Aztec Calendar – Monkey Trecena

The eleventh trecena (13-day “week”) of the Aztec Tonalpohualli (ceremonial count of days) is called Monkey for its first numbered day, which is also the 11th day of the vientena (20-day “month”). In the Nahuatl language Monkey is Ozomatli, and it’s known as Chuwen in Yucatec Maya and B’atz in Quiché Maya.

The day Monkey, one of the five days symbolizing the direction West, is considered a good day to start a journey. In some codices, birth almanacs indicate that a child born on a Monkey day would be ill-favored, though dramatic, clever, and charming. In general, Monkey is a day for creating, playing, celebrating, fun, frivolity, and merriment. (For some arcane reason, it’s paired anatomically with the left arm.)

This Aztec concept was clearly inherited from the earlier Maya, for whom the Monkey represented cleverness and mental agility, creativity, capriciousness, playfulness, and cleverly weaving things/themes together. Monkeys were also viewed negatively as tricksters, for their child-like behavior and magical stratagems. As tricksters they were associated with drunkenness, capriciousness, and licentiousness, behaving sometimes with reckless abandon.

The Maya concept of Monkey was shaped by their mythical Monkey Twins, Hun B’atz and Hun Choven (One Monkey and One Artisan), the talented older half-brothers of the celebrated Hero Twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque. In the Classic Maya Popol Vuh, the account of Quiché Maya creation, these Monkey Twins were scribes and sages, as well as musicians, flautists, singers, carvers, ball players, and diviners. They were also comedians of ritual humor, famous for mocking political positions, and interpreters of sacred knowledge. The tradition connecting monkeys and artists/craftsmen survived across the many centuries into Aztec culture.

The patron of the day Monkey is Xochipilli, the Flower Prince (See Icon #18). god of the arts, fertility (agriculture and flowers), happiness/ecstasy, dreams/hallucinations, and indiscriminate sexuality.


The divine patron of the Monkey trecena is Patecatl, the god of medicine, surgery, and, most importantly, the alcoholic drink Pulque (octli) and psychedelic herbs. (See Icon #13.) Both the drink and the psychedelics are crucial elements in Aztec religious ceremonies. With his wife Mayauel (goddess of Pulque and patron of the Grass trecena), he’s the father of the 400 Rabbits, the libidinous deities of all sorts of drunkenness.


By Marguerite Paquin, author of “Manual for the Soul: A Guide to the Energies of Life: How Sacred Mesoamerican Calendrics Reveal Patterns of Destiny”

The theme of this trecena is Creation and Play. In the “Chilam Balam of Chumayel” it’s referred to as the “Creation” trecena initiating a 20-day month (uinal) in the Maya calendar, and the time period aligns with high creativity and “time weaving.” The tie-ins with pulque and “monkey business” suggest an association with healing and even re-invention through play and artistry. While “anything is possible” during this period, there’s also potential for both intoxication and reckless abandon. Overall, this period is associated with good fortune and the arts—a good time to give oneself permission to play!

Further to how these energies connect with world events, see the Maya Count of Days Horoscope blog at The Maya equivalent is the Chuwen trecena.


The Aztec Tonalpohualli, like the ancestral Maya calendar, is counted through the sequence of 20 named days of the agricultural “month” (vientena), of which there are 18 in the solar year. Starting with the 11th day of the current vientena, 1 Monkey, this trecena continues with 2 Grass, 3 Reed, 4 Jaguar, 5 Eagle, 6 Vulture, 7 Earthquake, 8 Flint, 9 Rain, 10 Flower, 11 Crocodile, 12 Wind, and 13 House.

In general Aztec calendrics there are only two days in this trecena of particular import, One Monkey and Four Jaguar. However, for the ancient Maya, as the middle point in the calendar, One Monkey had been seen as the center of the Tree of Life, symbolic of the creative forces of the universe, the day of magic and potential, like a conductor or overseer of the process of creation to unfold over the next 20 days. In this context, it’s instructive to remark on all the thirteen days in their “Creation” trecena. Please forgive my amateur editorializing on the steps in the cosmological sequence kindly provided by Dr. Paquin.

One Monkey (in Nahuatl Ce Ozomatli) is the day-name of one of the Cihuateteo who, to judge by her day-name, was perhaps a licentious trickster. She was apparently paired with Five Rabbit (Macuil Tochtli), one of the Ahuiateteo, a god of drunkenness. Also, according to the chronicler Sahagun, anyone born on One Monkey was regarded favorably and would entertain others, likely becoming a singer, dancer, or scribe and producing some work of art. In the Florentine Codex, One Monkey is also connected with Aztec singers, dancers, and painters, much like the earlier day One Flower (See Flower Trecena).

            (in Yucatec Maya 1 Chuwen), according to the “Chilam Balam of Chumayel,” the first day in the Creation sequence when 1 Monkey “manifested himself in his divinity and created Heaven and Earth.”

Two Grass (in Yucatec Maya 2 Eb’) the day when the first pyramid (aka the first staircase) was made to descend “from the heart of the heavens.”

Three Reed (in Yucatec Maya 3 B’en) the day when “all things” of heaven and earth and the seas were made. Note that Heaven and Earth had already been created on 1 Chuwen—with a pyramid/staircase constructed between them on 2 Eb’.

Four Jaguar (in Nahuatl Nahui Ocelotl) is the day-name of the First Sun (Era), a world created by Tezcatlipoca after defeating the Earth Monster (Cipactli) and losing his left foot in the battle. He ruled that Sun, which was peopled by giants and ultimately destroyed by divine jaguars. The day-sign Four Jaguar appears in the center of the Stone of the Suns.

            (in Yucatec Maya 4 Ix) the day when the separation of Heaven and Earth took place. Note that the two realms were already separate and linked only by the aforementioned staircase or pyramid. I find this sequence of creation not a little confusing.

Five Eagle (in Yucatec Maya 5 Men) the day when “everything” was made. How this relates to 3 B’en isn’t clear, “all things” apparently being construed as somehow different than “everything.”

Six Vulture (in Yucatec Maya 6 Kib’) the day when the first candle was made, when it became light, and “when there was neither sun nor moon.” Again, it’s unclear what such a candle was to bring the light when there “was neither sun nor moon.”

Seven Earthquake (in Yucatec Maya 7 Kab’an) the day when honey was first created and the earth was born. I can’t even guess what that “honey” was (since honey bees were an Old World species), and the notion of the earth being born rather than created is intriguing. One wonders who its parents might have been. Besides, the earth had already been created on 1 Chuwen.

Eight Flint (in Yucatec Maya 8 Etz’nab) the day when “he rooted hands and feet upon earth” and made birds. We can only assume that “he” was 1 Monkey.

Nine Rain (in Yucatec Maya 9 Kawak) the day when, for the first time, there was an attempt to create hell. This step in the Creation sequence is fraught with questions: Why create hell in the first place, and why did this first attempt fail? We can only assume that this “hell” was supposed to be the Underworld, Xibalba.

Ten Flower (in Yucatec Maya 10 Ajaw) the day when “wicked men went to hell.” We’re missing something in this Creation sequence because men had not yet been created, wicked or otherwise, and the attempt to create hell the day before had failed. The text tries to explain this discrepancy by adding “because the holy God had not yet appeared,” but that only adds to the confusion. Who was the “holy God? If it was 1 Monkey, he had indeed already “rooted” on earth on 8 Etz’nab, and we haven’t heard about any other deity yet. Some accounts apparently translate this explanation as “so they might not be noticed,” but that only makes things even murkier: noticed by whom?

Eleven Crocodile (in Yucatec Maya 11 Imix) the day when rocks and trees were formed. This may relate to the Aztec concept of Tezcatlipoca building the world of the First Sun on the back of Cipactli, the Earth Monster.

Twelve Wind (in Yucatec Maya 12 Ik’) the day when the breath of life was created. It’s interesting that birds had already been created on 8 Etz’nab; on 10 Ajaw there were wicked men to go to a hell that hadn’t been successfully created; and trees had been created on 11 Imix. The Maya must not have considered birds and trees as being truly alive.

Thirteen House (in Yucatec Maya 13 Ak’b’al) the day when man was shaped from water and moistened clay. This is an iconic way to wrap up the trecena’s creation sequence, but there remain enormous inconsistencies. Vaguely parallel to the Judeo-Christian 7-day account in the Book of Genesis, this Maya sequence doesn’t mention a Garden of Eden—or Elohim—but maybe those details will emerge in the first seven days of the Lizard trecena to follow.


Several of the surviving so-called Aztec codices (some originating from other cultures like the Mixtec) have Tonalamatl sections laying out the trecenas of the Tonalpohualli on separate pages. In Codex Borbonicus and Tonalamatl Aubin, the first two pages are missing; Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios are each lacking various pages (fortunately not the same ones); and in Codex Borgia and Codex Vaticanus all 20 pages are extant. (The Tonalpohualli is also presented in a spread-sheet fashion in Codex Borgia, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Cospi, but that format apparently serves other purposes.)


As described in my earlier blog The Aztec Calendar – My Obsession, some thirty years ago—on the basis of very limited ethnographic information and iconographic models —I presumed to create my own version of a Tonalamatl, publishing it in 1993 as Celebrate Native America!

Again, when I made my version of the Monkey trecena, I knew nothing about Patecatl and simply relied on Codex Nuttall for a figure of a male deity, properly enthroned:

Aztec Calendar – Monkey trecena – Tonalamatl Balthazar

I’m gratified that totally by accident I gave him a fairly appropriate nosepiece, but there’s yet another accidental item worth noting. To represent Patecatl’s patronage of herbs, I constructed a plant, and to my surprise, the combination of green and red made the plant’s red stalk come across as brown—a serendipitous psychedelic effect.


TONALAMATL BORGIA (re-created by Richard Balthazar from Codex Borgia)

Aztec Calendar – Monkey trecena – Tonalamatl Borgia

The figure of Patecatl on the left has nothing in particular to identify him. In fact, the nosepiece, the crescent designs on his “skirt,” and his awkward teeth look a lot like the goddess Tlazolteotl in the Deer trecena. Like in my concocted version, the Borgia artist seems not to have had a clear iconographic concept of this deity, adorning him with standard, if androgynous, regalia.

