute cultural
and linguistic minorities in the Mexican states Veracruz, Tabasco, San Luis
Potos, Chiapas, Campeche, Yucatn and Quintana Roo, in Belize, in Gua-
temala, in the western parts of El Salvador and Honduras. The Maya civili-
sation of the southern and the central lowland was in the classic period
(c. 250 AD c. 900 AD) organised in independent cities or city-states, which
consisted of a religious-political hierarchical and social differentiated sys-
tem governed by a aristocracy and/or one or numerous lords called (kuhul)
ajaw. The Maya never created a large domain like for example the later
Aztecs of Central Mexico, but at certain moments in time particular cities
managed to some degree establish local hegemonies (city-states) during
the classic period. The central southern lowland became to be depopu-
lated in the terminal classic period (c. 800 AD c. 900 AD). From c. 850 AD
a foreign Central Mexican influence is manifested in the classic Maya cities.
After 900 AD the city-state culture of the southern and central lowland
classic Maya fell into decline and ended up being annihilated (cf. Martin
and Grube 2000; Houston and Inomata 2009).1
Archaeologists has designated the period of the lowland Maya as clas-
sic because of the existence of dates from the so-called Long Count cal-
endar corresponding to c. 250 AD c. 900 AD found inscribed in their
writing system on architectural structures and stone monuments. The ma-
jor part of the classic Maya Long Count dates is, however, recorded in the
late classic inscriptions (c. 600 AD c. 900 AD) written in classic Choltian
(Houston, Robertson and Stuart 2000) or classic Cholan/classic lowland
Maya (Lacadena and Wichmann 1999; Wichmann 2006). The earliest

1The regents of the most prestigious dynasties are from the 4th century bearing the
kuhul ajaw (sacred lord) title, a title that spread to the smaller cites during the classic
period. This was to distinguish the rulers from the increasing aristocracy who came to usurp
the ajaw title (Houston and Stuart 1996: 295; Martin and Grube 2000: 17).
18 chapter one
acknowledged date from the Long Count calendar, from the region of the
classic Maya civilisation in the southern lowlands, appears at Tikal, Gua-
temala on 8.12.14.13.15 or October 14, 292 AD (Lounsbury 1981: 809; Martin
and Grube 2000: 27).2 The last recognised Long Count date engraved on a
stone, a jade from Tonina, Mexico, is 10.4.0.0.0 or January 18, 909 AD (Mar-
tin and Grube 2000: 13; Montgomery 2002: 70). There is less evidence for
the use of the Long Count calendar after the classic period. The last known
Long Count date10.19.6.1.8 or September 25, 1210 ADderive from a
manuscript called Codex Dresden (Lounsbury 1981: 812). The tradition of
observing the Long Count calendar continued probably into the sixteenth
century. The Chronicle of Chicxulub states that it was terminated in the year
1517 AD (Bricker and Bricker 2011: 120).
As noted, the Maya cities and city-states of the southern and the central
lowland of the classic period have left numerous records of computations
of the Long Count calendar in their logosyllabic (aka hieroglyphic) inscrip-
tions.3 But the Long Count calendar is presumably not an invention of the
Maya. The first ever known Long Count inscriptiondated to 7.16.3.12.13
according to the Long Count notation system or June 24, 34 BCis located
outside the Maya lowland region. This inscription on Stela 2 at Chiapa de
Corzo, Chiapas of southern Mexico is written in the Epi-Olmec or Isthme-
ian script from the Isthmus of Tehuantepec of Southern Mexico. The Epi-
Olmec culture (c. 300 BC c. 250 AD) in the central region of Veracruz of
Mexico was a successor to the Olmec civilisation (c. 1200 BC c. 400 BC) in
the Gulf coast region of southern Mexico. The Olmec are probably the
predecessor of the present day Mixe and Zoque cultures of Oaxaca and
Chiapas, Mexico (fig. 1). It is, however, only the classic Maya civilisation
that has left a quite comprehensive record of inscriptions containing Long
Count dates and the related ritual practice of time (Stuart 2011: 173-175).

2The first known probable Maya date appears on Stela 1 at El Bal, on the Pacific Coast
on March 2, 37 AD (7.19.15.7.12) (Martin and Grube 2000: 13).
3A seven-day cycle, a nine day cycle, the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar, a
819-day cycle (4 819 days) and poorly understood time cycles of the Lunar calendar and
possibly cycles defined by the movements of other heavenly bodies related to the Long
Count calendar are recorded in the classic Maya inscriptions. Cf. Thompson (1978: 28-34;
208; 212; 233; 237; 303), Lounsbury (1981: 814-816) and Stuart (1992) for bibliographic refer-
ences to decipherment of the calendars in the Maya inscriptions.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 19
1.The Ritual Sequential (Interval) Structure of the Long Count calendar

Fundamentally, the Gregorian linear calendar makes a count of the number


of years whereas the Long Count calendar constitutes a counting days
beginning at the day of creation of the contemporary Long Count period
at 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) corresponding to August 11, 3114 BC in
the Gregorian calendar. The basic time reckoning of the Long Count cal-
endar consists of five positions within a place-notation arrangement. The
names of these five time units, with the Yucatec designations in parenthe-
sis, are:
Pik (Baktun): 144, 000 days
Winikhaab (Katun): 7, 200 days
Haab4 (Tun): 360 days
Winal/Winik: 20 days
Kin: 1 day
As noted, we do not know exactly when the Long Count calendar was no
longer practiced. The Spanish missionary fray Diego de Landa comments
in Relacin de las cosas de Yucatn (c. 1566) of the high numbers that the
Maya had:
often very long counts and they extend them in infinitum, counting the
number 8000 twenty times, which makes 160,000; then again this 160,000
by twenty, and so on multiplying by 20, until they reach a number which
cannot be counted (Tozzer 1941: 98).
A temporal system of a cyclical so-called Short Count calendar of c. 256
years (93,600 days) i.e. 260 tuns or 13 katuns (winikhaab) more or less re-
placed the linear Long Count calendar in the postclassic period (c. 900 AD
c. 1500 AD) at Yucatn of Mexico (Roys 1967: 132, 184185).5 The Short
Count is an abbreviation of the Long Count system. Each katun of the Short
Count was designated after its final day, which is Ajaw of the 260-day cal-

4The haab of 360 days was the fundamental time unit intended to approximate the
solar or vague year of 365 days (Taube 1988: 205), since 360 days almost amounts to a solar
year. Tun is the Yucatec word for haab, which is a Yucatec designation for a year of 365 days
(Barrera Vsquez 1980: 165). It is rather strange that the classic inscriptions of the southern
lowlands employ the designation tun for periods of 5 (ho tun), 10 (lajun tun), or 15 (ho lajun
tun) haab.
5This chronological system of katuns marked by their Ajaw-endings and sometimes
qualified by dates from the 260-day calendar and from the European calendar has survived
only as a synthesis of history, prophecy and divination in the Yucatec Maya colonial books
of the Chilam Balam, which were written in Yucatec but in Latin script.
20 chapter one
endar. The Short Count calendar was counted from katun 11 Ajaw to katun
13 Ajaw, with the coefficients of the katuns concluding days organised in
the order 11 9 7 5 3 1 12 10 8 6 4 2 13 Ajaw (because a
division of 20 360 days by 13 falls 2 days short) (Lounsbury 1981: 812-813).
A vast amount of stone monuments and structures of the classic Maya
embody inscriptions that celebrate a ritual completion or initiation of
various pik, winikhaab and haab time-intervals of the Long Count calendar.
Mayanists have classified these events as period-ending rituals/ceremo-
nies, which I, however, categorise as ritual practices of time. The concept
period-ending is inaccurate because it is not only about a celebration of
a terminated time period but also the commencement of a new time in-
terval within the Long Count calendar. From the inscriptions, it appears
that the various classic Maya cities had different traditions of when to
observe these temporal ceremonies. Some cities seem to emphasise the
quarter-winikhaab (ho tun) like for instance Piedras Negras and Quirigua
whereas other cites observed the winikhaab and half-winikhaab (Martin
and Grube 2000: 141; 148; 220-221; Montgomery 2002: 106). There was ac-
cordingly a great variation regarding the interval temporal structure of the
ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar.6 But the ritual practice
of the winikhaab was the most frequently recorded in the inscriptions and
probably most often celebrated.7 Evidently, there are not many examples
of ritually celebrated pik in the classic period and postclassic period since
they happened only every 144,000 days or c. 394,52 years. There are only
two pik dates in the classic period: 9.0.0.0.0 (435 AD) and 10.0.0.0.0 (830 AD).
The ritual practice of time of a pik ought to have represented a particular
important event.8 Consequently, there were many performances of rituals

6Recent discoveries at Palenque, Mexico indicate that the classic Maya also celebrated
one-eighth of a winikhaab, that is, a half hotun or 900 days. There were cord-taking ritu-
als connected to events 2.9.0 (900 days) after the ending of a winikhaab. Celebration of a
commemoration of the 1/8th of a winikhaab-period can be identified; they are of the self-
evident kind, in a variety of inscriptions from Tonina, Mexico and Palenque. Moreover, the
inscription of Stela J, Copan, Honduras encloses a list of individual tuns within the winikhaab
period. The tuns have each their own designation (Newsome 2001: 77-90; Schele and
Looper 1996: 104; Martin and Grube 2000: 187; Stuart 2000: 6). Stuart has furthermore iden-
tified a calendar cycle of 9 solar years on monuments at Tonina (Stuart 2002; 2007c).
7Stuart claim that the period-ending of 9.13.0.0.0 (692 AD) was particular important
because of the coefficient 13 referring to the Creation base date and origin of the world
(Stuart 2011: 184-185). This is, however, difficult to substantiate as the inscriptions from this
period (late classic) are in majority.
8Christie has collected examples of inscribed 9.0.0.0.0 and 10.0.0.0.0 dates (1995: 47-48).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 21
of time of various units within the linear Long Count calendar. This cate-
gory of ritual practice of time did not conclude or introduce the duration
of a comprehensive (i.e. cyclical) calendar. The ritual practices of time of
the Long Count calendar is accordingly not to be classified as a calendar-
ending or a calendar-inaugurating, but instead incorporated a completion
or introduction of heterogeneous interval units of time.

2.Methodology of Analysing the Ritual Practice of Time of the


Long Count calendar

Despite David Stuarts (1995; 1996) and Jessica Joyce Christies (1995) re-
search, a systematic investigation of the ritual practice of time of the clas-
sic Maya Long Count calendar has not been conducted within a theoretical
model of history of religions. Stuarts recently published book summarise
the state of the art about the concept of classic Maya time according to
epigraphic research (cf. Stuart 2011). It is now due, also because of the sub-
stantial advancement of epigraphy that has taken place since Stuart and
Christies investigations, to conduct an analysis of time as part of the piv-
otal classic Maya religious temporal practice.
The dates and descriptions indicating the ritual practice of time of the
Long Count calendar are only recognisable in the Maya inscriptions. It is
the calendar position of the inscriptions that serves as the fundamental
indicatorthe ceremonial undertaking must be stated to occur on a so-
called period-ending datewhether the outlined ritual practice was
intended to be concerned with time. The period-ending time stations
indicated with the coefficient zero of at least one of the time notations of
the Long Count calendar can only fall on the twentieth day, Ajaw, of the
260-day calendar because 144, 000, 7, 200, 360 and 20 are divisible by 20 (cf.
Taube 1992). I will return to this remarkable fact since I hypothesise that
the 260-day calendar plays a significant role in the temporal philosophy of
the Long Count calendar. Moreover, a plethora of formulas in the classic
Maya inscriptions conveying the end of a passage of time have been recog-
nised by various epigraphers.9 Archaeological primary sourcesi.e. mate-
rial objects and structuresand iconography or narrative visual systems
can only to a limited extent be of assistance. Besides history of religions,
the fundamental method of this investigation is philological. I have accord-

9Cf. survey in Mongomery 2002 and Pharo 2006.


22 chapter one
ingly principally examined the inscriptions and not the depictions because
images alone cannot signify that a ritual of time was being conducted. The
analysis will therefore only consider the iconography where one can estab-
lish an unequivocal relevance to the religious ritual practice of time.
Religious calendars are in particular difficult to interpret and analyse
since they comprise cognitive categories belonging to different and some-
times ancient cultural systems of philosophy, symbols and ritual practices
which in many instances are unfamiliar from the experience and world
view of the scholar. The extant inscriptions on the stone monuments com-
prise, alas, only short, formulaic expressions. The Maya scribes and the
religious specialists, the latter conducted the rituals and in many cases
commissioned the inscriptions and the monuments, made no exegesis or
interpretation of the religious temporal practices in the extant inscriptions.
The texts do not therefore contain any transparent information from the
Maya about the purpose of celebrating the rituals of time of the Long Count
calendar. In addition, it is quite difficult to interpret the ritual actions be-
cause some inscriptions are not accompanied by iconography or a narrative
visual system. A narrative coherence between the inscription and the
iconography in the ritual language of the temporal ceremonies is, how-
ever, often absent. In many cases, the inscriptions refer to rituals that have
nothing to do with the iconography. The image and the text
may constitute two or several independent narratives. Accordingly, no nec-
essary consistent pattern of relations exists between text and image.
The interpretation of the primary written sources (i.e. the logosyllabic
inscriptions) will nonetheless be supported by iconography, archaeology
and comparative colonial data (and to a quite limited degree, contempo-
rary ethnography). Although a use of information from the colonial period
(and postcolonial ethnography) from different Mesoamerican cultures is
problematic as a secondary comparative historical source to a pre-Europe-
an and pre-christian religious system of the pre-European period, this
method has become established as a part of the accepted methodology in
research of Indigenous cultures and philosophies of the Americas. This is
because quite a few pre-European/pre-Christian elements to some extent,
not without modifications, have been preserved by many cultures. How-
ever, the Long Count calendar system fell into disuse sometime during the
colonial period. I therefore emphasise that I employ colonial sources,
which do not derive from what we know as the classic Maya culture, with
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 23
considerable cautiongiven the fact that they play no essential part in the
analysis of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar.10

3.Cosmogonies and the Ritual Practice of Time and Space

Let us now examine the influencethe stories about the creation of the
world (cosmogonies) and pre-human time and in addition the related con-
cept of how the world or space (cosmology) were perceived organised
may have exerted upon classic Maya philosophy or philosophies of the
ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar. In this section the ma-
jor focus will be upon the cosmogonies. Moreover, I will attempt to iden-
tify spatial maps encoded in these narratives and how these models and
codes shaped the Long Count calendar.
Sir Eric Thompson has argued that there existed a Maya idea of celebrat-
ing creation at the various time stations within the Long Count calendar:
The resting places, the lub, of the eternal march of time were of transcendent
consequence to the Maya. Each birthday of creation was celebrated, were
it the end of a tun, a katun, or a baktun, the importance of the event natu-
rally depending on the length of the period which was concluded (Thomp-
son 1978: 181).
We see that Thompson associates the rituals of the various time units of
the Long Count calendarpik (baktun), winikhaab (katun) and haab
(tun)with creation (the longer the time period the more important was
the ceremonial event). The history of the creation of the world constituted
therefore the mythical ideology behind the rituals of time, where these
periodic ritual undertakings were re-enactment ceremonies of the cos-
mogony. Inspired by Thompson, various Mayanists maintain that the
mythological past was the conceptual foundation for the ritual practice
of time of the classic Maya. In Chronicle of the Maya Kings and Queens

10Prudence M. Rice employ a method of extrapolation of data from the postclassic and
the colonial period at Yucatn and contemporary ethnography combined with classic Maya
epigraphy in order to reconstruct classic Maya history. Rice hypothesise that the katun (c.
20 years) and the may (20 katun or c. 256 years) structured the geopolitical and religious
organisation of the classic Maya (Rice 2004). The theory that the cities were respectively
centres for rotating may-periods and ceremonies in the postclassic and early colonial
period at Yucatnapparently outlined in The Books of the Chilam Balamhas yet to be
corroborated by solid evidence. Rices methodology of direct-historical approach repre-
sents indeed a failing to ignore the crucial difference of primary and secondary sources in
history (of religions) (Cf. Pharo 2008).
24 chapter one
(2000), which explores eleven dynasties of classic Maya cities, Simon Mar-
tin and Nikolai Grube allege that at every major station in the Long Count
calendar the Maya ruler re-enacted smaller-scale remakings of the world
with offerings and sacrifices. The universe in Mesoamerica was dynamic,
with repeating creations and re-creations after destruction. The act per-
formed by the deities at the cosmogony was the foundation for the calen-
dar rituals (e.g. period-ending ceremonies or rather ritual practice of
time) of the classic Maya ruler (Martin and Grube 2000: 221). Also Christie
has sought to explain the nature of the ritual of classic Maya period-end-
ings on the background of the story of the creation of the world. She pro-
poses that the ruler (kuhul ajaw) with his/her auto-sacrifice of blood and
the erection of stone stelae renewed the world and time at period-ending
dates . Christies argument implies a hypothesis about an eschatological
motivation of the ritual practice of time by the classic Maya. The world was
symbolically recreated in rituals of time because the Maya feared that the
termination of the major time units of the Long Count calendar might also
mean the destruction or annihilation of the world and humanity. The cri-
sis that arose at the completion of a time unit was resolved by the kuhul
ajaw, who is ritual-symbolically recreated and rebuilt the Maya universe.
Christie perceives the erection of structures at period-ending dates in
the classic period as a ceremonial recreation of space and time (Christie
1995: viii-ix; 327-328).
The theory of a symbolic recreation of the world through ritual action
as argued by Thompson, Martin, Grube and Christieis in fact founded
upon the classic mythic-ritual theory of the Romanian historian of reli-
gions, Mircea Eliade. Eliade recognise ritual as a re-enactment of the cos-
mogony. All rituals stem from a repetition of supernatural actions performed
at the beginning of time and the world. Creation stories and ritual is there-
fore closely interconnected. In Le mythe de lternel retour. Archtypes et
rptition (1969), Eliade writes that he was struck by traditional societies
revolt against concrete, historical time and their nostalgia for a periodical
return to the time of the beginning of the world to great time, (Grand
Temps). History is regulated by archetypes and the repetition of those
archetypes (Eliade 1969: 9). Human practices are connected to and are a
reproduction of primordial acts in mythical time or illo tempore (time of
origins). The primordial events of the transcendent reality are repeated
because they were consecrated in the beginning by the deities, the ances-
tors, or the heroes. It is from the repetition of paradigmatic gestures (ar-
chetypes) that human objects and ideas acquire its reality and identity
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 25
(Eliade 1969: 15-16). The myth of the eternal return is a repetition of the
cosmogony. Every creation or construction act repeats the creation of the
world and every ritual has a divine model or an archetype. Through repeti-
tion of the cosmogonic act, concrete time is projected into sacred mythical
time (when the creation of the world occurred) in illo tempore (Eliade 1969:
31; 33). Eliade maintain that there is a fundamental need to regenerate the
world periodically through an annulment of time. These regeneration
rituals are performed through repetitions of archetypical or cosmogonic
proceedings (Eliade 1969: 104).
The hypothesis of Thompson, Christie, Martin and Grubethat time
and the world have to be ritually renewed or recreatedrepresents a the-
oretical paradigm in Maya and Mesoamerican studies. This theory gener-
ates the following questions:
1. Did the symbolic actions of the ritual practice of time refer to primor-
dial exploits of the deities at the cosmogony, i.e. the creation of the
present Long Count?
2. Did the ritual of time of the Long Count calendar symbolically renew
or reconstruct time and/or the world (space)?
3. Did the classic Maya have a ritual-eschatological philosophy, which
can psychologically explain the ritual practice of time of the Long
Count calendar?
In order to answer these questions, the primary sources to the cosmogony
must be examined and in so doing a reconstruction of the stories of cre-
ation of the classic Maya civilisation needs to be executed.

Methodology of Recognising a Cosmogony


Usually creation accounts are identified by certain divine undertakings
with the purpose to generate the earth or the world (i.e. space). This is,
however, not obvious from the brief enigmatic classic Maya inscriptions
where the cosmogony may be connected to the initiation of a time count
(i.e. the Long Count calendar) and/or with the making of space (earth/
world). What is indicative of the classic Maya cosmogony might be a de-
scription of events which took place on the day of the last Long Count, i.e.
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku).11 In several inscriptions the 13 pik of the
(former) Long Countcorresponding to a time span of days (c. 5128

11In his catalogue Carl D. Callaway prefer the notion era day (2011a).
26 chapter one
years)were declared completed and a novel (the present) Long Count
calendar was inaugurated. From a perspective of history of religions this
is interesting, since new timebut necessarily not space (the earth or the
world)is suggested to originate at that particular date. I shall later return
to the complex issue of a creation of time and/or space of the classic Maya
cosmogony. Let us briefly look at two cases (San Bartolo and Palenque)
that have been put forward as examples of narratives of creation (cos-
mogony) by scholarswhere interestingly dates of the Long Count
calendar are not part of a seemingly Maya cosmogonic account. This brings
forth the issue of an appropriate methodology in identifying accounts of
creation in the available sources.
William Saturno, David Stuart and Karl Taube argue that the recently
excavated West Wall of the mural, dated from around 100 BC, from the
preclassic site San Bartolo, Guatemala represent an account of creation
(Saturno 2006; Taube et al. 2010). The iconography of the West Wall illus-
trates five trees ostensibly portraying the four cardinal directions and the
centre of the world. Divine sacrificial ceremonies associated with these
four (world) trees, where each has a bird perched, are displayed in the
depicted scene. Taube therefore sees a parallel to the scenes of the postclas-
sic New Year pages (p. 25-28) of the Codex Dresden (Saturno 2005; 2006:
74-75; Taube et al. 2010: 12-15; 19-20; 28). Moreover, Stuart suggests (2005)
that the four lords or four youths in the scene on the West Wall represent
the four Year Bearers, i.e. deities manifesting Year Bearer dates from the
260-day calendar each identifying a particular year of the 365-day calendar.
One of the inscriptions includes the calendar date 3 Ik, which instigates
Stuart to propose that the Year Bearer day 3 Ik Seating of Kanjalaw is rep-
resented (Stuart 2005: 6; Taube et al. 2010: 19-20). Because of the lack of
inscriptions, the hypothesis that the illustration on the West Wall repre-
sents creation is not, however, ascertained. Iconography without adequate
narrative inscriptions or other comparative textual material is at best only
circumstantial and therefore not methodological reliable in the study of
ideas and (ritual) practices. The evidence for the San Bartolo West Wall
representing a cosmogonic scene is only hypothetical since creation is not
unambiguously outlined in writing. If Stuart is right about a presence of
the four Year Bearers, the San Bartolo West Wall (and for that matter Codex
Dresden) relate a quite different creation story from what is known from
later sources of the classic Maya civilisation (see below). The reason is that
the four Year Bearers can only be associated with the 365-day calendar or
the 52-year calendar but not with the Long Count calendar. The Long Count
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 27
calendar does not contain a spatial-temporal structure connected with the
four cardinal directions and thereby with the four Year Bearers. It is of
course possible that the creation of the world is not associated with the
Long Count calendar but with another calendar according to Maya phi-
losophy. The New Year pages (p. 26-28) of the Codex Dresden do not, how-
ever, outline creation of the world (cf. discussion in part II), which suggests
that neither do the West Wall of the San Bartolo mural. But we cannot be
entirely certain.
A passage (E1-H1) on the recently uncovered Temple XIX classic inscrip-
tions of the South Panel, Palenque narrates creation mythology according
to Stephen Houston, Stuart and Taube (2006: 91-95), Stuart (2005; 2006)
and Erik Velsquez Garca (2006).12 On the date 12.10.12.14.18 1 Etznab 6
Yaxkin of the previous Long Count, the deity GI apparently decapitates
one or two so-called Starry-Deer-Alligator(s) (Stuart 2005: 68-77; 177-180;
192; 198; 2006: 101). Houston, Stuart and Velsquez Garca argues that this
inscription accounts a creation storyanalogous in motive to cosmogo-
nies from central Mexicowhere a crocodile body is chopped from which
body blood flows thrice, fire is ignited, and an unidentified object is being
placed in pre-historic Maya time (Houston 2004: 101-102; Stuart 2005: 69-70;
176; 2006: 101; Velsquez Garca 2006). Apart from comparative (creation)
events from different cultures of central Mexico, there is no substantial
evidence that the inscription on Temple XIX can be categorised as a cre-
ation account. Stuart admits that the decipherment, interpretation and
translation of numerous signs of E1-H1 are uncertain (Stuart 2005: 68).13
Parts of the inscription constitute a passage where GI decapitates two en-
tities on the date 12.10.12.14.18, according to Stuarts reading, and later that
something was formed by GI. Furthermore, the story does not correspond
to the creation inscription on the Tablet of Temple of the Cross, which is
from the same city (see below). The date 12.10.12.14.18 1 Etznab 6 Yaxkin
i.e. 9.7.5.2 or 67, 422 days (c. 184,717 years) before the 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl
(Kumku)does not give an indication of creation. Stuart and Velsquez
Garca claim nevertheless that the date 1 Etznab of the 260-day calendar
is a date of creation. But it is the date Ajaw that corresponds to the day of
creation in classic Maya inscriptions and in the later The Books of Chilam
Balam. Consequently, neither events nor corresponding (suggestive) dates

12I thank Alfonso Lacadena Garca-Gallo for bringing this article to my attention.
13Cf. the transcription, transliteration and translation rendered by Stuart (2005: 192;
198).
28 chapter one
corroborate that the San Bartolo West Wall mural or the Temple XIX,
Palenque relate a cosmogony.

The Reconstructed Account(s) of classic Maya Creation Stories


As is clearly the case with many other Indigenous cultures of the Americas,
I advocate that there was not only one but several Maya creation stories
with various local narrative, places and protagonists according to the tradi-
tion of the individual cityin the classic period.14 To find out whether
classic Maya creation stories exerted an influence over the philosophy or
philosophies of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar the
following issues has to be addressed of what happened at the introduction
of the present Long Count, on the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku):
1. Who were the divine protagonists, what kind of practices were per-
formed and where did the creation come to pass?
2. Were there various time cycles (e.g. previous Long Counts) of Great
Time or World Ages in classic Maya chronovision? And if that was the
case, have human beings existed in these former time cycles or world
eras?
3. Was there a creation of space and/or of time?
In the forthcoming, based upon previous epigraphic work by various epig-
raphers15, I intend to map out a new comparative method and terrain on
the heterogeneity of classic Maya and other cosmogonies. As will be further
elaborated, the various practices, places and deities appearing in these
fragmented creation stories are indicative of separate creation stories and
not of episodes of one common shared classic Maya creation account. This
is further corroborated by the variety of patron deities and the genealogical
relation of the dynasties narrated in the inscriptions of the individual city.

14Quite a few extant inscriptionsStela 1, Stela 3, and Stela 5 Coba (Macanxoc); Stela
C, East Side, Altar P, and Zoomorph G, Quirigua; Monument 34, Tonina, Stela 23, Copan
(Santa Rita); The Tablet of the Temple of the Cross and The Tablet of the Temple of the
Sun, Palenque; Fragments of Altar 1, Piedras Negras; Plate 96; Stela A, Tila; Panel 18, Dos
Pilas; Early Classic greenstone mask; The Caracol Stela, Chichen Itza and various pages
(24, 61, 69, 70 etc. ) in Codex Dresdenrecord the date of creation. These obscure scriptures
may well refer to creation. Transcriptions, transliterations and translations of the known
inscriptions of the classic Maya, that contain the creation date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl
(Kumku), are provided in Pharo (2006).
15A previous synthesis but out-dated interpretation of classic Maya creation inscrip-
tions is to be found in Schele (1992: 120-152) and Freidel, Schele and Parker (1993: 59-122).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 29
From the legible existent inscriptions16, I have categorised the various cre-
ation accounts after the related actions of the supernatural beings where
the city/region of origin is noted in parenthesis.
1. The erection and binding or wrapping of three stones (tun) (Quirigua).
2. The bathing (yataj) of the Paddler Gods at Naj Ho Chan Ajaw.
3. The action of the seven and eleven gods (Naranjo region).
4. The creation of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and 0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik end of Iksihom
(Palenque).
The third designated creation story (Naranjo region) differs radically from
the other versions when it comes to the protagonists, actions and locations.
Moreover the narrative of this creation account is the only one to derive
from ceramic vessels (K2796 & K7750). In contrast to the versions from
monuments, these vessels represents iconographic portraits of the divine
performers of the cosmogony.

The Erection and Binding or Wrapping of Three Stones (Tun) (Quirigua)


The most complete information of the cosmogony derives from the inscrip-
tion on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua, Guatemala. It is commonly as-
sumed among epigraphers that the first verb phrase on Stela C, Quirigua
reads: ja(h)l-j-iiy ko( j) ba revealed or manifested were (long ago) (the)
hearth-stones or ja(h)l-aj ko( j) ba revealed or manifested were (long ago)
(the) hearth-stones (fig. 2.).17 Many sites share this not deciphered cre-
ation formula associated with the creation date of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl
(Kumku). This ostensible creation formula has therefore been central in
the interpretation and understanding of classic Maya creation stories
(Schele 1992: 120-152; Freidel, Schele and Parker 1993: 59-122; Looper 2003:
158-185; Stuart 2011: 216-222).18 Because of lack of decipherment of the
various signs, I find that this creation event phrase cannot be properly

16It is important to note that the inscriptions from Tila and the Naranjo region only
contain the Calendar Round date 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and not the complete Long Count notation
13.0.0.0.0. There is accordingly a possibility that these dates from the 260-day calendar and
the 365-day calendar respectively did not refer to the creation date, 13.0.0.0.0. For instance,
Stuart and Houston has demonstrated this to be the most probable case concerning the
presumably creation text from Chancala, Mexico (cf. Stuart 2011a).
17Stuart read the collocation as jehlaj koh baah, the face-image changed (Stuart 2011:
219).
18A recent published book about the classic Maya calendar indicates that this inter-
pretation of classic Maya creation story is still very much in existence among epigraphers
(Rice 2007: 143-144).
30 chapter one
understood. An essential part of classic Maya creation accounts is accord-
ingly obscure (Cf. Pharo 2006). But this supposed creation formula is also
connected to other (historical) dates than 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku)19,
thus not exclusively associated with creation. The inscription on the east
side of Stela C, Quirigua may be paraphrased as follows:
On 13 pik 0 winikhaab 0 haab 0 winal 0 kin 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (August 11, 3114
BC), three named stones were erected, bound or wrapped. The first stone,
the Jaguar Throne Stone, was planted by the two supernatural beings
(whom operate in pair)The Jaguar Paddler and The Stingray Paddler.
This happened at a location called Nah Ho Chan. Then the god Ik Nah
Chak erected a stone, the Snake Throne Stone. This took place at ?. Finally,
the third stone, the Waterlily Throne Stone, was bound or wrapped by a
fourth supernatural being called Itzamnah. This happened at ?. 13 pik was
completed. It was done under the auspices or authority of the deity Ajaw
Huk Chan.
The erection of stones (tzap tun) is said in the inscription to be con-
ducted by the two Paddler GodsThe Jaguar Paddler and The Stingray
Paddlerand Ik Nah Chak, but not by Itzamnah. It is the latter deity who
exclusively undertakes the kaltun or stone-binding. But it may well be
that it is implied that both the erecting and the binding or wrapping of the
three stones were conducted by the Paddler Gods, Ik Nah Chak and Itzam-
nah. The three symbolic stones (tun)The Jaguar (Throne) Stone, The
Snake (Throne) Stone and The Waterlily (Throne) Stonewere first plant-
ed and then wrapped or tied by these four deities on the day of creation.
But it was a fifth deity, Ajaw Huk Chan, whom supervised these events.

The Bathing (Yataj) of the Paddler Gods at Naj HoAjaw


The quite brief inscription on Stela A, Tila recounts a mysterious action,
where the Jaguar Paddler and the Stingray Paddler bathed (yataj) at Nah
Ho Ajaw at the appearently (only the 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl date of the Calendar
Round appear in the inscription) creation date of (13.0.0.0.0) 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl.

19Cf. Schele (1990) and Pharo (2006: 36).


the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 31
The Action of the Seven (K2796) and Eleven Gods (K7750) (Naranjo
region)
A different story of the cosmogony is related on the Vase of the Seven Gods
(K2796) and on the Vase of the Eleven Gods (K7750) from the Naranjo re-
gionnot far from Tikal, Caracol and Calakmulof northern Guatemala
(Reents-Budet 1994: 319). Only the 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl date of the Calendar Round
appear in the inscription suggesting: 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl. Not only are
there different actors but also the action outlined in the inscriptions is quite
different from other classic Maya cosmogonic stories. It is interesting that
the two almost identical ceramic vessels represents respectively different
amounts of gods. K2796 (fig. 3) and K7750, each depict seven and eleven
supernatural beings. Nevertheless, the inscription on both vessels gives the
names of seven gods. This could mean that there were only these seven
gods, who participated in the creation performance. The scenes on K2796
and K7750 show two rows with six and ten deities correspondingly sitting
in front of God L who is seated on a jaguar throne smoking a cigar. There
are bundles, ikaatz/ikitz, in the scene with the inscription: Bolon-Ek-Kab.
The verb in the inscription, tzakaj, may allude to an increasing of time or
an ordering of timean expression common in inscriptions with calen-
dar informationperformed by the depicted deities (among them a heav-
en and an earth god). This verb is followed by the names of the deities
portrayed in the scene. The inscription on the Vase of the Eleven Gods adds
to this information by including the location of Kihnchil20 where the in-
troduction of the new Long Count computation was probably initiated.

The Creation Acts of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and 0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik end of


Iksihom (Palenque)
The inscription on the Tablet of Temple of the Cross of Palenque announce
that 13 pik was terminated on 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl, i.e. on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl
(August 11, 3114 BC). But here is the mentioned not deciphered creation
event, which was in other inscriptions associated with the creation date,
said to take place 1 haab, 9 winal and 2 kin after the beginning of the new
Long Count, i.e. on 0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik end of Iksihom (February 3, 3111 BC), at
an unknown site. Besides the enigmatic creation event, other rather

20Cf. Stuart (2011: 224).


32 chapter one
obscure not deciphered incidents, is stated to have happened on the date
0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik end of Iksihom.

The Heterogeneous classic Maya Cosmogonies


The scarce narratives of the various classic Maya cosmogonies offer a frag-
mented picture. Nevertheless, there is sufficient evidence for establishing
that there are diverging versions of classic Maya cosmogony. The different
creation inscriptions only agree that 13 pik was completed on 13.0.0.0.0 4
Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku)21, indicating the beginning of a new Long Count and
that 13 pik of the former Long Count was terminated.22 This is not surpris-
ing since the inscriptions of the Maya of the classic period do not constitute
a single monolithic corpus of information but demonstrates a variation in
time and space, which reflects the religious and political identity of the
individual city (Stuart 1995: 131). The various cities of the classic period had
their own history, tradition and cultural identity. History was accordingly
represented different in the southern and central lowland region, as the
inscriptions suggest (Stuart 1995: 171). Moreover, there are reported various
creation stories of the polities within the Aztec empire according to the
Spanish ethnographer missionary Gernimo de Mendieta. Various cities
in central Mexico worshipped different deities and had various (creation)
stories (Boone 2007: 174). It is therefore to be expected that the classic Maya
polities also had specific patron deities, rituals and (creation) stories dis-
playing their particular religious identity. Different supernatural creation
beings, diverse creation locations and various cosmogonic events ex-
hibit numerous classic Maya creation stories. The narratives of creation
accordingly differ when it comes to the obscure locations of where the
cosmogony took place, the identity of the numerous preternatural pro-
tagonists and the character of their actions. The noted creation inscriptions
indeed relate quite different versions of how creation was undertaken. A
notion of one universal creation account of the cities and city-states of the
classic Maya civilisation is therefore deceptive.

21The expression tzutziiy uxlajun pik, 13 pik was completed, appear in the inscriptions
on Stela 1, Coba, Altar P, Quirigua, The Tablet of Temple of the Cross, Palenque, Fragment
B (K1-P2) of Altar 1, Piedras Negras and Panel 18, Dos Pilas. We thus know that the previous
Long Count consisted of 13 pik or 13 144,000 days. The Calender Round date of 4 Ajaw 8
Ohl is stated as completed with the same formula on Stela 23, Copan.
22The inscription on The Tablet of Temple of the Cross of Palenque suggests, however,
that creation events took place after 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (August 11, 3114 BC) on the date
0.0.1.9.2 13 Mak end-of Mol (February 3, 3112 BC).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 33
The Temporal Philosophy of World Ages in Mesoamerican Cosmogonies
As opposed to the one world (age or period) of the Christian tradition, quite
a few American Indigenous religions have a concept of several world ages
or world periods/eras before the present one. Since there are, as we shall
see, many Long Counts according to classic Maya temporal philosophy, the
Long Count can be considered to represent a world age or world era. A
world age constitutes a series of beginning and endings of worlds, a concep-
tion found within many religious systems outside Mesoamerica, for in-
stance among the Zoroastrians, Hindu, Buddhist, Jains, ancient Greeks, and
Maori. We shall later see that ritual practices of time of the contemporary
Long Count calendar structurally reflect divine actions in previous Long
Counts. This complicates the theory that ritual practices of time symboli-
cally repeats the cosmogony of the contemporary Long Count with the
purpose to renew time and/or space. In order to illuminate the fundamen-
tal question relating to a symbolic ritual practice of time and/or space of
creation, we must look into the concept of world ages or world eras of
Mesoamerican cosmogonic stories.
In the scholarly Mesoamerican literature a paradigm of an Indigenous
notion of various world ages has been firmly established. In Maya History
and Religion, Thompson has compared Mesoamerican cosmogonies under
the rather fallacious heading Maya Creation Myths: Creation and Destruc-
tion of Worlds (Thompson 1970: 330-348). A comparative investigation of
the structure of the cosmogonies of the classic Maya with other Meso-
american people is a constructive method. But unlike Thompson use of
only ethnographic data, I will examine the cosmogonic classic Maya in-
scriptions, which Thompson was not able to read, in comparison with
other religious traditions of Mesoamerica.
The data about the structure of the pre-European and pre-christian
Mesoamerican cosmogonies are regrettably inadequate. It has been and
still is a theoretical paradigm among scholars that there is an account of
several creations of the world or cosmogonies in the Popol Wuj of the Kiche
(cf. for instance Graulich 1987).23 This interpretation is based on a suppos-

23Popol Wuj, the council book, narrates the cosmogony of the Kiche-Maya of High-
land Guatemala. The manuscript of Popol Wuj was discovered between 1701 AD and 1703 AD
in Chichicastenango in the Highland of Guatemala. The Kiche speaking Dominican friar
Fray Francisco Ximnez (1666 AD 1730 AD) translated Popol Wuj into Spanish. The authors
of the Popol Wuj are anonymous. The manuscript is written with Latin script in Kiche by
most likely one or several members of the Kiche aristocracy belonging to the three lineages
which ruled the Kiche state until the middle of the 1600th century. The original manuscript
is lost where only one copy is known to have survived. The extant manuscript was probably
34 chapter one
edly common concept of various creations and destructions of the world
in Mesoamerican creation stories. Taube and Alfred M. Tozzer agree that
the first portion of the Popol Wuj outlines the creation of the world and its
inhabitants out of the primordial sea and sky. Like the Aztec story of the
Five Suns and the cosmogonies of the postclassic Yucatec, there are mul-
tiple creations and destructions, each associated with a particular group
of towns (Tozzer 1941: 136, note 633; Taube 1995: 53; 73). In his translation
of the Popol Wuj, Munro S. Edmonson operates with four creations (Ed-
monson 1971). Rafael Girard does the same in his analysis of Popol Wuj,
where he writes of four ages du monde (Girard 1960: 31-68). Popol Wuj
delineates, however, only one creation of the world. No account of annihi-
lations and creations of previous worlds are narrated. It is vital that in an
analysis of creation stories, the scholar makes a terminological division
between a cosmogony (creation of time and space), a theogeny (creation
of deities), an anthropogenic (creation of human beings) and an ethnog-
eny (creation of an ethnic group) or other (preternatural) beings. The cre-
ation of human beings (anthropogenic), the founders of the Kiche
lineages (ethnogeny) and the creation of one world (cosmogony) are ac-
cordingly the central themes in the Popol Wuj. But this does not of course
signify that the (one) creation of the earth was an unimportant feature of
this creation story.
It is the story tradition of the Aztecs (Nahua) and Yucatec Maya that
provides the preeminent extant source to Mesoamerican pre-European/
pre-Christian cosmogonies or the creation of various world ages. The extant
historical documentation derives from central Mexico and Yucatn in
southeastern Mexico. The written accounts of the story of creation of the
Aztecs and Yucatec Maya are, however, quite different from the relations
in the inscriptions of the classic Maya. Furthermore they primarily consti-
tute secondary sources because they are produced after the Spanish
arrival and frequently in collaboration with or supervision of the Spanish
missionaries.

written between 1554 AD and 1558 AD. The surviving copy is called The Rabinal manuscript,
which is a copy of the transliteration and translation into Spanish by Ximnez. It has been
in the possession of the Newberry library of Chicago, USA, since 1911. It is possible that an
original manuscript of the Popol Wuj, which Ximnez had access to c. 1701 AD, is still own
by officials (principales) of the Kiche in the municipio of Chichicastenango. These officials
have, however, denied this to be a fact according to Robert M. Carmack (Carmack 1973: 25).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 35
The Cosmogonic World Age Model of the Postclassic Aztecs
The central Mexican sources for the accounts of the Aztec or Nahua story
of the creation and destruction of various world periods or world ages are
recorded in different versions. Like most information of stories, rituals,
traditions and institutions of central Mexico, they derive from the works
of the Spanish ethnographer missionaries of the colonial period. But there
are also representations of the world ages on ancient Aztec monuments
(Elzey 1976: 114-115, note 1).24
Different numbers of world ages, each known as a Sun, are related in
the sources. Various stories operate with three, four, five and even six world
eras. Every world age had a determined duration. But no agreement exists
in the sources concerning the definite time length of the world era. A sin-
gle age is only 23 years in Histoyre du Mechique, 676 years in Leyenda de los
soles and 5042 years in Codex Vaticanus A. The narrative of Codex Vaticanus
A increases the length of the world ages from the first to the fourth Sun. In
other accounts the length of Suns increases or decreases at random or the
length of the Sun does not change (Elzey 1976: 117). In the two accounts of
the Tenochca tradition an identical duration occurs; 2028 years of the total
length of world ages. But the duration of each world era is not consistent,
for instance 676-364-312-676 in Leyenda de los soles and 676-676-364-312
according to Historia de los Mexicanos por sus Pinturas. It is, however, in-
triguing that these durations are multiplies of the 52-year cycle (Nicholson
1971: 399). The world ages each has a distinctive set of characteristics. They
were terminated by a different kind of cataclysmic destruction and its in-
habitants were either destroyed or transformed into another form. The
causes of the destruction of the previous ages are, however, not the same.
The annihilation of a world age could be provoked by the vices of its beings
or a shortage of food. The protagonists of the various cosmogonic narratives
also vary greatly. The colonial records do not agree either on the order of
the various world ages (Suns). A confusion of the sequence of the Suns
appears even in the sources from Tenochtitlan. Most scholars choose to
follow the order of two of the earliest and best sources, which are Historia
de los mexicanos por sus pinturas and Leyenda de los soles. The same
sequence is found on Aztec sculptures (Arcos 1967: 209; Elzey 1974; 76;
Nicholson 1971; Taube 1995: 34). The canonical version of the Aztec capital
Tenochtitlan is preserved in Historia de los Mexicanos pos sus Pinturas,

24For survey of sources cf. Moreno de los Arcos (1967), Elzey (1974; 1976) and Pharo
(2006).
36 chapter one
Leyenda de los soles and on the three stone monuments, The Sun Stone,
Stone of the Suns (a rectangular stone now in the Yale Peabody Museum)
and on a shell ornament (Nicholson 1971: 397-400). A general agreement
among scholars is that the Aztecs had a notion of five world ages (Nichol-
son 1971: 399; Elzey 1976: 117-118). The majority of the sources give each age
the names Nahui Ocelotl (4 Jaguar), Nahui Ehecatl (4 Wind), Nahui
Quiahuitl (4 Rain) and Nahui Atl (4 Water) respectively. These were the
dates on which the Suns or worlds were terminated. The world that we are
now living in will end on the date Nahui Ollin (4 Movement). The follow-
ing five world ages, or world eras in a chronological or linear temporal order
can be identified:
1. Nahui Ocelotl (4 Jaguar)
2. Nahui Ehecatl (4 Wind)
3. Nahui Quiahuitl (4 Rain)
4. Nahui Atl (4 Water)
5. Nahui Ollin (4 Movement)25
Each world age was named after a date in the 260-day calendar and associ-
ated with and presided over by a particular deity and a particular group of
beings that were either exterminated or transformed into different kinds
of beings in the first four creations. The names of the Five Suns outline the
character of the age and the way its inhabitants will be demolished. The
Suns were probably also assigned colours and directions, but according to
Nicholson are these not clearly outlined in the extant sources (Nicholson
1971: 399).

The Cosmogonic World Age Model of the Postclassic Yucatec Maya


Only a few data to Yucatec creation accounts before 1600 AD are extant.26
The unsurpassed information derives from The Books of the Chilam Balam,
which originated in Yucatn, Mexico written c. 1600 AD c. 1700 AD with
the Latin alphabet in Yucatec probably by Yucatec Maya learned descen-
dants of the Indigenous nobility in Catholic mission schools.27

25An important variant tradition documented in Anales de Cuauhtitlan, Histoyre du


Mexchique, Alva Ixtlilxochtl, Muoz Camargo and Codex Vaticanus A, places 4 Atl at the
beginning of the sequence whereas 4 Ehecatl or 4 Quiahuitl was assigned to the terminal
position (Nicholson 1971: 399).
26For survey of sources cf. Pharo (2006).
27A Chilam Balam is a prophet and a calendar specialist concerned with divination
and with the kahlay katunoob, counting the katun. Eighteen Chilam Balam books are
acknowledged today, but only nine of the original manuscripts are available to scholars.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 37
The creation events are associated with the cycles of the Short Count
calendar of 13 katun or c. 256,43 years. Much of the content of The Books
of Chilam Balam is, nevertheless, influenced by Catholic theology. The texts
are obscure and cryptic and there are quite a few Christian concepts as well
as Spanish and Latin terms.28 The cosmogony of the Yucatec was accord-
ingly outlined within a Catholic paradigm. A coherent creation account
cannot be identified in The Books of the Chilam Balam. A reconstruction of
the number of world ages is difficult because there are few headlines or
other indications from the context of the rather enigmatic texts. The cre-
ation and destruction of various world periods are told in three of The Books
of the Chilam Balam (Barrera Vsquez and Rendn 1948; Thompson 1970:
337; Liljefors Persson 1996: 45). Thompson (Thompson 1970: 337-342) and
Bodil Liljefors Persson (Liljefors Persson 1996: 45-52) have constructed
models of the various Yucatec cosmogonies.29 Thompson has found two
creation events in The Books of the Chilam Balam. But he claims that a
Yucatec series of four creations and three destructions of the world may
be reconstructed from contemporary ethnographic material (Thompson
1970: 337-342). Liljefors Persson has identified three different creations in
The Chilam Balam Book of Chumayel, which is the most complete and
elaborated version of the postclassic Yucatec creation story (Liljefors Pers-
son 1996: 49-51).30
As in Nahua creation accounts, Yucatec cosmogony comprises a concep-
tion of a creation and destruction of various worlds or world ages. In Nahua
creation stories there was a conception of five world ages whereas a notion
of maximum three destroyed worlds is outlined in The Books of the Chu-
mayelif we accept the interpretation of Liljefors Persson. Hence, the
Yucatec Maya of the postclassic period were living in the fourth world age.
Despite the influence of Catholic theology, a conception of various cre-

The books, Chumayel; Tizimin; Kaua; Chan Kan; Ixil; Tekax; Nah; Mani (Codex Prez); Tizik,
are named after the town or village in which they were found, concealed from the Spanish
ecclesiastical authorities. These books comprise historical chronicles, medical advice and
treatment methods, legends, calendars, astronomic observations, prophecies, divination,
descriptions of rituals and stories etc. (Liljefors Persson 1996: 21-25). An attempt to classify
the heterogeneous contents of these books has been made by Barrera Vsquez and Rendn
(1948: 9), by Liljefors Persson (1996: 43-44) and by Bricker and Miram (2002: 1). A transcrip-
tion of these books can be found in Miram and Miram (1994). Cf. Liljefors Persson (1996;
2000), Bricker and Miram (2002) and Gunsenheimer (2002).
28Cf. Hanks study of the language of The Books of the Chilam Balam (2010).
29Cf. Knowlton for his interpretive synopsis and analysis of colonial Yucatec Christian/
Maya creation stories (2004; 2010).
30For reconstruction cf. Pharo (2006).
38 chapter one
ations of worlds endures in the creation stories of contemporary Maya
people31Hach Winik (Lacandon), Chamula, Mam, Tzotzil and Tzeltal
whereas a perception of three previous creations and annihilations of
world eras subsists in the accounts of the contemporary Yucatec Maya.32
This corroborates the hypothesis of a postclassic and colonial Yucatec con-
ception of a demolition and creation of three world ages.

The Cosmogonic World Age Model of the classic Maya


The relation of a single creation of the earth or world age in the Popol Wuj
implies that it is not self evident that there is a cyclic concept of a destruc-
tion and recreation of world ages in every culture of Mesoamerica. With
this in mind we shall see whether there was a cyclic pattern of demolished
and created world eras in the primary written sources of classic Maya cre-
ation stories.
The former Long Count was a period of 13 pik (baktun), since 13 pik was
said in the inscriptions to be the termination of the preceding Long
Count. We remember that the starting point of the contemporary Long
Count, 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku), does not constitute the initial date
of classic Maya time reckoning, but in fact the last day of a former Long
Count reckoning. Various calculations of dates before 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8
Ohl (Kumku), or preceding Long Counts, are recorded in inscriptions on
monumental architecture and stone monuments from different Maya cit-
ies in the classic period. In fact, the classic Maya Long Count calendar
contains time units much higher than pik (Piktun or 8,000 haab, Kalab-
tun or 160,000 haab, Kinichiltun or 3,200,000 haab, and Alawtun or
64,000,000,000 haab). Also larger time units, which not have received sim-
ilar constructed pseudo-Maya designations, were applied in the classic
Maya notation system. These time periods could be multiplied with the
coefficient affixed to them (Lounsbury 1981: 766; Thompson 1978: 147-148).33
Examples of extraordinary long distance numbers calculated into previous

31Lacandon or Hach Winik (Boremanse 1989; McGee 19997), Chamula (Gossen 1974:
22-25), Mam (Wagley 1949: 51; Thompson 1970: 336), Tzotzil (Guiteras 1961: 156-157; 176;
186-187; 194; 253-254; 282; 287; Holland 1963: 71-72) and Tzeltal (Thompson 1970: 346-348).
32Accounts of cosmogonies of the contemporary Yucatec Maya have been collected
by Alfred Tozzer from around Valladolid (Tozzer 1907: 153-154; Tozzer 1941: 136, note 633),
by Robert Redfield and Alfonso Villa Rojas in the village of Chan Kom (Redfield and Villa
Rojas 1934: 330-331; Thompson 1970: 340-342) and by David Bolles in the village Komchen
(Bolles 1985).
33Cf. Justeson for outline of the constructed names of Maya high numbers according
to Spanish colonial sources (Justeson 2010: 51-52).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 39
Long Count computations have been documented by epigraphers on stone
monuments at various sites covering a vast geographic area in the southern
lowland.34
Time was therefore created long before the establishment of the present
Long Count calendar. The inscription on Stela 1, Stela 5, and probably Ste-
la 3 of Coba (Macanxoc) records 20 Long Counts reckonings expressed as:
13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.0.0.0.0
4 Ajaw 8 Kumku (Lounsbury 1981: 760; Schele and Freidel 1990: 430, note
39; Montgomery 2002: 299).
This temporal system has Stuart called the Grand Long Count where the
standard Long Count composes the five last notions (Stuart 2005: 107-109).
Stuart believe that he have identified the numerology of the higher units
recorded on the stelae from Coba. For instance a piktun consist of 20 pik,
a kalabtun consist of 20 20 pik, an alawtun of 20 20 20 etc. giving
an enormous number (Stuart 2011: 231; 236-241).35 To my knowledge there
is no definitive mathematical evidence for a past or future calculation of
the Long Count. We only know that the supposedly initial creation base
date recorded on the Coba stela happened a very long time (expressed by
enormous numbers) before the present creation base date of 13.0.0.0.0 4
Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) and that time will continue into the indefinite future.
That a philosophical temporal conception of several Long Count periods
or successive world ages/eras, of what Eliade calls Great Time or Deep
Time (Eliade 1969), is documented in classic Maya inscriptions instigates
the question whether the present world age or (Long Count) time era was
created on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) and whether the earth (space)
was simultaneous created.36 I shall later return to this intriguing issue. But

34For the many references to calculations of former Long Count computations on


various monuments executed by various epigraphers: cf. Pharo (2006).
35Cf. also Schele and Friedel (1990: 430, note 39).
36The cosmogonies of Greece, Phoenicia, Iran and India encompass an abstract cre-
ation mythology where personified time acts as creator (Jens Braarvig, personal commu-
nication, 2006). The preSocrat Pherekydes of Syros writes that Chronos, the time-god (who
had always existed), through an auto-sexual sacrifice created fire, breath or air, and water.
Subsequently another generation of deities came into existence, and the fivefold division
of the cosmos (i.e. space) was structured. Earth was later to be manifested (Schibli 1990).
Consequently, time is conceived as the ultimate procreative power and the governor of
the universe or the world-order, according to Pherekydes (Schibli 1990: 29-32). M. West and
H. Schibli compare the principal role of Chronos in Pherekydes and in Orphic cosmogonies
to time-gods in early Eastern religious philosophy. The Sidonian (e.g. Phoenician) triad of
Chronos, Pothos and Omichle, the Indian Kala, the Iranian Zurvan and the Egyptian Atum
instigated creation by an autoerotic undertaking (Schibli 1990: 37-38).
40 chapter one
first we need to look at the classic Maya philosophical concept of the origin
of Long Count time.

The Enigma of Anteriority and of Origin: Continuation of Linear Time


A structural analysis of the pattern of the world ages sequence in various
Mesoamerican creation stories has been preparatory to the investigation
of the hypothesis of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar
as a regeneration of cyclic time and/or a recreation of the world or earth
(space). The existence of various previous Long Counts suggests that the
world and/or time were not renewed through the rituals of time. How are
we to understand ritual practice of time when it is apparently no ultimate
temporal beginning ex nihilo?
Paul Ricoeur concept of the enigma of anteriority may explain classic
Maya temporal thinking. Ricoeur distinguish between a beginning in a
dated chronologyi.e. 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) in the classic Maya
Long Count system or the year zero according to the Christian Gregorian
calendarand the mysterious originthe previous Long Counts period
which cannot be determined. He writes:
before the moral law, there is always a moral law, just as before Caesar,
there is always another Caesar; before the Mosaic law, there are Mesopota-
mian laws, and before these yet others, and so on. Here we find a sort of
always-already-present, which causes any effort to discover a dated begin-
ning to fail as it encounters the perspective of the origin. It as though there
were a dialectic of the origin and the beginning; the beginning should be
able to be dated in a chronology, but the origin always slips away, at the
same time as it surges up in the present under the enigma of the always-
already-there (Ricoeur 1995: 151; 222-223).37
The date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) do not signify an origin of time
but a beginning of a novel Long Count computation simply because there
is no calculation from a zero date but from a former Long Count calendar
representing an enigma of anteriority (Ricoeur 1995) of time. As we now
shall see there are various indications of this Maya temporal philosophy,
which has consequences for the philosophy of the ritual practice of time.
Certain regular expressionstzutziiy uxlajun pik, 13 pik was completed
or that only the Calendar Round date is proclaimed as having been ended;
chan ajaw waxak ohl tzutziiy, 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl was completedare stated in
numerous classic Maya creation inscriptions. The formula tzutzaj, it was

37Davd Carrasco (Harvard University, 2010).


the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 41
completed refers to the termination of the 13 pik period of the former Long
Count. It is not mentioned in these inscriptions that time was renewed or
recreated. But it is implied, without being said explicitly, that a new time
era or Long Count had thereby been initiated. The inscription describing
the performance of the seven (K2796) and eleven deities (K7750) may con-
tain a verb that points to the idea of commencing time of the current Long
Count calendar. On the vessels K2796 and K7750 the origination of the new
Long Count on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) is presented in the inscrip-
tion as happening at EkTan. The verb tzak possibly allude to a new com-
putation of time. It is interesting that the sign T573, which reads tzak, also
function as the Distance Number Introducing Glyph (DNIG) and successor
sign in calculations of time in the Maya inscriptions. It announces the
Distance Number calculation of time either backward or forward to a new
date. Tzak is applied in this context of giving calendar information. The
term tzak has the relevant meanings of change; succession; was put in
order; was counted; was increased; accumulated; bring into exis-
tence or measure a milpa (Freidel, Schele and Parker 1993: 416-417, note
11).38 Associated with the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku), it can be
interpreted as to put into order or bring the new Long Count into existence.
We must also bear in mind that the many connotations of the word tzak,
as was put in order could be associated both with the making of new Long
Count time and of space.39
David Freidel, Linda Schele and Joy Parker have forwarded the theory
that linear time of the Long Count calendar unfolds in a cyclic structure:
To the Maya, time only appears to move in a straight line. The creation date
is a point on ever larger circles within circles within circles of time (Freidel,
Schele and Parker 1993: 63).
The present Long Count is to be perceived as a linear continuum of former
Long Counts where there is no final date, also revealed by the fact that the
creation date of the contemporary Long Count was not a zero date but

38Colonial Yucatec: Tsak, nudo, juntura o aadidura. Tsakal, aadidura Tsak, aumen-
tar, aadir. Tsak, contar (Barrera Vasquz 1980: 872).
39Kerry Hull maintains that tzak should be, in this context, translated as to order.
He proposes the following interpretation of the creation inscriptions on K2796 and K7750:
On 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl was creation ordered by the deities (Hull 2003: 436). Stuart has, however,
found that the word in Proto-Cholan signifies complete or whole: Tzak, complete;
whole; enough (Kaufman and Norman 1984: 134). Within the context of the Distance
Number Introducing Glypy, the tzahk root indicates that the elapsed time of the Distance
Number establishes a temporal whole, suggesting that time is complete once it has reached
its end-point (Riese 1984) (Stuart 2003b: 3).
42 chapter one
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku), i.e. the last date of the previous Long
Count. According to the extant sources, there is no clear conception of the
origin of time but only the beginning of a new Long Count computation
in classic Maya temporal philosophy.40 More importantly for the present
analysis concerning the temporal rituals, a notion of a not determined
origin of time implies that a creation of time or the cosmogony had no
importance for the meaning of celebrating the ritual practice of time.

Spatial-Temporal Creation Stories and the Ritual Practice of Time


We have seen that the Aztec and the Yucatec had a cyclic cosmogonic
conception of several destructions and creations of world ages. On the
other hand, the Kiche, had ostensibly a notion of a cosmogony where the
world was created only on one occasion. Due to their rather brief obscure
inscription, classic Maya conceptions of the cosmogony are not easy to
determine. It is the date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku), accompanied by
various undertakings by deities, which suggests that creation had taken
place. Time of a new (the present) Long Count calendar was accordingly
inaugurated. But did the deities create earth (space) on the same date?
Many creation accounts do not separate between a creation of time and
space since they are conceived as interdependent. This is, however, not
always the case. For instance, Leach makes a distinction between the cre-
ation of earth and of time in his structural analysis of the Greek story of
Chronos (Leach 1968).41 A separate making of the earth (space) followed
by time is suggested in the Popol Wuj. The created world lies in darkness
until the Hero Twins vanquish the wicked gods of Xibalba and then rise up
to the sky to either rule or become the sun and the moon. The Four Hun-
dred Boys were at the same time transformed into the stars. These astro-
nomical bodies are employed to compute time. Time could only be
systematised and organised in the various calendars when the heavenly
bodies were created and made to function. Human existence could first

40Callaway argues that p. 61 and 69 of the non-Christian and non-European postclas-


sic manuscript Codex Dresden narrates the making (pahtaj) of the piktun and the winik
(winal) at the day of creation: He of twenty (the winal/winik) was formed (pahtaj), 19 and
he of zero (aj mi kin) day or 20 days, 4 Ajaw 8 Kumku (Callaway 2009). The inscriptions
outline quite a few previous Long Counts, the winal (uinal) or the twenty-day unit (the
fundamental coefficient in the vigesimal counting system) is more likely to have been set
in motion (formed) for the contemporary Long Count and not created for the first time.
41Leach writes that this myth is a creation myth, not a story of the beginning the
world, but a story of the beginning of time, of the beginning of becoming (Leach 1968: 131).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 43
then, when space and organised time were conceived, become possible.
Conversely, it is related a creation of time followed by space in the postclas-
sic/early colonial Yucatec creation stories. The section called The Ritual
of the Angels of The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel reads:
When the world was submerged, when there was neither heaven nor earth,
the three-cornered precious stone of grace was born, after the divinity of
the ruler was created, when there was no heaven. Then there were born
seven tuns, seven katuns, hanging in the heart of the wind, the seven chosen
ones. Then, they say, their seven graces stirred also. Seven also were their
holy images (Roys 1933: 107).
The time units of seven tuns and seven katuns are outlined in this passage
as being created.42 Moreover, ordered time seems to be created before
space and also before the birth of God (Sp.Dios43). Because the text con-
tinues:
While they were still untarnished, occurred the birth of the first precious
stone of grace, the first infinite grace, when there was infinite night, when
there was no God. Not yet had he received his Godhead. Then he remained
alone within the grace, within the night, when there was neither heaven
nor earth. Then he departed at the end of the katun, as he could not be
born in the first katun (Roys 1933: 107).
Heaven and earth were accordingly not created before the birth of the
seven tuns and seven katuns. Another reference to a creation of time is the
chapter Creation of the Uinal also originate from The Book of Chilam
Balam of Chumayel:
This is a song of how the uinal came to be created before the creation of
the world.
The uinal was created, the day, as it was called, was created, heaven and
earth were created, the stairway of the water, the earth, rocks and trees; the
things of the sea and the things of the land were created (Roys 1933: 116-117).
The forming of the winal and other time units were linked to the later
creation of spacethe earth, water, rocks and trees. According to The Book
of Chilam Balam of Chumayel, it was Our Lord God, the Father who was
behind this creation:

42We may see here a reference to the three stones that were tied or wrapped by the
deities according to the inscription on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua.
43But the text is satiated with Spanish and Latin concepts and names deriving from
liturgy of the Catholic Church (Roys 1933: 107, note 11).
44 chapter one
The uinal was created, the earth was created; sky, earth, trees and rocks
were set in order; all things were created by our Lord God, the Father. Thus
he was there in his divinity, in the clouds, alone and by his own effort, when
he created the entire world, when he moved in the heavens in his divinity.
Thus he ruled in his great power. Every day is set according to the count,
beginning in the east, as it is arranged (Roys 1933: 119).
As noted, this account is heavily influenced by Catholic theology. It there-
fore not necessarily reflect the pre-European and pre-Christian Yucatec
philosophy of creation.
We recollect that there was a classic Maya concept of large time units
(e.g. Long Counts) before the present Long Count age. We thus know that
time existed before the creation of the present Long Count. Let us now
address the question whether the world or the earth (mundane space)
existed in the previous Long Counts or whether the cosmogonic inscrip-
tions state that the divine creation acts on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku)
constitute a making of not only time but in addition space (i.e. the world).
This question is pivotal in the analysis of the meaning and significance of
the ritual practice of time. We must return to the creation stories of the
classic Maya inscriptions in order to systematic explore the ritual-symbol-
ic language of the cosmogony on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku). I will
establish that local classic Maya creation accounts relate a creation of
space and time and only of time respectively.

A Local Creation Story from the Naranjo Region about Space and Time
Taube has shown that there were various concepts of the earth or the world
in Mesoamerican thought. The world was both conceived as rectangular
and circular. Moreover, it was conceived to be associated with both a cai-
man and a turtle (Taube 1988: 153-174; 1988b: 195). The noted creation story
from the Naranjo region suggests that time of the contemporary Long
Count and the earth, symbolised by a caiman, was concurrently created
according to local classic Maya tradition. Taube has namely detected an
interesting iconographic element in the creation scene on K2796 and
K7750. A big caiman is suspended above God L in the images on these ves-
sels (Taube 1995: 74). Taube has observed that a similar being, called Itzam
Can Ain (Cf. Barrera Vsquez 1980: 272) appears in postclassic or early co-
lonial Yucatec creation stories:
According to the Chilam Balam books of Tizimin and Man, the cosmogonic
Itzam Can Ain flood event occurred in Katun 13 Ahau, the last katun of the
13-katun series. It is surely no coincidence that the world trees subsequently
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 45
placed in commemoration of the flood were termed imix che. The trees are
named after Imix, the day immediately following Ahau, and thus the first
day of the next katun cycle. As the primordial beast from which the earth
is both destroyed and fashioned, Itzam Cab Ain embodies the concept of
completion and renewal appearing in both Maya cosmology and calendrics
(Taube 1989: 9).
The presence of the caiman in the scene may therefore signify a creation
of the earth at the beginning of the present Long Count according to this
classic Maya cosmogonic narrative.

A Local Creation Story from Quirigua about Time but not Space (i.e.
Earth)
A fascinating inscription is recorded on the north side of Stela C, Copan in
western Honduras, where it is said that a stone was erected and tied or
wrapped in a previous Long Count. The stone was tied or wrapped on the
date 13 Kalabtun, 5 Ajaw 18 Ohl and 4 Ajaw 18 Ikat according to the inscrip-
tion. The lord of Copan, Waxaklajun U-Baah Kawil, is portrayed on the
stela, standing in front of a turtle stone disc (Newsome 1991: 255; 2001: 155-
159; Schele and Mathews 1998: 141-146). A creation or a destruction of var-
ious worlds is not, however, referred to in the extant classic Maya
inscriptions. On the other hand, the information from Stela C, Copan could
suggest that the earth and human beings were created in a previous Long
Count period. But there is a lack sufficient data to corroborate this theory.
Based upon Indigenous world age creation stories from the Americas, it is
reason to assume that the human race is believed only to have existed in
the present world age (supposedly) referring to the Long Count as in the
classic Maya case. The fact is that no anthropogenic is recorded in the ex-
tant classic Maya inscriptions. Various primary texts tell of founding rulers
at Palenque, Tikal and Copan only as early as between 1100 BC and 600 BC
of the contemporaneous Long Count (cf. Martin and Grube 2000).44
The present earth was created before the initiation of the contemporary
Long Count according to the inscription on the east side of Stela C, Qui-
rigua since it recounts that three stones were erected and then tied or
wrapped on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl. The earth was therefore not simultane-
ously created with the present Long Count calendar.

44It is a question whether these described beings were deities or so-called hombre-
dioses (man-deities) (Cf. Lpez Austin 1973) and not human beings.
46 chapter one
A Quirigua Account about Polycentric Foundation
Based upon a supposed decipherment of collocation of three signs in the
inscription on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua (A13), epigraphers have
argued that three stones constituted a so-called three stones hearth of
creation (MacLeod 1992b; Freidel, Schele and Parker 1993: 65-75). Moreover,
Taube advocates that the three stones hearth represents an Axis Mundi
connecting the sky, earth and underworld of classic Maya cosmology
(Taube 1998: 427-432). Matthew Looper has observered that a turtle with
three stones on his back is depicted on Page 71a, Codex Madrid (Schele 1992:
140; Freidel, Schele and Parker 1993: 82). This may support the idea that the
three stones represented the hearth or the centre of the world since the
turtle symbolised the earth (Taube 1998: 441). Furthermore, the head of the
caiman, Itzam Cab Ain, is described in The Ritual of the Bacabs as the sym-
bol of three stone hearth or koben (Roys 1965: 50). The caiman symbolise
the earth and the three stones represent the centre respectively (Taube
1998: 439). References to three stones in the cosmogony of the Yucatec Maya
are furthermore made in The Ritual of Angels of The Book of Chilam
Balam of Chumayel (Roys 1933: 107).45
I contend, however, that the three stones each symbolise not one but
an establishment of three centres. There are several problems with the
reading of the three stones hearth collocation. Taube admits that the word
and etymology for hearth stones vary in Maya languages and is not known
for the classic Maya (Taube 1998: 432, note 1). Moreover, only a pictograph-
ic interpretation, and not a phonetic decipherment, has in fact been made
of the signs in this inscription. Taube acknowledge that there is no evidence
for the presence of three hearthstones in the classic period (Taube 1998:
434). A closer look at the semantic context of the inscription on the east
side of Stela C, Quirigua, provides evidence against The three stone hearth
and the one Axis Mundi theory. The suffix of the three stone hearths
collocation points to a specific location (Stuart and Houston 1994). But the
three stones are expressed as erected and tied or wrapped by different
deities at various locations in the inscription on the east side of Stela C,
Quirigua. The four godsthe Jaguar Paddler, the Stingray Paddler, IkNah
Chak and Itzamnahindependently, but apparently at the same time,
erected and tied or wrapped the three stones at three named sites.

45Several sacred stones, tunob, were an important part of creation as told in the
chapters The Creation of the World, The Ritual of Angels, A Song of the Itz and
Incantation in The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel (Roys 1933: 98; 107-110; 114; 131).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 47
It was accordingly a simultaneous act in time but not at the same place by
these performers. This contradicts the interpretation of one three stone
hearth, because it can only be located at one place and not at three sepa-
rate localities. Furthermore, the fact that each stone carried a special name
or designationThe Jaguar Stone, The Snake Stone and The Waterlily
Stone and therefore had a specific character and identity, is not compat-
ible with the theory of one Axis Mundi of one centre. The hypothesis that
the erection and binding of three stones, at the creation of the present Long
Count, refers to one domestic hearth and one Axis Mundi (as a centre of
the world) can accordingly not be sustained. Instead, the creation story
from Quirigua constitutes an idea of numerous centres. Such a polycentric
system is quite common in Indigenous American religions (Jace Weaver,
p.c. , November 18th, 2009). Another indication of this fact is that there
were various ceremonial centres of sacred space within the various cultures
of Mesoamerica (cf. Carrasco 1991).

The Ritual Practice of Time as a Symbolic Ceremonial of the Cosmogony


As we have seen, the creation enterprise of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku)
of the classic Maya took place on the last period-ending date of the former
Long Count. It is thus reasonable to assume that this date may have oper-
ated as the symbolic model for later ritual practices of time. But there were
different creation accounts containing independent locations, deities and
events. The fundamental features of the heterogeneous classic Maya cre-
ation stories being established have prepared us to investigate the hypoth-
esis of a re-creating of the world and a renewal of time through the ritual
practice of time. In order to explore the theory of a symbolic-ritual emula-
tion of the creation process, with the object to recreate the world and renew
time, a systematic analysis must be carried out of the relation between:
1. The ritual space
2. The ritual actors
3. The ritual dates
4. The ritual practices (e.g. techniques)
of the period ending stations of the Long Count calendar and the cosmo-
gonic narratives.
48 chapter one
Cosmogonies and the Spatial-Temporal Ritual of the Long Count calendar
There was not a ritual spatial-temporal re-actualisation of the creation
stories. The ritual practices of time of the Long Count calendar cannot be
recognised celebrated at the various places of creation. Moreover, a poly-
centric creation not concerned with one location took place at Quirigua.
A symbolic spatial ritual imitation is therefore rather difficult to execute.
We can accordingly, without further elaboration, dismiss a symbolic link
between the locations of creation and the ritual practice of time.
As we shall see, the structure and ritual practice of time of the 260-day
calendar, the 365-day calendar and the 52-year calendar has a quadripartite
character. The cyclic 819-day calendar was definitively affiliated with the
four cardinal directions of the world but a corresponding ritual practice of
time cannot be detected (cf. Pharo 2006). Conversely, the Long Count cal-
endar does not comprise a quadripartite structure.46
For that reason, a philosophy of defining space in the religious ritual
practice of time of the Long Count calendar cannot be identified from the
ceremonial-symbolical architectural context. Stelae and stone discs associ-
ated with ritual practices of time were usually placed in front of monu-
ments, structures, in plaza etc. as part of larger architectural designs. But
these sculptural programs do no indicate that the ritual practice of time of
the Long Count calendar had any symbolic spatial-temporal meaning. For
instance, the extant sources suggest that the pattern of an erecting and
wrapping of three stones as told in the creation inscription on the east side
of Stela C, Quirigua were not replicated in the later ritual practice of time.
The three stones do not mark space of the four cardinal directions or the
pillar of a centre since they constituted only three and not as expected four
or five (four stones representing the four cardinal directions whereas one
stone represent the centre) cosmological stones. It has been suggested that
the three stones at Quirigua appear respectively to symbolise the earth,
underworld (sea), and sky, which indicates that the Maya conceived space
as both a three-part vertical and a quadrilateral structure of horizontal
space.47 But no sources can corroborate this theory. Moreover, it is a ques-
tion whether the Maya or Mesoamerican cultures conceived space as di-
vided between three vertical parts before the European-Christian arrival.
It appears that the (night) sky was conceptually not so distinct from the

46The signs, of the four cardinal directions, are known from the written primary sources
of the classic Maya. Cf. Pharo (2006) and Hopkins and Josserand (2011).
47Comment by anonymous reviewer.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 49
underworld. This can be perceived in the Aztec Codex Borbonicus lam. 16,
where the sky seems to be a part of the water border; or in the Codex Borgia
lam. 42, where the interior of the Land of the Death is painted exactly the
same as the night sky. Furthermore, in Nahuatl the sea is called ilhuicatl,
(celestial water), and contemporary ethnographic sources (i.e. of the
Huichol or Wixaritari) indicates that the night sky is ontologically different
from the diurnal sky (cf. works by Johannes Neurath).48

The (Creator) Deities Observing Ritual Practice of Time


It appears that the so-called Paddler Gods, who participated in many cre-
ation proceedings,49 were particularly connected to various ritual prac-
tices of time of the contemporary Long Count calendar. They performed
blood sacrifices (Stuart 1984; 1988) but more interestingly also participated
in erecting and binding stones (Christie 1995: 79-80; 339; 347-349; 376-368;
371), which might have emulated the creation story told on the east side of
Stela C, Quirigua. Another possible link between the cosmogony, the Pad-
dler Gods and the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar can
be identified in the creation inscription on Stela A, Tila and in various in-
scriptions containing period-ending stations.
We have seen that the Paddler Gods were said to have bathed (yataij)
on the Calendar Round creation date of 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (13.0.0.0.0) according
to the inscription on Stela A, Tila.50 On Stela 23, Naranjo the ajaw proclaims
that he will complete (tzutz) and wrap or tie a stone (kaltun) at the end of
the 14th winikhaab i.e. 9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan. The Paddler Gods are,
described in the same inscription, to bathe (ati) on the identical
winikhaab-ending date (G17-H22) (Schele, Grube and Martin 2000: II-73).
Sren Wichmann (2001: 5) has found lexical entries of the root of the word

48Comment by anonymous reviewer. Daz (2009) and Nielsen and Sellner (2009)
endeavour to demonstrate a European Christian influence in the vertical perception of the
cosmos.
49Identified from the creation accounts recorded on Stela C, Quirigua, Stela 1, Coba,
Monument 34, Tonina, Altar 1, Piedras Negras, and probably the ceramic vessels K2796 and
K7750. In 1976, Peter Mathews first noted that the Paddler Gods partook in period-ending
events. Stuart has identified the name signs of the Paddler Gods, but they have not been
deciphered phonetically. One of the Paddler Gods, who has a jaguar ear and headdress, is
therefore simply referred to as The Jaguar Paddler. The other, who carries a stingray spine
blood letter piercing the septum of his nose, has received the nickname The Stingray Pad-
dler. Stuart has detected that their portrait signs are substituted with akab (night; dark-
ness) and kin (day; sun) signs (Stuart 1988: 190-191, fig. 5.19; Schele 1998: 43-44).
50The verb ati, bathe is connected to 15 of the 36 examples where The Paddler Gods
are involved (Christie 1995: 365-367).
50 chapter one
to bathe (ati) in Kiche of highland Guatemala: to be translated as bath
of the moon (ratin iik) and bath of the sun (ratin qiij) (Ajapacaja Tum
et al. 1996: 15). The Jaguar Paddler carries an akab sign (night; darkness)
and the Stingray Paddler a kin sign (day; sun) in the classic Maya inscrip-
tions (cf. note 49). There is consequently an intriguing parallel between
these Kiche entries and passages in the classic Maya inscriptions. Wich-
mann further proposes that the Paddlers are associated with mist or twi-
light. The scrolls constitute a misty formation around the images of the
Paddlers Gods on Stela 1, Jimbal and Stela 2, Ixlu. Mist-like scrolls also
appears on the headdress on the lord Kak Tiliw Chan Chak impersonating
the Paddlers on Stela 13, Naranjo (Wichmann 2001: 5). Wichmann has found
that Rafael Girard in LEsotrisme du Popol-Vuh (1960), has described a
dance drama among the contemporary Chorti of eastern Guatemala near
the border of Honduras, called the Dance of the Giants. The two actors
impersonates the sun and the moon, their faces are covered with a veil,
which seem to re-enact the mist of pre-creation, i.e. the bath of the Paddlers
Gods (Girard 1960: 69; Wichmann 2001: 6). Girard has identified a mythic
background to this dance drama in the introduction of the Popol Wuj when
the world was not yet created. Girard quotes the following passage from
the Popol Wuj (Girard 1960: 69):
This was when there was just a trace of early dawn on the face of the earth,
there was no sun . The sky-earth was already there, but the face of the
sun-moon was clouded over (Tedlock 1985: 86).
Based on the information by Girard, Wichmann concludes concerning the
identity and function of the Paddler Gods:
they are personifications of natural forces related to darkness and light
and that the bath of the Paddlers is a metaphorical expression for the
misty state of the world prior to creation (Wichmann 2001: 6).
The Kiche lexical entries ratin iik and ratin qiij appears therefore to be
metaphors for a specific natural phenomenon associated with the moon
and sun.
The supernatural beings dressed in a Teotihucan Tlaloc-warrior costume
and attributes illustrated on Stela 1, Ixlu and Stela 4, Ucanal (Stuart 1988:
183-184) suggests, however, that the Paddler Gods were not the only super-
natural beings exclusively associated with mists scrolls. The hypothesis that
the Paddler Gods, in this ceremonial context, symbolised the moon and
the sun or related natural phenomena, is therefore difficult to sustain.
Moreover, to compare Kiche and classic Maya cosmogonies constitutes
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 51
not an appropriate method in history of religions,51 because there is a com-
plete different perception of the creation of the world and time in these
two traditions. More importantly no evidence of the use of a Long Count
calendar is acknowledged in Kiche culture. The temporal philosophy and
ritual practice of time of the Kiche is therefore quite different from the
classic Maya.
A deity of Palenque, designated by epigraphers as Lady Beastie, cele-
brated the first recognised ritual practice of time at the end of the second
pik: 2.0.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 3 Wayhaab or February 16, 2324 BC (Schele and Freidel
1990: 254-255; Schele 1992: 163). Also other deities are known to have ob-
served ritual practices of time.52 That deities, not known to be associated
with creation, took part in ritual practices of time undermines the theory
of a ceremonial symbolic replication of the cosmogony in order to renew
time and the world order. On the other hand, we cannot explain why many
deities are outlined in the inscriptions and in iconographies celebrating
ritual practices of time, where some of the techniques were applied in the
different local creation stories.

Impersonation of Supernatural Beings in the Ritual Practice of Time


Ritual impersonation of supernatural beings is a quite important feature
of the religious systems of Mesoamerica. Was an impersonation of the
creator deities observed in the ritual practice of time making a symbolic
allusion to acts of recreation/renewal of time of the cosmogony?
Houston and Stuart have deciphered a logogram and a syllabic colloca-
tion representing an(ul)/anum, for an impersonation of supernatural be-
ings in the classic Maya inscriptions. The expression u baah(il), this is a
depiction of portrait of, is followed by an(ul)/anum (Yucatec: famous),
subsequently the name of the deity who is impersonated and finally the
name of the impersonator: We interpret this expression as (it is) the image

51It is interesting that the contemporary Chorti, according to Hull, have a concept of
rings around the sun and moon, which symbolise impending rain. A weather forecast is
produced based on the duration of these rings. The entry mulul, a darkening around the
sun or moon in colonial Yucatec, from the dictionary Diccionario Motul, suggest that the
rings around the sun and moon were to be a sign for rain (Roys 1965: 158; Hull 2003: 520).
Hull has been informed by several Chorti religious specialists, that this natural phenom-
enon symbolise God is being bathed, it is going to rain (E Katata war atesna, Kani akaxi
e jajar). He concludes that the watery rings around the sun and the moon (which the Pad-
dler Gods represents) symbolise the notion of a bathing (Hull 2003: 516-520). For the Chorti,
however, it is the evil spirits (and not constructive rain deities) whom appear in the watery
rings (Hull 2003: 520).
52Cf. Pharo (2006: 74, note 168) for references of the works of various epigraphers.
52 chapter one
of . The famous god followed by the name of the ruler, lord, or lady who
impersonates the god (Houston and Stuart 1996: 298-299).53 I completely
agree with the decipherment, made by Houston and Stuart, but I propose
another translation than famous for the impersonating term, an.54 The
word an has also the meaning of being; exist in Maya languages,55 which
is also argued by Lacadena and Wichmann (2004: 137). It is probable that
it is the being of the impersonated deity, possibly its sacredness kuhul
(classic Maya) or teoyotl (Nahuatl) (Hvidtfeldt 1958), which the imperson-
ator ritually incorporates and represent in Mesoamerican impersonation
ceremonies.56 My suggestion of the translation of u baah(il) an, name of
deity succeeded by the name of ritual performer is the following:
This is the representation of the being of the god X, name of ritual performer
(impersonator).
It is exciting that the identity of the impersonator is stated in the inscrip-
tions of the classic Maya. One would assume that the impersonator would
be anonymous, since it is not he or she whom are the ceremonial protago-
nist but instead the impersonated deity. It appears that it is the sacred
connection between the named ceremonial actor and the impersonated
god who is emphasised by the classic Maya. This has (alas unknown) im-
plications for the meaning of the performed ritual since the deity and the
impersonator share the ceremonial scene. It is, however, apparent that a
declared identity of a human being with a deity elevates the status of the
ritual performer and the sacred status of the ceremonial performance.
Some inscriptions contain information about the creator deities being
impersonated in rituals of time. The inscription on the front side of Stela
30, Naranjo where Kak Tiliw Chan Chak (693 AD 728 AD), lord of
Naranjo proclaims that he impersonates the Jaguar Paddler God. Stuart
maintains that the lord is dressed as the Jaguar God of the Underworld
performing a fire drilling at a period-ending ritual (Stuart 1998: 404; 407-
409). The inscription of Stela 30, however, does not enclose the name of
The Jaguar God of the Underworld. Instead it states twice that Kak Tiliw

53Cf. Nehammer Knub et al. (2009) for an extensive list of examples of ritual imper-
sonation expressions in classic Maya inscriptions.
54Cf. Lacadena and Wichmann for the spelling of this lexeme (2004: 110; 128; 137).
55An, Ser, existir, estar (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 16); an, to be, estar, existir (Hopkins,
Josserand and Guzmn 2010: 10).
56Houston (Houston 2006: 146-149; Houston et al. 2006: 276) prefer deity concurrence
instead of deity impersonation. He argues that the performer keep his/her identity while
portraying the deity during the ritual.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 53
Chan Chak is impersonating the Jaguar Paddler God. The inscription on
Stela 30, Naranjo simply announces that, in the person of the Jaguar Paddler
deity, Kak Tiliw Chan Chak conducts a stone-binding ritual at the period-
ending date of 9.14.3.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Uniw.57
Many ritually impersonated supernatural beings as part of the religious
ritual practice of observing time are recorded in the inscriptions. But ritu-
al impersonations were, like other ritual techniques, not exclusively an
affair of ritual practices of time. Moreover, the religious specialist could
take the identity of a wide array of supernatural beings, where not every-
body was associated with creation, in order to observe the ritual practice
of time.58 The coincidental occurrence of an impersonation of creator gods
and other deities in the ritual practice of time undermines the theory of a
recreation or renewal of the world or time as explaining these ceremonials.

