Day Symbols of the Maya Year
by Cyrus Thomas
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Transcriber's Note

This paper is an extract from the following publication:

Powell, J. W. 1897 Sixteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology. pp. 199-266. Government Printing Office, Washington, D.C.

The index was extracted from the complete volume index.

Inconsistencies in hyphenation and spelling have been maintained, along with two typographical errors. The typographical errors are marked with [TN-#] in the text. A complete list of inconsistencies and errors is found at the end of this paper.

The original publication used characters which are not available in the character set used in this version of the text. They have been replaced with the following codes:

[c] open o h h with stroke





Page Introductory 205 The first day 207 The second day 215 The third day 221 The fourth day 226 The fifth day 229 The sixth day 231 The seventh day 232 The eighth day 235 The ninth day 237 The tenth day 239 The eleventh day 241 The twelfth day 243 The thirteenth day 245 The fourteenth day 248 The fifteenth day 250 The sixteenth day 252 The seventeenth day 254 The eighteenth day 258 The nineteenth day 259 The twentieth day 262 Appendix—A list of the deities of the days of the month in the Maori calendar 265


Page PLATE LXIV. Copies of glyphs from the codices 208 LXV. Copies of glyphs from the codices 226 LXVI. Copies of glyphs from the codices 242 LXVII. Copies of glyphs from the codices 252 LXVIII. Copies of glyphs from the codices 260 LXIX. Shell bearing Maya glyphs 262




As the origin and signification of the day and month, names of the Maya calendar, and of the symbols used to represent these time periods, are now being discussed by students of Mexican and Central American paleography, I deem it advisable to present the result of my investigations in this line. The present paper, however, will be limited to the days only, as I have but little to add in regard to the month names or symbols. As the conclusion reached by Drs Seler and Brinton in regard to the order and sequence of the days of the month in the different calendars appears to be satisfactorily established, it will be accepted.

As frequent allusion is made herein to the phoneticism or phonetic value of the written characters or hieroglyphs, it is proper that the writer's position on this point should be clearly understood. He does not claim that the Maya scribes had reached that advanced stage where they could indicate each letter-sound by a glyph or symbol. On the contrary, he thinks a symbol, probably derived in most cases from an older method of picture writing, was selected because the name or word it represented had as its chief phonetic element a certain consonant sound or syllable. If this consonant element were b, the symbol would be used where b was the prominent consonant element of the word to be indicated, no reference, however, to its original signification being necessarily retained. Thus the symbol for cab, "earth," might be used in writing Caban, a day name, or cabil, "honey," because cab is their chief phonetic element.

In a previous work[205-1] I have expressed the opinion that the characters are to a certain extent phonetic—are not true alphabetic signs, but syllabic. And at the same time I expressed the opinion that even this definition did not hold true of all, as some were apparently ideographic, while others were simple abbreviated pictorial representations. In a subsequent paper[205-2] I expressed substantially the same opinion, and gave as my belief that one reason why attempts at decipherment have failed of success is a misconception of the peculiar character of the writing, which peculiarity is found in the fact that, as it exists in the codices and inscriptions, it is in a transition stage from the purely ideographic to the phonetic. I stated also my belief that the writing had not reached the stage when each sound was indicated by a glyph or sign.

This may further be explained by the following illustration: The conventionalized figure of a turtlehead is the symbol for a "turtle," ak, ac, or aac in Maya; and a conventionalized footprint is the symbol for "step" or "road," be, beil, in Maya. These may be brought together to form the word akyab or kayab, which may have no reference to the original signification of the combined symbols. These two glyphs are, in fact, combined to form the symbol for the month Kayab.

These statements will perhaps suffice to make clear my views on this question, which do not appear to have been clearly understood, possibly because of my frequent use of the words "phonetic" and "phoneticism," and perhaps rather loose reference to "letter elements."

It is proper, however, to add that I am inclined to the opinion that modification in the form and details of a glyph which belongs to the class which, for want of a better term, we may designate "phonetic," in many cases indicates a modification or change in the signification or word value. I say in "many cases," because these modifications are due often to the greater or lesser accuracy with which the glyph is drawn, the caprice of the scribe, and other causes which have no reference to sound or signification. For example, the change of a rounded or circular symbol to a face figure, as is often done, does not appear, at least in the day signs, to have any significance. On the other hand, a slight variation, if permanent, may be indicative of a difference in signification or phonetic value. This appears to be true, to some extent, whether we consider the characters ideographic or as, in some sense, phonetic.

The lists of the days in the Maya, Tzental, Quiche-Cakchiquel, Zapotec, and Nahuatl, in the order usually given, are as follows:

Names of the days in the different calendars

- - - - Maya Tzental Quiche-Cakchiquel Zapotec Nahuatl - - - - Imix. Imox. Imox. Chilla. Cipactli. Ik. Igh. Ik'. Gui, Ni, Laa. Ehecatl. Akbal. Votan. Akbal. Guela. Calli. Kan. Ghanan. K'at. Guache. Cuetzpallin. Chicchan. Abagh. Can. Ci, Ziie. Cohuatl. Cimi. Tox. Camey. Lana. Miquiztli. Manik. Moxic. Quch. China. Mazatl. Lamat. Lambat. Canel. Lapa. Tochtli. Muluc. Molo. Toh. Niza. Atl. Oc. Elab. Tzi. Tella. Itzcuintli. Chuen. Batz. Batz. Goloo. Ozomatli. Eb. Euob. E, Ee. Pija. Mallinalli. Ben, Been. Ben. Ah. Quii. Acatl. Ix, Hix. Hix. Balam. Eche. Ocelotl. Men. Tziquin. Tziquin. Naa. Quauhtli. Cib. Chabin. Ahmak. Loo. Cozcaquauhtli. Caban. Chic. Noh. Xoo. Ollin. Edznab. Chinax. Tihax. Gopaa. Tecpatl. Cauac. Cahogh. Caoc. Appe. Quiahuitl. Ahau. Aghual. Hunahpu. Lao. Xochitl. - - - -


Maya, imix (or ymix); Tzental, imox or mox; Quiche-Cakchiquel, imox or moxin; Zapotec, chilla or chiylla; Nahuatl, cipactli.

The symbol of this day, which is quite uniform in the day series of the codices, is shown in plate LXIV, 1.[207-1] In this the essential features appear to be the black spot at the top, the semicircle of dots around it, and the short perpendicular lines in the lower half. The form on the right slab of the "Palenque tablet," and also in the Lorillard City inscription, copied by Charney,[TN-1] is given in plate LXIV, 2. The only particular in which this differs from the other is that the little circle at the top is crosshatched. The form shown in LXIV, 3, is found in the Tikal inscription; it shows also the crosshatching in the little circle at the top. This character, however, when combined with other glyphs, and when used otherwise than as a day symbol, sometimes varies from the types given. For example, in the symbol of the month Mac it is as shown in plate LXIV, 4. In this a minute, divided oblong, takes the place of the dark spot at the top, and a double curved line accompanies the circle of dots. Another form is shown in plate LXIV, 5. The only variation in this from the usual type is the introduction of two or three minute circles in the curved line of dots and the divided oblong. Dr Seler is inclined to believe that these are essential variants from the true imix symbol; nevertheless, as m is the chief consonant element both in imix, or mox and mac, there appears to be a relation between the form of the glyphs and their phonetic value.

Drs Seler and Schellhas believe im to be the radical of imix and imox, which are dialectal variations of the same word. Dr Brinton, however, basing his opinion on the fact that mox and moxin are used sometimes as equivalents, decides that the radical syllable is m-x. In this he is probably correct, and if so, this furnishes additional evidence of the close relation between form and sound, as in one case m-x are the chief phonetic elements and in the other m-c. It is probable that Drs Schellhas and Seler were led to their conclusion by the fact that the symbol bears a close resemblance to the conventional form of the female breast, which in Maya is im. This, which was perhaps the origin of the symbol, was probably selected simply because m is its only prominent element. Nevertheless, it is worthy of notice that the symbol for the day Ix is frequently represented as shown in plate LXVI, 36, from Tro. 5*c. This is similar in some respects to the Imix symbol, and the name contains the i and x of the latter. If the writing is phonetic, the points of resemblance may have some significance, otherwise they do not.

In a previous paper[208-1] I suggested that the probable signification of the character LXIV, 7, from Dres. 14c and 46b, is maax, "monkey, ape, imitator." Below the text in each case is seen a dark male figure (or deity), to which it undoubtedly refers, as is conceded by Drs Schellhas and Seler. The face character, which forms part of the glyph, may be only a determinative; at least I am unable to assign it any other value in this connection, and the necessity for such determinative is apparent. Brasseur, under akab-maax, speaks of a phantom or hobgoblin of this name, which he says signifies "the great monkey of the night." Perez gives as definitions "duende" (elf or hobgoblin) and "mico nocturno." Henderson, who writes the name akabmax, simply says "sprite, phantom." It would seem, therefore, that among the superstitious beliefs of the Maya was that of a night phantom or deity, which took the form of a monkey. But this black figure appears to be different from those on Tro. 34*-31*, with which Seler connects it and to which he applies the name Ekchuah.[208-2]

In the paper above referred to, I have interpreted the symbol shown in plate LXIV, 8 (from Dres. 35c) maach, "the crow," assuming the birdhead to be a determinative. Seler concludes that the bird which this represents is "a substitute, colleague, or symbol of the Rain god Chac," the so-called Maya Tlaloc so frequently represented in the codices. Although there is in this case no bird figure below to confirm our interpretation, yet it appears to be justified by the comparisons given and by its agreement with the phonetic value of the imix symbol. It is also further confirmed by the two glyphs shown in plate LXVIII, 13, 14, which occur together in Dres. 38b. In this case the two characters, which are combined in plate LXIV, 8, are separated, yet must have the same signification. Here the bird figure (a man with a bird's head or bird mask) is seen below. In both instances rain is represented, showing that the bird is supposed to bear some relation thereto. But it is more likely that it has direct reference to the wind which accompanies the rain storm rather than to "fruitfulness," as Seler supposes. Be this, however, as it may, our rendering of the imix symbol in this connection appears to be justified, and indicates that the symbol is used here for its phonetic value rather than with any reference to its primary signification.