The intricate jaguar on the right is nowhere mentioned as a patron of this trecena, but we’ll see him again later. It’s curious that in the Deer trecena, Tlazolteotl is also paired with the jaguar of the night, Tepeyollotl, Heart of the Mountain. This one would seem to be the deity Ocelotl, Lord of the Animals (See Icon #11), possibly reflecting the special day Four Jaguar. The many sacrificial knives attached to its body must emphasize its divine nature, but who knows what the banner signifies? Note that this image ignores the real animal’s muscular proportions and especially its powerful jaw (with one of the strongest bites in the animal kingdom).

Meanwhile, the pattern of this jaguar’s bright pelt is even more highly stylized than that of Tlazolteotl’s jaguar of the night, which is darker and somewhat less intricate. In most Aztec images of a jaguar, the codex artists never attempt a naturalistic treatment of the animal’s complex and varying coloration and markings. In “Jaguars Changing Spots,” I’ve discussed the various Aztec treatments of its natural patterns as shown in this collection:

Natural Patterns of the Pelt of Jaguars

Quite conspicuous as the centerpiece of this patron panel, the assemblage of shield, arrows, and ceremonial objects is one of the more ostentatious in the Tonalamatl Borgia, of which there are many. I can’t rightly explain what all the material represents or signifies but have decided to call the whole kit and kaboodle simply a “conglom” (i.e., a conglomeration of assorted symbolic items). I suspect that such congloms were intended primarily as decorations.


TONALAMATL YOAL (compiled and re-created by Richard Balthazar on the basis of
Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios)

Aztec Calendar – Monkey trecena – Tonalamatl Yoal

As opposed to his anonymous image in the Borgia version above, the figure of Patecatl here on the left wears a load of regalia, probably to make the god of medicine look divine, hoping some of the symbols will indicate who he is. In fact, that crescent nosepiece we’ve seen before is an identifier of this patron god. In this mix of iconographic items, there are several items normally emblematic of other gods. On top of his outsized headdress, there’s a spiked crown like that of Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Night in the upper corners, and that flowering shinbone in front of it is a sure signal of Quetzalcoatl. But that stalked flowery ornament sticking out front is a true indication of Patecatl.

That’s just the top of the headdress. Below that, we find an elaborate bow construction which in earlier calendrical images identifies Ehecatl/Quetzalcoatl. Then comes the standard divine fore- and aft-flanged fans that appear with several of the Lords of the Night above. I’m at a loss to decode the oddly decorated base of his crown with those almost googly eyes, and the necklace of cowry shells strongly suggests Quetzalcoatl again. But the flint-bladed club in the god’s left hand we’ll see again as another emblem of Patecatl. (Maybe it’s an Aztec scalpel for his surgical magic.) Likewise, the feathered fan/wing of apparent eagle-feathers on his back seems to be his symbol, and the unusual, frilled bag an appropriately shamanic “medicine-pouch.” His red face looks awfully fierce, and ironically, as in the Borgia image, he direly needs orthodontic work.

The Yoal patron is again juxtaposed with a banner-bearing jaguar—as well as with a banner-waving eagle, the Lords of the Animals and Birds respectively. Their lordliness is emphasized by their nearly free-form headdresses and “bustles, and both are seriously anthropomorphic with human faces—a frequent motif in images of “jaguar- and eagle-men” and animal headdresses. These can be men in jaguar/eagle costumes or “were-creatures” like were-wolves, etc. Note this jaguar has human hands but jaguar feet. In the crude Telleriano-Remensis and Rios originals, the eagle also had hands, which I judiciously chose to replace with proper claws.

Speaking of crude originals, whoever drew these two lordly beasts in Telleriano-Remensis surely probably wasn’t the one who portrayed Patecatl. The god’s image was awkward enough, but nowhere near as sketchy and slap-dash as that jaguar and eagle. The images in Rios could have been by the same artist as they are equally blurry (and sloppy). I had no choice but to completely re-envision this divine pair, of course using the original motifs and positions and improvising more naturalistic details. In particular, in my jaguar I combined the white fringes of the stylized Borgia creature with the feline’s more normal muscular proportions, and to guild the lily, I gave it one of those natural pelt-patterns. But I still wonder what those banners might signify.



Tonalamatl Aubin patron panel for Monkey trecena

In the Tonalamatl Aubin Patecatl is recognizable by his crescent nose-piece, eagle-feather fan on his back, and spiked crest of Mictlantecuhtli in his headdress. But the Xiuhcoatl he’s waving and the cross symbols on his sandals are usually suggestive of Quetzalcoatl. It’s rather odd that he has no eyes. The day-night symbol (sun-stars) is a surprise, but the jaguar and eagle are now familiar motifs, and they are both closely connected to the diurnal cycle, the jaguar with the night and the eagle with the day—possibly also their significance in the Tonalamatl Yoal.


Codex Borbonicus patron panel for Monkey trecena

The patron panel in Codex Borbonicus also features a jaguar and eagle with headdresses and “bustles” a bit simpler than those in Tonalamatl Yoal. Each again carries a banner; in Aubin those were blank, and in fact, in the Yoal originals they were also blank, but I gave them these Borbonicus stripes. Logically, the jaguar’s black stripes could correlate with the night and the eagle’s red with the day, reflecting the prominent central day-night symbol.

The figure of Patecatl on the left is adorned with the same borrowed spiked crest, bows, and shinbone and is identified by the stalked flower in his headdress, crescent nosepiece, flint-bladed club in his hand, and frilled medicine-bag pendant. Meanwhile, the rest of the panel is basically a dis-integrated conglom with much miscellanea, probably representing medicinal concoctions. The little pot below the day-night symbol definitely holds magic mushrooms. On the medicinal pulque pot in the lower left is a Monkey day-sign for the Monkey trecena.


Codex Vaticanus patron panel for Monkey trecena

The Codex Vaticanus patron panel reverses the Borgia layout and radically changes the figure of Patecatl, leaving only the crescent nosepiece to identify him. His pose on the throne and complete swaddling almost suggest a funereal corpse-bundle, which doesn’t make much sense. In later Vaticanus trecenas, for some reason we’ll see some deities even more severely wrapped.

Another radical aspect of this patron panel is that the figures don’t face each other. In the Borgia panel, the jaguar’s banner embodies the diurnal cycle with black stripes with a red spot, but here it’s merely black for the night. Ignoring that tongue, this jaguar is stylized much the same as in Borgia—until one looks at those claws. Most Aztec jaguars are usually portrayed with four claws, three in front and one in back, but the real jaguar paw has five digits, four claws in front and the fifth, a “dew-claw,” further up the wrist/ankle much like in this image. Only the dew-claw is supposed to be turned forward like the fourth in earlier images. This Vaticanus jaguar only has five claws on one paw, and the rest have four… As we’ve seen with the issue of pelt-patterns, naturalism wasn’t a particularly strong parameter for Aztec artists. (Remember my earlier discussion in the Jaguar trecena of “ideoplastic” art? This is a prime example.)


Now it’s time to reveal my takeaway from this long discussion of the symbols and emblems in this Monkey trecena. For one thing, in the five Aztec codex patron panels I’ve noticed nothing at all to do with the ancient Maya Creation trecena, but the continuity of Monkey symbolism from Maya down to Aztec is really noteworthy. I can’t give you any examples of monkeys from the Teotihuacan civilization, roughly contemporaneous with the Maya, but that culture used the same calendar and probably would’ve held Monkey traditions like those of the Maya.

After the long hegemony of Teotihuacan in the valley of Mexico, for more centuries, the Toltec empire continued the sacred calendar and kept Monkey connections with artists and craftsmen. The Toltecs were considered masterful painters and scribes, carvers and builders, skillful in whatever they did. Much later, the Aztecs celebrated all things historically Toltec (toltecayotl) and of course, inherited the calendar’s Monkey business. Unfortunately, the Monkey wound up losing his role in Mesoamerican cosmology as the mythical Creator—to later upstarts called Tezcatlipoca, Quetzalcoatl, and others. Across the centuries, many other Maya traditions naturally faded away or were usurped by new myths (like the Nahuatl/Aztec cosmology of the Five Suns overtaking the Maya Creation legend), making for many gaps in connections between the Maya and the Aztec eras.

The Tonalpohualli, the ceremonial count of days, I consider the principal thread of continuity running through Mesoamerican history, with roots far back into the Olmec era—and possibly even deeper into pre-history. (See my ancient blog/rant “Source of Aztec Calendar.”) As both Day and Trecena in that monumental temporal ideology, the creative, playful Monkey also became a major cultural theme, maybe not as fierce or existential, but as consistent as the jaguar and plumed serpent.

As the patron of the Monkey trecena, Patecatl is a fairly innocuous, almost anonymous, figure with vague iconography (except in Yoal), though I expect he was very highly regarded for his pharmaceutical blessings. He and his wife Mayauel (again see Grass Trecena) probably threw some wild pulque parties—which I’m sure made them both very popular deities to worship.

Judging by these five codex panels, I suggest we add the divine jaguar as the secondary patron of this trecena, either as Lord of the Animals (including Man), as the symbol of night, or both. Along with the day-night symbol in two panels, the day-eagle in three of them argues that the diurnal cycle was especially important for divination of this time-period. I prefer to think of this strikingly illustrated trecena as a ritual prayer for the good health of all creatures 24/7, or in Aztec terms 22/13.



The calendar’s twelfth trecena will be that of Lizard with the existential deity Tezcatlipoca (Smoking Mirror) and his nagual Itztlacoliuhqui (Curved Obsidian Blade) as patrons. Here’s where things start getting weird. Stay tuned.


You can view all the calendar pages I’ve completed up to this point in the Tonalamatl gallery.

Official Disinformation

Disinformation can be presented in many forms. Besides outright untruths, perhaps the most insidious are incomplete or cherry-picked facts, often legitimized by subtle weasel words, distractions from the matter at hand, and unsubstantiated conclusions.

A case in point is a brief reader-question and expert-answer in a prestigious national magazine popularizing history, science, etc. The reader asked if American Indians had a written language. That question should have opened up a very large can of worms. The responding “cultural specialist” from an important museum framed the answer narrowly by stating: “The Timucua were among the first to have a written system…”

Without identifying the Timucua, the respondent hid behind the weasel word “among” to remark on a Franciscan missionary in 1595 at St. Augustine in Florida developing that system for the native population. This was followed by remarks sanctified by ethnographic authorities on the Cherokee syllabary invented by Sequoyah over 200 years later in 1821. This simple answer was perhaps factual but essentially dis-informative.

