The following is meant to be a brief introduction to Mayan astrology – a survey of the field rather than an in-depth discussion – largely because I don’t believe that any in-depth discussion is possible. My experience of working with and interviewing Mayan priests with a view to classifying and trying to get an intellectual handle on what they are doing is rather frustrating, since most of the time you can’t get the same answer to the same question from two different Mayan priests; nor the same answer from the same priest on two different days. This is because to them mind, intellect, has little to do with what is happening. They get their answers directly from the Spirit, and their astrology is just an intellectual armature which facilitates verbalization of what they channel (intuit directly, with no intellectual component).
Mayan priests are not only astrologers (diviners), but also healers and true priests – in the sense of being channels for information, guidance, and blessings from the spirit world. They don’t just read a couple of books or take a couple of workshops and then hang out their shingles as astrologers or healers. First, they must be chosen directly by the Mayan spirits (which is not something that can be faked in a truly spiritual society – everybody instantly knows who the phonies are). And then, Mayan Ajk’ihab (day-counters) apprentice themselves for decades until they have truly learned their craft and can begin to practice on their own. Indeed, most of the Mayan priests whom I have had the privilege of meeting are humble maize farmers who were called to be priests by their spirits – and usually their spirits require enormous sacrifices from them in order to follow that path. One of my teachers, don Hermelindo Mas, lost a son and took two bullets himself from people who were trying to discourage his spiritual vocation. My principal teacher, don Abel Yat, was murdered by the curse of a black witch (or so his family told me).
Mayan astrology is not an astrology of planetary positions (although there is evidence that originally – before the Spanish conquest and book-burnings – Mayan astrology was indeed based upon planetary positions, since the Maya could demonstrably predict eclipses and Venus phases). At the present time Mayan astrology is based upon the Chol Qij, or “count of days” (note that Chol Qij is the K’ekchi Maya term for it; in Yucatec Mayan it is termed Tzolkin). The Chol Qij is a 260-day almanac which consists of twenty named days – or naguals. The twenty naguals can be considered to be roughly analogous to our zodiacal signs in the sense that they imbue persons born on the days they rule with certain personality traits. However the naguals differ from our zodiacal signs in that they are considered to be living deities who can protect their natives and advance their interests if those natives are scrupulous in remembering and respecting them. In particular, this involves carrying out certain propitiatory rituals every twenty days (when that nagual comes up again); and especially every 260 days when the birth nagual and coefficient coincide.
The Twenty naguals of the Chol Qij
The twenty naguals are combined with numerical coefficients ranging from 1 to 13: thus 20 naguals x 13 coefficients = 260 days. The numerical coefficient modifies the meaning of the nagual: low numbers (1 – 3) are considered weak expressions of whatever the nagual symbolizes; and high numbers (11 – 13) are considered to be extreme manifestations of that nagual’s energy. Mayan numerals follow a dot (= 1) and bar (= 5) system; for example, one dot and two bars indicates the numeral 11.
Mayan Natal Astrology
Consider the Mayan horoscope for Albert Einstein, who was born on March 14th, 1879. This corresponds to the nagual 11 Ajpu, which means Lord, or sun. Much of the symbolism of the naguals has reference to the Mayan creation story as it is explained in the Popul Vuh, or book of the nation (the Mayan “bible”). The central tale in the Popul Vuh relates the story of twin brothers – Jun Ajpu and IxbalanKej – who descended into the underworld to avenge the murder of their father. They tricked and defeated the lords of the underworld, and then rose into the sky to become the sun and moon. The nagual Ajpu refers to the older brother, who became the sun in the legend. And true to tell, Ajpu natives are very noble, spiritual people (Mary Baker Eddy and Sri Sathya Sai Baba are other examples of 11 Ajpu natives). Albeit kindly and a bit other-worldly, they are stout-hearted souls with superb intuition, and they make good Mayan priests. They are said to be “wise, valiant, good-hearted, friendly.” The Book of Chilam Balam says that Ajpu natives are “Rich. Wise. Courageous, kind. Deaths of the children.” (Einstein’s first daughter died in infancy). Another Mayan source states that “People born on this day will be protected with personal power which, even if they themselves don’t recognize it, will make them sources of new ideas for society.” Note that 11 is a high coefficient, which indicates that Einstein is an extreme example of what Ajpu means: heroic, brave, humane, sagacious.