Dr Seler also refers in this connection to the lower line of symbols on Dres. 29-30b (three of which are shown in plate LXVIII, 15, 16, 17); to those shown in plate LXVIII, 18, 19, from Tro. 14c; and those shown in plate LXVIII, 20, 21, from Tro. 11a. He remarks that "in a number of hieroglyphs the character imix stands as an equivalent of a peculiar animal head which bears as a distinctive mark the element akbal over the eye. Thus in the hieroglyphs enumerating those above mentioned which, standing after the hieroglyphs of the cardinal points, seem to express the deities presiding over them, indeed there appears here on the same animal head, on one hand the character imix, on the other the element figure 165" (our plate LXIV, 5).

Although I am unable to interpret satisfactorily the imix symbols in the places above referred to, I think it can be made apparent that Dr Seler's explanation is without foundation. For instance, by referring to the plates of the Dresden and Troano codices mentioned, it will be seen that there is nothing whatever that refers to an "animal head which bears the element akbal over the eye," unless we suppose it to be in plate LXVIII, 16 (from Dres. 29b) and LXVIII, 21 (from Tro. 11a). There is no figure below or connected with either series to justify this conclusion. It is also certain that plate LXVIII, 21 (Tro. 11a) is not an animal head. Possibly plate LXVIII, 16 (Dres. 29b) may be intended for an animal head, but this is not certain and, moreover, it is not repeated in the series.

Referring to Cort. 27a it will be seen that the compound glyph shown in plate LXVIII, 22 (apparently the same as that on Tro. 11a) is repeated four times in one line, each connected with a cardinal point symbol, and each standing immediately over and evidently referring to a large vessel.[209-1] It is stated that it was a custom among the Maya during certain religious ceremonies to place a vessel in their temples at each of the four cardinal points.[209-2] As cum and xamach are Maya words signifying vessel, we still find in these the m sound. It is therefore possible that the similar glyphs on Dres. 29b and Tro. 14 and 15 also refer to vessels. The supposition seems to be strengthened by the fact that connected with the former are figures of the four classes of food animals—quadrupeds, birds, reptiles (iguana), and fishes. The latter refer to the hunter's occupation, being accompanied by figures of the deer. Landa, in his descriptions of the various festivals, repeatedly alludes to the four Chacs or Bacabs which represent the four cardinal points, and to the different classes of food animals presented where vessels were used. It is therefore more likely that the symbol is used in the places mentioned because of its phonetic value rather than as a substitute for the heads of lightning animals, for which supposed substitution Dr Seler admits he can not account.

Dr Seler refers also to the glyph on which the long nose deity is seated, Dres. 44a, shown in our plate LXVIII, 23. The prefix he interprets by "man, human being," and supposes the whole glyph refers to the attributes of the Rain god. As the deity holds a fish in his hand, and is seen in the lowest division of the same plate in the act of seining fish, is it not more likely that this symbol should be rendered by cayom, "a fisherman"? This is appropriate and retains the phonetic value of the imix symbol.

In the compound glyph 24, plate LXVIII, from Dres. 67b, to which Seler also refers in the same connection, we see in the figure below the same deity wading in water in which a fish is swimming. The right portion of the symbol is the same as the last (plate LXVIII, 23) and presumably has the same signification—cayom, "a fisherman," or cayomal, "to fish." I am unable to interpret the first or left-hand character; possibly it may be found in one of the terms chucay, or [c]aucay, which Henderson gives as equivalents of cayomal. The latter—[c]aucay—would give to this prefix precisely the phonetic value I have hitherto assigned it.

The next character Dr Seler refers to in this connection is that shown in plate LXVIII, 25, from Dres. 40c, where the long-nose god is seen below rowing a boat on the water. The adjoining symbol in the text is a fish. It is probable therefore that substantially the same interpretation is to be given here.

The group shown in plate LXIV, 9, consisting of an Imix and Kan symbol, is of frequent occurrence in all the codices. The relation of the characters in this combination varies, the order being frequently the reverse of that given in the figure, and again one being placed on top of the other. They frequently follow deity symbols, especially the symbol of the so called "Corn god," and in these instances seem to refer to some attribute of the divinity indicated. However, they are by no means confined to these relations, being found quite frequently in other connections. The combination is occasionally borne upon the back of an individual, as Dres. 16a, and on Tro. 21b it is on the back of a dog. Dr Seler concludes "that it denotes the copal or the offering of incense." However, he subsequently[210-1] expresses the view that it may signify "beans and maize." In a previous work[210-2] some reasons were presented by me for believing this combination was intended to denote bread or maize bread. This belief is based on the statement by Landa in his account of the sacrifices at the beginning of the year Muluc, that they made "images of dogs, in baked earth, carrying bread on the back," and the fact that in plate 21 of the Codex Tro., representing the sacrifices of this year, we see the figure of a dog with this Kan-Imix group on its back. This figure (plate LXIV, 10) probably represents the images of which Landa speaks, and the symbols on the back, bread or food in the general sense. Further notice of this combination will be given under the fourth day, Kan.

The character shown in plate LXVIII, 26, from Tro. 20*d, is erroneously given by Seler as an example of the kan-imix symbol. The two glyphs on the mat figure are unquestionably imix symbols, though of the two different types shown in plate LXIV, 1 and 5. He suggests that here it replaces the deity symbol, but this is contradicted by the fact that in both groups where it appears the deity symbol is present. The mat-like figure, which is probably a determinative, shows that it refers to the sack, bag, or kind of hamper which the women figured below bear on the back, filled with corn, bones, etc. As mucuc signifies "portmanteau, bag, sack, etc," mucub "a bag or sack made of sackcloth," and mucubcuch "to carry anything in a sack or folded in a shawl," it is more than probable we have in these words the signification of the symbol. The duplication of the imix symbol may be to denote the plural; or, as the words come from a root signifying "secret, hidden, covered," it may be to intensify. It is noticeable also that the latter or right-hand Imix symbol is similar to that used for the mouth Mac.

In the right section of Dres. 41b is the glyph shown in plate LXIV, 11, which, according to the phonetic system that appears to prevail in this writing, may be translated yulpolic, from yulpol, "to smooth or plane wood," or, as given by Henderson (MS. Lexicon), "to smooth, plane, or square timber, to beat off the log." This interpretation, which is given here merely because of its relation to the symbol which follows, is based in part on the following evidence: The left character, which has y as its chief phonetic element, is the same as the upper character in the symbol for the month Yax (plate LXIV, 12), and also the upper character of the symbol for the month Yaxkin (plate LXIV, 13). Other evidence of its use with this value will be presented farther on, and also in reference to the right character of the above-mentioned symbol (plate LXIV, 11), which has been given p as its chief phonetic element. By reference to the figure below the text the appropriateness of this rendering is at once apparent, as here is represented an individual in the act of chipping off the side of a tree. This he appears to be doing by holding in his left hand an instrument resembling a frow, which he strikes with a hatchet.

The character immediately below the one above mentioned and belonging to the same series is shown in plate LXIV, 14. It may be interpreted mamachah, "to make flat by repeated strokes." The phonetic value of the parts is obtained in this way. The upper character with two wings is Landa's ma, except that the circular wings contain the lines or strokes which the bishop has omitted, and which appear to indicate the m sound and are observed in the Imix symbol. Colonel Mallery, comparing this with the sign of negation made by the Indians and that of the Egyptians given by Champollion (our plate LXIV, 15), concludes that it is derived from the symmetrically extended arms with the hands curved slightly downward. This will furnish an explanation of the strokes in the terminal circles. The left of the two lower characters is almost identical with the symbol for the month Mac (plate LXIV, 4), omitting the ca glyph. The lower right-hand character is similar to the symbol for the month Chuen. We thus obtain legitimately the sounds ma ma-ch, whether we consider the parts truly phonetic or only ikonomatic.

For further illustration of the use of this symbol and evidence of phoneticism, the reader is referred to the article in the American Anthropologist above mentioned.

The fact that a symbol is used to denote a given Maya day does not prove, supposing it to be in any sense phonetic, that the Maya name gives the original equivalent. It may have been adopted to represent the older name in the Tzental, or borrowed from the Zapotec calendar and retained in the Maya calendar for the new name given in that tongue. However, the symbol for this first day, which has substantially the same name in the Maya and Tzental, appears to represent the name in these languages and to be in some degree phonetic, m being the chief phonetic element represented by it. The crosshatching in the little circle at the top, seen in some of the older forms found in the inscriptions, may indicate, as will later be seen, the x or ch sound, thus giving precisely the radical m-x.