Perhaps there was an early Franciscan missionary in that fanatically Jesuit Spanish colony on the Florida coast, but his using the Latin alphabet to write their language was of dubious and short-lived benefit for the natives themselves. By 1600, the Timucua people had been exterminated by diseases and genocidal violence.

Behind that weasel word “among,” several facts of singular importance to the reader’s question were omitted. In “America B.C.” by Barry Fell (1976), a scholarly book denigrated and dismissed by said ethnographic authorities, a lengthy discussion with comparative examples shows that the Micmac peoples of Maine and the Canadian Maritimes had a hieroglyphic writing system with clear relations to the Egyptian! In the early 1700s, a French cleric rendered Psalm 116 in the Micmacs’ well-developed system. Meanwhile, the ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs were not deciphered until 1823 by Champollion. I can’t begin to explain how or when this happened, but the Micmac had at some time long before 1595 clearly made this writing system their own.

The most subtle weasel word involved in the cultural specialist’s answer to the reader’s question was “American Indian.” The expert quickly limited the question to North American indigenous peoples, conveniently ignoring indigenes of the rest of the Americas. I’ve not encountered any evidence of writing systems in South America, but the late Michael Coe and several other noted scholars of Mesoamerica have now decoded the hieroglyphic writing system of the Maya, revealing detailed histories of their lost worlds from some two thousand years ago.

To return to the famous Cherokee syllabary created by Sequoyah, there has been fascinating research on the Pre-Columbian peoples of the (North) American Southeast by Richard Thornton ( showing that the peoples of the Creek Confederacy had in earlier centuries developed a syllabary of their own. Apparently, Sequoyah used that unique creation in formulating his system. This appropriation of native history to the Cherokee nation is part and parcel of their wider cultural/historical imperialism. In spite of their claim to have lived in the area “for thousands of years,” the Cherokee only immigrated into the Southeast (from Canada) in the 19th century after the United States government had mostly cleared it of other indigenous tribes following the Creek Wars and the Trail of Tears.

But I’m not through exposing official disinformation. The Timucua people in the specialist’s answer were a major mound-building culture in the Southeast well beyond the St. Augustine area. We know most about them from the artist, Jacques LeMoyne, who accompanied the refugee Huguenots who were (among) the first French to settle in the New World.

Under Rene de Laudonniére, they established Fort Caroline in 1564; the Spanish founded St. Augustine in 1565 and proceeded to slaughter and/or drive the French out. LeMoyne painted scenes of the Timucua like this later engraving of Laudonniére with Atore, son of the native “king of kings” Satouriona, at the column raised by the earlier French explorer Jean Ribault, image courtesy of Wikipedia:

Now we come to official disinformation in the form of alternative truth. Jean Ribault reportedly planted this column at the mouth of what he called the River May. Establishment dogma was that this was the St. John’s River in Florida, and in the first half of the last century the impartial State of Florida and City of Jacksonville jumped on that interpretation to “reconstruct” Fort Caroline there as a historical attraction. Again through the research of Richard Thornton, it’s now clear that Fort Caroline was in fact built at the mouth of the Altamaha River in southern Georgia near present-day Savannah. For purposes of the almighty tourist dollars, however, the official disinformation still stands.

My point in this tirade is that we shouldn’t blindly accept simple answers to complicated questions. Behind every supposedly historical fact, there’s usually a whole world of extenuating circumstances and alternative explanations that are derided and denied by establishment authorities. We always have to dig deeper to discover the real truth—and try to figure out who benefits how by promoting official disinformation.


Another Dancing Fantasy

This third story about dancing has taken quite a long time—since last September. In the course of realizing the inspiration, I had to manage my move to a new house—and the transfer of my collection of 50 varieties of iris to the new yard. Not to mention wrapping up the Snake and Flint trecenas of the Aztec Calendar and a few blogs on miscellaneous subjects (dance, lunar bunny, and science fiction). If nothing else, that shows I’m a persistent cuss…

Ecstatic Dancer

This third piece of fiction is another old man’s fantasy about ecstatic dancing and encounters with young folks of his ilk. Entitled “Bo Peep’s Sheep,” it’s perhaps a little utopian but draws on the scary aspects of being a youngster nowadays.

Enjoy, and here’s hoping I can manage the next story rather more quickly. Wait for it!


My First Attempt at Science Fiction

I’ve recently been fascinated by global news and couldn’t resist putting the alarming phenomena into perspective in the brief sketch below, my first attempt at science fiction. I hurry to post it—before it can be disproven by subsequent events—or even worse, proven prophetic.


Phantom Galaxy


            News stories of these recent weeks had been horrifying: about the earth’s core stopping and possibly reversing its rotation, about inexplicable solar eruptions, and about a crowd of asteroids threatening our planet. Like a good disaster-buff, I kept those stories on my news feed. My attention was rewarded with remarkable scientific discoveries.

            By late February, astronomers were reporting solar flares creating a ginormous vortex off the surface of the sun. Geologists were meanwhile wondering what the effects would be of a stationary planetary core, which they calculated would happen in another month. If it started rotating in the opposite direction, I figured it would cause a reversal of Earth’s poles, probably with significant rearrangement of land masses and, I suspected, a change in the length of day. In fact, geologists were now tracking changes in the Earth’s surface rotation rate and seasonal tilt.

            On the solstice in March, scientists declared that the core had indeed stopped rotating in the usual direction, and a few days later they announced that it was starting to move in reverse, the Earth now in internal retrograde. Earthquakes had already started in mid-February, first the huge one in Turkey and Syria, and soon hundreds of them around the globe, like the Earth was shuddering. At the same time, the poles switched in early April, immediately throwing the world’s weather into drastic confusion. Along with many quake-induced tsunamis, the melting, shattering, and scattering of the polar icesheets brought apocalyptic destruction to coastal communities. There was no time or means to cope with or calculate human casualties.

            While we long-suffering humans tried to cope with the ubiquitous chaos of earthquakes which were growing alarmingly in magnitude, overhead our star kept flaring up around its surface, like flames waving into space. I expected that the flares would soon show a pattern, which AI detected on my birthday near the end of April—roughly a circle about three times the diameter of the Earth. In early May, that circle began to bulge on the sun’s surface, a slow swelling over the course of a few months, while I watched closely the video reportage of the condition of our celestial body.

            Those next few months were more than busy enough with basically futile global disaster-recovery efforts, and most survivors had no time to worry about our Sun acting up. While helping every day with my disaster-relief cohort—to the extent of my octogenarian ability—I checked my news feed often for solar system updates, feeling like Akhenaten in communion with the Aten. Our Sun was now found to be increasing in brightness, noticeably hotter on exposed skin—when one wasn’t drenched in arbitrary storms. There was probably no connection, but the many Unidentified Aerial Phenomena that began being noticed (and shot down) already in February became even more numerous over the next months. All we needed now was to piss off the aliens and have them retaliate. And more meteors kept falling to earth, many ejected with the Sun’s flares, blowing out huge craters and killing millions.

            My news feed died with the Internet in late June, a casualty of an electron burst from the sun which fried telecommunications everywhere, including most cell-phone towers. No TV, but there was still radio, if anyone had one. Fortunately, I did and through the near-hysterical remnants of NPR’s Morning Edition learned of increasing tectonic activity opening deep fissures across the Middle East and along Africa’s rift valley. That geological pressure in Indonesia and the Andes was causing more earthquakes and volcanoes, and meteors kept impacting in heavily populated areas. Earth was becoming an inimical habitat for humanity!

            Shortly after I lost electricity and water in my old adobe house, a meteor strike nearby brought it crumbling down. I’d fortunately run outside and watched in safety while it collapsed. Salvaging what little I could, I took shelter in a still-standing corner of a nearby school, sharing the space with several traumatized young students. However, we had nothing else to share, and each day we foraged in the ruins for anything edible. Potable water was a critical need, rarely met except for catching rainwater, that often fouled. Totally cut off from any newscasts or social communications, I had no idea what was going on outside of our miserable refuge, either on the Earth or up in the Heavens. However, the glaring, inflamed Sun told me that momentous things were transpiring up there.

            In my foraging one day, I found a half-collapsed, metal-framed factory where about a dozen workers were trying to survive. They had a working radio (powered by a small generator), and I was advised by frantic NPR correspondents that the bulge on the sun’s surface had erupted and was ejecting a planet-sized ball of flaming gaseous matter into space—like Athena springing from the brow of Zeus. Scientists projected its trajectory away from Earth but toward Venus, thought its monstrous speed and paths of planetary rotation could easily shoot it close by Jupiter.

            In spite of this supposedly good news, the morale of us few local survivors bottomed out. I explained to the starving workers that even without a direct collision, the Earth was going to get jerked around dramatically by this new mass at play in the solar system. Orbits of all the planets would probably change, as well as distances from the Sun as the system tries to find a new equilibrium. And even if the new mass doesn’t collide with anything, it would probably enter an extended orbit around the Sun like a comet, returning regularly to wreak havoc on the planets and then only at some time in a future epoch settle into an obedient planetary orbit.

            With this less than optimistic expectation, lethally inclement weather, starvation, thirst, and advanced age, I will lay my helpless head down in the rubble, leaving the savage future to others of my species who might survive this end of the Earth as we’ve known it.


Aztec Calendar – Flint Trecena

The tenth trecena (13-day “week”) of the Aztec Tonalpohualli (ceremonial count of days) is called Flint for its first numbered day, which is also the 18th day of the vientena (20-day “month”). In the Nahuatl language Flint is Tecpatl, and it’s known as Etz’nab’ in Yucatec Maya and Tijax (Knife-edge)in Quiché.

The day Flint portends great riches and pride but also destruction and punishment. It’s almost logically associated anatomically with the teeth. The usual day-sign (or glyph) for Flint is the sacrificial knife with a face, including teeth (fangs), and sometimes divine ornaments. The flint knife is personified (or deified) as a nagual of Tezcatlipoca, Itztlacoliuhqui,Curved Obsidian Blade, god of stone, cold, sin, and human misery, but also of objectivity and blind justice. (See vignette at top center in Icon #19, and the Blade will be met again soon as a patron of the 12th trecena Lizard.) The day Flint’s patron is Chalchiuhtotolin, the Jade Turkey (See Icon #3), also a nagual of Tezcatlipoca and patron of the power and glory of young warriors, particularly of the famous Jaguar Warriors of the Night. He’ll be seen later as patron of the 17th trecena Water, the “Turkey” in his name relating to the little known, brilliantly colored ocellated turkey.


