Monday, July 12, 2010

Jaguar Magicians: Mayan Day-Counters...Part Two

NOTE: Readers may understand this article more easily by first reading
Part One, published June 21, 2010.

The paintings of Juan Fermin Gonzalez Morales accurately capture the details of the way of life of Maya people, a way of life that is changing as the young people leave the villages for life in the city, and many traditions disappear.


IMIX (ee-MISH) Earth Dragon (Mayan) Crocodile (Aztec)
IK (eek) Breath, air, life (Mayan) Wind (Aztec)
AKBAL (a.k.a. UOTAN) Night, darkness (Mayan) House (Aztec)
KAN Ripe Corn (Mayan) Lizard (Aztec)
CHICCHAN Celestial serpent (Mayan) Celestial Serpent (Aztec)
CIMI Death, owl (Mayan) Death (Aztec)
MANIK Grasping hand, deer (Mayan) Deer (Aztec)
LAMAT Venus (Mayan) Rabbit (Aztec)
MULUC (moo-LUKE) Water, rain (Mayan) Rain (Aztec)
OC Dog (Mayan) Dog (Aztec)
CHUEN (chew-EN) Howling monkey (Mayan) Monkey (Aztec)
EB (abe) Tooth (Mayan) Grass (Aztec)
BEN Reed, cane (Mayan) Reed (Aztec)
IX (eesh) Jaguar magician (Mayan) Jaguar (Aztec)
MEN Eagle (Mayan) Eagle (Aztec)
CIB (keeb) Vulture, ancestor (Mayan) Vulture (Aztec)
CA BAN Earthquake (Mayan) Earthquake (Aztec)
ETZ’NAB Flint Knife(Mayan) Flint Knife (Aztec)
CAUAC Storm, Rain (Mayan) Storm, Rain (Aztec)
AHAU (ah-HAW) Lord, Chief (Mayan) Flower (Aztec)


The universe of the Maya was centered on a tieredpyramid, and rest upon a crocodillian cosmic sea. Recall that the first nagua, Imix, is the crocodile.
Each quarter of the earth was associated with color, and the center of the earth was a "fifth direction".

Four sacred beings supported the dome of heaven, illustrated as a two-headed dragon, which had a body as a sky band of celestial symbols. Recall that the fifth nagual, Chicchan, is the celestial serpent, located at the four quarters.

It is arched over the moon goddess, who is holding the rabbit discerned in the moon's face, and a skeletal Venus. From the chart above, we see that the eighth nagual Lamat is associated with both the rabbit and Venus. Venus in this tradition was male. He was associated with a quick, energetic, competitive personality type, and also carried associations with the occult, drunkenness, and death.

Creation of both sun and probably the planet Venus was explained with a legend of Hero twins who vied with the Lords of Death during a series of ball games. The victorious twins became these celestial bodies.

The Mayan Moon was linked with the goddess Ix Chel (esh chelle), or "Lady Rainbow", the wife of the supreme god. She ruled over a woman's world of weaving, childbirth, and healing.


Mayan day-counters use their astrology loosely, as a point of departure. They have a “natal chart”, a 9-nagual diagram (more on this later). They also have twenty personality archetypes, called naguals. Twenty blocks of thirteen days go into a calendar of 260 days – one that appears to be closely associated with the synodic cycle of Mercury.

They also manipulate 260 red tzinte beads to answer a specific question (this sounds a lot like the diloggun, or Vodoun divination), and obtain direct knowing during a Mayan ceremony – all of this is channeled from the Mayan spirits.

Most often, they receive this information as pulses in their veins, which they learn how to interpret with experience. A pulse in the left shoulder means such-and-such, a pulse in the right wrist means something else (somewhat similar to traditional Chinese medicine). The Mayan day-counter knows he is on the right track with the pulses – the astrology part is just an adjunct aid to intuition.


The nagual on the day of one’s birth is the “heart” nagual. It is the foundation nagual that sums up youth and much of adulthood, and the core of one’s personality.

Each nagual is preceded by a numerical coefficient, from 1 to 13:

1-3 are considered timid, immature, and hesitant.
11-13 are considered stronger and more extreme.
The number 8 is the ideal number, and 8 of any nagual, even an unfavorable one, becomes fortunate.

Prior to the Spanish conquest, it was normal for people to be named for their birth nagual; thus the hero of the Popul Vuh legend is named Hun(1)Ajpu.

Mandala painting of animals in the Mayan and Aztec zodiacs by Peter Eglington.

Click on this graphic to enlarge it. The artist's depiction includes animal variants that differ for some of the naguals in this article.

Unlike our Western zodiacal signs, these naguals are considered to be alive and petitionable (the ruling deities of the Vedic nakshatras are also alive and petitionable). One invokes one’s birth nagual for protection, guidance, and blessing. Traditional Mayans still do special propitiatory rituals every 260 days when the nagual and its numerical coefficient coincide.