It may be said, in reference to the signification of the names of the day in different dialects, that no settled or entirely satisfactory conclusion has been reached in regard to either.

The Cakchiquel word imox is translated by the grammarian Ximenes as "swordfish," thus corresponding with the usual interpretation of the Mexican cipactli. Dr Seler thinks, however, that the Maya names were derived, as above stated, from im. Nevertheless he concludes that the primitive signification of both the Maya and Mexican symbols is the earth, "who brings forth all things from her bosom and takes all living things again into it." If we may judge from its use, there is no doubt that the Mexican cipactli figure is a symbol of the earth or underworld. The usual form of the day symbol in the Mexican codices is shown in plate LXIV, 16, and more elaborately in plate LXIV, 17. As proof that it indicates the earth or underworld, there is shown on plate 73 of the Borgian Codex an individual, whose heart has been torn from his breast, plunging downward through the open jaws of the monster into the shades or earth below. On plate 76 of the same codex, the extended jaws open upward, and into them a number of persons are marching in regular order. These apparently represent the thirteen months of the sacred year. One has passed on and disappeared from view, and the other twelve are following with bowed heads. It would seem from these to be not only symbolic of the earth or hades, but also to have some relation to time.

For positive proof that it is sometimes used to denote the earth, or that from which vegetation comes, it is only necessary to refer to the lower right-hand figure of plate 12, Borgian Codex. Here is Tlaloc sending down rain upon the earth, from which the enlivened plants are springing forth and expanding into leaf and blossom. The earth, on which they stand and from which they arise, is represented by the figure of the mythical Cipactli.

It is quite probable that the monster on plates 4 and 5 of the Dresden Codex, which appears to be of the same genus, is a time symbol, and also that on plate 74 of the same codex. It is therefore more than likely that the animal indicated by the Mexican name of the day is mythical, represented according to locality by some known animal which seems to indicate best the mythical conception. Some figures evidently refer to the alligator, and others apparently to the iguana; that on plates 4 and 5 of the Dresden Codex is purely mythical, but contains reptilian characteristics.

Dr Brinton, probably influenced to some extent by the apparent signification of the Nahuatl name and symbol, explains the other names as follows:

This leads me to identify it [the Maya name] with, the Maya mex or meex, which is the name of a fish (the "pez arana," "un pescado que tiene muchos brazos"), probably so called from another meaning of mex, "the beard." ... This identification brings this day name into direct relation to the Zapotec and Nahuatl names. In the former, chiylla, sometimes given as pi-chilla, is apparently from bi-chilla-beo, water lizard, and Nahuatl cipactli certainly means some fish or fish-like animal—a swordfish, alligator, or the like, though exactly which is not certain, and probably the reference with them was altogether mythical.

Dr Seler, in his subsequent paper, gives the following explanation of the Zapotec name chilla or chijlla:

For this I find in the lexicon three principal meanings: One is the cubical bean (wurfel bohne). "Pichijlla, frisolillos o havas con que echan las suertes los sortilegos" [beans used by the sorcerers in casting lots or telling fortunes]; another meaning is "the ridge" (pichijlla, lechijlla, chijllatani, loma o cordillera de sierra); another is "the crocodile" (cocodrillo, lagarto grande de agua); and another "swordfish" (pella-pichijlla-tao, espadarte pescado). Finally, we have chilla-tao, "the great Chilla," given again as one of the names of the highest being. Here it seems to me that the signification "crocodile" is the original one, and thus far suitable. For the manner in which the first day character is delineated in Mexican and Zapotec picture writing [our plate LXIV, 16] shows undoubtedly the head of the crocodile with the movable snapping upper jaw, which is so characteristic of the animal.

Attention is called to the apparently closely related word as given by Perez—mech, ixmech, "lagartija."

It will not be out of place here to refer to a superstition pervading the islands of the Pacific ocean, which seems strangely coincident with the conception of the physical symbol of this day. This is a mythological monster known in some sections by the name Taniwha, and in others as moko or mo'o.

Dr Edward Tregear[214-1] speaks of it as follows:

Taniwha were water monsters generally. They mostly inhabited lakes and streams, but sometimes the sea. Sometimes the beast was a land animal, a lizard, etc, but the true taniwha is a water kelpie.

Mr Kerry Nichols,[214-2] speaking of these monsters, says:

With the other fabulous creations of Maori mythology were the taniwhas or evil demons, mysterious monsters in the form of gigantic lizards, who were said to inhabit subterranean caves, the deep places of lakes and rivers, and to guard tabued districts. They were on the alert to upset canoes and to devour men. Indeed, these fabulous monsters not only entered largely into the religious superstitions, but into the poetry and prose of Maori tradition.

The Hawaiian Mo'o or Moko appears, from the following statement by Judge Fornander, to have been applied sometimes to this mythological monster:

The Mo'o or Moko mentioned in tradition—reptiles and lizards—were of several kinds—the mo'o with large, sharp, glistening teeth; the talking mo'o, moo-olelo; the creeping mo'o, moo-kolo; the roving, wandering mo'o, moo-pelo; the watchful mo'o, moo-kaala; the prophesying mo'o, moo-kaula; the deadly mo'o, moo-make-a-kane. The Hawaiian legends frequently speak of mo'o of extraordinary size living in caverns, amphibious in their nature, and being the terror of the inhabitants.[214-3]

According to the Codex Fuen-leal, at the beginning of things the gods made thirteen heavens, and beneath them the primeval water, in which they placed a fish called cipactli (queses como caiman). This marine monster brought the dirt and clay from which they made the earth, which, therefore, is represented in their paintings resting on the back of a fish.

A similar conception is found both in Malay and Hindu mythology, differing somewhat in details, but always relating to some monster reptile. In the Manek Maya, one of the ancient epics of Java, Anta Boga, the deity presiding over the lowest region of the earth, is a dragon-like monster with ninety nostrils. The same conception is found also among other peoples.

In the Tonga language moco is "a species of lizard;" in Hawaiian mo'o or moko is "the general name for lizards," and the same word signifies "lizard" in Samoan; moko-moko is the New Zealand (Maori) name for a small lizard. Taylor[214-4] says that moko-titi was a "lizard god."

It is therefore evident that a superstition regarding some reptilian water monster prevailed throughout the Pacific islands. It is true also that the Nahuatl cipactli certainly means some amphibious or water animal—a swordfish, alligator, or something of the kind, though exactly which is not certain—or, what is more likely, the reference was altogether mythical.

It is possible, and perhaps probable, as stated above, that the Maya symbol of this day was taken originally from the conventional method of representing the female breast. Drs Seler and Schellhas appear to be of this opinion. But it does not necessarily follow from this that the character used for the name of the day has any reference to the female breast, as it is more likely used in this relation for its phonetic value alone, m being the chief phonetic element indicated thereby.

If the supposition herein advanced that the combination shown in plate LXIV, 9, denotes bread or food be correct, it is possible that the symbol is also sometimes used to indicate "maize," ixim or xim, on account of its phonetic value. As will be shown farther on, the kan symbol is not only used to denote the grain of maize and maize in the general sense, but it appears to denote in some cases bread or the tortilla.


Maya, ik; Tzental, igh; Quiche-Cakchiquel, ik'; Zapotec, gui, ni, laa, laala or liaa; Nahuatl, ehecatl.

The form of the symbol of this day presents a number of minor variations, the more important of which are shown in plate LXIV, 18-26. Symbol 18 is the form given by Landa; 19-24, those found in the codices; 25 is from the left slab of the Palenque tablet or altar plate, and 26 is from the Tikal inscription.

So far as this character can satisfactorily be interpreted, where used otherwise than as a day symbol, the signification appears to be wind, spirit, or life, whether considered phonetic or not. As illustrations of its use, the following examples are presented:

At the right side of Dres. 72c are the three characters shown in plate LXIV, 27, 28, and 29, which follow one another downward, as shown in the figure, the three forming one of the short columns of the series to which they belong. From the lowest, which is the ik symbol, waving blue lines, indicating water, extend downward to the bottom of the division. If these glyphs are considered ideographic and not phonetic, it is still possible to give them a reasonable interpretation. The falling water shows that they relate to the rain storm or tempest. The uppermost character, which appears to be falling over on its side, we may assume to be the symbol of a house or building of some kind;[215-1] the dotted lines extending from its surface may well be supposed to represent rain driven from the roof. There is, however, another possible interpretation of this character which appears to be consistent with Mexican and Central American mythology. It is that it indicates a house, vessel, or region of the heavens which holds the waters of the upper world. The turning on the side would, in this case, denote the act of pouring out the water in the form of rain. This supposition (although I am inclined to adopt the former) appears to be supported by the fact that this character is used in the Dresden Codex as one of the cloud or heaven symbols, as, for example, on plates 66 and 68. According to Ramirez, the Mexican wind and rain gods occupy a large mansion in the heavens, which is divided into four apartments, with a court in the middle. In this court stand four enormous vases of water, and an infinite number of very small slaves (the rain drops) stand ready to dip out the water from one or the other of these vases and pour it on the earth in showers.[216-1] As the lowest character in the group mentioned is the ik symbol, its appropriate rendering here is beyond question "wind;" therefore, as two out of the three characters, and the rain sign below, indicate the rain storm, we may take for granted that the middle character probably refers to lightning or thunder.

