New Fire Ceremonies in the Vienna Codex

In Mesoamerica, as in the southeastern United States and parts of the Old World, it was customary to put out all fires in an area, awaiting some calendrical or astronomical moment to pass. After an event had occurred, a new fire was kindled with much ceremony, and other fires throughout the land were lit from this New Fire.

Susan Snow (1986) did a careful study of the dates in the Nuttall and Vienna codices and was able to show that the Mixtec calendar, unlike the Aztec, was named for its beginning day, which corresponded to a day 6 Mac of the Maya calendar as first recognized by Nowotny. For calculations with Mixtec dates, see Table 12.12. The 121st day of the

Mixtec year corresponded to Maya 1Pop. The position of the days in the year is based on the intertribal tzolkin, checked by astronomical correspondences, and it corresponds to a Maya correlation 584,285, or any correlation constant that is different from this number by a multiple of 18,980. All dates are given in the Julian calendar, and all would be two days earlier in the year with 584,283. The table gives a complete 52-year cycle of named years. For example, Day 1 of Year 13 Rabbit would fall on a day 13 Rabbit equivalent to Maya 6 Mac and to the Julian date Sept. 28, 778. After 120 days, we arrive at Day 121, which would be day 3 Rabbit, equivalent to Maya 3 Lamat 1 Pop. Thus, this is the beginning of a new year in Maya, but not in Mixtec. The following Mixtec year was 1 Reed, equivalent to Sept. 28, 779. In the following 52-year cycle, 1 Reed fell on Sept. 15, 831. Because the Julian calendar year length is 365.25 days, the change in the Julian calendar date is indicated in place of the year for leap years. The table may be extended indefinitely. For convenience of later calculations, day 1Reed, New Year's day of the year 1 Reed, fell on June 29, 1143; June 16,1195; June 3,1247; May 21,1299; May 8,1351; April 25,1403; April 12,1455; March 30,1507; and March 17,1559. This calendar appears in the Vienna codex.

Table 12.12. The 52-year cycle of the Mixtec year with equivalent dates in the western calendar: The Mixtec year, prepared by David H. Kelley, ff. work of Susan Snow and D.H. Kelley. The Mixtec year was named for its beginning day, which corresponded to 6 Mac of the Maya calendar, as first recognized by Nowotny. The 121st day of the Mixtec year corresponded to Maya 1 Pop. The position of the days in the year is based on the intertribal tzolkin, checked by astronomical correspondences and corresponds to a Maya correlation 584,285, modulo 18,980. All dates are given in the Julian calendar, and all would be two days earlier in the year with 584,283. Day 1, 13 Rabbit (= 6 Mac) + 120 = day 121 = Maya 1 Pop 3 Lamat (3 Rabbit) (= Aztec year 1 Rabbit). The table may be extended indefinitely. For convenience of later calculation, day 1 Reed, New Year's day of the year 1 Reed, fell on: 29 June 1143; 16 June, 1195; 3 June, 1247; 21 May, 1299; 8 May, 1351; 25 April, 1403; 12 April, 1455; 30 March, 1507; 17 March, 1559. This calendar was used in the Vienna codex. The Mixtec years overlap years of the Tlaxcallan calendar with the same name and overlap years of the calendar in the Borgia codex. The Tlaxcallan years are named for their 360th day (i.e., the last day of the year excluding the five "extra" days), which was the end of the month Panquetzaliztli (the equivalent of Maya Yaxkin). This day is 260 days after 6 Mac, and hence, the Tlaxcallan calendar begins with Atemoztli, 105 days before the beginning of the Mixtec year. The year-namer of the Borgia codex is also in the 360th position, falling on the equivalent of 16 Uo, 520 days after the Mixtec year-namer.

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