A patron of the Flint trecena is Mictlantecuhtli, Lord of the Land of the Dead (Mictlan) the most prominent of several deities of death, 5th Lord of the Night, Lord of Number Six, and patron of the day Dog. (See Icon #10.) Images in Codex Magliabechiano show that the Death Lord’s worship involved ritual cannibalism. Counter-intuitively, in the Aztec view, skulls and skeletons were symbols of fertility, health, and abundance, a sentiment still evident in the Mexican holiday Día de los Muertos. Souls of those who die normal deaths (i.e., are not ritually commended to some god’s heaven), must climb eight hills and cross nine rivers in four days to reach Mictlan, an empty place of darkness. The owl (as a symbol of sorcery and the night) and vile insects like spiders and millipedes are closely associated with Mictlan.

Another patron of the trecena is Tonatiuh, god of the current Fifth Sun (Four Earthquake), whose visage reputedly glares from the center of the Stone of the Suns. (Also see him in Icon #16 in company with the lunar goddess Metztli.) In the creation of the Fifth Sun, a young god named Nanahuatzin leapt into the cosmic conflagration to become the sun (Tonatiuh). Lord of Number Four with a Quail as his totem bird, Tonatiuh rules the idyllic Fourth Heaven for the souls of heroes, warriors killed in battle, heart-sacrifices to ensure the continuation of the sun, and those dying in childbirth. I assume that means both babies and mothers, so the five warrior spirits, the dangerous Cihuateteo, probably dwell in the Fourth Heaven as well.


By Marguerite Paquin, author of “Manual for the Soul: A Guide to the Energies of Life: How Sacred Mesoamerican Calendrics Reveal Patterns of Destiny”

The theme of this trecena is Sacrifice and Separation. The symbols of knife, knife-edge, and flint represent the opening energies of this period, a time-frame tending to highlight sudden change. The flint’s dramatic sharpness and flashiness can manifest itself through “shocking” events, often involving conflict or dualities between opposing forces, as reflected by the trecena’s patrons (life-sun vs death-darkness). Although separation and difference is a strong theme at this time, these energies can also be the spark to initiate new thoughts or actions.

Further to how these energies connect with world events, see the Maya Count of Days Horoscope blog at The Maya equivalent is the Etz’nab’ trecena.


The Aztec Tonalpohualli, like the ancestral Maya calendar, is counted through the sequence of 20 named days of the agricultural “month” (vientena), of which there are 18 in the solar year. Starting with the 18th day of the current vientena, 1 Flint, this trecena continues with 2 Rain, 3 Flower, 4 Crocodile, 5 Wind, 6 House, 7 Lizard, 8 Snake, 9 Death, 10 Deer, 11 Rabbit, 12 Water, and 13 Dog.

Again there are several important days in the Flint trecena:

One Flint (in Nahuatl Ce Tecpatl) is the ceremonial day-name of Huitzilopochtli, Hummingbird of the South, the principal god of the Aztec nation. It’s also an alternate day-name for Mixcoatl, the Cloud Serpent, a major deity of the Mixtec who retained much cultural and doctrinal independence from the imperial Aztec. For the official cult, Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca were born of the creative pair Ometeotl on other days, but for another they were born on One Flint of the celestial goddess Citlalicue, the Star Skirt, as depicted in Plate 32 of Codex Borgia. As a year-name, in the Aztecs’ deep mythology/history One Flint was the first historic year when the Mexica came into power in Tenochtitlan and thus a symbol of their imperial destiny. In that function it appears near the center on the Stone of the Suns.

Four Crocodile (in Nahuatl Nahui Cipactli) is another of Xiuhtecuhtli’s ceremonial day-names (besides One Rabbit as noted in the Snake trecena).

Five Wind (in Nahuatl Macuil Ehecatl) is the Mixtec day-name of Tlaloc.

Nine Death (in Nahuatl Chicnahui Miquitztli) I read somewhere long ago was either the day-name of Mictlantecuhtli himself or of another important Death Lord. Whichever…

Thirteen Dog (in Nahuatl Mahtlactli Ihuan Yeyi Itzcuintli) in Maya mythology as 13 Ok was associated with the birth of their Maize God Hun Hunahpu. Even after several centuries, the Aztecs probably associated the day with their own maize god Centeotl. (See the Grass trecena.)


Several of the surviving so-called Aztec codices (some originating from other cultures like the Mixtec) have Tonalamatl sections laying out the trecenas of the Tonalpohualli on separate pages. In Codex Borbonicus and Tonalamatl Aubin, the first two pages are missing; Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios are each lacking various pages (fortunately not the same ones); and in Codex Borgia and Codex Vaticanus all 20 pages are extant. (The Tonalpohualli is also presented in a spread-sheet fashion in Codex Borgia, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Cospi, but that format apparently serves other purposes.)


As described in my earlier blog The Aztec Calendar – My Obsession, some thirty years ago—on the basis of very limited ethnographic information and iconographic models —I presumed to create my own version of a Tonalamatl, publishing it in 1993 as Celebrate Native America!

When I made my version of the Flint trecena back around 1990, I didn’t know about Tonatiuh being another of its patrons and simply focused on Mictlantecuhtli. As usual in that uninformed time, I relied heavily on Codex Nuttall for image (and posture), working with regalia from various figures. At least I knew him as patron of the day Dog and invented an appropriately canine headdress. As Death Lords go, I think mine shows a good bit of skeletal glory.

Aztec Calendar – Flint trecena – Tonalamatl Balthazar


TONALAMATL BORGIA (re-created by Richard Balthazar from Codex Borgia)

Aztec Calendar – Flint trecena – Tonalamatl Borgia

In this trecena, we encounter the sun-god Tonatiuh for the second time: He was the primary patron of the earlier Death trecena on the right side of the panel. There he wears vaguely different regalia and is in the classical “dancing” pose, but in both of these images his red face-paint pattern is the same. The main differences are in their pendants and the thematic flints in this one’s headdress. This one’s odd “flower” on a stalk must mean something about this trecena, and the unusual version of speech symbol (cuciatl) likely does too.

Here Tonatiuh is on the left side of the panel, but I don’t think that means he’s necessarily the “secondary” patron. Though on the right side, Mictlantecuhtli may not be really the “primary” patron. Considering the auguries of this trecena, these two deities probably share primacy, balanced as they are on the flint’s knife-edge of opposing forces.

As the only image of Mictlantecuhtli in the tonalamatl, this one is outstanding in its gruesome glory. I particularly love his medusa-like locks with stars which probably imply that he’s a Night Lord. The pointy thing in his headdress, his usual ornament, is almost irrelevant in view of his standard bare skull (with spots of rot). Besides the surreal eyes in the skull, the detail that really gives me the creeps is that long, pointy tongue! Less disturbing is the fountain of blood rising behind him. We’re all familiar with how bloodthirsty death is…

In general, the iconography of figures in Tonalamatl Borgia is superbly detailed, if often badly obscured by damage to the pages. The lower part of this page has suffered terribly; particularly the original details of Mictlantecuhtli’s jaguar throne are barely discernible. Consequently, this re-creation is improvised from the blurred confusion of splotches and lacunae. I settled on a combination of the Diaz & Rogers imagination and that in the anonymous facsimile, both of which came up with an inexplicable fat fish.

I can only guess at the fish’s significance: Maybe those other artists intended it to relate to the eerily similar stylized human heart in sacrifice scenes like that in Codex Magliabechiano, p. 133:

Heart-sacrifice Scene from Codex Magliabechiano

Viewing the area under high magnification, I can almost see the blur as a skull with gaping jaws like those of the Death Lord above, which would make sense since the Lord often sits on a skull or has one in his “bustle” (like mine above).

Such speculation aside, I won’t even guess at the meaning of the tasseled square figure and flag-like item with patterned piece that hang in front of Mictlantecuhtli. But the central scene is unmistakably a ritual sacrifice by drowning, tying right in with the trecena’s other theme of sacrifice. Both patrons watch with obvious approval of the ritual, but one wonders why.

The soul of the drowned sacrifice won’t be going either to Tonatiuh’s idyllic Fourth Heaven or to Mictlantecuhtli’s desolate Mictlan, but to the joyful Eighth Heaven of Tlaloc, Tlalocan. I suspect that the act of sacrifice itself goes to keeping the Fifth Sun up in the sky as well as to slaking the blood-thirst of Death. In this context, it’s tempting to suggest that as he’s Lord of Number Six, Mictlantecuhtli’s miserable Mictlan might actually be the Sixth Heaven, so to speak…


TONALAMATL YOAL (compiled and re-created by Richard Balthazar on the basis of
Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios)

Aztec Calendar – Flint trecena – Tonalamatl Yoal

In Codex Telleriano-Remensis, the left-hand page of the Flint trecena with Tonatiuh is missing, so this image is based solely on the Codex Rios copy which goes wild with his divine regalia. With the major sunburst on his back as an unmistakable identifier, he lacks Borgia’s red face-paint design, likely because in the Rios image his whole body is dark red. I’ve chosen a ruddy flesh tone to avoid losing detail in monochrome darkness and have changed only the awkward length of his arms and angle of his scepter, which may be a version of the Fire Serpent.

However, the right-hand pages with Mictlantecuhtli still exist in both codices, the original and copy being almost identical in detail of regalia, skeletal limbs, and partially hidden skull beneath. But in Telleriano-Remensis, there’s a skull in his “bustle,” and in Rios (as here) it’s a dog’s head to indicate the day of which he’s patron. The circular orange items may intend marigolds, which are still considered a flower related to the Underworld.

In this Yoal image, I’ve changed the Death Lord’s ghastly brown and black visages with skeletal jaws to give him the human face of his bust above (top row, fifth from left) as Lord of the Night since they already share many details of headdress. As I’ve discussed in a blog “The Faces of Death,” this “living” face of the Night Lord is a break with the iconographic tradition of his face being almost everywhere else a skull. Another unusual detail is his blue-peaked cap—for some reason just like that of Xiuhtecuhtli in the first and tenth positions.



Tonalamatl Aubin patron panel for Flint trecena

The patron deities in the Tonalamatl Aubin are the usual suspects—with a few differences from the preceding Flint trecenas. On the left, Tonatiuh has no throne and only a few red marks on his face, and part of the regalia on his back has been omitted, apparently for lack of space on the page. Oddly, he has only one arm… Tonatiuh now wears a recognizable pendant but has no other identifiers—except for the partial sun-symbol below. On the right, this Mictlantecuhtli also has a “living” face as well as fleshed-out limbs, and at least the pointy thing in his headdress is familiar. (I can’t imagine what the Aubin artist had in mind to make his left foot black.)

