By: Bruce Scofield
The 20 day-signs in Mesoamerican astrology are similar in many ways to the Western zodiac. They map out distinct personality types and a sequence of evolutionary stages. There are a number of subtle, internal arrangements beyond the scope of this article that invite exploration by those interested in mathematical aesthetics.
Below are the names of the day-signs with a brief delineation for those born under them. The delineations are based partly on ancient sources and partly on anecdotal evidence.
- Alligator (Maya=Imix, Aztec=Cipactli). Energetic, practical, creative and initiating — but also dominating and parental towards others. Strong nurturing instincts, quite sensitive and private. Experiences or feels rejection from family or parents. Often founders of businesses, organizations or associations.
- Wind (Maya=Ik, Aztec=Ehecatl). Mentally active and communicative, versatile and multi-faceted. Idealistic and romantic, fashion conscious or artistic. Somewhat non-commital or indecisive. Problems with issues of responsibility and obligation.
- House (Maya=Akbal, Aztec=Calli). Powerful, often physically dominating. Organized, patient with much endurance. Hard worker. Logical and systematic approach to problems but also traditional and mentally rigid. Concern for security in home and family. Introspective, needs solitude.
- Lizard (Maya=Kan, Aztec=Cuetzpallin). Interest in leadership and performance. Self-esteem an important issue. Influential, with reputation for being different. Fanatical interests and high standards. Strongly influenced by sexual matters.
- Serpent (Maya=Chicchan, Aztec=Coatl). Strong-willed, high-powered, extremist. Mysterious, charismatic, dramatic with “sex appeal.” Strong emotional reactions cause great upheavals in relationships. Intelligent, well informed, fanatical and obsessive.
- Death (Maya=Cimi, Aztec=Miquitztli). A sign of politics, obligations, sacrifice and faith. Involved or interested in civic affairs. Not natural leaders and will accept secondary roles or positions. Traditional in faith or religion. Materialistic, concerned with domestic security and real estate. Close experiences with death.
- Deer (Maya=Manik, Aztec=Mazatl). Peaceful, inspiring, and generous but also outspoken, deviant and dominating. Not overly interested in leadership. Strong feelings for family and friends. Needs companionship. Interests or abilities in the arts. Sensual, sexual, intuitive and sensitive to the concerns of others.
- Rabbit (Maya=Lamat, Aztec=Tochtli). Energetic, busy, nervous. Contrary. A fighter and joker. Needs physical activity and exercise. Often extremely intelligent, but also parnoid and wild. Liking for performance, games, and risk taking. Appreciates music and humor, sometimes self-destructive.
- Water (Maya=Muluc, Aztec=Atl). Strong feelings, urges and emotions. Powerful imagination, fantasy prone and psychic. Romantic and performance conscious. Dominates others with emotions. Struggles with responsibility and self-control. Sexual. Arouses powerful energies in others.
- Dog (Maya=Oc, Aztec=Itzcuintli). Loyal, cooperative and consistent. Good team player and joiner. Needs variety in life. Likes leadership but will wait for turn. Thoughtful, political, creative and artistic. Struggles with emotional maturity and father related issues.
- Monkey (Maya=Chuen, Aztec=Ozomatli). Needs attention. Likes center stage, performing, artistry, etc. Multiple interests, curious, communicative. Quick learners. Emotionally distant but sexually active. Seeks leadership positions, tends to be self-promoting.
- Grass (Maya=Eb, Aztec=Malinalli). Calm on the surface. Slow to anger, courteous and kind. Sensitive, touchy, easily hurt. Represses bad feelings. Hard workers, ambitious, politely competitive. Generous, popular and practical.
- Reed (Maya=Ben, Aztec=Acatl). Popular, accomplished and generally competent. Will fight for principles and take on challenges. Can be intellectually rigid and opinionated. Capable of intense work but knows how to relax. Often educated in fields concerned with human nature.