Note that by no means are all of the naguals considered to be as goody-goody as Ajpu; some of them (such as my own – Ajmak – “They’re thieves, adulterers, short-tempered, and liars. This is not a very desirable day to be born on”) are considered to be horrible. If this is your fate as well, don’t take it too seriously. Just keep on propitiating.
The original birth nagual can be expanded into a 9-nagual diagram called Ch’umilal (our star in the universe) which is analogous to our horoscope chart. Each position in the diagram – which represents the human body – is obtained by adding or subtracting a certain number of days to or from the birth day, viz.
In Albert Einstein’s case, the 9-nagual diagram looks like this…
Nine and thirteen are the sacred Mayan numbers: the nine nagual diagram reveals the connection between God (Ahau) and the earth as manifested in this person. That is, the diagram shows how the person fits into the cosmic scheme of things. The nagual of the birth day (in this case 11 Ajpu) is considered to hold the center position – that of the heart. The nagual 8 days before the nagual of the birth day is considered to be the person’s head – what he or she has on their mind – which is the energy and force which directs the person’s life (it’s also considered to be the nagual of the day upon which the person was conceived). In Albert Einstein’s case this is 3 E, which means Road: this is another good nagual, indicative of a good person who is a guide, who shows people the road of life. E in the position of the head indicates one who always has the welfare of others in mind: per the Book of Chilam Balam, “Wealthy ones, whose wealth is the community. Very rich, generous, not stingy. They take responsibility for the common good. Good people, very good fortune”.
The right arm is the nagual 2 days before the birthday, which symbolizes the person’s motivation and power; the force of his personality. In Albert Einstein’s case this position is held by the nagual 9 Tijax, which means Obsidian Blade. This is a powerful nagual, associated with witchcraft (both black and white): “a curer, an active and intelligent person. More than a curer, he is a Mayan priest. … Nobody can understand him.” In Einstein’s case having Tijax on his right arm gave him tremendous drive and force of will to accomplish his desires by cutting his way through (like an obsidian blade).
The left arm is the nagual 14 days before the birthday, and symbolizes that which impedes or weakens the person. Here it is 10 Kemé – Death – which indicates one who is staunch, strong-willed, and independent. It is said that “if they make sufficient offerings (to the gods) they can be successful in business and they can become important people, but they are destructive, they do damage without realizing it or caring what they do”. Perhaps in Einstein’s case he was impeded or weakened by being overly domineering (he divorced his first wife – a fellow-physicist and “equal” – to immediately marry a cousin who was utterly subservient to him).
4 Kemé is found at the place of Einstein’s right waist (there are always doubled naguals in the diagram). Both right and left waist symbolize duties and obligations: the right side is positive and the left is negative. On its positive side Kemé indicates patience and forbearance, especially in the face of danger, as well as verbal skillfulness, which qualities enabled Einstein to fulfill his duties and obligations when he was being assailed and rejected (he was in trouble with authority much of his life). Einstein’s left waist is 5 Ix, or Jaguar, which is very distant, isolated, solitary, disliking company; indicating on Einstein’s negative side a tendency to withdraw into himself (also to be unfortunate in love).
The legs symbolize the force which moves the person forward through life; some people take big, bold steps, others take small, cautious steps. The right leg is how the person initiates action, his enthusiasm. 12 Ix at his right leg indicates a person who is quite willing to dare and to go it alone to achieve his goals in life (12 is a high coefficient, indicating that Einstein didn’t doubt for a moment that he was in the right: when asked by a student what he would have done had the Eddington eclipse experiment of 1919 disproved his theory of relativity, Einstein replied that he would have felt sorry for God; because his theory was correct).
The left leg shows obstacles in the person’s road, and Iq (wind) is resolute, single-minded, strong-willed, confident and angry. Indeed, with the extreme coefficient 13, it indicates one who is quite pushy, violent-tempered, and inclined to go off half-cocked – which was one of Einstein’s failings (e.g., his impatient meddling in left-wing and Zionist politics).