The Creation Date Connected with Later Period-Ending Dates and Rituals
An assumed synchronisation between the creation date of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw
8 Ohl and later period-ending dates and ritual practices of time is intrigu-
ing (cf. Schele and Looper 1996: 144; Martin and Grube 2000: 221-222). Let
us therefore look at the ceremonial information and dates of the remaining
part of the creation inscriptions in order to establish whether there was a
direct link between the proceedings of creation and other (later) ritual
performances of time.
I begin with the long and informative inscription on the west side of
Stela C, Quirigua. Two rituals of time were recorded to be conducted, on
9.1.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Yaxkin and on 9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy, respectively.
It appears that there is an interrelated narrative between the east side,

57A rather bizarre impersonation of both of the Paddler Gods by one ajaw is recorded
on Stela 13, Naranjo. A kaltun ritual celebrates the period ending of 9.17.10.0.0. But how
can it be explained that the inscription states that Kak Chan Chak impersonates both the
Jaguar Paddler and the Stingray Paddler at the same time? These two deities may have
represented a totality attributable to the fact that the signs kin and akab, which are epithets
of the Paddler Gods, symbolise completion (Stuart 2003b).
58For instance, from the inscriptions on two stelae in Copan we have evidence of a
ritual impersonation performed to celebrate a time period. But, here neither the Paddler
Gods nor other recognisable creator deities are impersonated. The inscription on Stela 4,
Copan (A7-B9) announces that Waxaklajun Ubaah Kawil observes the time unit of 15
winikhaab not as himself but under the identity of the supernatural being Kuy Nik. Also
according to the inscription on Stela B, Copan (B5-B13) a deity not involved in the known
creation stories is impersonated. 15 winikhaab was again celebrated by Waxaklajun Ubaah
Kawil, but by performing a ritual blood sacrifice through the disguise of the god Kawil-?-
?-nu-Kawil.
54 chapter one
which, as we have seen recounted creation of the present Long Count, and
the west side of this monument. The lord Tutum Yohl first erected the stone
(tzaptun) on the date 9.1.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Yaxkinto some extent the same
kind of enterprise as took place at the day of creation. Afterwards the later
lord Kak Tiliw Chan performed a scattering or a blood sacrifice (chokow)
9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy, which is c. 300 years after the ritual undertak-
ing by Tutum Yohl. The Long Count dates of 9.1.0.0.0 and 9.17.5.0.0 have one
interesting feature in common, the day-station 6 Ajaw of the 260-day
calendar. Stuart has noted that the same lord is named on Stela C (the
basal register of the south side) and on Stela A of Quirigua as 6 Ajaw tun.
The 6 Ajaw epithets derive from the station of the 260-day calendar of the
period-endings on each monument (9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy) (Stuart
1995: 165). The inscription on the west side of Stela C thus seems to record
a ritual celebration of a 260-day anniversary of the day 6 Ajaw in combina-
tion with a period-ending date and is therefore not a commemoration of
creation (13.0.0.0.0) 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl.
The period-ending date 9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Chak Sihom is connected
to the creation date of 13.0.0.0.0. 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl, on Altar P, Quirigua (Schele
and Looper 1996: 93). The events accounted on Altar P are not well under-
stood. But we see again that there is probably a celebration of a 260-day
anniversary. The calendar position of the creation day of 4 Ajaw links the
two dates, 13.0.0.0.0. 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and 9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Chaksihom, to-
gether. An equivalent synchronisation between the 4 Ajaw date of the 260-
day calendar, of creation 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and of the position of the
ritual scattering act which happened 9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Keh is moreover
present on Zoomorph P & P.59 This also applies to the inscription on the
stone disc of Monument 34, Tonina. Monument 34 was, according to Stuart,
dedicated on the date 9.18.5.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Chaksihom, which represents a
deliberate backward reckoning, the connection being established by the
huge 4 Ajaw sign in the centre of the stone disc, i.e. to 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8
Ohl. Hence, there is a 260-day anniversary of 4 Ajaw (Stuart 1995: 168; cf.
Ayala 1995: 153).
Altar 1, Piedras Negras incorporates a quite complicated inscription.
Various period-ending dates follow the creation date on fragments A-B,
A1-P2. There are at least six period-ending dates associated with ritual
practices that follow the creation date in this account (cf. Teufel 2004: 74-76;
528-536):

59Cf. Schele and Looper (1996: 155-156).


the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 55
8.13.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 13 Saksihom December 12, 297 AD
9.0.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 13 Chaksihom, December 9, 435 AD
9.4.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Yaxsihom, October 16, 514 AD
9.10.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 Kanasiiy, January 25, 633 AD
9.13.0.0.0 8 Ajaw 8 Ikat March 16, 692 AD
10.0.0.0.0 7 Ajaw 17 Chakat, March 13, 830 AD
There is, however, no pattern of a repeating of 4 Ajawthe 260-calendar
day date of creationsince the sequence is: 9 Ajaw, 8 Ajaw, 13 Ajaw, 1 Ajaw,
8 Ajaw and 7 Ajaw.
A scattering ritual was celebrated on 9.10.18.12.8 8 Lamat 1 Yaxkin as
recorded on Stela 23, Copan (Santa Rita) associated with the creation
event.60 This is remarkable because 9.10.18.12.8 is not a period-ending date
where a ritual practice of time is celebrated. For this reason, there is no
anniversary commemorating the 260-day Ajaw or a ritual re-enactment of
creation. Furthermore, a distance number of 9.12.18.5.16 connects the cre-
ation date of 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl to a ceremony at the Calendar Round date of 2
Kib 14 Mol, i.e. 9.12.18.5.16 2 Kib 14 Mol according to the Tablet of the Tem-
ple of the Sun, Palenque (Schele 1992: 95; 168). We have accordingly an-
other example where the creation date is not connected to the ritual
practice of time.
A symbolic link between the creation date 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl and
successive period-ending dates and ritual practices of time appear in
some cosmogonic inscriptions. But this affiliation is not exclusive. At the
same time a structural congruence quite frequently came about between
two identical Ajaw dates of the 260-day calendar. Some inscriptions, how-
ever, exhibitas demonstrated by Stela 23, Copan (Santa Rita) and The
Tablet of the Temple of the Sun, Palenquethat non-period-ending dates
were associated with the date of creation. We recollect that the non-period-
ending date of 0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik end of Iksihom was important as a time of
creation in Palenque. Consequently, the collected data contributes to a
quite complex and ambiguous representation of the rituals associated with
creation, even when most of them constituted ritual practices of time.

60John Teeple originally made the calculation of 8 Lamat and 1 Yaxkin (Thompson
1944: 49; 56).
56 chapter one
A Symbolic Synchronisation between Period-Ending Dates and Ritual
Practices of the Contemporary Long Count with Previous Long Count
Computations
In the seminal article A Rationale for the Initial Date of the Temple of the
Cross at Palenque (1976), Floyd Lounsbury has found that dates before the
creation of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) may be linked to dates in the
present Long Count, with a so-called distance number, in the inscriptions.61
The distance numbers connect the past, the present and the future. The
calendar positions of previous Long Count and the current Long Count
calendar could accordingly be calculated in such a manner that both fall
on the same date making them like in kind dates. This constitutes a sym-
metrical relation between the date of a previous Long Count computation
and a date of the present Long Count calendar (Lounsbury 1981: 804-808).
Inscriptions from Palenque contain for instance dates where the birth and
accession of deities and the lords are related (Schele and Miller 1986: 321).
According to this temporal symmetry the ajaw or members of the aristoc-
racy symbolically repeated the actions of the gods. This phenomenon of
recurrence has Nicholson denoted as pattern history, based upon cos-
mological and cosmogonical preconceptions, in the cultures of Meso-
america (Nicholson 1971a: 64). The use of corresponding dates creates a
model for contemporary human (and ruler) behaviour by imitating exploits
of the deities in Great Time or Deep Time.
We have seen that the date of creation could be, although not exclu-
sively, linked to later ritual practices of time. We have also established that
period-ending dates could in a few cases be connected to the identical
260-day calendar station. It would seem that the 260-day calendar had an
extraordinary prominence among the Maya of the classic period since
many period-endings of the same inscription shared an identical 260-day
date. We shall now see that an equivalent symbolic connotation of the
260-day calendar constituting a synchronisation between dates of former
Long Counts (Deep Time or Great Time) and the contemporary Long
Count calendar. The fact that several inscriptionsfrom Quirigua, Copan
and Piedras Negrasassociate ritual practice of time of the present Long
Count calendar with like in kind dates and events that occurred in distant

61Other calendar notations linking previous time eras to the present Long Count by
large distance numbers were ring numbers or long rounds, serpent numbers and the pik-
tun count known from Codex Dresden (Berlin 1943; Thompson 1972; Lounsbury 1981; Bricker
and Miram 2002: 43-45).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 57
(e.g. previous) Long Counts indicates that the creation date of 13.0.0.0.0 4
Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) was not significant in the execution of later temporal
ceremonies (i.e. ritual practice of time).62
Let us first begin with the inscription on the east side of Stela F, Quirigua,
which relates that a scattering ritual 9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Mol is commemo-
rating back to 1 Ajaw 13 Yaxkin, end of 13 Kihnchiltuns perhaps c.
90,000,000 years ago (Stuart 1995: 170). The anniversary of the station, 1
Ajaw, of the 260-day calendar accordingly constitutes the focal point of the
inscription on Stela F.
Moreover, on the period-ending date 9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Ohl (January
22, 771 AD) planted or erected the lord of Quirigua, Kak Tiliw Chan, a
monument called Uxlajun Ajaw Tun or 13 Ajaw stone according to the
inscription on Stela E (East Side), Quirigua.63 The calendar position of 13
Ajaw and the dedicated 13 Ajaw stone are both connected to two dates of
former Long Counts, which is the identical day-station of the 260-day cal-
endar: 13 Ajaw. On the Calendar Round dates 13 Ajaw 18 Saksihom and 13
Ajaw 13 Ikat were not very well understood undertakings conducted by
supernatural beings at various locations. It was proclaimed that on 13 Ajaw
18 Saksihom and 13 Ajaw 13 Ikat was a time unit of an unknown temporal
value completed. It is reason to believe that Kak Tiliw Chan performed a
ritual practice of time on 9.17.0.0.0 emulating two preternatural period-
ending incidents of previous Long Counts at the equivalent 260-day cal-
endar position: 13 Ajaw. In connection with events of Great Time at 19 ?
(e.g. not known Long Count) 13 Ajaw 18 Saksihom, it is intriguing that the
suffix iiy of the verb ut to happen makes the verb function as a pred-
icative anaphora. The suffix iiy operates as a linguistic element alluding
to a previous event that has already taken place. Wichmann has noticed
that, because of the verb utiiy, the inscription on the east side of Stela, E,
Quirigua refers to related events of a remote past event when the incidents
has not been expressed earlier (Wichmann 2000: 78). It is thus possible that
19 ? (e.g. not known Long Count) 13 Ajaw 18 Saksihom is synchronised with
earlier although not mentioned dates. Furthermore, the account on Stela
A (East & West), Quirigua relates that the same lord Kak Tiliw Chan erect-
ed the 6 Ajaw Stone on the period-ending date 9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13
Kanasiiy (December 27, 775 AD) (Schele and Looper 1996: 145-146). The

62The dissertation provides a full transcription, transliteration and translation of the


cited inscriptions in this chapter (Pharo 2006).
63The inscription on the west side of this stela does not contain a related account.
58 chapter one
calendar position of 6 Ajaw is associated with the completion of a time
period of a former Long Count: 19 ? (e.g. not known Long Count) 6 Ajaw 13
Saksihom by the supernatural being Ek Nal-? (the same god who appear
in the cosmogony at Stela C, Quirigua). The symbolic synchronisation of
the station of the 260-day calendar, 6 Ajaw is accordingly emphasised in
this inscription.
Also the inscription on Stela C (south side), Copan narrates that the
anniversary of 6 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar, of a previous Long Count
computation, was celebrated on the same date (e.g. 6 Ajaw) of the present
Long Count calendar. There is a count of 11.14.5.1.0 from 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy
of the unknown former Long Count to 9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwaan of the
current Long Count. A wrapping or binding of a stone (kaltun) was con-
ducted on the date ? 13 Kalabtun 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy. This undertaking on
the date 6 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar was commemorated by the Copan
lord Waxaklajun UBaah Kawil on 9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwaan (December
3, 711 AD), when he erected or set up a banner stone. Moreover, on
1.11.4.12.9.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 Saksihom, a date of a former Long Count, there was
a stone binding or wrapping (kaltun-ritual) conducted by a obscure deity
according to Stela N, Copan (East & West side). Kak Yipyaj Chan Kawil
performed, on the same date of the 260-day calendar (9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3
Chakat), a not recognised action.64 Hence, there is another example where
a period-ending date of the contemporary Long Count calendar is associ-
ated with a mythical kaltun-ritual conducted by a supernatural being
within a previous Long Count. We see (again) that there is a correspon-
dence of the position of the day Ajaw (e.g. 1 Ajaw) of the 260-day calendar
in a previous Long Count with the present Long Count.
There are, nevertheless, exceptions to this pattern of a symbolic recur-
rence of equivalent Ajaw stations of the 260-day calendar. No correspon-
dence exists between the 260-day position of the distant Long Count cycle
(13 Kihnichiltun, 6 Ajaw 3 Kanjalaw) and the ritual observance on
9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 13 Kanjalaw of the contemporary Long Count according
to the inscription on Stela D (East), Quirigua.65 On 9.16.15.0.0 7 Ajaw 13
Kanjalaw or February 17, 766 AD the stone was erected, the 7 Ajaw stone,
whereas the ending of 13 Kihnichiltun found place on the Calendar Round
date of 6 Ajaw 3 Kanjalaw. This also applies to the inscriptions on Stela D,

64The computation of the distance numbers on Stela N, Copan (East & West Side) has
been made by Morley, Beyer and Thompson (Morley 1920: 281-288; Beyer 1932: 115-116;
Thompson 1944: 58-59).
65The inscription on the west side of this stela does not contain relevant information
to this narrative.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 59
Copan; partly the inscription on Stela J, Copan where some Ajaw positions
of the 260-day calendar seem to correspond (cf. Newsome 2001: 77-90;
Schele and Looper 1996: 104; Schele and Mathews 1998: 136-138); and the
inscription on Altar 1, Piedras Negras (Grube and Martin 2001: 56; Teufel
2004: 74-76; 528-536).
This indicates that there was not an intimately symbolic association
between the creation of the present Long Count, i.e. the cosmogony, on
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) and the later ritual practice of time. This
casts further doubt upon the hypothesis of a symbolic recreation or re-
newal of time and/or space through ritual practices of time. Instead, the
gathered data display a commemoration, through pattern dates, of the
station of the day Ajaw of the 260-day calendar. Stuart has shown that
several commemorations of 260-day anniversaries, a few examples of 365-
day anniversaries or even Calendar Round anniversaries of the contempo-
rary Long Count are recorded in the inscriptions (Stuart 1995: 168-170; 1998:
397). Like-in-kind connections between past, contemporary and future
period-ending dates with corresponding Ajaw stations can be detected
on monuments from Quirigua; Stela J, Copan and Monument 6, Tortu-
guero (Stuart 2011c). It is significant to emphasise that this principle of
pattern history did not apply to the linear Long Count calendar, but rath-
er to the cyclical 260-day calendar and the cyclical 365-day calendars66
Winikhaab and haab period-endings of the Long Count calendar were
recorded but there is no evidence of a cycle or a repetition associated with
theirs passing (Stuart 1995: 167-168).67 It is therefore a synchronisation of
interlinking cyclical 260-day calendar and/or 365-day calendar stations and
not the linear Long Count that constitutes the principal temporal philoso-
phy and practices of these inscriptions.

Ritual Techniques of Time


A diversity of ritual techniques was conducted at period-ending date.
Many of these cannot be acknowledged as imitations of cosmic actions

66There were not necessarily a synchronic pattern between period-ending dates (i.e.
Ajaw of the 260-day calendar) of a previous Long Count and the contempoary Long Count.
For instance, according to the Hieroglyphic Stairway 2, Step VII, Structure 33, a Yaxchilan
lord impersonates in a ritual ball game a deity on October 19, 744 AD (9.15.13.6.9 3 Muluk 17
Mak) which refers to an identical calendar round date 8 world ages (Long Counts) back in
time before the present Long Count: 13.13.13.13.13.13.13.13.9.15.13.6.9 3 Muluk 17 Mak (Schele
and Miller 1986: 249).
67La Corona Panel 1 sharing the same pattern date of 4 Kan of the 260-day calendar
display that other time stations, than Ajaw of the 260-day calendar, were emphasised by
the classic Maya.
60 chapter one
conducted by the creator deities on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) (and
in the case of Palenque on 0.0.1.9.2 13 Ik end of Iksihom). Ritual tech-
niquesexpressed in the inscriptions by: receive god; conjure deities;
giving or offering; ritual drilling of fire; dance; ball game; imperson-
ation; blood sacrifice etc. were not exclusively associated with ceremo-
nies on conducted on a period-ending but also on non-period-ending
dates. Since the same ritual practice could be conducted on both period-
endings and on non-period-endings they did not emulate or were as-
sociated with the creation of the present Long Count calendar. We cannot
therefore speak of an exclusive ritual-symbolic imitation of the cosmo-
gonic stories, which undermine the hypothesis that there was a renewal or
recreation of time and/or the world through ritual acts performed at pe-
riod-ending dates. But we must reflect upon the important cosmogonic
performances of erecting and binding stonesaccording to the inscription
on the east side of Stela C, Quiriguawhich constituted important tech-
niques of celebrating ritual practices of time in many classic Maya cities.

A Computation of Time by Erecting (Tzap & Wa) and Seating (Chum)


Stones (Tunob)
Eduard Seler68, Charles P. Bowditch and Sylvanus G. Morley detected at the
beginning of the 20th century that the classic Maya dedicated stelae and
other stone monuments at the end of a winikhaab (katun) and at shorter
time periods (Bowditch 1910: 310-318; Morley 1920: 565-586). Ritual prac-
tices of time consisted in many cities of an erection of one or several stone
monuments.69 But the cities Palenque, Chinikiha, Pomona with neighbour-
ing sites in the western parts of the southern lowland and the Puuc re-
gionwhich have many inscriptions with tun (stone) countsdid not
have the tradition of raising stelae or producing stone discs (Stuart 1996:
149-151; Stuart 2000: 1).70 This fact reveals that they did not adhere to the
cosmogonic philosophy of Quirigua.
Scholars use the term haab for the 365-day solar year and the word tun
for the 360-day civil or vague year of the Long Count calendar (Thompson

68Seler made this observation as early as 1899 (Morley 1920: 565).


69Grube originally identified the sign for tzap as to plant or erect of a tun, stone
(Grube 1990b). Stuart has suggested that another verb, with the root wa (stand up), may
also have been applied to describe erections of stone monuments or stelae (Stuart 1996:
152-153; Stuart 2002b).
70Chum tun (seating of the stone) is the expression for seating of a stone at a period-
ending date in the inscriptions of these cities.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 61
1978: 190-191). In the classic inscriptions of the southern lowlands the word
tun was applied as a designation for periods of 5 (ho tun), 10 (lajun tun), or
15 (holajun tun) haab within the winikhaab-unit (Long 1925: 575-580; Stu-
art 1996: 149-150, note 1). The classic Maya erected stones (tun) to symbolise
the intervals of time in the Long Count calendar rituals. The record-keep-
ers referred to numbered stones representing periods of 360 days (e.g. one
tun). A tradition of erecting stone monuments as ritual practice of time is
attested at the time of the Spanish arrival (Roys 1933: 142-143; Landa 1941:
38). There is reported a ceremonial use of stones in postclassic Yucatec
calendar ceremonies. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel outlines the
founding of stones in certain towns at the end of the katun (Stuart 1996:
150). For instance, it recounts that on 12 Ahau. The stone was taken at
Otzmal; 10 Ahau. The stone was taken at Zizal; 8 Ahau. The stone was tak-
en at Kancaba etc. (Roys 1933: 142-143). Both The Crnica de Chicxulub and
Diego de Collogudo in his Historia de Yucatn (cited in Tozzer 1941: 38)
describe the placing of katun stones (Stuart 1996: 150). Since also Native
historical chronicles from colonial Yucatn, such as The Book of Chilam
Balam, routinely make use of tun in temporal statements such as in the
first tun , or in the twelfth tun , (Stuart 1996: 149) Stuart asserts that
tun is equivalent to a station of 360 days within a katun (winikhaab) pe-
riod, and that the word tun refers to stones employed to compute a time
period: With the passing of every 360 days, a tun is added to this reckoning,
so that the glyphs 13 Tun or 15 Tun specify specific stations within a
katun period (Stuart 1996: 150). Stones (tunob) could hence symbolise
and mark a period in the time keeping. This is expressed in a range of for-
mulas of the classic inscriptions.71 Moreover, Stuart has recently identified
an interesting expression in the inscription on the West Panel of TXIX,
Palenque. The date 9.6.7.0.0 [A1-B5] as indicated by the Calendar Round,
7 Ajaw and 8 Kanasiiy, and the expression huk kul72 tun [A2] or it is seven
stones, suggests the date 7 haab. Each haab is then symbolised by a stone
(Stuart 2005: 91-92). In addition, the introduction of the remarkable inscrip-
tion on the Tablet of the Slaves, Palenque (A1-A3) records a number of

71There have been excavated 18 Giant Ajaw stone discs in Caracol, each has a coef-
ficient and the day-name Ajaw od the 265-day calendar inscribed. The earliest date on the
Giant Ajaw stone discs is 2 Ajaw i. e. on 9.3.0.0.0 or 495 AD; the last is 7 Ajaw, 10.0.0.0.0 or
the ending of 830 AD. An identification of individual winikhaabs is thus made. The same
system of reckoning time is found in The Books of Chilam Balam accounting the katun
(winikhaab) (113 Ajaw) (Martin and Grube 2000: 88-89).
72kul is a classifier for counting (Stuart 2005: 92).
62 chapter one
winikhaab-stones being ritually seated by Janaab Pakal [I], Kan Balam [II]
and Kan Joy Chitam [II] during their respectively reign:
5 Lamat 1 Mol (9.9.2.4.8) Janaab Pakal [I] was (inaugurated as ajaw). It was
his third of twenty seating of stones. It was one of twenty seating of stones
of Kan Balam [II]. It was one of twenty seating of stones of Kan Joy Chitam
[II].
Each stone symbolised one winikhaab out of twenty winikhaabs. At the
end of the inscription it is stated that a stone will be seated on the future
period-ending date of 9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yaxsihom. Stones were accord-
ingly symbolically associated with time keeping of the linear Long Count
calendar.
We saw above that stone and time periods had names after Ajaw dates
of the 260-day calendar: X Ajaw Tun (Stuart 1996: 149-151). A custom of
marking time of the 260-day calendar by erecting stones can be found
among the contemporary Aguacatecs of northwest Guatemala.73 The Agua-
catecos plant a long slender stone in the earth (qa-kub-il, our stone) at
the birth of a child (personal communication from Harry McArthur to
Helen Neueswander). At every 260-day anniversary of the birth, the parents
go to the where the stone was erected and burn incense to petition the
earth for the protection of the child. The Aguacatec stones represent the
people towards the deities where they received ritual meals on anniversa-
ries (Neueswander 1981: 127). Stones were also employed for computation
in calendar calculations and divinations, since: Achi ahlah to count is
possible derived from ah of, from and lah flat stones (Neueswander 1981:
128). Moreover, Arvid Westfall has observed a Kanjobal worship centre in
Coya, San Miguel Acatan, Huehuetenango in Guatemala where there was
constructed a circle of stones. Each stone represented a day deity. The re-
ligious specialist recited the day names as he went around the unmarked
stones in a circle (Neueswander 1981: 128). This suggests the importance of
the 260-day calendar (a crucial subject matter I will return to elaborate)
which was integrated in the Long Count computations among the classic
Maya.

Kaltun: A Symbolic Binding of Time


Kaltun, stone-binding or stone-wrappingwas a regular ritual in the clas-
sic period (Stuart 1996: 155). But what symbolic significance held kaltun

73This example derive, however from highland Guatemala, which is outside the classic
Maya region. Still, it represent an interesting parallel.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 63
(stone-binding or stone-wrapping) in the ritual practice of time of the
Long Count calendar?
The kaltun-ceremony is connected to the ritual recording of katun
(winikhaab)-endings. The scene on a carved peccary skull from Tomb 1,
Copanwhere the inscription outlines the stone-binding (kaltun) ritual
on 8.17.0.0.0may depict a kaltun-ritual. The scene portrays two indi-
viduals who have wrapped or fastened a cloth around a stone monument
or stela. Stuart concludes that this illustrates a ritual of wrapping or bun-
dling sacred objects with a cloth (Stuart 1996: 156).74 In Tikal stelae were
erected with an associated stone disc in the so-called twin pyramid groups
where the stelae depict the current ruling ajaw performing a ritual scat-
tering. The inscription on the stelae contains the kaltun sign associated
with a winikhaab-ending (Stuart 1996: 156). But not only stelae were as-
sociated with a kaltun ritual. Stone discs at Copan and Yaxchilan associ-
ated with stelae with knotted bands give the impression of bound stones.
The circular stone disc of Stela I, Copan for instance has carved images of
knotted bands. A kaltun event is expressed in the inscription. Knotted,
wrapped stone discs are also illustrated in scenes on stelae, which celebrate
ritual practices of time (Stuart 1995: 404-405, note 8; Stuart 1996: 157).
The concept of a ritual binding is quite common in the religious sys-
tems of Mesoamerica.75 But how can we explain its symbolic relation to
celebrating ritual practices of time? Cloth and paper are applied to wrap
sacred objects like bundles. In the inscription on Stela 38, Naranjo (A5-B10)
the lord Aj Wosal announces that he tied or wrapped three stelae at three
different period-ending dates (9.6.0.0.0; 9.7.0.0.0; 9.8.0.0.0) respectively.
The wrapped or tied stones are in the inscription associated with bundles
or pih. That the wrapped stone sculptures are likened to bundles suggests
that the ceremonial binding of the stone monuments shares the common
Mesoamerican notion of a wrapped object where the cloth and paper were

74Wrapped or bound stone monuments also appear on vessels (Stuart 1995: 404-405,
note 8). Looper has observed that there is a depiction of a clothing of a stela on K718 (Kerr
1989: 40; Looper 1995: 11). But this sacrificial scene does not appear to be associated with a
kaltun-ritual.
75Aldana and Stuart (Aldana 2001: 8, note 25) have located another expression where
the transitive verb kal is associated directly with a time period, kin, or day in the formula
kalkin: we have the remains of a verb that works analogously to a verb very common
throughout the inscriptional record: that of the period end, kaltun , the tun element has
been replaced by kin, the glyph for the sun, producing a probable reading of kalkin. Since
the kaltun glyph marks the completion of tuns (periods of 360 days) it makes sense for the
kalkin glyph to mark the completion of solar periods (Aldana 2001: 8).
64 chapter one
applied to protect a sacred essence. Stuart asserts that both the lord and
the stones possess the quality kuhul, sacredness. The nametag kuhul
lakamtun, sacred big stones indicates this quality. The idea of the kaltun
ritual was to protect and contain the divine essence held within the
stones that embodied time and its movement (Stuart 1996: 157). The sacred
bundle in Mesoamerica has been analysed and compared with the tradi-
tion of the North American cultures of the Plains and Pueblos by Werner
Stenzel (Stenzel 1970).76 Stenzel has found many correspondences in the
use of bundles in this region. A sacred force or energy exists in the bundles,
which are also associated with creation accounts. So far the comparison
with the sacred stones is relevant. But, besides the fact that there is a great
difference between a bundle, which can hold sacred objects, and a stone
that for obvious reasons cannot, there is an essential disparity. It is the
opening of the bundle, which constitutes the ritual because of the access
to its sacred contents (Stenzel 1970: 351). Conversely, the kaltun-ritual con-
sists of a closing (wrapping) of a stone. The stone and its sacred essence
might have represented the completed time unit being symbolically con-
tained by a binding or wrapping during the ritual practice of time. This
symbolic ritual technique is also used in other cultures related to different
time computations. For instance, among the contemporary Chorti, there
is a notion of a tying of time at the end of a 260-day period. The Chorti
also tie a knot on a cord at the end of each year of their life span thereby
keeping count of their age. The Jbaros use the same system in counting
the days. The Nahuatl term xiuhmolpilli, tying of the years, marking the
end of the 52-year calendar (Cf. part IV) is another indication of this con-
cept (Girard 1949: 271-272; 1966: 262-263).

The Ceremonial Language of 13.0.0.0.0 and the Ritual Practice of Time


The performances of ritual practices of time were not reproduced in the
ceremonial language, imitating the cosmogonic actions at the inauguration
of the contemporary Long Count calendar. The custom of setting (chum-
tun) instead of erecting (tzaptun) stones at ritual practices of time does
not only reflect, a lack of stelae, but a different creation account in the
western part of the lowlands of the cities Palenque, Chinikiha and Pomona

76Cf. also Stenzel, Werner. Das Heilige Bndel in Mesoamerika. Ph.D. dissertation,
University of Vienna. 1967. The ceremonial techniques of wrapping and binding in various
Mesoamerican religious traditions, but with no relevance to ritual practices of times, has
been explored in Guersney and Reilly (2006).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 65
etc. , in the classic period. On the other hand, Palenque embodies many
stone-binding (kaltun) ceremonies as a ritual practice of time, which was
a common classic Maya ritual technique; however, we do not know wheth-
er they were connected to the cosmogony because of lacking sources to
the creation account of this site.
Christie has argued that the inscription on Stela 38, Naranjo demon-
strates that there was a direct connection between stone-rituals performed
at period-ending dates and the creation account on the east side of Stela
C, Quirigua:
The fact that three Katun ending rites are reported and three stones were
erected may establish a symbolic link with the three stones of creation which
were placed at the beginning of time . (Christie 1995: 219).
But, then, one would expect that the inscription on Stela 38 would outline
that the three stones were wrapped or tied on the same period-ending
date, in one ceremonial-symbolic performance by the lord Aj Wosal, in-
stead of at three different Long Count calendar stations (9.6.0.0.0; 9.7.0.0.0;
9.8.0.0.0). It is not uncommon that one stone monument incorporates
various period-ending statements (e.g. ritual practices of time) accord-
ingly disproving a symbolic connection between the stone sculpture and
the three stones erected and wrapped at the Quirigua cosmogony. It is also
uncertain whether this creation story of the erecting and planting of three
stones was known in Naranjo.
In fact there are no ritual-symbolic emulations of the events at 13.0.0.0.0
4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku) as recorded on the east side of Stela C, Quirigua
because tzaptun and kaltun temporal ceremonies were not necessarily
performed on the same (period-ending) date. Numerous examples of
inscriptions on various stelae delineate the wrapping of a stela some time
after the temporal ritual (Le Fort 2000: 190-191). This is for instance testified
by the inscription on Stela 15, El Duende, Dos Pilas where a ritual self-blood
sacrifice was conducted and a banner stone erected to observe the half-
diminshing of one winikhaab on 9.14.10.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Mak. But the binding
or wrapping of the stela took place 80 days later on 9.14.10.4.0 7 Ajaw 3
Kanasiiy. The ruler of Dos Pilas Itzamnah Kawiil observed these temporal
rituals but at two different locations (Stuart 1995: 362). Furthermore, ac-
cording to the inscription on Stela 89, Calakmul, Yuknoom Took Kawiil of
Calakmul erected the stela at the end of 15th winikhaab (9.15.0.0.0). But the
wrapping of this stela took place some time later (Schele and Grube 1994:
159; Schele and Grube 1995: 89). It seems that the temporal rituals may have
66 chapter one
lasted a quite long time and that the erection or seating of the stone may
not always correspond to the period-ending date (Christie 1995: 345-346;
Le Fort 2000: 191).
Erected and wrapped stones ritual practice of time are never, to my
knowledge, designated as the jaguar, serpent, or waterlily (throne) stones
as were the three stones of the cosmogony according to the inscription on
the east side of Stela C, Quirigua. Even the two temporal rituals, which
follow the creation story on Stela C, Quirigua (9.1.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Yaxkin
and 9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy), have no association with this account
but instead represent the anniversary of 6 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar.
Another argument against stone-rituals as a symbolic-ritual emulation
of the creation story of Stela C, Quirigua is that kaltun and tzaptun under-
takings by supernatural beings were not exclusive sacred exploits at the
day of creation of the contemporary Long Count. It has been exhibited that
there was a banner stone (lakamtun) in a former Long Count time age (13
Kinichiltun 1 Ajaw 13 Yaxkin) according to the inscription on Stela F,
Quirigua. A kaltun- ritual on ? 13 Kalabtun 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy was con-
ducted by supernatural beings at a mystical place on Stela C, (South) Co-
pan. The same was done on the date 13 Kalabtun 5 Ajaw 8 Ohl, Stela C
(North), Copan and on 1.11.4.12.0.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 Saksihom, Stela N, Copan.
These preternatural enterprises, all conducted before the creation of the
contemporary Long Count, represent consequently not a model for a cer-
emonial recreation of the world or a renewal of time at period-ending
dates since they, evidently, did not occur as symbolic acts of creation. But
instead pre-dates the creation of the contemporaneous Long Count calen-
dar.
The kaltun ritual was also celebrated at accession anniversaries of the
inauguration into the office of a lord, which means that this performance
was not only conducted with the purpose to celebrate a ritual practice of
time. Moreover, evidence from different sites77 conveys that stelae were
also erected at non-period-ending dates.78 Hence, the kaltun verb can
announce a binding or wrapping of stones at period-ending dates as de-
signing the end and beginning of a time period (e.g. ritual practice of time),
but was as well applied to calculate other types of temporal celebrations
in addition to various categories of rituals.

77Stela A, Copan (9.14.19.8.0), Zoomorph P, Quirigua (8.19.10.11.0), Stela 18, Naranjo


(3 Ik end of Kanjalaw), Stelae M.p17/m.p44, Tonina (9.17.16.10.1), and Stela 8, Dos Pilas
(9.13.6.2.0).
78Cf. Pharo (2006) for references to the work by various epigraphers.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 67
4.Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time

Not only the classic Maya notion of the (remote) past but also of the (dis-
tant) future must be considered in an investigation of their ritual practice
of time. Elizabeth Newsome maintains that the ending of a time unit is
important, but the true concern of the ritual practice of time is the initia-
tion of the new time period. The day of the completion of the old time unit
imply the birth of the new one. The inscriptions on the classic Maya stone
monuments attest that the ritual practice of time was in fact the germina-
tion of the novel time period (Newsome 1991: 190).79 The matter of a sup-
posed ritual renewal or inauguration of time is affiliated to the question of
whether the classic Maya had an eschatological philosophy, which had an
impact on the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar. The fol-
lowing interdependent issues will be addressed:
1. Did the ritual practice of the Long Count calendar not only symbolically
terminate but also renew or inaugurate time?
2. Was the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar of an escha-
tological or apocalyptical character with the purpose to secure the
survival of the Maya cosmos?
A conception of an expected future conclusion of time and the world is
quite common in many religious (eschatological) traditions and systems.
The ceremonial language of the temporal practices, the fundamental tem-
poral identity of the Long Count calendar and the structure of the tempo-
ral narrative of the inscriptions will be analysed in the following in order
to find out whether the classic Maya regarded the ritual practice of time as
eschatologically motivated.

A Completion, Half-Diminishing and Increasing or Ordering of Time


First, an analysis of the deciphered verbs of the ceremonial language of the
period-endings will be effectuated in order to determine whether time
was ritual-symbolically completed and/or renewed. In this way we can get
an indication whether the ritual practice of time represent an eschato-
logical philosophy.
A plethora of formulas in the classic Maya inscriptions conveying the
end of a passage of time (i.e. time interval) have been recognised by epig-

79Cf. also Stuart (2011).


68 chapter one
raphers. The classic Maya recorded the conclusion of a time period where
at least the time units, kin and/or winal/winik, were at zero. period-end-
ings can be implied when the scribe just recorded the Calendar Round
date (the combined stations of the 260-day calendar and the 365-day cal-
endar). Some cities preferred to only use the Calendar Round notations or
simply the position of the 260-day calendar.80 Ordinal numbers can mark
period-ending dates. Time periods can be ordinal numbered by the prefix
u and a numbered sign of haab or winikhaab. A u prefix changes the coef-
ficient to an ordinal, as from five, ten, fifteen to fifth, tenth, fifteenth. The
ordinal numbered periods can be stated as: the thirteenth haab, the fif-
teenth winikhaab, the tenth pik etc. (Montgomery 2002: 107). But also by
the phrase u jun tal x, it is the first counted x (Boot 2005: 65). Another
expression is prefixed with the word nah or first, as in nah ho haab, allud-
ing to the first ho haab or the fifth haab of the current winikhaab. There is
also a so-called ho haab lacking expression. For example, in the fifteenth
haab of the winikhaab, five haab is lacking until the termination of the
winikhaab as in 9.15.15.0.0 (Montgomery 2002: 109-110).81
Let us now consider three ceremonial verbs conveying a termination of
time, a half-diminishing of time and an increasing or a setting of time in
that order.

Tzutz: A Termination of Time


A variety words for the termination of various calendar period-endings
are documented in the Yucatec colonial Books of the Chilam Balam. These
are: tzoc, completion; hitz, expiration; tzol, to set in order; uutz, crum-
ple, fold, turn over, double; xul end (Thompson 1978: 186-189). In the
classic Maya inscriptions the transitive verb tzutz serve the same purpose
in describing a completion of time intervals of the Long Count calendar.
The same idea of a temporal conclusion is manifested on Stela 5, Pixoy,
which records the period-ending date 9.14.0.0.0. The last three time peri-
ods are prefixed with the sign T683a, which signify kal, enclose; complete
(A4-A5) (Grube, Lacadena and Martin 2003: II-4-II-5). Thus, old time units
were said, but in a different fashion, to be completed.

80As mentioned earlier, all period-endings, because they are multiples of twenty, fall
on the day Ajaw of the 260-day calendar.
81There were also period-ending signs, which until now have resisted a phonetic
decipherment, indicating the ending of a winikhaab or haab on a certain calendar date.
There is for instance a period-ending sign of three-tun date (Lintel 3 from Temple I,
Tikal, with the date 9.13.3.0.0 and on Stela 1, La Naya with the date 9.14. 3.0.0) (cf. Montgom-
ery 2002.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 69
Tan-lam: A Half-Diminishing of Time
Time periods of the Long Count calendar were not only outlined as com-
pleted in the inscriptions. A special sign in the inscriptions marked a half-
period of time units within the Long Count calendar. A half-period was
normally a designation of 10 winikhaab or 10 haab. 10 haab is the same as
a half-winikhaab and 10 winikhaab is identical with a half-pik. The occasion
of a round date of 10 haab 0 winal 0 kin or 10 winikhaab 0 haab 0 winal
0 kin are identified by what has been called the half-period hieroglyph,
by epigraphers. This sign is read as tan-lamcomposed by the adverb tan,
middle and the verb lam to diminishwhich can be translated as it
was the half-diminishing (Stuart, Houston and Robertson II-43; Wich-
mann 2004: 627-631; 635).82
We have seen that a ceremonial termination of time at different period-
ending dates could be stated by the verb tzutz. A time unit is in this case
clearly confirmed as completed. But what was the meaning of the notion
of a diminishing of time? For instance, the inscription on Stela 6, Copan
proclaims, by VERB t-u-tan-lam-il 8 Ajaw (9.12.10.0.0), that it is the half-
diminishing of winikhaab 13, i.e. the date 9.13.0.0.0. This gives an insight
into how the classic Maya conceived time, because every period was prob-
ably thought of as a substance that was gradually diminished like the con-
tents of an hourglass (Wichmann personal communication, 2004). But it
does not signify that time itself was diminished, since tan-lam defined only
a (half) period of time (interval) within the greater time span of the Long
Count calendar. This is corroborated by the rather strange phrase u kal
tan-lam, it is the binding of the half-diminishing of (9.16.10.0.0 1 Ajaw 3
Chakkat), on Monument 7, Tonina (H-R). The kal tan-lam formula appears
to refer to the binding as a formula for the completion of a half-period thus
supporting the idea that a old time period within the Long Count calendar
was conceived to be terminated but not that time was diminishing, i.e.
nearing its final end. The half-period sign constitutes not an eschatological
notion reflecting the approaching completion of the Long Count (the end
of time), but rather an idiosyncratic term for the ending of a half-period of
a particular time unit within the Long Count calendar.83

82A half-diminishing (tan-lam) of an object following 9.9.10.0.0 is stated in the inscrip-


tion on Stela P, Copan (A6-B6). Tan-lam refers to a half-period stela (Wichmann 2004: 638),
which symbolically represents time.
83Tan-lam can also refer to non-period-ending dates (Stuart 2000: 2; 14).
70 chapter one
Tzak: An Increasing or Ordering of Time
Time was not only (ceremonially) terminated or half-diminished. There is
an exciting but puzzling passage on The Temple of the Cross, Palenque
(G17- J2) where an early lord (435 AD 487 AD) of the Palenque dynasty is
said to enhance or order time (tzak) on 9.0.0.0.0 (December 9, 435 AD)
at Toktanthe site of the founder of the dynasty; Kuk Balam [I] (431 AD
435 AD).
We recall the formulation tzakaj, an ordering or increasing of
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku), of the seven and the eleven deities ac-
cording to the story on the vessels K2796 and K7750 from the Naranjo re-
gion. I have not come across other examples of an increasing or ordering
of time (provided that my interpretation of the sign as the verb tzak is
correct) at period-ending dates in the inscriptions. It may be because the
dates 13.0.0.0.0 and 9.0.0.0.0 were especially important as they were pik-
endings and not the more frequently repeated winikhaab- or haab-ending
dates. It is plausible that an increasing or ordering of time could only
be executed by supernatural beings as is the case being done by deities on
vessels K2796 and K7750. But what about the later tzak-ceremony observed
by the obscure lord at Palenque? We know from the portrait and inscription
on a travertine bowl, which provenance is not established, that he was a
lord, and not a deity, of the early period (Stuart 1989: 149-150; Martin and
Grube 2000: 157). It is intriguing that this ceremonial deed was conducted
at Toktan, a city of the early-classic period, associated with the founder,
and probably the first capital of Palenque (Houston and Stuart 1994: 31;
Martin and Grube 2000: 157). The obscure lord may have been a hombre-
dios with particular ritual-magical powers known from various cultures
in Mesoamerica (Cf. Lpez Austin 1973). He might then have been capable
of increasing or ordering new time like the creator deities. Since the tzak
(increase; enhance) verb do not appear very often in the period-ending
formulas (and presumably only by deified or other powerful beings), the
religious specialists of the classic period were more occupied with ritually
terminating than renewing computed time implicitly refuting a classic
Maya eschatological philosophy. Time did not have to be ritually enhanced
or ordered to continue the Long Count computation. Conversely, as noted
it is quite evident that when an old time period is completed a new time
unit is implicitly inaugurated. But this was apparently not a concern for
the Maya ritual specialists at the time intervals of the Long Count calendar
during the classic period.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 71
The Symbolic-Ritual Language of the Completion and Inauguration of
Time
A completion of a time period can, as noted above, be expressed in the
inscriptions as tzutz or it ended, it was terminated or it was completed
and by tan-lam, it was half-diminished. The termination of a time unit,
as time embodied stones, could as well (as mentioned) be formulated by
the symbolic ritual practices tzaptun/watun (erection of the stone),
chumtun (seating of the stone) and kaltun (the stone was bound, tied or
wrapped). Time could not only be ended or half-diminished but probably
also be increased or ordered (tzak) by deities and by hombres-dioses with
supernatural powers and ritual esoteric knowledge. The classic Maya in-
scriptions accordingly attests that the ritual experts terminated a time-
period but not ceremonially created or initiated a new time period, since
the ritual language of the inscriptions include words for a completion and
not a renewal of time. The ritual practices of time intervals within the Long
Count calendar function therefore more as a conclusion than as a new
beginning of a time unit, yet as noted an inaugurating of the new time
interval of the ceremonies was implied.

The Linear and Cyclical Structure and Character of Calendar Time


The passage of time is represented in the calendars in different ways, re-
flecting a range of temporal notions. There are, however, two fundamental
cultural concepts of temporality of the calendar where the lapse of time is
considered to be either linear or cyclic. Leopold E.A. Howe and Nancy M.
Farriss assert, however, that there is not an antithesis between linear and
cyclic conception of time in a culture since these two calendar systems do
not necessarily exclude one another within the cognitive temporal system.
Ethnographic data from the Tzotzil-Maya of Chamula, Chiapas in southern
Mexico demonstrates that a linear calendar can coincide with cyclical cal-
endars (Gossen and Leventhal 1993). Cyclicity (repetition) and linearity
(irreversibility) constitutes therefore an integrated temporal system. In fact
the coexistence of linear and cyclical concepts of time is universal (Howe
1981; Farriss 1987).
Although, the application of the concepts cyclic and linear is con-
troversial in the anthropological literature I find this abstract dichotomy
useful as an analytical tool in examining the ritual practice of calendar time
as eschatological or apocalyptical since the concepts linear and cyclic sug-
gests whether time is finally terminated (linear) or has the ability to begin
72 chapter one
again (cyclic). Moreover, the notions linear and cyclic are defining the tem-
poral character of the calendar and not abstract time. By a repetition of
the same dates and numbers time can recur perpetually in the cyclical
calendar whereas in the linear calendar time is finally completed and not
repeated. A beginning and a definitive end date in a (often distant) future
characterise linear temporality, where the reckoning embodies a notion of
on going continuous and cumulative progress. Cyclic, or as Geertz calls it,
per mutational (Geertz 1993: 392), time of the calendar consists a shorter
time scale. Cyclic reckoning of time is usually founded upon an observance
of ecological and astronomical phenomena. Time is in this context per-
ceived as eternal recurring or as a continuation with a beginning, an end
and a new beginning date in a definite sequence. The past, present and
future are accordingly fused into an endless cycle as opposed to the finite
character of linear time. Conversely, linear time embodies a sequence of
unique events with a defined chronology where there is a determined be-
ginning and an (future) end date. The fixed termination of time is definitive
in the linear calendar whereas the cyclic calendar can in principle be re-
produced forever but still incorporates the possibility that the last date
entails a final completion. An eschatological or an apocalyptical philoso-
phy is intimately associated with linear temporality because time is known,
through prophecy and/or the logic of the calendar, to be finally terminated.
An equivalent conception is, however, also compatible with cyclic calen-
dars since a sense of crisis and anxiety can appear at the end of the calen-
dar cycle where the ritual practice of time operates as a symbolic strategy
for survival. A cultural system can therefore comprise not just one but two
perceptions of reckoning and measuring time where cyclic time reveals a
concept of perpetual repetition and linear time advance towards a finite
termination somewhere in the distant future. Howe maintains that linear
and cyclic calendars constitutes competing time scales (Howe 1981: 223),
with either an emphasis on linear or cyclic time within a cultural system
and where one concept must be subordinated to or incorporated into
the other (Farriss 1987: 572).
Cyclicity and repetition holds a prominence in Maya worldview reflect-
ed in the narrative and discourse structure by couplets and other linguistic
parallels (Hofling 1993: 164; 167). The inscriptions record that the classic
Maya had a wealth of time (super- and sub-) cycles of various durations.
But also chronological statements of dynastic records and (remote) his-
tory in the linear Long Count calendar abound in the inscriptions (Farriss
1987: 578).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 73
I will now deliberate whether the classic Maya had an eschatological
philosophy where an expected final termination of the linear Long Count
time dominate an otherwise temporal cyclical chronovision manifested by
their many cyclic calendars, in particular the important 260-day calendar.
An associated eschatological or apocalyptical anxiety could well have been
expressed in the ritual practice of time if the present Long Count calendar
had indeed a fixed completion date.

Eschatological Philosophy of the Ritual Practice of Time of the Long Count


calendar
We have seen that multitude of Long Counts or time ages (world eras) had
existed before the present time era according to classic Maya temporal
philosophy. Time was completed and recreated many times in this cyclic
perception of temporal world ages (i.e. Long Counts eras). Conversely, the
Christian tradition represents a historicist cosmology where cyclical tem-
porality is incorporated into a linear eschatological concept where time
will end at the Last Judgement (Farris 1987: 568-573). Let us now consider
whether the classic Maya had a similar eschatological notion of a final
ending date of the contemporary linear Long Count calendar and what
such a concept might have represented for the ritual practice of time.
It has been suggested that the contemporary Long Count calendar may
be definitively terminated on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 3 Uniiw (Kankin) or on
December 21, 2012 AD, when 13 pik (e.g. 1,872000 days) is terminated. The
contemporary Long Count calendar will have, according to this mathemat-
ical or rather numerological logic, the equal length of time as the previous
Long Count period. But there is not recorded an eschatological prophecy
in classic Maya writing or in any other source (Lounsbury 1981: 766).
The date of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 3 Uniiw has been recognised on the frag-
mented damaged inscription of Monument 6, Tortuguero (O2-P5), Mexi-
co.84 The obscure inscription state that: it will be the completion of
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 3 Uniiw (December 21, 2012).85 Unfortunately, the remain-
ing inscription is obscure but epigraphers are convinced of its non-escha-

84Also the Hieroglyphic stairway of Structure 13R-10, La Corona, Guatemala records


13.0.0.0.0 but with no additional information regarding potential events on this date. Yuk-
noom Yichaak Kak celebration of 9.13.0.0.0 as a 13 katun lord may refer to a numerical
position of the next higher cycle at 13.0.0.0.0 according to Stuart (Stuart 2012b).
85It is intriguing that the deity mentioned in the final passage, Bolon Yokte Kuh, appear
among the deities on the Vase of the Seven Gods on the creation date of 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8
Ohl.
74 chapter one
tological character.86 It is moreover a huge misconception that the classic
Maya spatial-temporal cosmos will end on December 21, 2012 BC, when
13.0.0.0.0 will occur again, because classic Maya inscriptions demonstrate
calculations made into the future beyond 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 3 Uniiw (De-
cember 21, 2012).
As first noted by Bowditch87, written evidence is represented in the
inscription on the West Panel of the Temple of Inscriptions, Palenque. The
arithmetic in this inscription indicates that the current Long Count calen-
dar will continue well into 14 pik, until the piktun (8000 tunob) ends on
October 14, 4772 AD (1.0.0.0.0.0) followed by an anniversary on October 21,
4772 AD (1.0.0.0.0.8).88 The largest coefficient in the five notation Long
Count system is: 19.19.19.17.19 or 2,879,999 days or c. 7.885 years (Stuart 2011:
230-231) corresponding to the date October 12, 4472 AD. This date will con-
tinue in the inscriptions with 1.0.0.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 13 Yaxkin, October 13, 4772
AD. There is a linear time concept in classic Maya experience and expecta-
tion. But Christian linear temporal philosophy of a definitive beginning
and termination of computed calendar time did appearently not exist in
classic Maya temporal thought.
The classic Maya probably not only projected events forward to October
12 and October 21, 4772 AD. Numerous inscriptions89 embody the mysteri-
ous expression 3-11 baktun or 3 11 144,000 days, which amounts to
4,752,000 days or c. 13,010.5 years (Van Stone 2011). Daniel Graa-Behrens
has correlated this date to 1.13.0.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Chakat of the past or 9897
BC (Graa-Behrens 2002: 233; 425-426). But Boot argues that since Gaida
and Proskouriakoff has shown that the 3-11 baktun date on MT 26/27, Tikal
alludes to 1.13.0.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Chakat or 9897 AD of the distant future,
which is presumably the case with corresponding 3-11 baktun dates. More
than 13,000 years have elapsed between 13.0.0.0.0 of the previous Long

86Cf. epigraphic analysis which conclude that this date do not constitute the final
termination of the classic Maya Long Count calendar: David Stuart (Stone 2009; October
11th, 2009: http://decipherment.wordpress.com/2009/10/11/q-a-about-2012/; Stuart 2011c)
and by Stephen D. Houston (December 20th, 2008: http://decipherment.wordpress.
com/2008/12/20/what-will-not-happen-in-2012/). Cf. also interpretations of Gronemeyer
and MacLeod (2010), Callaway (2011), Van Stone (2011) and MacLeod (2011).
87The evidence against the theory that 13 cycles make 1 grand cycle is that on J11 of
the Temple of the Inscriptions at Palenque there is a glyph which clearly shows 14 cycles
(Bowditch 1910: 320).
88Cf. Lounsbury 1981: 805; Schele 1992: 121; Schele and Miller 1986: 17; 56, note 9; 321;
Schele and Friedel 1990: 430, note 39; Schele and Mathews 1998: 106-108, note 8, 341.
89The Caracol Stela, Chichen Itza, MT 26/27, Tikal; Stela 49/Altar M, Copan; Altar 1,
Naranjo; East Side, Stela F, Quirigua; Stela 1, Tzum; Msc. 5, Xcalumkin.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 75
Count and the future 1.13.0.0.0.0 date (Boot 2005: 347). A predetermined
completion date in a linear system or a termination with a new beginning
in a cyclic concept of the present Long Count calendar can for this reason
not be identified.
Thompson champions the idea that the great numbers calculated of
past Long Counts indicates that for the classic Maya, time was infinite, it
had no beginning or starting point (Thompson 1978: 314-316). It is intrigu-
ing that the ending of stations within the cyclic 365-day calendar, by the
word chum or seating in the inscriptions, has the sense of both a begin-
ning and a termination. Chum of the cyclic 365-cay calendar do not, how-
ever, represent zero or twenty but the transition between the 19th of the
last preceding time period and the first day of the succeeding time unit
(Blume 2011: 65-66).90 The verb chum had a special significance because it
alludes to the seating of both the old and new time unit. It is, in this con-
nection, striking that the world or time of the contemporary world age or
time era was said to have been created, not on the date of nothingness
0.0.0.0.0, but on the last day of the previous Long Count calendar, 13.0.0.0.0
4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku). The numerical system of many cultures of Meso-
america was vigesimal. The cyclical 365-day calendar and the linear Long
Count calendar accordingly shared a common temporal principle of the
beginning/ending of a time period.
Freidel, Schele and Parker have forwarded the theory that linear time of
the Long Count calendar unfolds in a cyclic structure (Freidel, Schele and
Parker 1993: 63) whereas Farriss claims that the classic Long Count was a
grand computation of a gigantic cycle of millions of years. Thus, a cyclic
pattern could incorporate an exceedingly long-term linear progression, as
long as the cycle is large enough (Farriss 1987: 575). We have seen that the
classic Maya expanded time far into the distant past where there were
separate time periods before the beginning of the present Long Count
reckoning. These Long Counts were world ages or time eras of different
durations. The Long Count was then a recurrent world age or a time era
and could accordingly be conceived as both linear and cyclical in character.
There was, accordingly, not a perception of a termination of time but rath-
er a continuum of the former Long Count calendars.
A cycle has many repeatable beginnings and endings of computation
whereas a linear sequence consists of one beginning and an unrepeatable

90Cf. also kaab or end of, which only occurs in the number position of the 365-day
count of the Calendar Round.
76 chapter one
end. Many Mesoamerican religions had a cyclic notion of various previous
world ages. But the present world era can be experienced as linear because
it was the only world of human existence according to Mesoamerican tem-
poral philosophy. Time of the contemporary Long Count was possibly con-
ceived by the classic Maya as running to a not determined end point with
no new beginning because there is no indication of a concept of a subse-
quent time era or world age in Mesoamerican temporal philosophies. The
principle of linear time, which does not end in the foreseeable future in
contrast with cyclical time, which terminates within calendars of a shorter
time span, is that it does not need to be renewed or recreated by ritual
practice. This is because time of the Long Count calendar was considered
to last, way beyond the lives of the classic Maya, into the distant future. 13
pik or c. 5128, 76 years, exposes a linear mentality, of the classic Maya.91 The
experience of the historical individual within a given time epoch decides
his or her concept of time. For the classic Maya, who lived in the 9th and
10th centuries, it would take at least 1000 years before the Long Count of
the present time age would (presumably) end on December 21, 2012 AD
(e.g.. after 13 pik). The temporal ritual practice consisted of interval period
ending rituals, not calendar-ending, within the Long Count calendar. The
ritual practice of time intervals of the Long Count was therefore not escha-
tological since a final completion of the Long Count calendar was not
recognised as an imminent threat to the classic Maya civilisation.

Narrative Time in the Classic Inscriptions


The language of classic Maya did not make a distinction between a present,
a past and a future in the verbal morphologies. Rather than differentiate
between past, present and future, the southern lowlanders distinguished
between a realis category, subdivided into perfective versus imperfective,
and an irrealis category that applied to unrealised actions or events. Since
there was not a time line from the past to the present and into the future
in the grammatical system of the classic Maya, Wichmann prefers the lin-
guistic term irrealis to the category future. The suffixom of the verbal
morphology implies that the action or event described has not been re-
alised. When applied to past events, the irrealis expresses that the event
has yet not taken place with respect to the point in time of reference (it

91Although it is cyclical, the length of the cycle is so long5, 200 tuns (360-day peri-
ods)that the history of the Maya and present day fall into the same creation of the world,
and it therefore presents a more linear view of time than that of the Calendar Round and
its components (Gossen and Leventhal 1993: 191).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 77
would happen). In association with forthcoming dates of the calendar the
irrealis expresses unrealised actions or events of the future (it will hap-
pen) (Wichmann 2000: 76-77; personal communication, 2005). It is not
evident, however, that the grammar reflects how the classic Maya thought
about time, so I see no reason not to operating with the categories past,
present and future when interpreting their historical narratives within
a philological analysis. The linear Long Count calendar of the classic Maya
implies that cultural conceptions of the past, present and future existed
even if these categories were not encoded in the verbal grammar.
Extensive inscriptions could enclose a narrative that involves dates and
events of the past, present and future. This way of relating a chronological
story was achieved by applying a technique of what has been known by
epigraphers as the use of distance numbers. The distance numbers of the
Long Count were introduced by The Distance Number Introductory Glyph
(DNIG), u tzakaj, it was changed or it was increased. DNIG is either fol-
lowed by the Anterior Date Indicator (ADI) (to count back) which sub-
tracts the period or by the Posterior Date Indicator (PDI) (to count
forward) adding to the period. A Future Date Indicator (FDI) projects ac-
tions and events into the future. They are all inflections of the root of the
verb ut, to happen:
Anterior Date Indicator (ADI): uti, it happened.
Posterior Date Indicator (PDI): iuti, and it came to pass or and it hap-
pened.
Future Date Indicator (FDI): utom, it would happen or come to pass
expresses actions that have not yet happened, or irrealis.92
The DNIG indicates that the Long Count calendar represents a progressive
linear time principle. Most of the distance numbers were applied to outline
the lifetime of an individual. But they could also count several generations
of the dynasty back into the historical and remote past or forward into the
immediate and distant future. The distance numbers were temporal indi-
cators, which added and subtracted quantities of time in a continuous
chronological narrative sequence.
As noted, tensereflecting the past, present and futurewas not an
important feature of the grammatical system of the classic Maya. There
was not a time line in the grammatical structure of classic Maya rather the
temporal structure of Maya languages contains the aspects, perfective

92Cf. Wald (2004: 211-213).


78 chapter one
(completive, non-durative, non-progressive or punctual) and imperfective
(in-completive, durative, progressive). The perfective refers to a temporal
boundary whereas the imperfective mirrors not delimited temporally.
There is disagreement among linguists about the classic Maya grammatical
approach to time; whether the rhetorical style of the classic texts not only
stated completion but as well incompletion. Houston has suggested that
the completive or perfective aspect is marked by the suffix ya transcribed
as iiy. The imperfective or in-completive form is without the suffix iiy.
The imperfective aspect functions as the historical present or as an his-
torical in-completive in the scriptures. There is in narrative time a discur-
sive shifting now, e.g. a historical in-completive or an alternating historical
in-completive with the historical completive in the inscriptions (Houston
1997; Houston, Stuart and Robertson 1998: 292-293). The position of Hous-
ton has not only implications for the structure and the content of the nar-
rative but also for how the classic Maya experienced time and of their
ritual practice of time. If Houston theory is correct it would mean that most
of the ritual and historical events like birth, accession and death are de-
scribed as incomplete or on-going. The ritual depicted and outlined on the
stelae is on-going argues Stuart in agreement with Houstons grammatical
argument: The text captions is presented in an incomplete voice. The
stelae, do not simply commemorate past events and royal ceremonies
but serve to perpetuate the ritual act into eternity (Stuart 1996: 165). This
is an unconvincing linguistic theory according to Wichmann. First of all
because in narratives are the imperfective aspect applied to describe the
background of the events. It is the perfective aspect which is used to relate
the principal action of the story and which also observe the dramatic inci-
dents of the historical present. Furthermore, in Cholt, a language which
descends from classic Maya (Houston, Stuart and Robertson 1998), the
general pattern is that the perfective aspect is not marked whereas the
imperfective aspect carries the particle wal as a prefix to the verb. The
intransitive verbs change their pronominal prefixes to Set A, and a suffix
is attached to the verb. It is reason to believe, but it cannot be proven due
to lacking evidence from the inscriptions, that the classic Maya followed
the same grammatical temporal pattern. Founded upon evidence from the
Colonial Chontal papers of Acalan, The Paxbolon-Maldonado Papers, Rob-
ert Wald and Barbara MacLeod (Wald and MacLeod 1999; Wald 2004) pro-
pose instead that iiy functions as a predicative anaphora or temporal
deixis. This means that the suffix iiy operates as a linguistic element
which refers to a previous event that has already taken place (Wichmann
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 79
2000: 77-79; 223-224)93 and that nearly all the verbs were written in the
perfective aspect, accordingly delineating deeds or actions completed.94
Consequently, ritual practices (of time) or other undertakings were not
stated to be on-going but was terminated according to the cognitive lin-
guistic system of the classic Maya.

Retrospective and Future Period-Endings and the Ritual Practice of Time


Another argument against a hypothetical ritual renewal of eschatological
time is the existence of recorded retrospective and future period-endings
and ritual practice of time in the narrative of the classic inscriptions.
We have seen that temporal rituals of past Long Counts were under-
taken. There were also recorded future period-endings and ritual prac-
tices of time in the inscriptions, which is interesting regarding the theory
of an alleged required ritual completing or renewing of eschatological time.
Why would the classic Maya commemorate ancient (past) or prophesy
future time periods if their ritual practice of time was eschatological mo-
tivated?
The temporal grammatical structure of the rhetorical narrative of the
historical and ritual accounts will now be considered followed by another
closer look on the ritual temporal language of the inscriptions.

Retrospective Ritual Practices of Time


Quite a few commemorations of ritual practices of time celebrated in the
past were inscribed on stone monuments. The present is, in this manner,
connected to the past and the past to the present. I have classified the
commemorations of retrospective ritual practice of time into four catego-
ries:
1. A commemoration of ritual practice of time within the reign of a lord.
The ritual performer looked sometimes back upon his own previous
ritual practices of time like for instance Aj Wosal according to the

93Cf. the critique by Wald (2004) of the arguments made by Houston (1997) and
Robertson, Houston and Stuart (2004).
94There is, however, one example in the inscriptions where there is an ongoing
undertaking of a half-period which is expressed with the particle wal: 10-winikhaab iyuwal
tanlam, It was 10 winikhaab and then came the half-diminishing (Stela J, Copan)
(Wichmann 2004: 332). But this expression, as it is incorporated in a durative narrative, has
no consequence for how we understand the ritual practice of time of the classic Maya,
because the enterprise is itself not ongoing.
80 chapter one
inscription on Stela 38, Naranjo. Commemorating ritual practices of
time, Aj Wosal announces that he tied or wrapped three stelae on three
different period-ending dates: 9.6.0.0.0; 9.7.0.0.0; 9.8.0.0.0.
2. Ritual practice of time of previous lords linked to temporal ceremonies of
a contemporary lord. Stela 31, Tikal states that ritual practice of time
(kaltun, stone-binding) by several sovereigns had occurred on:
8.14.0.0.0; 8.17.0.0.0; 8.18.0.0.0; 8.19.10.0.0. The commissioner of Stela 31,
Siyaj Chan Kawil, who marked the pik-ending of 9.0.0.0.0, made this
commemoration of previous temporal ritual practices.
3. A recollection of ritual practice of time by deities, ancestors or founders
of the dynastic lineage at the beginning of the present Long Count. We
have seen that Lady Beastie and Caspar performed quite early ritu-
als of time of the contemporary Long Count later commemorated in
Palenque. Moreover, the inscription on Panel W, Temple VI (The Tem-
ple of the Inscriptions), Tikal outlines two very early kaltun rituals of
time. These ceremonies were said to occur 5.0.0.0.0 12 Ajaw 3 Saksihom
(A1-A8) or November 26, 1142 BC and 7.10.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Pax or July
20, 156 BC (D4-C6)95 within the contemporary Long Count.
4. The ritual practice of time of former Long Counts by supernatural beings.
I have already considered rituals of time performed by various deities
on 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku), on the last day of the previous
Long Count. Ritual celebrations of time dates of preceding Long Counts
were also recorded. As we have seen, stelae A, D, E and F, Quirigua and
stelae C, J and N of Copan express that period-ending stations were
announced completed in an unknown previous Long Count era.

Period-Ending Dates and Ritual Practice of Time of the Future


Future events in the lifetime of a lord and incidents, which would take
place after his/her death into the remote future, were recorded in the in-
scriptions. Period-ending dates of the future or irrealis could be marked
by tzutzjom and the Future Date Indicator (FDI) of DNIG utom, it will
happen(Stuart 2001: 13-14, fig. 3; Stuart, Houston and Robertson 1999: II-16;
Hruby and Robertson 2001: 32-33, fig. 4a; Grube and Martin 2004: II-87).
Also other future time period-ending dates were recorded in the inscrip-
tions (Schele 1995; Guenter 2005). Time could in addition be half-dimin-

95Christopher Jones has worked out the chronology of the narrative of the inscription
on the Panels of Temple IV (Temple of the Inscription), Tikal (1977: 55). See also Stuart
(2007d).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 81
ished on period-ending dates of the future, DATE utom tanlam, On
DATE the half-diminishing will happen (Dos Pilas Stair; Altar H, Copan)
(Wichmann 2004: 635-636).
Even an observance of ritual practice at future period-endings could
be outlined in the inscriptions. For instance, a dedication by a burning
ritual was stated to happen in the future according to the inscription on
the Reviewing Stand mounted on the south side of Temple 11, Copan
(Schele, Stuart and Grube 1989: 4-5): utom uxlajun ajaw waxaklajun ohl, It
will happen on 13 Ajaw 18 Ohl (9.17.0.0.0).96 Furthermore, a scattering rit-
ual was announced on Monument 157, Copan to take place 3 haab into the
future, on 9.18.10.0.0 where the scattering verb carrying the irrealis suffix.
The irrealis suffix operated as a rhetorical instrument in the narrative out-
liningfrom the perspective of the scribe and the commissioner of the
inscriptiondates, events and rituals expected to take place in the near
future. It is not future time but the anticipated not realised event, which is
essential. This kind of rhetoric does not harmonise well with the idea of a
necessary ritual renewal of time at period-ending stations or with an
eschatological philosophy. The ritual practice was not needed to renew
time or to avert an apocalyptical catastrophe when not realised time is
already conceived as being realised.

The Narrative of the Past, Present and Future Period-Endings


There are examples in the inscriptions of a temporal sequence of long
historical narrative inscriptions that move forward in a chronology. These
stories are sequentially ordered in time (Josserand 1991: 14). A coherent
inscription can incorporate period-endings and other dates of the remote
past (i.e. of former Long Counts and the day of creation), the historical near
and distant past, the present, and the near and distant future of the exist-
ing Long Count.
Dates, exploits and events of the remote past, present and future were
accounted on Zoomorph P, Quirigua; Stela J, Copan; the Caracol Stela;
Altar 1, Naranjo; Monument 6, Tortuguero and other similar inscriptions.
A recording of the ritually observed past, present, and future period-end-
ings and other dates in one structured linear narrative disclose that the
classic Maya was not preoccupied with eschatological notions or with

96Cf. also the inscriptons on The Tablet of the Slaves (Palenque) and Stela 23 (Naranjo)
where future ritual practices of time are stated to be celebrated (Martin and Grube 2000:
171; Schele and Freidel 1990: 192-193; 461, note 51).
82 chapter one
ritually renewing time. This was because the time periods within the Long
Count calendar were not considered to be repeated in a cyclical fashion.
The concept of time of the Long Count was of a character where the pe-
riod-endings demarked stations or anniversaries of a linear temporal phi-
losophy. These did not have to be renewed because of an eschatological
concern, but new time intervals were simultaneously (although implicitly)
inaugurated. Ritualised time stations were historical unique (i.e. linear),
even given the fact that a symmetry of time in the linear Long Count cal-
endar was in some cases emphasised by the application of the so-called
contrived numbers representing a pattern of repeated events and exploits
of previous Long Counts. The actions of the lords were mainly but not
exclusively announced to be the same as of the supernatural beings in
former time eras. There was, however, no pattern history (Nicholson
1971a) or recurrence in the context of the stations of the Long Count cal-
endar. The pattern dates were focused on the Ajaw and other stations of
the cyclic 260-day calendar and not on the pik, winikhaab and haab posi-
tions of the linear Long Count calendar.
In fact, no tradition of (eschatological) prophecy can be discerned from
the Long Count calendar ritual practice of time as was the case for the
much shorter Short Count calendar of 13 katun (c. 256, 43 years) where
every katun (winikhaab) was identified by an Ajaw day-name and number
from the 260-day calendar. The cyclical Short Count calendar make his-
tory repeats itself as prophecies at these 13 possible period-endings. This
was practiced at Yucatn in the postclassic period according to The Books
of the Chilam Balam and as reported by various Spanish colonial ethnog-
rapher missionaries.

5.The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time

I will in this section investigate how the ritual practice of the time intervals
of the Long Count calendar was related to government, power and status
e.g. the politics of the classic Maya. Closely related to the issue of temporal
authority, I will examine the various social groups in order to establish the
ceremonial status and role of the individuals who either performed or only
witnessed the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar. It is im-
portant to emphasise a fundamental difference between the active role as
executer and the passive observer of the ritual. Moreover, the sociological
analysis of the ritual practice of time aim to explore the meaning and func-
tion these practices had in classic Maya society. I will accordingly explicate
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 83
the political and social implication and significance of the ritual practice
of time in the following subsections:
1. The politics of the ritual practice of time.
2. The sociology of the ritual practice of time.
The identity, status and role of the ritual performer convey whether the
ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar was a communal or an
elite event and thereby contribute to an understanding of its political and
sociological character. It is basically a question of whether the Long Count
calendar was employed by all socio-political groups of classic Maya society
or if it only was applicable to the ruling lord and/or the (dynastic) aristoc-
racy. Another important related issue constitute the supposed existence of
a (independent) hierarchy of religious specialists and of gender ritual sta-
tus and role.

The Politics of the Ritual Practice of Time


Politics is associated with the organisation and administration of a social
entity like a city or a state. In the present context, politics is understood
related to the power and authority of a hereditary ruling lord and/or aris-
tocratic dynasty. In stratified societies elite groups aspire to sustain and
validate their favoured status and authority by insisting to possess exclusive
qualities and functions essential to the society at large (Cohen 1981: 1).
Cardinal ritual practices can be monopolised by the sovereign and/or the
dynastic aristocracy. Besides having various meanings and functions, these
rituals therefore can be exploited by the privileged few to serve their own
political ends.
As has been indicated, the Long Count calendar first and foremost re-
cord the history of the dynastic lineage, the lifespan of the lord, his/her
family and ancestors suggesting that it was a temporal computation system
exclusively reserved the nobility. Individuals with the title (kuhul) ajaw
held a predominant status and role in the ritual practice of time of the Long
Count calendar. This is not strange since the general religious ritual practice
in public display on monuments functioned as ideological propaganda and
as a source of power for the kuhul ajaw in the classic period. The author-
ity of the ruler had thus a symbolic-ritualistic character (Thompson 1973;
Schele and Miller 1986; Stuart 1995: 209-211; Houston and Stuart 1996). A
politics of time may therefore very well have been an important rationale
in executing the ritual practice of the Long Count calendar for the classic
Maya. In the forthcoming, I will consider the various aspects of how ruler-
84 chapter one
ship was associated with time and the temporal practices of the Long Count
calendar.97

Sacred Rule within the Concept of Linear and Cyclical Time


Farriss believes that the inscriptions, which contain genealogical ties far
back into the misty past, well before the Long Count starting date, was
produced to legitimate the dynastic lineage claim of sacred rulership (Far-
riss 1987: 579). The idea of linear time would support this royal ideology:
by making time irreversible and the past nonrepetitive over a span of
several thousand years, a particular lineage could challenge the accepted
rotational system and cling to power with the assertion of a permanent
claim (Farriss 1987: 579).
Linear time could justify the position of the sacred ruler and the dynastic
lineage since cyclical time represents rotating power. Gossen and Leventhal
claims that the Long Count not only accounts the history of human events
but served, due to the development of a lineage-based kingship
, in order to legitimate not only the living king, but also his successor,
needed a linear calendar of time (Gossen and Leventhal 1993: 192). Fur-
thermore, they argue that the political-administrative centre and the local
periphery are each connected to two different time systems. There are
mainly male political and religious authorities, concerned with public af-
fairs, which use the linear calendar (Gossen and Leventhal 1993: 189). Cycli-
cal time is associated with the Little Tradition and linear time with
political-religious authority of the Great Tradition. Linear time consti-
tuted, however, a different type of justifying power but was integrated in
the cyclical system where these two time principles functioned in an inter-
relationship (Gossen and Leventhal 1993: 190-196).
Nevertheless, a cyclical time principle can be exploited in order to serve
the interests of the regent and the dynastic lineage, which is demonstrated
by the role of the Calendar Round within the Long Count computation.
Events in the mythic past and the distant future were related to the lives
of the rulers, providing mythological and numerological charter for the
positions of the rulers, (Lounsbury 1981: 804). The contrived numbers
(Lounsbury) or pattern dates (Nicholson 1971) of the Long Count that
connects a date in historical time with pre-historical time in a cyclic man-
ner, confirm that the linear perception of the elite or lord of the city centre
was connected to the cyclical structure of the commoners of the periphery
(Gossen and Leventhal 1993: 195).

97See Houston and Inomata about male rulership in classic Maya society (2009: 131-146).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 85
We have seen that inscriptions from the cities Tikal, Quirigua, Yaxchilan,
Palenque and Copan do not only compare actions of supernatural beings
of the distant past (previous Long Counts) with the actions of regents in
the present but also project these into the future. Both the synchronised
numerology of linear and cyclic time could accordingly be politically and
religiously manipulated in favour of the sovereign and/or the dynastic lin-
eage.

Ritual Practice of Time Incorporated in the Story of the Ruler and of the
Dynasty
Not only the ceremonial rhetoric but in addition a narrative analysis of the
inscriptions can convey how the rituals of time were conceived by the
classic Maya. I have accordingly constructed a typology of three discourse
categories of inscriptions:
1. Short statements of ritual practices of time conducted by an individual
ruler. In addition, longer inscriptions briefly relate rituals of former
lords of the past and rituals not yet executed (future).
2. Inscriptions that narrate the deeds and events of the biography of a
lord associated with period-ending dates and ritual practice of time.
3. Ritual practice of time and period- ending dates incorporated within
the history of dynastic genealogies.
The inscriptions of the first category are simply concerned with a docu-
mentation of the execution of a ritual practice of time. I therefore concen-
trate the analysis upon the narratives of the two last mentioned categories,
which place ceremonies within the biography of the individual lord and
of the dynastic genealogies respectively.
The ritual practices of time are, in many cases, incorporated within a
context of other historical incidents of the principle account. Various in-
scriptions show an integration of rituals with other events in the life of the
lord, of the genealogy of lords and the ancestors.

The Biography of the Individual Lord Connected to Ritual Practice of Time


Inscriptions signify that different events and exploits of an individual could
be coupled, in various ways, with period-ending dates and ritual practice
of time.
For instance, the Dos Pilas lord, Ajaw Bot is said to have acceded as ajaw
in Seibal at the winikhaab-ending of 9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Ohl (Kumku)
86 chapter one
(Martin and Grube 2000: 65). But it was far from a regular practice to take
office at a winikhaab-ending or a haab-ending of the Long Count. In fact,
the database of the period-endings, from the study of Christie, shows that
out of 248 records only 6 period-endings coincides with accession rituals
(Christie 1995: 304).98 There is accordingly not a pattern for accession at
period-ending dates (Le Fort 2000: 78). Neither does it seem to be a ma-
nipulation of the dates of birth, death, marriage and burial of individual
beings in order to fit into a period-ending date.99 Thus the rite de passage
of the life of the lord was not associated with ritual practice of time inter-
vals of the Long Count calendar.
Conversely, the life of certain powerful individuals could be connected
with period-ending dates and ritual practice of time in longer inscrip-
tions. The ritual practices of time or period-ending dates are incorpo-
rated within the account of various incidents of the biography of the
individual. Period-ending dates could thus function as marking the back-
ground and foreground incidents of an account. For example, the inscrip-
tion on the backside of Stela 22, Naranjo relates several episodes in the life
of the lord Kak Tiliw Chan Chak (Schele and Friedel 1990: 188). It is, how-
ever, the celebration of the completion of a half winikhaab-period that is
pivotal in this inscription. This date conclude the inscription on the back-
side and is also repeated on the front side of Stela 22. Two of the ritual
practices of time performed on 9.13.10.0.0the blood scattering of the war
prisoner and the stone binding by K Tiliw Chan Chakare both men-
tioned in the text. This highlights the importance of celebrating time in
the middle of political enterprises and military campaigns. Not only the
period-ending date but also the ritual practice of time could accordingly
be an essential part of the biography of the lord.

Recordings of Period-Endings by Members of the Dynastic Genealogy


The incidents and exploits, associated with period-ending dates and
ritual practice of time, of various lords of a dynastic lineage can be re-
corded in longer inscriptions. Like for instance in the dynastic narrative on
the three panels from The Temple of the Cross, The Temple of the Foliated
Cross and The Temple of the Sun in Palenque.
It has been claimed that period-ending dates function as base dates
for actions performed or incidents that happened on a former and a later

98Cf. table 4, of the dates of accession in Le Fort (2000: 78-80).


99Cf. table 21, table 22 and table 23 in Le Fort (2000: 235-239; 241).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 87
date. There were for example proclaimed several rituals of time of the past,
present and future of the central panel of The Tablet of the Temple of the
Inscriptions, Palenque. Schele and Mathews call this phenomenon for a
katun history and compares it with the katun prophecies of the colonial
Yucatec Books of Chilam Balam (Schele and Mathews 1998: 104-105). I do
not dispute the fact that period-ending dates could operate as time an-
chors in the long inscriptions. There is, however, an essential distinction
between a recording of period-ending dates and observing ritual practice
of time. Period endings did not only function as time markers or anchors
as Schele and Mathews has suggested since there were announced cele-
brated rituals. The so-called divine Palenque Triad is said on the panels of
The Temple of the Inscriptions to play a significant role in the ritual prac-
tices of time. An offering or giving, a ritual stone seating (chumtun) and a
ritual stone binding (kaltun) at period-ending dates were combined with
announcements of accession into lordship. There was not only a concentra-
tion upon the chronology of the narrative but upon the prestigious religious
ritual practice of time associated with the patron deities of Palenque.
Lounsbury (1974), Schele and Mathews anchor the period-ending dates
9.7.0.0.0 and 9.10.0.0.0 in the story of the Sarcophagus Lid of the Temple of
the Inscriptions, Palenque in three sections (Schele and Mathews 1998:
117-118). These period-ending dates had, however, not only a narrative
function. It was declared that stone seating rituals were conducted on
9.7.0.0.0 and 9.10.0.0.0, and that Janaab Pakal [I] had performed four stone
seatings. A stone seating (chumtun) is, as noted, frequently, a ritual practice
connected to time. If the period-ending date functioned simply as a time-
anchor, there would be no mention of any ritual performed at the benefit
of the deities or as an observance of the time interval. The period-ending
date thus did not only function as time marker or time anchor of a long
narrative. Not only recordings of period-endings, but also ritual practices
of time were executed on period-ending dates integrated with crucial
events of the dynastic lineages. This suggests the importance the period-
endings, as a time station in the Long Count calendar, must have held to
the classic Maya dynasties.
The prominence of the ritual practice of time is further emphasised by
the fact that particular temporal ceremonies were said in inscriptions not
to have been performed amid information about the civil affairs of the
ruler and the dynasty. A ritual practice of time was announced as not being
conducted by an already deceased lord according to the inscription on the
88 chapter one
lid of the Tortuguero Box.100 Furthermore, certain ritual practices of time
were not outlined to be conducted at the end of the period-ending of
9.9.0.0.0 according to passages in the inscription on The East Tablet of The
Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque (Grube 1996: 5-6; Martin, Zender and
Grube 2002: II-16; 18).
Lords commissioned inscriptions documenting central episodes of not
only their own biography but also of fellow members of the dynasty fre-
quently associated with past temporal ritual practices. Stuart has suggest-
ed that the Long Count rituals were anniversaries that occur on a linear
time frame as simple commemorations (Stuart 1995: 168). But can the
ritual practice of time be considered to be simply memorial celebrations?
I argue that the narrative of incorporating the ritual practice of time with-
in the historiography of the dynasty suggest a political motivation. By at-
taching and integrating the ritual practice of time with the history of the
dynastic lineage there were given a certain aura and in addition a sacred
sanction to the power of the reigning regime. The various regents demon-
strated that they controlled the passage of time (as we shall see below),
through the ceremonial practice, while being occupied with more mun-
dane matters. Thus, there was a politics of the ritual practice of time.

A Ritual-Symbolic Management of Time


The magnitude of registering period-endings within the history of the
dynasty and the individual ajaw leads us to the issue of what the grammar
of the inscriptions can inform about the lord as a ritual executer or agent
of time.
The verbs, tzutz, terminate or complete tan-lam, half-diminish oc-
curs quite regularly as indicators of the ending of a time period in the in-
scriptions. By employing the notions tzutz and tan-lam in a period-ending
context, the inscriptions possibly convey that the ritual practice was un-
dertaken to either manipulate and/or celebrate time as an act of religious
observance towards the deities. The voice system of classic Maya grammar
may conceivably reveal whether there was a participation of an active agent
that ritually finished time or whether time terminated itself.