The central scene of sacrifice presents a curious variation. The victim clings to a “tree” of some ceremonial sort, apparently to eventually sink into the water and drown. I wonder why part of the “basin” was painted green and about that bundle beside it with someone’s hindquarters sticking out—quite puzzling. Even more puzzling are the two snakes, the brown living one with Tonatiuh and the clearly defunct white one under Mictlantecuhtli. But there’s no one to ask…


Codex Borbonicus patron panel for Flint trecena

The patron panel for the Flint trecena in Codex Borbonicus explicitly shows the ordeal nature of the drowning sacrifice. Here the victim clings to a smooth pole, possibly even a greased one, until sliding down into the water to provide an entertaining public spectacle. The attendant patrons “dance” in celebration of the ritual. This short-armed Mictlantecuhtli on the right has both skull and skeletal limbs, as well as a mop of dark hair with stars.

On the other hand, this Tonatiuh on the right isn’t as recognizable; his Fire Serpent scepter is no sure identifier. Rather than a sun-symbol, the semi-circular thing on his back looks more like that strange thing on Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli in the Snake trecena, but this one has an out-of-place skull on it. Even the semi-circle at top center isn’t a sun symbol, but one of the night, relating to the Night Lord Mictlantecuhtli. Apparently, the patrons are considered much less important than the central sacrifice scene.

Meanwhile, the profusion of other items in this panel suggests other considerations. Take for instance the vignette on the upper left of a person half-engulfed in some container, which harks back to the “packaged” body in the Aubin panel. When a motif appears again in separate situations, one has to assume that it has important symbolic significance—and when it’s repeated like the two blue creatures (also seen before) or the two pots of water. Those repetitive blue symbols around the pole of sacrifice surely aren’t there for gratuitous decoration, but I’m at a total loss for their meanings.

Note the little spear-bearer on the lower left. I’d bet he’s there to indicate the Flint trecena with his flint spearhead. However, I can’t explain the presence of that Venus-related scorpion over his head. It’s the same as the one with the Morning Star in the Snake panel. Has the Borbonicus artist gotten his dogmas mixed up? As a grace note, check out the little snake hovering over Tonatiuh’s head—reminiscent of that Aubin snake with him. But there’s no one to ask…


Codex Vaticanus patron panel for Flint trecena

The Codex Vaticanus patron panel for the Flint trecena is a slight rearrangement of what we saw in the Borgia panel, switching sides for the patrons but adding nothing new. The original panel was laid out with much wider spaces, squeezing off parts of Mictlantecuhtli’s regalia like what may have been another “pointy thing” in his headdress. For convenience and aesthetics, I brought the elements closer together and touched up several broken lines and blotched colors. Again, the central ritual sacrifice seems of exceeding importance, and once again the victim’s drowning is being graciously assisted. After all, his death will keep Tonatiuh turning in the sky, and Mictlantecuhtli will be happy to take his bones home to Mictlan.


This survey of the Flint trecena’s patron panels certainly corroborates Dr. Paquin’s main themes of sacrifice and separation and well illustrates canonical (if at times confused) iconography across the various codices. Stylistic differences ultimately don’t really matter all that much.



The calendar’s eleventh trecena will be that of Monkey, its patron being Patecatl, god of medicine as well as of intoxicants like pulque and psychedelic herbs. Stay tuned.


You can view all the calendar pages I’ve completed up to this point in the Tonalamatl gallery.

Aztec Calendar – Snake Trecena

The ninth trecena (13-day “week”) of the Aztec Tonalpohualli (ceremonial count of days) is called Snake for its first numbered day, which is also the 5th day of the vientena (20-day “month”). In the Nahuatl language Snake is Coatl, and it’s known as Chikchan in Yucatec Maya and Can in Quiché.

For the Aztecs the Snake symbolizes mystical power, and it’s probably no accident that it was associated with the male genitalia. The patron of the day Snake is Chalchiuhtlicue, goddess of flowing water (see Reed trecena). Images of the snake are frequent in the codices simply as reminders of divine power. It’s often a manifestation of Quetzalcoatl, the Plumed Serpent, and the core element of the divine weapon wielded by many deities, the Xiuhcoatl or Fire Serpent.


The principal patron of the Snake trecena is Xiuhtecuhtli, the Lord of Fire—or alternatively, of Turquoise (a homonym). As the latter, he is the lord of time and the sacred calendar, the Turquoise Year (tonalpohualli), in which capacity he determines mortals’ day of death and watches over departed souls on their journey to Mictlan. Also lord of the blue sky of day, Xiuhtecuhtli symbolizes the unfathomable, the limitless, unity, and completion. In Aztec astronomy, he’s lord of the Pole Star, the center of all things, and spindle of the universe. In addition, he’s both the Lord of the number 1 (with the Blue Hummingbird as his totem bird) and first Lord of the Night. Historically, Xiuhtecuhtli is a new, younger version of the ancestral deity of fire, Huehueteotl (the Old God). His birth day-name is One Rabbit.

The secondary patron of this trecena is Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (Lord of the House of the Dawn), a nagual of Quetzalcoatl representing the planet Venus as the Morning Star. He’s symbolic of re-emergence, of the triumph of life over death. Meanwhile, he’s a dangerous deity, his gaze very destructive for both mortals and gods. Legend has him shooting a dart at the Sun, Tonatiuh, who throws it back at him but hits instead Itztlacoliuhqui (Curved Obsidian Blade), the god of stone and cold, a nagual of Tezcatlipoca. After Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli periodically disappears from the eastern morning sky to descend into the Underworld, he’s replaced in the western evening sky by Xolotl, the Evening Star. The Lord of the number 12 with (logically) the Quetzal as his totem bird, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli’s birth day-name is One Reed.


By Marguerite Paquin, author of “Manual for the Soul: A Guide to the Energies of Life: How Sacred Mesoamerican Calendrics Reveal Patterns of Destiny”

This dynamic trecena’s theme is emergence and liberation. The energies associated with this trecena are strongly aligned with Lifeforce, Fertility, Sacred Authority, Justice, Liberation, Cyclical Regeneration, and the promulgation of higher knowledge. A sense of new vitality or awakening to new ideas often accompanies this time frame, suggesting that transcendent events, possibly of a world-shaping nature, could manifest during this period, opening up the realm of new possibilities.

Further to how these energies connect with world events, see the Maya Count of Days Horoscope blog at The Maya equivalent is the Chikchan trecena.


The Aztec Tonalpohualli, like the ancestral Maya calendar, is counted through the sequence of 20 named days of the agricultural “month” (vientena), of which there are 18 in the solar year. Starting with the 5th day of the current vientena, 1 Snake, this trecena continues with 2 Death, 3 Deer, 4 Rabbit, 5 Water, 6 Dog, 7 Monkey, 8 Grass, 9 Reed, 10 Jaguar, 11 Eagle, 12 Vulture, and 13 Earthquake.

There are four important days in the Snake trecena:

One Snake (in Nahuatl Ce Coatl) was noted in the Florentine Codex as traditionally a favorable day for merchants/traders (pochteca), travelers, and armies to “set forth to far lands.” In that spirit, the Codex indicates that One Snake was often the occasion for declaring of war. It is significant that in 1521 this was the day the Aztecs surrendered to Hernan Cortés and his conquistadores at Tenochtitlan after being defeated in a fierce battle.

Seven Monkey (in Nahuatl Chicome Ozomatli)is traditionally associated with wealth and prosperity. This day-sign appears on the Aztec Calendar Stone, below the central face.

Eight Grass (in Nahuatl Chicueyi Malinalli), according to some sources, is an alternate birth day-name of the goddess Chalchiuhtlicue, generally called One Water (again see Reed Trecena).

Nine Reed (in Nahuatl Chicnahui Acatl) is the birth day-name of the Earth Goddess Tlazolteotl, Goddess of Filth (see Deer Trecena). On this day, gifts of cacao, precious feathers, and flowers are offered to her.


Several of the surviving so-called Aztec codices (some originating from other cultures like the Mixtec) have Tonalamatl sections laying out the trecenas of the Tonalpohualli on separate pages. In Codex Borbonicus and Tonalamatl Aubin, the first two pages are missing; Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios are each lacking various pages (fortunately not the same ones); and in Codex Borgia and Codex Vaticanus all 20 pages are extant. (The Tonalpohualli is also presented in a spread-sheet fashion in Codex Borgia, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Cospi, but that format apparently serves other purposes.)


As described in my earlier blog The Aztec Calendar – My Obsession, some thirty years ago—on the basis of very limited ethnographic information and iconographic models —I presumed to create my own version of a Tonalamatl, publishing it in 1993 as Celebrate Native America!

My version of the Snake trecena portrays Xiuhtecuhtli in a wild interpretation of his image in Codex Borbonicus, mixing a fancy snake on his back from the Stone of the Suns with a flaming crest much like Quetzalcoatl’s plumes in the Jaguar Trecena. Obviously, I took the turquoise and fire homonyms to heart in the coloration and wisely incorporated his traditional pendant plaque.  I really should have made the bird totem on his forehead blue, and I have no idea where I got the shield design with the sun motif. Though I hadn’t seen any other images of the deity, I think my fantasy makes a very convincing Lord of Fire.

Aztec Calendar – Snake trecena – Tonalamatl Balthazar


TONALAMATL BORGIA (re-created by Richard Balthazar from Codex Borgia)

Aztec Calendar – Snake Trecena – Tonalamatl Borgia

The Snake trecena page in Codex Borgia is the busiest one in its tonalamatl and raises a huge number of questions, both mythological and iconographic. It definitely begs a narrative.

Let’s start with the primary patron (the big red guy on the right), Xiuhtecuhtli himself enthroned and looking very pensive or stern/aggravated. In the original, his image is quite deteriorated, his regalia blurred and spotty. In their restoration of the Codex Borgia (Dover Publications, 1993), Gisele Diaz & Alan Rodgers have been inventive in restoring his ornaments, some of which I’ve used; another anonymous facsimile made other choices; and I’ve made my own in some places.

The best example is the feathery thing on his back, the top of which in the original is basically blank (or worn away?). Diaz and Rodgers fill it with rows of short lines; the other facsimile intimates a spiral of same. My close study of the blankness found tiny indications of a possible second row of lines, but I’ve left the rest blank. Another problematic motif is that odd thing on his forehead, maybe a bird, which would make sense as his totem, but it looks nothing like any other bird I’ve ever seen in any of the codices.