Additional reasons for this interpretation are given in a previous paper[216-2] and need not be repeated here, as the only object now in view in referring to them is to show that the ik symbol is there used to denote wind.

In the third and fourth divisions of plate 16* Codex Troano, five persons are represented, each holding in his hand an ik symbol from which arises what appear to be the sprouting leaves of a plant, probably maize (plate LXIV, 30, 31). This is interpreted by Dr Seler as the heart just taken from the sacrificed victim, the leaf-shape figures representing the vapor rising from the warm blood and flesh. It is unnecessary to give here his reasons for this belief, as the suggestion presented below, although wholly different, gives to the symbol in this place substantially the same meaning that he assigns to it, to wit, life, vitality. It is probable that the figure is intended to represent the germination of a plant—the springing forth of the blade from the seed—and that the ik symbol indicates plant life, or rather the spirit which the natives believe dwells in plants and causes them to grow. Seler's suggestion that in this connection ik may be compared to kan is appropriate, but this comparison does not tend to the support of his theory. Take, for example, the sprouting kan symbols on Tro. 29b, to which he refers. There can be no doubt that the symbol represents the grain of maize from which the sprouting leaves are rising (plate LXIV, 32). In one place a bird is pulling it up; at another place a small quadruped is attacking it; at another the Tlaloc is planting (or perhaps replanting) the seed.

In the lowest division of the same plate (Tro. 29) are four individuals, three of whom, as may be seen by studying the similar figures in the division above, are anthropomorphic symbols of corn; the other an earth or underworld deity. One of the former holds in his hands a kan symbol, which is colored to signify maize; the others hold ik symbols. There are two interpretations which may be given this symbolic representation—one, that the ik glyphs are intended to denote plant life, that which causes plants to spring up and grow; the other, that they denote wind, which in that country was often destructive to growing corn.

Very distinct reference is made in the "Relacion de la Villa Valladolid"[217-1] to the injurious effects of winds on the maize crop. It is related in this report, which appears to have been of an official character, made in 1579, that—

From June till the middle of August it rains very hard and there are strong winds; from the latter date the rains are not copious and the wind blows strongly from the north, which causes much mortality among the natives, and Spaniards as well, for they contract catarrh and barriga (dropsy?). This north wind destroys the maize crops, which form the main sustenance of both natives and Spaniards, for they use no other bread.

There can be no doubt that most, if not all, of the figures on this plate (Tro. 29) are intended to represent the injurious and destructive agencies to which maize and other cultivated plants were subject. Birds and quadrupeds pull up the sprouting seed and pull down and devour the ripening grain; worms gnaw the roots and winds break down the stalks, one out of four escaping injury and giving full return to the planter. The latter is therefore probably the correct interpretation, the only difficult feature being the presence of the Earth god, which agrees better with the first suggestion.

It is to be observed that the series on Tro. 29c really commences with the right-hand group on 30c. The figure here holds in his hand an ik symbol. Following this, the left group on 29c shows a bird pecking the corn; the next, a small quadruped tearing it down; the next, a worm gnawing at the root of a plant; and the fourth, or right-hand group, a corn figure holding a kan symbol, indicating the mature grain, the uninjured portion of the crop. It would therefore appear that the ik symbol in this series denotes wind.

As additional proof that the symbol is used to indicate "wind," reference is made to Tro. 24a. Here the long-nose Rain god, or Maya Tlaloc, is seen amidst the storm, clothed in black and bearing on his arm a shield on which are two ik symbols (plate LXIV, 33), doubtless indicative of the fierceness of the tempest. In front of him is the Corn god, bending beneath the pouring rain. On plate 25, same codex, lower division, the storm is again symbolized, and the ik symbol is present here also.

It seems from these facts to be quite certain that the value of the symbol in the codices, so far as it can be satisfactorily determined, corresponds in signification with the Maya name.

Referring again to Dr Seler's theory that the plant-like figures on Tro. 15*, 16* indicate the freshly extracted heart and the vapor arising therefrom, the following additional items are noted: He says that in the text the scene below, or at least these sprouting-plant figures, are expressed by hieroglyphs 27-29, plate LXVIII. His comparison with the so-called heart figures from the Mexican codices can scarcely be regarded as convincing, for there is hardly any resemblance. Moreover, he omits to furnish an explanation, on his theory, of the fact that some of these rising "vapors" are crowned with blossoms or fruit (plate LXIV, 31).

I think it quite probable that Dr Seler, although not accepting the theory of phoneticism, has been influenced to some extent by the form of the right-hand character of the glyph shown in plate LXVIII, 27. This is much like Landa's o, and ol in Maya denotes "heart, etc."

According to Brasseur, oloh signifies "a germ" and "to germinate;" hokol also has about the same meaning. This furnishes a consistent and appropriate explanation of the figures, and gives at the same time the phonetic value of the glyph. I have not determined the prefix satisfactorily, but presume it is some word having ch' or tz' as its chief phonetic element, which signifies "little," "plant," or something similar.

I have not determined the other symbols to which Seler alludes in this connection, but some of them, as may be seen by comparison with other passages, do not have special reference to the plant-like figures.

Whether the little sharp-corner square seen in the upper right-hand character of the compound symbols shown in plate LXVI, 28 and 55, and others of similar form, are to be taken as ik glyphs is yet an undecided question. Dr Seler appears to have excluded them from this category in his paper, so frequently referred to, though he subsequently brings them into this relation. But in these places he gives the glyph the signification "fire" or "flame." It is possible that in some of the cases to which he refers he is correct, as, for example, in regard to the figure shown in plate LXVIII, 30, from Dres. 25, where it is in the midst of the blaze. If so, the word equivalent must be kak, as it is seemingly a variant of ik, and hence may be supposed to have the k sound. This will agree with his interpretation of plate LXVI, 29, by kinichkakmo; but in this case we must give ich as the value of the so-called ben symbol. This, however, is not so very objectionable, as there are other places where the chief phonetic element of the ben glyph appears to be i. It is also to be remembered that it is much like Landa's i. It is likewise true, as will hereafter be shown, that the value ben does not appear to hold good where it occurs in combination with other symbols. However, until a satisfactory rendering of this little four-corner ik (?) symbol in some other place than the fire is found, I am hardly prepared to give full acceptance to Dr Seler's supposition.

The Zapotec names are somewhat difficult to bring into harmony with the others. Dr Brinton's solution is as follows:

In that tongue we have uii, air, wind; chiic, breath; which we may bring into relation with gui; and we find guiiebee, wind-and-water cloud (nube con vient y agua). Dr Seler prefers to derive gui from quii, fire, flame, the notion of which is often associated with wind.

It was probably this notion and the fact that the little four-corner ik (?) symbol is sometimes seen in the flame, which caused this authority to believe the symbol denotes "fire," "flame." In the manuscript Zapotec vocabulary by E. A. Fuller, "wind" is bii.

Dr Brinton thinks that ni is the radical of nici, to grow, increase, gain life. He says:

Laa, or laala, is a word of many meanings, as warmth, heat, reason, or intelligence. The sense common to all these expressions seems to be that of life, vitality.

The form of the Mexican symbol for the day Ehecatl (wind), shown in plate LXIV, 34, and also of the mouths of the female figures on plates 26 and 28, Troano Codex, which are emblematic of the storm, appear to be taken from the bird bill. The bird, as is well known, is a wind symbol with many peoples. It has been so esteemed among several tribes of American Indians, and also by peoples of the Old World. As nii or ni signifies "nose, beak, point" in Maya and several cognate dialects, is it not possible that in this is to be found an explanation of the second Zapotec name? In this case, however, we must assume that the term is borrowed, as in this language xi or xie is the term for "nose." I notice, however, that the name for bird is given as viguini and piguiini. If pi (vi) is a prefix, as seems probable from the word for "hen," guitii, then we have some ground for believing that the first Zapotec name has the same fundamental idea as the Mexican symbol.

It therefore would seem that it is not difficult to understand the origin of the Mexican symbol. Examining plate 10, Borgian Codex, which appears to represent the home of the winds, we see that, though mostly furnished with human bodies, they have bird claws as well as bills. But the origin of the Maya symbol is more difficult to account for. Dr Seler remarks:

It is difficult to determine the original idea of this character. Figure 210 [our plate LXIV, 24] and the forms on the reliefs—if we have correctly interpreted these—lead us to think that the wind cross, or the figure of the Tau resulting from it, was the origin of the character. However, the forms of the Cod. Tro. are not easily reconciled with this.

Dr Brinton[219-1] asserts, without heeding Dr Seler's caution, that it is the sign of the four directions or four winds—the wind cross—evidently alluding to the sharp-corner square seen in our plate LXVI, 28. But he seems to have overlooked the fact that it is never thus represented in the day symbol. Moreover, no satisfactory proof has been presented showing that this form has this signification. Seler gives it in some places, as above stated, the signification "fire," "flame;" and if his interpretation of plate LXVI, 29 by Kinich-kakmo be correct, as Brinton seems to think it is, his interpretations are consistent. However, Seler's assertion that "the forms of the Cod. Tro. are not easily reconciled with this" must be admitted. In the codices this glyph, as this author remarks, "rather brings to mind the idea of hanging," often resembling a bunch of grapes.