100The inscription has been analysed by Marc Zender and Karen Bassie in The Tortu-
guero Box. The Wooden Offering Container of Aj Kax Bahlam of Tortuguero (N.D.). Published
on the website of the Jay I. Kislak Foundation: http://www.jayikislakfoundation.org/collec-
tions_maya.html). The dates have been worked out by Michael E. Coe (1974) and Looper
(1991).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 89
The most common form of tzutz in the inscriptions of the classic period
is the medio-passive Vy; for instance: the winikhaab was completed
(Hruby and Robertson 2001: 32). Apparently during the early classic period
only the active transitive and the medio-passive forms were used for tzutz.
The active form of the verb u-tzutzuw disappeared at the beginning of the
late classic period. At the same time, when h-aj displaced Vy as the
passive marker, Vy was restricted to the medio-passive (Hruby and Rob-
ertson 2001: 34; 37). Without a personal noun, it is not claimed directly in
the inscriptions that a human agent (i.e. the ritual performer) terminated
a given time interval of the Long Count calendar. But as we shall see, this
cannot be absolutely discounted.
What can be made out of the verb for a half-diminishing of time, tan-
lam, in this context? There are a variation of grammatical prefixes and
suffixes to this transitive verb. But the form tan-lam, it was the half-dimin-
ishing is the most ordinary half-period expression (Wichmann 2004: 635).
Like with tzutzuy, there is not consistently indicated in the inscriptions
whether a human agent governed the various time intervals. Time rather
half-diminished itself according to the grammatical rhetoric of these texts.
There are, however, instances where there is an anti-passive form of tan-
lam, tan-lam-aw, he/she half-diminished it. This formula is frequently
followed by an execution of different ritual techniques suggesting that time
was completed ritually by the religious specialist. As it is the case with tzutz
and other ceremonial formulas, the fact that practices of scattering, seating
and a wrapping or binding of a stone etc. at half-period endings were con-
ducted manifests a control of the various time intervals by the ritual agent
(2004: 640-641).101
According to the inscription on Stela 31, Tikal a half-diminishing of
9.0.10.0.0 involving various deities was supervised or maybe tended102
(u kabij) by the lord, Siyaj Chan Kawiil [II] (A5-A21). The occurrence of the
u kabij formula after ritual time-endings reminds us of the last sentence
of the inscription concluding 13.0.0.0.0 of the previous Long Count on the
east side of Stela C, Quirigua which reads: It was done under the auspices
or under the authority (u kabij) of Ajaw Huk Chan. U kabij is a phrase that
communicates a political-ritual supremacy well known from many con-
texts in the inscriptions. The sovereign could announce his/her political
and military authority by, in various ritual connections, expressing that the
deed was executed under his/her supervision or authority. U kabij like the

101Cf. examples gathered by Wichmann (2004: 640-441).


102Cf. Stuart (2011: 2-3).
90 chapter one
formulas y-ajaw, the ruler of; y-ichnal, together with or in sight of; ilaj,
was seen functioned as concepts for political superiority and subordina-
tion. U kabij has therefore been translated as under the authority of or
under the supervision of. This formula appears after a verbal phrase con-
necting a human or a supernatural being in building and monument ded-
ications, bloodletting and visionary rituals, burial events, war actions,
inaugural ceremonies and ritual practices of time (Grube and Martin 1998:
II-16; II-29-II-34). Interestingly, also according to the inscription of The
Tablet of the 96 Hieroglyphs, Palenque (A1-B4), the lord Kihnich Janab
Pakal not only ended (tzutzuy) the 11th winikhaab (9.11.0.0.0). Like Siyaj
Chan Kawiil [II] of Tikal, this ritual was performed (as in the account on
the east side of Stela C, Quirigua) under his supervision/authority (u kabij).
Both these examples indicate a human ritual symbolic temporal power
expressed by the u kabij formula.
Despite the grammatical evidence that the ceremonial language not
necessarily express a ritual manipulation of time through human agency,
the fact is that ritual practices indicate an active participation by a ritual
performer. That diverse religious practices were conducted, supervised and
performed under the authority of the lord at period-ending stations com-
municate a symbolic management of temporal intervals of the Long Count
calendar. It appears that the lord (i.e. ritual specialist) could symbolically
regulate the termination and inauguration of a given time unit by under-
taking these ritual practices. Moreover, the public manifestation of the
ritual-symbolic temporal powers of the sovereign had most certainly po-
litically implications as they kept his/her subjects in awe of the civil-reli-
gious hierarchy and of the government.

Temporal Titles of the Lord


Religious authority and ideological prestige can be proclaimed in epithets
and titles. This is witnessed in the elaborate divine/sacred epithets and
titles of the classic Maya sovereign and other members of the aristocracy
(Chak, Kawiil, Kihnich, Kuhul etc. ). But did titles of the classic Maya
dynasties have temporal connoations and/or connected with the execution
of ritual practices of time?
In contrast with other Mesoamerican cultures it seems not a common
classic Maya tradition taking personal names from the 260-day calendar.
Only few examples, customary in the names of scribes, have been found
in the corpus of the inscriptions (Houston, Stuart and Taube 2006: 88).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 91
Nevertheless, a variety of time units of the initial series of the Long Count
calendar could be a title.

The Winikhaab Title


The important winikhaab-period was according to quite a few inscriptions
one of the prestigious titles of the classic Maya aristocracy, the ajaw and
the powerful kalomte. For instance in the inscription on Stela 1 from Dos
Caobas the ajaw repeat the temporal indicator with four different titles: 5
winikhaab ajaw, 5 winikhaab bate, 5 winikhaab pitz[il] and 5 winikhaab
chahom (Hull 2003: 392). But what did the winikhaab-title signify?
Tatiana Proskouriakoff first detected the numbered-winikhaab titles in
the inscriptions.103 She suggested that this title referred to the age of the
lord in question. Schele later argued that there are two exceptions to this
rule. The scribe could have chosen to set the winikhaab-status of the lord
to the time of the carving and not to the depicted or described event. More-
over, the number of winikhaabs could allude to the length of the reign of
the ruler in office and not to the life span of the lord as Proskouriakoff sug-
gested. The last hypothesis has been preferred by Schele to explain the
winikhaab-titles (Schele 1989).104 Schele might be right in her assumption.
For instance, the text on Lintel 3, Piedras Negras records two winikhaab-
anniversaries, 9.15.18.3.13 and 9.16.18.3.13, of a lord after his accession on
9.14.18.3.13 (Schele 1991: 128). Waxaklajun Ubaah Kawiil of Copan construct-
ed Temple 22 (Structure 10L-22) to celebrate the 1st winikhaab of his time
in power in 715 AD. The interior step of Structure 10L-22 contain the quite
rare recorded first-person quotation, ti ho lamat tzutzaji ni winikhaab, On
5 Lamat I completed my winikhaab, which alludes to the non-period
ending date of 9.14.3.6.8 5 Lamat 1 Chakat (Stuart 1992: 175; Martin and
Grube 2000: 204-205). But it is not an invariable rule that all instances of
the X-winikhaab title refer to the time span in office. For instance, Taube
maintains that the winikhaab-title counts a record of period-endings that
the ajaw celebrated in his/her lifetime (Taube 1988: 205).
The theories proposed by Schele and Taube respectively constitutes,
however, problematic aspects. Some of these time titles comprise a rather
extensive duration of time as is the case of 5 winikhaab 7, 200 days =

103Cf. Prosoriakoff, Tatiana. Historical Data in the Inscriptions of Yaxchilan, Part I.


Estudios de Cultura Maya III. 149-167. 1963; Historical Data in the Inscriptions of Yaxchilan,
Part II. Estudios de Cultura Maya IV. 177-201. 1964.
104Cf. Riese (1984).
92 chapter one
c. 100 years (i.e. c. 98, 6 years).105 For example, Itzamnah Balam [II] was
accounted on Stela 12, Yaxchilan to be a 5 winikhaab chahom at his death
date of 9.15.10.17.14 6 Ix 12 Yaxkin (June 17, 742 AD). He acceded as ajaw on
9.12.9.8.1 5 Imix 4 Mak (October 21, 681 AD) (Martin and Grube 2000: 123).
Itzamnah Balam [II] had ruled within a 4 winikhaab-period and could have
as a sovereign ceremonially terminated the 13, 14 and 15 winikhaab of the
time period of 9 pik. We do, however, not know his birth date so it is pos-
sible that Itzamnah Balam [II] had lived for 5 winikhaabs and that he
before his inauguration as ajaw participated in the 11 and 12 winikhaab-
endings. The birth date of 5 winikhaab chahom Kak Tiliw from Quirigua
has not either been identified. He acceded on 9.14.13.4.17 12 Kaban 5
Kanasiiy (December 31, 725 AD) and died on the date 9.17.14.13.2 11 Ik 5
Yaxsihom (July 29, 785 AD) (Martin and Grube 2000: 218). His reign lasted
more than 3 winikhaab. Kak Tiliw was on Stela C, Quirigua (D11-D14) out-
lined to be 5 winikhaab chahom at the ritual celebration of 9.17.5.0.0, the
last before his death. The biography of both Itzamnah Balam [II] and Kak
Tiliw therefore refute the time in reign theory by Schele and suggests
instead the life-span hypothesis by Proskouriakoff as more valid. But, the
Proskouriakoff hypothesis cannot be definitely confirmed since we do not
know the birth dates of Itzamnah Balam [II] and Kak Tiliw.
A 5 winikhaab ajaw title (ho winikhaab ajaw) of Kihnich Janaab Pakal
[I] was posthumously registered by his successor Kuk Balam [II] on The
Tablet of the 96 Hieroglyphs, Palenque (C1-D1; L6). We have the advantage,
which we did not have in the cases of Itzamnah Balam [II] and Kak Tiliw,
of determining the entire life span of Janaab Pakal [I] because the dates
of his birth, accession as ajaw and death can be firmly established. Janaab
Pakal [I] was born on 9.8.9.13.0 8 Ajaw 13 Kanjalaw (March 24, 603 AD), he
acceded to power on 9.9.2.4.8 5 Lamat 1 Mol (July 27, 615 AD), and died on
9.12.11.5.18 6 Etznab 11 Yaxsihom (August 29, 683 AD) (Martin and Grube
2000: 162). Since Janaab Pakal [I] lived c. 83 years he did not live within the
time span of 5 winikhaab (c. 98, 6 years) but only of 4 winikhaab.
No lord of the classic Maya civilisation is recognised to have stayed in
office or lived for 5 winikhaab (c. 98, 6 years). The winikhaab-title therefore
must have had a different significance than denoting the life span or time
in office. It can of course be said that Janaab Pakal [I]as one of the few
lords who carried a X-winikhaab title and where the dates of birth, acces-

105The 4 winikhaab title or c. 78.90 years, which is not uncommon, also reflect a quite
long time span for a human being.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 93
sion and deaths are ascertainedhad lived within the 8, 9, 10, 11 and 12
winikhaab in this manner making him a 5 winikhaab ajaw.106 The
winikhaab-title may be a prestigious proclamation of the control the ajaw
or the sacerdotal leader held over a symbolic long and prestigious time
span. Because, it was the ajaw who ceremonially completed the old
winikhaab period and thereby inaugurated the new winikhaab through
his/her temporal practice. The newly recovered inscription on Hieroglyph-
ic stairway of Structure 13R-10, La Corona, Guatemala may, alternatively,
offer an explanation for the winikhaab title and other time titles: they sim-
ply refer to the time period ritually celebrated by the lord. Yuknoom
Yichaak Kak of Calakmul had recently observed an important ending of
13 winkhaab calendar cycle on 9.13.0.0.0, and is called 13 Winikhaab lord.
According to Stuart this title can be compared with one on an Early Classic
celt, where the lord celebrate the pik ending 9.0.0.0.0 and is therefore giv-
en the title 9 pik lord (Stuart 2012b).

The 3-11-pih/pik (baktun) Title


Looper has collected seven examples of a title where the coefficients 3 and
11 precede the logogram pih/pik (T200/ T1033) or baktun. In two of these
examplesmost of the monuments containing this collocation have been
partly mutilatedalso embody the title ajaw (from Altar 1, Naranjo [H12]
and Stela F, Quirigua [C13] (Looper 2002). Looper advocates that the 3-11-
pih/pik collocation does not allude to a distance number of 3 winikhaab,
a supposedly suppressed sign in this context, and 11 pik, but instead a pe-
riod of 8660 days or the classic Maya notation 1.4.1.0. I favour the theory,
proposed by Looper, that this title functioned in the same way as the
winikhaab-title since in the two known examplesfrom Naranjo and Qui-
riguawhere there are an ajaw title connected with the 3-11-pih/pik, it is
also consistent with the age and duration of the rulership of the lord in
question (Aj Wosal of Naranjo and Kahk Tiliw of Quirigua) (Looper 2002:

106The inscription on the lower fragment of Stela 27, Naranjo outlines that Aj Wosal
was a 5-winikhaab ajaw. We only know that Aj Wosal was inaugurated as ajaw on 9.5.12.0.4
6 Kan 3 Chakat (May 5, 546 AD). Martin and Grube suggests that he may have celebrated
his fifth winikhaab period on Stela 27, at the half-winikhaab of 9.9.10.0.0 2 Ajaw 13 Kanjalaw
(March 19, 623 AD) (Martin and Grube 2000: 71; Grube and Martin 2004: II-31). Half period
endings were ritually celebrated. But could a half-period of a winikhaab reckoned to be a
full winikhaab? Would not lords who lived or ruled for 3 or 4 winikhaab, because of the
prestige connected with long time periods, then profess that they were a 6 or 8 winikhaab
ajaw, a title yet to be identified in the extant inscriptions?
94 chapter one
1-2). The 3-11 pih/pik collocation accordingly signify in the Maya inscrip-
tions as a calendar title consisting of 8660 days or c. 23,7 years.107

Tan-Lam as Part of a Royal Title


Wichmann has discovered a substitution of the half-period sign, where the
lord, Kan Joy Chitam [II] (702 711 AD), carries a tan-lam-title on a frag-
mented panel from Palenque (Personal communication, Wichmann,
2004,).108 The title huk ajaw tan-lam, the half-diminisher of 7 Ajaw, outline
Kan Joy Chitam [II] as the ritual specialist who celebrated the termination
of a half period-ending which held the 7 Ajaw station of the 260-day
calendar. It is quite fascinating to note that not only the date of the 260-day
calendar (7 Ajaw), but also the half-diminishing expression constitutes the
title of a lord.
Kan Joy Chitam [II] was inaugurated on 9.13.10.6.8 5 Lamat 6 Xul (June
1, 702 AD) and not long afteraccording to the inscription on Monument
122, Toninacaptured by the Tonina ruler Baknal Chak on 9.13.19.13.3 13
Akbal 16 Yaxsihom (August 28, 711 AD). The nearest half period date of 7
Ajaw, 9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Ohl (January 24, 702 AD), occur only months before
his inauguration as a sovereign. On this date his brother, the reigning
Kihnich Kan Balam [II], is alive. It may well be that the two brothers per-
formed a half-period ending ritual together. Kihnich Kan Balam [II] died
shortly after the half-period ending of 9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Ohl, his death
date being 9.13.10.1.5 6 Chikchan 3 Kanjalaw (February 18, 702 AD). This is
only 25 days after the half-period ending of 9.13.10.0.0 7 Ajaw 3 Ohl. Kan
Joy Chitam [II] can have been nominally in power so that he could have
performed the crucial period-ending ritual by a scattering of his own
blood (Martin and Grube 2000: 170-171; 181).
Another scenario, however, has recently been offered. Stuart has found
that Kan Joy Chitam [II] survived his imprisonment at Tonina since he is
associated with three dates that occur many years after his capture. The
last date which we know is associated with Kan Joy Chitam [II] is the
dedication date of 9.14.8.14.15 9 Men 3 Yaxsihom (August 12, 720 AD) re-
corded on the Palace Tablet, Palenque. Kan Joy Chitam [II] was not sacri-
ficed in Tonina, as has been assumed by epigraphers, but survived as a
political hostage or vassal of the Tonina lord. He probably lived under the

107Mark Van Stone advocates that the 3-pik-ajaw title could be read as: 3 11 144,000
days = 4,752,000 days, or c. 13,010.5 years but also as: 3 8660 days = 25,980 days or c. 71 years
(Stone 2011).
108Panel Fragment, Palenque (Schele and Miller 1986: 82, fig.1.5).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 95
authority of the Tonina ruler until the enthronement of his successor,
Kihnich Ahkal Mo Nahb, on 9.14.10.4.2 9 Ik 5 Kanasiiy (January 1, 722 AD)
(Stuart 2003c).
But there is not a half-period ending, with the 7 Ajaw position, between
the dates of 9.13.10.0.0 and 9.14.10.4.2. 7 Ajaw must refer to the date before
the official inauguration of Kan Joy Chitam [II]. The Ajaw position of the
260-day calendar is, as part of the title of Kan Joy Chitam [II], given prom-
inence. This not only emphasise a symbolic-temporal eminence of the lord
and ritual specialist but also stresses the importance of the 260-day calen-
dar within the Long Count calendar computation.

The Ceremonial Stone Monuments and the Ajaw as a Symbolic Temporal


Being
The stone monuments had a particular religious-political status and role
in the recording of time of the Long Count calendar for the classic Maya.
Stelae and stone discs are associated with the emergence of complex soci-
eties and with aristocratic symbols and ceremonies. At many sites the ste-
lae and stone disc display a political role manifesting and justifying the
power of the established order. It seems therefore reasonable to claim that
these public monuments functioned as political propaganda for the ruling
elite.
As aforementioned, Stuart (1996) has recognised that many stone mon-
uments were erected as time-markers. But stones could also symbolise and
embody time units. This is noticeable by the various designations of stone
monuments recorded in the accompanied inscription. For example a stela
from Lagunita, Campeche contains the phrase 6 Ajaw ascended. This
expression outlines not only that the stone of the inscription was erected
but also simultaneously symbolically refer to the period-ending date of
6 Ajaw. Stones, indicating time stations and named after the period-end-
ing notation in the Long Count calendar, were then not only markers of
time but were also material embodied time-periods (Stuart 1995: 400-401).
We remember that stelae and stone discs could be named X Ajaw Tun
(Stuart 1996: 149-151). For example, Stela A and Stela C of Quirigua and the
lord are both denominated 6 Ajaw, which refers to the Long Count posi-
tion of 9.17.5.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Kanasiiy (Stuart 1996: 165-168). Stuart has there-
fore championed the hypothesis that the stela was embodying or being an
extension of the depicted individual (Stuart 1996: 158-165). Sources from
the colonial period outline that time deities, ajaw of the katun, were inau-
gurated as a ruler. Stuart asserts therefore that that these visual displays
96 chapter one
based on the uses of the term ahaw show rulers as temporal beings that
were rulers of the time periods they commemorated through their monu-
ments (Stuart 1995: 165). If this theory, proposed by Stuart, is correct it
signifies that the ajaw could not only embody physically the stone monu-
ment but also, as stone monuments commonly symbolised time units, time
itself.
There was an intimated identification between monumental stone por-
traits with the selves of royal persons where the stelae were active par-
ticipants in the ceremonial landscape (Stuart 1996: 149; 165). Houston and
Stuart translate the collocation u baah, which is followed by the name of
the subject on many portraits, as the self of or the body of . This term,
the body; person; self of, in inscribed portrait depictions, signifies a cor-
respondence between the depiction and the depicted (Stuart 1996: 160-
165).109 The stone monument is identified with the illustrated person where
both share the same appellation: Ajaw. The association of the stone mon-
uments with the self of the individual is connected to the belief that the
regent embodied the passage of time, which was a fundamental to the
cosmological underpinnings of divine kingship (Stuart 1995: 165; 1996: 166).
But stelae could also be without a depiction. Furthermore, many stelae
portray not only one but a variety of individuals (Stuart 1996: 165). How
can the stone monument embody or be an extension of an individual when
it illustrates various people? Stone monuments were in many instances
given individual names. The name could be followed by the expression u
kuhul kaba or only u kaba and lakam tun in the inscriptions (Stuart 1998:
379-380; Le Fort 2000: 187, note 4). But the name of the stone was not nec-
essarily the same as the person who was pictured and described on the
same monument. Stela B, Copan (B1-B13) provides an example of a differ-
ent identity of the stela and the described human being. The lord Waxa
klajun UBaah Kawiil is portrayed on or rather constitutes the sculpture of
Stela B, Copan. The idea of an embodiment of the stela appears therefore
to be justified. But the inscription reveals that the stela is represented
(u baah) with the name: ? Witz Ajaw and that Waxaklajun Ubaah Kawiil
impersonates a deity (u baah an) called Kawiil-?-?-Nu-Kawiil. The stela
has therefore an individual designation divergent from the individual it
portrays. Identity between stone monuments as symbol for a time interval
of the Long Count calendar and the ajaw cannot be definitely established.

109Cf. the linguistic and epigraphic argument for this interpretation by Stuart and
Houston (1998).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 97
The Ajaw as a Temporal Being
The day of the 260-day calendar, Ajaw, was the lord of the period-ending
since every period-ending date mathematically had to fall on the day
Ajaw. Stuart (1996) claim he has identified an association between time
units and government in classic Maya temporal philosophy. An Ajaw coef-
ficient inscribed on the tablets of the Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque
convey that a new winikhaab period comprise an animate number by the
expression ajaw-yan, becoming a lord according to Stuart (Houston 2007).
The time notation titles and the symbolic title of the fixed period-ending
station of the 260-day calendar may reflect that the Ajaw was considered
to be a temporal being. The full figure and head variant of the day sign ajaw
of the 260-day calendar suggest that it was an anthropomorphised tempo-
ral concept.110
Houston has observed that a likening of royal figures to units of time is
displayed on a recent find at Altar de los Reyes, Campeche. Around the
circumference of this stone disc there were carved thirteen emblem signs
or dynastic titles identical with the thirteen Ajaw day-signs. Time was
associated with the political reality of classic Maya rulership (Houston,
Stuart and Taube 2006: 95). Time notations can additionally be inscribed
on the body of the ajaw. A couple depicted on a throne (Senz Throne),
now in the Museo Amparo in Mexico City, has two Ajaw day-signs, tattooed
on their foreheads. The two Ajaw day-signs tattooed on the bodies of the
lord and lady of the throne perhaps represent intervals of 2 winikhaab.
Ajaw day-signs are also present on figurines from Piedras Negras (Houston,
Stuart and Taube 2006: 19; Houston and Inomata 2009: 59).
Stuart has provided further iconographic and epigraphic corroboration
for a common identity of time-periods and individuals with the title ajaw.
An iconographic identification exists between the day sign Ajaw and depic-
tions of lords in day cartouches (Stuart 1996: 166-167). The calendar ruler
or the day-sign Ajaw in Classic iconography and the human ajaw or ruler
thus share a common identity. Stela 13, Machaquila; Altar of unknown
provenience, Guatemala City; and Altar L, Quirigua contains the day-sign
cartouche Ajaw which portrays the sovereign.111 These stone monuments
offer evidence of representations of the day-sign symbolising a period-
ending date and possibly the young lord variant of the sign. A relation

110Cf. Thompson (1971: fig. 11)


111One classic Maya deity is denominated as 1 Ajaw (Coe 1989: 167-168; Taube 1992;
Houston, Stuart and Taube 2006: 17). Cf. also the vessels K508 (11 Ajaw) and K4466 (13 Ajaw)
for personified Ajaw signs.
98 chapter one
between time and the lord is also directly stated in the classic Maya inscrip-
tions where the divine calendar rulers (e.g. the day bearing the name Ajaw)
and the human ajaw could have a common identity (Stuart 1996: 166-167).
The inscription on Stela 22, Naranjo convey that the date 7 Ajaw 3 Ohl was
the being of the sovereign KakTiliw Chan Chak but also possibly stating
that the period-ending itself was a seating into office as the ruler of the
winikhaab (Stuart 1996: 167).112 I suggest another interpretation as baah113
also can signify image and the fact that KakTiliw Chan Chak is portrayed
on Stela 22. I prefer therefore the following reading: on 7 Ajaw
3 Ohl it is the representation of KakTiliw Chan Chak. But can evidence
be found that the lord (Ajaw) possess the various time periods as a tempo-
ral being?
In his analysis of the half-period hieroglyph or tan-lam, Wichmann
has detected that time units held possessive relations114 (Wichmann 2004:
637-638, note 6). A grammatical pattern where the possessor of time is
human can be found in various inscriptions.115 If a longer period of time
possessed the change of time it was an inalienable possession, expressed
by the suffix il (Wichmann 2004: 642-643). Time units held therefore also
possessive relations. It is difficult, however, to determine whether u-tan-
lam-il represent otherworldly possession (Wichmann 2004: 637-638, note
6). A human agent of the change of time can be a possessor but only as an
alienable possession. When the possessor is human the il suffix is absent,
but the li suffix may occur when the possessor is a supernormal being.
The verb tan-lam (to diminish in the middle) can in its form as a noun
become possessed. Time can then be owned by the ritual conductor. But
when the il suffix occur, the possessed is always a time-period: The mid-
dle-diminish of pik and winikhaab. The il suffix imply that it is a close
connection between the possessed object and the possessor of the object.
Such an inalienable connection is only relevant between a half-period and
a full period. When the possessor is the ritual specialist il does not appear

112On Stela 22 of Naranjo , the inscription reads 7 Ahaw 3 Cumku u-baah KakTiliw
Chan Chaak, which could be interpreted as a literal expression of a common identity: 7
Ahaw 3 Kumku is the self of KakTiliw Chan Chaak. The ruler is shown enthroned above
a supplicating captive, perhaps conveying that on this day 7 Ahaw 3 Kumku is also
enthroned into its office as ruler of the present katun (Stuart 1996: 167).
113Cf. the analysis by Houston and Stuart of this concept which refer to: self, body,
person, spirit and image (1998: 75).
114Cf. Houston, Robertson and Stuart (2001: 26-32).
115The inscription on East Tablet, The Temple of the Inscription, Palenque and
probably on Stela 31, Front (A3), Naranjo; Stela 15 and an Inscribed cylinder from Copan
(Wichmann 2004: 636-637).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 99
as a suffix. The lord can accordingly own time by alienable possession but
it is not a part of him as one of his body parts. Time was not viewed as an
inherent part of human beings but as an intrinsically part of time itself
(Wichmann 2000: 100-102; 2004: 642-643).116 This suggests that the ajaw and
time intervals were not equivalent temporal beings but that he/she could
control these time periods.
The period-ending and the accession to office ritual have inauguration
formulas in common. A setting and binding of stones has the same termi-
nology as the inauguration into office as ajaw (Houston, Stuart and Taube
2006: 81-89). There are similar verbal expressions, by the transitive verbs
chum and kal, of an initiation into political office and an observing of the
termination/inauguration of a time interval.117 Chum118 can be a term for
the installation into an office like chum ajawlel, kalomtelel or sajalil (Stuart
1995: 200-203). The verb kal is an integral part of the time-ceremonial stone
binding, kaltun, and a term for being initiated into office, kal sak juun,
which alludes to the binding or to tying an object, which may have been a
headband (Stuart 1995: 204). Hence, there is the same striking similarity
between chumtun (seating of the stone) and kaltun (binding of the
stone), which each in its own right were associated with period-endings
and with the expression of an initiation into the status as ajaw, chum ti
ajawlel, seated into the office of Lordship and kal sak jun, binding of the
white headband (Stuart 1996: 150; 156-157).119 A cyclical repetition of the
Ajaw day name at the period-endings constituted a renewal of time and
the ajaw institution according to Stuart (Stuart 1995: 165-167). But this can-
not be verified since there is no recognised systematic pattern of ritual
practices of time conducted at haab and winikhaab memorials of the rul-
ership of the kuhul ajaw.

116A grammatical pattern where the possessor of time is human is stated in the inscrip-
tions on East Tablet, The Temple of the Inscription, Palenque and probably on Stela 31,
Front (A3), Naranjo; Stela 15 and an Inscribed cylinder from Copan (Wichmann 2004: 636-
637).
117Chum is also a term for the installing or inauguration of a time unit of 20 days within
the 365-day calendar. Stuart writes that , the metaphor of the month becoming seated
or inaugurated probably goes back quite far in Mesoamerican thought, for month signs of
the Epi-Olmec or Isthmian writing system are pictured atop signs that may represent thrones
(Stuart 1995: 200).
118The chumtun or stone-seating expression was, however, mainly used in the inscrip-
tions of Palenque, Pomona, Chinikha and neighbouring sites for a recording of a passage
of time (Stuart 1996; 2000).
119There were, nevertheless, differences between the distributions of these accession
expression probably due to linguistic variations, customs of the inauguration rituals and
functional distinctions within the city (Stuart 1995: 204-206).
100 chapter one
Time periods and the lord were both seated and tied into office. The
inauguration of the ajaw was, like time, an important public political and
religious event. Moreover ajaw was also both the designation for the pe-
riod-ending day and the title of the sovereign who in the religious practice
of time seated and tied stone monuments.

A Political Manifestation of the Ritual Practice of Time


The ritual practices of time of the Long Count calendar were religious-
political manifestations in order to justify and institutionalise political
authority. The kuhul ajaw was portrayed on public monuments as the lord
and religious specialist of time in political propaganda towards his subjects.
We have previously seen that a range of commemorating inscriptions com-
pared or associated the rituals of a contemporary lord with ceremonies
observed by most probably deities (of previous Long Counts and at the
initiation of the present Long Count) and former lords (some of them were
ancestors of the present dynastic lineage). In what can be considered to be
a royal ceremonial tradition, the lord and his/her noble entourage pre-
sided over the same rituals of time as his/her human and divine predeces-
sors. The temporal rituals were accordingly given a sacred aura bestowed
upon the kuhul ajaw and aristocratic dynasty in power.

The Rituals of Time of and the Symbolism of the Dynastic Founders of


Teotihuacan
There was a political interaction between the powerful Early Classic city
Teotihuacan of Central Mexico and the classic Maya lowland culture since
various corroborative data tell of foreign lords whom came to the southern
lowlands from the central valley of Mexico in the Early classic period (Stu-
art 1998).120 The Long Count calendar is not known to have existed among
the cultures in northern and central Mexico. So, why then were dynastic
founders and their successors, in public, associated with Teotihuacan and
ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar?
Kihnich Yax Kuk Mo (426 AD 437 AD) is commemorated in the inscrip-
tions as the founder of the dynasty of Copan of western Honduras.121
Various inscriptions outline that he participated in ritual practices of time

120About the interrelation between the classic Maya and Teotihuacan cf. Braswell,
Geoffrey (ed.). Teotihuacan and the Maya: Reinterpreting Early Classic Interaction. Univer-
sity of Texas Press. Austin. 2004.
121Cf. Stuart (2004a: 227-240; 2007).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 101
or was associated with various period-ending dates (8.19.0.0.0 and
9.0.0.0.0) (Schele and Looper 1996: 95; 99; 101; Fash 1991: 52; 81-87). Various
scholars have maintained that Kihnich Yax Kuk Mo came from Teotihua-
can (Martin and Grube 2000: 192-193). Stuart doubt, however, a Teotihuacan
origin of Yax Kuk Mo. He believes he have found data indicating that
Kihnich Yax Kuk Mo originally derived from the Maya city Caracol or
Uxwitza. Stuart do not question, though, that Kihnich Yax Kuk Mos po-
litical identity and authority was very much connected with Teotihuacan
and the cultures of Central Mexico (Stuart 2004a: 239-240; 2005a: 376; 2007).
The Tikal ruler Chan Tok Ichaak [I] (360 AD 378 AD) is said to celebrate
the completion of the period-ending of 8.17.0.0.0 on Stela 31 and Stela 39,
Tikal by a stone-binding (kaltun) ritual (Stuart 1998: 6; Martin and Grube
2000: 28). Siyaj Kak and Yax Nuun Ayiin [I], predecessors of Chan Tok
Ichaak [I], originate from Teotihuacan. It seems that these Teotihucanos
gained power in Tikal about 378 AD (Stuart 1998: 15; 21-23). There is re-
corded a winikhaab-ending on 8.18.0.0.0 by Yax Nuun Ayiin [I] on Stela 4
and Stela 18, Tikal. He is also depicted with his son, Siyaj Chan Kawiil [II]
(411 AD 456 AD) on Stela 31, Tikal dressed in a Teotihuacan costume and
weapons and shield emblazoned with the goggle-eyed face of Mexican
deities (Stuart 1998: 7; Martin and Grube 2000: 32).
Since these recordings were retrospective commemorations by later
classic Maya lords, it was not the immigrated Teotihuacanos whom de-
clared to be erecting monuments or performing other ritual practices of
time of the Long Count calendar. The temporal practices of the Long Count
calendar by the Teotihuacanos were registered on a subsequent date by a
later ajaw whom wanted to integrate the Teotihuacano predecessors with-
in the classic Maya philosophy of time. Even in the late-classic period, the
Maya ajaw appropriates ideas, costumes, signs and iconography from Teo-
tihuacan. For instance Stela 1, Lacanja, dedicated on 9.8.0.0.0, portrays a
lord in a Teotihuacan Tlaloc-Venus costume (Schele and Grube 1994: 106).
But he was not a Teotihuacano. As many members of classic Maya nobility,
he had appropriated the symbols and attributes of Central Mexico.
Moreover, a period-ending of a winikhaab (kaltun) is witnessed by a
lord from Teotihuacan, recorded in the inscription by the Teotihuacan
emblem-hieroglyph (puh) on Stela 8, Seibal (Schele and Grube 1995: 188).
Aj Bolon Haabtal erected five stelae in and around A-3 temple on the pe-
riod-ending date 10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Kanasiiy (November 28, 849 AD) in
Seibal. The portraits on the stelae depict both classic Maya and Mexican
profiles (Schele and Mathews 1998: 175-197; Martin and Grube 2000: 227).
102 chapter one
This type of political ideology belongs to the Tollan paradigm of Me-
soamerican political power and self-representation. There were probably
many Tollans (Nahuatl, place of bulrushes)which represented the first
or model city in ancient Mesoamerica (cf. Carrasco 2000; Nicholson
2000)but Teotihuacan was the archetype , having played a direct and
active role in founding political orders within the Maya area (Stuart 1998:
4).
A symbolic associating of ancestor Teotihuacanos heightened not only
the religious-political eminence of the classic Maya regent but in addition
the ritual-symbolic practice of time of the classic Maya Long Count calen-
dar.

Inter-City Celebrations of Ritual Practices of Time


Lords of various classic Maya cities celebrated rituals of time together as a
display of their political and military power. For instance, Panel 2, Ichuml
depicts and records a ballgame on probably the period-ending date of
10.0.0.0.0 7 Ajaw 18 Chakat (March 13, 830 AD) between a lord from Ixchmul
and, presumable, the ruler of Ek Balam (Grube, Lacadena and Martin 2003:
II-30). The different emblem signs connected to each of the two ball play-
ers indicate that they belong to dynasties of two cities.
But these ritual events were not multiparty inter-city celebrations. The
winikhaab-ending ceremony of 10.1.0.0.0 5 Ajaw 3 Kanasiiy (November 28,
849 AD) performed by a scattering by the lord of Seibal was said to have
been witnessed (ilaj) by the lords of Calakmul, Tikal and Motul de San Jos
according to the inscription on Stela 10, Seibal. This may have been a dem-
onstration of the political dominance of Seibal over these three cities. We
know that ritual practices of time were used to express military and po-
litical power where visits by lords, recorded on monuments, were cited to
act under the supervision or in accordance with the local ruler. For in-
stance, the dedication of the Hieroglyphic Stairs at the period-ending date
of 9.10.10.0.0 (642 AD) was apparently forced to be made in Naranjo by the
Caracol sovereign in order to celebrate his triumph (Schele and Friedel
1990: 179).
These and many other examples indicate that the ritual practice of time
could be conducted and later documented on public stone monuments to
demonstrate the political and military dominance of a lord above other
cities. The ritual practice did thus not only ceremonially control time
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 103
interval but also symbolised the authority over subjugated cities by the
kuhul ajaw.

The Theatre City-State: The Ritual Practice of Time as a Powerful Political


Drama
The dramaturgy and choreographic setting of the temporal ritual prac-
tices, documented on the various public stone monuments, were in most
cases under the authority of the kuhul ajaw. The fact that the ceremonies
were displayed on visible stone monument implies that they were public
rituals. I argue that the media of the ritual, i.e. the monuments presented
in public space, made it a social theatre or social drama not only when the
actual ceremony was conducted but also for a future audience. The media
constitute the message where there is a poetics of power and dcor
thtral (Geertz 1980: 123).
I have borrowed the term Theatre State from Clifford Geertzs influen-
tial analysis of the state system (Negara) of nineteenth-century Bali (Geertz
1980), as a useful categorisation for the public display of rituals, history and
power on monuments from the classic Maya culture. The expressive nature
of the ceremony creates a spectacle or theatre. A political-religious state-
ment is materialised in the theatre state: in which the kings and princ-
es were the impresarios, the priests the directors, and the peasants the
supporting cast, stage crew and audience (Geertz 1980: 13). Geertz main-
tains that political rituals not only gives form but also constructs power.
The monarch is created by the ritual cult that represents an argument for
his power (Geertz 1980: 13; 102; 123-124; 131; 136). Public display constitutes
a strategy of political rituals or, in this context the religious-political ritual,
where power is symbolically perceived as coming from a metaphysical
reality. The theatre state of Java in the nineteenth-century of Bali was the
micro cosmos of the supernatural orderan image of the universe
on smaller scaleand the material embodiment of political order (Geertz
1980: 13). A dramaturgy of power is set in a supernatural mode through
symbolic rituals (Cohen 1981). These dramaturgical and symbolic tech-
niques may be conscious strategies staged by the elite to serve a political
goal. But Geertz stress that the public rituals in Bali
were not means to political ends: they were the ends themselves, they
were what the state was for. Court ceremonialism was the driving force of
court politics; and mass ritual was not a device to shore up the state, but
rather the state, even in its final gasp, was a device for the enactment of
mass ritual. Power served pomp, not pomp power (Geertz 1980: 13).
104 chapter one
The ceremonies only stated social inequality and status pride and cannot
be explained in terms of their social and political functions. Ritual is not a
mask or a form for powerthe imposition of the will of one person or a
group according to Geertz (Geertz 1980: 13, 122-123).
I do not entirely share this view. Political rituals, rather, construct, dis-
play and promote the power of political institutions (Bell 1997: 128-129).
Religious-political rituals can signify and function as a justifier of power
and as an instrument of social control where it reflects the belief and values
of the dominant social group. Ritual creates a cultural construction of real-
ity. It can be a strategic practice of the elite where it exhibits the ideology
of the world-view of the aristocracy. The ritual system, where there is a
cosmological ordering in a theatre style is also applied to invest the per-
former with charisma. It can therefore legitimate power as part of the cos-
mic and social order. The classic Maya did this when they, in their theatre
city-states, erected public stone monuments and sculptures choreograph-
ing their conquests, life histories and dynastic histories but conceivably
most importantly: exercising publically temporal ritual practices of their
exclusive Long Count calendar. We remember that the final extant record-
ed Long Count calendar dates symbolise the end of the classic Maya civili-
sation under the hegemony of the kuhul ajaw and his/her aristocratic
dynasty.122

The Media and the Message of the Temporal Ritual Practice


The subject of the powerful publically recorded mise en scne of ritual
practices of time by the various lords leads us to how this message would
be experience by his/her subjects. We can distinguish between two types
of experiences of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar for
the classic Maya:
1. A conducting, participating or a witnessing of the actual ritual proceed-
ings. This means that the ritual is experienced first hand.
2. A reading of the recorded inscription and observing the image(s) of
the past ritual undertaking. The ceremony is in this case only experi-
enced some time after the ritual proceedings.
The second category implies that the documented ritual was expressed in
public. The rituals, depicted and described on stone monuments, were

122The last surviving date of the Long Count recorded on a stela is found at Tzibanche,
Mexico on 10.3.0.0.0 (889 AD) (Martin and Grube 2000: 13; Montgomery 2002: 70).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 105
conveyed as a public message at many sites. The religious-ritual practice
of time was accordingly staged so that the population of the city could
witness it at least some time after the ceremonial proceedings were con-
ducted. I surmise that the monumental stones had a prominent function
in promoting the public messages of the kuhul ajaw and/or the ruling
aristocracy. Considering the public inscriptions and images of the ritual
practices, it is probable that this was a ceremonial display for all social
groups. The ritual practice of time was therefore not only a religious act of
observance towards the deities or a divine temporal ontology (cf. discussion
below) but in addition a political ceremony with the purpose to display
the ritual-symbolic authority of the kuhul ajaw and the dynastic nobility
towards his/her subjects.
The narrative may consist of several episodes of past, present and future
period-endings both in text and image. There were, besides an episodic
narrative, short statements of ritual practice of time. Illiterates can obvi-
ously interpret images. But was the general public ignorant of the content
of the inscriptions or was he or she able to understand the message of the
inscriptions? Wichmann has made some rather interesting reflections on
the question of literacy in classic Maya culture.123 The lack of data is alas
apparent. For instance, we do not know whether there were schools, which
were accessible to all social groups. The office of the scribe (Aj Tzib) was
prestigious. Data collected by ethnographer missionaries of the early co-
lonial period convey that only the political and religious leaders were liter-
ate. It was thus probably not common for the general public to be able to
read and write. It is easier to learn to read than to write. Wichmann con-
tends therefore that the uniformity of the inscriptions, the use of illustra-
tions often accompanying the texts and the nature of signs, which
repeatedly depicts concrete artefacts, makes it relatively elementary to
learn to read the inscriptions (Wichmann 2000: 18-22).
In her book about the Mesoamerican writing systems, Joyce Marcus
argues that what she call the writing systemsdespite differences in space,
time and contentof the Aztec, Mixtec, Zapotec and Maya civilisations
functioned as a political instrument (Marcus 1992: 3-4; 15-16). The images
and inscriptions did, however, not communicate the same information.
There are two categories of propaganda: horizontal and vertical. The first
category constitutes propaganda towards the literate growing aristocracy
and the second, propaganda towards the illiterate general public (Marcus

123Cf. also Houston and Inomata (2009).


106 chapter one
1992: 11-12). The inscriptions might then have been directed towards the
growing and challenging Maya nobility in the late-classic perioddespite
the possibility that the message on the monuments could have been read
aloud in public performances to manifest the religious-ritual power of the
rulerand the images were meant to keep the subject in awe of the reli-
gious-ritual authority of the kuhul ajaw and the aristocracy to the com-
moners.
The title kuhul ajaw and the direct mediation with the deities and sacred
temporal reality may have constituted a charismatic quality (cf. Weber 1964:
358-359) of the classic Maya lords. The cardinal ritual practices of time of
the Long Count calendar, documented on public stone monuments com-
missioned by the lord, presumably contributed to institute and upheld
a charismatic authority in order to legitimise his/her claim to political
power.

The Sociology of the Ritual Practice of Time


In the previous section I questioned whether every social group was ca-
pable to read the recorded message of when, how and by whom this par-
ticular ritual was conducted. Earlier, I have only briefly contemplated the
experience of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar by the
various members of the classic Maya community. I shall now consider the
social groups participating in or performing at ritual practices of time
whether there was a general temporal ceremonial comprising participants
and performers of all strata of society.
The structure of the classic Maya society was characterised by a high
degree of political, social and economic differentiation and privilege. The
ceremonies and other vital information concerning the kuhul ajaw, his/
her spouse(s), noble lineage and dynastic ancestors were announced on
monumental stone architecture in public space. There is reason to believe
that also other strata than the nobility could have at least a slight knowl-
edge of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar. But do we
find evidence of social groupsother than the male kuhul ajaw and the
high aristocracyobserving, participating or witnessing the ritual practice
of time of the Long Count calendar? Or did the office of power complete-
ly monopolise the temporal ritual? Had the temporal practice of the Long
Count a social meaning other than as a political ostentation and as a reli-
gious observance? Are there no examples where at least members of the
high aristocracy, not only the (Kuhul) ajaw, conducted the temporal cer-
emonies of the Long Count? There is also the important issue of the status
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 107
and role of women in these principal rituals. Where these events exclu-
sively androcentric? The subject I am addressing in this section is whether
there was an absolute dominance of the official city(-state) ritual practice
of time of the Long Count calendar by a male political and military inher-
ited authority.
A consensus has for some time prevailed among archaeologists, histo-
rians, anthropologists and epigraphers that the religious city(-state) ven-
eration was centred on the male ruler and not on an independent assembly
of religious specialists in classic Maya society.124 Owing to the political and
social position the kuhul ajaw had an extraordinary religious status and
role as a ritual expert in the classic Maya city(-state). In the foregoing anal-
ysis, we have previously seen many examples of where this political and
military leader conduct temporal rituals and other ceremonials displayed
on various public monuments. Political authority and charisma of the sov-
ereign was associated with the performance of the ritual practice of time
of the Long Count calendar as they were a part of the supernatural and
ritualistic foundation of the religious-political system. The male ruler ap-
pears to have had total control over the essential religious functions among
the classic Maya because he was, according to a vast majority of inscrip-
tions and the depictions, the pivot of ritual activity. The official city(-state)
ritual practice and its message was hence organised and commissioned by
the ruling lord in a stratified theatre city-state.
It seems that the essential religious functions and knowledge of the
calendars, of writing, city(-state) rituals and stories were reserved the upper
aristocracy beside the sovereign. In the theatre city-state the sovereign and
the high aristocracy were visible in public space through the monuments
while the non-privileged were invisible. No evidence for commoners or
non-privileged estates participating or performing in the temporal ritual
practices of the Long Count calendar has come to light. While the ritual
practice of time were executed in the centre of the city, a large part of the
population lived outside the centre probably only visiting the city and its
public centreswhere the ceremonies took place and where the public
stone monuments reflecting the performed ritualson rare occasions.
This raises the question whether a communal consensus of the value of
the Long Count calendar existed in the minds of the non-privileged or
general public of the periphery. The heterogeneous assembly under the
designations commoner or general public comprise various occupa-

124Cf. for instance: Schele and Miller 1986; Fields 1989; Freidel and Schele 1990; Houston
and Stuart 1996; Schele and Mathews 1998; Le Fort 2000.
108 chapter one
tionsmany of them were evidently peasantswith diverse social and
economic orientations and therefore various religious requirements and
practices. The notion of linear time is especially associated with sacred
rulership and do not functions as a calendar instrument for the farmer. The
divinatory 260-day calendar and the seasonal and solar 365-day calendar,
the fundamental calendars of Mesoamerica, most certainly played an es-
sential role in the life of the commoner. The general public may therefore
have held a particular attitude towards time, quite distinct from aristo-
cratic temporal ideology. We can therefore assume a fundamental differ-
ence of a philosophy of time between nobility and non-nobility.125 The
manner of the ritual, the performers who conducted the temporal rituals
and how these rituals were depicted and describedi.e. on stelae, stone
discs and monuments with public inscriptions and iconography which
commoners could not affordfurther indicates that temporal practices of
the Long Count calendar was reserved for the elite and the autocratic in-
stitution of the kuhul ajaw.
Within the favoured assembly of a society there can be bitter rivalry. The
nobility have throughout the history of humanity challenged the hege-
mony and power of the sovereign. Thus the two general issues I will address,
and are able to concentrate on due to the incomplete state of the textual
data comprise the following:
1. Was the ritual absolutely dominated by the male ruler, as a manifesta-
tion of and under the pretext of his symbolic power? Or were rituals
of time observed by other members of the religious, socio-political and
military hierarchy?
2. Was every ritual celebrated and recorded in public space as a flamboy-
ant display of power by the kuhul ajaw, the nobility and the religious
specialists? Or were private, esoteric (i.e. presented in intimated sur-
roundings) ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar prac-
ticed?
Written documentation testifies that four political, social and religious
contingents within the privileged layer of society indeed took more or less
part in the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar:
1. The male ruler (kuhul ajaw). The most important ritual specialist whom
dominated the records of the ceremonial practice.

125Farriss (1984) supports Thompsons view (1970) that there were two basic ideologi-
cal and religious conceptions.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 109
2. The, in principle civil political and military subordinate or governor,
sajal.
3. An assembly of religious specialists independent of the kuhul ajaw.
4. Female regents or female nobility.
Two social groups beside the male kuhul ajaw are accordingly found to
have participated in the ritual practice of time. These were male members
of the aristocracy (religious specialists whom were at the same time mili-
tary and civil-political officials) and women.126

Ritual Practice of Time by Male and Female Religious Specialists


A political-religious hierarchy has played a key role in the political admin-
istration and religious ritual practice in the pre-European or pre-Christian
period and does so today in quite a few Indigenous communities in Meso-
america.
Military and political subordinate officials, representing a socio-political
hierarchy, below the rank of the kuhul ajaw appear in the written records
of the Maya, in particular in the late-classic period when a huge increase
in the population and an expansive hegemonic policy occurred (Grube and
Martin 1998; Martin and Grube 2000; Houston and Stuart 2001; Zender
2004c).127 Members of the classic Maya aristocracy held various titles like
sajal, yajaw kak and aj kuhuun etc. (Houston and Stuart 2001: 68-73). A
political noble hierarchy is outlined in the classic Maya inscriptions (Grube
and Martin 1998; Martin and Grube 2000). This suggests that the nobles
enjoyed some kind of political influence and (symbolic) power. Houston
and Stuart have argued that the sajal in some polities had autonomy and
independence of the ajaw. The sajal 128, a title employed by both men and
women, was an official beneath the ajaw in rank. The sajal-title is only
found in inscriptions from the Late classic period where it appears almost
exclusive on monuments from sites near the Usumacinta River in the West-
ern Maya Lowlands. The sajal governed secondary centres and was court
officials to major rulers in this region. Houston and Stuart have found a
fascinating example in the Usumacinta region, of an individual carrying
both the title ajaw and sajal. Not only the hereditary rulers participated in

126Cf. Houston and Inomata for a summary about social groups in classic Maya society
(Houston and Inomata 2009: 146-192; 218-287).
127Political and ceremonial distinctions are reflected in titles among the Yucatec and
Pokomchi in the postclassic and colonial period (Roys 1957; Miles 1957; Houston and Stuart
2001: 59).
128A possible translation of sajal is one who fears (Houston and Stuart 2001: 61).
110 chapter one
governance there was also a system of primus inter pares at some indepen-
dent classic Maya sites. There was even in some cases a social mobility to
become ajaw at certain classic Maya cities (Houston and Inomata 2009: 131;
134; 140). There are expressed a primus inter pares distinction pattern in the
titles ba (head) ajaw and ba (head) sajal (Houston and Stuart 2001: 61-62;
Parmington 2003: 47). This signfies that titles do not necessarily reflect
power relations and authority.
The official religious functions of the cityi.e. religious ritual (tempo-
ral) practicewere not exclusive for the kuhul ajaw in classic Maya society.
We have seen that the period-ending was likened to the inauguration into
the office of the ajaw. The same striking similarity existed between chum
tuun (a seating of stone) and kaltun (a binding of stone)each in its
own way associated with period-endingswith the expression of initia-
tion into the status as ajaw, chum ti ajawlel, seated into the office of Lord-
ship and kal sak jun, the binding of the white headband (Stuart 1996: 150;
156-157). Time units and the ruler were consequently both seated and tied.
Inauguration statements and temporal titles appear, however, not to be
restricted to the kuhul ajaw. The sajal was like the ajaw to be ritually seat-
ed or bound into office (Houston and Stuart 2001: 61-62; Parmington 2003:
47). But these ceremonial formulas were also applied to other subordinates
and religious specialists (Stuart 1995: 200-203; Zender 2004c: 153-160).
The aristocracy and the religious specialists could carry, like the kuhul
ajaw, temporal titles. On a panel from Pomona two lords are, one of them
is a sajal the other is an ajaw, engaged in a ritual. It is indeed exciting that
they both, as Martin, Zender and Grube has observed, carry the title sak
ti hun which is a variant of Glyph F designating the 9 days of the Lord of
the Night cycle (Martin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-49). Moreover, there
are various examples of where the sajal and the religious specialist ajkuhun
could hold a X-Winikhaab title (Zender 2004c: 162; 344; 374).
Data from the postclassic and colonial period convey titles of a range of
religious specialists among the Nahua (cf. Acosta Saignes 1946; Lockhart
1992), Zapotec (cf. Whitecotton 1977), Mixtec (cf. Terraciano 2001) and
other people in Mesoamerica (Zender 2004c: 82; 207-208). Colonial sourc-
es also delineate a Maya hierocracy at Yucatn in the postclassic period
(Roys 1933; 1943; Tozzer 1941; Thompson 1970; Lopez de Cogolludo 1971;
Zender 2004c: 80-99). An apparent absence of independent religious spe-
cialists (of the reigning lord) from the classic Maya sources is conceivable
due to the political and social power of the kuhul ajaw but also because
religious specialists in classic Maya society had not only ritual but political
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 111
functions and status (i.e. titles) as well (Houston and Stuart 2001: 60). Nev-
ertheless, I shall in the forthcoming sections exemplify the ritual practice
of time by male members of the aristocracy (military and political officials
and religious specialists) and by women of the classic Maya culture.

The Temporal Ritual Practice by Male Religious Specialists


Various inscriptions and iconography indicates that the ruler sometimes
with aid from subordinated members of the aristocracy, e.g. military and
political officials below the rank of the kuhul ajaw in the socio-political
hierarchy, conducted the rituals. The nobles were, however, also publicly
outlined to perform this pivoted ritual without the presence of the kuhul
ajaw.129 We are facing a dilemma in the interpretation of the ritual practice
of time executed by individuals with titles other than kuhul ajaw. Was the
ritual practice of time observed by the individual in power (e.g. the sover-
eign) or do the examples of political and social subordinates celebrating
ritual practice of time suggest a dissolving of the central power, a weaken-
ing authority of the kuhul ajaw? Surely, this depends upon the city(-state)
and at various times on the quite heterogeneous socio-political order and
history of classic Maya civilisation. Due to the lack of written and archae-
ological primary data we cannot consistently establish whether the reli-
gious specialists simply usurped religious (and socio-political) authority
of the kuhul ajaw or whether they were entrusted to perform this important
ritual structure on his/her behalf. The political status and social position,
of the sajal are unfortunately in most of the cases, unrecognised but some
can be acknowledged with assurance. For instance, it is quite certain that
the ajaw Kihnich Yonal Ahk [II] was in power (Martin and Grube 2000:
147) when sajal Kan Te conducted the haab-ending 9.14.5.0.0 according to
the inscription on Stela 5, Piedras Negras.
Marc Zender argues that there was a particular category of religious
specialists in the late-classic period (Zender 2004c). The classic Maya so-
cieties comprise a hierocracy, apparently autonomous of the political and
military authority of the sovereign lord. Religious specialists are acknowl-
edged, from the beginning of the late classic period (c. 600 AD), to have
been inaugurated into various offices. Zender has recognised the following
religious officials from the written sources, which he claims had indepen-
dent functions:

129Alexandre Parmington has made a survey over monuments delineating sajalob and
ajawob within a ritual context (Parmington 2003: 48, Table 1).
112 chapter one
1. The male ajkuhuun and the female ixajkuhuun, translated by Zender
as worshipper. The ajkuhuun was a propitiator of deities, a scribe and
keeper of codices, and probably a teacher in writing and the calendar
(Zender 2004c: 164-195).130
2. Yajawkak, fires vassal, was a warrior religious specialist. He conducted
incense and fire rituals (Zender 2004c: 195-210).
3. Tisakhuun, speaker of/for the white headband, a mediator between
the deities and human beings. As spokesman for the ruler, he had var-
ious political duties (Zender 2004c: 210-221).
4. Other not clearly identified religious experts like a-na-bi and baajajaw
(Zender 2004c: 222-226).

Recruited from the noble lineages, these groups of religious specialists,


besides their religious status and function, also held considerable political
and economic power. They commissioned their own monuments and re-
ligious structures, headed lineages and could be regents or stewards for
underage heirs to the title. Moreover, Zender argues that there was, despite
loyalty and subordination to the kuhul ajaw, opposition to this ruler-ide-
ology, which is manifested in the sources. There was no fundamental dis-
parity between military-political and religious authority. Religious status
and functions were obviously shared by a number of people in these com-
plex societies (Zender 2004c: iii-iv; 80-81; 221-226; 367-381). The organisation
of the civil-religious hierarchy is not clear and is evidently complicated.
Zenders (comparative) analysis and interpretations raise many interesting
questions. But what preoccupies us here is whether the various religious
specialists were engaged in the ritual practice of time of the Long Count
calendar.
The religious specialists did not passively participate, witness or conduct
temporal rituals under the authority of the kuhul ajaw. They could control
these ceremonies. Monument 165, Tonina announces that the ajkuhuun
and yajawkak Kelen Hiix officiated the period-ending of 9.14.5.0.0 when
he probably acted as regent when Ruler 4 was still too young to rule. The
ajkuhuun and yajawkak, Aj Chaaj Naah is saidtogether with another
ajkuhuun called Bird Jaguar by epigraphersto oversee (yilaj) the pe-
riod-ending ritual (stone-binding and incense-casting) of the thirteen year
old Ruler 4 on 9.14.0.0.0 according to Monument 110, Tonina (Zender 2004c:
342-346). Furthermore, ti sakhuunob were presiding over the ritual prac-

130Ajkuhun, translated by Jackson and Stuart as he of the hold paper, one who obeys,
venerate, or one who keeps, is never associated with kuhul ajaw only with subordinate
lords (Jackson and Stuart 2001).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 113
tice of time in Comalcalco, Pomon, Tikal and Tonina (Martin and Grube
2000: 110; Zender 2004c: 220-221; 374).
But a religious specialist of the nobility did not necessarily have to be a
temporarily regent for the indisposed kuhul ajaw to be celebrating these
rituals. For instance, a sajal both, an ajkuhuun and an a-na-bi (Zender
2004c: 222-223), was according to the inscription on Kuna-Lacanh Lintel
1 conducting a ritual practice of time on 9.15.18.0.0. In addition, a stela ex-
cavated by INAH at Tonina, Mexico contains an inscription where a reli-
gious specialist, ajkuhun, is said (he is also portrayed in performing the
described ceremony) supervising the ritual period-ending of 9.9.0.0.0 3
Ajaw 3 Suutz (Zender 2004c: 253-254; 257-258). There is an example of two
aj kuhuun, whom witness a temporal ceremony performed by an ajaw,
according to Monument 110, Tonina (Jackson and Stuart 2001: 219). Yok
Chich Tal, the yajawkak and ajkuhuun of Kihnich Ahkal Mo Naahb [III]
of Palenque, probably assist his lord in a ritual practice of time on 9.15.0.0.0
according to the Pier Panel of Temple XIX, Palenque (Zender 2004c: 315).
Stela 11, Piedras Negras illustrate Ruler 4s overseeing of the period-ending
9.15.0.0.0. The side of this stone monument show religious specialists who
apparently supported Ruler 4 in this ritual. One of these religious special-
ists are named as Ahiin Chak and bearing the title ti sakhuun (Zender
2004c: 323-324). Stela 7 of Pomona, Mexico depict and outlines a temporal
ritual of the Long Count, 9.16.0.0.0, conducted by the ruler Kihnich Ho
Hiix Bahlam and his assistant ti sakhuun Jewel Jaguar. They are accompa-
nied by Kihnich Kan Bahlam [III] of Palenque (Zender 2004c: 328-329).
Kelen Hiix of Tonina was at the same time a tisakhuun and an ajkuhuun.
He aided various lords in ritual practices of time according to Monument
8, with Ruler 2, 9.1.10.0.0; Monument 140, with Kihnich Baaknal Chaahk,
9.13.5.0.0 where also the ajkuhuun and yajawkak, Aj Chaaj Naah partici-
pated (Zender 2004c: 342-346).
These cited examples demonstrates that people with diverse religious
titles, could conduct ritual practices of time and not only the kuhul ajaw.
But a definite ritual practice, and this is indeed a serious weakness with
Zenders argument in his quite confusing classification, did not distinguish
religious specialists since they all conducted or assisted in the ritual prac-
tice of time. It is indeed remarkable that individuals with a certain religious
titlea human being could have various religious titlesdid not hold an
exclusive prerogative to perform temporal ceremonies. In addition, various
categories of religious specialists had identical accession formulas (chum
and kal sak juun) and also time titles in common with the kuhul ajaw. The
ruling lord could then not be considered to be an exclusive temporal being
114 chapter one
and ritual performer since he/she shared these features with members of
other social groups.
But was the exhibition of the mastery of rituals of time by members of
the aristocracy a demonstration of a growing challenging influence upon
the city(-state) at the expense of the kuhul ajaw or does this circumstance
show that other religious specialists, than a presumably autocrat, had the
privilege to conduct ritual practice of time? This depends upon the his-
torical socio-political context of the individual city(-state) and can accord-
ingly not be answered in a general analysis of classic Maya civilisation. The
practices, the performers and the mediai.e. stelae, stone discs and mon-
uments with public inscriptions and iconographyindicates that ritual
practices of time of the Long Count calendar was part of the temporal
philosophy of the aristocracy and the institution of the kuhul ajaw. As
noted above, a notion of linear time is especially associated with (sacred)
rulership and do not functions as a calendar tool for the farmer. Rather, the
cyclical 260-day calendar and the cyclical 365-day calendar, maybe the
seasonal and solar (agricultural) 365-day calendar in particular, was associ-
ated with the life and temporal experience of the classic Maya commoner.

Aristocratic Ritual Practice of Time


Previously, I deliberated whether the ritual practice of time were conduct-
ed in public space and whether the majority of the members of the com-
munity (i.e. the so-called commoners) understood the recorded inscriptions.
The issue of the attendance of a broader audience in these ceremonies and
in addition their ability to read the ritual message remains unresolved. The
inscription on stelae and stone discs were public, but the panels, lintel etc.
in the galleries of the interior of religious and palace structure were most
likely not open to the non-privileged. Stories and rituals displayed on pri-
vate, elite or esoteric media like panels and lintels within aristocratic struc-
tures, vessels and caves further reinforce this exclusion of the non-initiated
general public.
Some ritual practices of time were indeed not only recorded or celebrat-
ed in public to display the religious power of the sovereign and the high
aristocracy. From a Jade Pendent of the Temple of the Skull, Palenque, we
know, that it was carved for the celebration of the period-ending of 5
haab, 9.13.5.0.0 under the commission of a Pomona ruler. An identical name
and the declaration that this was a yax kaltun-ceremony are inscribed on
a Panel fragment from Pomona (Martin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-36).
A dedication of a vessel at a period-ending date might also have been
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 115
recorded since the Calendar Round date in the PSS on the vase of Altar de
Sacrificios have been reconstructed to 9.16.3.0.0 3 Ajaw 18 Suutz by Richard
E. Adams (Adams 1971: 75).
Andrea J. Stone claims that period-ending rituals (i.e. ritual practice
of time), not only are registered, but also took place in caves (Stone 1995:
87-90).131 Religious ritual performance in caves conveys an esoteric spatial
context because the cave constitutes secluded space. Even within the cave
was the painting placed in a remote place. In many cases caves were con-
sidered to be a taboo site linked with the underworld. There was therefore
no public display of a state ritual in this environment since the religious
ceremonies within caves belonged to private experience in a sacred geog-
raphy (Stone 1995: 239-242).132 The early classic inscription and iconogra-
phy of the main scene in the two hundred meter long Joloniel Cave,
located along the Ixtelha River c. 8 km. north of Tumbala in Chiapas, Mex-
ico, point towards an expression of a ritual practice of time according to
Stone. Two figures painted in black stand on either side of a stone disc. The
individual to the right holds a torch. The stone disc is inscribed with the
date 9 Ajaw. This kind of stone disc is of the same type as the so-called
Giant Ajaw altars (e.g. stone discs) of the classic cities Caracol, Tikal, and
Tonina (Stone 1995: 87-88). Another inscription from the Joloniel cave,
although practical illegible, contains also the 9 Ajaw day-sign (A1) of the
260-day calendar and later the name otan (B5) (Stone 1995: 90, fig. 4-96):
Otan was seated, 10 kin and 13 winal later (270 days) kalabtun? in the
cave ? scattered liquid. The 9 Ajaw day-sign could be the date of a kalab-
tun of a previous Long Count. But it could also refer to a period-ending
of the contemporary Long Count, which may allude to the quite early date
of the winikhaab-ending of 8.13.0.0.0 9 Ajaw 3 Saksihom (297 AD), the
period-ending of 8.19.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 3 Muwaan (426 AD) or 9.6.0.0.0 9 Ajaw
3 Wayhaab (554 AD) (Stone 1995: 88-90). It is thus a question whether su-
pernatural beings performed a ritual practice of time in a previous Long
Count or if the two black painted figures are said to practise a temporal
ritual, presumably described in the inscription, on 9 Ajaw of the present
Long Count. Futhermore, Stone suggests that a celebration of a winikhaab
ending might be represented in the cave of Naj Tunich, Guatemala. Draw-

131Caves are important ingredients of contemporary Maya New Year ceremonies of the
365-day calendar. But these are not recorded for the Yucatec in the postclassic period (Taube
1988: 306-308).
132Cf. Karen Bassie-Sweet about the archaeological, colonial and ethnographic litera-
ture of rituals and stories in Maya caves (Bassie-Sweet 1991: 78-89). Cf. Stone (1995) for an
analysis of the images and inscriptions in the Naj Tunich cave.
116 chapter one
ing 11, of this cave, pictures a figure sitting holding a severed head. This
could be a ritual decapitation since skulls have been found in other caves.
The inscription contains the name of the deity Kawiil in front of the day-
sign 13 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar. This date is reconstructed by Stone
to be the period-ending of 9.17.0.0.0 13 Ajaw 18 Ohl (Stone 1995: 191-193).
Recently, Houston has identified the date 8.19.10.0.0 9 Ajaw 3 Muwaan
(January 30, 426 AD) on a piece of flow stone cut from a stone which is
displayed in the Museo Principe Maya in Coba, Guatemala. The image on
the stone display two figures whom presumably are lordsconceivably
with the title *abaat, worker, servantthus not of high rank according
to Houston. These are depicted in the act of performing a possible private
censing ritual of time. Stuart claims that the same date is painted in the
Joja cave also associated with two individuals (Houston 2007).
Taube (1988a) has identified a katun(winikhaab)-wheel on the back of
a turtle excavated in Mayapan of Yucatn, Mexico. The calendar wheel on
the back of turtles was a way of recording and conceiving time and space.
The turtle symbolise the earth and a katun cycle or a katun-wheel with 13
Ajaw day-signs of the 260-day calendar. There is archaeological and icono-
graphical evidence for blood letting in postclassic katun-ending rites
(Taube 1988a: 192-193; 194.) It is interesting that stone turtles were located
in private residential structures in Mayapan. This suggests that the blood
rituals were not only conducted in the ceremonial centre of Mayapan, but
also in the private houses of the aristocracy. The detection of these stone
turtles in remote sections of the ceremonial and residential structures
signifies that the blood sacrifices were not public rituals but exclusive un-
dertakings (Taube 1988a: 199).
These examples of various private temporal practices furthermore cor-
roborate that ritual practice of time not only were public ceremonies only
celebrated by the kuhul ajaw in order to legitimise his/her authority but
that these had a religious significance if not for the commoners but for the
aristocracy. I shall return to the religious importance of observing rituals
of time of the Long Count calendar but let me in the forthcoming section
exhibit that these temporal practices were not absolutely androcentric.

Women as Religious Specialists of Ritual Practice of Time


The classic Maya system of society was patriarchal and patrilineal. Women
as a distinct social group (defined by gender), status and role as religious
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 117
specialists in the city(-state) has not been systematically explicated among
the Maya in the classic period or among other cultural groups in Meso-
america. The written records do not present much information of women
as compared to men in classic Maya society. All the recognised sculptors
of the classic period were men whereas the majority of references to wom-
en derive from the late-classic period (Houston and Stuart 2001: 64; 73). It
appears, however, that women had a more pivotal status and role in the
official (state) religious system of the classic Maya civilisation than schol-
ars have previously assumed.
Women could accede into office in the same fashion as menby the
ceremonial formulas chum and kal sak juunand carry temporal titles
(Martin and Grube 2000: 145). For example, a woman is documented to
carry the title or epithet ix winikhaab ajaw, Stela 3, Piedras Negras (A9; C3;
F3) and possibly on Lintel 3, Yaxchilan (I1-J1).133 There is not a coefficient
before the time unit, which implies that she is a lady of the winikhaab. The
identity of the woman on Lintel 3, Yaxchilan is obscure but we know that
the woman on Stela 3, Piedras Negras enjoyed political power (Martin and
Grube 2000: 145). Authoritative women were not banned from the presti-
gious ceremonies. They witnessed, participated, and even acted as pro-
tagonists in religious city(-state)-rituals. Women could just like men be
associated with time and the calendar signs. A female is represented with
an Ajaw day-sign of the 260-day calendar on an unpublished cylindrical
vase (fig. 6). The inscription and iconography on Stela 9, Calakmul outline
that a woman is associated (u baah) with the date 11 Ajaw 8 Ik sihom.
Moreover, a day cartouche inscribed upon a Maya vessel portrays a man
and a woman as Ajaw day-signs. The two caption inscriptions begin with
u baah, it is the representation of and refer to the period-ending date
9.12.0.0.0 10 Ajaw 8 Yaxkin. The inscription of the woman can be read as u
baah ti 10 Ajaw her name, which imply that she connected with the day-
sign 10 Ajaw (Stuart 1996: 166-168).
A quite a few numbers of depictions and inscription exclusively express
various ritual performances by women. A woman wraps or ties a stone
and then made a conjuring at period-ending dates according to Stela 6,

133She is in the subsequent passage on Lintel 3, Yaxchilan given the title, ux winikhaab
chajom (I2-J2).
118 chapter one
Machaquila. The Dallas Altar portrays only women.134 The inscription
down in the middle contains the period-ending date of 15 winikhaab
(9.15.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 13 Yaxsihom or August 20, 731 AD). The women on this
stone monument were not in power, since they are related to reigning lords,
but still they conducted fundamental rituals like the acclaimed ritual prac-
tice of time intervals of the Long Count calendar. This is also the case in
Palenque where Ix Sak Kuk conducted the stone-seating ritual of 9.10.0.0.0
1 Ajaw 8 Kanasiiy despite that her son Pakal had been ruler for c. 18 years.
He was, however, in another inscription said to execute the same winikhaab
ritual ending (Stuart and Stuart 2008: 150). Temporal ritual practice, per-
formed by multiple women of a range of sites, is in fact announced in quite
a few inscriptions from the classic period.135 We can accordingly surmise
that gender was not an essential feature in these kinds of rituals or for that
matter in other types of religious state ceremonies. Both women in power
and noble women not invested with the authority of the regent could, like
men, undertake this highly regarded ritual practice of ending and inaugu-
rating time intervals of the Long Count calendar.
The ruling lord embodied and symbolised the various divine time peri-
ods according to Stuart (2011). The kings oversaw the termination of time
intervals as if they were tending to a cornfield. They thereby harvested
sacred animated time when the cycle of growth was complete. This also
allowed rulers to demonstrate the sacred underpinnings of their royal
office. The lord did not however control time periods although they com-
pleted them.136 It has been demonstrated that not only the male ajaw but
non-ruling women and subordinate officials and religious officials conduct-
ing ritual practices of time of the Long Count calendar. The rise and falls
of various cities in the classic period (cf. Martin and Grube 2000; Houston
and Inomata 2009) made a symbolic ritual politics of time quite unpredict-
able. Possibly at some sites where they enjoyed autocratic (temporal)
power the ruling male and female ajaw portrayed themselves to symbolise
time but at other sites or during other periods the political situation did
not allow such a privelige for the elite.

134The illustration and inscription on the stone disc has been analysed by David Freidel
and Stanley Guenter (2003) and by Simon Martin (2008).
135Cf. examples summarised by Pharo (2006: 197-199).
136Stuart asserts that the lords replanted/repeated (tzutz) time periods (Stuart 2011:
254-257; 268-274).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 119
6.The Philosophy and Religious Ritual Practices of Linear Divine Time

In this section, I argue that that it is not a quantitative but the qualitative
experience of time, which contribute to explain the religious ritual tempo-
ral practice. Since it was ritualised, time conceivably held, apart from the
socio-political function, a deeper philosophical quality or religious value
to classic Maya ontology.
Two hypotheses will be examined in order to determine whether they
contribute to elucidate the classic Maya philosophy of the ritual practice
of time of the Long Count calendar:
1. Time of the Long Count calendar conceived to be a burden.
2. Calendar time deified and ruled by various time deities.
Let us first assess the theory that time was conceived to be a burden ac-
cording to classic Maya temporal philosophy.

Time of the Long Count calendar Conceived as a Burden


Thompson (1978) argues that there was a concept of time as a burden in
Maya temporal philosophy, commonly assumed among by numerous ma-
yanists and archaeoastronomists (e.g. most recently by Aveni 2011). If
Thompson and his later supporters are proven to be right, this may con-
tribute to explicate the general meaning and significance of the execution
of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar.
The Yucatec expression for Year Bearer, cuch haab, has synonyms in
other Maya languages as in Jacaltec (iqum habil) and in Chuj (kutc-lum
haabil) (Thompson 1978: 60; La Farge and Byers 1931: 180).137 The Maya are
supposed to have perceived the Year Bearer of the 365-day calendar as
carrying the year on his back, which is how the designation Year Bearer
was first introduced. Thompson claims that the same notion applies to the
understanding of the different time-units within the classic Maya Long
Count calendar:
Thus we find in Tizimin (pp. 2, 9, 10, 12, 13) statements such as tu kin u cha
cuch, at the time he takes the burden, apparently referring to the year
bearer 3 Cauac; and u kax cuch katun which probably means the binding
of the burden of the katun; and again in tu kin u kaxal u cuch ah ho Ahau,
on the day (or at the time) of the binding of the burden of Lord 5 Ahau,
5 Ahau being the day which gave its name to the current katun . Each

137Cf. elaborate discussion of the concept of the Year Bearer of the 365-day calendar
in part III.
120 chapter one
year had his burden with which he traverses his course to pass it at journeys
end to his successor (Thompson 1978: 125).
Thompson asserts that there were divisions of time within the Long Count
calendar perceived as burdens which are carried by various divine bearers.
These bearers are represented by the numbers distinguished from the dif-
ferent periods of time (i.e. burdens) where: ..; each number carried the
period with which he was associated over his allotted course (Thompson
1978: 59).
As evidence to support this hypothesis Thompson refers to various clas-
sic period inscriptions138 where full-figure signs illustrate deities of nu-
merical coefficients literally carry the deity of the time period often with
a so-called tumpline known to be used by contemporary Maya carriers of
the Highlands of Guatemala (Thompson 1978: 153) (fig. 4 & 5). The signs
depict the moment when the time periods and their burdens have arrived
at the resting place called lub in Yucatec. But this was only a measurable
time of repose before another divine bearer (e.g. coefficient) took up the
burden of his predecessor (Thompson 1978: 59-61; 124-125). Thompson de-
scribes, rather vivid, the elaborate inscription, on Stela D, Copan, represent-
ing various deities of numbers at the moment when their journey of time
is over (cf. Thompson 1956: 145).
Not only the posture of these full-figure signs provides support for the
theory that time was conceived as a burden. Passages of prophecy in the
postclassic Yucatec Books of Chilam Balam, cited in the quotation by
Thompson above, apparently corroborates this interpretation of the Maya
concept of time. Philological and epigraphic evidence presented by
Thompson exemplify that concepts of a burden of time and of an unend-
ing journey of time were integrated in the religious system of the classic,
the postclassic and even the Maya of the early colonial period. These no-
tions had a transcendental importance to the Mayan philosophy of life
according to Thompson (Thompson 1978: 63). In addition, the account of
the Manche Chol Calendar in the manuscript by Tovilla (Relacin, 1635139),
found by Scholes, the four Year Bearers are described as taking turns the
burden of the veintenai.e. one of the eighteen twenty day-periods of the
Mesoamerican 365-day calendar (Thompson 1978: 60).

138Stelae D, D, W and The Hieroglyphic Stairway of Copan; Steale B, D and Altar O of


Quirigua; Lintel 48 of Yaxchilan, and The Palace Tablet from Palenque.
139Taube has provided the date and title of this manuscript (1988: 187).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 121
There are, however, several problematic aspects with the time as a bur-
den hypothesis proposed by Thompson. He relies on two categories of
data: pictographic and philologic. Thompson interpreted parts of the clas-
sic Maya inscriptions as pictographic where certain signs ostensibly reflect
time as a burden philosophy. When Thompson developed his theory the
phonetic character of the classic Maya inscriptions was not recognised.
Since the non-calendar parts were not deciphered, the scholars had a quite
limited understanding of the character and the content of the Maya scrip-
tures and accordingly their temporal philosophy. A pictographic method-
ology in interpreting a phonetic system is precarious. The so-called
pictographic bearers of time do not appear to operate as they were sup-
posed to do if this theory is to be correct. Thompson admits that a full
figure kin sign, in the inscription on Lintel 48, Yaxchilan (C3-D4) holds
the head representing the coefficient 6 and supports the head for the coef-
ficient 10 on his feet. Who was the bearer and who was the borne in this
example? Thompson, however, dismisses this occurrence as a minor detail
not affecting the concept of the journey of a burden of time (Thompson
1978: 60-61). By exercising a close examination of the full-figure signs, which
Thompson referred to in support of his theory, we find that only a minor-
ity of these signs represents carriers with a tumpline. The full-figure signs
illustrating the numbers and time units of the calendar are actually de-
picted in different postures. Many of the coefficients are represented lying
on the back. Two of these signs show a human being (representing the
coefficient) in a conversation with the time unit. Only Stela D, Copan,
whichpresumably not by coincidenceis the most frequently quoted
example by Thompson, appears to represent bearers with a tumpline. But
this does not only apply to the calendar section of this inscription. A1-A5
of the inscription on Stela D, Copan contains the calendar date 9.15.0.0.0
10 Ajaw 8 IkSihom G9. But B5-B8 of the same inscription, also appear to
symbolise carriers of time. This section consists of the verb for the erec-
tion (tzap) and name (u kaba) of the banner stone (lakam tun), which
refer to Stela D. Consequently, supposedly carriers of time signs do not
necessarily have anything to do with calendars or any information about
time. Furthermore besides the, for Thompson, exasperating representation
in the inscription on Lintel 48, Yaxchilan, there are for instance examples
of a not deciphered verb, from Drawing 82, Naj Tunich and on Stela 2, Ixkun,
which illustrates a full-figure fire-bearer with a tumpline. These signs can
clearly not refer to a concept of time since the full-figure sign in the syntax
does not represent a calendar number or a date but instead a verb. A pic-
122 chapter one
tographic interpretation of a philosophy of time represented by the signs
of the classic Maya inscriptions can therefore not be sustained.
The philological component of Thompsons argument is founded upon
his (and Ralph Royss) translation of the expression cuch as burden or
cargo with the calendar notation katun (cuch katun) in various pas-
sages from the Yucatec colonial books of Chilam Balam. A calendar station
or time unit was associated with the notion of a burden. I shall consider
the issue of the meaning of the word cuch in this context. But first let us
look at epigraphic data from the classic period where presumably the same
formula appears. It has been claimed that stones, which symbolised time
units, were called kuch tun, burden stone, in the classic inscriptions. Stu-
art has argued that this collocation and the stone discs engraved with X
Ajaw signs represent period-ending dates which symbolise burdens of
the current Long Count, fortify Thompsons theory of a Maya notion of a
burden of time (Stuart 1995: 110). The reading of the sign T174 as kuch in the
classic inscriptions remains inconclusive, since to my knowledge, no ir-
refutable epigraphic evidence has been presented for the phonetic value
of this sign.140
Now back to Thompsons more substantial argument of the notion cuch
(kuch) as a burden or cargo of the katun (winikhaab) calendar notation
cuch katun in various passages from The Books of Chilam Balam. Philo-
logical data from the colonial dictionaries undermine a burden of time
hypothesis. The term kuch or cuch (associated with a katun (winikhaab)
designated with one of 13 Ajaw dates of the Short Count calendar) occurs
in the colonial dictionaries where it is not exclusively translated with bur-
den or cargo. Kuch has various additional connotations as Looper (1995:
6) has stated for the classic inscriptions not only the meaning of burden
or cargo, but that of seat (Sp. asiento) and government (Sp. gobier-
no) (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 342-343).
A symbolic seating (chum) of a date or time period is a well-known
formula in the classic Maya inscriptions. A seating of a time unit, symbol-
ised by the computing stones, could be declared erected in a particular
Maya city in the classic and postclassic period. As noted, the Maya record-
keepers referred to seated or erected numbered stones that represented
periods of time. The formula cuch katun (seating of the katun) from the
Yucatec colonial Books of Chilam Balam parallel, symbolically, the classic
Maya expression chum tun, seating of stone, i.e. the termination of a time

140Cf. a recent, but not epigraphic methodologically substanstiated, interpretation of


T174 by Stuart (2005: 96-98).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 123
unit of pik, winikhaab, or haab of the Long Count calendar. Cuch katun
did probably refer to a seating (i.e. completion) and not burden of the Ajaw
katun in The Books of Chilam Balam since these books were careful to
imply where the katun was terminated. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chu-
mayel recounts that on:
12 Ahau. The stone was taken at Otzmal.
10 Ahau. The stone was taken at Zizal.
8 Ahau. The stone was taken at Kancaba .
6 Ahau. The stone was taken at Hunacthi.
4 Ahau. The stone was taken at Atikuh. This was the katun when the pes-
tilence occurred. It was in the fifth tun of Katun 4 Ahau.
2 Ahau. The stone was taken at Chacalna.
13 Ahau. The stone was taken at Euan.
11 Ahau. On the first day the stone was taken at Colox-peten
(Roys 1933: 142).
The verb chabi (cha), to take141, may convey the meaning to carry [a
burden] (Thompson 1978: 61). The Books Chilam Balam of Chumayel also
employ the expression: u hetz katun, a seating142 or establishment of the
katun in a named city. Thompson interprets this as a symbolic adjustment
of the burden of the katun of the bearers back. The burden was possibly
transferred from the back of a set of divine beings (ceremonial imperson-
ators) to another group (Thompson 1978: 61). But Thompson admits that
these explanations are purely conjectural.
A similar passage of a setting up (seating) and binding stones at katun-
endings can be found in The Codex Prez and The Book of Chilam Balam of
Man, a traditional practice the Maya had to abandon when the Spaniards
arrived:
1 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Izamal.
12 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Zizal.
10 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Kuldche.
8 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Hunucm
6 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Chacala.
4 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Tixkulch.
2 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Euan.
13 Ahau, its stones were wrought in Colop Petn.
11 Ahau, the Spaniards arrived, its stones were not wrought .143
(Craine and Reindorp 1979: 92).