The feet show where the person is going: his destiny, the end of his life, and his death. Qanil is the nagual of the farmer, and it indicates one who is thorough, hard-working, dedicated, idealistic, but fickle – also given to illness (the latter point is not true in Einstein’s case; he finished his life comfortably at the Princeton Institute of Advanced Studies).
This is a highly simplified explanation of how the diagram is interpreted; moreover, each practitioner adapts it according to his own (and his teachers’) proclivities. E.g. the three naguals in the first column are considered to represent the material world; the naguals in the central column the social world; and those in the right-hand column the spiritual world. The first row is considered to represent ages birth to 13 years old; the middle row ages 13 to 35; and the bottom row age 35 onward. Any coefficients which are not represented in the diagram (in Einstein’s case, the numbers 1, 2, 7, and 8 do not appear) show blocks / obstacles that the person has to overcome.
Mayan Mundane Astrology
The Maya don’t have what we would call mundane astrology. The so-called “Mayan Prophecy for 2012” was just a bunch of New Age hokum, which in fact was invented by the same self-promoting phony-baloney who brought us the Harmonic Convergence a few years back.
The closest thing which the Maya have to a mundane astrology is a system for determining the quality of a year depending upon which one of four Year Bearers rules that year. In addition to the 260-day Chol Qij, the Maya use other calendar counts, including a civil year of 365 days called the Haab. The Haab consists of eighteen months of 20 days each, with an intercalary period of 5 days at the end (which is considered to be of ill omen). Since the Haab makes no provision for leap year, it slides back one day every four years as measured in our (Gregorian) calendar. At the present time (2016 – 2019) the New Year’s Day – 0 Pop – of the Haab occurs on April 1st; from 2020 – 2023 it will occur on March 31st; and so on.
Because 260 and 365 have the common factor of 5, only four naguals of the Chol Qij can ever serve as New Years’ Day (the initial day = 0 Pop) of the Haab, and these four days are termed the Year Bearers: E, Noj, Iq, and Kej. The Year Bearer for 2016 is Noj, since 4/1/2016 corresponds to 5 Noj of the Chol Qij. Similarly, the Year Bearer for 2017 is Iq; and the Year Bearer for 2018 is Kej.
It is said that the E years are good for business and health, since the Year Bearer E is quiet, calm, and enduring. The Year Bearer Noj is said to have a good head and many thoughts, and the years it opens are creative years, both for good and for evil. The Year Bearer Iq is very angry, and it brings violent rainstorms, or else no rain at all. Many people die in Iq years from being struck by lightning, from drowning, or from hunger. The Year Bearer Kej is also wild, and likes to trample people underfoot, causing many business losses and illnesses. The current year-bearer influences all divinations made from the Chol Qij; for example, a sK’ekchi Mayaomewhat negative prediction made during an Iq year becomes extremely negative; whereas the same prediction made during an E year is somewhat ameliorated.
The Year Bearer is also taken into account in natal astrology: if natives of the naguals E, Noj, Iq, and Kej happen to be born under the same Year Bearer as their nagual, this is considered to be an extremely fortunate augury.
Mayan Horary Astrology
The Chol Qij is also used like our horary astrology, to divine for answers to specific questions such as: “Does my husband have another lover?”; “Should I do this business deal?”; “How shall I cure this illness?”; “What will be the outcome of this journey?”; “Should I marry this person?”; “Where is this lost object?”
When a Mayan priest is asked a horary question, he divines the answer by means of sortilege (casting lots). The priest takes his bag of 260 tzinte seeds (which look like bright red beans); prays over it; and then places the beans on a table. The client takes a handful of the seeds and places them apart. The priest then separates these into groups of four and counts how many groups there are. The remaining seeds at the end of the count lead to a nagual and numerical coefficient which – combined with the meaning of the nagual of the day on which the question is asked – yield an answer to the question. For more information on how the Chol Qij is used in divination, see Barbara Tedlock’s Time and the Highland Maya (U. of New Mexico Press, 1992).
However, the sortilege operation serves mainly as an intellectual guide to help the priest put into words what is going on. The actual divination is done by means of feeling blood pulses in his veins and arteries: the interpretation depends upon the part of his body in which he feels the pulses; how many of them thereK’ekchi Maya are and how strong; and also up to which of the naguals he had counted in the sortilege operation when the pulses began (in relation to the nagual of the day upon which the divination was being done). The astrology part – the Chol Qij – merely serves as an intellectual framework to help to interpret the blood pulses.
