Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Narrative Tzol'kin?

I was thinking about the symbolism of the tzolkin the other day, and while there's no 'official' beginning day of the Mayan calender, a common convention is that the beginning of the cycle starts with 1 Imix, standing for the primal body of the world and represented as a crocodile. Certain authors have pointed to the preponderance of dragons and magical lizard beings in traditions around the world and isn't it interesting, in that light, that the Maya chose the basest of reptilian entities to begin their sacred calender. I decided to have a closer look at the symbolic correlations of the various days in their order, and on Wikipedia (yes, I know, but bear with me) I found the following list:

  • Imix : 'Crocodile' - the reptilian body of the planet earth, or world
  • Ik : 'Wind' - breath, life. Also violence.
  • Akbal : 'Night-house' - darkness, the underworld, realm of the nocturnal jaguar-sun.
  • Kan : 'Maize' - sign of the young maize lord who brings abundance, ripeness. Also lizard, net.
  • Chicchan : 'Snake' - the celestial serpent
  • Cimi : 'Death'
  • Manik : 'Deer' - sign of the Lord of the Hunt
  • Lamat : 'Rabbit' - sign of the planet Venus, sunset.
  • Muluc : 'Water' - symbolised by jade, an aspect of the water deities, fish
  • Oc : 'Dog' - who guides the night sun through the underworld.
  • Chuen : 'Monkey' - the great craftsman, patron of arts and knowledge. Also thread.
  • Eb : 'Grass' or 'Point' - associated with rain and storms.
  • Ben : 'Reed' - who fosters the growth of corn, cane, and man.
  • Ix : 'Jaguar' - the night sun. Also maize.
  • Men : 'Eagle' - the wise one, bird, moon
  • Cib : 'Owl/Vulture' - death-birds of night and day. Also wax, soul, insect.
  • Caben : 'Earthquake' - formidable power. Also season, thought.
  • Etz'nab : 'Knife' - the obsidian sacrificial blade.
  • Cauac : 'Rain' or 'Storm' - the celestial dragon serpents and the chacs, gods of thunder and lightning.
  • Ahau : 'Lord' - the radiant sun god

So Imix is pretty obvious, but then you see lizard popping up again with Kan, primarily 'Maize', then a celestial serpent, three within the first 5 days. You might almost think there might be an outline of a story in this, an epic written into the very structure of Mayan time itself in which they are attempting to preserve forever ... what, exactly? A memory? A propechy?

Why not both? The tzol'kin is certainly a divinatory tool, but could it be that there is a history within it, as well, a very old story perhaps forgotten in the rest of the world and, thus, the ruthless suppression with which knowledge of it was wiped out upon contact between the Maya and a certain European church whose own top echelons, evidence suggests, are agents of reptilian beings from the deep past whose existence has been elsewhere forgotten?

If you scan the list again, thinking of the various symbols that pop up as linked together in narrative, one most certainly suggests itself, to myself at least. Some of the symbols evoke events, others a place, others a character, and some all three at the same time. It culminates with an Earthquake, the rise of technology in the form of Flint, a violent Storm and finally a radiant Sun. In between you might almost perceive a rough evolution, from primal forms to animals of greater advancement, though the agreement with a strict scientific chronology is far from perfect.

No one knows how long the Maya have been keeping the tzol'kin's count of days. It has certainly been thousands of years, at least, and there is some evidence that they acquired the habit from previous civilizations. It's origins are currently lost in the shadows of time but there is every reason it might have survived as an oral tradition for a great span indeed, perhaps - who knows? - dating back to ice age Atlantis.

On a darker note, the reptilian symbolism at the beginning might also be a clue as to who really created it in the first place. Drawing a parallel to the Illuminist use of symbolism, it might be another case of 'Will you notice who we really are?' in-your-face semiotics, a possibility that should certainly be taken into account lest one be caught unawares by another of history's hidden agendas.

Then again, it might equivalently be that the Maya knew something, something they were trying to warn the distant future about and set about doing so by burning the story of it into their calender.

What it all means, I don't pretend to know. But I'd be fascinated to hear the thoughts of others on the subject.


13 Muluc said...

Hi Psychegram, lots of food for thought here! I wouldn't be surprised if the Tzolkin had a narative historical apsect since it is a time-map (among other things). The zodiac, the I-Ching and the Tarot can be read this way also. The meaning of the dragon/serpent/reptile vibration is something I've wondered about for a long time. I get the feeling it is something fundamental and also paradoxical. I know I still don't have the answer but I suspect it is connected with polarity itself (and the electromagnetic force). The dragon could symbolise the original creative impulse to be, which necessitates a separation into experiencer/experience and all other pairs of opposites (the yin/yang). Perhaps it is the nature of this vibration to move to polar extremes. So we have the image of the wise and benevolent serpent coexisting with, and opposed to, that of the satanic reptilian force. So thats three aspects: polarity, creation/evolution, and destruction/regression. Still, it feels like there's more to it.

Anonymous said...

Hi Psych-
Nice Post! : )
Thank you. Perhaps this will help clarify:
The Maya new year, and the count of the sacred days of the Cholqij (Tzolkin) actually start on 8 Baatz, finishing on 7 Tzi. (Oc in Yucatecco Maya Language.)
The reason for the confusion, is that the MONTHS of the Haab (the solar calendar of 365 days) start on One Imix......
Studying the calendars, one can begin to understand the distinction.
Have a beautiful day!