This is another way that Mayan astrology faintly overlaps with Vedic astrology, which is also based on a lunar cycle. In lunar Vedic astrology, each nakshatra spans 13.20 degrees of the zodiac, for a total of twenty-seven nakshatras (plus a lost nakshatra, the mysterious 28th nakshatra known as Abijit). In Mayan astrology, the bundle of thirteen days is what mattered.

Each block of time, known in Spanish as a trecana (meaning thirteenths) took on the meaning of the nagual generated by the first day of the cycle. A birth occurring during this thirteen-day period is strongly influenced by that trecana.

This means that each birth is designated not only a day-sign, but also by its position within a thirteen day period. (Those of you who are now curious about your own Mayan profile can head to, click on “Maya-Aztec Report” on the top banner, and calculate a free horoscope. Remember that if you were born later than 8:30 pm, you should input the date following your birthday and use that as your day-sign.)

Below is an example which illustrates the trecana and day sign in action.


As in any system, at least a couple of the signs were considered unfortunate, and in Mayan astrology, this lot fell to the 9th nagual, Muluc, and the 19th nagual, Cauac.

Princess Diana was born on the first day of the trecana Cauac, and therefore under the day-sign Cauac. (So was the author of this blog, so you all know why I chose her for the example.) She got a double dose of an unfortunate nagual, yet managed to have a positive impact on millions, before dying at the very young age of thirty-six. Cauac projects youthfulness and compassion, and inclines one toward the healing professions. Diana was concerned for the less fortunate, and made them the focus of her public role. In other circumstances, she might have become a nurse or a teacher.

Further, Venus was in its morning star phase on the day of her birth, a position that inclined Diana toward a social life full of risks. Cauac has an independent streak that causes one to desire time apart from intimates, but it is also a sensitive sign that is overly dependent on family. Taken together with the Morning Star, this meant that Diana could never accept the traditional rules of social interaction, and found herself pushing the social envelope, right up until her death. (p 80 How To Practice Mayan Astrology)

A beautiful turquoise blue color survived the centuries due to its unique chemical characteristics. The use of Mayan Blue survived until the sixteenth century, when the technique was lost.


The Mayan tradition is scattered and fragmentary, and it doesn’t all line up neatly. The Mayan people of Mexico had different naguals from the Mayan people in Guatemala. The Aztec had a different lore and divination traditions, some of which contributed to Mayan astrology. By now, some of you must be wondering how much of this is a reconstructed tradition, and how much of it can be traced to pre-Conquest sources.

Bruce Scofield is upfront about the fact that his book is a reconstruction, and that many of the personality associations with each of the naguals are his interpretation.

The modern delineations presented here are based on comparisons of many people born under each day-sign as well as interpretations of Mayan and Aztec symbolism. They were developed by Bruce Scofield in the late 1980’s and have proven to be accurate and reliable indicators for hundreds of people who have applied them since.

P 16 How To Practice Mayan Astrology


A native’s astrological profile also includes one of four possible positions of Venus with respect to the Sun, and another constant repeating cycle of nine night deities known as the Lords of the Night, each of which impart a different cast of character to the native. A detailed explanation is beyond the scope of this article - for those who run a free profile at and find that they simply must know the meaning, I highly recommend getting a Full Report or, better yet, a copy of “How To Practice Mayan Astrology”.

Buying the book is a better deal, in my opinion, because it has an ephemeris from 1919 – 2021 that lists everything – day-signs, trecanas, Night Lords, Venus phases, you name it. This will allow the reader to look up everybody they know, and not just get a profile for themselves.


Bruce Scofield explains how the events of the Quetzalcoatl myth were associated by the ancient Mayans with components of the astronomical cycle of Venus. He also does a clever, insightful analysis of the similarities between the Mayan view of Venus and the great Western astrologer Dane Rudhyar’s observations about Venus as a morning star or an evening star in natal charts that anyone who is even mildly interested in Rudhyar will most likely appreciate.


The nine Lords of the Night were ruling gods of the Underworld, gods that humanity had to contend with in order to find everlasting life. Not much is known about them – it is possible that they only applied to night births, when the gods of the underworld were dominant. Even many of the Mayan names for these Lords have been lost. Scofield does a good job of explaining what little scholars do know about them.

Hunahphu killing Itzam from the Popol Vuh

Scholars do know that the Maya had these lords tagged to the Long Count, which makes it possible to assign them accurately to any given day in the Western calendar. The Lords of the Night also have their counterparts in the Lords of Death of the Popol Vuh, one of the most important Mayan texts to have the destruction of Mayan culture which followed the Conquest.

One would think that a native with a night birth, say one after 8:30 pm or so, would use the Lord of the Night for the day on which they were born, even if they are using the day-sign for the following day. From what I have observed, however, the Lord of the Night associated with the following day seems to make more sense in most horoscopes.