Note that in the Mayan worldview, many of the problems with which people have to deal are consequences of ancestral karma – not only do people have to unravel their own karma (from past lives), but also bear the burden of karma created by their ancestors. So when a priest gives advice to a client with a view towards solving the clients’ problems, this may involve some sort of propitiation or expiation of ancestral peccadilloes. A Mayan priest’s usual answer to the question of “How do I resolve this problem?” is to hold a ceremony.
Mayan Ceremonial Astrology
Ceremonial invocations of the Mayan gods, spirits, and ancestors are the heart and soul of Mayan religious and astrological practice. We have nothing similar in our astrology to compare it to (except perhaps for some ritual forms of electional astrology such as PicatrIx, in which celestial influences are invoked to charge talismans). Mayan ceremonies are held on certain days which are holy in the Chol Qij, particularly 8 Batz, which is the holiest day of all (8 Batz next occurs on March 21st, 2017, then December 6th, 2017, then August 23rd, 2018, then May 10th, 2019, etc.). Also, as noted earlier, special ceremonies can be held for specific purposes, such as to heal an illness; to bring prosperity in business or a suitable mate in marriage; to fecundate a sterile woman; to win a lawsuit; etc. Certain naguals are favorable for hunting, others for planting, others for asking a woman’s hand in marriage, others for launching business enterprises. Initiating activities, as well as performing prayers or ceremonies to petition blessings for such activities, are done on the correct day. Mayan ceremonies are by no means solemn occasions (although they are serious in intent). On the contrary they are light and joyous. The accompanying marimba music is lively and animated. The son dance around the fire is a slow dance, but is carried out with élan and verve. The Mayan spirits are joyous, and they love it when people remember them and perform ceremonies to honor them; they shower blessings down upon all participants.
At the ceremony site the priest dons his uniform of office: bandana on his head, seashell necklace, wide cloth belt, ceremonial bag hanging by his side. An area is cleared around a shallow pit dug for the fire, and four large rocks are placed at the edge of the pit to mark the four cardinal directions. Then the cleared area around the fire pit is carpeted with pine needles and fragrant allspice leaves. First a circle is described in the pit with sugar, and the four quarters are delineated with a cross within the circle. On top of this 260 cylinders of incense are laid, and then a cross of many small candles, whose colors correspond to the four directions, is built in the center of the circle: red candles to the east, black to the west, white to the north, and yellow to the south. Chunks of copal pom incense are placed at the four corners, and more colored candles, dried herbs, cinnamon sticks, and cigars are arranged around the circle. The overall impression of the fireplace is quite decorative and colorful.
After the fireplace is laid out the priest makes offerings to the four cardinal directions in a sing-songy chant. The words sung-spoken by the Mayan priests aren’t as important as the rhyme and rhythm, the hypnotic patter of the litany. Next the priest invokes the nine gods of the lower world (that is to say, the earth; as opposed to the thirteen gods or constellations in the sky). They are called the Creators – Formers because they fashioned the first humans from maize. Previously the gods had experimented with and destroyed two human-like races – the first made of mud and the second of wood. These attempts were unsuccessful because they lacked the intelligence and spirit to worship the gods. When the Creators – Formers made the first four humans they were a little too successful: these creatures were so clear-sighted and proud that the gods had to blow mist in their eyes to dumb them down a bit and make them more respectful. The first humans fashioned by the Creators – Formers were made of nine drinks of ground maize gruel: white maize made their bones, red maize made their blood, yellow maize made their skin, and black maize made their hair.