141Cha, tomar, traer, llevar, usar, recibir, apropiarse (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 119).
142Hets, asentar (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 204).
143Cf. Roys for the location of these place names (1933: 142, note 5).
124 chapter one
Not only The Books of Chilam Balam but also other colonial sources outline
a founding of stones in certain towns and cities at the end of the katun.
The History and the Chronicle of Chacxulubchen, written by the Maya Nakuk
Pech, c. 1562, from the ancient documents, Documentos de Tierra de Chicx-
ulub, collected by Pio Perez (Brinton 1882: 189-190) outlines Katun town
stones (Brinton 1882: 227).144
The seating can be associated with cargo and government (kuch) of
time periods. The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel announces: 11 Ahau
katun is seated on the mat, is seated on the throne (Luxton 1995: 24-25).
Fray Andrs de Avendao y Loyola, who at the time apparently received
information from books written in logosyllabic inscriptions from the inde-
pendent Itz, asserts that thirteen katun were ascribed to each of thirteen
provinces in turn (Means 1917: 141; Roys 1933: 142, note 5; 184; Avendao
1997: 42). Moreover, deities of various time katuns (winikhaabs) could be
seated (cf. section below about time deities). Time units were under the
rule of a deity whom bore the name of the governed calendar period. As
we shall see this has consequences for how we understand the concept of
kuch (cuch).
I will now analyse the phrases containing kuch (cuch) in relation to
calendar dates of the Long Count (or Short Count145) calendar from The
Books of Chilam Balam cited by Thompson. In this specific context, I suggest
that cuch rather had the meaning of the related notions seating, govern-
ment or reign than merely burden.146 As mentioned, the calendar nota-
tion is designated by the name of the katun (winikhaab), identified by one
of the 13 possible Ajaw-ending dates.
1. Thompson cites Ralph Roys quoting from one of the Books of Chilam
Balam: He [Katun 5 Ahau] gives up his mat, his throne. There comes
another cup, another mat, another throne, another reign. It is
announced that the burden of Lord 5 Ahau falls (u lubul u cuch ah ho
ahau) and tu tzoc u cuch katun, at the completion of the burden of
the katun (Thompson 1978: 60). As an alternative, I propose the fol-

144Cf. Crnica de Chicxulub from the sixteenth century (Stuart 1996: 150), Diego de
Collogudos Historia de Yucatn (Cogolludo 1971: 242, Vol. 1), Diego de Landas Relacin de
las cosas de Yucatn (Tozzer 1941: 37-39), Fray Pedro Snchez de Aguilar Informe contra
idolorum cultures del Obispado de Yucatn (1639; 1892: 96) (Barrera Vsquez 1965: 72, note
17). Also The Codex Prez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man accounts that stones were
seated at the termination of time periods (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 126-127).
145A Short Count calendar comprises 13 katun (winikhaab) or c. 256 years.
146Kuch, cargo que trae el oficio y el mismo cargo y oficio, carga, culpa, cargo, gobierno
(Barrera Vsquez 1980: 342).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 125
lowing translation: it was fallen147 seated, (the reign) of 5 Ajaw and
at the completion148, it was the seating/government of the katun.
2. In the Chumayel appears the phrase: u cuch u ximbal katun, translated
by Thompson as the burden of the journey of the katun (Thompson
1978: 60). I prefer to translate this formula as: it was the seating (i.e.
end) of the journey149 of the katun, meaning that the old katun was
completed and a new was to be installed.
3. In Tizimin (page 9) and also in Man it is said: lai u lukul cuch hoote
u cuch ca ti luki ti yahaulil rendered by Roys as This is the removal of
his burden five is his burden, and then he departs from his reign,
which alludes to Katun 5 Ajaw (Thompson 1978: 60). Thompson does,
however, not reproduce the complete sentence. Replacing the transla-
tion of cuch by burden with instead of government or seating.
I translate this passage as: This is the removal150 of the seating or
government, which means that the old katun was no longer in reign.
The five was the seating and then he is liberated from his reign.
4. Page 9 of the Tizimin: u kax cuch katun ti ho ahau katun u lubul uale
tu hunte uil katun or (in Roys translation) the binding of the burden
[of] the katun in Katun 5 Ahau. It would fall in the first Katun (Thomp-
son 1978: 60).151 The translation of the term kax as binding, in: a
binding of the burden of the katun, is disputable in this frame of
reference. One could of course imagine, like Thompson, that the katun
was physically tied as a tumpline on the back of a carrier. But who was
going to bear the numbered katun? The phrase a binding of the gov-
ernment of the katun conveys that the reign of the old katun was
completed and is accordingly, in the light of my argument above, a
plausible theory. Another alternative rendition is to cross
or to pass, conveying that the katun was passed or terminated.

147Lub is translated as caer (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 463) or to fall.


148Tsok is translated by acabarse (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 887) or to complete; to
terminate.
149Ximbal, paseo; andar; caminar (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 944). Thus journey is a
quite good translation.
150Luk, quitar, librar, escaper, partir (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 465) or to remove.
151Also page 10 of the Tizimin [ti ah oxil kan tu hunte pop u kax cuch katun, On Lord
3 Kan on 1st of Pop the binding of the burden [of] the katun (Thompson 1978: 60)], page
11 of the Tizimin [tu kin u kaxal u cuch ah ho ahau, On the day of the binding of the burden
of Lord 5 Ahau (Thompson 1978: 60), and the sentence: u kax cuch katun the binding of
the burden of the katun and tu kin u kaxal u cuch ah ho Ahau, is translated as on the day
[or at the time] of the binding of the burden of Lord 5 Ahau (Thompson 1978: 125) incor-
porates a concept of binding (kax[al]) according to Thompson.
126 chapter one
Wichmann notes that kax (modern orthography) can be translated as
to settle giving u kax cuch katun, it was the settling of the reign of
the katun. If this is an accurate translation there is a parallel to the
expression u lubul, which we have seen appear in the context of kuch
katun. Lubul and kaxal can then conceivable both be rendered as
settling (Wichmann, personal communication, 2005). Hence, the
government of the katun was declared to have fallen (settled) or being
completed.
Considering the connotation of kuch as burden, the theory of Thompson
(and Roys) is not unreasonable when applied to the postclassic Yucatec
Maya. But also government and seating were associated notions sub-
sumed under the term kuch. In the present context, I argue that kuch al-
ludes to a seating of a time unit and simultaneously sovereignty (Katun
X Ajaw) symbolised by a stone regularly associated with a specific city
among the Yucatec in the postclassic and the colonial period. As I shall
elaborate in the next section, every katun was perceived to be under the
reign of a deity (Katun X Ajaw). To govern is associated with taking a
cargo or burden. Time was not conceived to be a purely abstract burden
in postclassic Yucatec Maya temporal philosophy, as Thompson asserted.
The concept of the cargo or burden rather symbolised the reign of different
katun (winikhaab) gods. Time deities, controlling time units, took turns in
the office (kuch) of a time period. I hypothesise that there was a ceremo-
nial homage to idols of these time deities at the change of a time interval
through what have been earlier designated as a ritual practice of time. We
can surmise that the same temporal philosophy also applied to the classic
Maya.

Agency of Deified (Sacred) Calendar Time


Sacred or deified time is not an unfamiliar phenomenon in religious tradi-
tions. Especially in the Indo-Iranian but also in Graeco-Roman and prob-
ably Egyptian religions, divine beings were thought to personify time
(Brandon 1965: 31-64).
Time units and numbers of various calendars were also believed to be
under influence of deities by many Mesoamericans. It is reason to believe
that the different calendarssolar year, lunar cycle, Venus cycle, the signs
for the days in the 260-day calendar, the veintena of the 365-day calendar,
The Lords of the Night, The Birds of the Day and The Lords of the Day
etc.were not only represented but also ruled by deities in Mesoamerican
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 127
temporal philosophy (Kelly 1977; Thompson 1978). A passage in The Book
of Chilam Balam of Chumayel describe the birth or creation of the 20 days:
Then they (the days) went to consider and spoke as follows . Then the
reason was sought by the first ruling day why the meaning of the word to
them was not repeated so that they could declare themselves. Then they
went to the centre of heaven and joined hands. One could hardly ask for a
clearer proof that the Maya regarded the days as animate and sentient beings
(Thompson 1978: 96).
Ethnography from various contemporary Maya groups convey that the
numbers and days of the 260-day calendar and of the 365-day calendar
were conceived deified (Lincoln 1942; Girard 1966; La Farge and Byers 1931;
Farge 1947; Goubaud Carrera 1935; Price 1964; Oakes 1969; Thompson 1978;
Neueswander 1981; Tedlock 1992).
Both the present-day Chorti and Kiche regard the days of the 260-day
calendar as deities (Girard 1966: 281). F. Nuez de la Vega (1702) describe
days of the Chiapan 260-day calendar as heathens or gentiles and of the
day sign 13 Tox as the devil (Thompson 1978: 96). The concept of the days
of the Kiche of Momostenango 260-day calendar constitute a personifica-
tion of a deity referred to as a lord who ruled each day. Goubaud Carrera
alleges that the religious specialist in Momostenango answers, when asked
of a given day in a calendar ritual, that it is a day of a lord (Sp. seor or
jefe). Goubaud Carrera quotes Leonard Schultze Jena recording152 of a
curing prayer to illustrate the personification of the days as lords (Goubaud
Carrera 1935: 42). The twenty Kiche day names of the 260-day calendar are
also, according to recent field research, by Barbara Tedlock considered to
be proper divine names. The day is addressed with the title ajaw. But among
the contemporary Kiche, only the four Year Bearer days, Mam, and their
two secretaries are active (Tedlock 1992: 107). The days or the godly patron
of the days in the 260-day divinity calendar decided the fate of that par-
ticular day. The names of the days in the calendar are considered to be
sacred and are reckoned by the Kiche in Momostenango as untranslatable.
It is the sound of the day-name and the poetic sound play, paronomasia,
which are important, and not what they signify (Tedlock 1992: 107). The
association of the 13 numbers with deities of the 260-day calendar has
survived in the Ixil culture of highland Guatemala. The 13 numbers and 20
day-names are both seen as sacred beings or deities who are worshiped
and petitioned in prayer. The 13 numbers, associated with the day, are

152Cf. Leben, Glaube und Sprache der Quiche von Guatemala (Schultze Jena 1933).
128 chapter one
called the Thirteen Kings. A calendar specialist in Nebaj said to the eth-
nographer J.S. Lincoln that: The 20 day names are the King (Lincoln 1942:
106-107). La Farge and Byers and Lincoln report that the days were consid-
ered to be sacred living beings in contemporary Jacalteca and Ixil cultures
(Lincoln 1942: 108). There was a deification of the 13 numbers, the 20 day-
deities and mountains in prayer. They were worshipped and petitioned
in prayer, together with the Holy Cross, God, Jesus Christ, the saints, the
sun, the corn, and certain mountains and animals (Lincoln 1942: 123-124).
It is quite exciting that La Farge and Byers have observed that the days of
the 260-day calendar were called he and not it in Jacaltenango:
When speaking of these day-names I have called them he instead of it,
and referred to them as being in charge of a day, or in the case of the year
bearer, coming into office. This is in strict accordance with local usage,
and also is done to emphasize the fact that strictly speaking these names
are not the names of days, but of men who control days . . . These twenty
men have charge of their respective days, the informants spoke of his day
. The soothsayers stated definitely that these men granted the prayers,
and would say of a given day-god he does so-and-so (La Farge and Byers
1931: 172-173).
There is then a divine ruler or lord of the day. Ku is a combination of a
word and number. The word is the name of a divinity which, in his turn,
rules over a day (Farge 1947: 171):
references to the names are always accompanied by the affix or title of
male spiritual beings, human and divine, nak or ko-mam. Also, a soothsayer
in speaking of the day controlled by a given lord is likely to speak of it as
his day (Farge 1947: 171).
The days are time-units when the respective divine beings or day-lords are
in power. They are: reinforced or weakened by the magic powers of their
associated numbers. According to their individual powers, they are also
more or less effective and more or less deserving of prayer during the days
of other lords (Farge 1947: 172).
There are several ethnographic examples of the divine nature of the
365-day calendar as well but dominated by sacred days, most of them Year
Bearers, from the 260-day calendar.153 The Year Bearer and the day Ahau
had an influence on prayer and the ceremonial observances throughout

153No mention of a deity of the 20-day unit of the 365-day calendar is stated in the
Books of the Chilam Balam but this is expected, claims Thompson, because a sequence of
katuns and not specific dates are stated in these chronicles (Thompson 1978: 153).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 129
the year among the Kanhobal speaking Maya of Santa Eulalia (Farge 1947:
165). In the 365-day calendar of the Mam village of Todos Santos every fifth
day is called an alcalde (regent). There are a total of four regents in a
twenty-day unit. These are the four alcaldes del mundo. The other sixteen
days of the twenty-day period are called mayores (minor officials). The
twenty days are all considered to be gods (Price 1964: 268-269). These are:
. farmer gods, who bring them rain and sunshine and fertility for the
crops. They also bring good health and happiness (Price 1964: 269). Maud
Oakes reports in her book The Two Crosses of Todos Santos (1969) of a Year
Bearer ceremony of the 365-day calendar performed in the Mam village of
Santiago Chimaltenango in the Cuchumatanes Mountains within the de-
partment of Huehuetenango of northwest Guatemala (Oakes 1969: 99-114).
The year of the Mam is founded upon the calendar of the religious special-
ists, the Chimanes.154 The twenty days of the 360 day-calendar constitute
deities where every fifth day is called an alcalde. There are four alcaldes
del mundo (tuit tor) (Oakes 1969: 100; 188):
These are powerful gods; the most powerful of the four is the day kman
(also called ee), while the others-noj, ik and tce-are co-equals. The Mam
year is always ushered in by one of the annually rotating alcaldes, and this
alcalde is chief alcalde for the year and reappears every twenty days (Oakes
1969: 100).
The other sixteen days or gods are called mayores and batz. The twentieth
day, batz (of the 260-day calendar) has a special significance in prayer. Batz
is especially regarded as important to the Mam and is second in importance
to the Alcaldes (Oakes 1969: 137; 188; 191; 256). The most important gods,
kman (Our little Father) are followed by noj, ik and tce, or the four al-
caldes del mundo corresponds to the names of the four most important
mountains surrounding Todos Santos (Oakes 1969: 190). The four Mam
regents, Kmane (the most important god or Year Bearer), Noj, Ik and Chej
(of the 260-day calendar) therefore are each associated with a world direc-
tion and a colour. As the most prominent day-lord Kmane is every twenty
day venerated with offerings of flowers and other objects, praying and the
burning of candles at the church and at the religious site of Cumanchun
(Price 1964: 269).

154The ceremonial calendar is denominated as guaxaklj xau, or the calendar of the


Chimanes. A year of 360 days is named abij. The 18 twenty days is tequin ij, or wen en ij, or
xau which can be translated as moon. A day is called ij, which also means sun (Oakes
1969: 99; 188).
130 chapter one
The twenty signs are divided into four groups of five each. In these twenty
sacred words are expressed all the basic forces of creation and destruction,
good and evil, yielding and immutable, operating in the world in society
and in the heart of man. Upon the concatenation of these forces in indi-
vidual lives depends the course of life and the destiny of the soul (Price
1964: 269).
The Achi of Cubulco, Baja Verapax department of the central highlands of
Guatemala divide the agricultural year into two halves, the beginning and
ending of the rainy season (alah) and the dry season (saih) (Neueswander
1981: 143-147). Saints are by the Achi considered to supervise the time peri-
ods. They are the owners of these periods and have taken over the function
of the ancient deities (Neueswander 1981: 149):
Whenever it rains on a saints day, the immediate response is that it came
from the saint in charge. Ceremonies in the honor of saints still are for the
purpose of elevating their day/their birth in the poetic language .: qa
yabbal uih, yakbal ralaxik our raising-means his day, raising-means his
birth (Neueswander 1981: 149).
Every date, which held an astronomical significance, have the names of
saints in many cultures of Mesoamerica (Neueswander 1981: 149-151). The
Ixil and the Jacalteca assign the four days of the Year Bearers a special title
of respect indicating that they are living beings. They are called our father,
or our father king (cubal rey), or by the Spanish word alcalde which can
be translated as mayor or chieftain (Thompson 1978: 96). The four Year
Bearer days or Mam, Quej, E, Noj, Ik, are also addressed as alcaldes in
Momostenango. They are assisted by two secretaries (ajtzib) called: Cat
and Tziquin (Tedlock 1992: 100).
It seems that a patron deity ruled the classic Maya 365-day calendar. A
supernatural 365-day calendar patron, who appears as the central element
of the so-called initial series introductory hieroglyph (ISIG), reigned over
each twenty-day unit or veintena (winal/winik) in the 365-day calendar.
The patron deities of 20-day units of the 365-calendar correspond loosely
in function to the day gods of the 260-day calendar. Only 18 of 19 patrons
of the veintenas have been identified because of the taboo of the 5 Way-
haab days. There were also patron gods of the veintena in the 365-day cal-
endar in the cultures of the Valley of Central Mexico (Durn 1967; 1972;
Sahagn 1950 1982). The Aztecs celebrated ritual feasts each veintena to
honour at least one deity. Attributes of the deities became the symbol of
the veintena , although a picture of the patron god more usually indi-
cates the period of 20 days (Thompson 1978: 105).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 131
Not only deities and human beings but also particular days and days of
the Year Bearer can have the masculine gender prefix aj, he. In passages
of the books of Chilam Balam of Tizimin, Chumayel and Kaua are special
days and a day of the Year Bearer given the prefix aj. But this was not a
general custom (Thompson 1978: 96). It also interesting, observes Thomp-
son, that The Book of Chilam Balam of Man contains the same reference
to a katun (winikhaab): ah oxlahun Ahau, he, 13 Ahau. The Book of Chi-
lam Balam of Tizimin outlines the katun as ah ho ahau, he of 5 katun and
the Man has ah oxlahun ahau, he of 13 Ahau. The Year Bearer of the 365-
day calendar is in the Tizimin called ah oxil kan, he of 3 Kan. The mascu-
line gender precedes the day names in the Chumayel and Kaua (Thompson
1978: 96).
The postclassic colonial Yucatec and contemporary ethnographic data
of the days, numbers and time units of the 260-day calendar and the 365-
day calendar seem to agree with the philosophy of sacred or deified time
of the Long Count calendar of the classic Maya. The numbers of the classic
Maya inscriptions were not only expressed by bars and dots but also by
portraits of gods, the so-called head variants. The 20 days were respec-
tively represented by 20 gods. A deification of periods of time and the
numbers of the Long Count calendar, where a range of gods embodied time
and numbers, were accordingly manifested in the inscriptions (Thompson
1956: 235-236; 1978: 1; 12). Periods of time were then regarded to be deities
or were under charge or patronage of a supernatural being.155 The full-
figures signs in the classic inscriptions of the Long Count might, even if
they did not symbolise a burden of time, illustrate that the time units and
numbers of this linear calendar were deified. But I warn against the meth-
odology of this explicationas I did concerning the pictographic evi-
dence for the time as a burden theory. The personified sign does not only
express numbers and units of time but also grammatical elements. There
are, however, other indications of the divine character of the time periods
of the Long Count calendar.
Avendao y Loyola asserts that the books and stones were associated
with the calendar where each time period had its particular idol and
religious specialist. In this connection he says that the Indigenous people
worshipped the devil, i.e. the time deities in the form of stones (Means

155Thompson has described the identification of the numbers with deities in great
detail (Thompson 1978: 88-89; 93; 131-137).
132 chapter one
1917: 141; Roys 1933: 142, note 5; 184; Avendao 1997: 42). Avendno y Loyola
writes of the katun cycle of the Itza in the late seventeenth century that
he had seen books with:
ages and prophecies which their idols and images announced to them,
or, to speak more accurately, the devil by means of the worship which they
pay to him in the form of some stones. These ages are thirteen in number;
each has its separate idol and its priest, with a separate prophecy of its
events. These thirteen ages are divided into thirteen parts which divide this
kingdom of Yucatn and each age, with its idol, priest and prophecy, rules
in one of these thirteen parts of the land, according as they have divided it
(Means 1917: 141).
The expression Katun X Ajaw refers to not only the stone but also an idol
representing the old and new time unit. The idol of Katun 7 Ajaw was for
instance ceremonially removed and replaced (seated) by the idol of
Katun 5 Ajaw. In the Katun ceremony two idols share the power for about
10 years. Landa writes that:
They worshipped and offered homage and sacrifices to the first, , as a
remedy for the calamities of their twenty years. But for the ten years, which
remained of the twenty of the first idol, they did not do anything for him
more than to burn incense to him and to show him respect. When the
twenty years of the first idol had passed, he began to be succeeded by the
destinies of the second and (they began) to offer him sacrifices, and having
taken away that first idol, they put another in its place, in order to worship
that for ten more years (Tozzer 1941: 168).
Landa accounts that the Yucatec had idols of deities, placed in temples,
dedicated to each katun. Representing the individual katun, these idols
were worshipped by the Yucatecs (Tozzer 1941: 168-169). A divine influence
of the time-periods affected the daily life of the people. A deity ruled over
every 13 katun named after the day (Ajaw) (Thompson 1978: 181-182). Seat-
ing of gods at time intervals are described in The Codex Prez and The Book
of Chilam Balam of Man, where the seating of a patron deity of a katun as
the reigning lord, with symbols of government, a cup, mat, throne and bed,
is outlined (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 102; 106, note 146). The reign of
Amayte Ku (Katun 5 Ajaw) is over:
On 10 Ix, 1 Pop, during the Katn 5 Ahau, there fell from heaven the fan and
the bouquet of the ruler. When Amayte Ku was seated, he was firmly estab-
lished in his coming command, at his cup, on his mat, on his throne and
on his bed. Then his command was taken away; he was forsaken at the time
when one worked stone was placed upon another, and he relinquished the
language (law?) he had known since birth. It was the time for arranging the
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 133
calendar (setting the order of the Katn). It was a time in which Ah Piltec
(He-who-opens-the-eyes) asked for charity and the burner (Ahtoc) gathered
his fire, which has the heat of the sun. The priest kept watch; with sorrow-
ful face he looked at his father (or lord), who was given a mat opposite him
and who was always seen fasting with his eyes on heaven. The soul of Aj
Siyahtun-Chac cried out. It was the time when it was determined which
Katn should follow Katn 5 Ahau, the time to implore the intercession of
Ah Nitoe and Ah Mazuy. The following day Ah Kinchil descended (Craine
and Reindorp 1979: 106-107).
The god of Katun 5, Amayte Ku, is first seated with his symbols of power:
the mat, cup, thorn and bed. His time is up and he is replaced with the next
katun Lord or Regent (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 106, notes 146, 147 & 148).
Roys comments that there is a mention in Books of Chilam Balam of a
plate or a cup of the Katun that was set up. This is probably associated
with the rituals with the idols of the Katun accounted by Landa. The
plate or the cup may symbolise the numerical coefficient of the day of
the Ajaw (of the 260-day calendar), which gave the Katun its name and
identity (Roys 1933: 101, note 1). The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel
characterise the deities as the face or countenance of the katun (Roys 1933:
151, note 3) in this way: Katun 11 Ahau is set upon the mat, set upon the
throne, when their ruler is set up. Yaxal Chac is its face to their ruler (Roys
1933: 77). We can later read in the same book that: Katun 11 Ahau is estab-
lished at Ichcaanzihoo. Yax-haal Chac is its face (Roys 1933: 133).156 More-
over, Don Juan Perez accounts that:
At the end of each Ajau Katun, or period of 24 years, says a manuscript,
great feasts were celebrated in honour of the god thereof, and a statue of
a god was put up, with letters and inscriptions (Stephens 1843: 286-287,
Vol. 1).
The Maya had in the temple two idols, each carry the name of the actual
katun period it ruled, dedicated each to a katun period. The Book of Chilam
Balam of Chumayel states that:
This katun today is Katun 3 Ahau. The time has come for the end of its rule
and reign. It is finished. Another one <takes its place> for a time. This is
Katun 1 Ahau, which is set within the house of Katun 3 Ahau. There it is its
guest, while it is given its power by Katun 3 Ahau (Roys 1933: 89).

156Ichcaanzihoo is the Maya name of Merida also called Tihoo (Roys 1933: 133, note 2).
134 chapter one
Also following the 365-day calendar, as delineated by Landa, the Maya make
a clay figure of the deity of the (365-day calendar) year and place it in the
temple where it will reign for the haab year (Tozzer 1941: 139-142).
The time components of the 260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar, the
Short Count calendar and the Long Count calendar were therefore regard-
ed by the Maya to be divine. The deities were, however, not passively per-
sonifying time. They played an active role in the completion and
re-inauguration of period-endings. We have seen that various supernatu-
ral beings acted at the last period-ending date of the former Long Count,
13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl (Kumku). Inscriptions outline that supernormal
beings ended and inaugurated time intervals in preceding Long Count eras
and also performed temporal interval rituals in the contemporary Long
Count. For instance, the inscription on Stela 7, Copan records a kaltun-
ritual, conduced by the two Paddler gods and the Ik (wind) god, on the
date 9.9.0.0.0 2 Ajaw 3 Suutz (May 10, 613 AD) (Schele 1987: 200-201). The
Wind god (Ik) is named u tzutz pik or kalabtun (B8). He may be a patron
of this period of time. The deities were also present as participants in ritu-
als or by being conjured in these types of ceremonies.
A passage (B12-B14) related to the half period-ending date of 9.0.10.0.0
in the quite long inscription on Stela 31, Tikal is transcribed according to
Stuart as: tahnlamaj jun pik chan(al) kuh kab(al) kuh translated as: the
eight thousand heavenly deities and earthly deities half-diminished. In
addition other deities are mentioned with the eight thousand heavenly
deities and earthly deities: The Paddler Gods, the wind god, the sun god,
the Principal Bird Deity and Bolon Tzakab Ajaw. A later abbreviated pas-
sage of the same inscription (E24-F27) also says that eight thousand heav-
enly deities and earthly deities were associated with the half-period ending
of 8.18.10.0.0.157 Stuart believes that not abstract (half winikhaab) but divine
time, embodied by deities, is being diminished by the passage of temporal
units. A ritual renewal or regeneration by ritual practice of time is therefore
necessary. The Tikal lord Siyaj Chan Kawiil is said to oversee or tending to
the diminishing time unit (or temporal deities) (u kabij) by performing
a renewing or regeneration ritual at change of the winikhaab period
on 9.0.10.0.0 (Stuart 2011b: 2-4). Bruce Love (2011) adds to Stuarts propos-

157Cf. also the date: 8.19.10.0.0. 9 Ajaw 3 Muwan in the same inscription where the ruler
is said to bind a stone after the deities half-diminished time: tanlamaj jun pik kuh kab kuh
chan kalajtuun Siyaj Chan Kawiil (H7-G9).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 135
al158 by comparing this with how katun (winikhaab) and other time deities
(of the 365-day calendar year) are being outlined by Landa and illustrated
in the Paris, Dresden and Madrid codices as loosing power and being
replaced by other temporal deities. This transitional process is overseen or
tended by the ruler Tikal lord Siyaj Chan Kawiil. I find, however, this ex-
planation problematic because Stuart argues that the suffix aj makes
tahnlam an intransitive verb followed by the subject e.g. the various deities
(Stuart 2011b: 2): making the passage a VS and not a VO sentence. Conse-
quently it is 8000 deities etc. as agents whom half diminished the winikhaab
followed by a overseeing or a ritual by the Maya lord. This is another ex-
ample of the agency or active role of deities at ritual practices of time.
The calendar systems and the numbers of the classic Maya were not
lifeless, abstract or purely mathematical (quantitative) but derived from,
pervaded by and practiced by the agency of various supernatural beings.
It is for that reason reasonable to assume that the ritual practice of the
Long Count calendar was conducted in order to complete old and inaugu-
rate new intervals of deified/sacred linear time.

The Ritual Practice of Structuring Divine Linear Time and the Symbolic
Temporal Status of the 260-day Calendar
Time of the Long Count calendar had both political and religious value but
apparently not necessarily for all solid strata of classic Maya society. The
aristocratic elite presumably exclusively employed the Long Count calen-
dar. I argue that there must be a common rationale, not only political and
sociological, of why time came to be such an essential religious-political
constituent of classic Maya philosophy and why certain intervals of time
in a linear calendar were emphasised ritually.
I propose two interrelated theories explicating classic Maya ritual prac-
tice of various time intervals of the Long Count calendar. Firstly, this
constituted a chronovisionary methodology of structuring and thereby
venerating interval deified linear time. Secondly, it was a ceremonial cel-
ebration honouring the extraordinary status and role of the sacred time
station Ajaw of the fundamental 260-day calendar in combination with
zero dates at various period-endings of time intervals integrated within

158http://decipherment.wordpress.com/2011/04/21/some-working-notes-on-the-text-
of-tikal-stela-31/#comments
136 chapter one
the temporal system of the Long Count calendar. Let us first consider the
hypothesis about creating order and structure of deified linear time.

Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (Anti-Structure): A Ritual Organising of


Interval Deified Linear Time
That time was considered to be deified seems to have been the reason why
the lords and some members of the elite celebrated temporal rituals as
public political manifestations legitimating their claim to authority and
power. The sovereign and the high nobility (i.e. the dynastic lineage and
allies of the kuhul ajaw) appeared, in their capacity as religious specialists
and ritual experts, as the guarantee and foundation for order and civilisa-
tion in order to avert (ontological) temporal chaos.
The ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar created order
(structure) out of disorder (anti-structure) of deified linear time. This chro-
novisionary philosophy was executed under the control and supervision
of the political and military ruler and elite whom both acted as the ritual
performers, participants and witnesses. Schele and Mathews has champi-
oned the idea that it was the rituals enacted in association with the time
posts that gave regularity and symmetry to the passage of time (Schele
and Mathews 1998: 108). It is reason to assume a ritual obligation to observe
deified time was motivated by the determination to create order out of
disorder. Ritual practices created a structure of time, an entity that was
sacred or deified, in order to maintain the harmony of the cosmos. Louise
M. Burkhart claims that there existed a notion of Mesoamerican dialectic
of order and chaos, structure and anti-structure, a dichotomy of the centre
and periphery. This was not an eternal structure. Order was temporary and
incomplete in a developing process and movement (Burkhart 1987: 28; 34-
39). Not only space but also time was defined and structured through ritu-
als. The period-endings operated not only as chronological time-anchors
where period-ending dates certainly secured time of the linear calendar
in the longer narrative inscriptions. The accompanied rituals to the period-
ending dates denoted time in the linear calendar and thereby created
structure out of anti-structure. The Mesoamerican idea of order versus
disorder is indeed related with their concept of time according to Farriss
(Farriss 1987: 574). Ritual observance creates structure where anti-structure
simply threatens human existence.159

159It is quite fascinating that certain rituals of time were commented by the Maya to
have not been conducted at the end of the period-ending. The ritual practice on 9.9.0.0.0
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 137
Ordering of time is one function of the ritual or festival, as Leach for-
mulates it; time is measured, organised and constructed through a creation
of a succession of ceremonies in social life (Leach 1968: 134-135). The rituals
of time were the chronometer and creator of the Long Count calendar
because these practices demark time. The linear character of the Long
Count calendar contributes to explain the rituals. The ritual language in
the inscriptions of the temporal ceremonies of the Long Count calendar
did not delineate an ending of a cycle but the completion and inauguration
of intervals within a linear sequence. The ritual practices were as a conse-
quence not calendar-ending. Deified linear time, which had no evident
termination, was defined, organised and venerated through the rituals.
Temporal rituals of intervals within the Long Count calendar created a
structure in the linear sequence, the sacred chronology of time. The rituals
define linear time.
As noted, the linear Long Count calendar has no perceivable or recog-
nised culmination. The period-ending dates only constitute stations
which organised time through ritual. This temporal conception can con-
tribute to explain the commemoration of past period-endings and of the
statements of future period-ending dates and their related rituals. The
ritual practice of time was not just celebrations of completed periods of
the pastalready experienced time intervals of the linear Long Count
calendar. A political and social commemoration of rituals of previous time
stations was recorded in the inscriptions (Stuart 1996: 154). Important dates
were observed in illustrations and inscriptions, like the founding of the
city, of the dynastic lineage and the life of the individual ruler and his/her
ancestors and kinship. Rituals of time of past period-endings in the life-
time of a sovereign, of previous lords, ancestors like dynastic founders and

3 Ajaw 3 Suutz (10 May 613 AD) was not undertaken according to a passage on The East
Tablet of The Temple of the Inscriptions, Palenque. The formula satay kuhul ixik, satay
ajaw, lost is the divine Lady, lost is the lord (Q8-P9) probably signifies the bereavement
of the idols of the Palenque Triad from Palenque. A deity was not adorned, ma u nawaj,
(O10-O11) and there was not performed an offering, ma yakaw u tutal, he does not give the
tutal to various deities (P11-R6), expressed for the lacking period-ending celebration of
9.9.0.0.0 in Palenque, because of attacks against this city from Pipa (Grube 1996: 5-6; Mar-
tin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-18). There was also stated machaj chum tun, No seating of
the stone on the date 9.18.13.0.0 11 Ajaw 13 Yax (August 2, 803 AD), in the inscription on The
Temple of the Inscriptions, East side (M1-N5) of Palenque. This lack of ritual observance
may have been caused by the attack by Calakmul, which happened seven years in advance
(Martin, Zender and Grube 2002: II-16). This caused disorder and anti-structure for Palenque
society. How were the religious specialists of Palenque able to symbolically repair this
damage other than explaining the reason why they did not conduct the prescribed tempo-
ral ritual?
138 chapter one
deities of former Long Counts were also remembered in the inscriptions.
The calendar observed ceremonially, by repetition or recapitulation in
commemorative rituals, constitute a recollection of the past. Our experi-
ence of the present largely depends upon our knowledge of the past (cog-
nitive memory). The social memory or the shared memory of a society of
the past legitimates the present social order according to Connerton (Con-
nerton 1989: 2-3; 61).
As we have seen there was no eschatological philosophy behind the
ritual practice of time of the Long Count calendar, which is confirmed by
registering the ritual practice of time of the future in the scriptures. Why
conduct ritual practice of time of the present to avoid a possible cosmic
disaster, when it was recorded, and hence believed, that there would be
rituals celebrated in the future? The future was also structured ritually
through ceremonies. Another argument against an eschatological theory
explaining the ritual practice of time is that the stone monument was not
only time-keeping solitary period-endings. A variety of ritualsof the
present, of the past and of the futurewere recorded. This is mirrored in
the depiction of various ritual performers. The two-sided stela and scenes
with various protagonists illustrates both the ritual specialist of time of the
past and of the present. It is hence a structure of a ritual-symbolical com-
memoration where the past and the future are associated with the con-
temporaneous ritual observance. Time is shaped ritually to create structure.
The ordering and structuring of deified linear time may then have been an
observance intimately connected to the reverence of the Time Deities. The
sacred quality, and not only the quantity, of time were accordingly signifi-
cant. Structuring the passage of time by ritual symbolic acts could be ex-
ecuted through an interaction with divine beings. This represents an
interesting and puzzling circumstance that can explain that deities were
related in the inscriptions to perform ritual practice of time, simply to cre-
ate order and structure. Consequently, not only a social or political motiva-
tion of the governing body but an interconnected deeper philosophical
and religious (ontological) meaning explains the ritual practice of time of
the classic Maya Long calendar.

The Ritual Temporal Symbolism of the Ajaw Station of the 260-day


Calendar
I put forward the hypothesis that linear Long Count calendar time was
symbolically governed by the cyclical 260-day calendar. This is manifested
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 139
by a ritually celebration of the station Ajaw of the 260-day calendar inti-
mately combined with zero dates of specific time periods, so-called peri-
od-endings, of the Long Count calendar in classic Maya temporal
philosophy.
First we must consider the Mesoamerican mathematical and philo-
sophical concept of zero (Lat. Ne ullus, nothing) in the calendar system.
The concept of zero may have had religious symbolic importance in the
Mesoamerican temporal and vigesimal (base twenty) numerical position-
al system. The concept and positional value of zero, recorded at the begin-
ning of the first centuries in India, came to 12th century Europe through
the Hindu-Arabic numeral and positional system.160 A mathematical sys-
tem consisting of the concept of zero was invented in Middle America (aka
Mesoamerica) independent of India. The Mesoamerican mathematical
and philosophical concept of zero is recorded in the classic Maya inscrip-
tions as mih with the meaning nothing. The meaning and symbol for the
digit zero as placeholder in a place values system was possibly conceived
by the earlier Olmec civilisation (Grube and Nahm 1990; Justeson 2010:
49-50).161 Zero is a symbol for nothingness or the absence of existence but
also completion. The position shift is made at twenty and not at ten, which
we know from the European decimal system (base ten). This is illustrated
by the 365-day calendar. The 365-day calendar was organised as a cycle
incorporating a last (4 Wayhaab) and first (1 Kanjalaw) day of the 365-day
year. The Maya started the new veintena with a day, a zero day, before the
first day of the new veintena. The coefficients are therefore 019, in every
of the 18 winik, e.g. KanjalawOhl and 04 in Wayhaab. The first day of the
year was thus seating of Kanjalaw the second day was 1 Kanjalaw etc. The
last day of the 365-day year was 4 Wayhaab. The installing of Kanjalaw
(chum/cum) and the end of Wayhaab (ti) alludes to the same day. A new

160Bourbaki, Nicolas. Elements of the History of Mathematics. Berlin, Heidelberg, and


New York: Springer-Verlag 1994: 45-46; algebra. Encyclopdia Britannica. Encyclopdia
Britannica Online Academic Edition. Encyclopdia Britannica Inc. , 2012. Web. 27 Oct. 2012.
<http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/14885/algebra>.
161We remember that the Epi-Olmec culture (c. 300 BC c. 250 AD) in the central region
of Veracruz of Mexico was a successor to the Olmec civilisation (c. 1200 BC to c. 400 BC) in
the Gulf coast region of southern Mexico. The Olmec are probably the predecessor of the
present day Mixe and Zoque cultures of Oaxaca and Chiapas, Mexico.
140 chapter one
veintena was installed or seated when the new veintenas first day and last
day of the previous veintena overlapped.162 Chum of the cyclic 365-cay
calendar do not, however, represent zero or twenty but the transition be-
tween the 19th of the preceding time period and the first day of the suc-
ceeding time unit (Blume 2011: 65-66).163 A notion of a beginning or an end
did consequently not exist. This system follows a cyclic and not a linear
logic where the days of the veintena were counted in terms of elapsed time
and not present time. The day only received a coefficient when it had been
completed. Kanjalaw replaced i Kanjalaw as the seating of Kanjalaw or
the first day of the New Year (Wichmann 2000: 49; Bricker and Miram 2002:
39-40). It is intriguing that the endings of stations within the cyclic 365-day
calendar, by the word chum or seating in the inscriptions, has the sense
of both a beginning and a termination, which indicates a horror vacui
philosophy of time. The verb chum had a special significance because it
alludes to the seating of both the old and new time unit. It is, in this con-
nection, striking that the world or time of the contemporary world age or
time era was said to have been created, not on the date 0.0.0.0.0, but on the
last day of the previous Long Count calendar, 13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl
(Kumku).
It is indeed fascinating that ritual practice of time could as noted only
be celebrated on the day-sign Ajaw, which is the twentieth sign of the 260-
day calendar, and only when one of the interval time units were at zero
position of the Long Count calendar. But had zero a symbolic significance
in celebrating the rituals of time of this linear calendar?164 Zero, repre-
sented by one of several signs (Stuart 2012c), as aforementioned is read as
mih with the meaning nothing (Grube and Nahm 1990)165 but Justeson
hypothesis this word to be an adjectival predication signifying lacking or
no, which indicates a non-existence of certain time periods within the
Long Count notation (Kaufman with Justeson 2003: 1553; Justeson 2010:
49-50). Mih in a non-calendrical context is recorded on the Hieroglyphic

162This phenomenon was designed in the classic Maya inscriptions as the end of (ti:
mouth, edge and haab: year; ti haab: the limit of the year) (Wichmann 2000: 49).
163Cf. also kaab or end of, which only occurs in the number position of the 365-day
calendar count of the Calendar Round.
164For works about numerology and zero in other cultures cf. for instance Christoma-
lis 2010; Bag and Sarma 2003; Ifrah 2000; Seife 2000; Urton 1997; Rotman 1993.
165Blume (2011) has written a research history of the zero signs in the Maya logosyllabic
system.
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 141
Stairway, Copan in the collocations: mi-temple, mi-altar, mi-kab-chen?,
which can be translated as no pyramid, no altar, no earth/cave (Hull 2003:
464). Mih outlines moreover absence of tribute according to an inscription
on a vase (Grube and Nahm 1994: 699). Interestingly, mih of the vigesimal
numerical notation system only appears with calendar and astronomical
mathematics and not with trade and tribute in the extant inscriptions. The
place notation system of the Long Count calendar was restricted to time
reckoning, and never applied to the purely vigesimal counting structure
reflected in Mayan languages (Blume 2011: 61; Stuart 2012c). As noted, Mih
may in a calendar context refer symbolically not only nothingness but also
completion. A calligraphic variant at Xultun and Pomona Panel 7 might be
associated with the concept pet, totality suggesting zero as a number
position that has reached its totality according to Stuart (Stuart 2012c).
As I shall argue in the concluding section of the book, the 260-day cal-
endar is the principal Mesoamerican calendar. This calendar exercise influ-
ence upon other Mesoamerican calendars: the 365-day calendar, the
52-year calendar and the Long Count calendar. The 260-day calendar was
associated not only with other calendars but also with personal names and
world ages in various cultures of Mesoamerica. The mathematical compo-
sition of the 260-day calendari.e. 20 days multiplied with 13 numbers =
260reflect the numerical organisation of the previous Long Count cal-
endar, which vigesimal units ended with the number 13. 20 k'in constitute
1 winal, 20 tun make 1 winikhaab, 20 winikhaab compose 1 pik. The excep-
tion to this symbolic mathematical principle is that 18 winal represent 1
tun (360 days), which exhibit 360 days of the Mesoamerican 365-day cal-
endar. Furthermore, we recollect that a multitude of Long Counts or time
ages (world eras) had existed before the present time era. Stelae 1, 3 and 5
of Coba record the beginning of the contemporary Long Count era, 13.0.0.0.0
4 Ajaw 8 Ohl, in relation with twenty Long Counts set at 13. It is probably
not coincident that the coefficients 13 20 equal the components of the
260-day calendar.166
The later postclassic Short Count calendar consists of 13 katun
(winikhaab) or 13 7200 (vigesimal) or c. 256, 43 years because there can

166The pik and higher units do not exceed the number 13 according to the inscriptions
from stelae 1, 3 and 5 from Coba. It is interesting that the previous higher units of the Coba
stelae have 13 as its highest number and that there are 20 different units with this coefficient.
13 20 = 260-day calendar (Stuart 2011: 236).
142 chapter one
only be 13 Ajaw days from the 260-day calendar. The cyclical Short Count
calendar make history repeats itself as prophecies at 13 possible period-
endings after the important day-name Ajaw of the 260-day calendar. The
Long Count calendar and the Short Count calendar are accordingly arith-
metically founded upon the coefficients 13 and 20, which together compose
the 260-day calendar.
That every period-ending date of the Long Count calendar is identified
with the twentieth day of the 260-day calendar Ajaw is hardly a coinci-
dence. On the other hand, the first day of the time units within the Long
Count calendar is always Imix (Taube 1988: 204-206). Imix do not seem,
however, to have enjoyed a similar symbolic prominence in the ritual in-
scriptions. Incontestably, it is symbolically significant that Ajaw, lord, was
a title of the regent of the classic Maya city or city-state.
In Mesoamerica only the Maya 260-day calendars, like the classic Maya
and Yucatec, contain a word for ruler or lord (ajaw). The apparently last
day-name of the Mixtec 260-day calendar is according to special day-sign
vocabulary in the dictionary of Alvarado huaco, flower (Dahlgren 1954:
367; Smith 1973: 24-25). The Zapotec culture employ Lao, Loo, face (Cor-
dova [1578] 1987: 204-212; Caso 1967: 84)167, the Otom apply andoeni, flow-
er (Caso 1967), the Mixe has jugwin or bee, fontanelle, point, eye
(Caso 1967; Lipp 1991: 63) whereas the Aztec use xochitl or flower as the
apparent last day-name of the 260-day calendar (Caso 1967).168 In some
Maya 260-day calendars, however, the day Ajaw is replaced by junajpub or
junajpu ((hun)ahpu) (cf. Thompson 1978: 68; 87-88). The literal translation
of Junajpub or Junajpu is One Man Blow-gunner.169
The classic Maya celebrate the day-name Ajaw at period-endings in
ritual practices of time at many different intervals of the Long Count cal-
endar (according to local traditions). As we saw from various inscriptions
there were no established synchronisation with the date of creation
(13.0.0.0.0 4 Ajaw 8 Ohl) but a commemoration with identical Ajaw dates
of not only the contemporary Long Count but as well with previous Long

167Cf. Urcid for a reconstruction in the writing system of the Zapotec 260-day calendar
(2001: 79-278).
168Alfredo Caso has collected lists of day-names of the 260-day calendar from various
cultures of Mesoamerica (Caso 1967: Table IX).
169The verb pubaj means to blowgun that is to say hunt with a blowgun. Jun means
One. A person who uses a blowgun is an AjPub or AjPu: a blow-gunning man. The name,
Junajpu or Junajpub, is found in the Popol Wuj as one of the hero twins who both have
blowgunners (Vincent Stanzione p.c. 2011).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 143
Counts in Deep Time or Great Time. Like-in-kind connections between
past, contemporary and future period-ending dates with equivalent Ajaw
positions were recorded. This principle of pattern history, where identical
Ajaw stations are symmetrically repeated or commemorated, related to the
pivotal ritual practice of time, is surely no coincidence but has strong reli-
gious symbolic and temporal significance. Consequently, the anniversaries
of identical Ajaw dates suggest the importance of the cyclical 260-day cal-
endar as related to the linear Long Count calendar.170 Moreover, inscrip-
tions on numbered stones and discs with Ajaw notations, X Ajaw Tuun,
were seated or erected represented period-ending stations and time in-
tervals of the Long Count calendar and the Short Count calendar respec-
tively. This is also much later recorded in the The Books of the Chilam Balam
from the early colonial period.
Another indication of the ritual-symbolic importance of the day-station
Ajaw of the 260-day calendar is that this day-sign consistently appear in
the so-called Cord-taking, rituals (cf. Stuart 2000). These were connected
to events 2.9.0 (i.e. 900 days) after the ending of a winikhaab. In the Stucco
inscription from Temple XIX at Palenque there is a numerological pattern
that link three Ajaw dates in chronological order:
9.13.17.9.0 3 Ajaw 3 Yaxkin
9.14.0.0.0 6 Ajaw 13 Muwan
9.14.2.9.0 9 Ajaw 18 Kasew (Stuart 2000: 1).

There are several indications that the inscription outline a retrospective


pre-accession ritual which involve the prospective ajaw (Stuart 2000:
5-6).171 It is hardly no coincidence that the three associated ceremonies,

170The La Corona Panel 1 sharing the same pattern date of 4 Kan of the 260-day calen-
dar display that other time stations, than Ajaw of the 260-day calendar, were emphasised
by the classic Maya. Cf. also Stuart about the symbolic pattern of the day 9 Ik of the 260-day
calendar in the history of Palenque (Stuart 2006b: 183-185).
171These ceremonial actions, including an obscure involvement of the deity GII, took
about 5 years. The rituals are delineated by the not deciphered Heron sign. This sign is
related conceptually to the water bird costume worn by the protagonist, Upakal Kihnich.
The bird-man and cord taking sign can both have outlined a ritual that found place every
900 days or at a 1/8th of a winikhaab-period. Celebration of a commemoration of the 1/8th
of a winikhaab-period is identified, they are of the self-evident kind, in a variety of inscrip-
tions from Tonina and Palenque. The inscription of Stela J, Copan encloses a list of indi-
vidual tuns within the winikhaab period. The tun has each their own designation. Three
of these terms describe actions or rituals involving the word cham or kam, take, receive,
perhaps strengthening the notion that cord taking event is a similar sort of term used to
designate or describe a set period or sub-division of the Katun (Stuart 2000: 5-6).
144 chapter one
which were all separated by the same time period, are related to the day-
sign Ajaw of the 260-day calendar.
Schele and Looper have worked out the dates of the complicated inscrip-
tion on Stela J, Copan where the day-station Ajaw of the 260-day calendar
plays a significant role. The first date is 9.0.18.0.0 1 Ajaw 3 Mol (September
5, 453 AD). Then 1 Ajaw is projected 14 pik back into the previous Long Count
to the date 8.0.18.0.0 2 Ajaw 18 Ikat. The inscription continues to a comple-
tion of 13 pik and to the date 9.0.18.0.0 1 Ajaw 8 Chaksihom of the past Long
Count which correspond to the historical date of the contemporary Long
Count (Schele and Looper 1996: 104). Moreover, the north and south side
of Stela J records period-ending expressions of from 9.0.18.0.0 1 Ajaw 3
Mol into the future (Schele and Mathews 1998: 138; Newsome 2001: 78; 87-
90). Haab or tun counts were known from many sources in the postclassic
and colonial period where they had a historical content with a relation to
prophecy and to predicting omens. The inscription on Stela J display that
also the classic Maya recorded a haab series, which were recorded as a
prophecy (Love 1994: 36-38). Love argues that:
Marking the passage of tuns was important, but the function of such counts
in Maya society remains elusive. Numbered tuns very likely had their own
omens which coloured predictions and prognostication for upcoming events
(Love 1994: 38).
Personal names from the 260-day calendar were not common among the
classic Maya according to the extant inscriptions. But the previously noted
inscription from Palenque state that the lord Kan Joy Chitam [II] carry the
title huk ajaw tan-lam, the half-diminisher of 7 Ajaw in celebrating the
completion of a half-period containg the date 7 Ajaw of the 260-day calen-
dar. The tan-lam (to diminish in the middle) formula in various inscrip-
tions suggests that it is the Ajaw position of the 260-day calendar, not the
ritual specialist, which possesses the linear time of the Long Count calen-
dar.
We saw that in his analysis of the half-period hieroglyph or tan-lam,
Wichmann has detected that time units held possessive relations172 (Wich-
mann 2004: 637-638, note 6). The il suffix imply that it is a close connection
between the possessed object and the possessor of the object. Such an
inalienable connection is only relevant between a half-period and a full
time period: The middle-diminish of pik and winikhaab. Various inscrip-

172Cf. Houston, Robertson and Stuart (2001: 26-32).


the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 145
tions contain a grammatical pattern where the possessor is, not the ritual
performer, but another calendar time computation like for instance:
u-lam-il 6 Ajaw, It is the diminishing of the middle of 6 Ajaw. Stucco Relief,
(pC1-pD1), Tonina (Houston, Robertson and Stuart 2001: 30, Table 7).173
We see here that the time period of the Long Count calendar is marked by
the Ajaw position of the 260-day calendar. I hypothesise that the gram-
matical pattern cited above highlights the importance of the Ajaw position
of the 260-day calendar. It is this cyclic position, which owns linear time.
For instance, the ritual scattering (u chok) is outlined executed on 10 Ajaw
of the 260-day calendar (9.15.5.0.0 and 9.18.10.0.0) according to the inscrip-
tion on Stela I, Quirigua (A9). This ritual formula conveys the importance
of the Ajaw station of the ritual practice of time of the Long Count calen-
dar. We have previously seen that there was a ritual emulation of incidents
and ceremonies, of both former Long Counts and of the present Long
Count, on the exact same Ajaw date of the 260-calendar, i.e. pattern dates.
As noted it is compelling that this central position of the 260-day calendar,
which mathematically was the ending date of period-endings within the
Long Count calendar, had the same name as the title of the classic Maya
political-military sovereign and religious ritual specialist. An intimately
symbolic religious-political connection, expressed by the concept Ajaw,
between the ritual practice of time and of government is therefore conceiv-
able. Stuart claims that Stela 11, Piedras Negras represent the winikhaab
(katun) when the accession of the depicted lord took place. The seated
ruler is portrayed with an object containing the date 4 Ajaw, which refer to
the period-ending date 9.15.0.0.0 (Taube et al. 2010: 69). This demonstrates
the intimate relation between the lord (ajaw), the 260-day calendar and
the Long Count calendar. It is no coincidence that Ajaw constitute the title
of the ruler or rulers of the classic Maya city-states. The ruling lord is gen-
erally the religious specialist who executes the crucial rituals of time. We
have seen that in some cases both the stone marking the period-ending
period and the celebrating lord share the same X Ajaw Tun title. Further-
more, the expression ajaw-yan, becoming a lord, convey the notion of a
new winikhaab in Palenque. Time notations with Ajaw dates are known to
be inscribed (tattoed) on the body/face of various lords. There are also

173u-tan-lam-il 2 Ajaw (9.3.10.0.0) (Stela 22, B3, Waxaktun); VERB t-u-tan-lam-il 8 Ajaw
(9.12.10.0.0) (Stela 6, Copan); VERB t-u-tan-lam-il 8 Ajaw (9.6.10.0.0) (Stela 1, TUL) (Wichmann
2004: 637).
146 chapter one
iconographic identification between the day sign Ajaw and portraits of
lords in day cartouches displaying a common identity. As aforementioned
accession to office ritual of the ajaw has the same verbal formulas of inau-
guration as period-endings (chum, seating and kal, binding).
The collection of written sources exhibit a principle symbolic temporal
importance of the twentieth day (Ajaw) of the classic Maya 260-calendar,
in combination with various period-endings marked by zero/twenty of
the Long Count calendar, which was required to be ritually observed.

Figure 1:Map of Mesoamerica with cultures of the analysis.


the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 147

Figure 2:T153-T217 & T220 & MZP-ba from Stela C, Quirigua (East side) (B6).
Autograph by Matthew G. Looper (Looper 2003: 159, fig. 5.1).

Figure 3:Vase of the Seven Gods, K2796. Photograph by Justin Kerr, 2001 (Kerr 2001: http://
famsi.famsi.org:9500/dataSpark/MayaVase.
148 chapter one

Figure 4:Full-figure signs of pik (baktun), winikhaab (katun) and haab (tun).
Autograph by Miss Kisa Noguchi (Thompson 1950: fig. 28).
the long count calendar of the classic maya civilisation 149

Figure 5:Full-figure signs of winal/winik, kin and Lunar Series.


Autograph by Miss Kisa Noguchi (Thompson 1950: fig. 29).
150 chapter one

Figure 6:Female figure as Ajaw day sign. Autograph by David Stuart


(Stuart 1996: 169, fig.20).
the ritual practice of time of the 260- & 365-day calendar 151

THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 260-DAY CALENDAR


AND THE 365-DAY CALENDAR OF THE POSTCLASSIC
YUCATEC CIVILISATION

The 260-day calendar1 and the 365-day calendar constitute the major time
computation systems Mesoamerican civilisations have in common. The
traditional 260-day calendar and the traditional 365-day calendar (adapted
to the Catholic liturgical 365-day calendar) continue to exist in various
parts of Mesoamerica (cf. introduction chapter).2 The 260-day calendar are
still employed by Day Keepers (ritual specialists in traditional medicine,
divination and other ceremonies) in the highlands of Guatemala and in
the states of Veracruz, Chiapas and Oaxaca, Mexico where in some cases
ancient practices and beliefs have been influenced by Catholic theology.
The 260-day calendar is today in use in particular among the Mixe where-
as in the highlands of Guatemala this calendar is practiced by the Kiche
but is also known by the Ixil, Akateko, Qanjobal, Mam, Popti and Chuj.3
The 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar were first recognised in
the writing system of the Zapotecs in Oaxaca, Mexico (Caso 1965). But it is
the postclassic Yucatec Maya culture (c. 900 AD c. 1500 AD) from the Yu-
catn peninsula in southern Mexico that provides the unrivalled informa-
tion of the ritual practice of time of the 260-day calendar (e.g. the Burner
rituals) and of the 365-day calendar (e.g. the New Year rituals).4 Neither

1The Mixtecs employed a sacred language for the day signs and day numbers in their
manuscripts. Michael W. Swanton and G. Bas van Doesburg (1996) has noted that not only
the Mixtec but also the Chocho-Popoloca, which 260-days calendar have in general differ-
ent day-names from the Mixtec 260-day calendar, of the same region employ a different
vocabulary of the names of the days of the 260-day calendar than in their everyday vocab-
ulary. Only exceptions are the days for wind and water. In addition, the Mixe had an
extraordinary vocabulary for elements of their calendar (Smith 1973: 23-27; Lipp 1983: 203;
Boone 2007: 4).
2Cf. Tozzer 1941: 133, note 624; 135, note 631; Miles 1952; Bricker 1981: 8; Tedlock 1992: 1;
92-93; Lipp 1983; 1991; Stresser-Pan 1995; Weitlaner et al. 1958; Weitlaner and De Cicco 1961.
3Cf. the research project Time and Identity under the direction of Professor Dr.
Maarten E.R.G.N. Jansen at Leiden University (http://www.archaeology.leiden.edu/research/
ancient-america/mexico/time-identity/).
4The Relacin of the sierra Zapotec town of Teocuicuilco outline a ritual (fiesta) held
every 260-days. The ceremony started on the night before and continued until the same
hour on the sacred day. Whitecotton believes that this ritual was celebrated in honour of
the patron deity (Whitecotton 1977: 159). This may well have been a calendar ending and
calendar-inaugurating ritual of the 260-day calendarhence a ritual practice of time.
152 the ritual practice of time of the 260- & 365-day calendar
the 260-day calendar nor the traditional 365-day calendar is practised by
the Yucatecs today. The Yucatec Maya spoke in the postclassic period, and
still speak today,5 the Maya language Yucatec identifying them as a distinct
group.
How the religious socio-political and religious system is organised has
implications for the religious belief, principles, institutions, and evidently
the ritual practices. It is, however, a problem that the extant secondary
sources do not reveal exactly when and where the recorded Yucatec Burn-
er rituals of the 260-day calendar and the New Year festival of the 365-day
calendar were conducted.6 The political and social context of the temporal
rituals under investigation is therefore hard to assess. The sources, how-
ever, document a fundamental difference between the nobility and the
commoners, and also a quite large amount of religious specialists in Yuca-
tn at that time (Lpez de Cogolludo 1971; Roys 1943; 1957; Tozzer 1941;
Thompson 1970; Zender 2004c: 80-99).

5At present there are c. 750, 000 speakers of the Yucatec Maya language in the Mexican
states of Yucatn, Campeche and Quintana Roo, and the Corozal and Orange Walk districts
of northern Belize (Bricker et al. 1998: ix).
6Cf. Kepecs and Masson (2003) for an analysis of the postclassic Yucatec religious and
socio-political system.
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 153

Chapter Two

THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 260-DAY CALENDAR


OF THE POSTCLASSIC YUCATEC CIVILISATION: THE BURNER
CEREMONIES OF QUADRIPARTITE 65-DAY INTERVALS

Rituals celebrating a symbolic termination and re-beginning of the cyclical


Mesoamerican 260-day calendar is known from ethnographic data as for
instance from the contemporary Chorti culture (Girard 1949; 1966). Con-
versely, there are a few extant sources from the early colonial period of
Mesoamerican pre-European/pre-Christian rituals of time celebrated at
certain intervals of the 260-day calendar.

1.Interval Rituals of the 260-day Calendar in Mesoamerica

The so-called Burner period 65-day intervals of the cyclical 260-day calen-
dar are only acknowledged from Yucatec sources and therefore believed to
represent an exclusive Yucatecian tradition (Taube 1988: 178). This ritual
may, however, not be purely Yucatecian. Barbara Tedlock asserts that con-
temporary 65-days interval burner rituals are conducted by Kiche male
and female religious specialists in Momostenango of Highland Guatemala
(Tedlock 1983). Moreover, David Stuart has identified a plate where the
Maize God is surrounded by the twenty day-names of the 260-day calendar.
They are divided in four sections where each is associated with one of the
four cardinal directions: 4 5 = 20 (Stuart 2011: 144-146). This indicates that
also the classic Maya had a spatial-temporal interval concept of the 260-day
calendar, which might have been ritually observed. The role of the Maize
God may also suggest that the 260-day calendar had an agricultural char-
acter, which is outlined by the Spanish ethnographer missionary Fray Diego
Durn for the Nahua civilization (Durn 1971: 396-397).1 A quite unique
Aztec (Nahua) presentation of the 260-day calendar can be observed in the
colonial Mexican Cdice Tudela. This manuscript contains a description,
not only of the eighteen festivals of the 365-day calendar, but also of the

1It appears, however, that Durn confuse the 365-day calendar with the 260-day
calendar (cf. Durn 1971: 395).
154 chapter two
ritual cycle of the Nahua 260-day calendar, tonalpohualli. The ceremonial
cycle is organised in four groups of sixty-five days where each group is as-
sociated with a tree and two patron deities (Boone 2001: 268-269). There is
also a division into 4 periods of 65 days in Codex Borgia (lam. 27-28), Codex
Vaticano B (fol. 69) and Codex Fejrvry-Mayer (fol. 33-34).2 Additionally,
Juan de Cordobas Arte del Idioma Zapoteca narrates that the Zapotec 260-
day calendar (pije or piye) was divided into four time units of 65 days each
(cocijo or pito) (Cordova [1578]1987: 201-214).3 Colonial manuscripts from
Villa Alta also outline a quadripartite division of 65 days (each ecomposed
of 5 13 day periods) of the Zapotec 260-day calendar (Alcina Franch 1993:
181-183; cf. also Tavrez 2011: 144-156; 196-199).4 The Zapotecs made sacri-
fices to the four cocijo.5 Similar rituals of the Yucatec Burner ceremonies,
marking a 65-day period, were most probably celebrated among the Aztecs,
the Zapotecs and other cultures of Mesoamerica.

2.Sources and Research History

Due to the few and fragmented data, the analysis of ritual practice of the
Yucatec Burner rituals (65-day intervals) of 260-days is quite diminutive.
The simple extant sources to these rituals are: The Books of Chilam Balams
of Man, Tizimn, Chumayel, Kaua and Prez (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 21,
note 3; Miram and Miram 1994).6 The by far best account of this ritual

2Anonymous reviewer.
3Cf. summary by Caso (1965: 943-944) and Whitecotton (1977: 168).
4Cf. also the outline of the Zapotec 260-day calendar as quadripartite by the Bishop of
Durngo and Oaxaca, Diego Daz de Quintanilla y de Hevia y Valds (1656: 187).
5Cf. the spatial-temporal analysis of the Zapotec 260-day calendar by Marcus (2003
91-92) and de la Cruz (2003: 346-370).
6It has been argued that primary, but not instructive, references to Burner days ceremo-
nies can be identified in Codex Dresden in the middle register on 30-31, on 33c-39c (preced-
ing) and on 42c-45c (following) (Thompson 1978: 99-101; Schele and Grube 1997: 231; Bricker
and Miram 2002: 55-58). Thompson has noticed similarities of the Burner ceremonies of
the 260-day calendar with a fire-walking ceremony mentioned in Relacin de Valladolid
held at various dates within the year (Thompson 1978: 100-101). But the Relacin de Vall-
adolid does not provide the Maya name of this ritual. Tomas Lopez Medel tells in his Relacin
(1612) of a fire-ceremony that involved fire-walking, at Yucatn. This ritual was held on a
certain day of the year (Tozzer 1941: 223-224). The information is not reliable because of
Lopez Medel judgemental attitude toward Indigenous religion and the fact that he does
not give the date or the purpose for the ritual. The Tupp-Kak agricultural ceremony in east
central Quintana Roo, reported by Alfonso Villa Rojas (1945: 116-117), is not a contemporary
version of the Burner Ceremonies, as proposed by Luxon (1995: 279). This is due to the fact
that the content of the two ceremonies is dissimilar (Villa Rojas 1945: 116, note 14) and
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 155
derives from The Codex Prez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Man. The
Codex Prez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man is a collection of various
Maya documents, originals and copies, gathered by Don Juan Po Prez
(1798-1859) from about 1835.7 Don Juan Prez was mayor of the small village
Peto in Yucatn, Mexico. The Codex Prez8 and The Book of Chilam Balam
of Man contains almanacs and prophecies of three types: the coming of
the Spaniards and the new religion, katun prophecies, prophecies associ-
ated with 360-days and 365-days, account of the Itz and the Xius, medical
advice, divination, a computation of time, and land documents. The col-
lection of The Codex Prez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man is di-
vided in three parts. The first two sections are from The Book of Chilam
Balam of Man. They also contain material from The Book of Chilam Balam
of Kaua, of Ixil, and maybe Oxkutzcab (Craine and Reindorp 1979: xv-xvii).
Eugene R. Craine and Reginald Carl Reindrop claim that it is probable that
a member of the Xi lineage wrote The Book of Chilam Balam of Man
(Craine and Reindorp 1979: 121, note 226). The copyists of the ancient doc-
uments added and removed material after their own inclinations. Don Juan
Prez did not record the name of the author and the copyist, nor the date
when it was written, nor whether the manuscript was an original or a copy
(Craine and Reindorp 1979: xvi). Don Juan Prez has also omitted a range
of documents and passages due to what he considered as heathendom
(Craine and Reindorp 1979: 58). The copyist has, besides forgetting various
Burner periods, committed various critical errors (Craine and Reindorp
1979: 31, note 18). The Burner periods are recorded in the almanacs of divi-
nation both on good (or rather fortunate for performing rituals) and bad
(or rather unfortunate for performing rituals) days. But these ceremonies
could only have been held on a fortunate day.9 There are in addition ex-

because there is no evidence of the Quintana Roo Tupp-Kak ritual being part of a Burner
sequence of the 260-day calendar.
7The Yucatec Burner ceremonies of the 260-day calendar have principally been anal-
ysed by Richard C.E. Long (1923), Alfred M. Tozzer (1941), Sir Eric Thompson (1978), Eugene
R. Craine and Reginald Carl Reindorp (1979), Munro Edmonson (1982), Elizabeth Newsome
(2003), most recently by Victoria R. Bricker and Helga-Maria Miram (2002) and Harvey M.
Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker (2011: 142-148). Cf. also Bricker, Victoria. Faunal Offerings in
the Dresden Codex. Sixth Palenque Round Table, 1986, gen. ed. Merle Greene Robertson;
vol. ed., Virginia M. Fields, 293-302. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. 1991.
8The Codex Prez was named after Don Juan Po Prez by Crescencio Carrillo y Ancona,
the Nishop of Yucatn in the late 19th century (Craine and Reindorp 1979: xv-xvii).
9Cf. here the critique made by Barbara Tedlock (1992) on the principle, construed by
scholars like Sir Eric Thompson, of a supposed dualistic divination on good and bad days
among the modern Kiche of Momostenango, Guatemala. It is probable that the concepts
156 chapter two
amples where it is not mentioned whether the day is fortunate or unfortu-
nate (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 20ff). The Burner days are recorded in the
list of Maya years and veintenas (twenty days), but various references to
the Burner days is missing (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 93-96).
The account of the Burner ceremonies in The Codex Prez and The Book
of Chilam Balam of Man is accordingly incoherent and incomplete. The
ceremony is only briefly narrated and not interpreted or commented upon.
It is uncertain who conducted the rituals or exactly when and where the
described Yucatec Burner rituals of the 260-day calendar took place. The
religious and socio-political context is therefore obscure and will hence
not be analysed in relation with these ceremonies.

3.The 260-day Calendar of Mesoamerica

The origin of the 260-day calendar in Mesoamerica was probably between


c. 900 BC c. 500 BC (Milbrath 1999: 2). Both the 260-day calendar and the
the 365-day calendar were present around 500 BC (The Middle Formative
period) in Oaxaca, Mexico. The earliest documentation in the Maya area
is from 100 BC (Justeson 1989: 78-79). The 260-day calendar had local names
in the different languages in Mesoamerica but their meanings could be the
same (Taube 1988: 180).10 Many of these names have, however, been lost.
William Gates dubbed the 260-day calendar among the Maya for tzolkin
(counting of days; after pseudo-Yucatec: tzol, to count; kin day (Wich-
mann 2000a: 44-45). Because this is a construed term, of a non-historical
origin, I choose to disregard the designation.
The 260-day calendar consists of twenty day-names (Sp. veintena)
combined together with a number from 1 to 13 days (Sp. trecena): 13 20
= 260 days.11 For instance the date 1 Imix consists of two parts: the num-
ber 1 and the day name Imix. This name and combination of number,
i.e. the date, will not be repeated until after 260 days.
The Yucatec day-names of the 260-day calendar are:
1. Imix (?)
2. Ik (wind, breath)

good or bad of the almanacs rather designates fortunate or unfortunate days to


observe certain rituals.
10See Table 4 in Thompson (1978: 89) and Caso (1960: 84).
11The term for twenty and human being is winik or winal in many Maya lan-
guages.
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 157
3. Akbal (night, darkness)
4. Kan (yellow, ripe)
5. Chicchan (?-snake)
6. Kimi (death)
7. Manik (?)
8. Lamat (?)
9. Muluk (?)
10. Ok (to go in; dog)
11. Chuwen (artisan; monkey)
12. Eb (tooth)
13. Ben (?)
14. Hix (jaguar)
15. Men (to do)
16. Kib (wax)
17. Kaban (earth)
18. Etznab (?)
19. Kawak (storm, thunder, rain)
20. Ajaw (lord)
21. (Caso 1967: 84; Thompson 1978: 68).
The first day in the 260-day calendar cycle is: 1 Imix followed by 2 Ik, 3
Akbal, 4 Kan, 5, Chicchan, 6 Kimi, 7 Manik, 8 Lamat, 9 Muluk, 10 Ok, 11
Chuwen, 12 Eb, 13 Ben, 1 Hix, 2, Men, 3 Kib, 4 Kaban, 5 Etznab, 6 Kawak, 7
Ajaw, 8 Imix, 9 Ik, 10 Akbal. etc. The last day of the 260-day cycle is 13 Ajaw.
After 260 combinations the day 1 Imix returns.12
Why did people of Mesoamerica decide on a cycle of 260 days for orga-
nising and systematising time within a calendar? Tedlock has summarised
some of the hypotheses:
1. The cycle was construed by a permutation of 13 and 20 since both are
cardinal coefficients in Mesoamerica.

12Thompson has summed up the mathematical foundation of this system: Since 13


and 20 have no common factor, it is obvious that the same combination of name and
number will not recur until 260 days have elapsed. At each repetition of any name the
attached number will be seven greater provided the sum is not in excess of 13; if the sum is
greater than 13; that number has to be subtracted from it. The first day of the cycle was
1 Imix; accordingly, 20 days later Imix will repeat, but this time with the number 8 attached.
At its next appearance the attached number will be 2 (8 +7=15; 15-13=2), so that the sequence
of numbers attached to a given day name will run 1,8,2,9,3,10,4,11,5,12,6,13,7 (Thompson
1978: 67).
158 chapter two
2. The 260-calendar was applied to record observations of and to correlate
various planetary cycles. The 260-day period is the interval between
zenith transits of the sun near the latitude 15 north.
3. A double of 260-days (520 days) is equal to three eclipse-half-years.
4. 260 days correspond to nine lunations each consisting of slightly less
than 29 days-or the same number of months a woman is pregnant
(Tedlock 1992: 93).

Calendar specialists employed almanac tables of the 260-day calendar


recorded in the postclassic Yucatec codices for agricultural purposes. Mil-
brath claim that the 260-day agricultural cycle and the cycle of human
gestation were originally combined together (Milbrath 1999: 2; 12-15). The
260-day cycle was applied with the purpose to observe agricultural rituals
in Mesoamerica before the European arrival (Broda de la Casas 1969: 52-54;
Bricker and Miram 2002: 40-41).13 The 260-calendar is utilised as an agri-
cultural calendar by the contemporary Chorti (Girard 1960: 304-305; 1962:
328-342) and by the Mopan of San Antonio in Belize (Thompson 1930: 41).
Moreover, the growth cycle of one of the corn plants in Guatemala is, ac-
cording to Dennis Tedlock, 260 days. The Kiche calendar specialist, Aj Qin,
designates the 260-day calendar for the calendar of the earth to distin-
guish it from the astronomic intervals like the year of the sun (Tedlock 1996:
206).14
The Mesoamerican 260-day computation constitutes a divinatory cal-
endar. The calendar sign, the child was born under in the 260-day calendar,
determined the character, temperament and behaviour of the human be-
ing, e.g. the individuals identity and destiny. This phenomenon has been
given the designation tonalism, after tona, tonal or tonalli (day; sun)
in Nahuatl (Lpez Austin 1988).15 A combination of gestation of 9 lunar
months or 260-days and divination seem therefore another reasonable

13The 65-day interval rituals of the 260-day calendar have a division into 4 periods of
65 days in Codex Borgia (lam. 27-28), Codex Vaticano B (fol. 69) and Codex Fejrvry-Mayer
(fol. 33-34). There is an intimate relation with agriculture, as in the scenes there are four
figures of the deity Tlaloc irrigating crops. This suggests that 65-days temporal interal ritu-
als of the 260-day calendar are connected with agriculture. At the same time, Codex Borgia
(lam. 27-28) and Codex Fejrvry-Mayer (fol. 33-34) illustrate the attribution of 65-day time
units of the 260-day calendar to the four cardinal directions of the 365-day calendar. In
Codex Borgia, there is also an interrelation with the 365-day calendar marked by the Year
Bearer and the year sign (exceptional in this codex). This enforces the argumentation
concerning the agricultural relation between the 260-calendar and the 365-day calendar,
and between the Year Bearers and fertility (Anonymous reviewer).
14Cf. Tedlock (1992: 204-205).
15Cf. Pharo (2001).
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 159
argument for the composition of this indeed important Mesoamerican
time computation (Stuart 2011: 152-155).

4.The Quadripartite Ritual Sequential Interval (65-days) Structure of


a Cycle of 260-days

The structural sequence of this temporal ritual is first to be determined.


The Burner ceremonies embody four rituals each marking a 65-day interval
of a 260-day cycle. This ritual sequence accordingly began and concluded
a 260-day period but, as we shall see, on different dates. A performance of
fire ceremonies during four days with an interval of 65 days was under-
taken. We learn from The Codex Prez or The Book of Chilam Balam of Man
that the burner (ah tok) brings forth the fire (u cha kak), he lights the fire
(u hopal u kak), he runs (y alkaba) and extinguishes the fire (u tup kak)
during a 260-day period. Also Tizimin acknowledge a taking and a handling
of a fire by a Burner in the Burner rituals. Ah Tok (he of the fire) was a
religious specialist who conducted fire-ceremonies within the 260-day
calendar (Edmonson 1982: 48, note 927; 139, note 3860; 180, note 4999).
Dr. Ermilo Sols Alcal, who published a Spanish translation of Cdice
Prez in 1949, comments that there were four Burner periods, in units of
65 days in the 260-day calendar (65 4 = 260 days). Each fire ritual was
performed by one of the four Chacs, which was the office of the Ah Tok
(Craine and Reindorp 1979: 20, note 3; Luxton 1995: 279). Three calendar
almanacs in The Codex Prez or The Book of Chilam Balam of Man list the
four Burner periods. The dates are set in parenthesis:
U hoppal kak ahtoc, the burner begins the fire (10 Oc; 10 Men; 10 Ahau; 10
Chicchan).
Yalcaba ahtoc, the burner runs (4 Oc; 4 Men; 4 Ahau; 4 Chicchan).
U tup kak ahtoc, the burner puts out the fire(11 Oc; 11 Men; 11 Ahau; 11
Chicchan).
U dcha kak ahtoc, the burner takes the fire (3 Oc; 3 Men; 3 Ahau; 3 Chic-
chan).
(Craine and Reindorp 1979: 20, note 3; 178).16

Every four 65-day Burner cycle was internally subdivided in three intervals
of twenty days and in one of five days. Both the 65-day period and the in-
tervals of twenty days and the one time unit of five days could only begin

16The original text have numerous errors. Cf. Miram (1988: 129). Craine and Reindrop
have therefore organised this passage in table form (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 178, note
34).
160 chapter two
on one of the four days: Chicchan, Oc, Men and Ahau. The day Chicchan
was identified with the east and the colour red, Oc with the north and the
calendar white, Men was associated with the west and the colour black,
and Ahau was identified with the south and yellow. The day-namesChic-
chan, Ok, Men and Ahauwere assigned to the four coloured sections
east, north, west and south (Burners), respectively. Their number coeffi-
cients, 3, 10, 4 and 11, remained constant throughout the entire sequence,
dividing each quarter of the 260-day cycle into three periods of twenty
days.17 The five-day interlude served as a transition to the next Burner cycle
(Thompson 1978: 100; Edmonson 1982: 180; Bricker 1997: 3; Newsome 2003:
61, note 4). The Burner ceremonies comprise sixteen rites divided into four
groups of four rituals each within the 260-day period (Long 1923: 175;
Thompson 1978: 100).18
The Burner ceremonies incorporate therefore a quadripartite ritual se-
quential interval (65-days) structure of a cycle of 260-days.

5.The Starting and Termination Date of the 260-day Calendar

Time is organised and systematised in calendars with a starting date and


in most cases, in particular as regards the cyclic calendars, a termination
date. If the passage of time of a cyclic calendar, and not only arbitrary 260
days, was to be ritually terminated and renewed in the Burner rituals, a
beginning (and an ending) date had to be recognised in the postclassic
Yucatec 260-day calendar.

17The coefficients of the starting days given in The Codex Prez and the Book of Chilam
Balam of Man are 3, 10, 4 and 11 for the years 1553 AD 1554 AD Long thought these coefficients
were applied both in the pre-European period and in the colonial period. But Bricker has
shown with an example from Codex Dresden that this was not the case (Bricker 1997: 3-5).
She has found examples in Codex Dresden (page 31 and page 32) where the 65-day period
is subdivided into intervals of 9, 11, 20, 10 and 15 days (Bricker 1997: 5). Several sets of Burner
coefficients are manifested in The Book of Chilam Balam of Kaua (Bricker and Miram 2002:
55-56; 58). In this connection it is intriguing that Landas Relacin outlines a ritual that
happened on the day 7 Ajaw of the 260-day calendar in the month Zac: On whatever day
this 7 Ahau fell, they celebrated a very great festival, which lasted three days, with perfum-
ings and offerings and their heathen orgy, and, as it is a movable feast, the thoughtful priests
took care to publish it in advance, so that they might fast properly (Tozzer 1941: 162). But
I am not convinced whether this is one of the Burner ceremonies as Tozzer assumes (Tozzer
1941: 162, note 844).
18On the problem that Landa fix the Tuppkak ceremony in Mac and Pax, Long com-
ments that of all the ceremonies in Mac and Pax, which Landa describe, is Tuppkak the only
ritual common for these time units. Thus, deduce Long, the other ceremonies are fixed
except for the Tuppkak (Long 1923: 175).
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 161
It has been asserted by scholars that the almanacs of the 260-day calen-
dar in Central Mexico begin with the day Cipactli (Nahuatl) which is com-
parable to Imx in Kiche and Imix in Yucatec (Thompson 1978: 70-73; 101;
Furst 1978: 90-92).19 Tedlock argues that this is not always the case. Tedlock
claims that Thompsons Guatemalan source, The Spanish cleric Fray Fran-
cisco Nuez de la Vega who maintained that there was a beginning date of
the 260-day calendar, cannot be trusted. Ethnographic evidence from var-
ious Maya cultures suggests that either there was a variation of which day
began the 260-day calendar or there was not a recognised starting point of
the 260-day calendar. Even within the same culture, like the Kiche, there
are listed different first days of the 260-day calendar in the various com-
munities (Tedlock 1992: 94-97).20 Field research by other ethnographers
substantiates Tedlocks hypothesis. The 260-day calendar does, not writes
La Farge, have a beginning nor an ending among the Kanhobal speaking
Maya of the village Santa Eulalia (La Farge 1947: 9) and Lincoln comments
that the Ixil do not acknowledge a starting point for the 260-day count
(Lincoln 1942: 108). Sylvanus G. Morley advocate that:
since the sequence of twenty day names was continuous, it is obvious
that it had no beginning or ending, like a rim of a wheel: consequently, any
day name may be chosen arbitrarily as the starting point (Morley quoted
in Tedlock 1992: 93).
To operate with a beginning day of the 260-day calendar of the Highland
Maya of Guatemala is purely academic according to Tedlock observations:

19Cf. Caso (1967: 84) for lists of various Mesoamerican 260-day calendars.
20Samuel K. Lothrop observed, during his field trip in the winter of 19271928 (Lothrop
1929), that there was held a ceremony of confession and purification every 260 days among
the Kiche in Momostenago. On the day 8 Wajxaqp (March 28) took the ceremony Wajxaip
Vats, which is both Kiche and Christian according to Lothrop, place every 260 days (Lothrop
1930: 653). The day 8 Wajxaqp and the following day Belejep E contains prayer, confession,
burning of copan incense and drunkenness (Lothrop 1929: 15-17). Antonio Goubaud Carrera
has given a rather detailed outline of this ceremony observed by him in 1934 (Goubaud
Carrera 1935: 46-49; Goubaud Carrera 1937: 18-27). The same ritual in Momostenago has
later been delineated by Francisco Rodrguez Rouanet (Rodrguez Rouanet 1967: 78-79). A
260-day ritual of the Year Bearer is celebrated in the Kanhobal speaking Maya of the village
Santa Eulalia in Los Altos Cuchumatanes of Department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala.
This is the recurrence of the Year Bearer with the same number 260-days afterwards. The
ritual is called oxlahun winak, thirteen men and is a religious ceremony only conducted
by the members of religious organisation (La Farge 1947: 129, note 2). None of the informants
of Tedlock, however, perceives 8 Wajxaqp (Batz) as the first day even when it was an
important day of the 260-day calendar.
162 chapter two
When pressed for such a day, a consultant will simply provide the name of
an important day with the 260-day cycle, or else beg the question by appeal-
ing to a cycle that does have a beginning day, as when Mam is given as an
answer. Similarly, when Aztec and Lowland Maya codices begin lists of days
with Imx that may not be because the 260-day cycle ever contained its
own beginning day, but because the necessity of beginning a written account
somewhere has caused an appeal to a different cycle (Tedlock 1992: 97).21
But some Maya groups do identify a starting and ending date of the 260-day
calendar.22 The Chorti, who live in the eastern part of Guatemala and in a
small part of western Honduras conducts a period-ending ritual of the
260-day calendar (Girard 1949; 1966). The complicated ceremonial-calen-
dar system of the Chorti constitute a termination ceremony, which mark
the final ritual of the 260-agricultural calendar, taking place at midnight
between October 24 and 25, when the deities and men are exhausted and
are in need for a rest. The October 24 to the dawning of the October 25 is
a date, like the date of the New Year, which cannot be changed because it
is exactly 260 days, in ordinary years, from the New Year or the beginning
of the calendar cycle. This date, the completion of the 260-day cycle, coin-
cides with the end of rains and cultivation and a change in the stellar for-
mations i.e. astronomical-metrological phenomena. Chorti rituals occur
at the beginning of 260-day and solar year (365), February 8. The religious
specialists decided this fixed starting date of calendars because it was el
primer movimiento del sol. The determined day initiated the agricultural
year of 260 days and was cardinal for the economic affairs of the Chorti
(Girard (1966: 7-40).
The question, whether the 260-day calendar postclassic Yucatec Maya
had a fixed introduction date, remains unanswered. The Burner rituals
constituted a structural interval but not necessarily a calendar-ending
ritual since a beginning and a termination date of 260-days are not ac-
knowledged. We cannot be certain whether the Burner ceremonies started
and completed the 260-day calendar or at a random 260-day period.