When we consider the mass of material adjacent to the deity, things get really mysterious, like that slanting bundle of jaguar hide and spotted blue strips (with a surreal bird’s head) running behind Xiuhtecuhtli’s shoulder. We’ll see something similar in the Vaticanus patron panel later. Does it mean something that the water (from above) flows into the bundle and deity, rather than away from him as from Tlaloc in the Rain Trecena and Chalchiuhtlicue in the Reed Trecena? The two arrows in the stream are almost to be expected as power symbols.

However, that ornamental scorpion is a major enigma. Since the scorpion apparently has had obscure connections with the planet Venus ever since Maya times, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli being the Morning Star is probably the key. The scorpion’s sting would be a fine material metaphor for the Morning Star’s divinely destructive gaze. Also, I’m puzzled by the patterns of squared and spiral water flowing at/onto Xiuhtecuhtli.

Briefly, the other major enigma is the central vacant throne, the jaguar pelt indicating that there should be some deity sitting there. Who?

Now let’s talk about the secondary patron with the tongue-twisting name, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, sitting gingerly on the jaguar seat on the left. The only evidence of his identity is the headdress with the long spokes and feathery crown. Otherwise, he’s just an innocent little blond guy with standard Aztec finery. His hands-in-the-air gesture certainly must mean something like, “I know nothing about it!” “What did you expect?” “Who cares?” Or perhaps a hundred other probably dismissive comments relating to the vacant throne or to the flood dousing the Lord of Fire. Between Xiuhtecuhtli’s pout/glower and Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli’s nonchalance, some story is definitely going on in this page, but it would take an Aztec priest to provide an exegesis.

I must confess that I made the personal choice to color the Morning Star’s “mask” in a pleasant light blue as opposed to the depressing grey or brown to be seen in images that follow. The little flag on his nose-piece is actually indicative of Tezcatlipoca, but this might just be a convenient decoration. Meanwhile, his predominantly white body and clothing are most unusual for deities in Codex Borgia. Maybe the artist simply left him unfinished—too busy with Xiuhtecuhtli? In any case, we’ll see more detail in later images of this god.


TONALAMATL YOAL (compiled and re-created by Richard Balthazar on the basis of
Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios)

Aztec Calendar – Snake Trecena – Tonalamatl Yoal

Speaking of detail, the image of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli on the left in this Telleriano-Remensis and Rios vision has them in spades, including a little One Reed identifier hovering overhead. The toothy feathered snake-monster on his back probably underlines his relationship to Quetzalcoatl (whose birth day-name is Nine Wind but sometimes called One Reed). As they will also occur in later images, the tear-drop motifs in his headdress (and in the snake’s) are other identifiers. Note his brown mask and mostly white raiment. Here his hand-gestures seem simply formulaic for his “dancing” or sitting posture on the standard place symbol/glyph.

On the right, Xiuhtecuhtli also “dances” or sits on a place symbol and wears ornate regalia. His headdress is very like that on his bust as Night-Lord (fifth from the left in the top row). The Telleriano-Remensis page with his image is missing, and I’ve had to base this representation on the uninspired Rios copy, supplementing it with details from elsewhere in T-R—like the fiery Xiuhcoatl he wields in his raised right hand. In his image in both T-R and Rios for the Pachtontli (Teotleco) solar vientena, Xiuhtecuhtli wears a flaming serpent on his back, but I thought that would be a little too much here. However, in both of those images one of his feet is the mystical water-fire symbol (atl-tlachinolli), which I’ve inserted as the Fire Lord’s right foot. Note his red and black face-paint as in the Borgia version—and in the following examples.



Tonalamatl Aubin patron panel for Snake Trecena

Once again, the patron panel in Tonalamatl Aubin gives one serious aesthetic pause. It’s got most of the canonical elements, but they seem viewed through a strange (psychedelic?) lens. Of course, there’s fair reason to believe that psychoactive drugs were involved. Here, the patrons of the trecena have switched sides and seats, and the head of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (recognizable by the brown mask and teardrop ornaments in his headdress) is grossly distorted. Borgia’s vast flow of water has now become a mere spurt as part of the Morning Star’s headdress—another instance of the atl-tlachinolli water-fire symbol.

Meanwhile, Xiuhtecuhtli on the left has the standard red and black face and a fire-snake “cape,” and he holds his blue bird totem, which is by no stretch of the imagination a hummingbird. And by the way, I sort of hoped to see an empty throne and miss the scorpion.

Most startling is the fact that Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli has been flayed—sacrificially skinned! (In his Rios copy he is also flayed, but in the T-R original, only his hand shows the red stripes. I chose to ignore those details in Tonalamatl Yoal as too much information.) Here there’s no way around the ritual flaying of this deity. In fact, in several Borgia images of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli he’s been skinned. In Vaticanus there are also many such images, as well as a section of five panels with the flayed deity attacking various people, places, and even a jaguar.  In each of those he wears an odd eyepiece representing his dangerous gaze. (These five panels also appear in Codex Cospi in much different style and similar detail but without the flaying.)

Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli: Borgia (l.); Vaticanus (r.)

The consistent representation of Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli as flayed suggests a close relationship with Xipe Totec, the Flayed God, whom we will see later as a patron of the 20th trecena, Rabbit. His virtues of fertility, renewal, and spring are broadly discussed in the “The Flayed God” by Roberta H. and Peter T. Markman (HarperSanFrancisco, 1992), who note that several other deities are also shown in the codices as flayed. I’ve found many skinned images of Tlaloc, Mixcoatl, Tlazolteotl, and even some of the Cihuateteo and Ahuiateteo.

I think the flaying of victims and deities must have been a transcendent sign/symbol of holiness—like the ubiquitous western tradition of the halo—and suspect that Xipe Totec, who usually only wears their skins, is the “high priest” of the bloody sect. Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli seems to be the principal flayed god in the pantheon. I wonder why he, the Morning Star, would be chosen for such grisly glory. Maybe because he’s a nagual of the great god Quetzalcoatl?


Codex Borbonicus patron panel for Snake Trecena

That being said, in the tonalamatl of Codex Borbonicus, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli (back on the left side) is once again white-skinned in largely white clothes—maybe meaning his Borgia image was in fact completed. He wears his usual brown mask and has teardrop designs in his headdress, appearing in a constellation of motifs: water flowing at/onto the Lord of Fire (with arrows); some kind of a watery link (like the odd item at the center of the Aubin panel) to a throne (vacant but for a pile of ritual offerings); and what looks like a spider but is really a scorpion, both arachnids. Under high magnification one can see a tail/stinger curved up across its body. This is all stuff we already know from the Borgia panel, but I’ve never seen that surreal blue pointy-nose mask-thing on the back of his head before. Might it relate to his dangerous gaze?

With all that symbolic paraphernalia, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli seriously overshadows Xiuhtecuhtli, who sports only that fire-snake on his back (the model for my own trecena above), the beautiful Borbonicus-blue totem bird on his brow and plaque-pendant. The artist apparently didn’t care much about this supposedly primary patron, grotesquely distorting his torso and shrinking his arms and hands—in contrast to complex and careful execution of the secondary patron.

As a post-script to this description, note the snake in the lower left denoting the trecena and the blue creature on the lower right. Whatever its species, it’s the same as the blue animal held by Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli in the Aubin panel. Like the vacant throne and scorpion, such repeated motifs surely must mean something integral to the implied narrative.


Codex Vaticanus patron panel for Snake Trecena

The Codex Vaticanus patron panel for the Snake trecena is obviously badly “weathered,” and I’ve tried to touch it up, restoring most faded and broken lines and filling in some of the color, except for the spotty flow of water. The patrons have switched sides once more, Xiuhtecuhtli in a divinely complex headdress brooding over Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli, who’s appropriately flayed now. We’ve again got the main narrative motifs, including Borgia’s strange staff with curls (but no weird bird’s head), the flow of water with scorpion and arrows, and the vacant throne—clearly a retelling of the same old story. The staff and flow of water being placed subtly in the foreground in this panel tells me they’re probably the main theme of the implied narrative.

But here the scorpion- and arrow-laden flood (apparently summoned by Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli) no longer flows at/onto Xiuhtecuhtli, instead getting “swallowed up” by the staff itself. Perhaps that motif is the Fire Lord’s symbolic “spindle of the universe” neutralizing the flood—or maybe the smoke-like staff is a stylized column of his divine fire? If the latter, then we’re again looking at an enormous atl-tlachinolli, which I’m told is a symbol of war. Does that mean the Morning Star is challenging the Pole Star for supremacy (the empty throne) of the sky? Or maybe that’s way too metaphysical.


Let me try another reading: perhaps this is all about Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli trying to take over the primary patronage of the trecena from Xiuhtecuhtli, in the Borgia panel sitting nonchalantly on his modest jaguar seat but ready to jump onto the empty throne, while Xiuhtecuhtli scowls at him and fends off his flood. In the Yoal panel, the Fire Lord is still on the prominent right, but One Reed displays imposing glitz with his serpent-monster cape. The two have switched sides in the Aubin panel, where Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli now sits on the primary throne, with Xiuhtecuhtli on the secondary jaguar seat. Back on the left side in Borbonicus, Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli with all his paraphernalia has basically usurped the panel from the battered Xiuhtecuhtli, having physical possession of the throne at least, and in Vaticanus he holds off the Fire Lord with the huge war symbol, the trecena’s throne now his for the taking.

Such are my amateur shots at playing Aztec priest, whether or not either of these stories is true. Either way, the roles of primary and secondary patron of this trecena aren’t exactly clear-cut, not that it makes a great deal of difference.

The flayed Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli is the main evidence I see of Dr. Paquin’s ancient Maya themes for this trecena of fertility, emergence, and liberation. Xiuhtecuhtli’s divinatory significance for authority, justice, and higher knowledge is nebulous. And my tentative readings have little to do with any Maya themes. After the several intervening centuries, I wouldn’t be surprised if the later Aztec iteration of this trecena’s themes might be substantially different than the Maya. Perhaps now it’s about confrontation, ambition, and power. After all, the Snake’s all about power, One Snake’s a great day for a war, and Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli is well known as a very aggressive deity, a holy terror. Maybe Xiuhtecuhtli represents the unified center of reality, and the bellicose Morning Star represents the antithetical force of chaos and anarchy, another elemental dichotomy like water and fire. Maybe not…



The calendar’s tenth trecena will be that of Flint, its patrons being the existential Lord of the Land of the Dead, Mictlantecuhtli, and the mighty Tonatiuh, God of the Fifth Sun. Stay tuned.


