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Tonalpohualli

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Tonalpohualli

Page 11 reverse from Codex Magliabechiano, showing four day-symbols of the tonalpohualli: (Se = one) Flint/Knife [tecpatl], (Ome = two) Rain [quiahuitl], (Yei = three) Flower [xochitl], and (Nahui = four) Caiman/Crocodile (cipactli), with Spanish descriptions. Note how closely the Rain day-symbol resembles Tlaloc, the Aztec god of rain and fertility.

The tonalpohualli Nahuatl pronunciation: , a Nahuatl word meaning "count of days", is a the Aztec version of the 260-day calendar in use in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This calendar is neither solar nor lunar, but rather consists of 20 (ventas), 13-day (trecenas) periods. Each trecena is ruled by a different deity.

Description

The basis of the tonalpohualli, is unknown. Several theories have been advanced for this calendrical period: that it represents a Venusian cycle, that it represents the human gestation period, or that it represents the number of days between the zenithal passage of the sun in the tropical lowlands. On the other hand, some scholars including J. E. S. Thompson suggest that the tonalpohualli was not based on natural phenomenon at all, but rather on the integers 13 and 20, both considered important numbers in Mesoamerica.

The other major Aztec calendar, the xiuhpohualli, is a 365 day year, based on 18 months of 20 days and five nameless days. A xiuhpohualli was designated by the name of its first tonalpohualli day. For example, