Calendar Names of Gods and Planetary Identities

In parts of Mesoamerica, most or all of the deities seem to have had both proper names and calendar names that marked the date of their birth. Humans were also named in this way. In discussing calendar names and dates, we follow Long's (1926, p. 239) convention of citing dates with an ordinal number such as 13 Wind, 9 House, and so on, and names of humans or gods as Thirteen Wind, Nine House, and so on.

Seler (1902-1903/1960-1961, pp. 17-19) had argued that three dates in the mythical past at Palenque were the birth dates of three gods, who could be identified if the dates corresponded with their calendar names. The arguments and supporting dates for this view were amplified by DHK (Kelley 1965). It is now accepted that the dates refer to the births of three gods who were called the "Palenque Triad" by Berlin (1963) and designated "GI," "GII," and "GIII." The dates and births were recorded as: 9 Ik 15 Ceh birth of GI —Venus 13 Cimi 19 Ceh birth of GII — "Jaguar Baby" 1 Ahau 13 Mac birth of GIII — (God K)

The general conclusion has been accepted but the details based on the calendar names have not. DHK argued that Nine Wind (9 Ik) was the name of Quetzalcoatl in central Mexico, the equivalent of Maya Kukulcan, widely identified as Venus. Among the Mixtecs, colonial sources said that there were two supernatural brothers, both named Nine Wind, children of One Deer. One Flower (1 Ahau) was the central Mexican name of Cinteotl (Corn God) and of Xochipilli (Flower Prince), a Sun god. The Quiche Maya equivalent, Hun Hunahpu, was the name of a decapitated god, whose head in the form of a gourd impregnated the young goddess who eventually gave birth to the twin heroes. The date 1 Ahau 13 Mac appears in the Dresden Venus table and seems to be associated with the tropical year. The least well documented of the triad is Thirteen Death (13 Cimi), a lord of the underworld, although here given the name of the "Jaguar Baby," one of the twins.

The only attempt to collect the known calendar names of the Mesoamerican deities is by Caso (1961,1967). Sometimes the same calendar name was applied to completely different deities, and sometimes a single god had several different calendar names. Despite the obvious implications of chronological sequence in the array of calendar names, no one had attempted to determine any rationale for the names until Kelley (1980) did so. In that monograph, Kelley attempted to demonstrate that a large number (potentially all) of the calendar names were counted from a single base, 12 Lamat 1 Pop, a Maya New Year's day named by the equivalent of highland Mesoamerican 12 Rabbit. This base date falls approximately 216 years before the normal Maya era base at 4 Ahau 8 Cumku. The number of days from the base date to the date that supplied the calendar name often defined obvious astronomical intervals. Because the calendar names repeat after 260 days and nothing inherently indicates which repetition is significant, this introduces an element of doubt into the analysis. However, it was found that the deities were frequently lords of the month in which a particular repetition of their calendar name fell. This greatly reduces the probability of error. Kelley (1980) identified over 40 calen-drically named deities as associated with particular astronomical intervals. Because all the identifications rest on the single hypothesis, all are strongly interlocked and the bulk of the identifications must be accepted or rejected as a unit, although some secondary identifications after several repetitions of the day name, are more dubious. In the years since the publication of that study, very few scholars have formally accepted or rejected the premises on which it rests. Because the identifications shed a mass of light on Mesoamerican astronomy and because they still seem to us compelling, most of the identifications are included here, together with some new evidence on the general hypothesis and on some of the identifications (see Table 12.7).

Table 12.7. Postulated astronomical identities of gods from calendar names.

Table 12.7(a). Planetary deities.


Mean synodic period(s)

Calendar date and distance from base and notes on Madrid table

Names of Gods in the 260-day period

Deity associations of the months


115.8774 (inferior conjunction)

173.8161 (1--) (superior conjunction)

231.7548 (2) (inferior conjunction)

115. 9 Ik 15 Xul Depiction of Quetzal-snake

(172. 1 Cauac 12 Ch'en) 175. 4Ik 15 Ch'en Depiction of Chac, Rain God

231. 8 Etz'nab 11 Ceh

232. 9 Cauac 12 Ceh

Nine Wind Quetzalcoatl (Quetzal-snake) end of Xul dedicated to Kukulcan

(Quetzal snake)

One Rain, Mixtec rain god Four Wind Tlaloc-Quetzalcoatl

Eight Flint Tlaloc-cihuatl (Rain god woman) Nine Rain Tlaloc

Ch'en = Tititl, magic to bring rain name

Table 12.7. Continued.

Table 12.7(a). Planetary deities.

Planet name

Mean synodic period(s)

Calendar date and distance from base and notes on Madrid table

Names of Gods in the 260-day period

Deity associations of the months


289.6935 (2-) (superior conjunction)

405.5709 (3--) (superior conjunction)

463.5096 (4) (inferior conjunction)

0 0

Post a comment