The Place of Reeds uses the three calendar systems of Mesoamerica: 260 day ritual calendar, 365 day vague calendar and the 52 year bundle.
260 day ritual calendar
In this, the most common and ancient of Mesoamerican calendars, 20 day names pairs with 13 day numbers, yielding a count of 260 days (Miller & Taube, 1993). This calendar was the most important for foretelling the future; each day sign and number offered clues for interpretation. Many gods and humans took their name from this calendar, and both gifts and faults were conferred by the birth date. The 260 days probably derives the need to predict the birth date, as it roughly corresponds to the human gestation period, i.e. from time of the first missed menstrual cycle to birth.
The 260 year was grouped into 20 trecena of 13 days (Miller & Taube, 1993). The first day of each trecena always had the day number 1. The auguries of this first day applied to all days within the trecena.
The day names differed slightly depending on the region, but the following table is indicative (based on Miller & Taube, 1993, p. 49, and the Aztec Calendar page of the Mexico Connect site).
|Aztec Day Name||Meaning, Association||Aztec Patron||Augury for those born in the trecena 1-Day Name|
|Crocodile||Surface of the earth||Tonacatecuhtli- Lord of our Sustenance; male aspect of dual gods|
|Wind||Wind||Quetzalcoatyl- Plumbed Serpent; god of knowledge and the preisthood|
|House||Night, darkness, jaguar||Tepeyolohtli- Heart of the Mountain; jaguar god of the interior earth|
|Lizard||Maize, abundance||Huehuecoyotl- Old Coyote; back-biter or mischief-maker|
|Serpent||Serpent||Chalchiuhtlicue- Lady of the jade skirt; goddess of ground waters|
|Death||Death||Tecciztecatl-He from the sea-snail; moon god|
|Deer||Deer||Tlaloc- He who makes things sprout; god of rain and earth fertility|
|Rabbit||Venus, Rabbit||Mayahuel- She of the maguey plant; goddess of pulque (maguey wine)|
|Water||Water||Xiuhtecuhtli- Lord of the year; fire god, patron of rulers||Impoverished; entire trecena generally bad.|
|Dog||Dog||Miclantecuhtli- Lord of Mictlan (Region of the Dead); god of death|
|Monkey||Monkey||Xochipilli- Flower Prince; god of flowers and plants|
|Grass||Patecatl- He from the Land of Medicines; god of medicinal plants|
|Reed||Tezcatlipoca- Smoking mirror; major creator of god, god of fate|
|Jaguar||Jaguar||Tlazolteotl- Eater of Filth; earth mother|
|Eagle||Eagle||Xipe- Totec- Our Flayed Lord; god of seeding and planting|
|Vulture||Itzapapalotl- Obsidian Butterfly; stellar and agricultural goddess|
|Motion||Earth, earthquake||Xolotl- Twin; Monster god, twin of Quetzalcoatl|
|Flint||Flint||Chalchiuhtotolin- Guise of Tezcatlipoca; god of night and the mysterious|
|Rain||Rain, Storm||Chantico- In the House; goddess of the hearth|
|Flower||Sun||Xochiquetzal- Flower of the Rich Plume; goddess of flowers|
365 day vague calendar
The 365 day vague calendar corresponded roughly to the solar year, but lacked the leap years (Miller & Taube, 1993). This lack meant the calendar drifted slowly out of alignment with the seasons, and seasonal festivals would need to be moved. The 365 year was divided into 18 veintena of 20 days, plus 5 unlucky days at the end of the year. The unlucky days were considered particularly dangerous and a child born during that time was ill-omened.
Each vague year was named after a day in the 260 day ritual calendar – these days were called yearbearers and historical dates were given by the yearbear name (Miller & Taube, 1993). Most people, including the Maya, named their vague years after the first day of the ritual calendar; the Aztecs named them after the last day of the 18th veintena, i.e. the day before the unlucky days.
The following table is based on the Aztec Calendar page of the Mexico Connect site.
|Veincena No.||Veincena Name||Aztec Patron Gods||Aztec Rituals|
|I.||Ceasing of Water||Tlaloc, Chachihutlicue||Children sacrificed to water gods|
|II.||Flaying of Men||Xipe-Totec||Gladiatorial sacrifice; dances by priest wearing the flayed skin of victims|
|III.||Little Vigil||Coatlicue, Tlaloc||Flayed skins buried, child sacrifices|
|IV.||Great Vigil||Centeotl, Chicomecacoatl||Blessing of new corn; maiden sacrificed|
|V.||Dryness||Tezcatlipoca, Huitzilopochtli||Impersonators of these major gods sacrificed|
|VI.||Meal of Maize & Beans||Tlaloques||Impersonators of water deities sacrificed by drowning; ritual bathing and dances|
|VII.||Small feast of the Lords||Huixtocihuatl, Xochipilli||Impersonators of the gods sacrificed; ceremony of salt workers|
|VIII.||Great feast of the Lords||Xilonen||Feast for goddess of young corn, lords offer gifts and feast for commoners|
|IX.||Birth of Flowers||Huizilopochtli||All the gods festooned with garlands; feasting on corn-meal cakes and turkey|
|X.||Fall of Fruit||Hueymiccaihuitl (great feast of the dead) Xiuhtecuhtli||Ceremonial pole climbing competition; Sacrifice to fire gods by roasting victims alive|
|XI.||Sweeping of the Roads||Tlazolteotl||Sweeping of house and roads; mock combat|
|XII.||Return of the Gods||Tezcatlipoca||Ceremonies welcoming gods returning to earth; ceremonial drunkenness, sacrifices by fire|
|XIII.||Feast of the Hills||Tlaloc||Ceremonies for mountain rain gods; human sacrifices and ceremonial cannibalism|
|XIV.||Precious Feather||Mixcoatl-Camaxtli||Ritualistic hunt following fast; sacrifice of game and ceremonial feasting|
|XV.||Raising of the Banner||Huitzilopochtli||Homes and fruit trees decorated with paper banners; race-procession; massive sacrifices|
|XVI.||Water Descends||Tlaloc||Festival honouring water gods; children and slaves sacrificed|
|XVII.||Stretching||Llamatecuhtli||Sympathetic magic to bring rain; women beaten with straw-filled bags to make them cry|
|XVIII.||Resuscitation||Xiuhtecuhtli||Image of god made from amaranth dough; feasting on tamales stuffed with greens|
|Empty days||Five unlucky days; no rituals, general fasting|
52 year bundle
Every 52 years (18,98 days) the 260-day calendar and the 365-day calendar synchronised (Miller & Taube, 1993). The Aztecs called this a Year Bundle and celebrated the completion of a year bundle with a new fire ceremony in the Raising of the Banner veincena.
Aztec Calendar page of the Mexico Connect site.
Miller, M., & Taube, K. (1993). An Illustrated Dictionary of the Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya. London: Thames & Hudson.