Like many other ancient cultures, one Mayan creation story involves a World tree, or tree of life. The Mayan World Tree, often represented as a ceiba tree or “Wacah Chan”, embodies the 4 cardinal directions and 4 ordinal directions. North / NE/ East / SE / South / SW / West/ NW


Right arm -14 days, Head -8 days, Left arm -2 days
Right waist -6 days, Heart = Birthday, Left waist +6 days
Right leg +2 days, Feet +8 days, Left leg +14 days

The three naguals in the center column are the most important – these are the ones that I look at first when developing a Mayan natal chart. If I am not going to do a full diagram for someone, I will always at least glance at these three naguals.

As mentioned earlier, the “heart” nagual is the foundation nagual that sums up youth and much of adulthood, and the core of one’s personality.

The “head” nagual shows what is in your mind, how you are thinking, and what you are thinking about. Because it shows how your mind works, it is very important in determining character and destiny.

The” feet” nagual symbolizes what the person seeks and also where the person is going: his destiny, the end of this his life, and his death. It reveals the qualities the person has as he ages. Some people will start manifesting more of this nagual by middle age, but others will see more of it after they retire from their primary careers. The age at which this final nagual starts to manifest noticeably is widely variable, in my experience.


The “right arm” nagual is the person’s force of achievement, his motivation and power, the strength of his personality to reach out and take what he wants.

The “left arm” nagual symbolizes the person’s worries and problems, what impedes or weakens him.

Both right and left waist naguals symbolize duties and obligations. The right side is positive energy, and the left is negative. The left waist shows how one is burdened, held back, or loses what he has won.

The legs show how you move forward through life. The right leg is how you get ahead in life, while the left leg can lead you down the garden path, if you are not careful.

El Parto [Childbirth] 2007. Antonio Vasquez Yojcom paints original themes rather than repetitiously painting the several themes that are sold to tourists around Santiago Atitlan in Guatemala.


There is a reason why I focus primarily on the “heart”, “head”, and “feet” naguals. The “right leg” nagual and the “left arm” nagual also make sense in terms of the person’s life experience. But the remaining four naguals aren’t all that meaningful when delineating a natal chart, because they tend to contradict each other.

There is a nagging problem of duplication in the numerical sequence of the natal diagram which makes it difficult to interpret. Using the example of Princess Diana again, we see that the “right arm” nagual (-14 days) is the same as the “left waist” nagual (+6 days), and the “right waist” nagual (-6 days) is the same as the “left leg” nagual (+14 days). Only the numerical coefficients are different. This is true for any diagram drawn using this method, and is not unique to the date of birth of Princess Diana (or the blog author’s).


Right arm -14 days
Head -8 days
Left arm -2 days
Right waist -6 days
Heart = Birthday 1-CAUAC
Left waist +6 days
Right leg +2 days
Feet +8 days
Left leg +14 days

If the right arm is the force and motivation to get ahead, to reach out and get what you want – then why should it be the same as the left waist, the responsibilities and obligations that hold you back? The same contradiction emerges with the “right waist” and the “left leg” naguals.

Good luck trying to explain how opposite interpretations both apply to a person’s life. The differing coefficients don’t offer enough of a distinction to be meaningful. I have a feeling that this system worked for the ancient day-counters who used it, but not enough of it is left for us to figure out how they got around the apparent discrepancy noted above.


This is what most readers probably want to know, so I won’t disappoint you. Her unfortunate “heart” nagual, Cauac, has already been discussed .

Her “mind” nagual was the 11th nagual, Chuen, the howling monkey. It is associated with the soul of the artist or craftsman. It is an attention-getting, clever, demonstrative archetype that is often found working or at least interested in the performing or communication industries. Chuen likes to “play the field”, which is just another way of getting attention, as Scofield points out. People with this nagual influencing their minds learn at a fast pace, and are interested in almost everything around them, but tend to have a problem with commitment in relationships.

Her “right leg” nagual was the first nagual, Imix, the fertile crocodile that is most associated with parenthood and acting as a steward for the next generation. It is certainly true that Princess Diana got ahead in life by becoming the mother of the future King of England. Motherhood is what secured her position in the Palace, rather than any emotion she may have felt toward her ex-husband, Prince Charles.

Her “left arm” nagual was the 17th nagual, Caban, the earthquake. The “left arm” impedes or weakens the native. One thinks of unexpected catastrophes, and circumstances completely beyond one’s control, and this nagual does fit the circumstances of her death very well.

Her “feet” or destiny nagual would hardly have had time to take effect at the young age that Princess Diana died, but to some onlookers, glimpses of it may already have been evident. Her destiny nagual was Manik, the sign of a personality who struggles with issues of freedom versus security. Manik displays an urge to take off for parts unknown, but balances with it a desire to care for their loved ones. Equality of the sexes emerges as the signature of this nagual, as does creating somewhat unconventional personal lifestyles.

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