21Instead of operating with a starting day Tedlock have found, in her field research,
that there were three methods in beginning to explain the 260-day calendar by the Kiche
diviners (cf. Tedlock 1992: 96).
22The people of Tecoa in Nicaragua and Meztitln in Oaxaca, Mexico begin the 260-day
calendar with Reed (Tedlock 1992: 255, note 15).
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 163
6.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time

The creation of the present world era took place in Katun 11 Ajaw, the first
katun of the 13 katun of the Short Count calendar, according to postclassic
Yucatec Maya cosmogony (Thompson 1970: 337-338). But this date has no
relevance for the Burner rituals, because they have no relation to the Long
Count calendar or Short Count calendar but to the 260-day calendar.
It is, however, stated in The Books of the Chilam Balam that the vigesimal
counting system (winal) was created and the world was organised in four
cardinal directions (Roys 1933: 98-107; Tozzer 1941: 135-136). The four Chac
and the Bacab deities presided over the four cardinal directions of the
world. In The story of the creation of the winal23 in The Book of Chilam
Balam of Chumayel (Roys 1933: 116-118) the Burners are briefly mentioned:
Then they went to the centre of heaven and joined hands. Then the follow-
ing were set up in the middle of the land: the Burners, four of them:
4 Chicchan, the Burner.
4 Oc, the Burner.
4 Men, the Burner.
4 Ahau, the Burner (Roys 1933: 118).

The creation of the winal probably refers to the 260-day calendar because
13 20 (winal) = 260 days. Since the 260-day calendar is divided into four
parts where each is assigned to one of the cardinal points, Long argue that
the four Burners were identical with the four Bacabs probably the same as
the four Chacs who provided rain (Long 1923: 174).24 The Burner pages
(the middle register on 30-31, on 33c-39c and on 42c-45c) of Codex Dresden
display Chac as the central figure in these ceremonies. The Burner rituals
may accordingly be associated with creation of the 260-day calendar
whereas the above reconstructed postclassic creation story documented
in The Books of the Chilam Balam and Landas Relacin is connected to the

23Bricker has analysed and translated The Creation of the Uinal (Roys 1933: 116) or
The Birth of the Uinal (Edmonson 1986: 120) with the title The Creation of the Maya Week
of The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel (Bricker 2002). This a post-Christian Maya version
of creation as related in the Genesis of the Christian Bible (Bricker 2002: 2; 7). Cf. also
Knowlton (2004). Callaway argues quite convincingly that p. 61 and 69 of Codex Dresden
narrates the making (pahtaj) of the piktun and the winik (winal) (Callaway 2009). Moreover,
Boone claims that there were also Mixtec and Aztec accounts of a creation of the 20-day
count (2006).
24Cf. Kunike (1935: 31-33).
164 chapter two
katun referring to the Long Count calendar/Short Count calendar. Conse-
quently, various creation stories were related to a variety of calendars.
The ritual practice of time of the 260-day calendar of the Chorti (Girard
1949; 1966) constitutes a re-actualisation of the cosmogony and a renewing
of space and time. But no conclusive evidence for a symbolic-ritual re-
enactment of creation in the Burner ceremonies can be deduced from the
disintegrated Yucatec data even if there are a few indicators. A fire was
ignited and then extinguished following the calendar directions during
260-days in the Burner rituals, although a practice not expressed to have
taken place during creation. The lighted fire getting old and then being
renewed after 260 days during the Burner ceremonies conceivably repre-
sented time. But an eschatological renewal philosophy, associated with a
creation story, in order to perform these ceremonies cannot be verified.

7.A Spatial-Temporal (Quadripartite) Ritual

In Mesoamerican cosmology the world is oriented after four cardinal di-


rections.25 The cardinal directions represent the north, south, east and west
where every cardinal point was respectively symbolised by a colour. The
Mesoamerican 260-day calendar has a quadripartite spatial structure. For
instance, page 1 of the Codex Fejrvary-Mayer of Central Mexcio and pages
75-76 of the postclassic Yucatec Codex Madrid illustrate a quadrangular
organisation of the 260-day calendar (Taube 1988b: 184; 1995; 14). Moreover,
a divination of individuals born on certain days in the 260-calendar is di-

25Supported by Maya ethnographers like Laughlin, Vogt and Villa Rojas, Girard main-
tains that there is an orientation not only towards the four cardinal directions but towards
the solstices in Mesoamerican cosmology. That is not only the four cardinal directions of
north, south, east and west but also the inter-cardinal points or the two directions towards
the east and two directions towards the west (i.e., sunrise at winter solstice, sunrise at sum-
mer solstice, sunset at winter solstice, and sunset at summer solstice). The solstice points
of the cosmic quadrants are its angles, while the cardinals are the points of intersection
that demark the cruciform and quadripartite division of the universe (Girard 1966: 33-35,
note 24). After executing a philological analysis Watanabe (1983) asserts that many modern
Maya groups recognise only two horisontal directions, based on the movement of the sun,
and not four cardinal directions. There is accordingly quadripartite division of the cosmos.
Mesoamerican cosmology could then after this model have been divided into two cardinal
directions after zenith and nadir which substituted north and south. This cosmogram was
applied in site planning and served as model for political and social system and constituted
a Pan-Mesoamerican cosmology, which has been carried on into the contemporary period.
Both of these systems were probably applied where also the centre was important (Hofling
1993: 165). Cf. also Tedlock (1992: 205-206) and Hopkins and Josserand (2011).
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 165
vided according to the four cardinal directions, south, east, north and west
in The Codex Prez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man (Craine and
Reindorp 1979: 91). Because 4 65 = 260 days, the four cardinal directions
symbolically correspond to four sixty-five day periods. We have also seen
that the four Burners define the four cardinal directions according to The
creation of the winal.
It has been argued by various scholars that references to Burner day
ceremonies can be identified in Codex Dresden in the middle register on
30-31, on 33c-39c (preceding) and on 42c-45c (following). The divine ritual
performer, Chac is associated with the four cardinal directions (Thompson
1978: 100; Schele and Grube 1997: 231; Bricker and Miram 2002: 55-58). The
four Burner days, Chicchan, Oc, Men and Ahau, with numerical coeffi-
cients, divide the 260-day calendar into four 65-day quarter-cycles. These
four days were each assigned to a cardinal direction according to The Codex
Prez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man (Craine and Reindorp 1979).
Thompson quotes page 38 of the unpublished translation of The Book of
Chilam Balam of Tizimn by Ralph Roys, where the Burners are associated
with the world directions and the winal (20-day period):
The record of the burners which are in the uinal. There are only four of
them. There is 4 Chicchan: 10 Chicchan takes the fire; 11 Chicchan puts out
the fire. The bearer of the uinal to the east. There is 4 Oc: 10 Oc takes the
fire; 11 puts out his fire. The bearer of the uinal to the north. There is 4 Men:
10 Men takes the fire; 11 Men puts out the fire. The bearer of the Uinal to
the west. There is 4 Ahau: 10 Ahau takes the fire; 11 Ahau puts out the fire.
The bearer of the uinal to the south (Thompson 1978: 100).
Four time sequences of 65 days rotate through the quadrants of the world,
this signifies that four segments of time of 260 days proceed across a circuit
of quadripartite directional space. In each quarter the Burner takes the fire,
lights the fire, lets it run and extinguishes it. The Burner periods divided
time and space into four quarters, each of the four 65 day units combined
with a world direction and a colour. This means that four interdependent
period-ending rites or ritual practice of time observed four time intervals
in a single spatial-temporal ritual. Time (260-days) and space (the four
cardinal points or directions of the world) were accordingly perceived sym-
bolically juxtaposed, defined and structured in a continuum during a 260-
day period through the conduction of the four Burner rituals.
166 chapter two
8.A Symbolic Agricultural Temporal Ritual

As noted, the 260-day cycle was used to celebrated agricultural rituals in


Mesoamerica (Broda de la Casas 1969: 52-54; Bricker and Miram 2002: 40-
41). The 260-calendar is utilised as an agricultural calendar by the Chorti
(Girard 1960: 304-305; 1962: 328-342; 1966: 7-40), by the Mopan of San An-
tonio in Belize (Thompson 1930: 41) and Tzotzil (Lpez Austin 1997: 137-
145)26. The growth cycle of one of the corn plants in Guatemala is,
according to Dennis Tedlock, 260 days. The Kiche calendar specialist, Aj
Qin, calls thus the 260-day calendar for the calendar of the earth to dis-
tinguish it from the astronomic intervals like the year of the sun (Tedlock
1996: 206).27 This is possible when the starting and termination date of the
260-day calendar was determined in the time-system of the individual
Mesoamerican culturewhich had to be adapted to the harvest season-
able (solar) cycle of the community of a given region because there is con-
siderable variation in climate and topography in Mesoamerica.
Chac, one of the most important deities in the lowland Maya pantheon,
is rain god (Taube 1992: 17-27). He is associated with the four cardinal direc-
tions but, however, not acknowledged as connected to Burner days stations
in other almanacs of Codex Dresden. It is therefore difficult to conclude
with any certainty that these scenes have anything to do, even if the inter-
val quadripartite 65-day sequence marked by Burner days, with the Burn-
er ceremonies.
Four Burner rituals at each 65-day section of 260-days were associated
with a cardinal direction accordingly defining the world. The four-sided
world is conceived as a rectangular house and a symbolic milpa associated
with agriculture and maize in Maya philosophy.28 The symbolic space of
the world, milpa or maize field, is also identified with the community
(Taube 1988: 159-161). Redfield and Villa Rojas has found that the milpa is
associated with the village community conception in the Yucatec village
Chan Kom where the world, the village and the milpa are thought of as
squares with four corners lying in the four cardinal points of the compass
and with defined central points (Redfield and Villa Rojas 1934: 114). The

26For the Tzotzil cf. Calixta Guiteras Holmes. Los peligros del alma. Visin del mundo
de un tzotzil. Mxico: FCE. 1965.
27Cf. also Tedlock (1992: 204-205).
28It is indicated by ethnographic research of the contemporary Yucatec and Chorti
by Redfield and Villa Rojas (1934: 43), Wisdom (1940: 40; 383) and Girard (1966: 29-34)that
the four-sided milpa represent a metaphor for the earth or world.
the burner ceremonies of quadripartite 65-day intervals 167
260-day calendar is outlined as an agricultural calendar in The Codex Prez
and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 154-155).
The four Burner ceremonies of a quadripartite 65-day sequence may there-
fore have functioned as a symbolic agricultural ritual delineating the 260-
day agricultural period and the milpa (earth). I emphasise, however, that
this hypothesis is quite arguable. But as noted, the 65-day interval rituals
of the 260-day calendar have a division into 4 periods of 65 days in Codex
Borgia (lam. 27-28), Codex Vaticano B (fol. 69) and Codex Fejrvry-Mayer
(fol. 33-34). There is strong relation with agriculture, as in the scenes there
are four figures of the rain deity Tlaloc irrigating crops.29 This indicates,
although these Mesoamerican manuscripts are not Yucatec, that 65-days
temporal interal rituals of the 260-day calendar are connected with agri-
culture.

9.The Ritual Practice of the Quadripartite Interval Sequence of the Four


Burner Periods (65-days) of 260-days

The Burner rituals constitute a structural interval but not necessarily a


calendar-ending ritual since a beginning and ending date of 260-days are
not known. We cannot therefore know whether the Burner ceremonies
started and ended the postclassic Yucatec 260-day calendar or just a 260-
day period. The Burner ceremonies comprise sixteen rites divided into four
groups of four rituals each within a 260-day period. Consequently these
ceremonies incorporate a quadripartite ritual sequential interval (65-days)
structure of a cycle of 260-days. Four time sequences of 65 days rotate
through the quadrants of the world, which means that four segments of
time of 260 day proceed across a circuit of quadripartite directional space.
In each quarter the Burner takes the fire, lights the fire, lets it burn and
extinguishes it. The Burner periods divided time and space into four quar-
ters, each of the four 65-day units combined with a world direction and a
colour. This means that four interdependent temporal rites observed four
time interval rites in a single spatial-temporal ritual. Time (260-days) and
space (the four cardinal points or directions of the world) were conceived
to be symbolically juxtaposed, defined and structured in a continuum dur-
ing a 260-day period through the conduction of the four Burner rituals. The
structure of the ritual sequence consists of intervals marking the comple-

29Anonymous reviewer.
168 chapter two
tion of four definite 65 cycles of 260 days accordingly creating temporal
order and structure.
No corresponding creation story can be identified as being associated
with this temporal ritual practice. The postclassic Yucatec cosmogony
might, however, have been symbolically re-actualised in this ritual where
the four cardinal directions of the earth were defined through the time
span of 260-days. The lighted fire getting old and then being renewed after
260 days conceivably represented time. An eschatological philosphy for
performing these ceremonies can, however, not be recognised.
Due to the security and nature of the sources we do not know who
conducted the rituals or exactly when and where the postclassic Yucatec
Burner rituals of the 260-day calendar transpired. The religious and socio-
political context is obscure and has therefore not been analysed in relation
with these ceremonies. There is, however, indications that the Burner Rit-
uals were not performed by a political and military leader but by a religious
specialist called Aj Tok who might be associated with Chac religious spe-
cialists (Craine and Reindorp 1979). The pre-eminent deity Chac, who is
possibly portrayed conducting archetype ritual actions within Burner day
intervals in certain almanacs of the Codex Dresden, was associated with
rain, fertility and agriculture. In some Maya cultures the 260-day calendar
is considered to have an agricultural quality. A ritual associated with the
four cardinal directions of the world, symbolising the milpa, which pro-
duced the essential maize crop, associated with the rain deity Chac might
have an agricultural purpose. The four Burner ceremonies of a quadripar-
tite 65-day sequence can therefore have functioned as a symbolic agricul-
tural ritual delineating the 260-day agricultural period and the milpa
(symbolising the earth). I therefore surmise that a symbolic link between
creation (related to the 260-day computation), the four world quarters,
260-days and agriculture were established in these ceremonies.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 169

Chapter Three

THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 365-DAY CALENDAR OF


THE POSTCLASSIC YUCATEC CIVILISATION

Contemporary ethnography has documented New Year rituals of both the


traditional Mesoamerican 365-day calendar and the Catholic 365-day cal-
endar of various Indigenous cultures. It is, however, the postclassic Yucatec
civilisation, which provides extant unsurpassed sources to the pre-Euro-
pean/pre-Christian ritual practice of time of the Mesoamerican 365-day
calendar.1 The accounts of the pre-European/pre-Christian Aztec New Year
ritual of the 365-day calendarthe most documented and investigated
Indigenous culture of Mesoamericaby ethnographer missionaries of the
16th and 18th centuries are noteworthy inadequate in comparison to the
postclassic Yucatec.

1.The Cyclic Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating Ritual

The traditional Mesoamerican 365-day calendar incorporates eighteen


units of time of twenty days each (Sp. veintena). The 365-day year ends,
however, with a period of only five days. Thus the Mesoamerican 365-day
calendar embodies 19 time components. Eighteen multiplied with twenty
plus five amounts to 365 days (18 20 + 5 = 365 days).
The names of the 19 time units of the postclassic Yucatec 365-day
calendar:2
1. Pohp
2. Wo
3. Sip
4. Sotz
5. Sek
6. Xul
7. Yaxkin

1Cf. however, colonial manuscripts from Villa Alta, which outline New Year rituals of
the Zapotec 365-day calendar called yza (Justeson and Tavrez 2007; Tavrez 2011: 146-151).
2Cf. Tozzer for bibliographic references to the meaning of the names of the 19 time
units of the Yucatec 365-day calendar (Tozzer 1941: 134, note 627).
170 chapter three
8. Mol
9. Chen
10. Yax
11. Sak
12. Keh
13. Mak
14. Kankin
15. Muwaan
16. Paax
17. Kayab
18. Kumku
19. Wayeb
(Thompson 1978: 104-122).
The first twenty day time period, or winik in Yucatec, is introduced by the
day Pohp. 1 Pohp continues with 2 Pohp, 3 Pohp etc. until 19 Pohp and the
seating (chum/cum) of 1 Wo 2 Wo, etc. The last days of the 365-day calendar
are: 18 Kumku, 19 Kumku, and the seating of the five days of Wayeb,
1 Wayeb, 2 Wayeb, 3 Wayeb and 4 Wayeb. After 365 days the day of 1. Pohp
returns, making this calendar a temporal cycle.
Rituals were observed in the final veintenas of the 365-day calendar of
the past year and of the first veintena of the New Year in many Meso-
american cultures. The 365-day calendar was organised as a cycle incorpo-
rating a final (4 Wayeb) and first (1 Pohp) day of the 365-day year. The Maya
started the new veintena with a day, a zero day, before the first day of the
new veintena. The coefficients are therefore 0-19, in every of the 18 winikob,
e.g. Pohp-Kumku and 0-4 in Wayeb. The first day of the year is accord-
ingly seating of Pohp, the second day is 1 Pohp etc. whereas the last day
of the 365-day year is 4 Wayeb. The installing of Pohp (chum/cum) and
the end of Wayaab (Wayeb) (ti) alludes to the same day. A new veintena
was installed or seated when the new veintenas first day and last day of
the previous veintena overlapped.3 The day only received a coefficient
when it had been completed. 1 Poph replace the seating of Pohp or the
first day of the New Year. A notion of a beginning or a final end did conse-
quently not exist. As noted, this temporal system follows a cyclic and not
a linear logic (Wichmann 2000: 49; Bricker and Miram 2002: 39-40). The
New Year ritual represents accordingly a cyclic calendar ending/calendar
inaugurating ritual.4

3This phenomenon was designed in the classic Maya inscriptions as the end of (ti:
mouth, edge and haab: year; ti haab: the limit of the year) (Wichmann 2000: 49).
4Fixed agricultural and seasonal ritual practices celebrated within the 365-day calen-
dar can be perceived to delineate time in interval sequences.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 171
2.Sources and Research History

Two categories of sources of the ritual practice of time of the Pre-Europe-


an/pre-Christian 365-day calendar are available for the researcher: The
postclassic codices and colonial accounts of the Yucatec 365-day calendar.

The Postclassic Codices


The primary source to the postclassic Yucatec 365-day calendar rituals are
the codices. Only four5readable postclassic Maya codicesCodex Dresden,
Codex Paris, Codex Madrid or Codex Tro-Cortesianus6 and Codex Grolier
are known to have survived.7 The discovery and publication of these codi-
ces has proven to be very valuable in the study of Maya religious philosophy
and practices. Codex Dresden, Codex Madrid and Codex Paris, but, though,
not the Codex Grolier, composes scenes depicting and describing Yucatec
New Year ceremonies of the 365-day calendar. The New Year ritual is delin-
eated on pages 19-20 in Codex Paris, on pages 34-37 in Codex Madrid8 and
on pages 25-28 in Codex Dresden (fig. 7 & 8). The so-called New Year pages
of these three codices illustrates the Calendar Round series of 52 Year Bear-
ers (cf. below about the concept Year Bearer).
Cyrus Thomas was one of the first scholars who employed both pre-
European/pre-Christian and colonial sources in order to analyse Maya
history and culture. In his article from 1882,9 Thomas observed a correspon-
dence with the description of the New Year festival in the book Relacin de
las cosas de Yucatn (c. 1566) by the Spanish Bishop Fray Diego de Landa
and two passages of the Codex Madrid and Codex Dresden. William E. Gates
found later10 that pages 19 and 20 of Codex Paris depicted the beginning of

5Poor fragments of codices from the classic period have been found in Waxaktun, San
Agustin Acasaguastlan, Nebaj, Altun Ja and Mirador. The remains of the classic codices are,
however, in such a bad condition that they cannot be interpreted (Taube 1992: 1).
6See Taube for more information about Codex Grolier (1988: 16, note 5).
7Cf. the encyclopediacal work of astronomy and calendars in Maya codices by Bricker
and Bricker (2011).
8Cassandra R.Bill, Christine L. Hernndez and Victoria R. Bricker claim to have identi-
fied three sets of almanacs which pages are related to the New Year ceremonies on pages
34-37 of Codex Madrid. These are the upper and middle region of pages 52-53, 54-55b and
84c-88c (Bill, Hernndez and Bricker 2000: 158-165).
9Thomas, Cyrus. A Study of the Manuscript Troano. U.S. Department of the Interior:
Contributions to North American Ethnology, vol. 5: 1-237. Washington D.C. 1882.
10Gates, William E. Commentary upon the Maya-Tzental Prez Codex with a Concluding
Note upon the Linguistic Problem of the Maya Glyphs. Paper of the Peabody Museum of
American Archaeology and Ethnology, Vol. VI, no. 1. Harvard University, Cambridge, Mass.
1910.
172 chapter three
the New Year (Taube 1988: 1-2; 253; 356-257). The New Year pages of these
three codices outline deities and not human religious specialists. It must
therefore be emphasised that they were ritual divine models of the pro-
ceedings, and not actually delineating the proper New Year ritual. The
postclassic Maya codices were consequently ritual guides or manuals, con-
taining short cryptic texts, where deity performers act as instructors mod-
elling how to conduct a ceremony. For example a diagram by Coe and Chase
of the Wayeb-rituals recorded by Landa resembling pages 75-76 of Codex
Madrid convey that ritual specialist used codice as handbooks (Love 1986:
200; 202-204, fig. 14 & 15 & 16).
Codex Madrid, Codex Dresden and Codex Paris have many passages in
common but they embody also different scenes partly because they derive
from various periods and regions. The existing codices were all produced
in the postclassic period, except Codex Grolier, of Yucatn. Codex Dresden
dates from the early postclassic period (c. 900 AD c. 1250 AD. whereas
Codex Paris and Codex Madrid originate from the Late postclassic period
(c. 1250 AD 1521 AD) (Taube 1988: 218). Taube asserts that the provenance
of Codex Dresden, Codex Madrid and Codex Paris from Yucatn, Mexico is
exhibited by the fact that they contain logosyllabic inscriptions mainly in
Yucatec, which is also the language used by the Indigenous descendants
of the peninsula of Yucatn today.11 Moreover, Taube argues that certain
calendar conventions, like a katun cycle and a puuc shift in Year Bearers,
imagery of natural and social phenomena typical of the Yucatn region,
and corresponding accounts by Landa of the Yucatec New Year rituals,
contribute to indicate a Yucatec origin of these manuscripts. The Codex
Dresden, Codex Madrid and Codex Paris outline accordingly a Yucatec post-
classic (e.g. Pre-European/Pre-Christian) New Year Ceremony of the 365-
day calendar (Taube 1988: 14).

Spanish Ethnographer Missionaries of the 16th and 17th Centuries


The second type of data, which constitute the secondary sources, of the
postclassic Yucatec 365-day New Year rituals are accounts from the colonial
period written in Spanish and in Yucatec but conveyed in Latin alphabeti-
cal script. Scholars at the latter half of the 19th century initiated the his-
tory of research of the colonial documents.12

11Data from archaeology and epigraphy show that the Indigenous people of the Pen-
insula of Yucatn spoke Yucatec at least in the late classic period (Taube 1988: 23).
12The colonial sources of the New Year festival of the Yucatec have been collected,
systematised and analysed by Karl A. Taube in his seminal Ph.D. dissertation from 1988
(1988: 269-301).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 173
The New Year Ceremony or festival has first and foremost been record-
ed by the above-mentioned Franciscan Bishop Fray Diego de Landas in his
book Relacin de las cosas de Yucatn (c. 1566). Landa (1524 AD 1579 AD),
the second Bishop of Yucatn, has been called the historiador primordial
of Yucatn (Tozzer 1941: 44, note 218). He is the earliest and most compre-
hensive Spanish Colonial source to the New Year ceremonies of the 365-day
calendar of the Yucatec Maya. The preserved manuscript of the Relacin,
an abridgement of the original manuscript copied many times before it
arrived into the hands of the French priest Charles Etienne Brasseur de
Bourbourg in 1863, incorporates a condensed overview of the religion, so-
ciety and history of Yucatn.13
Landa first came to Yucatn as a young friar in 1549 (Tozzer 1941: 44, note
218). He is unenviable notorious for his auto-da-f at Man in 1562, where
he burned several Indigenous manuscripts (Tozzer 1941: 76-79, note 340;
169), and for his brutal efforts to convert the Maya to the Catholic faith.
Relacin de las Cosas de Yucatn was probably written as a defence for his
(criminal) actions against the Maya. Landa had native informants called
Juan (Nachi) Cocom, Gaspar Antonio Chi also named Gaspar Antonio Xiu,
Gaspar Antonio Herrera (not mentioned by Landa) who was the son of an
aj kin religious specialist, and Jorge Xiu (Tozzer 1941: 43-46, note 218 & 219).
The Relacin is regrettably only written in Spanish and not in the Yucatec
language. We therefore lack Yucatecian concepts of the ritual proceedings
of their New Year festival of the 365-day calendar. Landas work embodies
another essential problem, which he shares with other European ethnog-
rapher missionaries. This is his bias against the traditional religion and his
evangelical missionary zeal to convert the Maya, typical of most colonial
accounts by Spanish clerics from the 16th and 17th century of the religious
system and religious practice of the Indigenous people of Mesoamerica.
The extant copy of Landas Relacin endows an incomplete narrative of the
Indigenous traditional religious ritual practice. But it is interesting that
Landa outlined the New Year festival of the 365-day calendar in more detail
compared to other aspects of the religious rituals of the Yucatec Maya.
Landa does not give information of exactly when and where his report
derives, whether he witnessed the rituals himself or from which source he
received the account. It is, however, doubtful that Landa himself ever wit-
nessed the entire New Year rituals. The New Year ceremonies of a certain

13The only known copy of the Relacin de las Cosas de Yucatn presently resides in
Academia Real de la Historia in Madrid, Spain.
174 chapter three
365-day year cover a great time span (several months). The New Year fes-
tival is also composed of four Year Bearer rituals (cf. below), which means
that Landa must have, as an observer, not only followed one New Year
Ceremony of a specific year but four different Year Bearer rituals of four
consecutive years if he was to witness all the ceremonial proceedings which
he later related in his book. It is also indeed improbable that the Spanish
ecclesiastical authorities would allow these ceremonies to take place under
their Christian government and jurisdiction.
Other Spanish chronicles have also contributed, although only through
fragmented data, to the understanding of the postclassic Yucatec New Year
ritual. Historia de Yucatn (c. 1660 ad) by Diego Lpez de Cogolludo was
published posthumously in 1688 and the above characterised (for the 260-
day Burner ceremonies) Codex Po Prez by Juan Po Prez (Craine and
Reindorp 1979: 88; 170-171) are, after Landa, the most cited Spanish accounts
of the postclassic Yucatec New Year Ceremony.14 Historia de Yucatn and
Codex Po Prez are both written later than Landas Relacin and can ac-
cordingly, as Taube suggests, give a record of rituals that were later modified
by the Maya. Po Prez had surely not himself eye-witnessed the festival.
Po Prez relied entirely on other colonial sources because his narration is
independent, but yet similar to Lpez de Cogolludo (Taube 1988: 282-283).
Diego Lpez de Cogolludo (? 1655 ad?) was a Spanish Franciscan mis-
sionary who arrived in Yucatn in 1634 ad and later became fluent in the
Yucatec language. His Historia incorporate a chronicle spanning 155 years.
The sources of information to Lpez de Cogolludo were local Franciscan
archives but also after conducting ethnographic field research. Additional
information to the New Year festival stems from a compilation of fifteen
colonial Yucatec songs in Cantares de Dzitbalch, possible written in the
eighteenth century (Barrera Vsquez 1965). The Cantares de Dzitbalch was
discovered in Merida c. 1942 and is supposed to derive from the city of
Dzitbalch, Yucatn. Song 3 alludes to the Wayeb period of the New Year
Ceremony and song 13 delineates the vigil proceedings of the New Year
(Taube 1988: 289-290).15
It is important to bear in mind that the colonial secondary source rel-
acin of the postclassic Yucatec 365-day ritual is not simply outlined, like

14A Year Bearer ritual was also recorded celebrated in Chiapas of Mexico. See Fray
Francisco Nuez de la Vega account in Consitutciones diocesanas del Obispado de Chiapas
(1702).
15Song 3 and song 12 of the Cantares de Dzitbalch were first translated into Spanish
by Alfredo Barrera Vsquez (Barrera Vsquez 1965: 34-35; 71-72) and later analysed and
translated into English by Taube (Taube 1988: 290-298).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 175
the logosyllabic inscriptions of the classic Maya Long Count calendar ritu-
als of time and the fragmented colonial sources of the postclassic Yucatec
Burner ceremonies of 260-days, since Landa did not only document the
New Year festival (a ritual which he, as noted, must have regarded to be
significant since he outlined it in considerable detail) but in addition in-
terpreted the meaning of the ritual. In his narrative of the ceremonial pro-
ceedings, Landa demonised many of the rites of the New Year festival of
the 365-day calendar.16 It is for this reason a challenge for the scholar to
not blindly accept the explications made by Landa.

Research History
Certain aspects of the postclassic Yucatec 365-day New Year ritual have
been analysed by various scholars. Landas Relacin, the most informative
account of the postclassic Yucatec New Year festival, has been thoroughly
analysed by Alfred Marston Tozzer. Tozzers translation of Landas Relacin
(1941) contains an encyclopaedia of archaeological and ethnographic in-
formation of postclassic and colonial Yucatn in extensive notes to the
translated text.17 In his annotated translation Tozzer compares the Yucatec
ceremony to other New Year rituals in a critical analysis of the account
made by Landa (Tozzer 1941: 135-149; 151-153).
The doctoral dissertation Yucatec Maya Ritual: A Diachronic Perspective
(Love 1986: 169-204) of Bruce Love and the doctoral dissertation by Karl A.
Taube, The Ancient Yucatec New Year Festival: The Liminal Period in Maya
Ritual and Cosmology (Taube 1988), are the two most influential analysiss
of the postclassic Yucatec 365-calendar New Year ritual. Since the excellent
works by Tozzer, Love and Taube, epigraphic advancement has contrib-
uted to a better understanding of the New Year pages in the postclassic
codices.18 Despite their valuable contributions, Love have not made a full
enquiry and Taube has, in his dissertation, written two independent chap-
ters where he separately treats the New Year pages in the pre-European/
pre-Christian Maya codices (Taube 1988: 218-268) and the colonial accounts
of the postclassic Yucatec New Year festival (Taube 1988: 269-301). A com-
prehensive systematic history of religions explication, founded upon the

16Still, Landas account is confirmed by Codex Dresden and Codex Madrid.


17Alfred M. Tozzer has commented Landas Relacin in 1150 notes.
18Daniel Graa-Behrens has recently briefly investigated the New Year ceremonies,
within a succinct representation of the Yucatec Year Bearers, in his doctoral dissertation
Die Maya-Inschriften aus Nordwestyukatan, Mexico (Graa-Behrens 2002: 115-126; 154-155).
Cf. also Harvey M. Bricker and Victoria R. Bricker (2011: 120-142).
176 chapter three
recent epigraphic and iconographic advancement, has consequently not
been made of all relevant aspects of this temporal ritual.

3.The Postclassic Yucatec New Year Ceremony as a Rite de Passage

Tozzer (1941), Love (1986: 169-171) and Taube (1988: 272-273) have proposed
that Landa outline three different rites, which took place during the New
Year festival. This is the five-day Wayeb ceremony celebrating the ending
of the year followed by renewal and renovation ceremonies for the coming
year on the first day of Pohp and ceremonies to avoid calamities during
Pohp (Tozzer 1941: 139, note 650). This ritual structure has been analysed
by Love (Love 1986: 169-204). But Love put forward a rather confusing chro-
nology of the ritual events. He begins by outlining the renewal ceremonies
in the veintena of Pohp, continues with a description of the ritual proceed-
ings of the first day of Pohp and eventually dedicates the largest part of his
analysis to the Wayeb ceremonies of the previous 365-day calendar year
(Love 1986: 169-204). Taube has categorised the postclassic Yucatec New
Year Ceremony as a rite de passage:
In terms of van Genneps tripartite schema, the initial period of separation
corresponds to the death of the year, this being the termination of Cumku,
the last twenty day month. The liminal period of transition is the five day
Wayeb period, with the period of incorporation being the first of Pop, or
the beginning of the year (Taube 1988: 12).
But can the ritual theoretical model of a rite de passage be employed to
analyse and explain the temporal practices of a calendar?

The Inter-connected Structural Sequence of a Rite de Passage


In the classic work from 1909 Les Rites de Passage tude Systmatique des
Rites, Arnold Van Gennep classified a certain type of rituals as rite de pas-
sage (1981). A rite de passage incorporates three sub-categories or squenc-
es crmonielles (Van Gennep 1981: 13). This tripartite form of critical
periods to the community and the individual comprise three inter-con-
nected rituals:
1. Rituals of separation (rites preliminaries or rites de separation).
2. Transition or liminal rituals rites de marge or rites luminaires).
3. Rituals of incorporation (rites dagrgation or rites postliminaires)
(Van Gennep 1981: 14).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 177
A rite de passage does not only imply a transition between states where a
new status, a change of place, state, social role or position and age is
achieved during a ritual process of separation, margin or limen and ag-
gregation. The individual or community is entering (passer le seuil) a new
world after the rite de passage (Van Gennep 1981: 26-27). A symbolic death
during a period of ritual seclusion is followed by a symbolic rebirth. A rite
de passage represents for this reason a symbolic death and renewal ritual
(mort et renaissance rituelles) (Van Gennep 1981: 254-263). Moreover, Van
Gennep outline two types of rituals representing a rite de passage:
1. A transition of the life of humans and of social groups from one stage
to another. These are life cycle or life-crisis rituals, which vary in dif-
ferent cultures.
2. Rituals demarking stations in the passage of time like a new moon, a
new year, a solstice, or an equinox.
The rite de passage has, nonetheless, been restricted to the former type in
the scholarly literature (Turner 1987: 386). Van Gennep (1981) and Victor
Turner (1967; 1969) focus both on the rite de passage as a celebration of the
social development of either the individual or a group of people. Time can,
however, be demarcated through a rite de passage. A rite de passage, argues
Leach, conceptualises and demarks time. Rituals at time-intervals or festi-
vals represent a shift from the Normal-Profane order to the Abnormal-
Sacred order and back again (Leach 1968: 125-126; 132-134).
Nevertheless, there is an essential difference between a rite de passage
of a human being or an assembly of human beings and a cyclical calendar.
The life span of the individual is of a linear character, it embodies a shift
of status from birth to death by stations of life-crisis of birth, puberty,
marriage, and in the end death, ritually observed through rites de passages.
Hence a linear progression towards various novel states of the individual
is ritually celebrated. Conversely, in a cyclical calendar there is no linear
progression but only a regaining or renewing of the old status, since the
seasonal calendar passage from the old year to the New Year is ever repeat-
ing. The ceremonial stations of the linear life span of a human being or
group of human beings may share an equivalent ritual structure with cycli-
cal calendar time, although not an identical meaning.
178 chapter three
The Ritual Sequence of the Postclassic Yucatec New Year Festival
The rationale for the ritual sequence of a rite de passage is a transition of
status. The tripartite structure of this kind of ritual incorporates a se-
quence of rites. The postclassic Yucatec New Year festival or ritual can
accordingly be considered to be a rite de passage only if three inter-con-
nected and interdependent ceremonies can be recognised. Taube does not
elaborate what kind of initiation rituals took place before the liminal
Wayeb period and the rites of incorporation in Pohp. He only asserts that
the initial period of separation corresponds to the death of the year, this
being the termination of Cumku, the last twenty day month (Taube 1988:
12). Do we have sources describing rituals introducing the New Year cere-
monies of Wayeb and Pohp? I advocate that Landa outlines a festival of
separation (e.g. the first stage in ritual sequence of the rite de passage)
taking place in the three last veintenas of the year, Paax, Kayab and Kumku.
These ceremonies, writes Landa, lasted, according as they celebrated
them, till the month of Pop, and they called these festivals Sabacil Than,
. (Tozzer 1941: 165). Sabacil Than ended the rituals of the eighteen vein-
tenas of the 365-day calendar, since this was the inevitable conclusion
(of their feasts) (Tozzer 1941: 166). During Sabacil Than the Yucatec as-
sembled in the house of the principal to conduct ceremonies of driving
out the evil spirit (Tozzer 1941: 165-166).19
Landas account, preceding the ceremonial proceedings of Wayeb, sug-
gests that an introductory ceremony was connected with the rituals of
Wayeb:
In any festival or solemnity that this people celebrated in honour of their
gods, they always began by chasing away from themselves the evil spirit, in
order to perform the ceremony the better. And the driving him off was done
sometimes by prayers and benedictions, which they had for this purpose;
at other times by worship, offerings and sacrifices, which they offered for
this purpose (Tozzer 1941: 138).
Rites preceding the Wayeb had to be undertaken preparing the ceremo-
nial proceedings of this liminal period. In addition, there were certain
ceremonial elements relating Sabacil Than of Paax, Kayab and Kumku
with the ritual proceedings of Pohp. I therefore suggest the following struc-

19The New Year pages of Codex Dresden (25-28) delineate some of the ritual proceed-
ings of the last day of Wayeb (Seating of Pohp) and New Years day (1 Pohp), but these pages
do not convey a preliminary (Sabacil Than) ceremony.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 179
ture of the rite de passage of the postclassic Yucatec New Year festival of
the 365-day calendar:
1. The three preliminary veintena rites (Paax, Kayab, Kumku) of Sabacil
Than of separation.
2. The transition or liminal five-day Wayeb rites.
3. The incorporating, renovation and renewing rites of Pohp.
These three rites constitute the ritual of the 365-day calendar New Year
festival. The New Year ceremonies were accordingly conducted during a
quite extensive period of time, comprising five veintenas or c. 85 days.

The Preliminary Termination Rite: The Sabacil Than Ceremony of Paax,


Kayab and Kumku
Sabacil Than was celebrated within the towns and the families as a diver-
sion, before the dark and dismal five day-period of the Wayeb, in the three
last veintenas (Paax, Kayab and Kumku) of the 365-day calendar year. The
wealthy arranged feasts with dancing and excessive drinking during this
time. Sabacil Than was observed to drive out the evil and to make offerings
to the deities. During Sabacil Than the Yucatec assembled in the house of
the principal to conduct ceremonies of driving out the evil spirit, burn
copal, make offerings, dance and made themselves wineskins. Landa re-
ports that these ceremonies lasted until Pohp, which means the first vein-
tena of the New Year (Tozzer 1941: 165-166). He is obviously forgetting the
dismal and non-active five-day veintena of Wayeb that intervened between
the veintenas of Paax, Kayab and Kumku and that of Pohp. The citation
from Landa (see above) underlines, nevertheless, the inter-connection
between the Sabacil Than of these three last veintenas (Paax, Kayab and
Kumku), Wayeb and the first veintena (Pohp) of the 365-day year.
Roys have examined the etymology of Sabacil Than. Sabac is a dye or
ink from the soot of the sabac-che (Sp. Exostema)20, than is a word for
speech, word, or language but also ordenanzas or law (Roys 1933:
106, note 4). Tozzer has proposed that this expression alludes to a rule or
law to paint oneself black during the rituals of the last three veintenas of
the year. Roman y Zamora comments, quoted by Tozzer, that the Indige-
nous people of Guatemala each time they (the priests) sacrifice they
blacken themselves. The men commonly do not bathe but blacken them-

20Sabak, tina, negra de humo de cierto rbol, antes y de desleda y el tal humo
(Barrera Vsquez 1980: 707).
180 chapter three
selves and this is a kind of silicon and ornament of penance. During the
Poph rituals certain fasting people (e.g. religious specialists) are described
to remove their tizne negra when the New Year arrived. Sabacil Than
conceivably refers to their incantations when they, while fasting, were
painted black (Tozzer 1941: 165, note 872). Moreover, we learn from the ac-
counts by Landa of the first day of Poph that this black soot was cleansed
in a purification ceremony (Tozzer 1941: 152). Hence, another direct con-
nection can be established between the rituals of Sabacil Than and of Pohp.
The ceremonies of diversion and of a general rejoicing prepared the
Yucatec psychologically for the afflicted Wayeb period. But we hear also of
fasting and that celibacy were practiced from up to three veintenas to no
less than thirteen days beforehand among the lords, the religious specialist,
the principal people and those who wished to do so on account of their
devotion. An election of the religious specialists, called Chacs, took in
addition place within the thirteen days before the New Year day, 1 Pohp
(Tozzer 1941: 152), e.g. in the period of Sabacil Than.
Two ritual strategiesan excessive festival of the non-religious special-
ists and a fasting, penance and celibacy of certain religious specialists and
devoteeswere executed in preparing for the Wayeb period. The various
ritual practices depended on religious and not on social, political, or eco-
nomical status of the participants. The Chac religious specialists, who
acted during Pohp, were chosen in this first sequence of the rite de passage
of the New Year Ceremony.

The Transition or Liminal Rite: The Year Bearer Ceremonies of Wayeb


The inauguration of the new Year Bearer in the liminal Wayeb period,
the last five days of misery of the previous 365-day calendar year of the
postclassic Yucatec Maya, have been comprehensively outlined by Landa
(Tozzer 1941: 136-148) and partly in Codex Dresden (pages 25-28), which in
many ways correspond with Landas account.21
Codex Dresden narrates the Wayeb ceremonies with two day-signs on
each page. These signs mark the last day of the Wayeb and the first day of
Pohp (Love 1994: 73-74). Landa makes it quite clear that the rituals of Wayeb
were inaugurating ceremonies before the New Year (Tozzer 1941: 138-139,
note 645):

21Only Codex Dresden outlines the Wayeb ceremonies of the three codices. Codex
Dresden and the Mexican codices Codex Borgia (lam. 49-52) and Codex Vaticanus B
(fol. 19-23) render the last day of the year (Taube 1988: 264-265).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 181
For celebrating the festival of the New Year, this people with great rejoicing
and with much dignity according to their unhappy ideas made use of the
five unlucky days, which were regarded by them as such before the first day
of the new year (Tozzer 1941: 138-139).
Wayeb represents the calendar period of five unnamed unlucky or fatal
days completing the 365-day calendar.22 These five nameless days are de-
scribed in the Codex Prez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Man as ill
fated (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 170; Miram 1988: 124). The Wayeb period
had many appellations. It was named xma kaba kin or days without names.
Pio Prez writes that the last five day period of the 365-day year is also called
Wayeb Haab, the bed or the compartment of the year, and U yail Kin or
U yail Haab, the unfortunate days or year, because a sudden death or ac-
cidents could occur during this time period. Other categories for this in-
terlude were Uayeab, Utuz Kin and Uloblo Kin (Sanchez de Aguilar in
Tozzer 1941: 135, note 630). The Nahua and Aztecs called the last five days,
in Nahuatl, of the 365-day calendar year for Nemontemi, the superfluous
or supplementary days. They were useless in the sense that there could
not be conducted any business within the Nemontemi period. The final 5
days of the year were sacred to no special gods. There were therefore many
taboos connected with these days in Mesoamerica (Bowditch 1910: 285-286;
Tozzer 1941: 134-135, note 630):
For these 360 days they have twenty letters or characters, by which they
name them, omitting to give a name to the other five days, since they con-
sidered them to be unlucky and bad (Tozzer 1941: 134).
The Chilam Balam Books of Man (Codex Prez), Tizimin and Kaua confirm
that there were names and numbers of the individual days of the Wayeb
(Bowditch 1910: 286; Tozzer 1941: 134-135, note 630; Craine and Reindorp
1979: 98).23
As a consequence, the Yucatec began their years from the days of the
Wayeb period, e.g. at the end of the preceding years, which constituted a
vigil for the celebration of their New Year (Tozzer 1941: 139, note 645). These
days were filled with many rituals but otherwise with inactivity with regard
to daily work and routines:

22Wayab chab or wayab haab: los cinco das complementarios que intercalaban los
maya a fin de ano para completar los 365 de que se compona (Barrera Vsquez, et al. 1980:
916). Wayeb mes maya (de 5 das, considerados como aciagos) (Barrera Vsquez 1980: 917).
23It is said in the Codex Prez that the , the five days of misfortune are to be counted
by their names, and the sixth number falls on the year-bearer (Craine and Reindorp
1979: 98).
182 chapter three
the Indians began their years from these nameless days, preparing them-
selves during them as with a vigil for the celebration of the festival of their
New Year, and besides the preparation which they made with the festival
of the idol U Uayeyab, for which they left their houses, the rest of their
preparations were to go out of the house very little during these five days,
and to offer in addition to the gifts of the general festival, beads to their
idols and to the others in the temples . During these days they did not
comb nor wash themselves, nor did the men nor women free themselves
from lice, nor did they undertake any mechanical or fatiguing work, for fear
that some misfortune should happen to them if they did so (Tozzer 1941:
166).
Four dissimilar (in content although not when regards to structure) Wayeb,
or so-called Year Bearer, ceremonies were conducted every four years. To
distinguish a 365-day calendar cycle from another in the 52-year calendar
the people in Mesoamerica called every year after one of four particular
days in the 260-day calendar for a Year Bearer.24 The Year Bearer is a
designation for the transition from one 365-day year to another 365-day
year in the 52-year cycle or Calendar Round. This system and the name of
the Year Bear day from the 260-day calendar vary in Mesoamerica.25 Only
four days from the 260-day calendar can mathematically be a Year Bearer.
Since 260 and 365 have 5 as a common mathematical factor, only every fifth
date of the 260-day calendar can coincide with a date of the 365-day cal-
endar and vice versa. Each Year Bearer increases every year until it reaches
the number thirteen. It will then re-begin at number one. After 52 years
will the same Year Bearer with an identical coefficient, again occur.26 No
ritual at the completion of the 52-year Calendar Round has been recognised
in Maya culture, but it is likely that theyas with many other cultures of
Mesoamericaobserved a 52-year calendar ritual.27
The dates, which fell on the first day of the New Year e.g. Pohp in the
Yucatec 365-day calendar, were considered to be Year Bearers. The Year
Bearers in postclassic Yucatn are in the Codex Paris and Codex Dresden:
Lamat, Ben, Edznab and Akbal, in Codex Madrid and in Landas Relacin:
Kan, Muluk, Ix and Kawak (Tozzer 1941: 135-138; Love 1994: 70).28 Each of

24Landa call it for a Dominical Day (Tozzer 1941: 135-137).


25Cf. Thompson (1978: 124; 127-128) and Taube (1988: 192).
26See Thompson (1978: 128), Taube (1988: 181-182), Miller and Taube (Miller and Taube
1993: 192) and Broda de Casas (1969: 27) for an explanation of the mathematical logic behind
this system.
27But cf. van Akkeren (2000).
28Cf. Pharo (2006) for a survey of the different names and sequences of the Year Bear-
ers in Mesoamerica.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 183
the Year Bearers were inaugurated in the days of the preceding year, e.g. in
the Wayeb period.
Landa identifies Kan with the south and the colour yellow (kan), Muluk
with the east and the colour red (chak), Ix with the north and the colour
white (sak), and Kawak with the west and the colour black (ek) (Tozzer
1941: 137-138). This Year Bearer day sequence has, however, been rejected
by Thomas (Thomas 1882: 68-69), Thompson (Thompson 1934: 212) and
Tozzer (Tozzer 1941: 136-137, note 635). They agree that Kan should be as-
sociated with the east, Muluk with the north, Ix with the west and Kawak
with the south direction. This was also the orientation, agreed by later
sources other than Landa, of the cardinal directions of the late colonial
period (Taube 1988: 274-275).29 Tozzer claims that the confusion Landa
made of the cardinal orientations of the Year Bearers was due to the fact
that he was not delineating the ceremony of the New Year, Kan but the
ceremonies in the Wayeb period of the previous year, Kawak (Tozzer 1941:
136-137, note 635). Taube rejects Landas account of the Year Bearer se-
quence based on his readings of the Year pages in Codex Madrid and Codex
Dresden. Taube argue instead that the account of the Wayeb-rituals of Kan,
provided by Landa, is an outline of the end of Kan (the Wayeb period of
Kan) and not the beginning of Kan in the Wayeb of Kawak. Landa was of
the conviction that the episode with the image of Kan in the Wayeb ritual
from the southern entrance is about the next and not the previous year
(Tozzer 1941: 141; Taube 1988: 276-277). In his descriptions of the four Uayeb
period rites, Landa clearly indicates that these rites represented auguries
for the upcoming year, although the New Year pages of the Codex Dresden
underlines that the rituals of the Wayeb period concern the termination
of the old year (Taube 1988: 277-278).
The ritual in the preceding Wayeb period inaugurates each of the years,
so that the ritual of the Kawak comes in the year of Kan and is related with
the colour red and the cardinal direction of east. The rituals of Muluk took
actually place in the five last days of the Kan years, the Ix years in the last
days of Muluk, Kawak in the last days of Ix and Kan in the last days of
Kawak. The idols of the deities placed in the temples at the end of the
Wayeb ceremony were the patrons of the old year. The four gods Bolon
Dzacab, Kinich Ahau, Itzamna and Uac Mitun Ahau are respectively
associated with the directions of the south, east, north and west. These are
the same orientations that are connected to their counterparts God K,

29But cf. Taube (1988: 275-276; 300, note 2).


184 chapter three
God G, God, D and God A in the New Year pages of Codex Dresden (Taube
1988: 279).
The Year Bearers were, accordingly connected to the four cardinal points
or world directions and their combined colours. Every fourth year was the
following rituals and Year Bearer celebrated by rituals during the Wayeb
period:
1. The first of the dominical letters (Year Bearer) was Kan. The omen of
the Bacab was called Hobnil, Kanal Bacab, Kan Pauah Tun, Kan Xib Chac.
Kan was set in the east and connected to the colour red. A service was
held for Kan u Uayeyab.
2. Muluk was connected to the north and associated with the colour white.
The omen of the Bacab was called Can tiziz nal, Chacal Bacab, Chac Pauh
Tun, Chac Xib Chac. A service was held for Sac u Uayeyab.
3. Ix corresponded to the west and with the colour black. The omen of the
Bacab was called Sac cimi, Sacal Bacab, Sac Pauh Tun, Sac Xib Chac. A
service was held for Ek u Uayeyab.
4. Kawak was combined with the south and the colour yellow. The omen
of the Bacab was called Hosan ek, Ekel Bacab, Ek Pauah Tun, Ek Xib Chac.
A service was held for Chac u Uayeyab
(Tozzer 1941: 136-139).30

After four years the cycle started again with Kan, the direction of the east
and the colour red etc.
A variety of deities functioned as patrons over each Year Bearer. These
were the four Bacabs, associated with a colour of the world directions and
an omen, where each had individual names. Other deities also played an
important role. Bolon-Tzacab ruled the Kan, Kinich-Ahau the Muluk, It-
zamna the Ix, and Uacmitun-Ahau the Kawak. The Year Bearer had either
an augury of luck and wealth or of calamity and poverty. Each ceremony
in honour of the deities began by chasing away the evil spirits. There were
several means to do this: by prayers, worship, offerings and sacrifices (Tozz-
er 1941: 138). The Bacabs, Bolon Dzacab and the gods with four names, Kan
u Uayeyab, Chac u Uayeyab, Sac u Uayeyab and Ek u Uayeyab, were all
honoured in the Wayeb period (Tozzer 1941: 139):
And in these days they held many services for the Bacabs, , and for the
god whom they called, as well as the Bacabs, by four other names, which
are Kan u Uayeyab, Chac u Uayeyab, Sac u Uayeyab and Ek u Uayeyab.

30The dominical days and directions, colours, and deities of the New Year ritual has
been summarised by Tozzer (1941: 136-137, note 635).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 185
These services and feasts over, and the evil spirit chased away from them,
as we shall see, they began the new year and its festival (Tozzer 1941: 139).
The four Itzamnahs were also appealed to in the Wayeb period with the
purpose to avert calamities (Tozzer 1941: 146, note 707).
Only minor differences exist between the rituals of the four Year Bearers
(Tozzer 1941: 139, note 650). Love has identified seventeen parallel events
in the four Wayeb ceremonies (Love 1986: 180-192). Love has also observed
that five ceremonial actions occur in almost all the four New Year rituals
of the Wayeb period: Building construction, incense burning, sacrifices,
offerings and dancing.31 Many of these events are depicted in Codex Madrid
(Love 1986: 172-180).32
No more than one of the four cardinal points was represented in the
Wayeb-ceremony of a given year. Landa report a placement of a pair of
stone piles at the four entrances of the community as a central part of the
Wayeb ceremonies. This was where the worshipped Wayeb figure was
placed after being carried out of the entrance representing the previous
year. The piles of stones symbolised the New Year. A blood sacrifice was
performed on the four idol stones, Acantun, in the Wayeb-ritual: Kanal
Acantun of the Year Kan (Tozzer 1941: 141), Chac Acantun of the Year Muluk
(Tozzer 1941: 144-145), Sac Acantun of the Year Ix (Tozzer 1941: 146) and Ekel
Acantun of the Year Kawak (Tozzer 1941: 146-147). Acantuns are mentioned
in The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel (Roys 1933: 111; 114). Roys translates
Acantun as stone stela which was associated with the four cardinal direc-
tions (Roys 1933: 171). An erection (tzap) of four similar stones is stated in
the text on the New Year pages of Codex Dresden.
Landa relates that at the end of one of the Year Bearer rituals of the
Wayeb the Yucatec returned to their houses, each occupying himself
with whatever there was to do for the celebration of the new year (Tozzer
1941: 144-145). The introduction of the third and last sequence of the rite
de passage of the New Year festival was accordingly prepared.

Rites of Incorporation and Renewing: The Renovation Ceremonies of Pohp


Rites of incorporation were celebrated on the first day of the New Year, the
first day of Pohp, and during the veintena of Pohp. This third sequence of

31Cf. Tozzer (1941: 330-332) for an outline of the various rituals within the Wayeb period.
32A dance of the month Paax, called Holkan okot, dance of the warriors were described
according to Tozzer in the Wayeb ritual of the Muluc years. It is also been called Batel okot
(Tozzer 1941: note 868, 165).
186 chapter three
the rite de passage, the ritual events of incorporation in Pohp is not as well
documented in the sources as the Wayeb ceremonies.
Codex Madrid describes the ceremonies on the first of Pohp, the instal-
lation of the New Year on pages 34-37. Only the Year Bearer, the first day of
the New Year, recorded (Love 1994: 73-74).33 Pages 3-6 and 24c-25c are as-
sociated in text and iconography with New Year pages 34-37 in Codex Ma-
drid according to Taube (Taube 1988: 261-263). There can be recognised 13
Year Bearers on the left side of each page but the work of the codex is not
very well executed. The inscription is practically unreadable and the cal-
endar is not rendered correctly (Taube 1988: 253-255). Bricker and Vail sug-
gests (Vail and Bricker 2002) that page 68a2 and 69a1 in Codex Madrid
corresponds to the beginning of Pohp (Vail 2002: 106, note 11). The New Year
pages of Codex Madrid, is in particular similar to the account of Landa.
Codex Madrid derives from the northwestern region of Yucatn, the area
documented by Landa and other colonial sources (Taube 1988: 258-259).34
Codex Dresden also relates events of the first day of Pohp. The most com-
plete information to this ritual sequence is, however, Landas Relacin
(Tozzer 1941: 151-153).35 Landa delineates renewal and renovation ceremo-
nies taking place at the first day of Pohp, the seating of Pohp, of the New
Year:
To celebrate it with more solemnity, they renewed on this day all the objects
which they made use of, such as plates, vessels, stools, mats and old clothes
and the stuffs with which they wrapped up their idols. They swept out their
houses, and the sweepings and the old utensils they threw out on the waste
heap outside the town; and no one, even were he in need of it, touched it
(Tozzer 1941: 151-152).
No particular deities are mentioned to appear in these rites. The entire
town led by the religious specialists and the four religious specialists, the
Chacs, participated (Love 1986: 172):

33Among the rituals are the Muluk dances, the human sacrifices during the Kan year
and the new fire ritual (pages 3a to 6a and 24c and 25c, Codex Madrid) where the household
debris and utensils were cast on a heap outside the city in renovation rituals (Love 1986).
34For a comparison with the New Year pages of Codex Madrid and the colonial accounts
cf. Love (1986), Taube (1988) and Cassandra R. Bill, Christine L. Hernndez and Victoria R.
Bricker (2000).
35In song 12 of the Cantares de Dzitbalch is the vigil and celebration of the New Year
on the first day of Pohp narrated according to Taube. The song is called kilis tuup yok uitz,
the extinguishing of the old wealthy man upon the hill. The same account is rendered in
Relacion de la Villa de Valladolid, 1579 (Barrera Vsquez 1965; Taube 1988: 292-297).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 187
The first day of Pop, which is the first month of the Indians, was their new
year and was a very solemn festival among them; as it was universal and all
took part in it and so the whole town jointly made the feast to all the idols
(Tozzer 1941: 151).
This was a festival where only men could participate, except the old danc-
ing women, because women were not allowed to enter the temple (Tozzer
1941: 152). There was a cleansing of the black soot in the temple, which the
men had been covered with during the fast of the Sabacil Than ceremony.
They were at this stage of the rite de passage ornamented with red oint-
ment (Tozzer 1941: 152). The four Chac impersonators, elected thirteen days
before in Kumku, delineated space with a cord (Tozzer 1941: 153). The reli-
gious specialist purified the temple and was seated in the middle of the
court and:
The Chacs seated themselves at the four corners, and stretched from one
to the other a new cord, within which were to enter all those who had fasted,
in order to drive out the evil spirit, (Tozzer 1941: 153).
A new fire was kindled by the Chacs:
Once having expelled the evil spirit, all began to pray with great devotion,
and the Chacs kindled the new fire, and lighted the brazier for in the feasts
in which all joined in common, they burned incense to the idol with new
fire and the priest began to throw this (kind of) incense into it, and all came
in their turn, beginning with the lords, to receive incense from the hands
of the priest, which he gave them with as much gravity and devotion as if
he were giving them relics. And they threw it into the brazier little by little
waiting till it had finished burning. After this perfuming, they all ate the
gifts and presents, and the wine went round till they became very drunk,
and this was their new year and a service very acceptable to their idols
(Tozzer 1941: 153).
A similar renovation was made at the end of the Calendar Round period
by the Aztecs after which a New Fire was made and refurnishing and re-
furbishing took place (cf. the analysis of the Aztec 52-year calendar ritual
in part IV). Then the men assembled in the court of the temple on New
Years day (Tozzer 1941: 152). Landa mentions only briefly rituals, which took
place later during Pohp:
Afterward there were some others who in the course of this month Pop
celebrated this festival with devotion with their friends, and with the nobles
and the priests; for their priests were always the first in their rejoicings and
drinkings (Tozzer 1941: 153).
188 chapter three
The indeed extensive proceedings of the rite de passage of the postclassic
Yucatec 365-day New Year were thus concluded.36

4.The Ritual Structure of the Mesoamerican and the European Catholic


Liturgical 365-day Calendar

The traditional Mesoamerican 365-day calendar was anchored to the Eu-


ropean 365-day calendar after the Spanish invasion (Lounsbury 1981: 813).
But the ritual structure of the traditional Indigenous Mesoamerican 365-
day calendar and the European Catholic calendar is quite dissimilar. In
contrast the Gregorian calendar consists of 12 months of more or less 30
days each (month) whereas the Mesoamerican 365-day calendar incorpo-
rates eighteen units of time of twenty days each (Sp. veintena) and is
completed with a period of five days. No such five day liminal period, as
the final time unit, incorporates the Gregorian 365-day calendar.

36A ritual structure of a 40-day period as a rite de passage may be detected in the 260-
day calendar of the Mixe (Ayuuk Jaay; Mouth of the Mountain People). There is a complex
40 day period of chaos or disorder (naaxawaats, tierra abierta) within the 260-day calendar
(si:tu, road of days or si:ma:gy, to divine or count the days) of the contemporary Mixe
of the north-eastern part of Oaxaca, Mexico. There is no initial or terminated date of the
260-day calendar. The 40-day period begin on the day TujtPaa (6 Paa) (September 3) and
is terminated on the day TujtJuuky (6 Juuky) (October 12). Order is restored on the next
day KuyByaa (7 Byaa). The earth is open and nature is in disarray. No sacrifices to the dei-
ties can be made because they are absent or, as told by the local informant Germn Perfecto
to Duinmeijer on vacation:
1. TujtPaa (6 Paa). When the period of chaos begins. The deities are en todas partes.
2. TuukTeets (3 Teets). The deities become sober.
3. MaktsKapy (4 Kapy). The deities take a bath.
4. MolokKaa (5 Kaa). The deities return home and talk a bit about the past days.
5. TujtJuuky (6 Juuky). A feast is organised with dancing and the handing out of cigars.
6. KuyByaa (7 Byaa). Order is restored.
The meaning of four stations of the 40-day period revolves in a heliocentric fashion, accord-
ing to Frank Lipp, derives from the translation of the day names. They symbolise earth or
people completing a fiesta cycle. These stations are called istigi (beginning; contrary or
backward) (Lipp 1983: 179-187; 1991: 56-57; 61; Duinmeijer 1997: 191-192). A 40-day period of
disorder is also known from 365-day calendars. In the Maya 365-day calendar from Jaca-
ltenango is an identical 40-day period called feet of the haab, conceivably a ceremonial
period before the inauguration of the New Year Bearer (La Farge 1947: 169). It is possible
that the 40-day period of the 260-day calendar previously felled within the 365-day calendar
since it takes place just before the New Year on October 15. It may have been a preparatory
ceremonial period before the New Year. The Year Bearers of the Central Plateau, Mixtec
and Maya calendars are separated by 40 days. Moreover, 40-day periods are associated with
cyclical rituals of the Mixe (Lipp 1993: 182-183; Duinmeijer 1997: 192).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 189
The Indigenous people of Mesoamerica were forced to use the Christian
liturgical calendar by the Spanish invaders. But the traditional Mesoamer-
ican 365-day calendar was many places retained after the Spanish invasion.
The Indigenous rituals of time have, however, been influenced by Catholic
theology and concepts. A co-existence of the traditional 365-day calendar
and the 365-day Catholic liturgical calendar can be identified in some Me-
soamerican cultures. I will in this context only consider the Maya. For ex-
ample, the Chamula calendar is used to indicate the day for agricultural
work. It is the Catholic calendar, which determinates the dates of the fes-
tivals of the 365-day cycle through the annual publication of the calendar
almanac called Calendario del ms antiguo Galvn. Only the flower-chang-
ing ceremony follows therefore the pre-European/pre-Christian calendar
among the present day Chamula (Gossen 1974: 27-28). La Farge writes of
the Kanhobal speaking Maya of the village Santa Eulalia in Los Altos Cu-
chumatanes of Department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala:
The Mayan 365-day year has been partly supplanted by the Gregorian year,
the significance of which is emphasized by the entry into office of civil and
religious officials on January 1 and by the fixing in it of the Christian festivals.
The ordinary literate Indian, however, has no idea of the number of the
current year; and that term in Spanish, or the Kanhobal habil, indicates to
him in a vague way the completion of a round of seasons rather than a fixed
period beginning and ending on a certain day. To him the haab is as valid
as the Gregorian year. It happens that the agricultural year begins roughly
midway between January 1 and the time of the year-bearer in the middle of
March. Thus to some degree both starting dates are unrealistic to the ordi-
nary laymen (Farge 1947: 165-166).
Three categories of ritual practices of time of the 365-day calendar can be
recognized among selected Maya cultures in Mesoamerica:
1. The Maya Year Bearer ritual of the Mesoamerican 365-day calendar;
The postclassic Yucatec (Tozzer 1941).
2. The Maya-Catholic Year Bearer ritual of the Mesoamerican 365-day
calendar; Mam (Oaks 1969); Ixil (Lincoln 1942); Tzotzil of Chamula
(Bricker 1989); Jacalteca (Farge and Byers 1927; Farge 1947).37
3. The Maya-Catholic cargo-changing Year Bearer ritual of the Gregorian
365-day calendar; Tzotzil of Zinacantn (Vogt 1993).

37About the Jacaltec Year-Bearer system, cf. Deuss, Kristina, Shamans, Witches and
Maya Priests. The Guatemalan Maya Centre. 2007.
190 chapter three
The structure of a rite de passage can be detected in the traditional/Cath-
olic Year Bearer ritual of the contemporary Mam of Santiago Chimaltenan-
go. The Mam Chimanes (religious specialists) abstain from sexual relations
ten days before the New Year that is the ritual of separation. They then in
the transition or liminal phase conduct costumbres at the cerros and in
their house during the five bad days. On the day Batz, the sequence of in-
corporation, the chiman receive people in the evening. The ensuing night
the spirit or dueo de cerro will appear and answer questions and make
prognostications for the New Year. There is subsequently a big festival
called Xoj Kau, of the Chimanes were they welcome the New Year Bearer
(Oakes 1969: 191-192).38
The Ixil Maya lives in the highland of northwestern Guatemala. The
260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar existed when Lincoln conduct-
ed a fieldtrip in this region in 1942.39 The 365-day calendar (ualyab), where
the veintena (uinals), comprises the five supernumerary days at the end of
the year (okt). There are four Year Bearer days (alcaldes del mundo or ij
yab) which succeed each other every five days in regular order in the 20-
day count and as opening days of each year (Lincoln 1942: 106). A general
confession and utterance of the Christian doctrine influence the Ixil reli-
gious system (Lincoln 1942: 110-112). As a result, the traditional Mesoamer-
ican Year Bearer ceremonies, as presented by Lincoln (Lincoln 1942: 112-120),
were performed within a Christian paradigm.
The five-day intercalary days of the 365-day calendarwayeb or xma
kaba kin, nameless days in Yucatec Mayaare called chay kin, lost days
in Tzotzil and Tzeltal (Bricker 1989: 231). Ceremonies are performed during
the period of these days, which terminates the old year in the highlands of
Chiapas, Mexico. This ritual takes place at the same date as the Catholic
festivals of the Carnival in many contemporary Maya communities (Brick-
er 1989: 231). The rituals of Chamula during the five lost days before the
year ends, consists of The Bull Sacrifice, A Fire-Walking Ritual and a
Jaguar Skin dance. The Bull sacrifice, The Jaguar Skin Dance and the Fire-
Walking Ritual embody nowadays, according to the Chamulas, the mean-
ing of year-ending rituals. These ceremonies are interpreted within a
Catholic context where they are related to the Biblical Passion since the
five lost days begins on the Saturday before Ash Wednesday in Chamula
(Bricker 1989: 232-234).

38Cf. also a description and interpretation of this ceremony by Oakes (1969: 193-208).
39Lincoln collected his information on the calendar from 25 Ixil Maya leading officials
and calendar specialists (Lincoln 1942: 106).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 191
La Farge and Byers conducted fieldwork in the village Jacaltenango, the
centre of the Jacalteca-speaking Maya of the Cuchumatanes Mountains of
the Department of Huehuetenango, Guatemala, in 1927 (La Farge and Byers
1927: 179-184). The Year Bearer ceremony was abandoned shortly after the
visit of La Farge and Byers. The Year Bearer is called, Iqom habil while the
New Year Ceremony is named, Xahanbal (Cahampal) (sacrifice).
Xahanbal is said to derive from xahan, which means, sin (Sp. pecado).
The ritual may therefore have been an expiation of committed sins. There
was a fast three days before and abstention from alcohol during the cere-
mony. Animals were sacrificed and blood scattered on an altar (La Farge
and Byers 1927: 177-178). A Christian priest visited the village twice a year.
Christian (Catholic) ceremonials, saints etc. had hence influenced the tra-
ditional religious system. That the Year Bearer ritual of the Jacaltenangos
was under influence of the Catholic Church is further indicated by the
prayer of the Prayer Makers at the big Cruz de la Cruzes and at the door of
the church, with incense and sacrifice during the ceremonial proceedings.
There was also a case of flagellation during the ritual (La Farge and Byers
1927: 180; 1997: 184).
Evon Z. Vogt ethnographic investigation of the rituals, of the Tzotzil-
speaking municipality (municipio), Zinacantn in Chiapas, Mexico, exhib-
its that there is not a five liminal day period in the Zinacanteco 365-day
calendar. Four Year Bearers delineates the ritual space of the four cardinal
directions but Catholic and ancient Maya religious practices pervades the
culture of the Zinacanteco. The annual New Year ritual implies a change
of office (kexel) for the cargo holders, the Moletik (Grand and Second Al-
calde and four Regidores) and the Mayordomo Reyes and Mesoneros, of
the religious organisation of Zinacanteco. These public servants serve one
year in office. The ceremonies take place on the night of December 30-31.
The period from December 16 to January 25 contains rituals, which cele-
brates the end of and the beginning of a new ceremonial year. The ceremo-
nial change of office for many of the cargo-holders was undertaken during
these days (Vogt 1993: 143; 156; 174-176).

5.An Interval Ritual: A Ritual Transition from Xul to Yaxkin and Mol
within the Postclassic Yucatec 365-day Calendar

There are indications that the year of the postclassic Yucatec 365-day cal-
endar was almost certainly ceremonially transferred from the veintena of
Xul to Yaxkin because there are similarities between the descriptions of
the ritual performed on the last five days of Xul and Wayeb in Landas
192 chapter three
Relacin. Xul can be rendered as completion and Yaxkin can be trans-
lated as new sun or new day. The last day of the previous veintena and
the first day of the new veintena found place at the same time. This sign is
nearly always placed together with Yax kin. Yax kin may therefore origi-
nally have been the first veintena of the New Year. Gates originally pro-
posedlater followed by Tozzerthe idea that the 365-day year began in
Yaxkin (Wichmann 2000: 47; 49; 222). Gates writes, in his 1937 translation
of Landas Relacin, that:
Xul means end, termination, and on the 16th they created new fire, and
continued offerings and other ceremonies for the last five days of the month,
paralleling those later carried on before the New Year beginning the 1st of
Pop. Kin means sun, day, time so that Yaxkin means new time. And so
even in the later changed arrangement they kept the month Yaxkin for the
renewal of all utensils with preparation for the very sacred ceremonial carv-
ing of the new images in the following month Mol, and carried through into
Chen (Gates 1978: 74-75, original bold emphasis changed to italic).
Landa accounts that in the veintena of Xul, all the lords and religious spe-
cialists gathered in the city of Man with people coming in multitudes from
the towns after fasts and abstention. A procession of people was carrying
idols from the temple of the lord to the temple of Kukulcan. There was a
kindling of a new fire and offerings were made. In the temple remained the
lords and the ones who had fasted for five days and five nights in prayer,
making sacrifices and executing sacred dancing until the first day of Yaxkin
(Tozzer 1941: 157-158). Tozzer observed that: The fasting and prayers, to-
gether with the rites held on the last five days of the month Xul, recall the
same details in the ritual held on the Uayeb days (Tozzer 1941: 158, note
808). The last five days of Xul can be understood, like the five-day Wayeb
period, as an inverted or as a liminal period of a rite de passage. Landa
outline the ceremonial activity during these days:
The comedians went during these five days among the principal houses,
playing their pieces and collected the gifts which were given to them, and
they carried the whole of them to the temple where, when the five days
were ended and past, they divided the gifts among the lords, priests and
dancers, and they got together the banners and idols and returned to the
house of the lord, and from there each one to his own house (Tozzer 1941:
158).
Kukulcan came down from the sky on the last of the five days. He received
the vigils and offerings of the festival of five days called Chic Kaban (Tozzer
1941: 158).40

40Roys has etymologically analysed Chic Kaban (Tozzer 1941: 157, note 802).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 193
On Yaxkin a general festival called Yolob u dzab Kan Yax was, in honour
of all the deities, prepared for the succeeding veintena of Mol. A religious
specialist determined this day (Tozzer 1941: 158-159). During Yaxkin an
initiation ceremony and a renewal ritual, that came off in November-De-
cember and which began the new agricultural year, was executed. Yaxkin
corresponded in the mid-sixteenth century to the period November 23-De-
cember 12 when the bush is cut down in preparation for making the milpa
(Tozzer 1941: 158-159, note 811).41 Yaxkin is recorded several times in Codex
Madrid, supposedly in association with a first fruit ritual (Vail 2002: 78-85).
Landa records also analogous New Year ritual elements in the veintena Mol
(which succeeds Yaxkin).
Moreover, the Yolob u dzab Kan Yax initiation ceremony for boys and
girls was undertaken in Mol. A fasting and the election of the Chacs were
undertaken. There was a drunken ceremony at the end of this feast with a
renewal of idols (Tozzer 1941: 159-160). An erection of the four Acantun
(stones) at four cardinal points in a ritual for the manufacture of wooden
idols did also take place in the veintena of Mol (Tozzer 1941: 159-160). Lan-
da writes that during Mol the Yucatec put incense to burn to four gods
called Acantuns, which they located and placed at the four cardinal points
(Tozzer 1941: 160). It will be remembered that in each of the four Wayeb-
rituals there was a stone called Acantun connected to a colour and a car-
dinal point. Each of these stones represents the four cardinal points of the
world in the cosmogony according to Roys (Roys 1933: 171; Tozzer 1941: 160,
note 827). A ceremonial or period-ending interval transition can have
been performed from the sixth to the eighth veintenaXul, Yaxkin and
Molwithin the 365-day calendar year. But how can this be explained
within the context of the New Year rituals of Paax, Kayab, Kumku, Wayeb
and Pohp?
Ethnographic data convey that fixed seasonable summer and winter
stations, every period lasting 180 days, within the traditional 365-day cal-
endar were observed in numerous Maya communities.
The Chorti 365-day calendar ceremony of the village Quetzaltepeque
at the department of Chiquimula, Guatemala has been witnessed and de-

41In the eastern Yucatn peninsula today, late November and early December mark
the time when the maize ears are doubled on their stalks and harvesting begins (Redfield
and Villa Rojas 1934: 83; Villa Rojas 1945: 78-79). The harvesting of the maize crop also takes
place during the same time period in the Lacandn area of Chiapas (Davis 1978: Table 2)
and in the Chorti region of Honduras. Additionally the Chorti harvest festival is celebrated
in late November or early December, and manufacturing tasks are also begun during this
time (Wisdom 1940: 468) (Vail 2002: 78; 85).
194 chapter three
lineated by Rafael Girard. The old cosmo-ideogram is discarded so the rain
gods are not able to function. This is a symbolic destruction of the cosmos,
which features the termination of the old time cycle. The rainy period is
closed and the summer calendar cycle under the protection of the new sun
begins on the October 25 under the ceremonial supervision of a new group
of religious specialists. This ritual ending of the rainy season and the intro-
duction of the summer cycle under the New Sun may be reflected in Landas
Relacin by the words Xul (end) and Yaxkin (New Sun) of the pre-His-
panic/pre-Christian calendar claims Girard. The end of Xul and October
25 corresponds, according to the calendar delineated by Don Pedro Sn-
chez de Aguilar (Bishop of Yucatn in the 17th century) book Informe con-
tra Idolorum Cultores (1639 ad). The introduction and termination of the
winter and summer seasons, which embodies either nine 20 periods or 20
nine periods cycles of 180 days each, are ritually dramatised by nine reli-
gious specialists. Time is thereby ceremonially ordered or structured. A
bipartite division of 180 days of winter and summer cycles each are ceremo-
nially celebrated by their beginning and ending. They are separated and
untied at the same time as parts of a whole. There is a change of deities,
religious specialists, religious institutions and ceremonies at the transfor-
mation of winter and summer seasons. But there is also continuity, since
the rain gods become solar gods and vice versa (Girard 1966: 219-228).
The Chorti 365-day year is tied or closed on January 7 at the last dance
of the Bull. The bull is tied with a lasso with the sacred number of five tied
knots. A prayer is held with the wish of health and good fortune for the
coming year for the community. The old year is tied (Sp. anudado) when
the summer cycle and calendar wheel are concluded. The ceremony of the
fastening of the bull completes the year symbolically. There is not celebrat-
ed another ceremony until the New Year ritual. A cycle of 20 days (from
December 19 to January 7) is represented by the dance of the Bull. It ends
with the binding of the Bull who impersonates both a time period and a
deity. The termination of the year rituals concludes the merry and festive
season of the cycle of solar worship, a period taking place after the 260-day
cycle of agricultural labour (Girard 1949: 271-272; 1966: 262-263). Conse-
quently, a 180 days summer and winter season and an ending of the five
afflicted days, xma kaba kin, constitutes the 365-day calendar of the Chorti.
A chrono-religious and economical division of the Chorti 365-day calendar
is therefore divided in three sections:
1. The date of the New Year.
2. The opening ceremony of the rain season.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 195
3. The exaltation of the New Sun (Yax kn) with the introduction of the
summer season.
The Kiche-speaking Ach or Aj-Cubul winak of the municipio of Cubulco
located in the departamento of Baja Verapaz in the central highlands of
Guatemala has retained most of the ancient system of computing time.
The year (hunab) is divided into half-years (nikah hunab). There are ac-
cordingly two seasons, rain (alah) and dry (saih), each composed of six
veintenas. Ceremonies are performed at the beginning and at the termina-
tion of the rainy season (Neuenswander 1981: 143-147).
The 365-day calendar year renewal rituals of the contemporary Tzotzil
Zinacanteco are also executed twice a year. Ac Habil (New Year), OLol
Habil (Midyear) and Slaheb Habil (End of year) are celebrated by various
religious specialists. Only in the centre of Zinacantn are all these rituals
performed annually, where they are conducted for the good of the entire
community (Vogt 1993: 179).42 The period of New Year festival, December
16 to January 25, fall at the end of the maize cycle. It is a ritual marking of
the end of the old and the beginning of the new solar year.43 There are two
phases: The Christmas-New Years Epiphany and after twelve days there is
the fiesta of San Sebastin.44 The phases are like a couplet in a Zinacanteco
prayer: the second restates and intensifies the ritual symbols and themes
of the first comments Vogt (Vogt 1993: 176). The Year renewal rituals do not
follow the Catholic calendar in a specific way. The most prestigious reli-
gious specialist, the Presidente and the Elders sets the dates. It is essential
that the Year Renewal rituals do not come in conflict with other ceremo-
nial dates (Vogt 1993: 180).45 These ceremonies are terminating and renew-
ing the cycle of the 365-day year. If the end of the year originally took place
near the winter solstice, as that would follow the natural time cycle of the
sun, is not known (Vogt 1993: 187).

42Zinacantecos say they are performed so the year may pass in happiness and content-
ment, without sickness or death (Vogt 1993: 179).
43The events begin just before the winter solstice, when the sun reaches its lowest
point of waning, and continue through what is appropriately considered the rising heat
fiesta as the sun is moving higher into the sky, the danger of frost is passing, and the new
maize-growing season is about to begin (Vogt 1993: 176).
44Cf. also Hunt (1977: 226-228).
45The New Year Ceremony is set for a Sunday-Monday-Tuesday in late January or
early February, following San Sebastin, which symbolizes the end of one year and the
beginning of the next. The Midyear rite is scheduled for a Sunday-Monday-Tuesday after
June 24, the Day of San Juan. And the End of Year ceremony is assigned a Sunday-Monday-
Tuesday following All Saints Day, usually late in November but occasionally in early
December (Vogt 1993: 180).
196 chapter three
The ceremonial practice of the veintenas of Xul, Yaxkin and Mol of the
postclassic Yucatec 365-day calendar presumably display such an interval
temporal ritual (provided that Landas account of the ceremonial proceed-
ings of the veintenas is correct), but not as a Half Year ritual since these
veintenas does not fall on Half Year dates. The sequences of the Half Year
were recognised by the postclassic Maya. It had a significant position in
the seasonal table in the Codex Dresden and was related with the solstices.
The Half Year of 180 days of the late postclassic and colonial Yucatec Maya
365-day calendar fall on the date 1 Yax and during the nameless days (xma
kaba kin) of Wayeb (beginning of the 361st day of the year) (Bricker and
Miram 2002: 39-41; 47). The reason for celebrating the sequence of the
veintenas rituals of Xul, Yaxkin and Mol of the postclassic Yucatec 365-day
calendar is indeed obscure but it may have an agricultural significance (cf.
below) since Yaxkin, new sun might refer to the dry season or winter and
Mol to harvest according to Stuart (Stuart 2011: 159).
It is quite clear from the ethnographic data given above that a comple-
tion and renewing of sequences of time can be ritually celebrated, not only
at the beginning and end, but also at certain stations within the 365-day
calendar. Consequently, interval temporal rituals, at Half Year or at other
time stations, of the solar and the agricultural 365-day calendar were com-
monly practised.

6.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time and Space

Not much detailed data of the postclassic Yucatec cosmogony are available.
The exact locations of creation and the site of the New Year ceremonies
are not known so that a symbolic ritual in this manner cannot be estab-
lished. Neither do the ritual actors or the dates of creation correspond with
the New Year festival. The ritual performers did not impersonate or imitate
the creator deities in the New Year ritual.
An intimate relation of the creation story, cosmology and the calendar
in postclassic Yucatn philosophy is narrated in The Books of Chilam
Balam.46 A story of a deluge introducing the present world era was re-
corded to have happened katun 11 Ajaw in The Chilam Balam books of Tiz-
imin (Edmonson 1982: 40-41), Man (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 118-119) and
Chumayel (Roys 1933: 99-100).47

46Cf. Paxton about postclassic Yucatec cosmology.