You can view all the calendar pages I’ve completed up to this point in the Tonalamatl gallery.

More on the Lunar Bunny

Besides for my motto, I’m indebted to the alley cat Mehitabel (“Archy & Mehitabel” by Don Marquis—1928) for stating our existential problem: “the eternal struggle between art and life.”

In early September I got word I had to move out of my penthouse apartment on Alicia Street. That same day I arranged with my daughter to rent the house she owns on Gilmore Street next door to her place. Moving there took some three months, meanwhile putting my projects on the back burner. Said projects included the ninth in my series of re-creations of trecena pages from the Aztec calendar (see the eighth, the Grass trecena) and a third short story about the old man dancing (see the second story “Better Buy a Dozen”).

Shortly before Thanksgiving when I’d finally gotten on top of the domestic trauma, I came down with Covid, fortunately only a mild case of exhaustion and congestion, with some ten days in isolation/recuperation. Off and on during the month, I managed to play with a few pixels on the Snake trecena re-creation from Codex Borgia (see “The Aztec Codices”) and to sketch out a couple paragraphs on the story.

“Clean” again (and resettled), I jumped back into the artistic fray, already making good progress on the Snake trecena. In addition, yesterday I posted a blog on 12/6/22 in the Aztec calendar as the day Ce Ollin (One Earthquake), when I became Pilzincoyotl (the Young Coyote), a deity of dance and nagual of Xochipilli (the Flower Prince).

While we’re on the subject of the current trecena in the Aztec calendar, I note that this Friday, 12/9/22 will be the day Nahui Xochitl (Four Flower). That’s the day-name in my private universe for the Sixth Sun—as proclaimed in my post “The Old Queen’s Proclamation,” which means we will have completed four cycles of the new era. You’re free to celebrate as you will this day of hope for a beautiful new world.

Now let me add some Aztec information that my devoted readers may have missed. Nearly four years ago in 2018, I posted “Ancient America-Asia Coincidences” about the Mesoamerican concept of a Rabbit in the Moon. At that point, I was working on Icon #16 (for my YE GODS! coloring book) and presented my drawing of the full moon:

Back then I was intending that icon to represent the god and goddess of the moon, Tecciztecatl and Metztli, but early last year (1/21) I discovered that I’d been mistaken (see my blog post “To Err is Human”)—that the god in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis whom I’d used for a model wasn’t Tecciztecatl but Tonatiuh, the god of the sun. Oh, well…

After that, back in May 2022, while working on the Death trecena re-creation, I discovered that the calendrical day-name of the Rabbit in the Moon is apparently 12 Rabbit! That day comes up in the current trecena on 12/17/22—a great day to celebrate the lunar bunny:

The Lunar Bunny – 12 Rabbit

How’s that for truly esoteric information!?


Divine Dance

In the Aztec calendar today, December 6, 2022, is Ce Ollin (One Earthquake) and therefore a very special day for me. Here’s why:

I’ve often enough run on about my love of dance and long Terpsichorean history—ever since the pudgy age of ten dancing squares. I    t’s been seventy years now of twinkling toes and many styles in the interim, also amply discussed elsewhere in ethnic detail. For the past thirty years, I’ve danced (mostly by myself) in a variety of gay bars—the only place one could usually find good dance rhythms—and four or five years ago discovered ecstatic dance in a peaceful, ceremonial environment. One moves as moved by the music, and the resulting ecstasy can be of a very spiritual nature, or at the very least psychically exhilarating.

As a reasonably logical consequence of my decades-long fixation on Aztec mythology and iconography, I began in my dance to personify Aztec deities. First, for some years, it was, Xochipilli (the Flower Prince), god of arts, etc. His concocted image in my old calendar book has gotten a lot of attention, and it is exceptional, if I do say so myself. Last June I drew a new image of Xochipilli for Gay Pride 2022, also often viewed and praised ever since. Also exceptional, this image was my ecstatic avatar for most of the past summer.

Oddly, my concocted image of Huehuecoyotl (the Old Coyote) has been at least as popular and even had its copyright infringed—truly sincere appreciation. (But I don’t believe in copyrights anymore.) Among other spiritual and corporeal things, he’s the god of dance, and in August, I found myself dancing him instead—like the image of him in my Icon #6 for the YE GODS! coloring book:

My Vision of Huehuecoyotl, the Old Coyote

At times I’ve even danced Five Flower, another god of dance and music and a manifestation of Xochipilli. A couple weeks later, I got to feeling instead like a descendant of this famous Huehuecoyotl—like a new deity named Pilzincoyotl (the Young Coyote)?

One night in an exceptionally divine dance, I manifested Pilzincoyotl with rattle and pennant, enacting the image I’ve been drawing of an Aztec dancer. For the meditative afterlude of tonal crystal bowls, we leaned along the wall, and he revealed our divine lineage: Seems we’re a composite nagual (manifestation) of Xochipilli and Huehuecoyotl, born of their well-known romantic liaison, on April 26, 1942, with the ceremonial day-name Ome Acatl (Two Reed). That means the god Tezcatlipoca (the Smoking Mirror) of the same day-name is our patron-godfather.

Naguals only mature after they’ve lived a full cycle of 52 standard years. Then we became a full-fledged nagual in 1994—right when I went back to a regular regimen of dancing. Our formal divination was by Tezcatlipoca on the day Ce Ollin (One Earthquake) in that year, ordaining us as Pilzincoyotl (Young Coyote), spirit of dance. A half-cycle later (26 years) in 2020—just before the onset of the pandemic—we ceased being Young Coyote and became an official deity of dance named Quetzalcoyotl (or Quetzal-Coyote, the Quetzal being an exotic plumed bird). According to our day-name, we’re also worshipped as Ollintecuhtli (Lord of Motion, esp. Earthquakes—when the earth itself dances).

One evening divine Quetzalcoyotl danced in waving quetzal plumes and displayed our power (inherited from Huehuecoyotl): to transform into all sorts of animals. We prefer dancing as birds, like the majestic Cuauhcoyotl (Eagle-Coyote) with striped pinions sweeping high across the sky. Hummingbirds, though mini-minions of mean old Huitzilopochtli (Hummingbird of the South), are quite fun to dance, flitting dizzily around the floor. We don’t enjoy dancing as dogs—they’re such slavish creatures and smell as bad as crazy Uncle Xolotl (Evening Star). Though obscenely limber, they sadly lack agility and physical grace. Once we danced a big, feathered snake, impersonating Uncle Quetzalcoatl (Quetzal-Serpent) in sinuous undulations of flaming plumes. Then, since Quetzalcoyotl had never seen one, we danced my vision of a Kwakiutl raven, rejoicing in our obsidian wings.

Many evenings now, Quetzalcoyotl and I have danced and hopefully will for many, many more. On a recent evening, he revealed that at our ordination as Pilzincoyotl, we were also designated the deity of the rainbow, Cozamalotecuhtli. When I eventually finish drawing us as the colorful Pilzincoyotl dancing in the Flower World, I’ll draw our self-portrait as Quetzalcoyotl in plumed magnificence.

Please don’t take my remarks about naguals as a sign I suffer from psychotic delusions. They’re not delusions but illusions, sur-realities. (Besides, reality itself is simply a construct of illusions.) You may also call my illusions of divinity psychotic, but they’re perfectly harmless. I don’t need anyone else to worship or believe in me. Just knowing I’m a god is plenty good enough. Precious few folks realize that they’re in fact deities.


Another Story about the Old Man Dancing

After taking a break to complete the Grass trecena illustrations and blog, I’ve managed to wrap up my second short story about the dance in this old dame yet, incorporating the valuable comments of an old friend who’s a respected writer in her own right. She thinks, as do I, that I’m crossing some lines in the usual treatment of the relationship between the (much) older and the newest generation.

In fact, these aren’t stories about me, but sheer fictions about young folks I supposedly encounter in my ecstatic dance evenings (usually at least twice a week). This second story is entitled “Better Buy a Dozen,” about the old man offering grandfatherly advice to a young fellow who doesn’t know what kind of guy he should think of himself as.

Since I have no image specific for this story, I think I’d best simply use the old picture of Five Flower dancing again–like a logo for the short-story series I’m planning on the theme of the Old Man Dancing. He comes from my re-creation of the Codex Borgia Flower trecena:

Aztec God Five Flower Dancing Ecstatically (and Singing)


Aztec Calendar – Grass Trecena

The eighth trecena (13-day “week”) of the Aztec Tonalpohualli (ceremonial count of days) is called Grass for its first numbered day, which is also the 12th day of the vientena (20-day “month”). In the Nahuatl language Grass is Malinalli, and it’s known as Eb’ in Yucatec Maya and E or Ey in Quiché Maya.

According to references I found long ago, for the Aztecs the day Grass signified penance and self-flagellation as an offering to the gods; though it may be no reflection on such suffering, the day Grass is anatomically connected to the bowels. The patron of the day Grass is Patecatl, the god of medicine (herbology), healing and fertility, and surgery. A pulque deity like his wife Mayauel, he’s the god of intoxication by hallucinogenic mushrooms, peyote, and psychotropic herbs such as datura (jimson weed), morning glory, and marijuana, as well as of plants used in healing, fortune telling, shamanic magic, and public religious ceremonies.


There’s unanimity that the principal patron of the Grass trecena is Mayauel (the aforementioned wife of Patecatl), a maternal and fertility goddess connected with nourishment who personifies the maguey plant, a member of the agave family. (See my Icon #9.) Besides fibers for ropes and cloth, the most important maguey product is the alcoholic beverage pulque (or octli).  As a pulque goddess, Mayauel is the mother of the Centzon Totochtin (400 Rabbits), patrons of drunkenness by all forms of intoxication.  (Drinking was generally only permitted in ceremonies, but the elderly were free to drink whenever they wished.) Her day-name is Eight Flint.

On the other hand, there’s considerable confusion about the secondary patron of this trecena. In most tonalamatls the male personage accompanying Mayauel bears no identifying emblems, but in the related Telleriano-Remensis and Rios codices (sources of Tonalamatl Yoal below), it’s unambiguously Centeotl, the god of maize, the 4th lord of the night and the 7th lord of the day.