I take for granted the symbol, when standing for the day, is not pictorial or ideographic, but is adopted for its sound value. If this supposition be correct, then it must be a conventional representation of something the Maya name of which is ik or that has substantially this phonetic value. The form of the Mexican symbol, as above indicated, shows that in selecting it reference was had to the bird bill, to which possibly may have been added the idea of blowing forcibly from the mouth, a common method of indicating wind. (See for example the bird-mouth female, Tro. 25b, where the Ik symbol is present.) But it seems impossible to find in the symbol any reference to the bird, bird bill, or the act of blowing, or in fact anything indicating, even by a conventionalized figure, wind, air, spirit, or breath. Hence it is reasonable to conclude that it has been selected only because of the resemblance in sound of the thing it represents to the name Ik. I would be inclined to believe that the most usual form is the representation of a tooth or two teeth, the name being used for its phonetic value only, but for the very troublesome fact that I can find no name for tooth in Maya to sustain this view. If we could suppose it to be a conventionalized ideogram of an insect, we would obtain the desired sound, as Perez explains ikel by "bicho, insecto, polilla, gorgojo." It must, however, be confessed that none of these suggestions are satisfactory.

The following additional references to the bird as a symbol of the wind are appropriate at this point.

Not only is the day Ehecatl represented in the Mexican codices by a bird's head, but we see a bird perched upon a tree at each of the cardinal points on plate 44 of the Fejervary Codex. Birds are also perched on three of the four trees representing the cardinal points on plate 65 of the Vatican Codex.

In speaking of the myths of the Muyscas, Dr Brinton[220-1] says:

In the cosmogonical myths of the Muyscas, this [alluding to a certain name] was the home or source of light, and was a name applied to the demiurgic force. In that mysterious dwelling, so their account ran, light was shut up and the world lay in primeval gloom. At a certain time the light manifested itself, and the dawn of the first morning appeared, the light being carried to the four quarters of the earth by great black birds, who blew the air and winds from their beaks.

The Javanese also assigned a bird to each of the cardinal points, doubtless with substantially the same mythological concept.

Commenting on a passage of the Popol Vuh, in which the name Voc is mentioned, the same author[220-2] says:

The name Voc is that of a species of bird (Cakchiquel Vaku). Coto describes it as having green plumage, and a very large and curved bill, apparently a kind of parrot. Elsewhere in the myth (page 70) it is said to be the messenger of Hurakan, resting neither in the heaven nor in the underworld, but in a moment flying to the sky, to Hurakan, who dwells there.

This is unquestionably the wind symbolized as a bird. The name for wind in Malay is bayu, and Vayu is a Wind god in Hindu mythology. Garud, the Bird deity of the Hindu Pantheon, who plays such an important role in the Mahabharata, and is so frequently termed therein "the foremost ranger of the skies," is apparently the Storm god, the equivalent of the Maya Hurukan.

We may remark incidentally that a curious coincidence is found in the fact that there appears to be a relation between the wind and monkeys in the mythology both of the Hindu and of the natives of Central America, or at least of Mexico. Hanuman, the Monkey god, who plays such an important part in the Ramayana, was the son of Pavana, the chief Wind deity. According to Brasseur, in his introductory essay to the Popol Vuh, it is stated in the Codex Chimalpopoca that the men were, on a day Ehecatl, changed by the wind into monkeys. On what peculiar mythological conception this idea is based I am unable to state.


Maya, akbal; Tzental, votan; Quiche-Cakchiquel, akbal; Zapotec, guela; Nahuatl calli.

The form of the Maya character as given by Landa is shown in plate LXIV, 35; those usually found in the codices are presented in figures 36 and 37 of the same plate. A slight variation which sometimes occurs in the Dresden Codex is given in plate LXIV, 38. In figure 39 of this plate circular dots take the place of the teeth. In another variant, shown in figure 40, there is a row of dots immediately below the broken cross line. The forms shown in figures 41 and 42 are from the inscriptions. As will be seen by comparing figures 36 and 38 with plate LXV, 64, this glyph, in some of its forms, resembles somewhat closely the chuen symbol, but is generally readily distinguished from it by the wavy line across the face and the absence of the little divided oblong at the top, which is mostly present in the chuen symbol. The lower triangle is usually sharp and extends to the top in the akbal symbol, while that in the chuen glyph is broad or rounded and does not extend to the top.

The signification of the Maya and Cakchiquel names, and also of the Zapotec, is "night" or "darkness." The Tzental name is that of a celebrated hero, which, according to Dr Brinton, is derived from the Tzental word uotan, "heart" or "breast." This explanation is accepted by Seler, as Bishop Nunez de la Vega, the principal authority regarding this mythological personage, says that "in every province he was held to be the heart of the village." Dr Seler also adds that "'heart of the village' is in Mexican called tepeyollotl, and that is the name of the deity of the third day character, calli" (plate LXIV, 46).

The Mexican name calli signifies house. The method by which Dr Brinton brings this and the Tzental names into harmony with the idea of darkness or night is as follows:

The house is that which is within, is dark, shuts out the light, etc. Possibly the derivation was symbolic. Votan was called "the heart of the nation," and at Tlazoaloyan, in Soconusco, he constructed, by breathing or blowing, a "dark house," in which he concealed the sacred objects of his cult. In this myth we find an unequivocal connection of the idea of "darkness" and "house."

Dr Seler's explanation is substantially the same; he differs somewhat, however, from Dr Brinton in regard to the derivation of the word votan (or uotan), as he obtains it from the Maya ol, uol, "heart, soul, will, etc," and tan, "in the midst," also "surface, level, extent, front." He concludes, therefore, if uo signifies heart, that uotan denotes "the inmost heart" or "heart of the expanse." It is proper, however, to call attention to the fact that Dr Brinton's derivation of the name in his "American Hero Myths" is slightly different from that given in his "Native Calendar," above mentioned. In the former he says uotan "is from the pure Maya root word tan, which means primarily 'the breast,' or that which is in the front or in the middle of the body; with the possessive prefix it becomes utan. In Tzental this word means both 'breast' and 'heart.'" It must be admitted that these explanations are apparently somewhat strained, yet it is possible they are substantially correct, as they appear to receive some support from the figures in the Mexican codices.

Plate 75 of the Borgian Codex, which is in fact the lower part of the figure on plate 76, heretofore alluded to, although having reference to the underworld, appears to be in part a delineation of night. The large black figure probably represents night, the smaller star-like figures denoting stars, and the large one the night sun, or moon. The house in the lower right-hand corner, with the black lining, is the house of darkness. The wind symbol above the roof indicates relationship with the winds. Dr Seler interprets these star-like figures as sun symbols, but the number found together on this plate forbids the supposition that they represent suns. Moreover, the association with the dark figure renders it probable that they are here used to denote stars.

There is, however, a lack in these explanations of a connecting link, which seems necessary to render them entirely satisfactory. The name appears to be intimately associated with that for serpent; or perhaps it would be more correct to say that this mythological personage appears to be intimately connected in some way with the serpent. The title of the Tzental manuscript containing the myth was, according to Cabrera, "Proof that I am a Chan," which signifies "serpent." His chief city was Nachan, "the house of the serpent;" his treasure house was a cavern. Simply designating him by "the heart of the nation," "heart of the village," does not appear to furnish a full explanation of his attributes or characteristics.

As the symbol of this day is frequently connected with cloud and rain-storm series, as in Tro. 25a, where it appears to be that from which rain is falling, its signification in these places would appear to be "cloud," which carries with it the idea of shade, shadow, and darkness. This being true, the most likely supposition in regard to the origin of the symbol is, that it was designed to represent the cloud breaking into drops and falling as rain—in other words, the weeping cloud. Such appears beyond question to be its signification in Tro. 25a and in other places in the same and other codices. This supposition is also consistent with the fact that some of the symbols, especially those of the inscriptions (plate LXIV, 42), have dots along the broken line, which may indicate the raindrops into which the cloud is breaking. I am therefore not inclined to accept Dr Seler's supposition that it is intended to represent the opening to a cavern, after the conventional method adopted by the Mexican artists. It is improbable, though not impossible, that the older system may have adopted some features from the younger. Moreover, this supposition on the part of Dr Seler is in direct conflict with his statement in the immediately preceding paragraph. He says:

It is to be observed as applying chiefly to the manuscripts and the reliefs, that the two side points which project like teeth from the inner circle of the character could in no wise have signified teeth. Such an interpretation is contradicted by the occasional change of their position [plate LXIV, 47] and the fact that they also appear now and then exactly like eyes [plate LXIV, 39].

Now the Mexican cavern symbol, as shown in his figures and as given in Penafiel's "Nombres Geograficos," appears to be the open serpent mouth with teeth and fangs. It is therefore more probable that the symbol was derived as above indicated. Among the Indian pictographs given by Colonel Mallery[223-1] as representing clouds are those shown in plate LXIV, 43 and 44. An Ojibwa cloud symbol[223-2] is shown in plate LXIV, 45, in which the circular outline denotes the sky. It seems quite likely that the Maya symbol is intended to convey precisely the same idea. On the left (bottom) of plate 70, Borgian Codex, is a curved or arch-like figure somewhat on the same order as those given. It appears to represent the sky—but darkened sky, indicating night or obscurity. On its upper surface are nine heads, which probably signify the "Nine Lords of the Night." Below it is a black figure. On each side are two figures, the color of the four differing—one blue, another yellow, another black, and the other red. These are probably the regents of the cardinal points.

If this supposition be correct, the symbol is purely ideographic and not phonetic or ikonomatic; but this does not forbid the idea that when used in other combinations it is used phonetically to give the chief sound element of the word indicated by the ideograph. Dr Seler claims, as corroborative of his supposition, that "all symbols which are combined with the name of the third character are to be fully explained through the word 'cavern.'" But it is far more likely that this (so far as it holds good) is due to the fact that the symbol is used because of its phonetic value or its chief phonetic element, ak, which is the same as the chief element of the Maya name for cavern—actun, actan, aktan (Henderson, MS. Lexicon).

If this supposition be correct, it may furnish a clue to the name of the deity whose symbol is shown in plate LXIV, 48. Here the left-hand character is the akbal symbol (though not complete) surrounded by a circle of dots. This circle, Dr Seler contends, often indicates flames which consume the object it surrounds, or light which emanates from that object. If the whole is but a simple ideogram, it must be taken, as a whole, as indicating a particular mythological personage; otherwise it is in part phonetic, or given after the Mexican rebus method of denoting names. If not a simple ideogram, this prefix is most probably used in some sense phonetically with reference chiefly to the k sound. The circle of dots is used here probably to indicate the vowel sound u or o. But in making this suggestion I do not by any means intend to suggest that the Maya scribes had reached that stage of advancement where they could indicate each sound by a character. All I wish to assert is that I find in numerous cases characters accompanied by this circle of dots where the proper interpretation appears to be a word having as its prominent vowel element u or o. Hence the inference that there is some relation between this circle and these vowel sounds—this and nothing more.

In Dres. 16c is the symbol shown in plate LXIV, 49. This, as I have shown elsewhere,[224-1] represents the kukuitz or Quetzal figured below the text. Here are encircling lines of dots, and in the Maya name the u sound repeated; and here also is Landa's ku. In Dres. 47c the symbol for the month Mol is given as shown in plate LXIV, 50. Here again is seen the circle of dots, and the vowel appears to hold good in other places. We see it in Landa's first o. It will also assist us in giving at least a consistent interpretation to the strange character shown in plate LXIV, 51, which occurs repeatedly on plate 19 of the Tro. Codex. In the pictures below are individuals apparently, and as interpreted by most authorities, engaged in grinding paint or other substance or in making fire. The right half of the glyph, including the circle of dots and crosshatching might, according to the value heretofore given these elements, be rendered by huck, "to rub, grind, pound, pulverize;" which certainly agrees with the interpretation usually given the pictures below. Possibly the whole glyph maybe interpreted by cecelhuchah, "to triturate." While this, so far as it relates to the left portion of the glyph, is a mere suggestion, it agrees with the fact that the ornamented or crossbarred border is found in the symbol for Cib, and the three dots with Landa's e.[224-2]

In Tro. 11*d is the character shown in plate LXIV, 52. As the right portion is the upper part of the symbol for chikin, "west" (see plate LXIV, 53), its phonetic value may be a derivative of kuch, kuchnahi, kuchah, "to spin, to draw out into threads." Henderson gives chuch as an equivalent. As the subfix in plate LXIV, 48, is the character I have usually interpreted by u, this would give us some of the elements of the name Kukulcan and not Itzamna, as Seler and Schellhas suppose. Possibly, however, the deity represented may be Baklum-Chaam, the god adored at Ti-ho and usually considered, though without apparent justification, as the Maya Priapus.

The somewhat similar character, plate LXIV, 55, from Tro. 18*c, which Dr Seler considers synonymous, is probably essentially distinct, as it bears a somewhat stronger resemblance to the chuen than to the akbal symbol. In character 54, plate LXIV, from Dres. 17b, which denotes the vulture or rapacious bird figured below the text, it probably indicates the c sound, as the most reasonable interpretation of the symbol is hchom, "the sopilote" (Perez), or hchuy, "a hawk or eagle." If the character shown in plate LXIV, 54, is intended to indicate the bird figured below, and is neither of those mentioned, it is probably one the name of which begins with ch.

The symbol of the month Zo[c] (Tsoz or Zotz) also contains this supposed akbal glyph, but in the varied form last above mentioned, which, as we have said, bears a strong resemblance to the chuen symbol. This, as will be seen by comparing, bears a very close resemblance to glyph LXIV, 54. If phonetic, we must assume that the ch (if the interpretation of the former be correct) has been hardened to z or tz.[225-1]

The same character is also found in the symbol for the month Xul (see plate LXIV, 56, from Dres. 49c). As Dr Seler refuses to accept the theory that the characters are either phonetic or ikonomatic, he concludes, in the following words, that resemblance in the forms of the symbols indicates relationship in the subject-matter:

Xul signifies the end, the point; xuulul, to end; xulah, xulezah, to bring to an end; xulub (that with, which anything ends), horns, or he who has horns, the devil; xulbil, jests, tricks, deviltry. We see, therefore, that this word contains doubtless a reference to something unholy, uncanny, demoniac. To the Central Americans the bat was not merely a nocturnal animal. The Popol-Vuh speaks of a Zo'tzi-ha, "bat house," one of the five regions of the underworld. There dwells the Cama-zo'tz, "the death-bat," the great beast that brings death to all who approach it, and also bites off the head of Hunapu.

Instead of having to surmise this fancied relation, I think the explanation is to be found in the fact that similarity in the form of the glyph is indicative of a similarity in the sounds of the words represented. Here the ch becomes x (sh).

Dr Seler also calls attention in this connection to the animal figures in Dres. 36a and elsewhere, which are "represented as plunging down from heaven with torches in their paws, and fire also issuing from the tassel-like ends of their tails, which doubtless denote the lightning, the death-dealing servant of the Chac." By the mention of this last word—chac—Dr Seler has shown that correct reasoning by a different line leads to precisely the same result as that which appeals to the phonetic or ikonomatic character of the symbol. Here again the ch sound appears as the chief element of the character. The rain or field deities, the chacs, are usually represented in the codices as dog or panther like animals; and chuac, "the tempest," and, according to Henderson, chac also, signifies lightning. But the relation of figures and phonetic value includes also the animal; chacbolay, "a savage tiger, a young lion" (Perez); chacboay, "a leopard" (Henderson); chacoh, "a leopard;" chacekel, "a tiger, jaguar;" chac-ikal, "the storm, the tempest." The similar figures in Tro. 32c probably symbolize the dry burning season which parches and withers the corn. The word is probably choco, chocou, or some related form.


Maya, kan or kanan; Tzental, ghanan; Quiche-Cakchiquel, k'at (k'ate, k'atic, gatu); Zapotec, guache or gueche; Nahuatl, cuetzpallin.

The Maya symbol of this day is subject to but few and slight variations. The principal forms are shown in plates LXIV, 57, to LXV, 3. That given by Landa is presented in plate LXIV, 57. The forms in the codices are shown in plates LXIV, 58; LXV, 1, 2, 3, that with the eye (LXV, 3) being the usual form given in Peresianus; LXV, 4 represents it as found on the right slab of the Palenque tablet.

The significations of the Maya word kan are various, as "yellow," "rope," "hamac," etc, and, according to Dr Brinton, the Tzental ghanan is the same word under a slightly different form. However, he contends that the original sense is to be found in the Cakchiquel word k'an, as given by Guzman (in a manuscript work in his possession), who says it is the name applied to the female iguana, or tree lizard. This, it is true, brings the signification into close correspondence with that of the Nahuatl term, but it is more than probable that the Maya and Tzental terms were in use before the application mentioned by Guzman was made by the Cakchiquel. It is noticeable, however, that in the list from Taylor's "Te-Ika-a-Maui," presented in the appendix, "lizards" are given as symbolic of one of the New Zealand days.

This interpretation, however, savors too much of an effort to bring the signification into harmony with the Mexican name. Moreover, it is difficult to explain the use of the Maya symbol on this theory, as it is undoubtedly frequently employed to denote the grain of maize. For example, it represents the seed from which a corn plant is springing, as on Tro. 29b (see plate LXIV, 32); and one figure in the same division represents a bird plucking it up, while another shows some small quadruped seizing it. It is also frequently represented in all the codices as on a platter or vessel placed as an offering to some deity, and is often given a yellowish tint in these places. That the plant which arises from the symbol in these instances is the maize stalk is admitted by Drs Schellhas and Seler, although they do not seem to recognize the fact that the symbol represents the grain of maize which gives birth to the stalk. However, Dr Seler, in his subsequent paper above referred to, concludes that it refers to the seed, dropping his former interpretation. Both seem to recognize the whole glyph as a symbol of the stalk. Concerning this, Dr Seler says:

Indeed, we see in Cod. Mendoza the maize shoot employed to express the word acatl, "reed." I believe that the character kan repeats the Mexican idea, the maize stalk. This explains for us the reason why the character kan, as above pointed out, always appears among the sacrifices.

I fail to understand why this authority applies the symbol to the "stalk," when it is the fruit, the ear, the grain, which furnishes food, and may therefore be very properly used as the symbol of food.