47Cyrus Thomas found that 11 Ajaw appear at the beginning and 13 Ajaw at the end of
the thirteen katun cycle recorded on pages 71 to 73 in Codex Dresden (Taube 1988: 149).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 197
The Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin (Makemson 1951: 40; Edmonson
1982: 40-41, 45-48), of Man (Sols Acal 1949: 230-233; Crane and Reindorp
1979: 118-119) and of Chumayel (Roys 1933: 99-100; Edmonson 1986: 153-156),
agree in the date and the destruction of the world by a great flood, which
lead to the creation of the present world (Taube 1988: 135-136).48 The del-
uge is considered in The Books of Chilam Balam as both the beginning and
the end of the calendar cycle. The phrase lai hun yecil bin tzocebal u than
katun, that is a flood which will be the ending of the word of the katun is
expressed in the Tizimin (Edmonson 1982: 41) and in the Man related with
a cycle of 18 four hundred years (uaxaclahun tuc bak u haabil), which was
in the 17th count according to Taube , evidently a Mayan version of the
eleventh hour (Taube 1988: 148-149).
The Bacabs were active in the annihilation of the former world era and
the creation of the present world. They caused the flood and later set up
the four trees of abundance at the four cardinal directions (Roys 1933: 98-
107). After the flood the creation was completed with five trees being erect-
ed at the four cardinal directions and in the centre, as told by The Books of
Chilam Balam. The trees are described as the sign (chicul) of the destruction
of the preceding world (haycabil). In the accounts of Man and the Chu-
mayel the trees were associated with the Bacabs. They, as Sky Bearers, are
supporting the world after the flood destroyed the previous world (Roys
1933: 99-100; Taube 1988: 138; 142-143). The contemporary Chorti creation
story, reflect this theme, by the story of the four ?anhel who caused a flood
by shaking the beams which supported heaven at the four cardinal points
of the world (Fought 1972: 377-378; Taube 1988: 138).
The katun terminates on the day Ajaw and begins on the day Imix of
the 260-day calendar. In the Chilam Balam books of Tizimin and Man, the
cosmogonic flood event occurred in Katun 13 Ahaw, the last katun of the
Short Count calendar. The trees erected after the deluge are designated as
Imix Che (Imix trees), which presumably refers to the first day of a new
katun cycle (Taube 1989: 9; 1995: 72). The Chumayel relates that the four
Bacabs created the fourth world. These four deities placed a world tree
associated with a colour and a perching bird in each of the four cardinal
directions. A great tree was also erected in the centre. The plate of the
katun was set up and the Piltec tree was erected in each of the cardinal
directions. Ah Uuc Cheknal fertilised the earth represented by Itzam Cab

48The sources of the account of the flood story and the destruction of the previous
world, has been summarised by Taube (1988: 135-152).
198 chapter three
Ain, The Giant Fish Earth Caiman. There was no day or night, creation
dawned upon the world. The vigesimal counting system is created and the
world was organised in four cardinal directions (Roys 1933: 99-102).
We learn from the The Rituals of Angels of the Chumayel that four
deities, Pawahtuns apparently classic equivalents of the Bacabs, with a
distinctive colour each are set up at the four cardinal directions respec-
tively:
(These are) the angels49 of the winds which were set up while he created
the star; when the world was not yet lighted, where there was neither heaven
nor earth: The Red Pauahtun, The White Pauahtun, the Black Pauahtun, the
Yellow Pauahtun (Roys 1933: 110).
Before his commentaries and outline of the New Year rituals, Landa intro-
duces an account of the creation story of the four Bacabs of the destruction
of the former world age by a deluge and the creation of the current world:
They said that they were four brothers whom God placed, when he created
the world, at the four points of it, holding up the sky, so that it should not
fall. They also said of these Bacabs, that they escaped when the world was
destroyed by the deluge. They gave other names to each one of them and
designated by them the part of the world where God had placed him, bear-
ing up the heavens, and they appropriated to him and to the part where he
stands one of the four dominical letters. And they distinguished the calam-
ities and fortunate events which they said must happen during the year of
each one of them, and of the letters, which accompany them. And the devil,
who deceived them in this as in everything else, informed them of the wor-
ship and offerings, which they were to make to him in order to escape the
calamities. And so the priests said, when no calamity happened to them
that it was on account of the services, which they had offered to him; and
in case misfortunes came, they made the people understand and believe
that it was owing to some sin or fault in the services or in those who per-
formed them (Tozzer 1941: 135-136).
That the story of creation was connected to the ritual practice of time of
the 365-day calendar may not be a coincidence. There are otherwise few
allusions to stories in the Relacin. Creation is thereafter combined with a
threat of disastrous destructions or calamities if not the deities are being
served or propitiated with worship and offerings in the rituals of the ending
of the 365-day period. Landa employ the derogatory word devil and there-
by gives the impression that the religious specialists of the Yucatec ma-
nipulate the people to believe in the threat of their pagan deities. The

49Cangeles ik (Roys 1933: 110, note 3).


the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 199
problematic translated concepts sin and fault from the creation account
of Landa are to be understood, not in a Christian theological paradigm, but
as a failure to observe ritual service towards the deities. A do ut des prin-
ciple is here at work. One have to perform ceremonies and sacrifices to
alleviate the deities thereby avoiding their wrath, which would cause ca-
lamities and misfortune.
After this discourse Landa begin a rather lengthy relation of the four
Year Bearer ceremonies of the Wayeb period succeeded by a narration of
the incorporation rituals of the first veintena of the year, Pohp (Tozzer 1941:
136-152). A demolition and re-creation of the world story preceding a nar-
rative of the New Year rituals appears not only in Landas account but also
in the postclassic codices.50 Taube has detected that in the three surviving
Maya codices a story of the flood is being related before the New Year
pages (Taube 1988: 273-274). The cataclysmic deluge scene on pages 32 and
33 come before the New Year pages of 34-37 in Codex Madrid. The flood
scene on page 21 in Codex Paris also seems to introduce the New Year pag-
es of this codex. Pages 69-74 of Codex Dresden, which represents the de-
struction of the world by a flood and its renewal by an erection of the four
world directional trees, heralds the New Year pages and the New Year ritu-
als as described by Landa, in the originally pagination (Taube 1988: 143-152;
265-266; 1995: 72-73). The annihilation and re-creation of the world thus
adjoin the New Year ceremonies in the codices. A re-creation of the world
and renewing of time might therefore be the central theme and motivation
for conducting the New Year Ceremony of the 365-day calendar where the
New Year celebrations were annual ritual re-enactments of and protection
against the destruction and creation of the world (Taube 1988: 310-311; 1995:
73).
A common theme of the creation of the present world in the accounts
of the codices, The Books of the Chilam Balam and Landas Relacin was the
erection of four trees at the four cardinal directions. The creator deities
thus symbolically made the earth, e.g. space. But it appears that the 365-day
calendar ritual did not contain an eschatological or apocalyptical philoso-
phy. The sources and the order and manner of the ritual proceedings do
not corroborate Taubes theory of possible forces of darkness, destruction,
and chaos threatening the postclassic Yucatec at the end of their 365-day
calendar.

50The Yucatec story of the cataclysmic deluge has been analysed by Taube (1988: 135-
151). See also Thompson for an account of the flood story in Mesoamerica creation accounts
(1970: 330-348).
200 chapter three
Such a cosmological interpretation needs to be modified to apply to a
ceremonial renewal or re-structuring of the 365-day agricultural year.
Space, e.g. the earth or the world, was not ritually-symbolically redefined
in the New Year ritual of the 365-day calendar because of the structure of
the ritual proceedings. Hence space cannot be said to replicate the creation
events in the New Year rituals. I will illustrate this essential feature of the
ritual by showing how space is related to time in the 365-day New Year
festival in only a moderately spatial-temporal, but not a symbolically emu-
lated quadripartite, fashion.

7.A Spatial-Temporal Ritual

Time of the 365-day calendar year embodied quadripartite space. The Year
Bearers of the 365-day calendar were, as spatial-temporal entities, associ-
ated with the four supporters of the world in Mesoamerica. Landa com-
pares the Year Bearer days with the four Sky Bearers of the cardinal
directions, the Bacabs (Tozzer 1941: 136; Taube 1988: 191). Thompson has, as
Roys (1933: 170-172), asserted in his seminal article Sky Bearers, Colours
and directions in Maya and Mexican religion (1934) that Year Bearers were
associated with Sky Bearers, their cardinal directions and associated co-
lours. With their close identification with the four directions of the world,
the Year Bearers and Sky Bearers were integrally related, and at times they
may have been considered as a single entity (Taube 1988: 191). The four Year
Bearers of time are connected with the four cardinal points or world direc-
tions and their four associated colours for the postclassic Yucatec. Time is
in this manner affiliated with space.
The new Year Bearer is ritually inaugurated and celebrated in the Wayeb
period replace the old Year Bearer. The Year Bearer Kan was set in the east
with its colour red, Muluk was placed in the north associated with the
colour white, Ix corresponded to the west and with the colour black, and
Kawak was combined with the east and the colour yellow. After four years
the cycle started again with Kan, the direction east and the colour yellow
etc. The ritual in the preceding Wayeb period inaugurated each of the years,
so that the ritual of the Kawak comes in the year of Kan and is connected
with the colour red and the cardinal direction of east. The Bacabs were, as
we recall, four brothers whom God had been spared from the great deluge
of the previous world. They were placed at the four cardinal points to hold
up the sky. The four Bacabs had several names and were connected to one
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 201
of the four dominical letters, which was associated with a cardinal direction
(Tozzer 1941: 135-136). Every year was therefore associated with one of the
four Bacab deities. These gods had individual names, were connected to a
cardinal direction and a colour, and a specific omen of the year. The Bacabs,
Kan u Uayeyab, Chac u Uayeyab, Sac u Uayeyab and Ek u Uayeyab, were
honoured by ceremonial service in the ritual proceedings of the Wayeb
period (Tozzer 1941: 139):
It was the custom in all the towns in Yucatn that there should be two heaps
of stone, facing each other at the entrance of the town, on all four sides of
the town, that is to say, at the East, West, North and South, for the celebra-
tion of the festival of the unlucky days, which they observed in this way
every year (Tozzer 1941: 139).
This was where the worshipped deity, called Kan u Uayeyab, Chac u Uaye
yab, Sac u Uayeyab or Ek u Uayeyab for the respective year, was placed
after being carried out of the entrance that represented the previous year.
The piles of stones symbolised the New Year. A blood sacrifice was per-
formed on the four idol stones, Acantun, in each of the four Wayeb ritu-
als: Kanal Acantun of the Year Kan (Tozzer 1941: 141), Chac Acantun of the
Year Muluk (Tozzer 1941: 144-145), Sac Acantun of the Year Ix (Tozzer 1941:
146) and Ekel Acantun of the Year Kawak (Tozzer 1941: 146-147). The Acan-
tun was a stone stela related with the four cardinal directions (Roys 1933:
171; Tozzer 1941: 160, note 827). An erection (tzap) of four similar stones is
recounted in the text on the New Year pages (25-28) of Codex Dresden.
These wooden posts are illustrated in the New Year pages of this book (15d-
18d) and together with the Acantun possibly relate to the cosmogony
(Taube 1988: 241-242), symbolise one of the four cardinal directions of the
New Year ceremonies.
But only one of the four cardinal points or directions of the earth (space)
were represented and ritually observed in each of the Year Bearer rituals
of the Wayeb period. We recollect that the individual Bacab, u Uayeyab,
Acantun or Yax Amte, each associated with a colour and one cardinal direc-
tion, was the only protagonist of this spatial-temporal ritual. A sacrifice of
a turkey and incense to the four cardinal directions of the world, depicted
in the Codex Dresden is also known in New Year rituals of contemporary
Maya groups like the Jacalteca and Ixil (Taube 1988: 243-244). There is,
however, a significant difference from the postclassic Yucatec Year Bearer
ceremonies because we learn that in Todos Santos the Mam sacrifice four
turkeys to each of the mountain of the Year Bearer and a turkey to the house
202 chapter three
of the Alcalde Rezador (Oaks 1951: 231-232). Lincoln also relates that the
Ixil sacrifice turkey to the four corners of the world (Lincoln 1941: 114).
Landa and Codex Dresden, however, narrate that only one of the four Year
Bearers or cardinal points of the world was observed in the New Year ritu-
al. A relationship between time and space of the fourfold division of the
earth, where time and space were correlated, was not ritual-symbolically
emphasised in the New Year ritual of the 365-day calendar. Just one cardi-
nal direction of the four cardinal directions was observed in the New Year
spatial-temporal ceremony. Time travelled on the back of one of the Year
Bearers where it was ritual-symbolically oriented towards one of the four
cardinal directions. The 365-day year and time was in this fashion spa-
tially celebrated. The world was however, not redefined and not recreated
through the Year Bearer ritual of the 365-day calendar since space of the
four cardinal directions of the world was not symbolically circumscribed
in the ritual practice of time of the postclassic Yucatec New Year Ceremo-
ny. It would take four consecutive New Year rituals of four years to sym-
bolically define the quadripartite earth.
Space is related to time in the 365-day New Year festival in a spatial-
temporal, but not in a quadripartite manner. A ritual-symbolic re-enact-
ment of the creation story was accordingly not made since only one
cardinal direction of the world is ritual defined in this spatial-temporal
ritual.

8.The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time

As aforementioned, Landa do not report exactly when and where the New
Year Ceremony of the 365-day calendar was conducted. We therefore do
not have information about the structure of the socio-political and reli-
gious organisation of the community (or maybe even communities) he
described performing the ritual. I assume that a clear difference of status,
consisting of a privileged aristocracy versus a non-privileged group of com-
moners, existed within the hierarchy of the social and political organisation
of the cities or city-states of postclassic Yucatn. Building on the informa-
tion provided by Landa, the only data available identifying the conductors
and participants of the postclassic New Year festival, I suggest that the
postclassic Yucatec New Year Ceremony can be defined as a predominate-
ly community ritual although mainly reserved the male social group of the
population.
There were two fundamental ceremonial strategiesthe festival of the
non-religious specialists and the fasting, penance and celibacy of certain
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 203
religious specialists51in preparing for the Wayeb period in the Sacabil
Than of the three last veintenas (Paax, Kayab and Kumku) of the 365-day
year. These ritual strategies depended on the religious and not on social,
political, or economical status of the participants (Tozzer 1941: 165-166).
Landa mention a public vigil in the Sacabil Than (Tozzer 1941: 166), also
related in Relacin de la Villa de Valladolid and in Cantares de Dzitbalch
(Taube 1988: 282). Landa writes that the New Year festival:
was general and obligatory. There were also some fanatics, who of their
own free will and through devotion, made another idol like that which has
been spoken of above, and they placed it in other temples, where they made
offerings and got intoxicated. They considered these orgies and sacrifices
as very pleasing to their idols and as remedies to free themselves from the
calamities of the prediction (Tozzer 1941: 147).52
Three veintenas to thirteen days beforehand the lords, the religious special-
ists, and in addition those who wished to do on account of their devotion
began to fast, penitent and abstain from their wives. Within the same time
period the Yucatec chose the religious officials of the Pohp ceremonies, the
Chacs who were to assist the religious specialist (Tozzer 1941: 152).
We further learn that a principal was chosen for the Wayeb period. The
rituals were held, not at a religious structure (temple), but at the house of
the principal and by the stones at one of the four entrances of the town.
The idol of the deity Bolon Dzacab was placed in the house of the Prin-
cipal and adorned in a public place where everyone could go to it. Then
the people of the town, lords and religious specialists assembled in a pro-
cession to the place of the heaps of stone where the statue was located.
Other ceremonies involving all the people of the town and even strangers
were observed (Tozzer 1941: 140-149).
Within the ritual of the year of Muluk it was only religious specialists
and noble who elected the principal and participated in the procession,
but the people were part of the other festivities (Tozzer 1941: 144). Both
Landa and Lpez de Cogolludo delineate the modest religious status and
role of women in public rituals in Yucatn (Tozzer 1941: 128-129, note 596).
Landa relates however, that elder women danced in the New Year ceremo-
nies of Wayeb to avoid calamities (Tozzer 1941: 143, note 685; 145; 147). Only
old women were allowed to the temple at the New Year festival of Pohp

51The religious specialists of postclassic Yucatn have been examined and categorised
by Love (1986).
52Tozzer claims that it was only in the unlucky year of Kawak deemed necessary to
add other idols (Tozzer 1941: 148, note 726).
204 chapter three
(Tozzer 1941: 152). The renovation festival of Poph was a very solemn
festival among them; as it was universal and all took part in it and so the
whole town jointly made the feast to all the idols (Tozzer 1941: 151). Every-
body renewed the objects of their house (Tozzer 1941: 151-152). All the men,
except the women, assembled in the court of the temple at the festival of
Pohp (Tozzer 1941: 152). The celebration of Pohp was accordingly open to
all men being led by the religious specialist because it was they were
always the first in their rejoicings and drinkings (Tozzer 1941: 153).
Although dominated by religious specialists and the nobility, the New
Year rituals of the postclassic Yucatec were a major and public event pre-
dominately involving the male community. The aristocracy (almehen), who
held both political and religious offices, lived inside the walls of the post-
classic Yucatec city Mayapan (Tozzer 1941: 25-26), whereas the general pub-
lic resided outside at the outskirts of the city (Taube 1988: 28-29).53 There
is therefore a possibility that some commoners did not partake in the New
Year rituals because of the distance of travel but also due to the fact they
did not have the economy to participate in every aspect of the ritual pro-
ceedings that lasted about 85 days. Only members of the leisure estate,
i.e. the aristocracy, could afford and have the time to perform such an ex-
tensive undertaking. What is certain is that women were not involved,
except certain members of the older generation but only to a limited extent.
A variety of religious specialists of the religious hierarchy led the celebra-
tions in what could be categorised as a predominately male community
ritual. Some of the participants executed particular individual ritual prac-
tices, but a political, social or economic authority cannot, from the inad-
equate data, be discerned as expressed in these celebrations.

The Transfer of a Cargo of a Religious-Political Office in a


Spatial-Temporal Order
A transfer of a political and a religious office, a yearly exchange of the
burden of a public cargo, is observed in the 365-day New Year ceremonies
by various contemporary Maya people. An articulation of the essential
parts of the socio-political structure is thus expressed by the ritual system.
The Prayermakers at Santa Eulalia are chosen annually by the Princi-
pales. The new Prayermakers begin work with their predecessors on the
date oclahun winik and take their office on New Years Day like the civil

53Cf. Roys (1933; 1957) and Tozzer (1941) for a survey of the political and social organi-
sation of postclassic Yucatn.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 205
administration. Their function is to pray and organise rituals for the whole
community throughout the year (La Farge 1947: 134-135).
Vogts ethnographic fieldwork exhibits that the Festival of Saint Sebas-
tian of the Tzotzil-speaking municipality (municipio), Zinacantan in Chi-
apas, Mexico was a transfer ritual both of a calendar period of 365-days, a
renewing of the municipios tribal shrines (with the exception of Junor
Great Mountain), and of the succession of certain political-religious of-
fices (Vogt 1993: 187). The annual New Year ritual imply a change of office
ceremony (kexel) for the cargo holdersThe Moletik (Grand and Second
Alcalde and four Regidores), the Mayordomo Reyes and the Mesoneros
of the religious organisation of the Zinacanteco. These public officials serve
a year in office. The ceremonies take place on the night of December 30-31.
The period during the transferring of the cargo is ambivalent for the resign-
ing official, the man who is going to be initiated into the office and his
family (Vogt 1993: 129). The period from December 16 to January 25 contains
rituals, celebrating the termination of and the beginning of a new ceremo-
nial year. The change of office for many of the cargo-holders takes place
during these days when normal time is stopped. The outgoing cargo hold-
ers symbolise disorder and the incoming cargo holders symbolise order.
A pre-European/pre-Christian influence from the Aztecs and later from
the Spanish affected this type of ritual by re-enactments in ceremonial
dramas of the cultural history of Zinacantan. The social structure of mod-
ern Chiapas is commented upon and played out where the world is di-
vided between the political and economical stronger Ladinos and the
Indians The ceremonies last six weeks, where the social structure is un-
wired, then rewired, where men become women, natives become Ladinos,
people become animals. There are consequently rites of inversion, parody,
farce and ridicule. This ritual, then, holds a sociological aspect, as it con-
cerns social interaction between the genders, of individuals, of different
age groups, and between compadres (Vogt 1993: 143; 156, 174-176). Thus
the New Year ceremonies of the Zinacanteco can be categorised as a reli-
gious socio-political and temporal (calendar) rite de passage.
Taube argues that also the New Year ritual of the postclassic Yucatec
ought to be seen in context of the social and political community. This
ritual was not only a calendar but also a political rite de passage (Taube
1988).
206 chapter three
Michael D. Coe (1965)followed by Phillip Thompson (Thompson 1978;
198554)propose that a ritual transfer of a religious-political cargo or office
took place in the postclassic New Year ceremonies in Yucatn. There was
a pattern of four barrios or wards (Maya, tzuculs or Nahuatl, calpulli) in
postclassic and colonial Yucatn. Ah Cuch Cab55 of a prominent patrilin-
eage (chibal), where from the majority of the religious and political offices
were chosen, headed the barrio (Coe 1965: 104). Coe perceives a correspon-
dence between the organisations of the New Year Ceremony in four parts
with the four community barrios consisting of exogamous patrilineages.
Each ward was linked with a cardinal direction and with a colour. The pre-
European/pre-Christian Yucatec New Year ritual of the 365-day calendar
was an annual rotation of religious and political office in the four barrios.
The ritual and political leadership, of the common level, of the commu-
nity rotated through the four divisions in a four-year counter clockwise
cycle based upon the permutations of the 52-year time count (Coe 1965:
107-108). Thompson has found that the same principle applied to the colo-
nial town of Tekanto of north-central Yucatn (1978). The regidor cycle
and the cabildo system of rotating offices of eighteenth century Tekanto
are to be likened to the Wayeb ceremonies of the Year Bearer cycle, where
a counter-clockwise rotation of authority throughout four wards and an
installation of officials came about on the first day of the New Year.
Coe asserts that the New Year ritual of postclassic Yucatn, as delin-
eated by Landa, is a model of the quadripartite division ancient Maya com-
munity. Each year was related with a colour and a cardinal direction, a
Bacab (sky bearer and wind god) and a Chac (rain god) with a colour des-
ignation. The New Year ritual follows the four cardinal directions of the
four entrances of the town. Coe claim to have found evidence, from Landas
outline of the arrangement of the Wayeb-rituals where four roads from
each cardinal point led to the house of the principal, suggesting that the
town was divided in four quarters associated with the cardinal directions.

54Cf. Thompson, Phillip. Tekanot in the Eighteenh Century. Doctoral dissertation,


Department of Antropology, Tulane University. 1978, and The Structure of the Civil Hier-
archy in Tekanto, Yucatn: 1785-1820. Estudios de Cultura Maya, vol. 16, pp. 183-205. 1985.
55The town councillor, Ah Cuch Cab (he who bears the burden or cargo of the com-
munity) was the principal heading of the subdivisions or parcialidades of the community.
These councillors were said to be wealthy. The word parcialidad is used in central Mexico
to translate the Nahuatl term altepexexeloliz or a four division of Tenochtitlan and calpulli,
the ward or barrio of a settlement. In early Yucatec dictionaries, the corresponding Maya
word is tzucul (tzuc is a general word for counting divisions of a people; a synonym is cuch
teel (translated as ward, or parishioners thereof) (Coe 1965: 104).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 207
There were elected four different principales of a given patrilineage, who
lived in each of the four quarters, through a cycle of four years, which
imply a shifting of ritual power by a different principal each year in a coun-
ter clockwise fashion (Coe 1965: 100-103). Coe argue that there is verification
in Colonial documents that the councillor who had the power over the
community, the Holpop (head of the mat), was identical with the princi-
pal, the wealthy Ah Cuch Cab, who was elected annually in the rituals of
the Wayeb. It was in his house and in his quarter, the New Year Ceremony
was celebrated. The Ah Cuch Cab was, according to the Relacin de Sinache
y Equn, among other duties responsible for the organisation of public cer-
emonies. Ritual and political authority were temporarily vested in the same
man who, by his office, bore the burden or cargo of the community (cuch,
burden) (Coe 1965: 105-106). The Wayeb rituals, therefore, express a mod-
el, which replicated the concepts of the world and the hierarchy of the
community. Coe state that he have found confirmation for this spatial
quadripartite organisation in Yucatn, the Petn and the Acalan province
of the southwest province of the Maya lowlands, in documents from the
Colonial period (Coe 1965: 108-109).56 This kind of community model shows
how a society with an unusually dispersed settlement pattern could have
upheld a social and political cohesion. Vogt (1961) has demonstrated that
the cargo system of the modern Maya ensures that important men come
in at intervals from outlying parajes to spend up to a year as residents of
the ceremonial centre (Coe 1965: 112). The ceremonial and regular rotation
of power, through a permuting time count made sure that there was not a
fragmentation of the kin groups which would threaten the unity of the
state or society (Coe 1965: 112).
Adopting Coes hypothesis, Taube claims that a succession of Year Bear-
ers corresponds to a succession in public offices in pre-European/pre-
Christian Yucatn. Both the public office and time of the 365-day calendar
were considered as a burden that was released at the end of the time pe-
riod (Taube 1988: 8-9; 302-304). Taube notes in this connection that there
is a confluence of terms illustrating a close relation between political gov-
ernance and time. For example there is a metaphor for public office as a
burden (tlamamalli)57 among the Aztecs where the tlatoani (the Aztec

56But a cyclic transfer of power among the batabs of the four quarters of the commu-
nity is not known (Coe 1965: 109-110).
57Tlamama. El que lleva carga a cuestas (Molina 1977 [1571]: 125). Tlamamalli, burden,
load (Karttunen 1992: 280).
208 chapter three
sovereign) hold a speech when he his installed as ruler (Taube 1988: 199-
200). It is stated in the Florentine Codex:
It is the load, the burden of the back, heavy, intolerable, insupportable; the
large bundle, the large carrying frame which those who already have gone
to reside beyond went assuming when they came to guard for thee, when
the came to reign (Sahagn 1969, VI: 42).
It is in this connection interesting that Nancy Fariss has detected a linguis-
tic link between the Year Bearer (ah cuch haab) of the 365-day calendar
and the bearer of the public office (ah cuch cab): Cuchteel is one of the
Yucatec terms for ward, the head of which was the ahcuchcabthe bear-
er of the burdenand that meaning is linked in turn to the year-bearer
day, cuch-haab. The Year Bearer is among contemporary Maya called al-
caldes, or mayors, which is a term comparable to the Yucatec ah cuch cab
(Taube 1988: 216, note 3; 304). In addition, Bricker (1966) identified a simi-
larity of the contemporary cargos and the pre-European/pre-Christian
concept of the Year Bearer (Vogt 1993: 128-129).
This theory faces, however, a problem given that the New Year pages of
the Codex Dresden, which otherwise correspond with the account given by
Landa, do not agree with the pattern Landa establishes of the circulating
Year Bearers. Floyd Lounsbury have (in an unpublished paper) proposed,
based on Coes (1965) argument that the circulation sequence reflects the
social organization of the Maya community, which the Codex Dresden does
not derive from a society with a fundamental quadripartite division, but
rather one that divided into halves and then further subdivided the halves.
Lounsbury quotes the study of the Amatenango Tzeltal community by June
Nash where there were upper and lower moieties, which were subdivided
(Schele and Grube 1997: 206-207). A moiety division and not a quadripartite
division of space appear to be the rule accordingly undermining the ritual
spatial-political hypothesis by Coe. A quadripartite order is, nevertheless,
reflected in the socio-political and religious structure of Maya communities
in postclassic Yucatn. The symbol and pattern of four cardinal directions
were represented by the four gates of Mayapan, the four wards or barrios,
tzucul, in Mayapan and Chichen Itza according to The Books of the Chilam
Balam (Roys 1933: 69; 139-140; 142). Creation of the four barrios occurred in
Chichen Itza when four groups converge from four cardinal points. Four
deified ancestors founded Izamal: Kinich Kabu, Kinich Kakmo, Cit Ah Cutz
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 209
and Cit Ah Coyi (Roys 1957: 80; Taube 1988: 42-43).58 Rulership was origi-
nally based upon the four cardinal directions in the creation myth of The
Book of the Chilam Balam of Chumayel:
Then the red foundation was established; the white foundation of the ruler
was established; the black foundation of the ruler was established; the yel-
low foundation of the ruler was established. Then the Red Ruler was set up,
he who was raised upon the mat, raised upon the throne. The White Ruler
was set up, he who was raised upon the mat, raised upon the throne, The
Black Ruler was set up, he who was raised upon the mat, raised upon the
throne, The Yellow Ruler was set up, he who was raised upon the mat, raised
upon the throne (Roys 1933: 102-103).
In each of the quadrants, a colour, a supernatural being, a ruler and a world
tree were identified. A quadripartite socio-political system of Yucatn
seems then to be corroborated. But other substantial objections towards
the theory, of a spatial-temporal yearly change of religious-political offices
in the pre-European/pre-Christian period, can be pointed out.
The organisation of the civil and ceremonial offices of the town and
village called a civil-religious hierarchy, also recognised as the mayor-
doma, fiesta, cargo or ladder system59, consists of two hierarchies
incorporating religious and political offices. This concept outlines a local
civil political and economic administration and sponsorship and organis-
ing of religious rituals or fiestas. The term of office (cargo) in the civil-reli-
gious hierarchy is one year. The civil or religious servant is elected or
appointed by the incumbent official. Religious cargos can be held by mem-
bers of sodalitieslike cofradas, fellowships dedicated to worship of local
saints, wards or by Mayordomas, individuals or couples sponsoring and
organising a ritual. Adult males, representing the household, may ascend
in this hierarchy alternating between civil and religious offices during his/
her career. But there are rest periods in the rotation system. The princi-
pales are the most prestigious post. It consists of elder males who have
fulfilled conomic and moral obligations to the community. The structure
and function of this system have, however, changed over time and after
place. The character and numbers of offices vary in different communities

58Villa Rojas notes that: a similar division in four districts existed in Chichn Itz as
well as in Itzamkanac, capital of the province of Acalan, inhabited by the Chontal Maya
and situated in the Southeast zone of the peninsula (Len-Portilla 1973: 81).
59Among Indigenous groups a civil-religious hierarchy existed in Mesoamerica (and
in the Andes of South America), even though the system, which have many variants, has
falling in disuse in many places. It is still employed in the highland regions of Central
Mexico, Oaxaca and Chiapas of Mexico and in western Guatemala (Chance 2001).
210 chapter three
also because the involvement by colonial and national governments
(Chance 2001).
Parts of this system have its background in the pre-European civil-reli-
gious hierarchies according to Pedro Carrasco (1961).60 John K Chance and
William B. Taylor (1985) and John K. Chance (2001) assert, however, that
the cargo and fiesta system of yearly offices in a civil hierarchy is an early
colonial device of the 16th century whereas the civil-religious hierarchy
represents an invention of the post-independence development of the 19th
century. The civil-religious hierarchy was originally a Spanish system influ-
enced by Roman Catholic theology. The Spanish forced the indirect rule of
the cabildo (Castilian form of town government) upon the Indigenous
people. Local civil administration and religious fiestas for Catholic saints
were instituted and the ancient (pre-European/pre-Christian) political and
religious offices were blended with the new system.
The pre-European/pre-Christian antecedent of a rotation cargo system
among the classic Maya was originally a hypothesis based upon archaeo-
logical data.61 Vogts method and model have been criticised by several
scholars doubting the existence of such a system among the lowland clas-
sic Maya (Chance and Taylor 1985: 5-7). More significant is that no histori-
cal data describing pre-European/pre-Christian society provide evidence
for a yearly rotation system of civil and religious offices. Coe and Taubes
hypothesis is founded upon a historical reconstruction by projecting colo-
nial and contemporary ethnographic data back into the pre-European/
pre-Christian society.
Taube has, however, argued, in support the theory originally proposed
by Coe, that Landa relates the change of political-ritual cargo of the wealthy
Chacs religious specialists, whom financed the New Year festival of these
festivals. Landa outlines the election of the official who would organise the
New Year rival in Yucatn from the merchant class (Taube 1988: 44-45), the
equivalent of the colonial Ah Cuch Cab. But is this an undisputable render-
ing of the events? In the Sacabil Than-rite one of the richest people of the
community sought to celebrate (i.e. finance) this ritual period (Tozzer 1941:

60Cf. Carrascos response to Chance and Taylor (1985) regarding the pre-European/
pre-Christain aspects of the system in the article Sobre el origin histrico de la jeraqua
politico-ceremonial de las comunidades indgenas In Historia, antropologa, y poltica:
Homenaje a Angel Palerm, edited by Modesto Surez, vol.1., pp. 306-326. Mexico City, 1990
(Chance 2001).
61Vogt, Evon Z. Some Implications of Zinacantn Social Structure for the Study of the
Ancient Maya. In Ancient Mesoamerica: Selected Readings. John A. Graham, ed. pp. 176-188.
Palo Alto, CA: Peek Publications (Chance and Tayler 1985).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 211
166). The Chacs were elected to assist the religious specialist before the
liminal Wayeb period rite (Tozzer 1941: 152). In addition, religious specialists
and nobles chose a principal of the town for the observance of the rites of
the Wayeb period (Tozzer 1941: 140-149). But neither Landa nor the postclas-
sic Maya codices do, however, convey that the principal or the Chacs were
elected for a religious-political office lasting the whole year but only for
this particular ritual.
The theory that the New Year ritual constitute a political rite de passage
cannot be vindicated. But due to the incomplete written data on the reli-
gious and socio-political pre-European/pre-Christian systems in Meso-
america one can neither dismiss nor verify the theory of a yearly shift of a
religious-political office or cargo within the New Year ceremonies of the
365-day calendar of postclassic Yucatn.

9.The Year Bearer: A Deified Burden of Time of the Cyclic 365-day


Calendar

In part I, I argued against the theory that time was conceived as a burden
within the system of the classic Maya linear Long Count calendar. But was
the Year Bearers of the cyclic 365-day calendar conceived to carry time as
a burden, a cargo that was offloaded with the resignation of the old Year
Bearer and being transported again after the inauguration of the new Year
Bearer?
The Yucatec concept kuch (cuch) or burden; cargo is associated with
both the katun of the Short Count calendar and Long Count calendar and
the 365-day calendar. The word for Year Bearer was ah cuch haab in colonial
Yucatec, he, the bearer of haab, or the vague year. Cuch can in Yucatec be
translated as burden. The burden can represent guilt, a public office, or
a heavy weight (Taube 1988: 187). The Yucatec expression for Year Bearer
cuch haab bearer of the year have synonyms in other Maya languages like
Jacalteca (iqum hab:l) (La Farge and Byers 1927: 173-176; 180; Farge 1947: 163),
Chuj (kutc-lum haabil), and Ixil (ih yab) (Lincoln 1942: 109-110) according
to Thompson (Thompson 1978: 60; 124).62
The Maya conceived the Year Bearer of the 365-day calendar carrying
the year as a burden on his back, a load which he passes on to his successor
at the time of the end of the designated period, thence derives the word
Year Bearer according to Thompson (Thompson 1978: 125). In the account

62The survival of the Year Bearers among the contemporary Maya has been summarised
by Tozzer and Villa Rojas (Tozzer 1941: 135, note 631; Villa Rojas 1973: 143-159).
212 chapter three
of the Manche Chol Calendar in the manuscript by Tovilla (Relacin, 1635)
the four Year Bearers change a carrying of the burden of the month (vein-
tena) of the 365-day year. It is declared that: According to what (the Indi-
ans) say, (these four days) are those which take the road and bear the load
of the month (Sp. cargan el mes), changing in turn (Thompson 1978: 60).
Gossen claimsfounded upon his interpretation of a representation of
the 365-day calendar by an irregular, rectangular tablet of wood where the
individual day was vertically marked by a charcoalthat time was consid-
ered to be a burden in the aboriginal 365-day calendar of the contemporary
Chamula (Gossen 1974: 27).
No indication is given by Landa that the four Year Bearers (Kawak, Kan,
Muluk and Ix) were considered to be a burden of time. As noted, Landa
wrote in Spanish applying few Yucatec concepts. Kuch haab, however,
designates the four Year Bearer days of the 365-day calendar in Yucatec
(Barrera Vsquez 1980: 342; 344). The principle that the Year Bearer of the
365-day calendar represented a burden of time did not only apply to the
Yucatec of Mesoamerica. Nicholson follows Thompsons hypothesis, which
states that time was carried as a burden by the Maya of eastern Meso-
america. He asserts that the tumpline, mecapalli (Nahuatl), formed the
Looped Cord Year symbol in western Mesoamerica. Hence, a tumpline
symbolised the 365-day calendar year. Nicholson provides and discuss
evidence of several figures carrying date signs, with the looping cord device,
from various cultures of eastern Mesoamerica (Nicholson 1966).63 Among
the Aztecs the Year Bearers were called Calli (House), Tochtli (Rabbit), Acatl
(Reed) and Tecpatl (Flint). Evidence from Central Mexico implies that
Mexican porters, because there were no beasts of burden in the pre-Euro-
pean/pre-Christian period, carried bundles. Date signs are depicted carried
as burdens on tumplines on the back. A rabbit Year Bearer is for instance
illustrated carrying the year sign 13-Calli (Nicholson 1966; Read 1998: 89-90).
I have previously warned against this pictographic method in explaining
signs of the logosyllabic system of the classic Maya, but the evidence is
more convincing in this context since the cited signs do not appear in a
logosyllabic (phonetic) context, but stand alone as symbols.

63Taube has shown through numerous examples of graphic evidence for a concept of
burden of time in Mexico (Taube 1988: 189-191). Cf. a Toltec representation of the Year Bearer
who carries the date 11 Flint from Tula, early postclassic period (Miller and Taube 1993: 193).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 213
One Rabbit was announced to be a Year Bearer carrying the burden of
office in The Florentine Codex (Nicholson 1966: 143-144; Sahagn 1953: Vol.
VII: 21-22). Sahagn describe the four Year Bearer signs in relation with the
concept of burden (tlamamalli) of the year:
One Rabbit it is said (that this was) the year sign and year counter of the
south. For thirteen years it carried, set on its path, took with it and bore the
burden (of the year). Always, during each (of the thirteen) years, it was the
first, the one which led, began, made the start and introduced as many year
signs as there were: Reed, Flint and House (Sahagn 1953, Vol. VII: 21).
Nicholson concludes that archaeological and linguistic evidence substan-
tiates that the four Year Bearers of the 365-day calendar were generally
conceived in in different parts of Mesoamerica to have been carried as
burdens, often with a tumpline. The tumpline, mecapalli, constituted the
symbol for these Year Bearers (Nicholson 1966: 144).
The New Year Pages (25-28) of Codex Dresden illustrates the last day of
Wayeb (Seating of Pohp) where the depicted opossum (och) called Kan
Way U Mam, Sak Way U Mam, Chak Kan Way U Mam, or Ek Way U Mam,
as the Year Bearer of the old year, carries a burden (u kuch). On New Years
day (1 Pohp), the carried deity of the New Year is portrayed sitting inside a
religious structure in front of an incensario with burning copal (pom).
The old Year Bearer is said to carry the new Year Bearer as a burden (u kuch),
hence the evidence of a time (of the 365-day calendar) as a burden notion
is quite conclusive. The seated figures on the haab signs (T548) on pages
34-37 of Codex Madrid represent the augury or burden of the coming year
(Taube 1988: 259-262). The Year Bearers were not only day names. They
were, as maintained by Taube, travelling merchants that carried loads of
goods. The load of goods symbolised the destiny of the day and the year
in a counter clockwise transit (Taube 1988: 187; 216, note 2).
As portrayed in the New Year pages of Codex Dresden, The Year Bearer
represented a supernatural being impersonating and ruling time of the
365-day year. It carried time, e.g. the 365 days, as a burden that was to be
transferred during the ceremonies of the New Year festival to the next Year
Bearer. Thus, the Year Bearer carried the burden of cyclic time, which had
been exhausted and accordingly must be renewed. Conversely, linear time
does not require this need. Cyclical time of the 365-day calendar was ac-
cordingly conceived to be a burden of the Year Bearer that had to be, by
the incumbent, offloaded like a cargo or a religious-political office.
214 chapter three
10.The Postclassic Yucatec New Year Festival as an Agricultural Ritual

The Mesoamerican 365-day calendar of the Maya is aligned to the solar


year. In fact, this calendar reflects a so-called vague year. The actual length
of the solar year is 365. 2422 days. The vague year or the traditional Meso-
american 365-day calendar, without leap days, was a quarter of a day or
about six hours short of the solar year.
The 365-day calendar was mainly an agricultural calendar adapted to
the seasonal or solar cycle. But because of the Mesoamerican the 365-day
vague year, due to a probable absence of intercalations, a correspondence
with the seasonal/solar cycle over a long time period was not fixed. Extant
sources indicate that the Maya, and other cultures of Mesoamerica, did not
apply a system of leap-day corrections.64 Instead, through these books,
they recorded the distance between the solstices, on the one hand, and of
the New Year and the Half Year on the other. Every 100 years the 365-day
calendar lagged behind 25 days and after 1460 AD a whole year constituted
the difference. An adjusting of this calendar may as a consequence have
been executed by the Mesoamericans to rectify this evident disorder but
this has yet to be proven. Johanna Broda de las Casas argue that the agri-
cultural rituals of the 365-day calendar were performed in a complex cal-
endar structure lasting a quite long time span consisting of different rites.
Agricultural rituals were conducted through the 365-day year and in addi-
tion, under special circumstances, outside the seasonal cycle of ceremo-
nies. A correspondence with the veintena festivals was more indirectly than
directly related with the natural or seasonal cycle. This is also suggested by
the fact that the 260-day cycle contains agricultural rituals in Mesoameri-
ca (Thompson 1930: 41; Girard 1962: 328-342; Broda de la Casas 1969: 52-54;
Bricker and Miram 2002: 40-41).
Spanish ethnographer missionaries report that various deities and social
groups held different ceremonies in a fixed veintena of the 365-day calen-
dar in Aztec society.65 Every veintena of the 365-day calendar had rituals
connected with agriculture. It is important to bear in mind that the pre-
European/pre-Christian Mesoamerican cultures were pre-industrial societ-
ies. People were totally dependent on the agricultural crop in order to
survive. If the harvest failed the consequences for every social group would

64But cf. Graulich (1987: 293-311).


65Cf. Sahagn (19501982) and Durn (1971; 1980).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 215
be severe. Contemporary ethnographic investigations document a variety
of agricultural rituals, of Indigenous religion and Catholicism, observed
during the 365-day calendar year in Mesoamerica.
The scenes of the New Year rituals of the postclassic codices illustrate
agricultural themes. Taube and Love claims that the New Year pages of
Codex Madrid, Codex Dresden and Codex Paris display omens, auguries and
prophesies of the welfare of the harvest of the succeeding year. Many of
these pages portray the Maize God (God E) (Love 1994: 73-75; Taube 1988:
246-253; 265). Four unidentified directional gods are portrayed planting in
the upper right sections of New Year pages 34-37 in Codex Madrid (Taube
1988: 259). The space of the milpa is here ritually defined. Several figures
with maize foliage are depicted in the scenes on the same pages. The Maize
deity (God E) is one of the seated figures on T548, haab or 365-day year
sign, in each scene. On pages 24c and 25c of Codex Madrid the seated Maize
god accompany the Year Bearers: Kawak, Kan, Muluk and Ix (Taube 1988:
260-261). The agricultural identity of the deities worshipped in the postclas-
sic Yucatec New Year festival signal the meaning of this ritual.
We have seen that the Maize god was a protagonist in the New Year
pages of the codices (cf. Tozzer 1941: 139). The Bacabs, destroyers of the
former world age and creators of the present world, were Sky Bearers con-
nected with the four Year Bearers who were worshipped in the New Year
ritual. The Bacabs were, as Sky Bearers, each linked with a cardinal direc-
tion and a colour (Tozzer 1941: 136, note 632). The section Creation of the
World from The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel relates that the four
Bacabs who had previously destroyed the former world era erected four
trees of abundance of the four cardinal directions and a tree in the centre
at the creation of the contemporary world age. Each of these trees was
associated with a colour. The fifth deity and the overlord of these super-
natural beings, Ah Uuc Cheknal (he who fertilises the maize seven
times)66, were fecundating the earth, called Itzam-Kab-Ain (Roys 1933:
99-102). The world of the four cardinal directions and a centre were hence
linked to the origin of maize (Christie 1995: 116). Time, space and agriculture
are consequently intimately connected.
Landa writes that the four Bacabs carried the names Chac-Xib-Chac,
Zac-Xib-Chac, Ek-Xib-Chac and Kan-Xib-Chac. These deities are con
ceivable rain gods set out at the four cardinal directions (Roys 1933: 172).

66Translation by Roys (1933: 101, note 3).


216 chapter three
Various sources confirm that the Bacabs were associated with fertility and
agriculture. They were gods of not only wind and rain but also of apiculture
and of divination (Tozzer 1941: 135, note 632; Thompson 1934: 216; 1970b;
Lpez de Cogolludo 1971: 255, Vol I).
Landa supplies Pauahtun (Pawahtun) as a variant name for the Bacabs.
Pawahtun was designed as God N by Paul Schellhas in his classification of
the deities recorded in the postclassic codices (Schellhas 1904: 37-38; Taube
1992: 92-99). The four Pawahtuns are each assigned a colour and a cardinal
direction. They are further combined with the deities of rain and the four
winds, and hence of fertility (Tozzer 1941: 137, note 638). Taube notes that
late-classic Pawahtun structures of the Lower Temple of the Jaguar, Chichen
Itza, Structure 22, Copan, and an altar temple are associated with maize
and the maize deity (Taube 1988: 155-156). Pawahtun is also connected with
Chac, the god of rain, lightning, fertility and maize in the iconography of
the classic period and according to contemporary ethnographic informa-
tion (Taube 1992: 96-99). Pawahtun is several places illustrated carrying the
Haab sign (Thompson 1934: 477-480), which might distinguish him as a
Year Bearer deity. Thompson claimed that Pawahtun is also identified with
Mam, an earth deity of the present-day Kekchi and the Pokomchi. A con-
temporary Yucatec worship of a Kekchi Easter ritual, where an image of
Mam is buried during the unlucky five day-period, has been recorded by
Thompson (Thompson 1978: 133-134). Lpez de Cogolludo recount, curi-
ously not mentioned by Landa, that the rituals of the Wayeb period in-
cluded an idol of the deity Mam (Lpez de Cogolludo 1971: 4, VIII, 255).
Also Pio Prez (Craine and Reindrop 1979: 170-171) associates the idol of
Mam with the ceremonies of the Wayeb period (Stephens 1843: 281).
This idol is only worshipped during the five Wayeb days. The Mam
idols were, as the Wayeyab idols outlined by Landa, first the object of
reverence and then removed at the end of the Wayeb period (Love 1986:
200-201). When the Wayeb period was completed the Mam effigies were
either stripped, discarded or taken away (Taube 1988: 283-284). Tozzer
have compared the idols, described by Lpez de Cogolludo and Po Prez,
to the Wayeyab effigies that Landa describes even given the fact that they
are not made of the same material (Tozzer 1941: 139, note 646).
Moreover, the Year Bearer deity in the New Year pages of Codex Dresden
is called Mam in the inscription commenting these scenes. Taube argues
convincingly that the opossum in the New Year pages of Codex Dresden is
identified with the Bacab, Pawahtun and Mam whom all represented God
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 217
N (Taube 1988: 229-231). Taube supports his argument by comparing the
delineation by Landa with the scenes of the New Year pages of Codex Dres-
den. The opossums, which manifested God N and the Bacab, are named
Mam: Kan Way U Mam; Chac Way U Mam; Yax Way U Mam; Ek Way U
Mam. Two of the Uayeyab figures, outlined by Landa, carry the same load
as the opossum Mam on pages 25a and 28a in Codex Dresden (Taube 1988:
285). Mam is the the aged god of the old year who was propitiated for
the five days of Uayeb (Taube 1988: 284-285). The old Mam was discarded
so that the new Mam (Year Bearer) could reign in the New Year.
The Mam, grandfather comprises deities of rain and the mountains
assigned to colour and cardinal direction in present day Maya communities
(Tozzer 1941: 138, note 639). There are four regents or bearers of time (Year
Bearers), Ik, Kiej, Ee and Noj, called Alcalde or Mam in the Kiche 365-day
calendar of Momostenango, Guatemala. Ik, Kiej, Ee and Noj are the deities
of the four cardinal directions and are each associated with the four moun-
tains, El Tamanco, El Kilaj, Zocop and Pipilj. The reigning Mam rule the
year and the world. The Quekchis and Pocomchis have also this concept
of the Mam. The Mam is the deity of fertility according to the Huastecs. He
grows old and is rejuvenated, like the solar god of the Chorti, every year
(Girard 1966: 281-282). The Mam reigns for 360 days. When this period is
over: termin su cuenta, complete su ao. A San Antonio night ceremo-
ny recorded by Thompson (Thompson 1930: 62) is a propitiation of the
Mams. From various contemporary Maya groups there are several examples
of Mams operating as Year Bearers and where they are associated with
mountains. In the postclassic New Year rituals mounds of stone represent
symbolic mountains, which were the place of the Uayeyab figure, also
known as Mam, Bacab and Pauahtun (Taube 1988: 285-288).
The statue of the deity Bolon Dzacab (God K) or he of nine generations
appears in the Wayeb ceremonies. An idol of the deity Bolon Dzacab was
placed in a temple in each of the four Wayeb ceremonies (Tozzer 1941: 142).
This deity has been identified by Edward Seler with God Kassociated
with lightning, maize and agricultureof the classic period and connect-
ed with the rain gods, the Chacs (Roys 1933: 99; Thompson 1934: 227; Tozz-
er 1941: 140, note 656; Taube 1992: 69-79).
Chac (God B), who is one of the most important deities, is the principal
rain god of the Maya (Taube 1992: 17-27) and thereby closely connected
to agriculture. The Chacs, as office of religious specialists, are associated
with a cardinal direction and a colour in the Wayeb and the Pohp ritual
218 chapter three
(Tozzer 1941: 137-138, note 639).67 Landa (Tozzer 1941: 152-153) narrates that
four Chac impersonators were performing various rituals on the first day
of Pohp. The Chacs strech a cord between the four corners in the ritual
proceedings of Pohp. The four-sided world is conceived as a rectangular
house and as a symbolic milpa associated with agriculture and maize in
Maya philosophy. The Kiche religious specialist, Mother-Father, Andrs
Xiloj have recognised that creation of the world, sky-earth (kajulew), is
compared in the Popol Wuj with a preparing of the four sides of a cornfield
or a milpa with a measuring cord (Tedlock 1996: 220). It is said that creation
of the four directions of the sky and the earth was a preparation of a milpa
(Tedlock 1996: 220; Christenson 2000: 39).
Furthermore, a measuring of the world, after an account of four trees,
at the cardinal directions at creation is delineated in the Yucatec Book of
Chilam Balam of Chumayel (Roys 1933: 64-65). It is likened to work on a
milpa (Taube 1988: 156-158). The cultural space of the world, milpa or maize
field is identified with the community (Taube 1988: 159-161). For the con-
temporary Yucatec and Chortias outlined by Redfield and Villa Rojas
(1934: 43), Wisdom (1940: 40; 383) and Girard (1966: 29-34)the four-sided
milpa represents a metaphor for the earth. Redfield and Villa Rojas has
found that the milpa is associated with the village community conception
in the Yucatec village Chan Kom where the world, the village and the
milpa are thought of as squares with four corners lying in the four cardinal
points of the compass and with defined central points (Redfield and Villa
Rojas 1934: 114). The four markers, trees, crosses, stones etc. at the edge of
a milpa and the village demark the ordered spatial organisation of world
against the antediluvian chaos (Taube 1988: 157-161).
Year Bearers are perceived as deities in the chronometric system. The
Year Bearer impersonated and ruled time of the 365-day year. Landa relates
that Bolon Dzacab and the Bacabs, Kan u Uayeyab, Chac u Uayeyab, Sac u
Uayeyab and Ek u Uayeyab were worshipped during the Wayeb period
(Tozzer 1941: 138-142). The deities of the New Year ritual were called rulers
(Tozzer 1941: 137, note 636).68 A worship of deities in Year Bearer ritual of
the four first days of the Wayeb period is also recorded in The Codex Prez

67Pages 29a to 30a of Codex Dresden illustrate four Chacs in a tree at a cardinal direc-
tion and a fifth in a cave in the centre. The cave, a midpoint in Yucatec communities, is
marked with a tree or a cross as the symbolic centre (Taube 1988:160).
68The Year Bearers are among contemporary highland Maya groups conceived as
anthropomorphic beings with a special identity (La Farge 1930: 658-659; Lincoln 1942: 109;
Oakes 1951: 100; (Tedlock 1992: 100).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 219
and The Book of Chilam Balam of Man (Craine and Reindorp 1979: 98; 170-
171).
The fertility symbols and the worshipped agricultural deitiesMam,
Chacs, Bacab, Pauahtun and Bolon Dzacab associated with the Year Bear-
erssuggests that the New Year rituals had a particular importance for
farmers. Every year and each Year Bearer had its particular omen or au-
gury. Since the New Year ceremonies were held in the five days of the Wayeb
of the preceding year the New Year was under the dominance and influ-
enced by the auguries of the previous year. The Codex Prez and The Book
of Chilam Balam of Man outlines that: The day on which a new year begins
will determine what may happen during the year (Craine and Reindorp
1979: 53).
The seated figures upon the haab signs (T548) on pages 34-37 Codex
Madrid represent the augury or burden of the coming year (Taube 1988:
259-262). Each Year Bearer sign contained the omen of the Bacab, which
were assigned to a cardinal direction (Tozzer 1941: 136-138, note 636). The
omen or aguro (Sp.) of the coming year (Tozzer 1941: 137-138) decided
the character of the ceremonies. The prognostication was associated with
one of the four Bacabs, who were connected to one of the four Year Bearers,
directions and colours. The Year Bearer shared the power with the Bacab
over the year. The prognostication of the coming year was part of the ritu-
al of Wayeb and of Pohp. The worship and sacrifice were conducted during
the New Year ceremonies to avoid the calamities of the next year (Love
1986: 194-198). Kan and Muluk were considered to be primary fortunate and
Ix and Kawak predominately unfortunate years according to Landa. The
evil effects might be mitigated by fashioning additional images of benefi-
cent gods offering them food and incense, and by conducting expiatory
rites. Nonetheless, a year had many misfortunes and bad signs even if it
was considered to be good. The Yucatecs had to conduct the appropriate
rituals in order to avoid hardships (Tozzer 1941: 145). Landa describe rites,
which involves the construction of a road or causeway where there were
placed idols at a certain cardinal point outside the city. A new direction
was chosen each year in a four-year counter clockwise circuit. Both fortu-
nate and unfortunate omens were associated with every year. Inauspicious
auguries were tried resolved by performing expiatory rites (Tozzer 1941:
139-149). Bad omens, of predominantly unfortunate or fortunate years, were
ritually addressed in the Wayeb period (Tozzer 1941: 142, note 677).
An omen was determined and a principal religious specialist was elect-
ed for every New Year ritual (Tozzer 1941: 139-147). Every ceremony in
220 chapter three
honour of the deities began by chasing away the evil spirits. There were
several procedures to do service to the deitiesby prayers, benedictions,
worship, offerings and sacrifices (Tozzer 1941: 138)in order to avoid di-
saster for the next year. The Yucatecs believed that if they did not observe
these ceremonies, they would be sure to get certain sicknesses (Tozzer 1941:
142: 145; 146). But if the ceremonies did not work against the calamities
additional rituals were performed during the year (Tozzer 1941: 142). Landa
writes of the motivation of conducting the Year Bearer ritual of the four
dominical letters:
And they distinguished the calamities and fortunate events which they said
must happen during the year of each one of them, and of the letters, which
accompany them. And the devil, who deceived them in this as in everything
else, informed them of the worships and offerings, which they were to make
to him in order to escape the calamities. And so the priests said, when no
calamity happened to them, that it was on account of the services, which
they had offered to him; and in case misfortunes came, they made the
people understand and believe that it was owing to some sin or fault in the
services or in those who performed them (Tozzer 1941: 136).
There was an actual threat of disastrous destructions or calamities if not
the deities were being served or propitiated with worship and offerings in
the rituals of the ending of the 365-day calendar period. As mentioned, it
is a do ut des principle.
The Bacabs were, as noted, both Year Bearers and Sky Bearers associ-
ated with fertility. It appears that the calamites the Yucatecs feared would
occur in the year to come chiefly concerned the crucial harvest. Landa
reports that in the year of Muluk the misfortunes could be a scarcity of
water and a pest of the maize crop (Tozzer 1941: 145). Ix was considered a
bad year for bread and good for cotton. Lack of water, locusts and a burning
sun would dry up the fields of maize and create famine (Tozzer 1941: 146-
147). Kawak was also considered to be a bad year when a hot sun could
destroy the fields of maize, ants and birds might devour the sowed seeds
(Tozzer 1941: 148). Ceremonies, with offerings, towards the deities were
conducted in order to avoid these calamites (Tozzer 1941: 149). Itzamnah
was appealed to in the Wayeb period to avert calamities (Tozzer 1941: 146,
note 707). The community was ritually exorcised before the Wayeb festival
(Taube 1988: 281):69

69Taube comments that: The Mam effigies of the ancient Yucatec and the contempo-
rary Tzutuhil serve as figures to both propitiate and remove evil forces threatening the
community. In the accounts of Po Prez and Cogolludo, the end of Uayeb marked
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 221
In any festival or solemnity that this people celebrated in honor of their
gods, they always began by chasing away from themselves the evil spirit .
For celebrating the festival of the new year, this people with great rejoicing
and with much dignity made use of the five unlucky days (Tozzer 1941: 138).
The Chac religious specialists afterwards expelled the evil spirit during
Poph (Tozzer 1941: 153). The first day of Pohp was the first day of the New
Year. Renewal and renovation rituals were performed in the temples and
the houses were cleaned and purified (Tozzer 1941: 151-153):
To celebrate it with more solemnity, they renewed on this day all the objects
which they made use of, such as plates, vessels, stools, mats and old clothes
and the stuffs with which they wrapped up their idols. They swept out their
houses, and the sweepings and the old utensils they threw out on the waste
heap outside the town; and no one, even were he in need of it, touched it
(Tozzer 1941: 151-152).
Later the religious specialists, the Chacs, ignited a new fire which they
burned incense to the idol (Tozzer 1941: 153). A symbolic renewing of
cyclic time of the 365-day calendar year was achieved through the various
New Year ceremonial observances.
Song 12, kilis tuup yok uitz, the extinguishing of the old wealthy man
upon the hill, of Cantares de Dzitbalch narrates the vigil and celebration
of the New Year at the first of Pohp. The song is called. The rich old man,
Kili is identical to the term mam (maternal grandfather). Kiliz is repre-
sented as a column of wood. The night before the New Year is the post
(ocom) of Kiliz or Mam brought to the gate of the town (u hol cahnalil),
which represented the New Year Bearer (of the east). The post is erected
on a mound of stones at the eastern entrance where it symbolises one of
the four mountains (huitz) surrounding the town and one of the four ceiba
trees (yax che) which supports heaven. The personified post represents
Pawahtun as the Bacab sky bearer. A stone is placed on the mound of stones
in front of the post (the symbolic tree) to symbolise the passing of time as
an offering or payment (kex) to the old world bearer. As a result, the com-
munity is purified for the New Year (Taube 1988: 292-297).
These sources suggests that the central theme of the New Year celebra-
tions of the 365-day calendar concerned the welfare of the crucial life

the destruction or dismissal of the effigy. This figure seems to have partly served as a type
of scapegoat in which all events and iniquities of the community were placed in corporal
form and then discarded at the advent of the new year (Taube 1988: 287-288).
222 chapter three
giving harvest.70 A transition ritual symbolise a termination of an old sta-
tus and the introduction, of the ceremonial subject, into a new status. The
transference structure of the cyclic New Year ritual, as a rite de passage,
implies that an old status is abandoned and a new status is acquired
through a symbolic ceremony of time. Old idols of previous years were
replaced with new idols in the Wayeb period (Tozzer 1941: 141, note 666;
142, note 674, 144, note 688). The Year Bearer of the new Year thus supplants
the Year Bearer of the old year.
In addition, Taube argues that the opossum depicted in the Wayeb sec-
tion of the New Year pages in Codex Dresden is identified with the Bacabs,
Pawahtuuns and Mam, who all were representing God N (Taube 1988: 229-
231). The walking canes and the burdens of the opossum, illustrated on
these pages in Codex Dresden, are likened to the Year Bearer of Central
Mexico, where the Codex Dresden Mam opossums portray the Year Bearers
of the old year (Taube 1988: 228-229). The Year Bearer deities, who were
both associated with fertility, rain (i.e. agriculture) and time, ruled not an
abstract time period, but agricultural time.71 The New Year festival con-
stitute accordingly a calendar ending and a calendar inaugurating ritual of
a cycle of 365-days where agricultural time was ceremonially renovated
and renewed.72
As noted, the 65-day interval rituals of the 260-day calendar have a divi-
sion into 4 periods of 65 days in Codex Borgia (lam. 27-28), Codex Vaticano
B (fol. 69) and Codex Fejrvry-Mayer (fol. 33-34). There is an intimate rela-
tion with agriculture, as in the scenes there are four figures of the rain
deity Tlaloc irrigating crops. This suggests, although these Mesoamerican
manuscripts are not Yucatec, that 65-days temporal interval rituals of the
260-day calendar are connected with agriculture. At the same time, Codex
Borgia (lam. 27-28) and Codex Fejrvry-Mayer (fol. 33-34) illustrate the
attribution of 65-day time units of the 260-day calendar to the four cardinal

70Graa-Behrens has argued that the postclassic Yucatec 365-day New Year ritual was
fundamentally a fertility ritual (Ein Fruchtbarkeitsritus) where a cult of the Maize deity
(God E) played an essential role (Graa-Behrens 2002: 115-126; 154-155). A prognosis was
made for the upcoming year expressed in longer passages in Codex Prez and Chilam Balam
of Tizimin (Graa-Behrens 2002: 125). Cf. Roys The Prophecies for the Maya Tuns or Years in
the Books of Chilam Balam of Tizimin and Man. Edmonson (1982: 69-112) has placed this
passage, which meaning is rather difficult to grasp, in Chilam Balam of Tizimin under the
headline The Anales of Bacalar (Graa-Behrens 2002: 125, note 48).
71Cf. Milbrath for the Year Bearer and agricultural rituals in one colonial period and
today (Milbrath 1999: 17).
72The Tzutujil and the Kekchi burn an effigy of a Mam deity representing the old year,
an act introducing the New Year ceremonies (Thompson 1970b: 472-473).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 223
directions of the 365-day calendar. In Codex Borgia, there is also an inter-
relation with the 365-day calendar marked by the Year Bearer and the year
sign (exceptional in this codex). This enforces the argumentation concern-
ing the agricultural relation between the 260-calendar and the 365-day
calendar, and between the time, the Year Bearers and fertility.73

11.Order (Structure) Versus Disorder (Anti-Structure): A Ritual


Structuring of Cyclical Agricultural Time

The postclassic Yucatec New Year rituals may have been a socio-psycholog-
ical and moral renewing ceremony where a resolving of social conflicts and
relief of psychological stress were ceremonially achieved. Turner asserts
that the liminal period creates a concept of solidarity and unity among the
initiates living in anti-structure, i.e. the liminal phase outside the values
and categories of the community where there is no social hierarchy. Ideol-
ogy and social values are created during the liminal phase. There is a mo-
ment in and out of time of the secular social structure during the rite the
passage. In the liminial period is society an unstructured or rudimen-
tarily structured and relatively undifferentiated comitatus, community, or
even communion of equal individuals who submit together to the general
authority of ritual elders (Turner 1969: 96). Communitas comprise free
and equal comrades. Rituals pass through a timeless condition from struc-
ture to structure, through communitas in an eternal present (a moment
in and out of time) (Turner 1974: 238). The liminal period accordingly
express ideological and social values where a negation of social differen-
tiation creates solidarity. Man is in the liminal position both compelled
and incited to reflect about the community, cosmos and the supernatural
world and being that generate and sustain them. Liminality may be part-
ly described as a stage of reflection (Turner 1967: 105).
In a rite de passage an inversion or behaviour of role-reversals with a
resolving of social conflicts and psychological stress occurs. A licensed
reversal or ritual inversion, where status quo is taken apart and reconsti-
tuted and revitalised, is taken place during the liminal phase. Symbolic
inversion and chaos characterise disorder or anti-structure. Authority is
mocked or repudiated during this period of transition. The ritual installa-
tion of the New Year was accompanied by disruptive behaviour, which

73Anonymous reviewer.
224 chapter three
altered the social behaviour of the postclassic Yucatec community (Taube
1988: 8) in this inter-structural ritual. Landa writes of the ritual of separa-
tion, the Sabacil Than:
And so great was the excess which there was in these festivals during these
three months that it was a great pity to see them, for some went about
covered with scratches, others (with bruised skulls), while others had their
eyes inflamed with much drunkenness, and all the while with such a passion
for wine that they were entirely given up to vice through it (Tozzer 1941:
166).
The liminal Wayeb period was conversely filled with many rituals but more-
over with inactivity concerning daily work and routines (Tozzer 1941: 166).
A psychological relief and an enhanced sense of communal solidarity trans-
piring in the period of incorporation (of Pohp) when everyone went back
to normal life might have been one of the principal effects of the New Year
festival.
Taube maintains that the New Year festival was a public event that func-
tioned as a normative code of the community by reinforcing the social and
moral values through purification of the corruption of the old New Year
days (Taube 1988: 310). Taube argues that moral and ethic behaviour was
essential in the Wayeb period of the New Year rituals. The danger of the
Wayeb period is owing to the wrong deeds that were committed in the last
year. This is illustrated by purification of the dumping and renewal of
clothes and household goods. The old trash, dust and the Mam effigy were
destroyed and brought outside the city. Landa report a placement of a pair
of stone piles at the four entrances of the community as a central part of
the Wayeb ceremonies (Tozzer 1941: 139). This was where the worshipped
Wayeb figure was placed after being carried out of the entrance that rep-
resented the previous year. The piles of stones symbolised the New Year,
whereas the aged Mam figure represented the evil and the anti-social forc-
es at the introduction of the Wayeb period. When the Mam effigy is re-
moved or destroyed, just before the New Year, the community is restored
and purified (Taube 1988: 300). Taube cites the expression u taah haab: lo
que sucede, trabajos, hambres, muertes, pestilenciasa, dentro de un no
(Barrera Vsquez 1980: 750), which he translates as the filth of our year
(Taube 1988: 288). A cleaning and renovation signified morally purification
of the community (Taube 1988: 299-300).
The Year Bearer is called, Iqom habil and the ceremony is named
Xahanbal (Cahampal) (sacrifice) among the Jacalteca (La Farge and Byers
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 225
1927: 173-176) Xahanbal is said to derive from xahan, which can be rendered
as sin. The ritual may therefore be an expiation of sins (La Farge and Byers
1927: 177-178). The sins have to be confessed before the New Year starts at
the Mam of Santiago Chimaltenango (Oakes 1969: 101; 191-193). The people
are purified and expiated of their sins at the same time the social and
moral values of the communitas are renewed. A moral renewing in the
postclassic Yucatec New Year festival is, however, never mentioned in Lan-
das commentary as a rationale for celebrating these ceremonies. He would
surely have recognised such intentions, in his evangelical endeavours as a
missionary, as significant and as encouraging for the cause of religious
conversion. A moral renewing might be probable although not necessarily
a Catholic influence of contemporary Maya (or Mesoamerican) celebra-
tions of New Year ceremonies.
As noted, in the tripartite rite de passage schemaseparation, transi-
tion and incorporationthe five day-period of Wayeb corresponds to a
period of anti-structure. A time of chaos and inversion reigned at this stage
of the rite de passage. The liminal74 period of the transition rites or rites
de marge or rites liminaire has been thoroughly examined by Turner.
This type of ritual corresponds, in a society, which is a model of structures
of positions, a period of margin or inter-structural situation. The lim-
inal situation is an ambiguous state, a condition where the ritual subject,
an individual or a corporation, is betwixt and between states. The ritual
subject or passenger (individual or corporate) is later re-aggregated or
reincorporated with a new status and structural position when re-entering
the structural realm (Turner 1967: 93-94; 97). A ritual passage from order
or structure (Sabacil Than) to disorder or anti-structure (Wayeb) and again
to order or structure (Pohp) featured the New Year festival of the postclas-
sic Yucatec.
Fieldwork by Girard among the Kiche in Momostenango, Guatemala
may explain why the five days Wayeb period was considered to be unfor-
tunate and fateful days or a period of anti-structure. There are four regents
or bearers of time (Year Bearers)Ik, Kiej, Ee, Nojcalled Alcalde or Mam
in the Kiche 365-day calendar of Momostenango. Ik, Kiej, Ee, Noj are the
deities of the four cardinal directions and respectively associated with the
four mountains, El Tamanco, El Kilaj, Zocop and Pipilj in Momostenango.

74Limen, lat. threshold (Turner 1969: 94).


226 chapter three
The reigning Mam rule the year and the world75 (Girard 1966: 281-282). The
Mam reigns for 360 days. When this period is over is it the termin su
cuenta, complete su ao. But his rule does not include the five days of
affliction at the end of the year. This has a religious and socio-political
explanation. The Mam and the head of the community, the Alcalde, who
are both regents presides over a council of 20 dignitaries corresponding to
the 20 Lords or days of the veintena. The Alcalde cannot do anything when
this number is incomplete. The Mam cannot act during the last five days
of the year because his staff (Sp. squito) is not complete. He has to rest.
The five days of affliction have names and numbers like the rest of the days
but they, as deified beings, cannot operate because they lack a Lord or an
Alcalde who can give them guidance or protection since the five left over
days functions outside the chrono-theogonical unity of the 20 day Lords.
The informants of Girard assert that the 20 day Lords are sueltos y tienen
dueo, porque su dueo que es el alcalde, est ausente.76 This principle is
reflected in the socio-political institution where the individual cannot be
reckoned with if he is not a member of or incorporated into the commu-
nity. The religious, calendar, social and political organisation hence derives
from cosmic models. During this condition of the five days of affliction the
religious specialists cannot protect the community because they neither
can exercise ceremonies invoking the Alcalde of the year and the world
and the Lords of the five days, since they do not have any power (Girard
1966: 282-283).
Because the Wayeb days are dangerous and fateful, people do not leave
the house or go to work until at the end of the period of five days when the
new Alcalde takes over from the old one (Girard 1966: 283). The same prin-
ciple applies to the contemporary Jacalteca (La Farge 1947: 123-124). Oakes
reports that a similar idea exists among the Mam of Santiago Chimaltenan-
go. There are five days that completes the year according to the various
religious specialists. These are the retiring alcaldes (Year Bearer day), al-
ways the four days: Knel, Tcoj, Tciik and Batz (Oakes 1969: 191; 256). The
Year Bearer is the alcalde del mundo in Todos Santos. There were five bad
or evil days preceding the New Year. The people cannot work, eat too much,
eat meat or have sexual relations during the five evil days (Oakes 1969: 101;

75The Quekchis and Pocomchis have also this concept of the Mam (Girard 1966: 281-
282).
76The same calendric-theogonical concept exists among the Chorti because when the
stars, deities or days of the calendar are separated they cannot work because they are not
together (Girard 1966: 282, note 5).
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 227
191-193). The Chimn (religious specialist), Domingo Calmo, said to Oakes
that:
During the last four days of the year there is no justice in the world. Noth-
ing is received; there are no alcaldes. A chimn cannot work with his mixes
for he will be punished and die. The world is suspended until the new alcalde
of the year enters (Oakes 1969: 191-192).
The Spanish ethnographer missionaries reports that the five last days of
the 365-day calendar were not counted e.g. that they did not have calendar
names. This refer to the fact, according to Seler and Caso, that there were
held no celebrations and that these days did not have any patron deities
(Broda de la Casas 1969: 34-35). The Year Bearer did not rule time and the
world during the Wayeb period, an anti-structure or disorder thus reigned,
which created the dangerous liminal period of the Wayeb period. Rituals
of transition are being conducted during this period of anarchy to install
a new ruler of time. Time is ordered and structured through a rites de pas-
sage of calendar time. Time of the cyclic 365-day year represents a shift
from the normal order of existence into the abnormal order and back again.
The ritual practices of time are techniques changing the status from normal
to abnormal and back to normal again. We can establish, following Leach,
that the calendar year contains four phases: the ritual of separation, mar-
ginal or liminal state, aggregation, and the time intervals between the New
Year ceremonies. The ritual practices systematise, orders and computes, in
this manner, time. Time is accordingly created, structured and measured
(in calendars) by rituals (Leach 1961: 134-135).
The liminal five-day Wayeb period was reported by various sources to
be a period of affliction and anxiety. Can apocalyptical and eschatological
notions be detected in the postclassic Yucatec New Year rituals as motivat-
ing renewals of cyclical time? Song 3 of the Cantares de Dzitbalchcalled
huayah yaab tkaal kin ek, the wayeb, the twenty black days consist of 47
lines77narrates a threat of an annihilation of the world where sin (keban)
is the ultimate concern (Taube 1988: 291). Po Perez describes wild beasts
and dangers that threaten the society during the Wayeb period. The first
day of the New Year is celebrating a return to order of the community and
the world from the threatening disorder of Wayeb (Taube 1988: 299). Can-
tares de Dzitbalch, a manuscript detected in the eighteenth century, was
most likely under influence by Catholic apocalyptical/eschatological ideas.

77Taube has concentrated his analysis to the first 37 lines due to the poor condition of
the manuscript (Taube 1988: 290-291).
228 chapter three
We have seen that the flood story precedes the relation of the New Year
rituals in both Landas Relacin and the postclassic codices. The account
of the cataclysm of various world ages demonstrates that the deities had
indeed destroyed worlds and its inhabitants before. But the most likely
reason for the angst in the Wayeb period was rather due to the fact, as
stated above, that this five day-period was not under rule of a (agricultural)
Year Bearer deity. Consequently it was a period of anti-structure and dis-
order.
The manner of the rituals of the New Year exhibits that the agricultural
year had to be secured by conducting sacrifices in order to avert calamities
concerning the harvest in the coming year (Tozzer 1941: 142-149). The New
Year ritual were accordingly performed to avert potential catastrophes of
the following agricultural year and not to avoid an annihilation of time or
the world. Order (structure) was ritually restored out of disorder (anti-
structure) where the 365-day calendar New Year ritual implied a symbolic
termination and renewing of (agricultural) time through renovation cer-
emonies.
the postclassic yucatec 365-day calendar 229

Figure 7:Page 25 and page 26 of Codex Dresden (Schele and Grube 1997: 200).
230 chapter three

Figure 8:Page 27 and page 28 of Codex Dresden (Schele and Grube 1997: 201).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 231

Chapter Four

THE RITUAL PRACTICE OF TIME OF THE 52-YEAR CALENDAR OF


THE POSTCLASSIC AZTEC CIVILISATION

It is from the Nahuatl-speaking Nahua culture called Aztec, or Mexica1 as


they called themselves; primary data of the ritual practice of time of the
52-year calendar are still in existence. I do not claim, however, that the
Mesoamerican 52-year calendar or its associated ritual practices only ex-
isted in Aztec or Nahua society and culture.
The term Aztec2 derives from aztecatl,person from Aztln. Aztln
which can be paraphrased as the white place or the place of the herons
in Nahuatlwas the designation for their place of origin. The Aztecs con-
stituted a part of the last Nahua faction whom invaded the Basin of Mexi-
co after the decline of the Toltecs (probably around 1100 AD) after leaving
their place of origin (Aztln or Chicomoztoc).3 Not only their name but in
addition their identity was hence transformed from chichimec4 when the
Aztecs founded the city Tenochtitlan in 1325 AD (1 Calli according to their
52-year calendar), today known as Mexico City, on a few islands at the
western part of the Tetzcoco lake in the valley of Mexico. This became the
capital of their transient realm in the northern and central part of Mexico
from 1325 AD to 1521 AD (Lpez Austin 2001; Quiones Keber 2002: 17). A
Triple Alliance called excan tlatoloyan (tribunal of three places)com-
prising the cities Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoco and Tlacopanwas established
in 1428 AD by the regents Itzcoatl of Tenochtitlan, Nezahualcyotl of Tetzco-
co and Totoquihuatzin of Tlacopan. The political and military confedera-

1The name Mexica (Meschica-Tenochca) was given to the Aztecs by their patron
deity, Huitzilopochtli, during their long migration from Aztln.
2The Prussian scholar Alexander von Humboldt and the American historian William
H. Prescott introduced the word Aztec to the public in the early nineteenth century.
I apply the term Aztec instead of Mexica despite the fact that several scholars, since
Robert Barlow in 1949, have pointed out that this designation is incorrect.
3Cf. Francisco de San Antn Muon Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin Codex Chimal-
pahin. (1997: 72-73).
4The ethnonym Chichimec derive from Nahuatl chichimecatl (plural, chichimeca) e.g.
people or nomadic tribes from the north of Mesoamerica cf. Karttunen (1992: 48).
232 chapter four
tion of the Triple Alliance created a hegemonic rule in Mesoamerica in the
late postclassic period.5 It was under the authority of three tlatoque (sing.
tlatoani6) who represented the three principal groups of the alliance. The
military advanced Aztecs dominated the Triple Alliance, and their city
Tenochtitlan became the supreme capital of a short-lived but geo-politi-
cally expansive empire until the Spanish conquest.7 Contemporary reports
by Spanish ethnographer missionaries depict a politically hierarchical and
socially differentiated structure (Lockhart 1992: 94-110). The city (altepetl)
was governed as a realm (tlatocayotl) under the reign of the tlatoani. The
political, social, judicial and religious organisation and institutions were
complex with a range of councils, officials and religious specialists carrying
out different jurisdictional, economical, administrative, military and reli-
gious duties.8 Millions of Nahua descendents, many speaking the language
Nahuatl which became the lingua franca of multilingual Mesoamerca in
the late postclassic and the early colonial period, of the Aztec empire live
in various places in Middle America today.9 But a contemporary ritual
practice of time of the 52-year calendar is not known.

1.The Cyclic 52-Year Calendar and the Aztec 52-Year Calendar Ritual of
1507 AD (Ome Acatl, 2 Reed)

Many of the Mesoamerican calendars consist of a series of interlinking


cycles. Scholars categorise the largest cyclical calendar in Mesoamerica as
the Calendar Round of 52 vague years. The Calendar Round incorporates

5Cf. Carrasco, Pedro. The Tenochca Empire of Ancient Mexico. The Triple Alliance of
Tenochtitlan, Tetzcoc and Tlacopan. University of Oklahoma Press: Norman. 1999.
6The term tlatoani is a nominalised term, formed by the verb tla-itoa:(something)
say and the suffix ni, and can be translated as someone who have something to say or a
speaker.
7Nahuatl does not contain a word for empire. The establishment of the empire is
not recorded in the Aztec annals. Their political system was based on the altepetl (Gibson
1971: 378-379; Boone 2000: 221; 223). An altepetl is a designation of a state, a socio-political
unit or a community, which organised the Nahua. Cf. Lockhart about the altepetl (1992:
14-58).
8The backround information of the postclassic Aztec society is based upon Alfredo
Lpez Austins excellent survey of Aztec history and society (2001).
9According to SIL (Summer Institute of Linguistics): http://www.sil.org/americas/
mexico/24i-Population.htm. c. 2 million Nahuatl speakers live in the Federal District
(Mexico City, D.F.), in Durngo, Guerrero, Michoacn, Morelos, Oaxaca, Puebla, Jalisco,
Nayarit, San Luis Potos, Tabasco, Tlaxcala, Sonora, Sinaloa and Veracruz i Mexico, but also
in El Salvador.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 233
a combination or an intersection of the two distinct but interlocking the
Mesoamerican 260-day calendar and 365-day calendar.
We know from the colonial sources that the Aztecs called their 260-day
calendar tonalpohualli (the count of the signs) or cemilhuitlapohualli
(the count of the collection of the days) in Nahuatl (Tena 1987: 21).
The 260-day calendar (Tonalpohualli) is as follows:10
1. Cipactli (caiman/crocodile)
2. Ehecatl (wind)
3. Calli (house)
4. Cuetzpalin (lizard)
5. Coatl (snake)
6. Miquiztli (death)
7. Mazatl (deer)
8. Tochtli (rabbit)
9. Atl (water)
10. Itzcuintli (dog)
11. Ozomahtli (monkey)
12. Malinalli (plait)
13. Acatl (reed)
14. Ocelotl (Oselot)
15. Cuauhtli (eagle)
16. Cozcacuauhtli (vulture)
17. Ollin (movement)
18. Tecpatl (flint knife)
19. Quiahuitl (rain)
20. Xochitl (flower)
(Caso 1967: 84).

The 365-day calendar was called xiuhpohualli (the count of the year) in
Nahuatl. The 365-day calendar (Xiuhpohualli) is as follows:
1. Izcalli
2. Atlcahualo
3. Tlacaxipehualiztli
4. Tozoxtontli
5. Hueytozoztli
6. Toxcatl
7. Etzalcualiztli
8. Tecuilhuitontli
9. Hueytecuilhuitl
10. Tlaxochimaco

10Cf. Broda de Casas for a summary of various theories of the origin of the Mexican
260-day calendar (1969: 15-16).
234 chapter four
11. Xocotlhuetzi
12. Ochpaniztli
13. Teotleco
14. Tepeilhuitl
15. Quecholli
16. Panquetzaliztli
17. Atemoztli
18. Tititl
19. Nemontemi
(Caso 1971: 341).

A permutation of the 260-day cycle and the 365-day cycle form a period of
52 vague years since it will take 18,980 days for a juxtaposed date of the
260-day and the 365-day calendar to be repeated in the Calendar Round.
A Calendar Round therefore consists of a 52 365 days or a 73x 260-days
cycle (94,900 days or 52 vague years), which may be compared to a Euro-
pean century for some Indigenous cultures in Mesoamerica.11
A Calendar Round was completed when the four Year Bearers of the
365-day calendar each had ruled 13 vague years. The Aztecs perceived the
52-year cycle as comprising four 13-year cycles in one great 52-year cycle (4
13 = 52). The Spanish ethnographer missionaries Fray Toribio de Bena-
venta Motolinia, Fray Diego Durn and Fray Bernardino de Sahagn writes
that the 13 number cycle was repeated four times, generating 52 uniquely
named years in a 52-year cycle (4 13 = 52), which can be divided into four
13-year quarters. A round circle or calendar wheel of 52 years was divided
into four parts. Every part, which represented a cardinal direction, con-
tained thirteen years (Durn 1971: 389-391). The 52-year cycle were subdi-
vided into four periods of thirteen years represented respecetively by four
the Year Bearers:
1. Tochtli (Rabbit)
2. Acatl (Reed)
3. Tecpatl (Flint)
4. Calli (House)
The 52-year calendar was introducted by Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and ended
by Matlactli omome Calli (13 House). It had both a historical and a pro-
phetical function since it was calculating the past and the future. The 52-

11According to the Spanish ethnographer missioary Fray Bernardino de Sahagn, the


longest time count of the Aztec was one hundred and four years (Huehuetiliztli), which the
Nahua called a century (Sahagn 1957, V: 143).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 235
year count was applied writing history in a chronologically sequence
among various Mesoamerican cultures like for instance the Mixtec and the
Aztec (Nahua). They did appearently not use a Short Count calendar or
Long Count calendar, which we know from Maya cultures.12
There is no zero starting date in the 52-year reckoning. The dates of the
different 52-year cycles were therefore not distinguished in their endless
repeating cycles. A historic account of 52-year cycles was recorded in books
where the scribes numbered the 52-year cycle. Durn write about histo-
rias (Sp.) where the Aztecs kept their count and also where the Aztec
cosmogony and cosmology of the five world ages (Suns) were illustrated
(Durn 1967: II, 453). Durn gives several examples of the application of
the historical use of the 52-year calendar. For instance: It happened that
in the year Two Rabbits, during the eight cycle, there was a great plague in
the land which destroyed half the population (Durn 1971: 391). The Aztec
kept records all principal incidents like ruler biographies, genealogies, wars,
plagues, astrological signs, famines, etc. , registered in veintenas, days and
years, in this way (Durn 1971: 391). Year count annals of the 52-year calen-
dar system were thus applied in the historiography of the painted screen-
fold books (codices). In this Annales tradition the year indicated the
important events. The 52-year count implied also a historical-prophetical
cyclical principle of a repetition, although not an exact reproduction, of
like-in-kind events in the years of the same name. As noted in the analysis
of the temporal practices of the Long Count calendar, H.B. Nicholson has
described this principle as pattern history (Nicholson 1971a). Historical
prophecies could accordingly be integrated in the 52-year count (Lpez
Austin 1973: 96-106).
The Aztecs celebrated an important fire-ritual called xiuhmolpilli (Bind-
ing of the new year) at the end of the 52-year cycle according to the Span-
ish ethnographer missionaries. An old fire was replaced by a new one on a
sacred mountain at the end of the Calendar Round. Durn writes:
At the end of the cycle a solemn feast was held. This was called Nexiuhil-
piliztli, which means Completion, or Binding, of a Perfect Circle of Years.
At this time this round circle reached the end of its cycle and returned to
its starting point again, terminating the complete number of fifty-two years
(Durn 1971: 389).

12The Mesoamerican 52-year calendar cycle, founded on the inter-calculating cycle of


the 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar, preceded and later survived the Long Count
calendar and the Short Count calendar.
236 chapter four
New Fire ceremonies at the termination of the 52-year calendar cycle were
celebrated in many cultures of Mesoamerica. I will concentrate this inves-
tigation to the analysis of the New Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar
of the postclassic Aztecs, since as noted it is from this culture unsurpassed
sources derives.
As we shall see, several sources date the night of the New Fire Ceremo-
ny of 1507 AD to Ome Acatl (2 Reed) the Year Bearer date from the 260-day
calendar. The last known 52-year calendar ritual of the Aztec empire was
held in the year 1507 AD (Ome Acatl or 2 Reed) since the Aztecs were forbid-
den by the Spaniards to celebrate the ceremony in 1559 AD (Sahagn 1957,
IV: 144). The New Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar cycle was a state
ritual connected to Aztec cosmology and politics. After the collapse of the
Aztec empire the 52-year calendar fell into disuse but the agricultural 365-
day calendar and 260-day divinatory calendar survived in the towns and
villages of the periphery (Hassig 2001: 141). It is mainly the New Fire Cere-
mony of 1507 AD, which is outlined in the extant sources. I emphasise there-
fore that it is the particular ritual of the year 1507 AD (Ome Acatl or 2 Reed)
of the Aztecs of Tenochtitlana ritual only celebrated every 52 years and
hence exposed to undergo considerable reform in ceremonial display, func-
tion and significancewhich are principally analysed.

