astrology

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The Maya believed that the course of celestial events has a great importance for the fate of people living on Earth, and therefore it is more appropriate to call their observations of the stars astrology instead of astronomy. In the Mayan classical period, astrology was a very sophisticated art. The Maya were able to track the movement of the planets and stars with a nearly perfect accuracy, and the entire myth of creation was understood as a process of never-ending recovery occurring in the heavens. Mayan astrology thus influenced nearly everything of importance, from the coronation of the ruler and launching battles with neighbouring cities to holding sacred ball games – all these events were scheduled according to the conjunctions of the planets and the cycles of the sacred calendar. For example, a conjunction of Jupiter and Venus was very suitable for starting a war. In this respect, the term “star war” is used and is usually depicted as bloody rain falling down from Venus onto the Earth. Calakmul waged war against Tikalu in AD 562, and for more than 130 years it held superiority over the kingdom and the entire region.


Caracol, the observatory in Chichén Itzá is a very interesting and unique structure: inside, there is a circular staircase leading to individual windows on the perimeter of the building. Each of the windows served for observation of a specific planet and its positions. In particular the Sun, the Moon and Venus were observed in this manner.

This impressive knowledge of the movements of celestial bodies is often reflected in the geomantic character of the Mayan cities. A great number of buildings were located in accordance with important astronomical events, such as the rise of the constellation of Pleiades or the spring equinox as in Chichén Itzá or Dzibilchaltún. The Maya built some of their cities as models of the universe. A number of structures were situated in such a manner that the main gate, door or windows offered a view of the rise or culmination of individual stars or groups of stars. The Governor’s Palace in Uxmal allows one to observe Venus. Caracol in Chichén Itzá is an observatory where each window was situated in an exact location, allowing one to observe not only a certain planet, but also its phases (e.g. rise or culmination). The Maya were very interested in the Pleiades star cluster, Venus, Mars and Jupiter and of course they observed the Sun and the Moon thoroughly, which allowed them to forecast the eclipse of the Sun with absolute accuracy. The so-called Dresden Codex contains tables for determining eclipses of the Sun and it devoted five pages to the planet of Venus, which apparently was extremely important for the Maya. They were interested in its average cycle (584 days) and this number and its multiples were given extraordinary attention on the part of the priests.

The Governor’s Palace, an imposing building in Uxmal: from its central window, the ruler is said to have observed the rise of Venus along the line passing through the two heads of the two-headed jaguar throne.

 

Dzibilchaltun: sunrise during Equinox

Mayan astrology in our time

Nowadays, we can learn a lot from the wisdom and the intellectual and spiritual legacy of the original inhabitants of Mesoamerica. Mayan astrology offers an unusual view of human existence. The main difference between our western astrology and Mayan astrology is that our astrology interprets celestial events (e.g. conjunctions, eclipses, etc.) in terms of space, whereas Mayan astrology handles the foregoing events from the point of view of periods of time. This means that celestial events were interpreted depending on what influence they had on the period of time in which they occurred. The basis of the Mayan astrological system is not comprised of the planets and constellations themselves. It is based on the daily signs of the sacred calendar. More information is available in the section focused on the sacred calendar.

 

References:

Adrian Gilbert and Maurice Cotterell: “Mayan Prophecies”

Carl Johan Calleman “Mayan Calendar”

Kenneth Johnson “Jaguar Wisdom”

B. Scofield and B.Orr: “How to Practice Mayan Astrology”

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