In plate LXV, 5, is presented a copy of one of these corn offerings as found on Tro. 9*b. As the vessel containing the offering appears to be a vase, pot, or olla, it seems improbable that the offering it contains should consist of maize stalks. It is true, however, that instances occur, as on plates 21-23, Troano, where the stalk rises from the kan symbols contained in a vessel, but these are evidently given in a figurative sense, as the vessel rests on a serpent. But even here there is evidence that the symbol denotes the grain or ear, and not the stalk, as in the lower right-hand corner of plate 21 a human figure is represented as feeding a bird with the symbol, which can not be construed in this instance as representing the stalk.[227-1]

Ximenes, who gives the Cakchiquel name as cat, says it refers to a net used for carrying maize, but means "lizard." Dr Seler, referring to this statement, says he strongly suspects that "the Mexican equivalent of this character has furnished him with this interpretation." He adds further that, in his opinion, "it has no connection with the Maya root kan, kaan, 'rope,' 'cord,' 'mat-cord,' and kan—Quiche-Cakchiquel, k'an (gan)—'yellow.'" He believes the Maya term is derived from kaanan, kanan, which signifies "to be superfluous," "overflow," "to abound."

Dr Brinton thinks that the Zapotec guache, translated by Seler "frog or toad," is more likely a variant of gurache or gorache, "iguana."

It is apparent from these widely different opinions that the signification of none of the names, save that of the Mexican calendar—cuetzpallin, "lizard"—has been satisfactorily determined.

In attempting to ascertain the signification of the names of the day, exclusive of the Mexican calendar, it is best to exclude from consideration at first the signification of the latter, and allow it to have no influence in arriving at a conclusion. The attempt by Dr Brinton to force agreement with the latter appears to be unsatisfactory.

I am inclined to agree with Dr Seler that the Maya symbol for the day kan and the Mexican symbol for tecpatl, "flint," are based on the same fundamental concept, if the flint-like symbols on plate 12 of the Borgian Codex, one of which is shown in plate LXV, 6, are tecpatl figures; of this, however, there is considerable doubt. Seler's opinion is based on those of this type. There can be no doubt that here this spindle-shape figure represents the shooting plant, the central stock or stem, or, what is far more likely, the seed which gives birth to the plant. Although they occupy the position of the stock or stem, yet from the form, the fact that some of them have the eye, and that from them the roots stretch downward, I am inclined to believe they are intended to denote the seed. The kan symbol, as above stated, is also represented in the codices as that which gives birth to the plant, as that from which the sprouting plant springs. It is probable, therefore, that it was originally taken from the grain of maize, which it fairly represents.

Now it is well known that "yellow" is one of the primary meanings of kan, and that the word is closely associated with fruit, the "yellow" referring in a large degree to the ripening fruit, especially of the maize plant. According to Henderson one signification of kan is "ripe, as fruit, timber," and, according to Perez, kankanil is "sazon en [que] las frutas, aunque no esten maduras por estar las mas tomando el color amarillo." In Cakchiquel kan (gan) signifies "yellow, ripe, rich." According to Otto Stoll, vuich (or vuach), which is almost identical with the Zapotec name of the day, is the word for "fruit" in several of the Maya dialects. According to the vocabulary of Cordova, as given by Ternaux-Compans, "yellow" in Zapotec is nagache, and in Fuller's MS. Vocabulary it is na-gutchi, the na being a prefix signifying "thing." The anonymous author, however, writes it brechii. We also notice that "gold" in this language is yache, probably referring to the color. It is likely, therefore, that the Zapotec name of this day signifies "yellow, ripe, mature," referring to fruits, especially maize.

When maize was introduced into New Zealand it was named kanga, probably after the Malay tangkai, the name for an "ear of corn." The Meztitlan name of the day is Xilotl, "an ear of corn," or "a young maize shoot." These facts seem to show that the symbol has some reference to maize, and tend to confirm the view expressed above, that the compound symbol shown in plate LXIV, 9, denotes "maize bread." The presence of the kan character in the symbol of the month Cumhu or Cumku or Humku (plate LXV, 7) is difficult to explain on the theory that it retains here the signification given it as the symbol of the day Kan, whether considered ideographic or phonetic, unless we suppose the name is incomplete and should have kan added to it. I am somewhat disposed to believe that it is sometimes used alone to denote bread, and is then to be interpreted by uah. Take, for example, the figure in Tro. 30d. Here we see a dog seated on a kan symbol, with the same symbol taking the place of the eye. As pek is dog in Maya and pecuah the tortilla or bread of maize, and the compound glyph in plate LXIV, 9, is in the text, this may be an instance of the true rebus method of representing a word. Another instance of a similar character will be given under the day Caban. Possibly the kan glyph in the month symbol may have there the signification uah.

The fact must be borne in mind that this character, as before stated, is often, and perhaps most frequently, used, except where it indicates the day, merely as the symbol of corn or maize. As an example, take the compound character shown in plate LXV, 8, from Tro. 33c. In the picture under the text is the Corn god represented with the dead eye and bound with cords; above his head is a dog-like animal bearing burning torches. This representation, taken in connection with what is seen in the other divisions of the plate, appears, as heretofore stated, to denote the burning drought of summer, which is destroying the maize crop. As the right portion of the compound character is the cimi symbol, probably representing death, the whole character very likely indicates the dying corn. I have not found any combination where the rendering of the symbol by kan proves satisfactory. In fact, with the exception of the kan-imix combination heretofore mentioned, kan is very seldom combined with other glyphs, there being only some two or three in the Tro. Cod., and three or four in the Cortesian Codex. It appears, however, a number of times in combination in the Dresden Codex, but as yet I am unable to interpret any of them satisfactorily.


Maya, chicchan; Tzental, abagh; Quiche-Cakchiquel, can; Zapotec, ci, ziie or guii; Nahuatl, cohuatl.

The forms in which the symbol of this day appears are various and sometimes widely divergent. The principal ones are shown in plates LXV, 9 to 20. The form given by Landa is seen at 9; that most common in the Codex Tro. at 10. Other forms which frequently occur are shown at 11-13; those shown at 14-16 are from the Troano Codex. Some unusual forms which vary widely from the typical glyph are given at 17-20.

The change of a symbol to the face form, as seen in this instance at LXV, 15-16, does not appear to have any significance. The chief element of this character is the circular spot in the right portion, usually bordered by a double line and little square blocks, with the interior generally crosshatched. As the crosshatching is also found in the symbol for the month Pax (plate LXV, 22), it is probable, if phonetic, that this characteristic denotes the x (sh) or ch sound. As a similar marking is frequently present on the serpent figures in the codices (plate LXV, 23), it is possible that its signification is chan, "serpent," or it may refer to some real or mythological characteristic.

The signification of the names of this day, except that of the Nahuatl calendar—cohuatl, "serpent"—appears to be uncertain. Perez says the word chicchan can be explained only by considering it to be incorrectly written for chichan, "little." Henderson in his lexicon writes it chichan, and gives as the meaning of the word, "new, young, as chichan u, the new moon." Dr Seler first suggested that the first part of the name might be derived from the root chi, chii, "mouth, to bite," and hence that the signification might be "the biting serpent." However, he subsequently concluded that the proper interpretation is "a sign marked or taken," from chich, "a sign or mark," and ch'aan, "something taken or carried away." Dr Brinton thinks there is much less difficulty in construing it as chich, strong or great, and chan, the generic Tzental term for serpent. The generic term for serpent in the Zoztzil is cham.

Dr Seler does not attempt an explanation of the Tzental term, but Dr Brinton says that it means in that dialect and in Cakchiquel, "luck, fate, fortune." This, he says, is identical with the Zapotec ci, zii, and guii, and, as he finds evidence that the serpent is mentioned as an animal whence portents were derived by the Zapotecs, thinks this furnishes the connecting link with the signification in other calendars. This explanation is so circuitous, and in fact strained, as to render it unsatisfactory.

A study of the symbol with reference to its origin may perhaps furnish some aid in arriving at the true signification of the name. As will be seen by reference to the various forms of the symbol, the bordering of the circular inclosed space appears to be more permanent than the inner markings. This is apparent from the fact that the little squares or blocks are retained in all the types except the anomalous forms shown in plate LXV, 16-18, and even in one of these (LXV, 18) they appear. On the other hand, the markings in the inclosed space are varied, and in some instances, as LXV, 11, are omitted altogether. It would seem, therefore, from this that the bordering was considered the essential element of the glyph. From what, then, is the symbol taken? If we turn to Dresden 25c, we see in the priest's robe, in all probability, that from which the symbol was derived. Here we have the inner crosshatching and the little dark blocks or squares around the border. The same pattern is seen also on Tro. 16*b and c, and on the female dresses, same codex, 20*c and d. On the latter, in some cases, is the waved line seen in the unusual forms of the day symbol shown in plate LXV, 17, 18, and 19. Other examples could be referred to, but attention is called only to one more, viz, the curtain-like articles exhibited on Tro. 29*b, where we see not only the inner crosshatching and bordering blocks, but on the side borders the precise marking of the day symbol shown in plate LXV, 17.

As chi, chii, signifies not only mouth, but also "limit, border, margin, shore," and especially the "skirt or loose edge of a garment," the relation of the symbol to the name of the day is obvious. It is used here for its phonetic value—chi. As chii signifies "to bite, prick, to sting as a serpent," and chan denotes "serpent," the true explanation of the name of the day would seem to be "the biting or stinging serpent." This will perhaps justify us in supposing that where the symbol is found on a serpent it must have reference to this characteristic.