2.Sources and Brief Research History

Various types of sources to the Aztec New Fire Ceremony of the 52-year
calendar cycle are available to the scholar. These constitute Indigenous
pre-European/pre-Christian pictorial documents, archaeological excava-
tions of ritual sites, stone monuments and the accounts of the Spanish
ethnographer missionaries. But no primary written Indigenous historical
description, commentary or explanation of this essential ritual practice
are known to exist. Only personal names, toponyms and calendar dates are
recorded in the manuscripts and on the stone monuments, so the informa-
tion these sources can offer is quite limited and indeed ambiguous.13 Con-

13It is a problem that many of the Indigenous sources derive from the time after the
Spanish conquest. We must therefore mainly rely on documents from the colonial period.
Numerous ritual-calendarical manuscripts were particularly destroyed by the ecclesiastical
authorities after the Spanish conquest, a few survived, immediately after their discovery,
because they were shipped to Europe. Use and ownership of a tonalamatl was prosecuted.
There are, nonetheless, some ritual-calendarical manuscripts produced by the natives,
which are left from the early colonial period. Extant ritual-calendarical pictorial manuscripts
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 237
sequently, the writings of the Aztecs do not in the same way as the
inscriptions of the classic Maya of the Long Count calendar convey data
of their ritual practice of calendar time.14
Codex Borbonicus is the foremost primary source to the Aztec calendars.
Part three illustrates the 18-veintena calendar year of 365-days (lam. 23-36).
The same section depicts a sequence of the New Fire Ceremony on lamina
34 (Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1991: 221-224). Another episode of the New
Fire Ceremony is portrayed on lamina 46 of the pre-European/pre-Chris-
tian manuscript Codex Borgia (Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1993: 241-242).
In Codex Telleriano-Remensis Folio 42R outline the New Fire Ceremony
of 1507 AD (Ome Acatl, 2 Reed) (Quiones Keber 1995: 87). Fig.11. Codex
Telleriano-Remensis also provides interesting information about the date
the New Fire Ceremony was, historically, performed by the postclassic
Aztecs (Quiones Keber 1995: folio 27v, 58; 208; 217; folio 32v, 68; 218; 271-272;
folio 41V- 42R, 86-87; 228-230; 274). Cdice Tudela (1980: Folio 83v-84v;
pp. 293-294)15 and Costumbres, Fiestas, Enterramiento y Diversas Formas de
Proceder de Los Indios de Nueva Espaa (1945), a manuscript published by
Federico Gmez de Orozco, contain short descriptions of the 52-year cal-
endar ritual.16 The Indigenous documents Annals of Cuauhtitlan (Bierhorst

from the colonial period were edited and manufactured under supervision of Spanish clergy
and missionaries. They date from well into the 16th century. They were used for historical-
missionary research by the Spanish authorities (Glass 1975: 29-32). Cf. Glass (1975) for a
survey and census of Native Middle American Pictorial Manuscripts.
14The Spanish linguist and epigrapher Alfonso Garca-Galle Lacadena has argued that
pre-European Nahuatl writing was logosyllabic (Lacadena 2008). But cf. the critique by
Gordon Whittaker (2009). A great part of the corpus is, however, yet to be completely
deciphered. It is at this stage obscure whether many of these manuscripts contain informa-
tion of the Aztec ritual practice of the New Fire Ceremony or other ritual practice of time.
15Cdice Tudela 1980 belongs to the Magliabechano group of manuscripts. It was dis-
covered in a private home in La Corua, Spain in 1945. Cdice Tudela resides in Museo de
Amrica in Madrid. The manuscript is painted and written on European paper c. 1550 AD.
It was copied from an original conceivably between 1553 and 1554. This may have been the
work of the Franciscan friar Andrs de Olmos. The Cdice Tudela contains an outline of the
eighteen festivals of the 365-day calendar. The ritual cycle of the 260-day calendar, tonal-
pohualli is organised in four groups of sixty-five days, each group is associated with a cosmic
tree and two patron deities. This is a unique Nahua presentation of the 260-day calendar
(Boone 2001: 268-269). The count of the 52-year calendar is represented on folio 77v- 83v.
But only the text in Spanish with no illustrations is given on these pages. Folio 83v-84v of
Cdice Tudela substantiates information of the New Fire Ceremony provided by the Span-
ish chroniclers (Cdice Tudela 1980: 293-294).
16Federico Gmez de Orozco published a manuscript called Costumbres, Fiestas, Enter-
ramiento y Diversas Formas de Proceder de Los Indios de Nueva Espaa in 1945. It has been
conserved in Biblioteca del Escorial. The manuscript, which may have been written in 1553
AD, incorporates commentaries to illustrations from a codex which is missing. The codex
238 chapter four
1992: 121) and Historia de los Mexicanos pos sus pinturas (Garibay 1965: 29-
30), written in the Latin alphabet script, only mention the New Fire Cere-
mony briefly in association with the annals of Aztec history and with the
creation of the present world age.17
Archaeological evidence for local Mesoamerican New Fire ceremonies
were first documented by George C. Valliant, and recently by Michael E.
Smith (Elson and Smith 2001). Miguel Prez Negrete (2006) has made an
archaeological analysis, presented in a B.A. thesis, of the site (i.e. Huixach-
titlan) of where the Aztec observed the New Fire Ceremony in 1507 AD.
Furthermore, various stone monuments record the New Fire Ceremony
sign in relation with the historiography of the ruler (Tlatoani).
It is, quite ironically, the Spanish ethnographer missionaries whom pro-
vide the paramount and complete accounts of the ritual proceedings of
the New Fire Ceremony. Ethnographer missionaries delineate the Indige-
nous cultures of Mesoamerica, 1521 AD c. 1700 AD. They described, inter-
preted, defined and classified the Mesoamerican religious systems through
dictionaries and reports of Mesoamerican history, society and culture. The
Spanish ethnographer missionaries, whom were particularly active in Cen-
tral Mexico, collected extensive material outlining and interpreting the
culture, geography, economy, faith, ritual practices, institutions and his-
tory of the Indigenous people of this region. Their works vary in extent,
thoroughness and in sympathy with the natives. It is most unfortunate that
nearly all the ethnographer missionaries books are written in Spanish.
Consequently, scholars lack pre-European/pre-Christian Indigenous con-
cepts. Quite a few Spanish works mention the Aztec 52-year calendar.18 But

may originally have been part of Cdice Mendocino (Gmez de Orozco 1945: 37). The New
Fire Ceremony is very briefly described on f. 387R-f. 387V (Gmez de Orozco 1945: 62-63).
The content of the commentaries resemble passages of Cdice Tudela.
17Cf. the study of Thouvenot and Villejuif (2003).
18The New Fire Ceremony of the postclassic Aztec are recognised and pointed out in
Chapters 27 and 28 (fol. 46 verso through 48 recto) of Francisco Cervantes de Salazar book
Crncia de la Nueva Espaa, written between 1558 AD-1566 AD (Boone 1983: 94); Acosta, Jos
de. Obras. Madrid: Ediciones Atlas. 1954. (Acosta 1954: 394); Casas, Bartolom de las. Apolo-
gtica historia sumaria. 2 vols. Mexico City: Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico.
1967. (Casas 1967, II: 185-186); Don Francisco de San Antn Muon Chimalpahin Cuauhtle-
huanitzin. Relaciones originales de Chalco Amaquemecan. Mexico City: Fondo de Cultura
Econmica. 1965. (Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin 1965: 100; 201; 229) and Die Relationen
Chimalpahins zur Geschichte Mexicos: Die Zeit bis zur Conquista, Edicin de Gnter Zim-
merman, Cram De Gruyter, Hamburgo 1963. (Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin 1963: 12).
Memorial, 24v; 17: Memorial, 32r; 27 Memorial, 52v; 54: Memorial, 63r; 136: VII, 186r; 77v; V,
133v; VII, 151rv; 74: III, 82v; VII, 156r; 103 III, 97v; VII, 168v; 136: III, 144rv) (Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro
1; 119-120); Chimalpahin Quauhtlehuanitzin (2001a: 159; 235; 2001b: 133; 233-234); Hernando
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 239
it is Fray Diego Durn, Domingo Francisco de San Antn Muon Chimal-
pahin Quauhtlehuanitzin, Fray Toribio de Benavente Motolina and Fray
Bernardino de Sahagn whom, among the Spanish ethnographer mission-
aries, are the principal sources to the Aztec 52-year calendar.
The Dominican friar Diego Durn (15371588) is a major source on the
history, rituals and calendar of the Aztecs. Durn was commissioned by
the Dominican order to write about the beliefs and rituals in order to for-
ward the evangelisation of the Nahua. He made interviews with Nahua in
rural areas but did not, as Sahagn, use a formal questionnaire. Durn also
collected pictographic manuscripts of which none are preserved. His His-
toria de Las Indias de Nueva Espaa contains three parts: The Book of the
Gods and Rites (1574 1576), The Ancient Calendar (1579) and The History
of the Indies of New Spain (1581). The last book appears to mainly build on
a now lost manuscript written in Nahuatl. This hypothetical source has
been called Crnica X. Durn wrote in Spanish but included some Nahuatl
concepts despite the fact that he, having grown up in Tetzcoco presumably,
mastered the language like a native. Notwithstanding Durns extensive
writings about Aztec ceremonies, he only gives a rather brief account of
the 52-year calendar ritual in Spanish (Durn 1967: I, 221; II, 453-454; 1964:
239; 1972: 388-393).19
Fray Toribio de Benavente Motolina (1490?1569) was a Franciscan mis-
sionary born in Spain. Motolina, which means the poor one, the unfor-
tunate one, is a Nahuatl nickname he received from the Nahua due to his
humble clothing. He was among the first twelve Franciscans whom went
to Mexico in 1523 AD. Motolina investigated the customs, beliefs and insti-
tutions of the Nahua. His Memoriales o libro de las cosas de la Nueva Es-
paa y de los naturales de ella (Motolina 1971: 49) and Historia de los Indios
de la Nueva Espaa (Motolinia 1951: 112-113: 2001: 31) incorporates a short
account, written in Spanish, of the 52-year calendar.
Domingo Francisco de San Antn Muon Chimalpahin Quauhtlehua-
nitzin (1579 16?) contributes scant and incoherent but still vital informa-

Alvarado Tezozmoc in Crnica Mexiacyotl (Alvarado Tezozomoc 1998: 39); Clavijero,


Francisco Javier. The History of Mexico. 2 vols. New York: Garland. 1979 (1787) (Clavijero
1979 I: 290; 294); Fray Juan de Torquemada (Torquemada 1986: I, 80; II, 106; VII, 210; X, 292-
295; 301-303; XIII: 455); Antonio Len y Gama (1792) Descripcin de la ciudad de Mxico,
antes y despus de la llegada de los conquistadores espaoles, Edicin de Federico Gmez
de Orozco, en Revista Mexicana de Estudios Histricos, Apndice del Tomo I, p 5-58 (1978
I: 21-23) (Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro 1; 120). Cf. also Hassig (2001) and Elson and Smith (2001) for
bibliographical references.
19The original manuscript of Historia de Las Indias de Nueva Espaa (Vit.24-II) is in
Biblioteca Nacional in Madrid, Spain.
240 chapter four
tion of the 52-year calendar ritual in his book Diferentes Historias Originales.
Chimalpahin was a learned Indigenous annalist and a descendent of the
ruler lineage of Tzaqualtitlan Tenanco, a subdivision of Amecameca (Am-
aquemecan), Chalco. He was probably educated by Dominican friars from
the local monastery. Chimalpahin moved to Mexico City when he was four-
teen years old. Chimalpahin, writing in Nahuatl, had access to ancient
pictorial manuscripts. He transcribed pictorial manuscripts to alphabetical
script and travelled to other cities to search for material and interview
notable elders to corroborate his information. As an historian Chimalpahin
wrote accounts of various polities or altepetlTenochtitlan, Tlatelolco,
Tetzcoco etc.in his xiuhtlapohualli (year annals). Chimalpahin provides
the only Indigenous perspective, but he was a devout Catholic writing
many years after the last 52-year calendar ritual was conducted (Schroeder
2001: 196-198). Chimalpahin had accordingly not participated in the cere-
mony nor was he a believer in the Nahua religion but rather in a competing
theology.
All the above mentioned sources are no more than fragmentary reports
of the Aztec 52-year calendar ritual. It is the Franciscan Fray Bernardino
de Sahagn (c. 1499 1589) whom has provided the only detailed account
of the ritual proceedings. Other ethnographer missionary narratives have
been influenced by him and do not conflict with Sahagn in any significant
manner. Sahagn is accordingly, by far, the pre-eminent source to the 52-
year calendar ritual of 1507. He never witnessed the ceremony, however,
since the last 52-year calendar ritual occurred, as noted, in 1507 ad. Sahagn
arrived in Mexico in 1529 AD just eight years after the Spanish conquest of
the Aztec empire and twenty-two years after the last 52-year calendar rit-
ual.
The unsurpassed work written by an ethnographer missionary in Amer-
ica is Sahagns encyclopaedia known as The Florentine Codex20. The book,
which is entitled Historia General de las Cosas de Nueva Espaa (The Gen-
eral Story About the Things in New Spain) was copied in Mexico City
c. 1578 1580. The Franciscan friar Sahagn evangelised the Catholic gospel,
while collecting information about the history, language, culture and reli-
gion of the Nahua. He translated sacred scriptures, homilies, sermons and
books of songs and prayers into Nahuatl as aids for preaching for conver-
sion. Sahagn wrote his great work delineating ancient Mexico to assist
the missionaries in their endeavour of redeeming the heathen people of
Mexico (dOlwer and Cline 1973: 188). In 1559 ad, a provincial of the Fran-

20The Florentine Codex is named after the manuscripts (ms. 218-220, Col. Palatina)
present place of residence, the Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana of Florence, Italy.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 241
ciscans in Mexico, Francisco de Toral, had ordered Sahagn to write in the
Mexican language all that which seem useful for the indoctrination, cul-
ture, and religious conversion to Christianity among the natives of New
Spain, to aid the workers and missionaries toward their indoctrination
(dOlwer and Cline 1973: 187-188). Sahagn was convinced that the Christian
indoctrination of the Nahua had to be carried out in Nahuatl. The Nahua
were to be called upon in Church service, catechisms and in confessions
in their own language. Sahagn also recognised that his own work had to
explain the ancient traditions in Nahuatl in order to expose possible dan-
gerous, e.g. diabolical or demonical, Indigenous rituals and religious
traditions. Sahagn writes this explicitly in his prologue to Book I About
the Gods in The Florentine Codex (Sahagn 1982: 45-46).
The Florentine Codex is a peerless work due to the compiled and sys-
tematised material collected just a few decades after the Spanish invasion
written in the native vernacular. Sahagn comments and explains his own
meticulous methods and thoroughness in Prologue to Book II of The Flo-
rentine Codex (Sahagn 1982: 53-56). Sahagn worked with native assistants
and informants. He used standard questions in a now lost questionnaire
and consulted pictorial documents, which were commented upon and
explained by his Indigenous assistants and informants (Cf. Lpez Austin
1974). Sahagn has for that reason, perhaps not undeservedly, been called,
the father of modern ethnography (Nicholson 2002: 25).
Sahagns Indigenous assistants consisted of a small group of trilin-
gualNahuatl, Spanish and Latinsons of the old aristocracy educated
at Colegio de Santa Cruz, established 1536 AD in Tlatelolco, a city not far
from the capital, Tenochtitlan (Mexico City), of the ancient Aztec empire.
Sahagn and his assistants interviewed anonymous survivors of the Aztec
empire from Tepepolco (Hidalgo), Tlatelolco and Tenochtitlan about their
history, religion and culture. Sahagn names some of his informants, Don
Diego de Mendoza of Tepepulco, and in addition his four principal assis-
tants Antonio Valeriano of Aztcapotzaloc, Alonso Vegerano of Cuahuah-
titlan, Pedro de San Buenaventura of Cuahuahtitlan and Martn Jacobita
of Tlatelolco (Sahagn 1982: 53-55). This suggests that the Nahua had a quite
substantial influence on what was written in the The Florentine Codex.
The Florentine Codex comprises twelve books, each introduced by a pro-
logue. Every book treats a special theme: The deities; the ceremonies; the
origin of the deities; the soothsayers; the omens, rhetoric and moral phi-
losophy; the sun, moon and stars and the binding of the years; the kings
and the lords; the merchants; the people; the earthly things; and the con-
242 chapter four
quest of Mexico. Sahagn comments, characterises and explains the beliefs,
institutions and ritual system of the Nahua. Religious topics are integrated
into his report, where the deities, calendars, and the ritual practices are
particularly well treated.
In the appendix to book IV called The Soothsayersonly written in
the Spanish vernacular (Sahagn 1957, IV: 138; 143-144)21and book VII
named The Sun, Moon and Stars, and the Binding of the Years (Sahagn
1953, VII: 25-32) the last 52-year calendar ritual of the Aztec empire is out-
lined. This ritual was celebrated in 1507 ad, Ome Acatl (2 Reed), under the
reign of Motecuzoma Xocoytl (or Xocoyotzin) [II] (1502 ad1520 ad). The
52-year calendar ritual is also mentioned en passant by Sahagn in an ear-
lier work called Primeros Memoriales by Francisco Paso y Troncoso (mean-
ing the first or original notebook) (Sahagn 1997: 3-4).22. This book was
written by Sahagn and his four above mentioned Nahua trilingual assis-
tants. In Tepepolco (Place of the Large Hill), c. fifty miles northeast of
Mexico City, Sahagn interviewed the native ruler and community elders
of the nobility for about two years (1558 ad 1560 ad). It is remarkable,
notes Nicholson, that most of the data of Primeros Memoriales derives from
a populous but relatively obscure community and not from a political
and religious centre (Nicholson 1973: 208). The thematic contents are:
rituals and the gods, the heaven and the underworld, rulership and
things relative to man. Paragraph 3 of Primeros Memoriales includes a
count of the 52 year calendar round, counted year by year by the four Year
Bearers in text and pictures (folio 283v-folio 286r). This is followed by a
brief delineation of the 52-year calendar ritual (Sahagn 1997: 158-160).23
The postclassic Aztec 52-year calendar ritual has been investigated by
many scholars (cf. Broda de Casas 1982; Brundage 1983; 1985; Carrasco 1981;
1987; 1989; 1999; Caso 1967; Elson and Smith 2001; Elzey 1974; 1976; Furst
1992; Hassig 2001; Lpez Austin1963; Moedano Ker 1951; Noguera 1968;
Prez Negrete 2006; Read 1998; Senz 1967; Soustelle 1940; 1988; Tena 1987;

21The appendix to Book IV contains Sahagns explanation of three calendars, the


260-day calendar, the 365-day calendar and the 52-years calendar (Sahagn 1957, IV: 137-
146).
22It was the same Paso y Troncoso whom selected 88 folios of the Tepepolco material
from Sahagns Cdice Matritenese. 54 folios originate from Cdice Matritenese de la Biblio-
teca del Real Palacio and 34 folio from Cdice Matritenese de la Biblioteca de la Real Academia
de la Historia. Paso y Troncoso reconstructed in a manuscript of four chapters incorporat-
ing 49 paragraphs (Nicholson 1973: 208).
23The information of the life and works of Sahagn is based on H.B. Nicholsons
article (2002b).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 243
Winning 1979). Previous research has made significant contributions to the
understanding of the ritual practice. I have built my analysis on many of
the excellent insights these studies have achieved. In my opinion, however,
it has not been executed a comprehensive systematic exploration, within
the theoretical framework of history of religions as outlined in the intro-
duction chapter, of the postclassic Aztec 52-year calendar ritual.

3.The Calendar Ending and Calendar Inaugurating Postclassic Aztec


52-year Ritual as a Rite de Passage

The 52-year calendar was organised as a cycle incorporating a last and first
day of the 52-year. The 52-year calendar ritual was, like the New Year rituals
of the cyclic 365-day calendar, both a calendar ending and a calendar in-
augurating ritual.
Hasso Von Winning has argued that the ceremony embodies two sepa-
rate events: the drilling of the new fire and the burial of a stone-carved
firewood bundle, which symbolised the terminated old 52 year-cycle. These
two ceremonial undertakings were conducted on different locations (Von
Winning 1979: 17). I assert that the celebrations of the termination and
renewal of the 52-year calendar is structured as a rite de passage.
Considering the cyclic principle of the 52-year calendar, it is evident that
the 52-year calendar ritual was a termination and inauguration ritual of
time where a symbolic transition from an old to a new calendar cycle was
completed. The rationale of the ritual sequence of a rite de passage is a
transition of status. The structure of this kind of ritual may therefore, as
demonstrated with the postclassic Yucatec 365-day New Year ritual, incor-
porate an inter-connected sequence of rites within a coherent ritual. In the
following I argue that I have identified a structure or pattern of a tripartite
sequence in the ceremonial proceedings of the Aztec 52-year calendar
ritual.

The Preliminary Termination Rites


In the year Ome Acatl or 2 Reed (1507 ad) the 52-year cycle had to come to
an end (Sahagn 1953, VII: 25). Certain preparation rites, reminiscent of a
preliminary first sequence of a rite de passage, before the New Fire Cere-
mony was to be drilled (the principal feature of this ceremony) can be
acknowledged from the incoherent and incomplete sources.
244 chapter four
Some time before the 52-year calendar ritual, the Aztec tlatoani (ruler)
Motecuzoma [II] commanded that an individual, whose name contained
the words xiuitl or molpilli, should be found. This person had to be a boy
with the symbolic name Molpilli, Xuihtlalpil, Xiuhtzitzqui, Xiuhtli, Texiuh,
Xiuhtlatlac, Quetzalxiuh, Xiuhquen etc. or a girl with the equally symbolic
name Xiuhnenetl, Xiuhcue, Xihuecocotl etc. 24 The person who was to
become a ritual subject, had to be born by a woman who was pregnant
during a previous 52-year calendar ritual, i.e. c. 52 years ago. The ritual
victim, who resided in his/her mothers womb during the former 52-year
calendar ceremony, was to be symbolically sacrificed during the New Fire
Ceremony.
For the 52-year calendar ritual of 1507 ad Motecuzoma [II] received a
noble man from Uexotzinco called Xiuhtlamin, who was to be the ritual
subject of the fire-drill. An image of amaranth seed dough representing
Xiuhtlamin was made and, they set cooked grains of maize upon it, so that
they could give it to the people to eat (Sahagn 1953, VII: 31-32).
This first sequence of the 52-year calendar ritual was considered to be
a preliminary termination ritual marking the end of the old 52-year calen-
dar cycle. The Year Bundle festival, where the old 52-year calendar cycle
was symbolically tied and buried, represented the termination of the old
time cycle.25 Stone year bundles were made as copies to commemorate the
actual bundles, which were, tied and later ritually burned at the New Fire
Ceremony. Several stone year bundles carrying the date Ome Acatl (2 Reed)
have been unearthed in archaeological excavations. These Year bundle
stonesinterred in ritual tombs or altars de calaveras (Sp.)commem-
orated the Ome Acatl (2 Reed) New Fire years at the end of one 52-year
calendar cycle and symbolised the commencement of a new 52-year cal-
endar cycle (Caso 1967: 129-140; Nicholson 1971a: 43, note 8).26

24Symbolic names also played a part in other postclassic Aztec ceremonies. For
instance, in the festival of the veintena Panquetzaliztli of the 365-day calendardedicated
to the Aztec patron and tribal deity Huitzilopochtlisacrificial water had to be collected
from a spring called Huitzilatl in a cave named Huitzilopochco (Sahagn II, 1951: 130-131).
The subjects or protagonists of these ceremonies, Xihuhmolpill and Huitzilopochli, thus
shared names with the object which was to be sacrificed, Xiuh etc. and Huitzilatl/ Huitzilo-
pochco.
25The Annals of Cuauhtitlan announce that on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) the Year Bundle
festival was celebrated. Later, on the day Chicueyi Acatl (8 Reed), the fire was ignited on
the hill Huixachtitlan (Bierhorst 1992: 121). But these dates cannot be trusted.
26A stone year cylinder with the sign Ome Acatl has been identified by L. Batres
deposited in calle de las Escalerillas in Mexico City. Ome Acatl is illustrated on an altar
(now in the Roberto Weitlaner collection) decorated with skulls and bones (Caso 1967: 135).
Stone Year bundles have been detected in altars like the Altar of Skulls at Tenochtitlan
(Pasztory 1983: 165).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 245
Fires in all the Aztec houses and temples everywhere in the realm were
extinguished. A destruction of statues of deities kept in the houses and the
household utensils were destroyed. The streets were swept and all the rub-
bish was thrown out from the houses (Sahagn 1953, VII: 25; 1957, IV: 143-
144). Motolina describes these undertakings:
In the afternoon of the last of the last year, in Mexico and all its lands and
in Tetzcoco and its provinces, by command of the ministers of the temples
the Indians extinguished all of their fires with water, both the fires in the
temples of the demons and those in private houses. (In some places they
had a perpetual fire burning in the haunts, previously mentioned, and on
this day they extinguished also these fires.) (Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001: 31).
These cleansing ceremonies and the ritual entombing of the stone-carved
bundle of fifty-two sticks introduced the beginning of the next sequence
of the rite de passage, the liminal period of the 52-year calendar ritual.

The Transition or Liminal Rites (Nemontemi) in Nuhuatl


As is the case with other Mesoamerican 365-day calendars, the 5-day pe-
riod at the end of the 365-day calendar27 can be unambiguously categorised
as liminal. This final time unit of the 365-day year is in various sources
described as being dangerous for the Aztecs. Nothing was to be done in
these unfortunate and feared godless days (Sahagn II 1951: 35; 150; 157-158;
Durn 1971: 388, note 1; 395; 469-470; Motolinia 1951: 106; 111; 2001: 25; 29).
But can a corresponding transition period be identified at the end of the
52-year calendar? Diego Durn reports that there was a four day period of
darkness before the New Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar ritual:
The elders who were in charge of these things advised Moteczoma that it
was the year of the end of the cycle. Besides the solemn festivities that took
place, the elders pretended that the sun and its light were to be hidden for
four days and that everything would be enveloped in darkness. Thus it was
ordered that in all the provinces around Mexico the fires should be put out
and no one dare burn a fire in secret until, on the hill of Huixachtecatl, a
great fire was rekindled from which the inhabitants might ignite their own
fires. This hill stands between Itzapalapa and Cuitlahuac. After having been
in darkness for four days, not because the sun was eclipsed but because of

27The eighteen ceremonies of the veintena of the fixed 365-day calendar has been
systematically outlined by Sahagn in Book II of The Florentine Codex (Sahagn II, 1951)
and by Durn in The Book of the Gods and Rites and The Ancient Calendar of Historia de Las
Indias de Nueva Espaa (Durn 1967; 1972).
246 chapter four
lack of fire, they performed the rites of the New Fire, .... (Durn 1964: 239;
1967: II, 453-454).
There was accordingly a certain period of time between the preparation
rites and the later New Fire Ceremony on Huixachtitlan.28
With regards to timing of the interval of a ritual penance when every-
thing was in darkness within the 365-day calendar cycle there are two
possibilities. It could either have taken place during the veintena Panquet
zaliztli or it could correspond to the dangerous and auspicious five days of
the last time unit of the 365-day year (Nemontemi).29 I will now discuss
various arguments in favour of and against each of these possibilities.
As argued by Alfonso Caso, there is a quite strong indication that lami-
na 34 of Codex Borbonicus30 illustrates the 52-year calendar ritual of the
year 1507 AD as being held during the veintena of Panquetzaliztli (banner-
raising), the sixteenth veintena of the Aztec 365-day calendar (Caso 1967:
129-140) (fig. 9). Lamina 34 of Codex Borbonicus is integrated in the narrative
of rituals of the veintenas of the 365-day calendar (lam. 23-36). The patron
deity Huitzilopochtli is represented in front of a temple with paper

28It is a problem that the sources contradict each other. The Annals of Cuauhtitlan
outline rather confusingly that on the date Ome Acatl (2 Reed) the year-bundle festival
was celebrated. Six days later, on Chicueyi Acatl (8 Reed), the fire was ignited on the hill
Huixachtitlan (Bierhorst 1992: 121). On the other hand, Sahagn states that the New Fire
rite was conducted on the date Ome Acatl (2 Reed) and therefore not on Chicueyi Acatl (8
Reed). Also Cdice Tudela might delineate a liminal period, since it recounts a bad augury
of three days before the New Fire ritual. Religious specialists fasted during these three days
(Cdice Tudela 1980: 293-294).
29A corresponding liminal ritual period is reflected in the story of the creation of the
fifth sun or world where the deities Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl sacrificed themselves
in the fire and became the sun and the moon. The story narrates that Nanahuatzin and
Tecuciztecatl did penance, fasted and sacrificed blood and incense for four days. After these
four days, when the penance was over, they were to become gods (teutizque) through self-
sacrifice. Moreover, the teotexcalli, divine hearth, had burned for four days before the
self-sacrifice of Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl (Sahagn 1957, VII: 4-5).
30Codex Borbonicus is a manuscript (tira) written by native artist scribes (tlacuiloque)
at the time of the Spanish invasion (Quiones Keber 2001: 92). Spanish glosses were later
added as commentaries. Codex Borbonicus is the pre-eminent source to the Aztec ritual
calendar of 365-days since it incorporates a manual for rituals to this calendar. The first
page and the two last pages have been lost. Glass and Robertson have read it left to right
and classified the codex as encompassing four parts. Part 1 embodies the 260-day calendar
(lam. 1-20), part 2 (lam. 21-22) depicts the Lords of the Night with the four Year Bearers, part
3 illustrates the 18-veintena calendar year of 365-days (lam. 23-36), and part 4 (lam. 37-40)
is a repetition of ceremonies of the 365-day calendar and the year dates through 1507 AD
(Glass and Robertson 1975: 97-98; Dibble 1971: 323; Hassig 2001: 17). After its purchase in
1826, Chambre des Dputs in Paris placed Codex Borbonicus (Y120) in the Bourbon Palace,
from where it got its present designation (Quiones Keber 2001: 92).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 247
banners, which symbolise the veintena of Panquetzaliztli of the 365-day
calendar (Quiones Keber 2001: 93). On the right is a place sign, represent-
ing the mountain Huixachtitlan, portrayed under a fire-drill, and an Ome
Acatl (2 Reed) sign is illustrated to the left in the upper section of the
scene.31 Pregnant women, children and men are shown anxiously waiting.
Footprints lead from the mountain Huixachtitlan, where the new fire is
brought, to the black temple of Ciuacoatl (Tlillan). Four religious specialists
are portrayed lightning four year-bundles. Outside the temple other reli-
gious specialistsimpersonating Quetzalcoatl, Pahtecatl Ometochtli, Tez-
catlipoca, Xipe Totec, Ixtlilton, Cinteotl Xochipilli and Tlazolteotl
Teteoinnaare bringing more Year Bundles to burn (Anders, Jansen and
Reyes 1991: 221-224). The scene of lamina 34 of Codex Borbonicus conse-
quently to a great extent corresponds with the account by Sahagn of what
took place in the 52-year calendar ritual. Sahagn narrates that on the night
of Ome Acatl (2 Reed) everybody was frightened because if the fire could
not be drilled it would be the end of humanity. Anxious vigil women were
locked up in the granaries because of fear that they would turn into fierce
beasts. Children were also locked up because, whilst sleeping, they would
transform into mice provided that the fire was not ignited. If the new fire
could not be drilled, the sun would not come forth, night would prevail
and last forever and the supernatural beings of darkness, tzitzimime, would
descend from the sky and devour man. Every man, woman and child thus
waited in anxiety during those hours directing their attention to the sum-
mit of Huixachtitlan. At nightfall on the day Ome Acatl (2 Reed), the reli-
gious specialistscalled teonenemi(they walk like gods)impersonating
the deified actors of creation of the present world, had departed in a pro-
cession from Tenochtitlan, with a captive whom was to be sacrificed. They
arrived at the mountain Huixachtitlan in the middle of the night. At the
summit of Huixachtitlan these religious specialists of Copulco proceeded
to prepare the drilling of the new fire (Sahagn 1953, VII: 27-31; 1957, IV:
143-144; 1997: 160).
These events, related by Sahagn, transpire during what could be char-
acterised as a liminal period. It is, nonetheless, unexpected that a liminal
phase of the 52-year calendar ritual would come about during the veintena
of Panquetzaliztli and not for instance in the veintena of Nemontemi of
the 365-day calendar. There is, however, no doubt that lamina 34 of Codex
Borbonicus delineates components of the ritual proceedings of the New

31There is, however, no fire drill above the year sign of Ome Acatl (Quiones Keber
2001: 93).
248 chapter four
Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar and not the Panquetzaliztli festival
of the 365-day calendar.32 Why the rituals of Panquetzaliztli were not sum-
marised in Codex Borbonicus when the other seventeen veintena rituals
were delineated remains obscure.33 Might the festival of Panquetzaliztli
have been cancelled every 52 years in favour of the 52-year calendar ritual,
which was also dedicated to Huitzilopochtli? That the 52-year calendar
ritual is observed in the veintena of Panquetzaliztli is furthermore cor-
roborated by a stone year bundle (xiuhmolpilli), excavated in Mexico City
in 1950 (Moedano Koer 1951: fig. 4.1.). The stone year bundle has a paper
banner (pamitl), which represented the veintena of Panquetzaliztli (Caso
1967: 67; Nicholson 1993: 80-81; 2002b: 66; fig. 4.1.). Also Codex en Cruz (sheet
3) (Nicholson 2002b: 66; 73, fig. 4.7) and Cdice de Huichapan (pl. 60) (Nich-
olson 2002b: 66; 74, fig. 4.9.) feature signs, which according to Nicholson,
suggest that the 52-year calendar ritual was celebrated in the veintena of
Panquetzaliztli.
Neither Durn nor any other sources claim that the four days of darkness
preceding the New Fire Ceremony correspond to the Nemontemi period
of the 365-day calendar. Wayne Elzey asserts that there was a completion
of all calendar systems at the end of the 52-year calendar cycle when all
the permutations were exhausted (Elzey 1974: 133-134). But the count of the
260-day calendar and 365-day calendar cycles also functioned as parallel,
independent calendar systems separated from the reckoning of the 52-year
calendar. The beginning and ending date of the 52-year calendar did not
correspond to that of the 260-day calendar. Thus Ce Cipactli (1 Crocodile/
Caiman) was the starting date of the 260-day calendar. The Calendar Round

32But a new fire ritual is for instance not outlined by Durn (1971: 457-460), Sahagn
(1951, II: 27-28; 130-138; 1955, XII: 49-54; 1997: 64-65), Motolina (1971: 60-63), or Costumbres,
Fiestas, Enterramiento y Diversas Formas de Proceder de Los Indios de Nueva Espaa (Gmez
de Orozco 1945: 50-52) to have been performed in the Panquetzaliztli ceremony of the 365-
day calendar.
33Hassig has discussed in which veintena of the 365-day calendar the New Fire Cere-
mony was held. He refutes that it was performed in the Nemontemi and thus paralleled the
completion of the 365-day calendar ceremonies. Hassig claims, in a quite long and compli-
cated argument, that lamina 34 of Codex Borbonicus does not depict the New Fire Ceremony.
He maintains that the ritual practice of the veintena Panquetzaliztli actually commemorates
elements of the 52-year calendar ritual since both rituals are associated with Huitzilopochtli.
Hassig poses the question of why Codex Borbonicus should picture all the veintena ceremo-
nies of the 365-day calendar except that of Panquetzaliztli. And why, he asks, did the Ome
Acatl sign on lamina 34 not have an accompanying New Fire sign? Instead, Codex Bor-
bonicus explains the calendar reform of the 52-year calendar ceremony from Ce Tochtli
(1 Rabbit) to Ome Acatl (2 Reed) (Hassig 2001: 87-96). See more below about the postclassic
Aztec reform of the 52-year calendar.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 249
of 52 years, however, began on Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit), which is the ninety-
second day of the 260-day calendar. The ending date of the 52-year calen-
dar cycle was Matlactli Omeyi Calli (13 House), while the last date of the
260-day calendar was Cempohualli Xochitl (20 Flower). The introduction
and final date of the Aztec 365-day calendar has unfortunately not been
established satisfactorily (Tena 1987: 77-81). But, given the discrepancy be-
tween the starting and ending dates of the 260-day calendar and of the
52-year calendar, it is not certain that Nemontemi of the 365-day calendar
was the final period of the 52-year calendar as 5-day period was for the
365-day calendar. Hence, a liminal period at the end of the 52-year calendar
could very well have corresponded to the veintena of Panquetzaliztli of the
365-day calendar.
It is difficult, perhaps even impossible, to know in which veintena and
on which date (of the 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar) the 52-
year calendar ritual took place.34 But irrespective of the solution to this
problem we may make the more important observation relating to the
nature of the ritual, namely that, without doubt, a period of liminal rites
came within the great 52-year calendar ritual.35
The religious specialists looked at the Pleiades from the summit of
Huixachtitlan to see whether they had reached the zenith on Ome Acatl
(2 Reed):

34The fire could not be lighted if the Pleiades were not observed by the religious spe-
cialists at Zenith. Panquetzaliztli of the 365-day calendar corresponded to November in
1507 ad, which is the beginning of the dry season. The Pleiades were at this time at zenith
moving contrary to the sun, which was at nadir (Read 1998: 102-103). The 52-year calendar
ritual was therefore bound to be successful when a new fire rite was conducted in this
veintena.
35Hugo Moedano Ker reports that a stone year bundle found at the corner of the
streets of Pino Surez and Mesones, Mexico City, which is carved with the date Ce Acatl
(1 Reed), the banner sign for the Veintena in the 365-day calendar Panquetzaliztli, the head
of the death god Mictlantecuhtli and a spider in a starry sky which both symbolised the
death or the end of the previous 52-year calendar cycle. This means that the 52-year calen-
dar ended in the year Ce Acatl (1 Reed) during the veintena of Panquetzaliztli. The date
Ce Acatl (1 Reed), which may be correlated to either 1403 AD or 1455 AD, does not follow the
Aztec but rather the Mixtec-Toltec calendar system. 1 Reed in the Mixtec calendar corre-
sponded to 2 Reed in the Aztec calendar (Moedano Ker 1951). Emily Umberger, who has
called this stone the 1 Reed Bundle has summarised alternative explications. Nicholson
has suggested two different theories. The monument is definitely carved in an Aztec, and
not as Moedano Ker originally claimed, in a Toltec style. Ce Acatl (1 Reed) may therefore
correspond to the day Ce Acatl (1 Reed) of the 52-year calendar ritual of 1507 AD and not to
a different calendar system. Or Ce Acatl (1 Reed) can conceivable refer to the year Ce Acatl
(1 Reed) 1519 AD due to the fear of the arrival of Cortes, who was thought to represent Quet-
zalcoatl (Umberger 1981a: 124-125).
250 chapter four
And when they saw that now they passed the zenith, they knew that the
movement of the heavens had not ceased and that the end of the world was
not then, but that they would have another fifty-two years, assured that the
world had not come to an end. At this hour a great multitude of people was
on the mountains surrounding this province of MexicoTexcoco, Xochimilco
and Quauhtitlanwaiting to see the new fire, which was a signal that the
world would continue. And when the priests made the fire, with great cer-
emony, upon the pyramid on that mountain, then it was seen from all the
surrounding mountains. Those who were there watching then raised a cry
which rose to the heavens with joy that the world was not ending and that
they had another fifty-two years assured (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143-144).
At midnight of Ome Acatl (2 Reed), when the Pleiades were observed at
zenith heralding the sun, the new fire was drilled by the fire religious spe-
cialists with the flint knife ixquauac upon the breast of the captive on the
mountain Huixachtitlan (Motolina 1971: 49).36 The people, seeing this from
afar, did penance by cutting their ears for blood, which they scattered over
the fire (Sahagn 1953, VII: 25-28; 1957, IV: 143-144):
Here, at midnight, was the beginning of the year of the following cycle. The
ministers took new fire from a stick which they called fire-stick. Without
delay they ignited their torch and, before anyone was permitted to ignite
his, they carried it with great zeal and haste to the principal temple of
Mexico. Having placed the light before the idols, they brought a war captive
and before the new fire they sacrificed him; they tore out his heart, and with
the blood the principal minister sprinkled the fire as if he were blessing it
(Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001: 31).
The lighting of the New Fire on Huixachtitlan demarks the end of the
psychological terror of the liminal period. The concluding rituals, introduc-
ing a new 52-year calendar cycle, could now be instigated.37

36The cane for making the new fire was called tlequahuitl
37Lamina 46 of the pre-European/pre-Christian manuscript Codex Borgia depicts the
deities lighting the new fire to create morning light before the world was created. It portrays
the religious specialist of the veneration of Quetzalcoatl drilling a fire in the heart of the
jade of the deity Xiuhtecutli-Chantico under the supervision of the Ciuacoatl. The spirits
of the fire disperse in the four cardinal directions (Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1993: 241-242).
The religious specialists, after the lightning of the new fire, sacrificed and burned various
objects in front of an idol called: Tla(tachado) Xutecle, according to Cdice Tudela (1980:
294). Codex Borgia, whose origin is not known, is painted in the Mixteca-Puebla style of the
Cholula-Tlaxcala region, the Tehuacn Valley and the Mixtec area. It was named after its
first known owner Cardinal Stefano Borgia. This pre-European/pre-Christian pictorial
manuscript of 78 lamina of deerskin, resides in the Vatican Library (Codex Borgia Messicano
1), was made by an anonymous Indigenous artistic master. The codex is a manual of the
calendar and rituals of religious specialists. Lamina 1-8 encompasses the 260-day count
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 251
Rites of Incorporation, Renovation and Renewal
The third sequence of the rite de passage of the 52-year calendar ritual was
observed by a range of renewal ceremonies inaugurating the new 52-year
calendar cycle. The fire was first prepared and adorned by the religious
specialists. It was then brought to the temple of Huitzilopochtli in the
centre of Tenochtitlan (Templo Mayor) and placed in a fire holder, after
which white incense was scattered over it. Then the fire was brought to the
house of the religious specialists, tribal temple and the schools (calmecac)
of the young boys. The fire was finally dispersed by the fire religious special-
ists and the strong warriors to all houses and temples of the cities of the
empire. The fire was in this manner distributed from the centre (the capi-
tol of the empire) to the periphery. Everyone was now calm and reassured
that the sun and the world would continue to exist for at least another
52-year cycle. When the new fire was established a renovation and renew-
al of clothing and household utensils took place. These symbolic renewal
and renovation acts signified an introduction of the new 52-year calendar
cycle. Quails were decapitated and incense was sacrificed to the four car-
dinal directions. Amaranth seed cakes with honey were eaten. These might
have represented the image of the sacrificed victim. A fast from when it
was completely light until midday was then ordered. Feasts with human
sacrifices at noon were carried out.38 Again new fires were ignited and
placed in the houses (Sahagn 1953, VII: 29-31; 1957, IV: 143-144).39

organised in four quarters of five 13-day periods. Lamina 20-47 delineates nine rituals,
including the New Fire Ceremony (Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1993).
38A vessel (kept in the British Museum) employed to sacred offerings of human hearts,
called cuauhxicalli (eagle gourd), is carved with the date Ce Acatl, 2 Reed on the bottom
of the inside. A rope on the date represents the binding of the years, probably of the 1507
AD 52-year calendar ritual (Umberger 1981a: 121-122).
39Durn writes: At the end of the ceremony, all took new fire. This feast was celebrated
with great solemnity and all the priests were present, led by the high priest dressed in his
sacerdotal vestments. There were offerings and incense, together with the sacrifice of many
human beings who died as victims of the god of fire. So it is that this god was given the two
thousand captives who had been brought from the destruction and conquest of Teutepec.
This sacrifice began at midnight and lasted most of the next day. Triumphant and joyful,
the priests were bathed in blood, and the vessels filled with human blood were sent to smear
the lintels of the doors, posts and altar of the temples, and to sprinkle the statues of the
gods (Durn 1964: 239; 1967: II, 453-454).
Motolina gives this version: Here, at midnight, was the beginning of the year of the
following cycle. The ministers took new fire from a stick which they called fire-stick. With-
out delay they ignited their torch and, before anyone was permitted to ignite his, they
carried it with great zeal and haste to the principal temple of Mexico. Having placed the
light before the idols, they brought a war captive and before the new fire they sacrificed
252 chapter four
Domingo Francisco de San Antn Muon Chimalpahin Quauhtlehua-
nitzin has made a quite fascinating note about the human sacrifices of the
New Fire Ceremony in Diferentes Historias Originales. In the 81 day period,
from Ome Acatl (2 Reed) to Nahui Acatl (4 Reed), the concluding (incor-
porating) rituals of the 52-year calendar cycle were performed and com-
pleted with a sacrifice of war prisoners under the supervision of the tlatoque
Motecuzoma and Nezahualpilli Acamapichtli. We know this because Chi-
malpahin reports that human sacrifices, prepared by these tlatoque, were
conducted on the day Nahui Acatl (4 Reed) of the year Ome Acatl (1507
ad). This was 81 days after the New Fire Ceremony (when the new fire was
born) on the day Ome Acatl (2 Reed) which means that the rites of incor-
poration were performed well, 81 days, into the novel 52-year calendar. The
New Fire ritual of the 52-year calendar was not terminated when the new
fire was ignited but was completed by human sacrifices conducted during
the entire day (cemilhuitonalli) of Nahui Acatl (4 Reed). This information
accordingly confirms the incorporation section of the ritual structure (rite
de passage) of the 52-year calendar ritual (Chimalpahin 2001a: 235; 2001b:
233).
The structuring of the 52-year calendar ritual into the model of a rite de
passage illuminates terminological problems. There are two major designa-
tions of this Aztec ritual, implying either an ending or an inaugurating of
the 52-year calendar cycle, in the literature. One of the categories, which
derive from Nahuatl sources, xiuhmolpilli or binding of the year, denotes
the rite of symbolically binding 52-years bundles. 52-years were accord-
ingly terminated. This took place in the first sequence of the rite de passage.
The New Fire Ceremony is a concept constructed by scholars as the com-
mon label for the 52-year calendar ritual.40 In reality, this title refers mere-

him; they tore out his heart, and with the blood the principal minister sprinkled the fire as
if he were blessing it. Thereupon, the fire being as it were blessed, waiting Indians from
many towns carried new fire to their temples. They did this after asking permission from
the great chief of Mexico, the pontiff who was, as it were, their pope. They performed this
with great zeal and haste. Although the place might be many leagues away, they went in
such haste that in a short time they placed the fire there. In the provinces distant from
Mexico they performed the same ceremony and it was done everywhere with much feast-
ing and rejoicing. When commencing the day, in all the land and principally in Mexico,
they held a great feast, and in Mexico alone they sacrificed four hundred men (Motolina
1951: 112-113; 2001: 31).
40Until recently a different type of New Fire Ceremony (Sp. Fuego Nuevo) every
January were celebrated in the Mixteca Alta. On the last day of the year Victoria Snchez
in Yosonda turned out the fire in her kitchen and in the morning of January 1 went for a
new fire in the house of a relative or comadre. She kept the fire alive until the last day of
the year. There was a belief that the New Year was a white cloud, which came from the
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 253
ly to the closing of the liminal period when a new fire is ignited at midnight
on the day Ome Acatl (2 Reed). The new fire symbolise the introduction of
the new 52-year calendar cycle. Consequently, these two concepts assign
two different rites within the extensive and complex 52-year calendar rit-
ual. Instead, I have consciously applied the category 52-year (calendar)
ritual, incorporating the various rites performed during an extensive time
span at the end of the old 52-year calendar and at the beginning of the new
52-year calendar, in order to categorise this ritual practice of time.

4.Cosmogony and the Ritual Practice of Time

Fire-rituals in Central Mexico wereas maintained by Seler, Beyer and


Soustelle41a re-actualisation of the cosmogony story (Elzey 1974: 128-129;
1976: 130-131). Many scholarslike Brundage (1983: 9; 1985: 35-39), Caso
(1967: 129-140) and Taube (2000c: 314-315)assert that there is a symbolic
connection between a lightning of a new fire in the New Fire Ceremony
ending the 52-year calendar cycle and the creation story of the Aztecs. The
cosmogony story of the present world might then have served as a back-
ground for celebrating the New Fire rite of the 52-year calendar ritual.
We have previously seen that there was a general belief in a creation of
five worlds or Suns in Nahua philosophy and religion. The central issue
is whether the ritual proceedings of the 52-year calendar ritual were repli-
cations of the operations of the divine creation of the fifth and present
world age of Nahui Ollin (4 Movement). In order to explore the theory of
a symbolic-ritual emulation of the creation process in the 52-year calendar
ritualswith the object to recreate the world and renew timea system-
atic analysis must be carried out of the dates, location (ritual space), the
ritual protagonists and the ritual practice.
The creation of the fifth world is told in a variety of colonial sources,
which have been summarised by Nicholson (1971: 401, note 8) and Elzey
(1974; 1976: 114-115, note 1). There are discrepancies in the details of the

south. In the middle of the night at the middle of the sky another black cloud representing
the ancient year came from the north. During bad weather with hail, strong wind and/or
lightning she would throw a handful of salt into the fire with the purpose to apeace the
violent atmospheric forces (Snchez Snchez 2009: 10-11).
41Seler, Eduard, Gesamelte Abhandlungnen zur amerikanschen Sprach-und Alterthums
kunde. 5 vols. Berlin: Ascher and Company, 1902-1923, IV, 1039; Beyer, Heinrich El origen
natural del dios mexicano Xiuhtechutli, El Mxico Antiguo, X, 309-312. (1965: 312); Soustelle,
Jacques, La pense cosmologique des anciens mexicains. Actualits scientifiques et industri-
elles, No. 881, Ethnologie, ed. Paul Rivet. Paris: Hermann et Cie. 1940: 20.
254 chapter four
variant accounts of the Nahua creation story. This is due to the fact that
the different secondary sources were recorded during a huge time span
(Elzey 1974: 74-75). But in reality, there were local and regional variations
of the creation story in Central Mexico since the Aztec Empire did not have
a unified religious system. A possibility exists, though, that there may have
been a canonical or an official state version of this story at some point in
Aztec philosophy since the diverse accounts of the Aztec cosmogony all
agree as regards the core of the narrative. The Histoyre du Mechique, Ley-
enda de los Soles and the third and seventh book of The Florentine Codex
relate the corresponding fundamental events but with dissimilar details
(Elzey 1976: 119). There is thus reason to believe that an official Tenochtitlan
creation story existed around 1507 AD when the last 52-year calendar ritual
was observed. I will keep to the adaptation provided by Sahagn, in book
III and book VII of The Florentine Codex (Sahagn 1952, III: 1; 1953, VII: 3-9),
since the most complete account of the ritual proceedings is related by
him.
In a short passage of book III, The Origin of the Gods, of The Florentine
Codex it is outlined that the deities gathered in the historical city Teotihua-
can42 when the world was in darkness. The sun and moon were still to be
created. The deities debated who was to carry the burden, tlamamalli,
which meant who would be sacrificed to become the sun and the moon
(Sahagn 1952, III: 1). Book VII of the Florentine Codex expands on the in-
formation given in Book III. The deities gathered in counsel in Teotihuacan.
They said:
Come hither, O gods! Who will carry the burden? Who will take it upon
himself to be the sun, to bring the dawn? (Sahagn 1953; VII: 4).
Two gods, Tecuciztecatl and Nanauatzin, volunteered. They did penance,
fasted and sacrificed their own blood, and scattered incense for four days
on a hill specially made for these two deities. This hill constitutes the pyr-
amid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon in Teotihuacan today (Sa-
hagn 1953, VII: 4-5). Thereafter:
And then, also, at this time, the fire was laid. Now it burned, there in the
hearth. They named the hearth teotexcalli (Sahagn 1953, VII: 4).

42Teoti-, to be, become a god (Karttunen 1992: 227); -huah, possessor suffix (Kart-
tunen 1992: 80); -Can, at some place (Karttunen 1992: 24). A free translation may therefore
be: The place where people become gods.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 255
After the four days, when the penance was over, Tecuciztecatl and Nanau-
atzin were to become gods (teutizque) (Sahagn 1953, VII: 5). At midnight,
the deities gathered around the hearth, teotexcalli, which had burned for
four days. Four times the coward Tecuciztecatl tried to throw him self into
the flames of the hearth, but he ignominiously failed. Nanauatzin, spurred
by the other gods, cast himself into the flames. Tecuciztecatl thereafter
followed his example (Sahagn 1953, VII: 5-6).The other deities sat waiting
for the sun and moon to appear. The sun, Nanauatzin, and the moon, Te-
cuciztecatl, arose together.
The postclassic Aztecs celebrated the 52-year calender ritual on two
calendar dates, Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and Ome Acatl (2 Reed), in the course
of their history. Rafael Tena has made available a survey of when the New
Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar ritual was observed in the record of
the postclassic Aztecs:
1. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1090 AD
2. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1142 AD
3. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1194 AD
4. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1246 AD
5. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1298 AD
6. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1351 AD
7. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1403 AD
8. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1455 AD
9. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1507 AD
(Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro 1).43

It was on the date Ome Acatl (2 Reed) the New Fire Ceremony took place
in 1507 AD, but after a calendar reform. May Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) or Ome
Acatl (2 Reed) reflect the date of the cosmogony?
Sahagn or Durn does not mention the exact date of the Aztec creation
of fifth world, sun and moon. We must consult other sources. Motolina
writes in his Memoriales that the new fifth sun was born on the day and in
the year Ce Tochtli, 1 Rabbit) (Elzey 1976: 118). The Historia de los Mexicanos
por sus pinturas (Garibay 1965), Anales de Cuauhtitlan and Leyenda de los
soles (Bierhorst 1991) constitute the three major sources which provide the
dates of the creation of the fifth world age (Umberger 1981a: 211). The date

43A rock from the site Xochicalcolocated in the state Morelos, Mexicois inscribed
with the Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) year date and the day date Ome Coatl (2 Serpent) under a
fire drill surrounded by flames. This apparently represents the New Fire Ceremony on the
day Ome Coatl (2 Serpent) in the year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) of the Xochicalco period (c. 600
AD c. 900 AD) (Senz 1967: 11-15).
256 chapter four
of the creation was Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) according to The Historia de los
Mexicanos por sus pinturas (Garibay 1965: 32). But The Historia de los Mex-
icanos por sus pinturas relate that Tezcatlipoca made the fire in the year
Ome Acatl (2 Reed) at the end of the fourth sun. He did this with the inten-
tion of make an offering to the gods. Tezcatlicpoca transformed himself
into Mixcoatl-Camaxtli in the year Acatl (Reed), the second year after the
deluge. After his exemplary twirling of fire sticks, employed to create fire,
originated the custom of drawing a fire from the fire-drill. Since then, de-
clares The Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas, a festival ( Sp. fiesta)
was dedicated to the deities by drilling a great fire in the same year (e.g.
Ome Acatl, 2 Reed) (Garibay 1965: 33). The Historia de los Mexicanos por
sus pinturas further narrates that the sons of Quetzalcoatl and Tlalocatecut-
li were thrown into the fire by their fathers to be transformed into the sun
and moon. They thus created these heavenly bodies, c. 26 years after the
earth was made (Garibay 1965: 35). Anales de Cuauhtitlan accounts that the
creation was executed on Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit). The sun was born Matlac-
tli Omeyi Acatl (13 Reed) it was then that light came, and it dawned
(Bierhorst 1992: 25-26). Leyenda de los soles also relates that Ce Tochtli (1
Rabbit) was the date of creation. Moreover, it narrates that in the year Ome
Acatl (2 Reed) Tezcatlipoca drilled the fire.44 This was the origin of the New
Fire Ceremony, celebrated every 52-years:
Now, it was in a year 2 Reed that the skies were (again) smoked. This is how
we ourselves exist, how the fire drill ignited. When the sky was established
was in a year 1 Rabbit. (Yes,) this is how the fire drill ignited, when the fire
appeared (for the new-fire ceremony). Now, it was dark for twenty-five years.
Well, it was in the year 1 Rabbit that the sky was established. And when it
had been established, the dogs sent up smoke, as mentioned above. And
after the fire drill had ignitedafter Tezcatlipoca had drilled firehe smoked
the skies once more, and this was in a year 2 Reed (Bierhorst 1992: 144-145).
The structure of the Aztec cosmogonic process is identical with the narra-
tive of Popol Wuj of the Kiche. The creation of the earth (space) is, in both
stories, distinguished from the creation of the quintessential heavenly bod-
ies, the sun and the moon.45 The movement of the sun and moon are es-
sential in calculating the calendars and thereby time. Space (earth) and

44Umberger maintains, however, that it is an error to assert that the sun was brought
into existence on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) when this instead should have taken place on
Matlactli Omeyi Acatl (13 Reed) (Umberger 1981a: 211-212).
45A similar structure can be discerned in the account of the Mixtec cosmogony, related
in the postclassic pictorial manuscript Codex Vindobonensis, where the sun is created much
later than the earth, water, divine ancestors, polities etc.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 257
time (calendars of the sun and moon) were accordingly conceived on dif-
ferent dates within the cosmogony. Sahagn do no operate with creation
dates but he clearly separates between a creation of the world (earth) and
the sun and the moon (time of the calendars), in his account. Moreover,
Anales de Cuauhtitlan outline that creation of the earth was executed on
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) while the sun was born Matlactli Omeyi Acatl (13
Reed). Leyenda de los soles also relates that Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was the
time of the creation of the earth. It further narrates that in the year Ome
Acatl (2 Reed), on the day Matlactli Omeyi (13 Reed), Tezcatlipoca drilled
the fire. This was the origin date of the New Fire Ceremony, celebrated
every 52-years. The Historia de los Mexicanos por sus pinturas account, that
a making of the earth took place on Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit). But it was on
Ome Acatl (2 Reed), a primordial making of fire, made a custom of celebrat-
ing the fire-ritual of the New Fire Ceremony. The sun and moon were said
to be created 26 years after creation of the world. Hence time of various
calendars was created.
Consequently, in the majority of the creation accounts the construction
of the fifth world took place in the year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit), while Ome
Acatl (2 Reed) was the beginning date of the novel 52-year calendar cycle
in 1507 AD. Thus a symbolic link between the date of the creation of earth
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and the New Fire Ceremony on Ome Acatl (2 Reed)
cannot be established in the 1507 ad ritual. A creation of the sun (and
perhaps moon) took place not on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) but on Matlactli
Omeyi (13 Reed). It seems only, according to one story (The Historia de los
Mexicanos por sus pinturas), that a making of a primordial fire may have
been executed on Ome Acatl (2 Reed), instituting the New Fire ritual. It
therefore appears reasonable to infer, from the data of the available cre-
ation story, that the date Ome Acatl (2 Reed) of celebrating the 1507 AD
ceremony did not have a symbolic association with the cosmogony.
The locations of the creation of the sun and the moon of the fifth world
age and the ritual space of the New Fire Ceremony conducted every 52
years were not the same. The city of Teotihuacan, an ancient metropolis
of Central Mexico not far from Tenochtitlan46, was the scene of the creation
of the sun and the moon of the deities. Teotihuacan, the place where time
and the fifth world began, became a mythic city in Mesoamerica in the
postclassic period. It was perhaps comparable with the Mesoamerican
archetype mythic city Tollan, place of reeds (Carrasco 1982; Boone 2000b).
As noted, the hill where Tecuciztecatl and Nanauatzin did penance is now
the pyramid of the sun and the pyramid of the moon in Teotihuacan. These

46Teotihuacan is situated c. 40 km. northeast of Tenochtitlan (Mexico City).


258 chapter four
are historical structures which could have served as ceremonial space for
the Aztecs. In Book X of The Florentine Codex, The People, the history of
the Mexica or Mexiti (the Aztecs) is told. During their long migration, the
Aztec tribe passed in Teotihuacan, where they erected the pyramid of the
sun and the moon (Sahagn 1961, X: 191). But the New Fire Ceremony cel-
ebrating the end of the 52-year calendar cycle is not acknowledged to have
been performed on or near these two pyramids in Teotihuacan. The loca-
tion of the New Fire Ceremony of 1507 AD was Huixachtitlan47 (lit., place
beside the thorny tree, acacias)48, as described by the ethnographer mis-
sionaries. This is a hill (between 2, 240 to 2, 460 m. above sea level) east of
Colhuacan and south of Itztapallapan in the southern Basin of Mexico,
today called Cerro del Estrella (Sahagn 1997: 160, note 4; Prez Negrete
2006) (fig. 17). Durn writes:
Thus it was ordered that in all the provinces around Mexico the fires should
be put out and no one dare burn a fire in secret until, on the hill of
Huixachtecatl, a great fire was rekindled from which the inhabitants might
ignite their own fires. This hill stands between Itzapalapa and Cuitlahuac
(Durn 1964: 239; 1967: II, 453-454).
Nine 52-year new fire ceremonies are mentioned in the Aztec written
sources (Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro 1; Boone 2000: 166-173, 223-224; Elson and
Smith 2001: 169-170). The cited table by Tena lists when and where the New
Fire Ceremony was performed:
1. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1090 AD Teocolhuacan, Acahualtzinco or Tlallixco
2. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1142 AD Coatepec (Tollan)
3. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1194 AD Huitzcol Apazco
4. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1246 AD Tecpayocan
5. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) 1298 AD Chapultepec; Acocolco Aztacalco Tollan;
Contitlan Tizaapan (1303 AD)
6. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1351 AD Tenochtitlan
7. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1403 AD Tenochtitlan
8. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1455 AD Huixachtitlan
9. Ome Acatl (2 Reed) 1507 AD Huixachtitlan
(Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro 1).49

47Also called Huixachtecatl.


48According to Hassig (2001: 16-17). Simon writes that this mountain is situated c.
8 kilometers from Mexico City (Tenochtitlan) and that is was cubierta de uixachin, rbol
espinoso, propcio, sin duda, a la renovacin del fuego (Simon 1997: 760). Uixachin, Mimosa.
rbol espinoso, provisto de pinchos, cuyas hojas eran usadas par alas enfermedades de la
cabeza (Sah.); en espaol [huicahchi] (Simon 1997: 760).
49According to Baudot, there are indications in the colonial missionary Spanish sources
that the Texcocans and Aztecs (as well as the Tlaxcaltecans) originally began the 52-year
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 259
The change of the location (and date) of the New Fire ceremonies may or
may not signify the modification the meaning this ritual had undergone
during the history of the Aztecs. In any case, none of the recorded New Fire
ceremonies were observed in Teotihuacan, which weakens the argument
for a symbolic-ritual re-actualisation of the 52-year ritual.
Seler and Taube50 have interpreted lamina 46 of Codex Borgia as illus-
trating the self-sacrifice of Nanahuatzin while Anders, Jansen and Reyes
(Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1993: 241-242) have construed the same scene
as portraying the New Fire Ceremony where a new fire is being drilled upon
the abdomen of the deity Xiuhtecuthli. Taube suggests that this page indi-
cates that the New Fire Ceremony was re-enacting the birth of the sun and
accordingly the creation story (Taube 2000c: 314).51 The divine proceedings
of the creation of the fifth world and the New Fire rite of the 52-year cal-
endar ritual do in fact have several symbolic-ceremonial elements in com-
mon thus making an association between the creation story and the ritual.
The religious specialists of the New Fire Ceremony, teonenemi, repre-
sented the deified actors of creation of the present world according to the
account by Sahagn (Sahagn 1953, VII: 27).52 It is therefore reason to be-
lieve that the creator deities were ritually impersonated during the New
Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar ritual. The world was said in the
creation story to be in a state of darkness when a symbolic fire is drilled on
a sacred hearth (Sahagn 1952, III: 1; 1953; VII: 4).53 Fire was put out every-
where previous to the New Fire Ceremony to imitate the state of the fifth
world in darkness. Durn reports that there was a four day period of dark-
ness before the New Fire Ceremony (Durn 1964: 239; 1967: II, 453-454).
Motolinia writes that
In the afternoon of the last of the last year, in Mexico and all its lands and
in Tetzcoco and its provinces, by command of the ministers of the temples
the Indians extinguished all of their fires with water, both the fires in the

calendar on the date Ce acatl (1 Reed). It was Moctezuma Ilhuicamina who changed the
starting date to Ce tochtli (1 Rabitt) but this temporal reform was unique for the Aztecs
(Baudot 1995: 478, note 69).
50Seler quoted in Taube (2000c: 314).
51Cf. the interpretation by Boone who perceives the drilling of the new fire, as repre-
sented on lam. 46, as the final episode of the cosmogony which is described from lam. 26
through lam. 46 in Codex Borgia (Boone 2007: 171-210).
52Sahagn and Torquemada do not identify the deities who were represented but
they mention the possibility of an impersonating of Quetzalcoatl and Tlaloc (Sahagn 1953,
VII: 27; Torquemada 1986: X, 293).
53But the world was not entirely dark since the teotexcalli, the divine fire hearth, had
already burned for four days (Sahagn 1953, VII: 4).
260 chapter four
temples of the demons and those in private houses. (In some places they
had a perpetual fire burning in the haunts, previously mentioned, and on
this day they extinguished also these fires.) (Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001: 31).
The creator deities Tecuciztecatl and Nanauatzin did penance, fasted and
sacrificed blood and incense during these four days before they leapt into
the fire. A similar penance was conceivably conducted by religious special-
ist before the New Fire Ceremony since Cdice Tudela recounts that the
religious specialists fasted three days before the New Fire ritual when (1980:
293-294). Sahagn relates that Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl became the
sun and the moon by jumping into the fire. The creator deities were later
sacrificed by another deity so that the sun and moon could come into be-
ing (Sahagn 1952, III: 1; 1953, VII: 5-7). The New Fire Ceremony, a new fire
was to be drilled on the chest of a victim, whom carried a symbolic name
representing the 52-year calendar count. In this way the sun and moon
would continue to exist for another 52 years. The sacrificed victim was
afterwards cast into the flames, reviving and feeding the fire, imitating the
sacrifice of Nanahuatzin and Tecuciztecatl (Sahagn 1953, VII: 25-26). The
New Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar cycle is here evidently sym-
bolically emulating the cosmic sacrifice in a great fire so that the life sus-
taining heavenly bodies, the sun and the moon, would continue to exist.
A symbolic relation between creation story and ritual can accordingly be
established.54

54The Pleiades, which had to be observed at zenith at midnight of Ome Acatl (2 Reed)
of the New Fire Ceremony, are not mentioned in the creation story. Its symbolic significance
and function are hence obscure. The ignition of fire, i.e. light, could have been a metaphor
for the creation of the sun and moon. The Pleiades had to be observed if a new fire was to
be drilled in the New Fire Ceremony. The Pleiades constellation was called Miec and Mam-
alhuatzi but The Florentine Codex only states the former reaching the zenith at midnight
(Sahagn 1997: 160, note 3). Miec yoan tiyanquitzli refer to the Pleiades (Sahagn 1997: 154,
note 9). Mamalhuatzi is also in Primeros Memoriales and The Florentine Codex (Sahagn
1953, VII: 11) designated as Yohualtecuhtli, Lord of the Night (or by Alvarado Tezozomoc
as Yohualitqui, Night Bringer) and Yacahuiztli, Nose-Thorn. This constellation has been
identified by various scholars as Orion, Hyades in Taurus, Aldebaran, and Castor and Pollux
in Gemini (Sahagn 1997: 154, note 7). Johanna Broda has analysed the symbolic role and
significance the cult of the Pleiades held in the New Fire Ceremony (Broda 1982). The
Pleiades, miec or miac, can be translated as muchos, multitude and tianquiztli or Mer-
cado. Sahagn explains in Primeros Memoriales that the Pleiades was connected to another
constellation called mamalhuaztli or palos para producer el fuego. This makes a clear
reference to the creation of a new fire (Broda 1982: 134, note 12, 151). In Book VII of The
Florentine Codex is the fire drill called mamalhaztli, a constellation of stars: And hence it
was said that they resembled the fire drill: because when fire was drawn with a drill, and
the drill bored, thus fell, ignited and flared the fire (Sahagn 1953, VII: 11). A symbolic link
between fire, the sun and the moon and the Pleiades can therefore be made.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 261
It is a question, whether a making of time and/or of space was the sub-
ject in the postclassic Aztec cosmogony. It has been established that the
creation of the sun and the moon is the major theme of the Aztec creation
story of the fifth sun. The story only briefly mentions that the world, or
rather the earth (space), had already been created. It instead it concentrates
on accounting a creation of the world age or world period and not the world
or cosmos itself since space (the earth) had already been conceived. We
only hear that the deities gathered in Teotihuacan to create the sun and
moon in a world, which was still in darkness. The movement of the sun
and the moon, as astronomical bodies, are applied to measure and compute
time. Time can hence be systematised and organised in calendars. (Calen-
dar) time of the present world age can be said to have been brought into
existence when the sun and moon originated. The Kiche creation story of
Popol Wuj (Tedlock 1996) encompasses the same motif. The deities had
created earth (space) but failed to make human beings whom could wor-
ship them with sacrifice and prayer. The two divine tricksters, the Hero
Twins Hunahpu and Xbalanque, vanquished the death gods of the under-
world (Xibalba). The moon and sun could be created and time could be
organised in the calendars because time and the calendars are computed
after the movements of these celestial bodies. Not only humanity, but also
the sacred ritual calendars, social and cultural institutions and the order
of the world age and of time could then come into being (Pharo 2004).
Without the calendars, time and the world order would not be able to exist.
Measured or structured time creates order out of chaos or anti-structure.
Time was in the 52-year calendar ritual not only ritually renewed or recre-
ated but in addition symbolically ordered out of disorder after the model
of the events of the cosmogony.
It is hardly a coincidence that Book VII of The Florentine Codex just after
relating the story of the creation of the sun and the moon of the present
world era outlines the ritual proceedings of the 52-year calendar ritual. This
ritual, by re-actualising the cosmogonic story of a creation of the sun and
the moon, implied a repetitious termination and inauguration/renewal of
time. Time of the 52-year calendar was symbolically re-introduced/re-
newed and the cosmic order consequently recreated. Thus, a hypothesis
of a symbolic-ritual repeating of a divine archetypical cosmogony appears
plausible, despite that I have not been able to establish a link between the
date and location of creation and of the New Fire rite.
262 chapter four
5A Spatial-Temporal Ritual

We have seen that time was ritualised, based on the events of creation, in
the New Fire rite of the 52-year ritual. Space and time55 are closely linked
in Aztec cosmology.56 Aztec time cycles and calendars were related with
the four cardinal directions of the world.57 The twenty day-names of the
260-day calendar were oriented towards one of the four cardinal directions
each associated with a colour. The four day-names Acatl (Reed), Tecpatl
(Flint), Calli (House) and Tochtli (Rabbit) were associated with the four
cardinal directions. These day names divide the thirteen weeks, or trecena,
into four groups of 65 days. The trecenas were ruled by one of the four day-
names, which also are known as the four Year Bearers (Elzey 1976: 126-127).
The 365-day calendar moved in a yearly counter-clockwise succession
where one of the four Year Bearers, each connected with a cardinal direc-
tion, ruled the 365-day year. The years and days were consequently spa-
tially oriented (Len-Portilla 1963: 54-56).58
The 52-year time calendar count was correlated with quadripartite hor-
isontal space. The Aztecs perceived the 52-year calendar as consisting of
four thirteen-year cycles in one great cycle. A Calendar Round was com-
pleted when the four Year Bearers of the 365-day calendar each had ruled
13 vague years. The Spanish ethnographer missionaries Motolina (1951: 112;
2001: 30-31), Durn (1967: I, 221-224) and Sahagn explain that the 13 num-
ber cycles were repeated four times, generating 52 uniquely named years
in a 52-year cycle (4 13 = 52). A round circle or calendar wheel of 52 years

55Burkhart states that Nahuatl uses the same locative suffixes for position in time as
in space. Thus, for example, tlayohuayan can mean the time of darkness between days or
between solar ages as well as the place of darkness . (Burkhart 1989: 72). The suffix yan
occurs in many set constructions with extended senses of place and duration (Karttunen
1992: 335).
56A Nahua spatial (horizontal and vertical) cosmology has been expounded by Jacques
Soustelle (1940: 56-85), Miguel Len-Portilla (1963: 25-61.), H.B. Nicholson (1971: 403-408)
and Wayne Elzey (1974; 1976).
57This quadripartite cosmology was a classification system where a pattern of four
divisions were related to colours, winds, deities, tlaloques, games such as patolli, el volador,
the Venus periods, the four divisions of Tenochtitlan etc. (Elzey 1976: 132, note 56).
58According to the numerological belief system of the Nahua of Naupan, Puebla,
Mexico the cosmos consists of 13 vertical levels, 6 hot and 7 cold. Each of these 13 regions
is divided into the 4 cardinal directions4 13 = 52where 24 parts are hot and 28 parts
are cold: 24 + 28 = 52 (Velsquez Galindo 2006: 37, note 104). 52 represent the totality of
cosmos. This coefficient may have been an ancient reference to the Mesomerican 52-year
calendar and consequently a spatial-temporal philosophy is accordingly outlined.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 263
was divided into four parts or four 13-year quarters. Each part represented
a cardinal direction (Durn 1971: 389-391).59 The 52-year cycle was divided
into the four quarters, tlapilli, which began respectively with Tochtli (Rab-
bit), Acatl (Reed), Tecpatl (Flint) and Calli (House). Tochtli (Rabbit) was
oriented toward the south, Acatl (Reed) to the east, Tecpatl (Flint) was
associated with the north and Calli (House) with the west. We have this
spatial-temporal order of the 52-year calendar:
1. Tochtli (Rabbit) of the south
2. Acatl (Reed) of the east
3. Tecpatl (Flint) of the north
4. Calli (House)of the west
The 52-year calendar cycle subdivided into four periods of thirteen years,
containing the four Year Bearers Tochtli (Rabbit), Acatl (Reed), Tepetatl
(Flint) and Calli (House), began with Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and went through
the four Year Bearers thirteen times. Matlactli Omeyi Calli (Thirteen
House), the sign of the west, was the last sign of the four thirteen period
(Sahagn 1953, VII: 21-22). The 52 successive years move through the four
cardinal points.
Space and time of the Calendar Round were intimately intertwined.60
The four Year Bearers has reigned thirteen years each when the 52-year
calendar cycle has passed. When a period of 52-years was completed the
years were piled, the thirteen-year cycle had four times made a circle (Sa-
hagn 1953, VII: 25). Time and space, completed and exhausted at the ter-
mination of the 52-year calendar cycle, had to be symbolically renewed
and recreated in the 52-year calendar ritual. This was manifested in the
ritual proceedings.61 In the New Fire Ceremony of the postclassic Aztecs
the new fire was brought out to all directions of the empire (inic ie nouii-
ampa vmpa oioaloque, (Having come) from all directions) by the fire re-

59A circle of 52 squares symbolising a cycle of 52-years by the Aztecs, is represented


by Durn (1971: 388-389, plate 35).
60Time and space were conceived because of the primordial actions of the creator gods
before the present world age. In the creation story of the sun and moon, i.e. when time was
created to be systematised and organised in calendars, all the present deities looked to the
three directions, the north, west and south, before the sun arrived in the east (Sahagn 1953,
VII: 6-8).
61The postclassic Mixtec pictoral manuscript Codex Vindobonensis outlines the measur-
ing of the four cardinal directions as part of the New Fire ceremonies and also as a formation
of new dynasties (Anders et al. 1992: 155; 159; 163; 165; Van Akkeren 2000: 401; Boone 2000:
145).
264 chapter four
ligious specialists (Sahagn 1953, VII: 29). The all directions presumably
corresponded to the four cardinal directions. Sahagn continues his ac-
count declaring that after the fire was lit and the New Year started, incense
were offered to the four cardinal directions in the courtyard. Then the
people cast incense into the hearth (Sahagn 1953, VII: 31). This hearth
conceivably symbolised the world centre. Lamina 46 of Codex Borgia de-
picts the deities lighting the new fire to create morning light before the
world was made. A religious specialist of Quetzalcoatl drills a fire in the
heart of the jade of Xiuhtecutli-Chantico under the supervision of the Ci-
uacoatl. The spirits of the fire disperse in the four cardinal directions
(Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1993: 241-242). Sahagn explains quite categor-
ically that the idols and the contract with the Indigenous deities (he calls
them devils) were renovated but he also implies that space and time were
renewed in his interpretation of the 52-year calendar count in book IV of
The Florentine Codex:
They had four characters placed in four positions with respect to a circle.
One of these characters they called Ce acatl, meaning One Reed. This char-
acter was represented as a green reed, and, with reference to the circle, was
to the east. The second character they called Ce tepactl, meaning One Flint
Knife. (It was) made in the manner of a lance head, half of it blood-stained.
This was placed to the north with reference to the circle. The third charac-
ter was the representation of a house, which they call Ce calli (One House).
It is placed to the west with reference to the circle. The fourth character is
the likeness of a rabbit, which they call Ce tochtli (One Rabbit); it is placed
to the south with reference to the circle. By means of these characters they
counted fifty-two years, assigning thirteen years to each character. And they
counted in this manner, One Reed, Two Flint Knife, Three House, Four
Rabbit and so on, so describing circles by means of these characters, until
each one attained thirteen years. These altogether, make up four times
thirteen and equal fifty-two years. The purpose or intention of this count is
to renew, every fifty-two years, the covenant, contract, or vow, to serve the
idols. Because at the end of the fifty-two-year (cycle) they observed a very
solemn feast and made new fire, and extinguished all the old (fires). And
all the provinces of this New Spain took of this new fire. They then renewed
all the statues of the idols and all of their adornment, as well as the inten-
tion of serving them for the next fifty-two years. And also they had a proph-
ecy or oracle of the devil that at (the end of) one of these periods the world
would come to an end (Sahagn 1957, IV: 137-138).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 265
The character of the 52-year calendar and the ritual proceedings therefore
suggests that not only time but in addition space were ceremonially ob-
served in a symbolic-ritual and spatial-temporal fashion.62

6.Eschatology and the Ritual Practice of Time

The 52-year calendar was the longest calendar time count known to the
Aztecs. It therefore seems reasonable to assume that the Aztec saw it as an
obligation to ritually renew time, if not time and consequently the world
would be annihilated. The 52-year calendar ritual was a calendar ending
and a calendar introducing ceremony. The structure of a rite de passage
and the principle of terminating and inaugurating a time period of a cycli-
cal calendar imply a transition. The Codex Borbonicus illustrates (lam. 34)
that the 52-year calendar ritual included a ritual burial of year bundles,
symbolising 52 years of the old cycle, and a successive drilling of a new fire,
which represented the introduction of the new 52-year calendar cycle

62A symbolic-ritual re-actualisation of spatial-temporal time of the 52-year calendar


may have been performed in the Patolli (Caso 1925; 1932) and the juego del volador (The
Flier) (Elzey 1974: 125, note 1; Terraciano 2001: 267). Patolliwhich rules and illustrations
have been from various sources summarised by Alfredo Caso (1925; 1932)was a game
(also played by commoners) of dice on a board with 52 squares symbolising the Calendar
Round and the four cardinal directions in the shape of a cross. Coloured stones were moved
over the board. The player who had first moved his stone around the board and back again
had won (Soustelle 1988: 176-177). The dice may be moved 52 squares symbolising 52 years.
When it is moved back it symbolised huehuetiliztli or c. 104 years. The board was also oriented
towards the four cardinal directions (Caso 1925: 209-210). Patollli was forbidden by the
Spanish authorities, which reveals its religious importance. This game is known to have
been played in the contemporary era. In the Totonaco village of Zapotitln, in the village
Huitziln of Sierra Norte in Puebla, Mexico (Caso 1925: 203) and in Romero Rubio, Hueyt-
lapan, Olintral, Curzcucat (Caso 1925: 211, note 2). But the present-day game of Patolli does
not have the same symbolic meaning since the board here contains only 49 and not 52
squares. The juego del volador (The Flier) also symbolised the 52-year calendar cycle.
Torquemada likened the symbolism of el volador to the 52-year calendar cycle (Elzey 1974:
125, note 1). This game is still practiced by the Totonac. The Spanish Jesuit ethnographer
missionary Francisco Javier Clavijero accounts that four voladores each revolving thirteen
times around a pole represented a tlalpilli (semana de aos) amounting to 52 revolutions
symbolising a century of 52 years. In the old days the ritual performers wore a costume
and a mask of a supernatural being called Guaeamaya, a bird dedicated to the sun (Caso
1925: 210; 1932: 58-60). Time of the 52-year calendar and space of the world were accordingly
symbolically re-actuated through these games. Patolli is also known to be used among the
classic Maya. 4892B in the Precolumbian Portfolio (research.mayavase.com/kerrportfolio.
html) display a game board incised in stone from Piedras Negras according to Justin Kerr
(e-mail: Re: [Aztln] Patolli game uncovered at a Maya site 25022012). A patolli game
board has recently been found by INAH at Zona Arqueolgica de Dzibilnocac, Campeche
(http://www.inah.gob.mx/index.php/boletines/16-antropologia/5685-hallan-qpasa).
266 chapter four
(Caso 1967: 129-140; Winning 1979: 17; Umberger 1981a: 49).63 The Aztecs
had two types of signs, which reflected this conception. The first was a knot
of reed or a cord connected to the year sign (Ome Acatl; 2 Reed)64, which
indicated that the bundle of 52 years had been tied up or completed. A
twisted cord element stretched across the symbol of Ome Acatl (2 Reed),
also indicates the binding of bundles of the 52-year calendar ritual. This
sign illustrates graphically that the cycle was terminated or bound. It was
Alfonso Caso65 who originally argued that this sign represented a binding
or tying of the old 52-year period, xiuhmolpilli (Nicholson 1961: 402). The
second type of sign constitutes a fire-drill, combined with the date Ome
Acatl (2 Reed), represented the sacred fire of the New Fire rite (Boone 2000:
223-224) (fig. 10). The fire symbolised the inauguration of the new 52-year
calendar.66
The name for the rite at the end of the 52-year, in Nahuatl, was xiuhmol-
pilli, meaning that a period of time was terminated. Xiuhmolpilli literally
means year-binding. The noun ilpilli is derived from the verb ilpiato bind
(Karttunen 1992: 105) here taking a reflexive prefix mo- (Karttunen 1992:
150), and added to this stem is the incorporated noun xihuitl year. The
binding of the years is then an applicable translation of xiuhmolpilli. A
binding or tying up a bundle representing a time unit was a common sym-
bolic Mesoamerican temporal concept. Doris Heyden and Fernando Ho-
racasitas have observed that a carving, on the Temple of the Plumed Serpent
at Xochicalco, Morelos, represents a hand stretching a taut rope between
two signs of dates. The dates are pulled together, which indicate a termi-
nation of a 52-year calendar cycle (Durn 1971: 391, note 5). The binding
concept is further symbolised by the year bundles. A burning of ritual
bundles consisting of 52 reeds was an essential symbol element of the 52-

63Folio 78v and folio 83v of Cdice Tudela and folio 12v of the Codex Magliabechiano
(Cdice Tudela 1980: 148-149; 293-295) state that 52 years (four trecenas) is considered to be
an old age for people. Folios 83v-84v of Cdice Tudela narrates that Como digo el yndio
que llegava a la edad de cinqu(en)ta e dos aos era libertado de toda carga e servicio o
tribute, y era tenido e acatado de todos; lo mesmo la yndia. Cdice Tudela then begins to
account the ceremony of the New Fire (Cdice Tudela 1980: 293-295).
64This could also have been the year sign Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit). Cf. below about the
calendar reform of the postclassic Aztecs.
65Cf. Caso in El Teocalli de la Guerra Sagrada. Mxico (1927: 12-13).
66The signs of the 52-year calendar ritual are for instance recorded in Tira de Tepech-
pan, Codex Saville, Codex Mexicanus and Codex Boturini (Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro; Boone 2000:
223-224). The Mapa Sigenza (Boone 2000: 166-173), Anales de Tlatelolco (Berlin and Barlow
1948), Codex Mendoza (folios 2r, 3v, 7v, 15v) (Berdan and Anawalt 1992; 1997), Codex Aubin
[folios 14 verso & 15 recto] (Boone 1992: 43-44) (1893: 36; 41) (Tena 1987: 120), Codex Azcatt-
lan [Folio 14 verso & 15 recto] (Boone 1992: 47-49), Sheet 3 of Codex en Cruz (Nicholson
2002b: 66) and pl. 60 of Cdice de Huchapan (Nicholson 2002b: 66).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 267
year calendar ceremony (Pasztory 1983: 165). We have seen that year-bundle
stones, carved with the Ome Acatl New Fire Ceremony sign, were interred
in ritual tombs (Nicholson 1971c: 117, Fig. 53, 122).67 Hence, the xiuhmol-
pilli ceremony reflects that a certain unit of time, i.e. 52-years of the Cal-
endar Round, has been completed.
A ritual renewing was symbolised by the drilling of a new fire in Meso-
america (McKeever Furst 1992). A new fire was ignited before an important
enterprise like war, dedication of structures, prognostication of omens etc.
(Sahagn 1954, VIII: 53-54; 1961, X: 190-191; Elzey 1976: 132, note 55).68 Fire
was a ritual technique, a centrepiece of the Aztec cult, but linked with a
variety of meanings and ceremonial contexts (Brundage 1985: 8-15; 35-39).
The new fire of the 52-year calendar had accordingly the symbolic meaning
of a renewing. Sahagn writes of the 52-year calendar cycle in his survey
of the Aztec calendars that a contract with the deities was honoured
through this renewing ceremony:
The purpose or intention of this count is to renew, every fifty-two years, the
covenant, contract or vow, to serve the idols. Because at the end of the
fifty-two-year (cycle) they observed a very solemn feast and made a new
fire, and extinguished all the old (fires). And all the provinces of this New
Spain took of this new fire. Then they renewed all the statues of the idols
and all of their adornment, as well as the intention of serving them for the
next fifty-two years. And also they had a prophecy or oracle of the devil that
at (the end) of one of these periods the world would come to an end (Sahagn
1957, IV: 138).
We have previously seen that in the preliminary sequence of the 52-year
calendar ritual various renovation rites were conducted. The fires were first
extinguished everywhere and the idols of the gods were cast into the
water. The house utensils were thrown away and the rubbish was thrown
out of the houses (Sahagn 1953; VII: 25). In the ritual sequence of incor-
poration, i.e. after the lightning of the new fire on the hill Huixachtitlan,

67Chorti peasants apply the technique of keeping count of their age by tying a knot
on a cord at the end of each year of their life. Cf. photograph of Chorti man with a cord of
knots (Girard 1949: No. 38). The Jbaros employ the same system by counting the days.
Girard writes that Los lencas conservan un sistema mnemotcnico parecido al de los
chorts y semejante al nepohualtzizin o quip nahau descrito por Boturini al hacer mencin
de unas cuerdas con nudos que vo en Tlaxcala . Gent por su parte, refiere que en el
mapa de Tepexpan el primer ao de cada uno de los ciclos es sealado por un nudo
(Girard 1949: 271-272). Cf. Geet, Jean. Histoire des Peuples Shoshones Azteques. Paris,
1929 (Girard 1949: 272, note 170).
68A new fire was drilled in front of old men. If it did not take long to make the fire
it was a good sign for the householder. It was a bad omen when it was difficult to light the
fire (Sahagn 1957, IV: 194).
268 chapter four
the people renewed their goods of the household. There were sweeping, a
renovation of the statues of the deities and of the utensils of the houses.
The women and the men dressed in new clothes and a new fire was started
everywhere (Sahagn 1953: VII, 31; 1957, IV: 144). A new 52-year cycle of time
was symbolically inaugurated:
When it was evident that the years lay ready to burst into life, everyone
took hold of them, so that once more would start forth-once again-another
(period of) fifty-two years (Sahagn 1953; VII: 25).
Old and used time, connected with sickness and disease, was abandoned
and a new time cycle was inaugurated:
Thus it was said that truly the year newly started. There was much happi-
ness and rejoicing. And they said: For thus it is ended; thus sickness and
famine has left us (Sahagn 1953, VII: 31).
A range of data conveys that the various calendars in Mesoamerica were
deified (cf. Caso 1967). Motolina writes:
The calendar of the Indians had for each day its idol or demon, named after
gods and goddesses; and every day of the year is accounted for, as in the
calendars of the Roman breviary which has a saint for each day (Motolina
1951: 111; 2001: 30).
A completion and a renewal of not only abstract but of deified time of the
52-year cycle were thus conducted in the 52-year calendar ritual of the
postclassic Aztecs.
The Aztecs structured their past (history), present and future (prophecy)
after a computation of 52 vague years in a reckoned time sequence. The
52-year calendar cycle was in some sources considered to be a subunit of
a world period or world age, where the four previous world ages consists
of a sequence of 676-364-312-676 years in Leyenda de los soles (Bierhorst
1992: 142-143) and 676-676-364-312 years in Historia de los Mexicanos por
sus Pinturas (Garibay 1965: 30-31). The duration of each of these world ages
are exact mathematical multiples of 52-year cycles (Nicholson 1971: 399).
The world age of 676 years incorporates 13 52-year cycles, the world age
of 364 consists of 7 52-year cycle, and the world age of 312 year embodies
6 52-year cycles.
How the Aztecs perceived the termination of the quite long time cycle
of 52 years may contribute to illuminate a potential core meaning of the
associated ritual practice. I argued above that the structure of the 52-year
ritual follows the pattern sequence of a rite de passage. Sahagn has out-
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 269
lined the liminal or marginal period to be conceived by the Aztecs as dan-
gerous and filled with anxiety and psychological terror. This is logic since
the cyclical 52-year count was the longest acknowledged calendar of the
postclassic Aztecs, which might imply that time, might be finally ended at
the completion of this time reckoning. It was therefore imperative for hu-
man existence that time was renewed so that a new 52-year calendar could
be introduced. In reality, Sahagn, in his account and explanation of the
ceremonies, diagnoses the 52-year calendar ritual psychologically as an
apocalyptical/eschatological ritual. He writes in book IV of The Florentine
Codex that a fear of the end of the world prevailed among the people when
the 52-year cycle was approaching its termination:
And also they had a prophecy or oracle of the devil that at (the end of) one
of these periods the world would come to an end (Sahagn 1957, IV: 138).
Sahagn reports that women were locked up in the granaries fearing that
they will turn into fierce beast and children, if they were sleeping, would
turn into mice if the fire (of the New Fire Ceremony) was not ignited (Sa-
hagn 1953, VII: 27-28). But how to understand these anxieties also illus-
trated in lamina 34 of the Codex Borbonicus? Even if this manuscript is
early colonial, it is a manuscript not made under Spanish Christian control.
There is accordingly good reason to assume that these images depict a
worldview not of European Christian theology. These events might well
therefore refer to the fear caused by the liminal character of this (rite de
passage) ceremony and not an eschatological expectation.69
In paragraph 3 of Primeros Memoriales, which comprises a year-by-year
52-year calendar cycle (xiuhmolpilli), Sahagn outlines of the time of the
termination of the 52-year count when the lords were very frightened. On
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) when the new 52-year calendar cycle begins:
And then it was customary what was called the binding of our years, every
fifty-two years. And (when) this so occurred, it was said that the year count
had made a round; they went meeting each other. And at this time the rul-
ers were very frightened. They say that it was said that here we should all
perish. No one remained on the ground. They said that for this reason they
climbed up to the rooftops. And for this reason it was ordered that everyone
fix his attention on the sky on the stars called the Many, the Fire Sticks. And
when (the constellation) arrived at the zenith70, if it no longer followed its

69Comment by anonymous reviewer.