Then the priest invokes the earth god Kawa Tzul Taka (Lord Mountain-Valley), the principal deity of the K’ekchi Maya. The priest also calls for blessings from the 166 sacred mountains and ceremonial sites in Guatemala.K’ekchi Maya
After the invocations are finished a handful of twenty small candles is given to each participant; and then the fire is lit by the client (the person who has commissioned the Mayan priest to perform the ceremony). The fire eventually ignites the other candles, incense etc. laid out in the fire pit, creating a large blaze which dances in the breeze. The flames are regarded as being alive, as representing the presence of Kawa Tzul Taka, and as such the priest watches the fire very carefully for omens throughout the five-hour long ceremony. The behavior of the fire in response to petitions (e.g. for health, or economic prosperity) made during the course of the ceremony is a sign of whether and how the wish will be granted. Sometimes during ceremonies the priest will stop and make a very specific prediction for one of the participants – apparently out of thin air (though it may be inspired by observation of what the flames are doing). For example, once during a ceremony my teacher don Abel Yat told me, “You are about to have a serious land problem.” Sure enough, one week later, a huge dispute over land erupted which dragged on in the courts for the next twelve years, and cost me a boodle of time and money. Another time he told me that I was about to have a serious health problem (and I somehow understood it involved my legs); a few months later I began to experience pain in my left leg, which was later diagnosed as arthrosis of the pelvic bone which required a hip replacement surgery. On the last day of 2008 don Abel was doing a ceremony when he abruptly predicted that one of the half-dozen people there present would die in the coming year; and he died the following July.
After the fire is lit the head priest sacrifices a chicken. This payment is made to Kawa Tzul Taka to avoid illness and other troubles and to ask for blessings. The Maya are very much convinced that if blessings are to be petitioned and obtained, then the requisite payment must be made. In the Mayan worldview, there is nothing free in the universe. The priest first offers the chicken to the four cardinal directions (so that they know the payment is for them also), then he dances with it around the fire, with the chicken draped around his neck. Finally he kills it by hand by stretching the chicken’s neck until the head tears off. The head is placed in the fire as an offering to Kawa Tzul Taka. Then the beating heart of the sacrificial chicken is torn from its breast by the priest, who hands it to the client to make a wish on until the heart stops beating, at which time it is offered to the fire.
Then the priest asks the participants for the names of all of their deceased antecedents; and as each ancestor is named he throws a candle into the fire and asks that ancestor’s blessing (as mentioned previously, the Maya believe that one’s ancestors are not only still present, but can guide and bless – or mess up – one’s own life; and therefore they must be propitiated).
After the offerings are made to Kawa Tzul Taka and the ancestors, the order of the ceremony follows that of the twenty naguals of the Chol Qij. The twenty naguals are called upon in serial order to bless the “great-grandchildren,” which is how the Maya refer to themselves. The first nagual is the nagual of the day the ceremony takes place. For example, if the ceremony is held on the day of Batz (ball of thread), then in a sing-songy litany the priest explains that time is symbolized as thread rolled up in a ball underneath the earth, and the unraveling of this ball of thread is the passage of time. Batz is the weaver of the family and community, the ties which bind people together. The priest asks this nagual that his client be able to roll up family, children, and wealth for the client and ceremony participants. At the end of Batz the priest counts up to thirteen for the thirteen powers (gods of the upper world): jun (1) Batz, kwib (2) Batz, oshib (3) Batz, kayib (4) Batz, ob (5) Batz, kwakib (6) Batz, kukub (7) Batz, kwashakib (8) Batz, beleb (9) Batz, laheb (10) Batz, emjunlahu (11) Batz, kablahu (12) Batz, oshlahu (13) Batz. After the count to thirteen is made for each nagual, the participants in the ceremony make a wish on one of the twenty candles they were handed at the outset and then throw the candle into the fire. The portion of the ceremony devoted to each individual nagual varies in length, but typically lasts five to ten minutes. At intervals there is ritual dancing of the slow son dance around the fire by the priest alone, and sometimes by participants as well. Participants are cued by the priest as to what to do next.
When a nagual’s turn ends the next nagual becomes “host” of the ceremony: after Batz comes E (road), and the priest sing-songs a litany about the road of life, and he asks this nagual to protect his client’s journey, that no matter where he goes he should have no accidents and that he should have good roads, beautiful roads, level roads. During this invocation the priest and client journey (dance the son as they slowly circle the fire) three times. The invocation of E ends with the count up to thirteen: jun E, kwib E, oshib E, etc. to oshlahu E; and then the participants make their wishes and throw a candle into the fire.