By Marguerite Paquin, author of “Manual for the Soul: A Guide to the Energies of Life: How Sacred Mesoamerican Calendrics Reveal Patterns of Destiny”

This trecena’s theme is vitality and fertility. Given that both patrons are oriented towards celebration, this period encompasses energies related to abundance and the promulgation of life. Many born during this time frame may easily tap into the generative and celebratory nature of these energies through feasting, dancing, and pleasure-seeking. Although both vision and empowerment are associated with these energies, caution might be needed to avoid issues created through excess, particularly during the intense final days of the trecena.

Further to how these energies connect with world events, see the Maya Count of Days Horoscope blog at The Maya equivalent is the Eb’ trecena.


The Aztec Tonalpohualli, like the ancestral Maya calendar, is counted through the sequence of 20 named days of the agricultural “month” (vientena), of which there are 18 in the solar year. Starting with the 12th day of the current vientena, Grass, this trecena continues with 2 Reed, 3 Jaguar, 4 Eagle, 5 Vulture, 6 Earthquake, 7 Flint, 8 Rain, 9 Flower, 10 Crocodile, 11 Wind, 12 House, and 13 Lizard.

There are several important days in the Grass trecena:
One Grass (in Nahuatl Ce Malinalli) is the day-name of one of the tzitzimime (star demons), evil spirits who devour people during solar eclipses. The goddess Itzpapalotl is the principle tzitzimitl, as well as the patron of the Cihuateteo (as discussed earlier in the Deer trecena), which may indicate a relationship between these two categories of supernatural beings.

Two Reed (in Nahuatl Ome Acatl) is the day-name of the creator god Tezcatlipoca, though in his various manifestations other day-names are sometimes cited. As Ome Acatl (Omacatl), he was seen as patron of celebrations, often shown seated on a rush bundle symbolic of his role as the god of banquets. Two Reed was also one of the days when New Fire ceremonies are traditionally held (every 52 years).

Two Reed is also important for me personally as my day-name; I don’t pretend any relation to the god other than having a fondness for celebrations. In this personal context, the next day Three Jaguar (in Nahuatl Yeyi Ocelotl) is the day-name of my youngest grandson.

Five Vulture (in Nahuatl Macuil Cozcacuauhtli) is the day-name of one of the Ahuiateteo, the gods of pleasure and excess. Judging from the augury of the day Vulture, he’s the god of the joys of wealth and conversely of financial woes like poverty, (and oppressive responsibilities of great riches). Usually paired with the Cihuateotl One Eagle (Ce Cuauhtli), a goddess of bravery, Five Vulture is also one of the Macuitonaleque, patrons of calendar diviners.

Seven Flint (in Nahuatl Chicome Tecpatl) is the day-name of one of the several goddesses of tender young maize. (There are deities for all growth aspects of this staple crop.)

Ten Crocodile (in Nahuatl Mahtlactli Cipactli) is noted in the Florentine Codex as a day especially associated with wealth, happiness, and contentment.


Several of the surviving so-called Aztec codices (some originating from other cultures like the Mixtec) have Tonalamatl sections laying out the trecenas of the Tonalpohualli on separate pages. In Codex Borbonicus and Tonalamatl Aubin, the first two pages are missing; Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios are each lacking various pages (fortunately not the same ones); and in Codex Borgia and Codex Vaticanus all 20 pages are extant. (The Tonalpohualli is also presented in a spread-sheet fashion in Codex Borgia, Codex Vaticanus, and Codex Cospi, but that format apparently serves other purposes.)


As described in my earlier blog The Aztec Calendar – My Obsession, some thirty years ago—on the basis of very limited ethnographic information and iconographic models —I presumed to create my own version of a Tonalamatl, publishing it in 1993 as Celebrate Native America!

My version of the Grass trecena featured a Nuttall-inspired image of the goddess Mayauel, and I showed her holding out a pot of pulque, a frequent motif in that codex. At the time I didn’t know about her personification of the maguey (or about any secondary patron) and resorted to the crocodile headdress and jaguar throne of one of the Nuttall ladies (Six Wind). I at least knew enough to include a cute little rabbit as a deity of drunkenness. If I might say so myself—and I will—the page achieves a rather iconic effect.

Aztec Calendar – Grass trecena – Tonalamatl Balthazar


TONALAMATL BORGIA (re-created by Richard Balthazar from Codex Borgia)

Aztec Calendar – Grass Trecena – Tonalamatl Borgia

The cultural importance of pulque is clearly indicated by the elegant, ornamented brew-pot in the center of the panel, almost overshadowing the trecena patron Mayauel on the right. She sports some intricate, unique regalia but is identifiable by the stylized maguey plant behind her. In that context, I prefer to think of these stylized realizations more as ‘surrealizations,’ not attempting a naturalistic representation but a universal image. More such ‘surrealized’ magueys will follow. So much for my half-baked artistic theory—which I would also apply to Aztec art in general.

I must confess to doing serious graphic surgery on the proportions of her legs, which in the original were so undersized that she looked like a hydrocephalic infant. Perhaps the Borgia artist’s aesthetic was impaired by drinking too much pulque? Also, I added standard wristbands to connect to the long tassels. Most curious is the blue on the lower half of her face.

As noted earlier, the secondary patron on the left isn’t identifiable by anything in his regalia, though his throne and jaguar pelt show that he’s definitely a deity. I’m impressed by the dainty, naturalistic way he sips from his bowl of pulque. Other drinkers are usually more formally posed as in this pulque party in Codex Vindobonensis (from an incomplete facsimile):

Pulque Party from Codex Vindobonensis

This party was likely a formal/ceremonial affair involving important personages, some even masked, who were labelled with their day-names. One wonders about the two who stir their drinks with something (a celery stick?) and must note that the standard froth on their cups appears on the Borgia brew-pot but not on the unknown fellow’s cup.

One item in the background is of disturbing significance for divination: the heart on a stick. Does this imply that heart-sacrifice is part of the pulque ritual? I haven’t seen any scholarly mention of such—or maybe it’s a mysterious emblem of the drinker? If so, it’s no help at all in identifying this secondary patron of the trecena.


TONALAMATL YOAL (compiled and re-created by Richard Balthazar on the basis of
Codex Telleriano-Remensis and Codex Rios)

Aztec Calendar – Grass Trecena – Tonalamatl Yoal

This image of Mayauel on the left is based on that from Codex Rios; her page in Telleriano-Remensis is missing. Here she rises up out of the maguey, which is ornamented by odd flowers and fruits. Again, she’s shown with a blue lower face, and speaking of ornaments, her over-sized headdress (also in blue and white as in Codex Borgia) is topped with three mushrooms indicating her interest in that means of entheogenic intoxication as well.

The secondary patron in these two codices, as also noted earlier, is unambiguously Centeotl, god of maize, as indicated by the bag of maize-ears on his back. In the interest of transparency, I admit to performing radical plastic surgery to make Centeotl look realistically human on a par with Mayauel. The two original images, while very similar to each other, were both far too sketchy (and short-armed) to hold their own against the elegance of the goddess:

Centeotl in Telleriano-Remensis (l.) and Rios (r.)

In addition (or subtraction!), I omitted the white banner they inexplicably hold behind the fancy feathered one. Whatever it signifies, I don’t care. Meanwhile, the sloppy Rios image makes me wonder if maybe the Italian copy of the Aztec codex might have involved a number of artists, some more competent than others. The qualitative variation in Rios images is striking.



Tonalamatl Aubin patron panel for Grass trecena

The patron panel in Tonalamatl Aubin is replete with the motifs we saw in Codex Borgia, plus some. The figure of Mayauel is enthroned with a highly abstracted maguey on its back, and part of her headdress is in blue and white, but there is only a vague indication of a blue lower jaw. Curiously, she doesn’t hold a pulque bowl but an incense bag. The pulque brew-pot appears within the night symbol at the top.

The secondary patron on the left is again unidentifiable, except that he holds the same flowered banner as Centeotl in Tonalamatl Yoal, and wears that disturbing skewered heart. Is that banner enough to signify Centeotl? In any case, there’s no awkward white banner… New are the little couple at the bottom apparently having a great party—either drinking or regurgitating. At least they add a little drama to the tableau.


Codex Borbonicus patron panel for Grass trecena

This patron panel for the Grass trecena in Codex Borbonicus is typically cluttered with symbolic items, among which are frothy pots of pulque, the brew-pot included in the night symbol like in Tonalamatl Aubin, a little guy on the lower right apparently vomiting, and another on the lower left with snake and shield who defies interpretation. I’m intrigued by the fat spider, a creature usually encountered in connection with Mictlan, the Land of the Dead. A good priest or calendar diviner would probably know what to make out of this mixed bag of symbols.

The image of Mayauel on the left is particularly striking with that special blue on the maguey leaves and her whole face and body. The flowers in her headdress complete the personification of the plant, and the swatch of rope she holds is another important product of the maguey. The secondary patron on the right is a puzzle. He brandishes Centeotl’s banners, the white one included, and looking like Centeotl’s in Yoal, his headdress includes a skewer with two hearts—like a shish-ka-bob. But he carries no bag of maize, so again we can’t be sure who he is. In any case, he’s a fairly impressive guy.


Codex Vaticanus patron panel for Grass trecena

Speaking of impressive, in the Codex Vaticanus patron panel the out-sized pulque brew-pot is even more so than even the ornamented one in Codex Borgia, what with the mystical snake coiled around its base, its decorative cordage, and the overflowing frothy head.

As patron of the trecena, the smaller figure of Mayauel on the right takes second place to the pot, sitting now (awkwardly) within the blooming maguey. Her headdress contains another blue and white crest, and her blue lower face and nosepiece look a lot like those in the Borgia panel. We can assume that a blue lower face is emblematic of the goddess. Maybe it’s a cross-cultural reference to drinking oneself ‘blue in the face?’

On the left side, the secondary patron is even less identifiable, but I love his pointing approvingly at his foaming cup of pulque. Beneath him is another skewered heart for whatever it’s worth, but the white object hovering over his head is perfectly inscrutable. Once again, we need a calendar diviner (like Five Vulture) to sort these symbols out.


Perhaps the lesson to be taken from this review of Grass trecena is that secondary patrons aren’t actually all that important, whoever they may be. Consequently, I probably shouldn’t be taken to task for omitting them from my old tonalamatl. My earlier ignorance seems forgivable now. I just wish I knew what those shish-ka-bobs are all about.



The calendar’s ninth trecena will be that of Snake, the principal patron of which is the transcendent god of fire Xiuhtecuhtli. Stay tuned.