70Nepantla(h) is not translated as zenith by Molina but as in the middle of some-
thing (Karttunen 1992: 169).
270 chapter four
path, this was all; with this we would all perish. And thus it was done every
fifty-two years (Sahagn 1997: 159-160).
The Aztecs called the 52-year calendar cycle, a bundle of years. Sahagn
accounts in Book IV of The Florentine Codex (which he categorises as an
appendix explaining the three calendar systems of the Aztecs) that:
This period of years they had reckoned from times past; it is not known
when it began. But they considered it well established and a matter of belief
that the world would come to an end at the conclusion of one of these
bundles of years. They had a prophecy or oracle that at that time the move-
ment of the heavens would cease, and they took as a sign (of this) the
movement of the Pleiades (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143).
The night of the day Ome Acat (2 Reed) of the 52-year calendar ritual was
a time of fear and terror of the end of the world. Sahagn outlines, in Book
VII of The Florentine Codex, the horrible consequences if the new fire could
not be drilled. The night would last forever and the demons of darkness,
tzitzimime, would descend from the sky and eat men:
And when it came to pass that night fell, all were frightened and filled with
dread. Thus was it said: it was claimed that if fire could not be drawn, the
(the sun) would be destroyed forever; all would be ended; there would ever-
more be night. Nevermore would the sun come forth. Night would prevail
forever, and the demons of darkness would descend, to eat men (Sahagn
1953, VII: 27).
At the summit of the hill Huixachtitlan the people and the religious special-
ists:
looked at the Pleiades to see if they were at the zenith, and if they were
not, they waited until they were. And when they saw that now they passed
zenith, they knew that the movement of the heavens had not ceased and
that the end of the world was not then, but that they would have another
fifty-two years, assured that the world would not come to an end And all
the people watching on the mountains were relieved to see that the new
fire was burned and that the world would continue (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143-
144).
A psychological relief befell the people when they realised that the new
fire was lit on the top of the hill Huixachtitlan. The new fire was a signal to
the people that the world would continue to exist for another fifty-two
years (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143-144):
At this hour a great multitude of people was on the mountains surrounding
this province of MexicoTexcoco, Xochimilco and Quahutitlanwaiting
to see the new fire, which was a signal that the world would continue. And
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 271
when the priests made the fire, with great ceremony, upon the pyramid on
that mountain, then it was seen from all the surrounding mountains. Those
who were there watching then raised a cry which rose to the heavens with
joy that the world was not ending and that they had another fifty-two years
assured (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143-144).
Sahagn explains this religious concept with the veneration of a specific
deity (devil), which conceivably was the Aztec patron and state deity
Huitzilopochtli:
When they made the new fire and this ceremony, they renewed their cov-
enant with the devil to serve him, and they renovated all the statues of the
devil which they hand in his house, and all the ornaments for his service,
and those of their houses. And they rejoiced greatly to know that now they
held the world to be secure and that it would not come to an end of fifty-
two years. It is clear that this device of counting years was an invention of
the devil to make them renew the covenant which they made with hem
every fifty-two years(the devil) terrifying them with (the threat of) the
end of the world and making them think that he lengthened the time and
favoured them thereby, letting the world move on (Sahagn 1957, IV: 144).
If we are to believe Sahagns interpretation, the essential rationale of the
Aztecs of ritually observing the end of a 52 year cycle was not only an ap-
prehension for the termination of a calendar but more importantly for
historical time and consequently for human existence. The Aztecs thought
that time could eventually end on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) because the sun
might not rise and the tzitzimime would then devour humanity. Only the
New Fire Ceremony could help to avoid the decline and decay of historical
time. The 52-year calendar was for that reason a ritual reaction by a reli-
gious system to avoid cataclysmic annihilation. This ritual can accordingly
be categorised as apocalyptical or eschatological. A conception of a future
completion of time and the world is indeed not uncommon in many reli-
gious traditions and systems. Elzey and Brundage have argued that the New
Fire ritual, when the 52-year calendar cycle was exhausted, repeated the
cosmic actions of the gods in primordial time. This was done to reinstate
the structure of the calendar and to recreate the world because the termi-
nation of the 52-year cycle could finish off the fifth Sun. If the religious
specialists of the New Fire Ceremony failed, the system collapsed and the
outcome was the end of the world and time (Elzey 1974: 128-129; 1976: 129-
131). Brundage maintains that:
Had the effectiveness of this ceremony weakened, or had the priest not been
able to drill fire at midnight, the sun would have never risen again, and
demons would have swept down out of the black skies to devour all of
272 chapter four
mankind. Time as well as light would have been extinguished (Brundage
1985: 38).
Sahagn explicitly explains, curiously not in book VII but in book IV (Ap-
pendix to The Soothsayers), that the religious specialists had to perceive
the Pleiades at zenith at midnight on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) before they could
proceed with the New Fire Ceremony (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143). If the Pleiades
could not be observed at this astronomical position the religious specialist
could not conduct the New Fire ritual. Thus, it is not the ritual action itself,
which caused or manipulated the renewing of time and the world order.
The end of time and the world was predetermined. The people and the
reigning lord were therefore in the hands of the deities. Moreover, a similar
predestined eschatology apply to future earthquake of Nahui Ollin (i.e. fifth
Sun). This cosmic cataclysm was not to be avoided through a recognised
ritual-symbolic exploit. The reason for celebrating the New Fire Ceremony
consisted therefore in ritual-symbolically honouring the sacrifice the dei-
ties committed in primordial time, i.e. before the creation of the sun and
moon of the present fifth world age. But these ritual acts would not di-
rectly affect the destiny of the world and humanity since the sign (the
Pleiades at zenith) of the continuum of time had already been given by the
deities. It is hence noticeable that the prophesised eschatological incidents
could not be avoided by ritual manipulation.

Eschatological Philosophy of the Postclassic Aztecs


Despite the explanation by Sahagn, there are sources, which contradict
an apocalyptical or eschatological concept of the 52-year calendar ritual
of the philosophical system of the postclassic Aztecs.
The longest time count of the postclassic Aztec was one hundred and
four years (Huehuetiliztli), and not the 52 years of the Calendar Round,
which the Aztecs designed as a century according to Sahagn (Sahagn
1957, IV: 143). The notion of a century or an old age (cen hueuetiliztli) was
therefore not a 52-year calendar cycle but two 52-year calendar cycles
amounting to 104 years (macuilpoalxiuitl ipan nauhxiuitl):
Then (the two cycles) might proceed to reach one hundred and four years.
It was called: One Old Age when twice they had made the round, when
twice the times of binding the years had come together (Sahagn 1953, VII:
25).
The data gathered by Sahagn strongly intimates that the world, after
104 years, was to be finally terminated provided that the Pleiades were not
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 273
observed at its zenith at midnight from the mountain of Huixachtitlan.71
The completion of a certain 52-year calendar cycle may therefore not have
been of an eschatological character since calendar time or rather historical
time was not exhausted every 52 years. But this does of course not refute
the idea that time and the existence of humanity were threatened by an-
nihilation at the end of a 52-year cycle. It is of no importance whether the
world and the human race would be exterminated after one 52-year inter-
val or after two 52-year intervals.
Two catastrophes were prophesised bound to take place at the end of
the 52-calendar cycle: the disappearance of the sun and the devouring of
humanity by the preternatural beings called tzitzimime. What were the
explicit consequences if the sun would not ascend into the sky? An absolute
darkness would ensue and measured time of the calendars would disap-
pear. The Aztecs would not be able to sacrifice and do worship to their
deities without their ceremonial calendars. It is in this connection intrigu-
ing that the Aztec creation stories, a least what is left of it, is mainly pre-
occupied not with the creation of the earth but of the creation and
movement of the sun and moon. Many rituals and (human) sacrifices, for
instance on the day Nahui Ollin (4 movement) of the 260-day calendar (see
section below), were dedicated to the sun. The magnitude of the sun in the
lives of the Aztecs is indicated when an eclipse of the sun occurred (tona-
tiuh qualo).72 Panic and disorder followed. People were weeping, there were
war cries, shouting and chanting in the temples. Men (captives) of a white
complexion (tlacaztalmicoa) were sacrificed. Everybody made self-sacri-
fices of blood from theirs ears (Sahagn 1953, VII: 36-38). It was thus said:
if the eclipse of the sun is complete, it will be dark forever! The demons
of darkness will come down; they will eat men (Sahagn 1953, VII: 2). The
so-called demons were designated tzitzimime in Nahuatl. This shows the
incredible importance the Aztecs attributed to the sun for their own exis-
tence and that the tzitzimime were associated with the disappearance of
the sun.

71Sahagn writes in paragraph 3 of Primeros Memoriales: Everywhere the fires were


extinguished. (The new fire) was drawn at a place called Huixachtitlan, a hill in Colhuacan
known as Huixactecatl. Everyone took the fire from there. This was done only on one night.
In this year count an old age was one hundred and four years, when they made the round
twice (Sahagn 1997: 160).
72Tonatiuh qualo is translated as sun eclipse but literally means sun eating. Tona-
tiuh is rendered as sun (Karttunen 1992: 246) whereas the noun qualo (cualo) derives from
the verb qua (cua), to eat something, someone (Karttunen 1992: 56; 59).
274 chapter four
Cecelia Klein (2002) has put forward compelling evidence that the tz-
itzimime were demonised by the Spanish friars and ethnographer mission-
aries after the conquest. The meaning of tzitzimitl (sing.) or tzitzimime (pl.)
is not known (Klein 2000: 2, note 2), but Molina translates this lexem with,
devil, nombre de demonio (Molina 1977 [1571]: 153). In her article, Klein
establish that paintings and sculptures of the pre-European/pre-Christian
and early colonial period illustrate that the tzitzimime were not only as-
sociated with the devil but were moreover construed to be masculine by
the Spanish friars. Klein asserts that the tzitzimime were principally con-
structive deities. The most significant tzitzimime were ambivalent female
creator deities in the pre-European/pre-Christian period. They could pre-
vent and cure illness but also cause harm. Even the patron deity Huitzilo-
pochtli was likened in the official state ideology to be, in his manifestation
as Omitecuhtli or bone lord, a tzitzimime. Klein claims that the Aztecs
petitioned the tztitzimime not only to avert illness but additionally to avoid
cosmic destruction. The tzitzimime were considered to be the stars during
solar eclipses. Klein maintains that the ultimate function of the tzitzimime
was to keep the sun in motion. But if the sun threatened to stop moving,
the tzitzimime would devour human beings (Klein 2000).
The sources, which characterise the tzitzimime as terminators of human-
ity, cannot be trusted. Burkhart (1989) argues that the ethnographer mis-
sionaries, in their endeavour to convert the Nahua, systematically likened
the tzitzimime to the devil. Some Spanish ethnographer missionaries, none-
theless, describe the tzitzimime as angels and deities who support the
sky and provide rain Hernando Alvarado Tezozomoc. Durn and Alvarado
Tezozomoc report that the Aztecs erected statues of the tzitzimime in the
Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan near the statue of Huitzilopochtli, who also
was associated with the tzitzimime. The tzitzimime were portrayed as neg-
ative, hostile and destructive forces by Codex Magliabechiano and Codex
Tudela. But, despite that they had first hand knowledge of the Aztec reli-
gious system, the artists of these manuscripts were not only Christian con-
verts but also Indigenous acculturated subjects of a European tradition
(Klein 2000: 1-4; 17; 19). This casts doubt not only on the nature of the tz-
itzimime but in addition on the (Spanish) account of their role as world
destroyers. It does not, nevertheless, disprove the character of the tz-
itzimime as potentially annihilators of humanity, since many Aztec deities
(like Tezcatlipoca for instance) evidently had an ambivalent character.
Another matter regarding the tzitzimime is whether their descent from the
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 275
sky was believed to have cataclysmic effects on the world and humanity.
Codex Aubin (39v-40r), manufactured after 1560 AD73, encompasses the
imperial annals for the years Nahui Tecpatl (4 Flint) (1496 AD) through
Matlactli Omeyi Calli (13 House) (1505 AD). For the year Chiucnahui Calli
(9 House), folio 40r outlines a quarrying of stone at Malinalco and the death
of the tlatoani Ahuitzotl. The year Matlactli Tochtli (10 Rabbit) announces
the accession of his successor Moctezuma Xocoyotzin, Matlactli Once Acatl
(11 Reed) describes again a quarrying of stone at Malinalco while a cacao
trade is said to occur on Matlactli Omome Tecpatl (12 Flint). After these
last rather prosaic episodes the date Matlactli Omeyi Calli (13 House) in-
dicates a descent of the tzitzimime (Boone 2000: 201-202, fig. 129). The ap-
pearance of the tzitzimime in the year Matlactli Omeyi Calli (13 House)
(1505 AD), a year, which did not have anything to do with the completion
of the 52-year calendar cycle or the 52-year calendar ritual, evidently did
not have a destructive effect on humanity implying an end of the world.
Hence Sahagn could have overrated the eschatological role of the tz-
itzimime since their descent did not necessarily entail a cosmic catastro-
phe. The ethnographer missionary and converted his Christian Indigenous
assistant may therefore have interpreted the data with a rigid Catholic
apocalyptical or eschatological perspective. It is plausible that the tz-
itzimime were thought by the Aztecs to cause damage and harm when the
deities were for some reason not satisfied. But the effects were not inevi-
tably eschatological.
Heavy depopulation was caused by epidemics after the Spanish con-
quest in sixteenth century New Spain. Moreover, Indigenous annals report
plagues by locusts, worms and mice. Heavy frosts and hail, floods, fires and
earthquakes. Many natural disasters led to famine, in addition to the ex-
ploitation executed by the Spanish colonists (Medrano 2007: 97).74There
is a possibility that this may have created a novel eschatological notion
projected into the foregoing ritual practice of the 52-year calendar ritual
of 1507 ad, but which did not represent a pre-European/pre-Christian
Aztec philosophy.

73The narrative of Codex Aubin, written in a pre-European and European style, is


introduced with the migration of the Aztecs of the twelfth century and is ended in colonial
time with the arrival of the new Archbishop and Viceroy in Mexico City in 1607 AD1608
AD (Glass 1975; Leibsohn 2001).
74Medrano quotes the study by Paredes Martnez (1991: 157-160, table 1): Paredes
Martnez, Carlos S. La regin de Atlixco, Huaquechula y Tochmilco: La sociedad y la agricul-
tura en el siglo XVI, Mexico City/Puebla: CIESAS/FCE/GEP. 1991.
276 chapter four
Eschatological Interpretations by Spanish Ethnographer Missionaries and
Folio 42R of Codex Telleriano-Remensis
Do other ethnographer missionaries, besides Sahagn, report a postclassic
Aztec concept of a threat of a cosmic cataclysm at the completion of the
52-year calendar? George Baudot maintains that the Franciscan missionar-
ies coming to Mexico had an escatological world-view driven by a millenar-
ian dream in the so-called New World (Baudot 1995). This may have
influenced their perception of the rituals of the 52-year calendar as escha-
tologic. A letter from Friar Jacobo de Tastera to Charles V on May 6, 1533
reads as follows: the rites of the idolatries and adoration of false gods,
and the ceremonies of different ranks of people in their sacrifies, which,
although bad, are born of never ending anxiety that seeks help but never finds
the true protector (Baudot 1995: 109). Sahagn and other missionaries
tried to transform the religion of the Indigenous people by using what they
thought or desired to be their real philosophy by making it eschatological.
But all the Fransciscan missionaries did not share this idea. In his short
account, Motolina does not assert that the 52-year calendar ritual held
vital consequences for the Aztecs (Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001: 31). Nor does
Durns Historia de Las Indias de Nueva Espaa mention any anxiety or fear
for the end of the world and an annihilation of humanity, before or during
this ceremony. But, as noted, he accounts that there was a four day period
of darkness before the New Fire Ceremony, but , not because the sun
was eclipsed but because of lack of fire, (Durn 1964: 239; 1967: I, 221; II,
453-454; 1972: 388-393). Torquemada asserts that it was an eclipse of the
sun but this was only the possible end (era possible acabarse el Mundo)
of the world and to light the new fire was to renew the pact with the Dev-
il (como renovando el Pacto, que con el Demonio tenian hecho, para ser-
virle de Nuevo) (Torquemada 1986: VII, 210; X, 292-294; 301-303). Neither
the intimidation of the tzitzimime nor an eclipse of the sun is accentuated
in these ethnographer missionary reports.
The Nahuatl-speaking Juan Bautista, describes the actions of an Indig-
enous man, Juan Tetn of Michmaloyan, in the year 1558 AD this year is 52
years after the previous 52-year calendar ritual (Klor de Alva 1997: 187).
Tetn warns the Indigenous citizens of Coahuatepec from converting into
Christianity through baptism:
Listen, what are you saying? Do you know what our grandfathers are say-
ing? When our tying of the years comes it will be completely dark, the
tzitzime will descend, will eat us and there will be a transformation. Those
who were baptized, those who believed in God, will be changed into some-
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 277
thing else. He who eats the meat of the cow, will be transformed into one;
he who eats the meat of the pig, will be transformed into one; he who eats
the meat of a sheep, will be transformed into one and will go about dressed
in its fleece; he who eats the meat of a rooster, will be transformed into one.
Everyone, into that which is their food, into that from which they live, into
the [beasts] they eat, into all of that they will be transformed. They will
perish, will no longer exists, because their life will have come to an end,
their count of years [their xiuhpohualli, year].
Look at those of Xalatlauhco, those who were the first to believe [in Chris-
tianity], don Alonso: his sons and the [leaders] were turned [into] three
[Spanish] capes and three hats. All were transformed into something else,
all went about grazing. They no longer appear in the town where they were,
but rather in the fields, they are standing in the woods, they are cows. Now
I discharge my obligation to you; not much time remains before the marvel
takes place. If you do not believe what I tell you, you will be transformed
along with them . I will mock you , because you were bapitzed. [However,]
I will forgive you, so you will not die and with that all can come to an end.
There will also be starvation, [therefore,] take care of your strings of hang-
ing squash, and the tlalamate, the jaltomate, the corn smut [cuitlacochtli],
the tassels, the leaves of jilote, the ears of corn .
When they scream at you in Chapultepec, you will be crawling on your
bellies on the sand, then the Old Woman with the hard teeth will see you
and with this [which I tell you] she will fear you, with this she will not eat
you, but will leave you be. Thus such as you hear it. And it will be that only
there the Possessor of the earth will make our sustenance grow. In all other
parts of the world everything that is edible will dry up . (Klor de Alva
1997: 187-188).75

This long description corresponds more or less with Sahagns account of


what the consequences will be if the new fire is not drilled at the end of
the 52-year calendar cycle. But it appears that Tetn constructs the escha-
tologiacal threat of annihilation and metamorphosis in order to convince
fellow natives not to undergo conversion. It is only the proselytes who will
suffer the punishment and not Nahua pertaining to traditional religion as
is outlined by Sahagn. It also seems that the terrible transformation the
Indigenous will experience if baptised, is in reality to abandon the old faith
and culture in order to become Spanish. This happended to many people
from Xalatlauhco warns Tetn.
Apparently, Sahagn is the only credible source, which considers the
postclassic Aztec 52-year calendar ritual to be eschatological. It is therefore
interesting that Sahagn writes, nearly at the end of his account in book

75Cf. the Spanish text in Len-Portilla (1974: 30-31).


278 chapter four
VII of The Florentine Codex of the proceedings of the 52-year calendar rit-
ual, after the new fire had been ignited:
Thus it was said that truly the year newly started. There was much happi-
ness and rejoicing. And they said: For thus it is ended; thus sickness and
famine has left us (Sahagn 1953, VII: 31).
This quote reflects a quite different attitude to the ritual than an eschato-
logical pre-expectation. An idea more similar to the Yucatec postclassic
celebration of the end and beginning of their 365-day calendar is present
here. A fear of disease and hunger, quite common plagues in the pre-in-
dustrial urban societies of postclassic Central Mexico, and not an anxiety
of an extermination of the fifth world age or sun were alleviated after the
New Fire was lit. There was accordingly not a cosmic crisis but a relief from
an anxiety of sickness and shortage of livelihood when the new 52-year
calendar was inaugurated. Sahagns explanation of the ritual is accord-
ingly theologically inconsistent.
Despite the array of information, the postclassic Aztec 52-year calendar
ritual carries quite many obscure aspects due to the incoherent and incom-
plete character of the extant data. Consequently, the scholar must question
the value of the secondary sources of the Spanish ethnographer missionar-
ies. An outline and interpretation of postclassic Aztec ritual practice per-
vades in particular Durn and Sahagns work. Davd Carrasco has painted
out the irony that we know more of the rituals of the veintana of the 365-
day year (xiuhtl) than the crucial ritual of the 52-year calendar ritual. To-
gether with Alfredo Lpez Austin (1974), he is also critical of the essential
source, i.e. Sahagn, for this ritual (Carrasco 1999: 94). It is, in this context,
remarkable that Book 7 of The Florentine Codex is singled out as particular
poor. Sahagn is himself critical of this book and his Nahua informants
who he designates as vulgar in the introduction to Book 7 (Lpez Austin
1974: 134-137). It is therefore good reason to distrust not only the interpreta-
tion but in addition the description Sahagn provides about the Aztec
52-year calendar ritual of 1506 AD1507 AD.
The ethnographer missionaries, with their European-Christian percep-
tion and evangelic ambition, condemned the Indigenous religious stories,
ritual practices, deities, specialists and institutions. It is compelling that
the ethnographer missionaries were more interested in documenting reli-
gious ritual practices than stories in order to expose the idolatrous prac-
tices of the Indigenous people. This was because their ultimate strategy
and objective was to replace the Indigenous diabolical faith with Chris-
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 279
tianity. The friars not only outlined but explicated what they observed and
the information they gathered. The Spanish ethnographer missionaries
also destroyed many Indigenous records due to the heathen contents, at
the same time undermining their own trustworthiness as scholars.76 Their
impact on the research material must therefore not be underestimated
since it contains limited and biased information and commentaries. More-
over, when we consider the postclassic Aztec 52-year calendar ritual, the
great time span that has passed since the last ritual was celebrated in 1507
AD, must be taken into account (Carrasco 1999: 93-95). Sahagn collected
his data more than fifty years after the last ceremony was conducted. Nei-
ther Sahagn nor his proselyte assistants, and perhaps not even his Indig-
enous informants, had ever witnessed the last 52-year calendar ritual,
which took place in Tenochtitlan in the year 1507 AD (Ome Acatl). Many of
the informants and the assistants of Sahagn were in fact indoctrinated
collaborators of the Spanish mission. Sahagn relates, in his Authors Ac-
count Worthy of Being Noted in Book X (Sahagn 1982: 74-85) how he
would destroy a heathen monument with his trained Indigenous assis-
tants (Anderson 1982: 40). Moreover, based on his reconstruction of Sa-
hagns questionnaires, Lpez Austin deduce that the informants were
cultural and educated men but most likely not religious specialists (Lpez
Austin 1974: 124). This means that they were not initiated into the religious
and philosophical significance of the 52-year calendar ritual.
The overall rationale for the ethnographer missionary was evangelisa-
tion of the Indigenous people. Burkhart has shown that an effort to find an
analogy between the Christian and Indigenous religious system was the
strategy of the Spanish mission at the time when Sahagn gathered his
data (Burkhart 1989). A triumphant Christian theology had disintegrated
the Indigenous state religion. (Christian) eschatological interpretations of
a calendar that supposedly terminated historic time may accordingly well

76There are, however, examples where anonymous natives and friars worked together
to make or copy descriptions of deities, faith, rituals, cosmology and stories based on the
manuscripts (codices) of the Mesoamericans shortly after the conquest. These are more or
less copies of lost manuscripts confiscated by the ethnographer missionaries. Cf. for instance
Historia de los mexicanos por sus pinturas (Garibay 1965), Leyenda de los soles (Bierhorst
1992; 1998) and Histoyre du mechique (de Jonghe 1905). Indigenous people also produced
manuscripts under surveillance of the Spanish friars. These pictographic manuscripts
embodied religious iconography, which described native traditions and ceremonies so that
the Spanish friars could identify heathen practice. Many of these codices were compiled
and copied from about 1550 AD and onwards.
280 chapter four
have been introduced by the informants, assistants or even by Sahagn
himself.77
The importance of the sun for the Aztecs is displayed when a solar
eclipse occurred (tonatiuh qualo) (Sahagn 1953, VII: 2; 36-38). Folio 42R of
Codex Telleriano-Remensis may explain why Sahagn recorded an appre-
hension for a conceivable termination of the world, after the disappearance
of the sun, on Ome Acatl (2 Reed), 1507 AD. Astronomical events and natu-
ral disasters of Central Mexico are delineated in Codex Telleriano-Remensis
(Boone 2000: 224). Folio 42R portrays the New Fire Ceremony of 1507 AD
(Ome Acatl) taking place on the hill Huixachtitlan. The place sign of
Tecuhtepec (Hill of the Lord) of the crowned head of a lord atop a hill is
connected by a line to the symbol of a solar eclipse above and a represen-
tation of an earthquake (ollin) symbol below. A line is attached to the sign
for the hill Huixachtitlan, where the New Fire was drilled on Ome Acatl (2
Reed), and the image of 2000 soldiers drowning in the Tozac River (Atoyac
River, Place of the Yellow Parrot or At the Yellow Water), which is
located between Puebla and Oaxaca in Mexico (Quiones Keber 1995:
228-230). The soldiers may have been searching for sacrificial victims of the
New Fire rite of the 52-year calendar ritual, which can explain the line from
the sign for the hill Huixachtitlan, where the New Fire was drilled and the
illustration of the drowning soldiers. The commentator to folio 42R writes
that in the:
Year of two reeds (2 Reed) and 1507 there were an eclipse of the sun and
an earthquake (Quiones Keber 1995: Folio 42R; 274).

77Sahagn wrote an introduction with prologues and interpolations in Spanish to The


Florentine Codex. It is interesting that Sahagn insists in his To the Reader (Al Lector) of
Book VII of The Florentine Codex, which as we remember presents his account of the 52-year
calendar ritual and the cosmogony, that Nahuatl is a rich metaphorical language. there
are many synonymous terms for (any) one thing, and a mode of expression or a sentence
is said in many ways (Sahagn 1982: 68). This casts doubt over the precise understanding
by Sahagn of Aztec (eschatological) religion and philosophy. It becomes more compelling
when he writes further, in To the Reader (Al Lector), that the language is very crude
(muy baxo) in particular book VII. and the subject-matter this seventh Book deals with
is treated very crudely. This is because the natives themselves gave the account of the things
treated in this Book very crudely, according as they understood them, and in crude style.
And so it was translated into the Spanish language in crude style, with little excellence of
understanding, with the sole object of knowing and recording what they understood of this
subject of astrology and natural philosophy, which is very little and very crude (Sahagn
1982: 68). This statement, though indirectly, calls into question the validity of Sahagns
eschatological explication of the 52-year calendar ritual. But it does not disprove it.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 281
There is, however, a problem with the illustration of folio 42R of Codex
Telleriano-Remensis because a solar eclipse was not visible from the Valley
of Mexico in the year 1507 AD (Fred Espenak78, personal communication,
2005).79 It is a mystery why the artists of Codex Telleriano-Remensis re-
corded this occurrence to have come into being in that year. As previously
mentioned, Codex Aubin (39v-40r) illustrates on Matlactli Omeyi Calli (13
House) (1505 AD) a descent of the tzitzimime (Boone 2000: 201-202, fig. 129).
The year 1505 AD may therefore have had a solar eclipse over Central Mex-
ico, since the appearance of tzitzimime was intimately related with this
phenomenon (Sahagn 1953, VII: 2). The presumed solar eclipse of Matlac-
tli Omeyi Calli (13 House) or 1505 AD could then have initiated an apprehen-
sion among the Aztecs. The natural catastrophes of an earthquake or a
solar eclipse may explain the anxiety during the 52-year calendar ritual of
the night of Ome Acatl (2 Reed) in the year 1507 AD. These incidents might
have been interpreted, by the Aztec religious specialists, as signs for the
coming conclusion of the world and of humanity. The angst may in this
way have been enhanced since the solar eclipse and the earthquake ap-
peared only two years before the conclusion of the 52-year calendar. Hence
the solar eclipse and earthquake forebode a potential cosmic cataclysm.
But there were no major solar eclipses in the Valley of Mexico in the year
1505 AD.80 We must therefore not only distrust the dating of the codices,
but likewise the actual historical incidents, which the annalists contended
to relate. An explanation can, however, beas Boone writes regarding the

78Fred Espenak works for NASA (Goddard Space Flight Center, Code 693 Greenbelt,
Maryland 20754 USA). For more information on solar and lunar eclipses, see Fred Espenaks
Eclipse Home Page: sunearth.gsfc. nasa.gov/eclipse/eclipse.html.
79Since it is impossible to determine by scientific methods, we do not know whether
an earthquake took place in Tenochtitlan in the year 1507 AD (Associate Professor yvind
Pettersen, Department of Geosciences, University of Oslo, personal communication, 2005).
But Martnez (1890) writes that a great earthquake occurred in Oaxaca, Mexico in the same
year: En este ao hubo un fuerte terremoto que caus gran espanto a los habitants de
Anhuac. Se sinti con estrpito en la Mixteca, Zapoteca, Mazateca, Chinanteca y Chon-
talpa. Quoted in Virigina Garca and Gerardo Surez. Los sismos en la historia de Mxico.
Tomo 1. Universidad Nacional Autnoma de Mxico. Centro de Investigaciones y Estudios
Superiores en Antropologa Social. Fondo de Cultura Econmica. Mxico D.F. 1996. (Garca
and Surez 1996: 73).
80Cf. the solar eclipse catalogues by NASA for 1401 AD 1500 AD: http://sunearth.gsfc.
nasa.gov/eclipse/SEcat/SE1401-1500.html and for 1501 AD 1600 AD: http://sunearth.
gsfc. nasa.gov/eclipse/SEcat/SE1501-1600.html The Central valley of Mexico is located at
18N-20N degrees (latitude) and 98E-100E degrees (longitude). I extend my gratitude to Cand.
Real. in Astronomy and Head of Administration/Principal Executive Officer Nils Brynhild-
sen at the Institute of Theoretical Astrophysics at the University of Oslo.
282 chapter four
issue of the dating in the annalsthat since three annals sets an earth-
quake and an eclipse in different years81 the annalists dated these phenom-
ena in association to other events and not according to the year count
(Boone 2000: 227-228). We know that a major solar eclipse occurred in the
region of Veracruz at the Gulf coast in 1517 AD.82 This particular solar eclipse
did of course not affect the postclassic Aztec doctrine of the 52-year calen-
dar ritual on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) of 1507 AD. But it is a possibility that an
apprehension towards solar eclipses, as we saw above were recorded by
Sahagn, among the Aztecs was afterwards projected back by the Indige-
nous informants (who might had experienced it in 1517 AD) and assistants
of Sahagn into a non-European/non-Christian Aztec eschatological phi-
losophy encompassing the ritual of the termination and renewal of the
52-year calendar count. A psychological misinterpretation of a ritual of the
past is indeed possible. Furthermore, Sahagn and his assistants could have
misunderstood and got the information about the sun eclipse and earth-
quake of a specific year confused with the reason why the Aztecs celebrat-
ed the ceremony and thereby explained this ritual as eschatological.

The Apocalypse of the Fifth and Present World Age (Sun): Nahui Ollin
There existed another eschatological idea, conflicting with the notion of
an end of the world on Ome Acatl (2 Reed), within the religious system of
the postclassic Aztecs. That the world could be terminated on the date Ome
Acatl (2 Reed) does not fit the apocalyptical expectation of the conclusion
of the fifth sun according the postclassic Aztec religious system. A massive
cataclysmic earthquake was prophesised to finish off the present fifth world
(Nahui Ollin) according to postclassic Aztec eschatology. As noted the post-
classic Aztecs conceived that there have been four world period or ages
(Suns) and that humanity are now living in the fifth world age. Every world
age had been ended by a calamity and its inhabitants were either destroyed
or transformed into another life form (Moreno de los Arcos 1967; Elzey 1976:
117-118). The majority of the sources bestow each world age the names Na-
hui Ocelotl (4 Jaguar), Nahui Ehecatl (4 Wind), Nahui Quiahuitl (4 Rain),
Nahui Atl (4 Water) and Nahui Ollin (4 Movement) after stations of the
260-day calendar. The names of the world ages indicate the character of

81There is also a possibility that the recorded earthquakes and eclipses were not the
same (Boone 2000: 227).
82At 19.5N-96.1E to be exact. Cf. http://sunearth.gsfc. nasa.gov/eclipse/SEcat/SE1501-
1600.html
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 283
the age, presumably the date of when it would be terminated, and in what
manner the world and its inhabitants are exterminated. The contemporary
(fifth) world age will then meet its inevitable completion on the date Nahui
Ollin (4 Movement). The word ollin or movement (Nahuatl) is associated
with a catastrophic world-ending earthquake. Earthquakes were and are
not an uncommon natural feature in Central Mexico. Annals of Cuauhtitlan
relates of the future destruction of the world:
4 Movement is the day sign of the fifth sun, called Movement Sun, because
it moves along and follows its course. And from that what the old people
say, there will be earthquakes in its time, and famine, and because of this
we will be destroyed (Bierhorst 1992: 26).
The fifth world age would accordingly be terminated by an earthquake
followed by famine and darkness (Moreno de los Arcos 1967; Elzey 1976:
119).
The eschatological philosophy of an annihilation of the world of Nahui
Ollin (4 Movement) suggests that this date was a time of apocalyptical
horror in postclassic Aztec society. This future catastrophic cosmic earth-
quake might very well take place not just on the day but in addition in the
year Nahui Ollin. We know of a ritual of the date Nahui Ollin (4 Movement)
of the 260-day calendar from brief outlines by Sahagn and Durn. The
ritual of Nahui Ollin (4 Movement) of the 260-day calendar, Tonalpohual-
li, was dedicated to the sun. Durn portrays the Nahui Ollin (4 Movement)
ritual as a nobility ritual associated with war. It was performed by the tla-
toani and the warrior aristocracy. In Durns The History of the Indies of New
Spain there is a description of a sacrificial ceremony of the stone called
cuauhxicalli (eagle vessel), which symbolised the image of the sun (Durn
1964: 119-124). A more detailed account of the Nahui Ollin (4 Movement)
ritual is given by Durn in Book of the Gods and Rites and The Ancient Cal-
endar (Durn 1971: 186-193). Durn comments that the feast was held every
260-day and twice in the 365-day year (Durn 1971: 186-187). Sahagn pro-
vides a short version of the ritual of the date Nahui Ollin (4 Movement) of
the 260-day calendar in volumes II and VII of The Florentine Codex. He
writes in volume II, where he treats the ceremonies of the 260-day calendar
(Sahagn 1951: 35-41), that: The first moveable feast was celebrated in
honor of the sun, in the sign which is named ce ocelotl, in the fourth house,
which is named naui ollin (Sahagn 1951: 35). Sahagns description of this
ritual is repeated and expanded in the first chapter of volume VII which
telleth of the sun, itechpa tlatoa: in tonatiuh (Sahagn 1953: VII; 34-38). It
is interesting that the New Fire Ceremony of the 52-year calendar is out-
lined under the same heading. These two ceremonies are catalogued by
284 chapter four
Sahagn under astrological phenomena and do not appear in Volume II
which consider the ceremonies. The feast of the Sun God, Tonatiuh, was
held every two hundred and sixty days. It was observed on his day sign,
Nahui Ollin (4 Movement). Everybody fasted four days before the vigil of
the feast (the liminal period) of the day Nahui (4) Ollin (4 Movement).
When the sun appeared on the day of Nahui Ollin (4 Movement) incense
was offered and burned. Sacrifices of blood from the ears were conducted
by the people. This happened four times during the day: at dawn, at noon,
at past midday, and when the sun had set (Sahagn 1953, VII: 34-35). The
ritual of Nahui Ollin (4 Movement) of the 260-day calendar was thus not,
according to the accounts of Durn and Sahagn, executed to avoid a
prophesised annihilation of the world.
It appears then that postclassic Aztec eschatology was complex since it
embodied an apocalyptical belief, which constitutes two independent fu-
ture eschatological events. However, as noted above, the eschatological
concert of the 52-year calendar ritual could have been a projection of
Catholic theology by the ethnographer missionaries (and by their con-
verted assistants and informants) upon the postclassic Aztec religious sys-
tem.

The Calendar Reform of the New Fire Ceremony: From Ce Tochtli


(1 Rabbit) to Ome Acatl (2 Reed)
I will now examine the evidence for a supposed calendar reform where the
New Fire Ceremony was moved from the date Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) to Ome
Acatl (2 Reed). If such a reform took place it would undermine the hypoth-
esis that the 52-year calendar ritual was eschatological.
A range of sources report quite unequivocally that the beginning date
of the postclassic Aztec 52-year calendar was Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and that
it ended on Matlactli Omome Calli (13 House).83 Motolina for instance
asserts that Ce Tochtli introduced the 52-year calendar in his explication
of the workings of the Calendar Round (Motolina 1951: 112, note 3; 1971:
48-49; 2001: 30-31). As noted earlier, paragraph 3 of Primeros Memoriales
comprises a year-by-year 52-year cycle, xiuhmolpilli. It is said here, that on
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) the new 52-year calendar cycle begins its round (Sa-
hagn 1997: 159-160). Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was an important Year Bearer

83Anales de Cuahutitlan, however, begins the count with Ce (1) Acatl (Reed) and
Historia de los mexicanos por sus pinturas introduces the Calendar Round with Ce (1) Tecpatl
(Flint Knife) but states that the earth was created on Ce (1) Tochtli (Rabbit) and fire, lighted
by Tezcatliopoca, was initiated on Ce (1) Acatl (Tena 1987: 89-90).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 285
date. As the first Year Bearer, it was considered by Sahagn to be the lead-
er of the years of the 52-year calendar cycle. In his account of the
52-year calendar ritual in vol. VII of The Florentine Codex, Sahagn claim
that the year began on Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit), but that the New Fire Cere-
mony was performed on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) (Sahagn 1953: VII, 21-22; 25).
Codex Borbonicus (lam. 34) also dates the New Fire Ceremony to Ome Acatl
(2 Reed), but this manuscript begin the 52-year calendar cycle, on lamina
21 and 22, with Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) (Umberger 1987: 443). The New Fire
Ceremony would then, when conducted on Ome Acatl (2 Reed), be per-
formed on the second day of the second year of the 52-year calendar.84 This
is remarkable because, since that it was a celebration of the end of the last
and the beginning of the next 52-year calendar, the New Fire Ceremony
had to take place on the evening and the night of the last day and finished
on the night and morning of the first day of the first year of the 52-year
calendar cycle according to the chroniclers. Only a Year BearerCe Toch-
tli (1 Rabbit), Ce Acatl (1 Reed), Ce Tecpatl (1 Flint Knife) and Ce Calli
(1 House)beginning with the number 1 could introduce a Calendar
Round of 52 years. Nonetheless, the Aztecs observed the New Fire Ceremo-
ny on Ome Acatl (2 Reed), which could not, logically, be the initial date of
the 52-year calendar cycle (Tena 1987: 89-90; Hassig 2001: 38-39, note 47,
175-176). What was the reason for this calendar practice?
Sahagn reports that Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was considered to be a dan-
gerous year. When Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was seated everybody became
frightened and in awe. The famine called Necetochuiliztli had occurred in

84But Sahagn is not entirely clear in his explanation on this point. As noted above,
paragraph 3 in Primeros Memoriales comprises a year-by-year 52-year calendar cycle
(Sahagn 1997: 158-160). Sahagn writes that on Ce Tochtli (One Rabbit) when the new
52-year calendar cycle begin its round:
Here is told the count of the years, which commences with (the year) called: One Rab-
bit. At the time of the year-sign Two Reed there was always the binding of the fifty-year
period (Sahagn 1997: 158).
But he assert, confusingly, in the next sentence that the day sign Ome Acatl (Two Reed)
completed the 52-year calendar cycle and that Eyi Tecpatl (Three Flint Knife) was the first
day of the new Calendar Round:
Three Flint Knife. This year, 1560, ended the fifty-two years with the sign called Two
Reed and the next fifty-two years was inaugurated with the sign called Three Flint Knife
(Sahagn 1997: 158).
Moreover, it is rather strange that Sahagn maintains that in the year 1560 AD the old
52-year cycle ended and a new 52-year cycle commenced, when the correct date should
have been correlated into 1559 AD. This is because the last known New Fire Ceremony was
observed in 1507 AD.
286 chapter four
this year. As a result, people stored food during this year (Sahagn 1953, VII:
21-24).
And then One Rabbit came to settle itself as the sign of the south. When
this occurred and it established itself and began its work, thus to bear a year
and set it upon its way, all were much frightened and there was apprehen-
sion; all were filled with dread because in this (year) occurred the famine
called Necetochuiliztli. All were exceedingly terrified and in awe when (the
year) One Rabbit came-when they reached and came to it; though not (when
it was) Two or Three (Rabbit) Etc. (Sahagn 1953, Vol. VII: 21-22).
The horror and precaution of the year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) is elaborated
on by Sahagn in vol. VII of The Florentine Codex (Sahagn 1953, Vol. VII:
23-24).85 After Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) followed the year Ome Acatl (2 Reed),
the time of the New Fire Ceremony:
When [the year] One Rabbit had fulfilled its task, when the year had been
completed, it delivered its charge to the sign of the east: Two Reed was the
one which (then) set in (Sahagn 1953, Vol. VII: 24).
In contrast, Ome Acatl (2 Reed) was a fortunate and good sign. This was
the date when the powerful deity Tezcatlipoca was honoured:
And, it was said, he who was then born, they said, would become rich and
wealthy. And well would he gain his livelihood. What he might do would
not fail. He would find his consolation (Sahagn 1957, IV: 56).
Hassig and Boone assert that, with the exception of Codex Telleriano-Re-
mensis (see below), the historical chroniclers of the pictorial documents
record Ome Acatl (2 Reed) as the year and day of the New Fire Ceremony
(Boone 1992: 36; Hassig 2001: 114). An array of sources, however, convey that
the New Fire Ceremony was at one point in the history of the postclassic
Aztecs celebrated on the first day of the 52-year calendar, Ce Tochtli (1
Rabbit). But when did this critical calendar reform take place? And, for us
most importantly, what consequence can such a shift of dates of the New
Fire Ceremony represent for the hypothesis of a postclassic Aztec escha-
tological philosophy of the 52-year calendar ritual?
Five dates for a postclassic calendar reform have been suggested by
scholars: 1194 AD 1195 AD; 1246 AD 1247 AD; 1350 AD 1351 AD; 1454 AD 1455
AD; 1506 AD 1507 AD.

85But in volume IV of The Florentine Codex, where Sahagn explains the signs of divi-
nation of the 260-day calendar, Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) is considered to be a good (fortunate)
sign to be born under (Sahagn IV, 1957: 127-129).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 287
The Hypothesis of a Calendar Reform of 1194 AD 1195 AD
Hassig maintains that Aztec historical chronicles and annals, among them
Codex Aubin, suggest that the calendar date of the New Fire Ceremony may
have been moved from 1 Rabbit (Ce Tochtli) to 2 Reed (Ome Acatl) in the
years 1194 AD 1195 AD, simply because these documents state that the rite
was observed on the date 2 Reed (Ome Acatl). The evidence for this is that
the date 2 Reed (Ome Acatl), corresponding to 1195 AD, is accompanied by
a New Fire sign indicating that a shift of dates of celebrating the New Fire
Ceremony had already occurred. But a calendar reform between 1194 AD
1195 AD is never explicitly stated in these historical documents (Hassig
2001: 40; note 54, 176).

The Hypothesis of a Calendar Reform of 1246 AD 1247 AD


Folio 27v of Codex Telleriano-Remensis, which was painted in a Pre-Euro-
pean style, depicts the sign for the fire drill of the New Fire Ceremony
beneath a Ome Acatl (2 Reed) sign (1247 AD) (fig. 12). But the fire drill sign
is attached to the Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) sign of the year 1246 AD (Quiones
Keber 1995: fol. 27v, 58; 208; Hassig 2001:114). 1246 AD 1247 AD was the time
of the long Aztec migration from Aztln to Tenochtitlan. Three place
names, Coatepetl, Tecontepetl and Piazcontepetl, are depicted on folio 27v
(Quiones Keber 1995: fol. 27v, 58; 208; 271). Does this illustration symbol-
ise a calendar reform of the New Fire Ceremony from Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit)
to Ome Acatl (2 Reed) between the years 1246 AD and 1247 AD?

The Hypothesis of a Calendar Reform of 1350 AD 1351 AD


Tena cites an array of sources (Len y Gama; Cdice Aubin; Chimalphin;
Cdice Boturini) conveying that the New Fire Ceremony was observed on
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) at least until 1351 AD. He asserts that in this year the
New Fire Ceremony began to be celebrated on the date Ome Acatl (2 Reed)
in Tenochtitlan (Tena 1987: 98, Cuadro 1). Hence, the Aztecs moved the year
of celebration from the year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) (1350 AD) to the year Ome
Acatl (2 Reed) (1351 AD). Moreover, Ome Acatl (2 Reed) became the day of
the New Fire Ceremony. This happened only twenty-five years after the
foundation of Tenochtitlan when the Aztecs were still suppressed by neigh-
bouring cities and tribes in Central Mexico. Tena argues that this calendar
reform was due to military defeats of the Aztecs one or two hundreds years
before. It was the reform of history writing, after the order by tlatoani
288 chapter four
Itzcoatl (1427 AD 1440 AD), which projected Ome Acatl (2 Reed) back in
the official Tenochtitlan annals, recorded in pictorial documents and on
stone monuments, as the single date of the New Fire Ceremony. This con-
structed historiography is why the extant sources operate with Ome Acatl
(2 Reed) as the only date of celebrating the New Fire Ceremony throughout
Aztec history (Tena 1987: 92-93).

The Hypothesis of a Calendar Reform of 1454 AD 1455 AD


Csar Senz suggests that a calendar reform between 1454 AD 1455 AD was
initiated by Motecuzoma (he who frowns in a lordly manner) Ilhuicam-
ina (to shoot an arrow in the sky) [I] because of a disastrous famine
caused by a frost during the year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) (1454 AD) (Senz 1967:
15-16). In support of his argument Senz refer to Sahagn in Vol. II of The
Florentine Codex and page 67 of Codex Aubin (Senz 1967: 15). Senzs hy-
pothesis is supported by the circumstance that a New Fire Ceremony is
illustrated on folio 32v in Codex Telleriano-Remensis (fig. 13). It portrays a
smoking fire-board sign under the year sign Ome Acatl (2 Reed), a white
individual representing the sacrificed victim after the new fire was drilled,
and probably the ilhuitl sign which conceivably refers to the veintena when
the ritual was performed.86 The New Fire Ceremony depicted was con-
ducted on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) of 1455 AD under the rule of Motecuzoma
[I]. The end of the drought of the year before, i.e. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) or
1454 AD, is symbolised by six plants. In the written annotations to the pic-
ture, Hand 1 the commentator of Codex Telleriano-Remensis, remarks that
the sacrificed individual symbolises The binding of the years (xiuhmol-
pilli), which took place every 52-years, and that 1455 AD was an excellent
agricultural year (Quiones Keber 1995: fol. 32v, 68; 217-218; 272).
The Ome Acatl (2 Reed) sign also appears alone on a range of stone
artefacts. An Ome Acatl (2 Reed) plaque was excavated from the Templo
Mayor in Mexcio City (Tenochtitlan). It commemorates the New Fire Cer-
emony of 1455 AD since the plaque dates, according to Lpez Austin, to
phase 7a of the temple. Phase 7a is dated before 1502 AD (Read 1998: 2; 238,
note 1).

The Hypothesis of a Calendar Reform of 1506 AD 1507 AD


Emily Umberger argues that a famine was caused by a flood in 1499 AD.
This lead to the calendar reform of 1506 AD 1507 AD by Motecuzoma [II]

86This can be either the veintena of Tecuilhuitontli or Hueytecuilhuitl according to


H.B. Nicholson in personal communication to Quiones Keber (Quiones Keber 1995: 334,
note 53).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 289
(Umberger 1981a: 191-192). Folio 41V (fig. 14)Folio 42R (fig. 11) of Codex
Telleriano-Remensis87 accounts that in the year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) (1506
AD) the date of the New Fire Ceremony was changed from Ce Tochtli (1
Rabbit) (1506 AD) to Ome Acatl (2 Reed) (1507 AD), due to calamities that
had occurred in Ce Tochtli or 1506 AD (Quiones Keber 1995: Folio 41V-
Folio 42R, 86-87; 228-230; 274):
Year of thirteen houses (13 House) and 1505 there was a great famine in the
province of Mexico; to get bread they went to the province of Puco. Year
of one rabbit (1 Rabbit) and 1506 there were so many rats in the province
of Mexico that they ate all the seeds; and so they went out at night with
lights to protect what was sown. In this year Motecuzoma killed a man in
this manner; the ancient ones say it was to placate the gods since for two
hundred years there had been hunger in the year one rabbit. In this year
they were to bind the years according to their count, and because it was
always a difficult year for them, Motecuzoma changed it to two reeds
(2 Reed) (Quiones Keber 1995: Folio 41V, 86; 274).
The folio preceding folio 41 is missing. The second section of folio 41v re-
lates, as folio 32r, of calamitieslike starving and deathoccurring
52-years before. This befell in the years Matlactli Omeyi Calli (13 House)
and Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) under the reign of Montecuhzoma Ilhuicamina
[I]. Hand 5, who wrote the historical notices at the end of section 41v,
notes that the old Aztecs said that Motecuzoma [II] had sacrificed a man
in order to conciliate the deities because there had been famines in the
year Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) for two hundred years. But Historia de los Mexi-
canos por sus Pinturas and Barlow connect this ritual arrow sacrifice to the
conquest of Tzotzollan, which is later related in Codex Telleriano-Remensis
(fol. 42r.). Hand 6 claims, because of the famine, the years could no longer
be bound in Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) or 1506. Motecuzoma [II] therefore
changed the New Fire Ceremony to the next year, Ome Acatl (2 Reed) or
1507 (Quiones Keber 1995: 228-230).
Codex Telleriano-Remensis presents however, conflicting information of
the calendar reform of the New Fire Ceremony. We have seen that folio 27v
of Codex Telleriano-Remensis may exhibit a calendar reform of 1246 AD
1247 AD, whereas folio 32v, of the same codex, indicates a calendar reform
of 1454 AD 1455 AD.

87Codex Telleriano-Remensis, named after its previous owner the French Archbishop
of Reims, Charles-Maurice le Tellier is located in the Bibliothque Nationale of France (Ms.
Mex. 385).
290 chapter four
The extant copy of Codex Telleriano-Remensis embodies 50 folios (100
pages) but several have been lost. This pictorial document was compiled
from a range of sources after the Spanish invasion. Codex Telleriano-Remen-
sis is thus not of a Pre-European origin. The manuscript is a hybrid docu-
ment painted by numerous native artists and commented upon by both
Spanish friars and Nahuas. The images were probably painted c. 1554 AD
1555 AD, and the last annotation was appended in 1563 AD Codex Telleri-
ano-Remensis encompasses three pictorial sections. The first section em-
bodies the rituals of the 365-day calendar with historical annotations. The
second section incorporates the ritual 260-day calendar (tonalpohualli) of
the tonalamatl and is also associated with the nine day cycle of the Lords
of the Night. The third section contains historical pictorial annals (or year
counts), in three parts, which begin in the year 1198 AD and terminate in
1562 AD. The historical section was based on a native historical document.88
The first part of the historical section is a migration account, the second is
a dynastic history of the Triple Alliance including a variety of astronomical
and meteorological events, and the third relates a colonial history of the
events in Tenochtitlan-Mexico City after the conquest but from the per-
spective of the Nahua. Codex Telleriano-Remensis, then, was collected un-
systematicallyit probably contains local historiesand must
consequently be read critically owing to the conflicting information and
because its sources are generally obscure (Quiones Keber 1995).
Nevertheless, other data corroborates the information given in folio
41v-42r of Codex Telleriano-Remensis, regarding the initiation of a calendar
reform in the years 1506 AD 1507 AD. The difficult years, with flood and
cease of rains, between 1499 AD 1506 AD can have motivated a calendar
reform in 1506 AD 1507 AD. Umberger claims that various monuments of
Motecuzoma Ilhuicamina [I] and Motecuzoma Xocoyotl [II] indicates a
calendar change taking place in the year 1506 AD (Umberger 1981a: 220-221).
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) is the date of (the archaeological) Phase IV of the
Templo Mayor of Tenochtitlan. Durn maintains that his date was inscribed
next to the portrait of Motecuzoma Ilhuicamina (I) at Chapultepec. The
portrait of Motecuzoma Xocoyotl [II] is, conversely, inscribed with the date
Ome Acatl (2 Reed) (Umberger 1987: 443). Umberger concludes that:
2 Reed is not an inscription found at the Templo Mayor, where most of
the remains are from before Motecuzoma IIs time. In addition, important

88Manuscripts organised as annals were called xiuhamatl or xiuhtlapohualamoxtli in


Nahuatl.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 291
sculptures that I believe date from the period between the two Motecuzomas
(e.g., the great Coatlicue) feature the date 1 Rabbit alone; and the monu-
ments that feature 1 Rabbit and 2 Reed together (e.g., the Temple of Sacred
Warfare (Caso 1927), or just 2 Reed with a rope to signify the binding of
years (e.g., the Chapultepec portrait) seem to be in the latest Mexica sculp-
tural style and are generally dated to Motecuzoma IIs time . (Umberger
1987: 444).
This suggests that a calendar reform of 1506 AD 1507 AD came about dur-
ing the reign of Motecuzoma Xocoyotl [II] ( r. from 1502 AD 1520 AD), and
not under the rule of Motecuzoma Ilhuicamina [I] (tlatoani until 1468 AD),
since Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was still the date of the New Fire Ceremony
under the last mentioned tlatoanis reign.
Three serpent heads were detected at the corner of the streets Cuba and
Palma in Mexico City in 1944. A sign for a bar and three dots is carved below
an Ome Acatl (2 Reed) date on one of these serpent heads. Given that the
serpent head does not appear to be carved in an Aztec style89, Caso has
championed the idea that this sign symbolised eight 52-year calendar
cycles (from 1507 AD backwards) since the first New Fire Ceremony was
celebrated, after the Aztecs departure from Aztln, in 1116 AD (Caso 1967:
15).90 Umberger advocates that these heads were commissioned by Mote-
cuzoma Xocoyotl [II] in 1507 AD with the purpose of legitimising the cal-
endar change of the year of the New Fire Ceremony from Ce Tochtli
(1 Rabbit) to Ome Acatl (2 Reed) (Umberger 1981a: 94-95; 238-239). More-
over, she maintains that the dates Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and Ome Acatl
(2 Reed) were carved together on three monumentsthe Xochicalco-Style
Xiuhcoatls, the Teocalli (fig. 15), possibly the fragmented Escalerillas relief
and on the Acacingo cliff relief (fig. 16)91in order to justify the calendar
reform of 1506 AD 1507 AD (Umberger 1981a: 133; 218-220; 238; 270-271). A
similar legitimisation for a calendar reform can be found in Codex Aubin

89Nicholson maintains, however, that these artefacts are in a late Aztec style, which
reveals a Xochicalco influence (Nicholson 1971b: 112; 120-122).
90Francisco de San Antn Muon Chimalpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin asserts, in Codex
Chimalpahin, that the first Aztec New Fire Ceremony was conducted in 1091 AD (1997: 186-
187) but according to Gabriel de Ayalas Year count the Aztecs had in 1247 AD bound their
years four times in 1247 AD (Chimalpahin 1997: 221-222). This means that the first Aztec New
Fire Ceremony had have taken place in 1039 AD.
91A seated unidentified figure is shown on the Acacingo Rock carving on a hill near
Malinalco in the Toluca region (Mexico). To the right of his head are the dates Ce Tochtli
(1 Rabbit) and Ome Acatl (2 Reed). Umberger comments that these dates are not carved
within a cartouche and therefore seem to be calendar names. They may represent the
beginning years of the 52-year calendar cycle (Umberger 1981a: 164-167).
292 chapter four
and Tira de la Peregrinacin, which operated with eight New Fire ceremo-
nies celebrated on Ome Acatl (2 Reed) (Senz 1967: 16). Presumably, Mo-
tecuzoma [II] can have decreed a systematic rewriting of Aztec official
history because nearly all the written and pictorial documents announce
that Ome Acatl (2 Reed) was the date of the New Fire Ceremony since the
Aztec left Aztln (Umberger 1987: 444).92

The Calendar Reform of the 52-year Calendar Ritual: A Religious-Political


Manipulation of Eschatological Time
It is a major predicament that the information suggesting an Aztec post-
classic calendar reform of the date of observing the New Fire Ceremony
mainly derives from the Post-European period. Consequently, there is no
primary written source which unequivocally makes clear that a calendar
reform of celebrating the New Fire Ceremony took place at a certain time
in the history of the Aztecs. Nevertheless, I find Umbergers argument that
a calendar reform of the New Fire Ceremony most likely occurred in 1506
AD 1507 AD compelling, in particular since this important change is stat-
ed directly in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis.
A change of the date of the New Fire Ceremony of one year and a day
did not affect the observation of the constellation of the Pleiades, as all
the stars and constellations will reach their zeniths at the same time every
year (Hassig 2001: 85). The zenith passage of the Pleiades at midnight could
be perceived from both the Great Temple (Templo Mayor) as from the hill
of Huixachtitlan (Hassig 2001: 85-86). Accordingly, the spatial and tempo-
ral move of the New Fire Ceremony did not have had an impact on the
fundamental eschatological status and role the Pleiades had in this ritu-
al.93 But how can a calendar reform correspond to an eschatological phi-
losophy? Is it not imperative that such a dramatic concept demanded a

92In this connection Umberger comments that: Codex Telleriano-Remensis, the


source that records the change of the Binding of the Years to 2 Reed as occurring in 1507,
also puts the previous ceremony in a 2 Reed year. Apparently the reform could be noted as
a historical event, but was also necessary to project into the past. In Mexica history it was
important that the present and past be aligned and that like events should happen in years
of the same name (Umberger 1987: 444).
93The day and year of the New Fire Ceremony mirrors an adjustment on the emphasis
of the date when the earth was created Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) to the creation of the sun and
moon on Ome Acatl (2 Reed). The calendar reform may thus have signified that the Aztec,
at the beginning of the 16th century, was now more interested in the creation of time of the
calendars (computed by the movements of the sun and the moon) than the primordial
making of space (earth) of their cosmogony.
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 293
determined consistent date for conducting a, for the world and the people,
most decisive ritual? If we are to believe Sahagn there was a genuine fear
that the world and time would terminate on the date of the New Fire Cer-
emony. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was, as we have seen, the date for observing
the New Year ritual for a long time but due to the famines, drought and
other misfortunes of Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) years in 1454 AD and in 1506 AD,
the New Year ceremonies were postponed until the next year which was
Ome Acatl (2 Reed) or 1507 AD Ome Acatl (2 Reed) then became the first
day and the first year of the 52 year cycle which entailed an inconsistency
regarding the beginning of the 52-year calendar. Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) was
still the leader of the years and the 52-year calendar had, as before the
calendar reform, the same structure with the four quarters beginning with
the four Year BearersCe Tochtli (1 Rabbit), Ce Acatl (1 Reed), Ce Tecpatl
(1 Flint Knife) and Ce Calli (1 House)although Ome Acatl (2 Reed) be-
came the new beginning date of the 52-year calendar. This confusion is
exhibited in Book VII of The Florentine Codex where first Ce Tochtli (1 Rab-
bit) is said to be the leader of the years (Sahagn 1953, VII: 21-24) but later
is Ome Acatl (Sahagn 1953, VII: 25) the date which concluded and inau-
gurated the 52-year cycle (Umberger 1981a: 49-50). The New Fire Ceremony
was, strangely enough, hence not celebrated at the end (Matlactli omeyi
Calli or 13 Calli) or at the beginning (Ce Tochtli or 1 Rabbit) but instead on
the second day of the second year of the 52-year calendar cycle (Ome Acatl
or 2 Reed).
A calendar reform by a regent, assisted by certain religious specialists
and lords, demonstrates that the upper aristocracy did not believe the 52-
year calendar ritual to be eschatological. Otherwise the tlatoani and his
religious specialists would have respected the essential date of Ce Tochtli
(1 Rabbit), when the ritual was obliged to be conducted. The religious spe-
cialists had the responsibility for the time-keeping of the calendars. But
this was not necessarily esoteric knowledge. Numerous people must have
known that the original New Fire Ceremony was originally performed on
Ce Tochtli (1 Rabbit) and not on Ome Acatl (2 Reed). The calendar systems
were taught in the calmecac (schools), attended by the sons of the nobil-
ity and boys, many of whom were to become religious specialists. Many in
the Aztec society should then have had an understanding of how the cal-
endar worked (Hassig 2001: 7). A calendar reform must have been noticed
by a large amount of the people. How could the people have accepted that
the ritual was suddenly no longer celebrated on the night of Ce Tochtli (1
Rabbit), when it was absolutely essential that the Pleiades were to be ob-
served at zenith? We know that time and dates of other Aztec calendar
294 chapter four
systems were manipulated. A moving of a birth date of the 260-day calen-
dar was executed by religious specialists whereas the sign held inouspicious
auguries (Sahagn IV, 1957). As noted, tlatoani Itzcoatl( r. 1427 AD 1440
AD) orchestrated history writing after his victories in war. He commanded
that the ancient historical manuscripts should be burnt. In book X of The
Florentine Codex (The People), which relates the history of the Mexica or
Mexiti (e.g. the Aztecs), it was said by the Indigenous informants of
Sahagn from Tlatelolco that:
The history of it was saved, but it was burned when Itzcoatl ruled in Mexico.
A council of rulers of Mexico took place. They said: It is not necessary for
all the common people to know of the writings; government94 will be
defamed, and this will only spread sorcery in the land; for it containeth
many falsehoods (Sahagn 1961, X: 191).95
The glory of the Aztec past should hence be emphasised by a systematic
rewriting of official historiography.96 National mythology, as of the patron
deity Huitzilopochtli, originated at that time.97 The historical sources re-
port that some New Fire Celebrations were carried out as many as several
years after the target date, due to the unstable political situation of the
Aztecs in their early centuries in the Basin of Mexico (Tena 1987: 91-93;
Elson and Smith 2001: 170). Moreover, Francisco de San Antn Muon Chi-
malpahin Cuauhtlehuanitzin relates in Codex Chimalpahin that in the year
Ome Acatl, 1299 AD the Aztecs could not bind the years in Acocolco because
of war (Chimalpahin 1997, Vol. II: 72-75).
Consequently, the 52-year calendar ritual was not always celebrated on
the date of the completion and beginning of the 52-year calendar. This
corroborates furthermore my hypothesis of the New Fire Ceremony as not
being conceived by the Aztecs to be an apocalyptical or an eschatological
ritual since both the nobility and perhaps even the general public over the
years would have realised that the required (eschatological) date of cele-
brating the New Fire Ceremony did not, in the end, hold any vital impor-

94Or the governable (Sahagn 1961, 10: 191, note 82).


95Cf. also the translation of Cdice Matritense de la Real Academia, VIII, fol. 192, v. by
Leon Portilla (1963: 155).
96Cf. Florescano (1994: 30-64) for an analysis of the commemoration, representations
and uses of the past in Mexico.
97But parts of the ancient historical tradition were still kept in oral traditions by
neighbour Nahua states like Tezcoco, Tlacopan and Tlaxcala (Leon Portilla 1963: 155-156).
Nicholson question the genuine rationale for the manipulative deed of Itzcoatl since the
Aztecs humble political and military past were not concealed but at times even glorified
(Nicholson 1971b: 69; Umberger 1981a: 217). Many of the pictorial manuscripts focus on the
Aztecs Chichimec past (Boone 2000: 195).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 295
tance. No cosmic disaster happened when the New Fire Ceremony was not
performed on the critical date (either Ce Tochtli, 1 Rabbit or Ome Acatl, 2
Reed), when time and the world were under threat of total annihilation.
Although history and calendar dates were acknowledged to be manipu-
lated it is not very probable that an eschatological date was to be altered.
This, however, does not imply that there was no anxiety among the people
during the liminal phase of the 52-year calendar ritual. Such an apprehen-
sion is quite understandable considering that computed time of a quite
extensive calendar had come to be terminated. Nevertheless, based on what
has been argued above, I maintain the supposition that the 52-year calen-
dar ritual was most likely not perceived to be of an eschatological, but, as
we shall now see, rather of a socio-political character at least by 1506 AD
1507 AD.

7.The Politics and Social Ritual Practice of Time

Calendars are social constructions which function to serve the needs of a


culture. The notion of time and its ritual practice reflects therefore the
prevailing view of the existing socio-political system. The ideology of the
political, socio-economic and military elite creates the social patterns and
the fundamental understanding of time. Consequently, time not only re-
flects social patterns and behaviour but also the political system. Time can,
as a cultural and social product, be organised and systematised in calendars
to exercise political and social control (Hassig 2001). Political authority and
charisma of the sovereign can be associated with the performance of ritu-
als of time as they were a part of the supernatural and ceremonial founda-
tion of the religious-political system. But were the Aztec temporal ritual
practice of 52-year calendar only observed by a male political, socio-eco-
nomic and military authority? An aristocracy, of religious specialists and
of higher civil officials, might partake in the ceremonies thus challenging
the position and status of the regent. As I have underlined in part I both
the role and status of women should not be underestimated or disregard-
ed in an examination of the ritual practice of time.
The ritual practice of time of the 52-year calendar has hence sociologi-
cal and political implications. I shall first examine how and what kind of
role the members of the different social groups of the postclassic Aztec
society played in the 52-year calendar ritual. An explication of in what
manner the political power and the state influenced this ritual practice will
ensue. Along these lines, an analysis of the sociology and politics of the
ritual practice of time will be undertaken.
296 chapter four
The meaning and content of rituals change with the passage of time.
The 52-year calendar ritual exhibit, due to the extensive time interval of
when it was conducted, this more than other more regular celebrated ritu-
als. In view of the fact that its significance has undergone a dramatic his-
torical reform, the 52-year calendar ritual of the year 1507 AD (Ome Acatl,
2 Reed) has to be analysed within the economic, political, military and
social context of Central Mexico at the beginning of the 16th century.

The Sociology of the Ritual Practice of Time


As noted, the structure of the postclassic Aztec society was characterised
by a high degree of political, social and economic differentiation and priv-
ilege. The political, social and economic order was upheld by the ruler
(tlatoani) and an aristocracy within a hierarchical and socially differenti-
ated structure. But Aztec society was basically divided into two strata: the
commoners (macehualtin; sing. macehuallli) and the nobles (pipiltin; sing.
pilli) (Cf. Lockhart 1992; Lpez Austin 2001).

The Ritual Witnesses, Participants and Performers of the 52-year Calendar


Ritual
Let us look into the status and role of the social groups conducting and
participating in the 52-year calendar ritual of 1507 AD (Ome Acatl).
It was the principal elders, i.e. the religious specialists of the ritual prac-
tice of time and the calendars, who advised tlatoani Motecuzoma [II] that
it was the last year of the 52-year calendar cycle (Durn 1967: II, 453). A
penance by a fasting three days before the New Fire ritual was conducted
by religious specialist before the New Fire Ceremony according to Cdice
Tudela (1980: 293-294). A range of religious specialists observed the ritual
proceedings of the 52-year calendar ritual. They commanded that the fires
should be extinguished in Mexico, in all its lands, in Tetzcoco and in the
provinces (e.g. the Aztec empire). Only religious specialists, the fire reli-
gious specialists (tlenamacaque), could perform the New Fire ritual. It was
the experienced fire religious specialist of Copulco who drilled the new fire
of 1507 AD (Ome Acatl). The religious specialists, teonenemi, they walk like
gods, were, before they proceeded to Huixachtitlan, arranged in order each
impersonating a particular deity (Anders, Jansen and Reyes 1991: 221-224;
Durn 1964: 239; 1967: II, 453-454; Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001: 31; Sahagn
1953, VII: 26-27; Torquemada 1986: X, 293).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 297
Thus, a rather extensive assembly of various religious specialists super-
vised and conducted the different rites of the 52-year calendar ritual. The
laymen (nobles and commoners) were just passive observers during the
main event, the drilling of the new fire by the fire religious specialists un-
dertaken on the hill Huixachtitlan, watching the New Fire Ceremony from
a far. Carrasco has therefore classified the New Fire Ceremony as a ritual
theatre for the community (Carrasco 1987). But this ritual did not only
concern the religious specialists. The general public (laymen) were in-
volved, playing an active although minor role, in the ritual proceedings.
The 52-year calendar ritual was crucial for the people of the cities of the
Triple Alliance. All the provinces of the empire took part in the ritual. The
general public were engaged in various rites of renewal and renovation.
Within the phase of separation, fires in all the Aztec houses and temples
were extinguished everywhere in the empire. There was a destruction of
the household utensils and the statues of deities kept in the houses. The
streets were swept and all the rubbish was thrown out from the houses.
People, impregnated women, children and men were anxiously waiting for
lighting of the New Fire on Huixachtitlan. Sahagn narrates that on the
night of Ome Acatl (2 Reed) everybody was frightened. It was told that all
the people went upon the terraces and the housetops. No one remained in
the houses. Everyone directed the attention towards the summit of
Huixachtitlan waiting for the new fire to appear (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143-144).
In the ritual sequence of incorporation, i.e. after the lightning of the new
fire on the hill Huixachtitlan, the people renewed their goods of the house-
hold. There were sweeping, renovation of the statues of the deities and the
utensils of the houses. The women and the men dressed in new clothes
and a new fire was started everywhere. Then all the people performed blood
self-sacrifice from their ears into the fire as a penance after the new fire
was lighted and became visible from the hill. The common people hurled
themselves at the flame of the new fire. Incense was cast into the hearth
of the fire and a quail was decapitated. A feast was celebrated after the fast
and a representation of the burned victim was made of pure amaranth
seed dough. Cooked grains of maize were set upon on it so that the people
could eat it. There was much happiness and rejoicing since old and used
time, associated with sickness and disease, were abandoned and a new
time cycle was inaugurated (Sahagn 1953, VII: 25-32; 1957, IV: 137-138; 143-
144; 1997: 160; Durn 1964: 239; 1967: II, 453-454; Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001:
31; Anders, Jansen and Garca 1991: 221-224). Durn give a quite vivid de-
scription of festivities that followed the lightning of the new fire:
298 chapter four
At the end of the ceremony, all took new fire. This feast was celebrated with
great solemnity and all the priests were present, led by the high priest dressed
in his sacerdotal vestments. These were offerings and incense, together with
the sacrifice of many human beings who died as victims of the god of fire.
So it is that this god was given the two thousand captives who had been
brought from the destruction and conquest of Teutepec. This sacrifice began
at midnight and lasted most of the next day. Triumphant and joyful, the
priests were bathed in blood, and the vessels filled with human blood were
sent to smear the lintels of the doors, posts and altar of the temples, and to
sprinkle the statues of the gods (Durn 1964: 239; 1967: II, 453-454).
This quote is quite telling. There was a high religious official who governed
the other religious specialists during the ceremonies.98 It appears that the
essential religious functions, knowledge and practice of the calendars, state
rituals and stories were reserved for the religious specialists and, as we shall
see, for the ruler. But a consensus of the value of the 52-year calendar ex-
isted in the minds of the people. They may only have witnessed the high
drama of the lighting of a new fire but still performed their own rites dur-
ing the 52-year calendar ritual. A psychological relief befell the people
when they realised that the new fire was lit on the top of the hill Huixach-
titlan (Sahagn 1957, IV: 143-144). In this way the 52-year calendar ritual
played a cardinal part in the everyday lives of the people.
Maya and Mixtec women are represented to be religious specialists in
the primary sources of the pre-European/pre-Christian period (Brown 1983:
119-120; Pharo, forthcoming). Not many women held high political offices
in the postclassic Aztec society. Women were primarily occupied with pri-
vate and domestic rituals corresponding to their social and economic func-
tion as wives and mothers. Some girls of the nobility were educated in the
Calmecac (schools for temple service) but they were presumable forbidden
to view statues of deities and to perform auto-sacrifices. Women cannot
be ascertained to act as religious specialist in the sparse extant written and
pictorial pre-European/pre-Christian Aztec sources. The offices of the body
of religious specialists were dominated by men, according to colonial data.
But this concept could have been a bias by male informants and Catholic
ethnographer missionaries sources of the 16th century (Klein 2001). Betty
Anne Brown (1983) has observed that Sahagn depicted and outlined fe-
male religious specialists joining the temples, holding prominent positions
in the religious hierarchy, and participatingbut providing no clear inti-

98Motolina outlines a principal minister who governed the ritual proceedings of


the New Fire Ceremony (Motolina 1951: 112-113; 2001: 31).
the 52-year calendar of the aztecs in the postclassic period 299
mation of their rank or rolein major religious rituals of the 365-day cal-
endar (and the festival called Atamalcualiztli) in the Primeros Memoriales
and The Florentine Codex. This is in particular made clear by the Indigenous
illustrators portraying the religious specialists. No women religious special-
ists is, however, outlined in the 52-year calendar ritual but it is striking that
the ritual victim, who was not without a certain symbolic prestige, could
be a girl named Xiuhnenetl, Xiuhcue, Xihuecocotl etc. (Sahagn 1953, VII:
31-32). This suggests that women had a more distinguished status and func-
tion in this ritual than previously thought. New discovered data can reveal
in what manner this social group participated in the 52-year calendar
ritual.

A Symbolic Hierarchical Ritual


Richard Townsend argues that the new fire was a symbol of regeneration
and rebirth of time. The New Fire ritual was hence a recreation of the
cosmogony, but it also represented the renewal of the social order
(Townsend 1979: 62).
The Aztec society was not only social differentiated but also a well-de-
veloped socio-political hierarchy. Elzey, Elson and Smith have observed
that the distribution of the new fire, after it was drilled on Huixachtitlan
by the religious specialists, followed a socio-political hierarchically order.
Consequently, the distribution of the new fire reflected the religious, social
and political hierarchy of Aztec society. The ritual proceedings of the 52-
year calendar ritual, as a ceremonial-symbolic sequence of the hierarchy,
modelled the social and political structure of the Aztec society.
After it was ignited on the hill the new fire was taken by the religious
specialists to the temple of the Aztec patron and state deity Huizilopocht-
li, which was the state temple located in the centre of Tenochtitlan. This
religious structure is today known as the Templo Mayor. Then the new fire
was brought to the calmecac (the schools of the religious specialists) ded-
icated to Huitzilopochtli, subsequently to other temples and calmecac, the
telpochcalli or young mens house, the wards and neighbourhoods of every
city and finally into the houses of the common people (macehualli).
This ceremonial sequence of when and where the fire was drawn reflects
the religious, social and political order of Tenochtitlan. The 52-year calen-
dar ritual was therefore a symbolic reaf