I had not observed when the above was written that Brasseur had expressed substantially the same view in regard to the origin of this symbol.


Maya, cimi; Tzental, tox; Quiche-Cakchiquel, camey; Zapotec, lana; Nahuatl, miquiztli.

Landa's symbol for this day is shown in plate LXV, 24. The usual form in the Codex Tro. and Cortesian Codex is given in LXV, 25; it is varied frequently by an extension of the line from the mouth, somewhat as in symbol 28 of the same plate, which is the usual form in the Dresden Codex. A variation of this is seen at 29, which seems to have given rise to the unusual form shown in 31. A radical variation is that given at 27. The symbol of the Death god, 26 and 30, is sometimes, though rarely, substituted as the symbol of this day. The closed or dead eye and prominent teeth, as seen in the usual forms, show very clearly that the symbol is simply a conventional representation of the naked skull. The form shown at 27, however, is more difficult to account for; reference to it will be made farther on.

The Maya, Quiche Cakchiquel,[TN-2] and Nahuatl terms signify "death." The Tzental name tox, however, presents a difficulty not readily overcome in order to bring its signification into harmony with that of the others. Dr Seler does not attempt an explanation in his paper on the meaning of the day names, and in his subsequent article fails to reach any settled conclusion. Dr Brinton thinks it means something (as a human head) separated, sundered, cut off; "hence tox-oghbil, the ax or hatchet; q-tox, to split, divide, cut off." In this, he holds, it agrees precisely with the Zapotec lana, which, he says, the Zapotec vocabulary renders "a separated thing, like a single syllable, word, or letter." Dr Seler's interpretation of the Zapotec name is wholly different, as he says that the most natural of the various significations given is, in his opinion, "hare;" pela-pillaana, "liebre animal;" too-quixe-pillaana, or pella-pillaana, "red para liebres." I observe, however, that in Fuller's vocabulary gu-lana is "to steal." Other significations are "name," "flesh," "secretly," etc. The proper interpretation of the Zapotec name therefore appears to be very doubtful. In Cordova's vocabulary, as given by Ternaux-Compans, "fleche" is given as the meaning of quii-lana. In Tzotzil gtox signifies "to split, break off, break open, to chop." In Maya we have tok; which, as a substantive, Perez explains by "pedernal, la sangria;" as a verb it signifies "to bleed, let blood." In this dialect tox denotes "to drain, draw off liquor, spill, shed."

The usual form of the Mexican symbol for this day is shown in plate LXV, 32. It is also a naked skull.

Like Dr Seler, I am compelled to admit that I can give no satisfactory suggestion as to the origin of the form shown in plate LXV, 27. According to Colonel Mallery,[232-1] one sign among the Indians for knife is to "cut past the mouth with the raised right hand," which, if figured, would probably bear some resemblance to the marks on this symbol.[232-2]


Maya, manik; Tzental, moxic; Quiche-Cakchiquel, queh; Zapotec, china; Nahuatl, mazatl.

The symbol for this day, shown in plate LXVIII, 31, is without any change worthy of notice, the only difference observable being a greater or less degree of perfection with which it has been drawn by the aboriginal artist. It is found, however, in various combinations where it is subject to variation in form, if these in truth be intended for this symbol. As Brasseur de Bourbourg has suggested, this appears to have been taken from the partially closed hand, where the points of the fingers are brought round close to the tip of the thumb. Whether intended to show the palm or back outward is uncertain, though apparently the latter. The nearest approach I find among the Indian signs figured by Colonel Mallery is that denoting "little, diminutive, small." But the position of the hand in the symbol appears to indicate the act of grasping; either signification gives ch as the chief phonetic element of the Maya word chan and chichan, signifying "little," and chuc, chucah, "to grasp, to seize" ("alcanzar, asir, prender," Perez); or chuuc, "to take, grasp, catch, seize," Henderson.[232-3] It would seem from this that if the symbol is phonetic in any sense, the chief element of the word indicated is ch. The supposition by Drs Schellhas and Seler that this symbol sometimes contains the elements of the sign of the four winds or wind cross, appears to be without any real foundation. The partial cross-shape figure in it is merely the conventional method of drawing the opening between the fingers, and would be just as correctly given as an oval as an inverted tau.

As this interpretation of the symbol is quite different from that given by other writers, some evidence to justify it is presented here.

Attention is called first to the symbol for "west," shown in plate LXIV, 53. The lower portion is the recognized symbol for kin, "day" or "sun," and the upper portion is beyond question the manik character. As chikin is the Maya name for "west," we are justified in assuming that here at least this manik symbol is to be interpreted by chi, and is in some sense phonetic. As china is the Zapotec name of the day, and signifies "deer," and chigh is the Zotzil name for "deer," it is probable that the symbol preserves the old name, while in Maya this old name has been supplanted for some reason, or through some linguistic process, by manik.

Dr Seler calls attention to the character shown in plate LXVIII, 32, from Dres. 13c, which is repeated in the form LXVIII, 33, on plate 21b. That this refers to the deer figured below must be admitted, as this is clearly shown by the relation of the characters in the adjoining section to the animals figured below the text. Henderson (MS. Lexicon) gives xolke as "the male deer." If this could be considered substantially equivalent to cholceh in sound, our manik symbol would retain its value. The objection to this supposition is that the figure is probably intended for a doe instead of the male. Brasseur gives chacyuc as the name applied to a small species of deer. It is true these interpretations leave out the numeral prefix; nevertheless they serve to show that it is probable the true name is a word which retains the phonetic value of the manik symbol as we have given it. Be the word what it may, two conclusions maybe relied on: First, that it alludes to the deer, and, second, that one of its chief phonetic elements is ch. The character shown in plate LXVIII, 34, from Tro. 11*b, has probably the same element in its phonetic equivalent, for the Maya verb hax (haxnahi), "to twist or turn by rolling the thing between the palms of the hand; make cord used for muslin or cloth," etc, gives substantially this phonetic equivalent.

The character shown, in plate LXVIII, 35, from Dres. 10b, is referred to by Seler as indicating an offering to the gods. In this he is possibly correct. As tich, in Maya, signifies an "offering," "a sacrifice," and tich (tichah) "to offer, present," etc, it is probable that in this instance also the manik symbol retains ch, as its chief phonetic element. However, I am inclined to believe it refers to the collecting or gathering of the ripened fruit. In this case the prefix must be understood as a determinative indicating piling or heaping up, putting together or in a heap, or storing away. Of the Maya words indicating this operation, we note the following: Chich (chichah), hich, and hoch, each of which has ch or ch as its chief consonant element. This interpretation agrees very well with the fact that here, as elsewhere, a date is to be taken into consideration. On such a date, at such a time, the cacao is to be gathered, is to be harvested and stored away. Students of these codices, in their attempts at interpretation, appear, as a general thing, to overlook the fact that almost every paragraph or group of glyphs in the script is accompanied by a date which must be taken into consideration in the interpretation. The symbol which follows immediately to the right, shown in plate LXVIII, 36, may be rendered cacau, the "cacao," as the duplicated comb-like character is Landa's ca.

As the Quiche-Cakchiquel, Zapotec, and Nahuatl names all signify "deer," the difficulty in bringing all into harmony lies in the Maya and Tzental names. Dr Seler's explanation is substantially as follows: That the word manik is from the root man or mal, which signifies "to pass quickly;" manik may therefore mean "that which passes by," "that which is fleeting." Dr Brinton gives the same explanation, and concludes that the deer is referred to metaphorically. In regard to the Tzental name moxic, Dr Seler suggests that it may be founded on the root max, from which is derived maxan, "swift." Dr Brinton objects to this derivation, as maxan with the signification "swift" is from ma, "not," and xan, "slow, tardy," and suggests that the name is probably a corruption of the Nahuatl mazatl. However, it may be stated in favor of Seler's explanation, that Henderson gives moxan, "quickly, shortly, without hindrance," which is apparently another form of maxan. Dr Seler, however, concludes, from a study of the relations in which the character is found in the codices, that it is the symbol of offering, of sacrifice, the deer being esteemed the animal most appropriate for this purpose. Henderson says manik signifies "calm," evidently considering it to be formed of ma, negative, and ik, "wind."

It is evident, therefore, that the authorities are at sea in regard to the signification of the Maya and Tzental names. If the symbol is used, as Seler claims, to indicate offerings or sacrifices, this may be readily explained on the supposition that it is used ikonomatically because of the phonetic value I have assigned it; but otherwise it is difficult, if not impossible, to see any relation between the symbol and the name given it. So far I have found it used in no place, in combination, where the value manik will give a satisfactory interpretation.

The following additional renderings are added here as tending to confirm the phonetic value assigned the manik character.

The character shown in plate LXVIII, 37, is from Tro. 20*c, where it is repeated four times. The figures below the text show women in the act of sprinkling or pouring water on children. Whether this be considered a religious ceremony or not, it is probably intended to denote purifying or cleansing, and not baptism in the modern acceptation of the term. As choah, according to Perez, signifies "to cleanse, purify, scour," and choich "to clean, scour, or wash the face," we have therein a quite appropriate interpretation of the symbol. The presence of the cardinal-point symbols renders it probable that the scene refers to a religious ceremony of some kind. The strict regard paid to the position relative to the cardinal points by savage and semicivilized people is too well known to require any proof here.

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