- Ocelot (Maya=Ix, Aztec=Ocelotl). Secretive, private, sensitive and psychic. Pronounced aggressive streak but avoids direct confrontations. Becomes deeply involved and entangled in relationships. Good counselors and therapists. Often concerned with or affected by religion or spirituality.
- Eagle (Maya=Men, Aztec=Cuauhtli). Independent loner with own unique ideas about life. Scientific, technical, critical and exacting mind. Perfectionistic yet open to new ideas. Both ambitious and escapist. Popular and friendly. Favors freedom in relationships.
- Vulture (Maya=Cib, Aztec=Cozcacuauhtli). Serious, deep, realistic and pragmatic. Hardened to life, callous at times. Status-conscious, authoritative and dominating — though sometimes dominated by others. Has high standards. Competent, critical and rejecting.
- Earthquake (Maya=Caban, Aztec=Ollin). Mentally active, cerebral, rationalizing, and clever. Usually quite liberal and progressive. Excellent sense of humor. Seeks leadership but is usually controversial. Stong convictions. Struggles to keep conflicts in balance.
- Knife (Maya=Etz’nab, Aztec=Tecpatl). Practical, mechanically inclined with good coordination. Extremely social but struggles in close relationships. Polite, compromising, self-sacrificing, and often indecisive. Subtly dominating but not really independent. Vain and self-absorbed.
- Rain (Maya=Cauac, Aztec=Quiahuitl). Youthful, restless, mentally active, talkative and friendly. Imitates rather than initiates. Multifacted or multi-accomplished. Overcompensates for insecurities. Drawn to religion, spirituality or philosophy. Good intuition and concern for the welfare of others. Concerned with purification and healing.
- Flower (Maya=Ahau, Aztec=Xochitl). A resistant idealist. Socially awkward, but well-intentioned. Interests in art, crafts and beauty. Serious difficulties in close relationships due to unrealistic expectations. Stubborn, uncompromising, but devoted to friends and lovers. Easily hurt.
Each of the 20 day-signs are linked to one of the four directions in the order East, North, West and South, beginning with the first sign, Alligator. Like the Elements of Western astrology, the directions symbolize deep orientations of the day-signs.
It appears that the 20-day sequence of signs can also be viewed as five cycles of the four directions. From this perspective the first cycle, led by Alligator, is concerned with the evolution of self. The second cycle, led by Serpent, has to do with the world of others, ie. social life. The day-sign Water begins the third sequence of emotional maturity while Reed begins the fourth which is concerned with intellectual development. Earthquake begins the fifth and final stage, one that appears to deal with spiritual attunement.
Determining one’s day-sign, 13-day sign and the other influences that make up what might be called a Mesoamerican horoscope requires a set of tables or computer program. Because the cycle of 260 days is not tied to the seasons in any way, there are not regular patterns except every 52 years when the solar year and 260 day count meet at the same point. The cycle of 260 days has been maintained meticulously since early times and has been kept alive by an oral tradition to the present day.
Although the issue is not settled, the change from one day-sign to the next appears to some investigators to occur somewhere between 9 and 12 PM Central Standard Time, the time-zone of Mexico. Ritual practices in both ancient and modern times suggest that this is so, as does the curious lack of comment by Spanish friars (writing shortly after the Conquest) in regard to when the day began for the Mexicans. If their day did not begin around midnight, as did the Spanish day, then one would think such a fact would be mentioned in their accounts of Mexican astronomy and astrology.
In Mesoamerican astrology we have a tradition that interprets the influences of time and the cosmic environment in an unfamiliar, yet quite possibly complimentary way, from that of Western astrology. The twenty key signs, like the zodiac, depict symbolically an evolutionary sequence, but one that describes a distinctly non-Western world view. As the different cultures of the world move closer to each other in the next century, perhaps key elements of Mesoamerican astrology may play an important role in the formation of a truly world-class astrological system.