The nagual Aj, the maize plant, is then invoked. Aj symbolizes the maize plant in the house of the grandmother of Jun Ajpu and IxbalanKej (twin heroes of the Popul Vuh legend). In the Popul Vuh story Jun Ajpu and Ixbalankej journey to the underworld, but before leaving they planted two maize plants in their grandmother’s house, saying that if these plants should dry up, it would mean they had died. When the plants dried up the grandmother was stricken with grief, but when the plants re-sprouted (when the twins were reborn from a fire in which they had perished) she knew they had triumphed in the end. The priest calls upon these twins (Jun Ajpu and Ixbalankej – the sun and moon) to protect humanity. Where the great-grandchildren have forgotten their traditional ways, Aj reminds them of their inheritance and culture – how to count the days and to remember their forefathers and their past. Then the count is made to thirteen: jun Aj, kwib Aj, oshib Aj, etc. to oshlahu Aj, and the participants make wishes and throw candles into the fire.
Ix is the jaguar, who is the protector of the woods, the rivers, and the temples. The jaguar roams the earth and sees everything under his domain. Ix guides and protects the great-grandchildren and provides them with food and raiment. Ix represents strength and fertility, so clients seeking to have children might commission petitioning ceremonies on the day Ix. Then the count is made to thirteen: jun Ix, kwib Ix, oshib Ix … and candles are thrown into the fire.
Tzikin (bird) is the guardian and messenger of the supreme deity Kawa Tzul Taka. It is the nagual who brings money, wealth, livestock, and property. The participants will approach the fire and wave their wallets or purses above it; and the priest asks this nagual for abundance for his client. After counting to thirteen this time the priest and participants each give the fire a handful of sesame seeds as an offering, since sesame is the food of Kawa Tzikin; then they wish for prosperity and throw their candles into the fire.
Ajmak is the nagual of sinners. The priest and participants now kneel down around the fire and call upon Kawa Ajmak to forgive them their faults; to pardon wherever they have made errors, wherever they have committed sins, wherever they haven’t done as they should. The priest and participants then prostrate themselves, touching their foreheads to the ground and kiss the earth, and humbly beg forgiveness. Then the count is made to thirteen Ajmak and candles are thrown into the fire.
Noj is the nagual of intelligence and wisdom. The priest asks this nagual to bless his client with wisdom and divine guidance. Kawa Noj is also asked to bless children who are studying in the ladino school system: at this point in the ceremony the children come forward and the priest blesses them by touching them with candles on the head (where ideas are born) and hands (with which they write), and then he throws the candles into the fire. Then the priest counts jun Noj, kwib Noj, oxib Noj, to oshlahu Noj.
Tijax represents the obsidian blade, and it is the nagual of danger. This day is used for rituals to avoid evil influences for people and sickness in domestic animals, and to remove curses. On the other hand, sorcerers use Tijax to perform witchcraft. After calling upon this nagual to protect his client from injury, the head priest counts to thirteen Tijax.
Kawok is the thunder. Its power is fire; its lightning illuminates the darkness. This day is used for ceremonies to cure sickness and to overcome conflicts and difficulties. The priest prays to the three lightning gods not to hurt the great-grandchildren, but to strengthen their spirit; then he counts to thirteen Kawoq.
Ajpu is the sun. This nagual refers to the Popul Vuh creation myth, in which the hero twins Jun Ajpu and Ixbalankej journey to the underworld Shibalba to avenge the murder of their father by the Lords of Shibalba. There they face many trials, even dying in a fire, but their cleverness and magic restore them to life each time. In the end they disguise themselves as impoverished dancers and perform a dance in which they cut men, and even each other, to pieces; and then they bring the dead one back to life again. The Lords of Shibalba are delighted by this performance, and ask the twins to do the same to them. The boys cut the Lords to pieces but don’t restore them to life, thus they defeat their enemies and avenge their father’s death. They then ascend into Heaven where Jun Ajpu becomes the sun and Ixbalankej becomes the moon. Rituals done on this day are as powerful as the sun in banishing evil, sickness, and personal problems. Then the priest counts to thirteen Ajpu.
Imox is the rabbit. It guides and protects, particularly those who are crazy, confused, or have lost their way. Rituals are done on this day to help people with mental problems, to cure illness, and to pray for the return of a strayed or missing spouse. The invocation is completed with a count to thirteen Imox.
Iq is the wind. Rituals are done on this day to bless all that exists in nature and to give thanks for all of the Creators – Formers’ works; and so that the wind will take away all suffering and evil influences. The priest petitions Iq not to blow troubles or illness the client’s way; but to blow away what problems he does have. Then the count is made to thirteen Iq.
Aqabal is the dawn. Rituals are done on this day to give thanks to the light and to avoid calumny and lies. The priest gives thanks for our awakening each day, and invokes this nagual to give us good ideas and good thoughts. Then the count is made to thirteen Aqabal.
Kat is the net, like the net bags in which maize is stored. It is the day of payment to the ancestors. The priest invokes this Lord to bring the people together like nets bring together the ears of maize. Then he counts to thirteen Kat.
Kan is the snake, the plumed serpent (rain-bow) which ties together the Heart of Heaven and the Heart of the Earth. Rituals are done on this day to ask for justice, wisdom, strength, equality and to avoid disequilibrium with Mother Nature. The priest petitions this nagual not to bite, not to send dangers. Then the priest counts jun Kan, kwib Kan, oshib Kan, kayib Kan, … up to oshlahu Kan.
Kemé is the nagual of death. Kemé is conceived of much as we conceive of the grim reaper, except not as a metaphor but rather as an actual being. Participants in the ritual who have come for a healing are now called forward one at a time. When healing someone the priest gives the person a handful of candles to hold and then stands behind the person with one hand on the person’s shoulder and the other held above the person’s head. The priest prays over the person, then he raises a bottle of aguardiente liquor, takes some into his mouth, and spit/sprays a forceful cloud of aguardiente over the person’s body four times, once from each of the four cardinal directions, to burn away the person’s illness. After the healings he has the person circle the fire, which he observes closely for information on diagnosis and cure. Then he counts jun Kemé, kwib Kemé, oshib Kemé … up to oshlahu Kemé.
Kej is the deer. The priest petitions this nagual to bring strength to the great-grandchildren, to lift their legs and backs and heads, to give them the strength of a deer, to overcome weakness and tiredness, to grant them power and success. Then he counts to thirteen Kej.
Qanil is Venus. Qanil is the nagual of the farmer, the day to pray for a good harvest. The priest calls upon this nagual to bring forth bounteous harvests of grain and fruit to feed the hungry, and drink for the thirsty. The priest also petitions this nagual for good communications, reciprocity, and peaceful relations. Then he counts to thirteen Qanil.
Toj is jade, or payment. In the Popul Vuh the first humans were very cold and unable to cook their food, so they applied to Tojil, the god of fire (and the principal deity of the Kiché Maya). Tojil demanded the torn-out hearts of sacrificial victims in payment for the gift of fire. This involved the Kiché in considerable conflict with their neighboring tribes, whom they raided to obtain sacrificial victims. The nagual Toj symbolizes offerings, the payment of what is due, and the leveling of justice. It’s a day to seek peace with God and man. The priest begins the ceremony by offering payment (the chicken), and now he asks Kawa Toj to accept the tribute of candles, copal incense, etc. to protect the lives and roads (journeys) of his client and all the great-grandchildren. Then he counts up to thirteen Toj.
The final nagual is Tzi, the dog. On this day offerings are made so that negative forces won’t triumph and so that the authorities will use wisdom and vision to administer justice. The priest petitions Kawa Tzi to influence and win over judges, lawyers, police, and the military on behalf of the great-grandchildren; to guide and protect them in the legal system and with all governmental authorities. Then he counts to thirteen Tzi.
After all twenty of the naguals have been invoked the priest thanks them for bringing the great-grandchildren together on this occasion, and asks them to bless everyone. Then all the participants are given a candle and instructed to kneel down around the fire and pray for whatever they desire; then the candles are thrown into the fire.
The participants stand and clasp their hands behind their backs, and everyone dances a slow, rhythmic son in a circle around the fire. The priest closes the ceremony as he began it, by thanking the four cardinal directions; then everyone breaks for a lunch of tamales. In all the ceremony lasts about five hours.
Thanks to Bob Makransky for allowing the republication of his wonderful work.
About the author: Bob Makransky is a systems analyst, computer programmer and professional astrologer. For many years he has lived on a farm in highland Guatemala where he is a Mayan priest and is head of the local blueberry growers’ association.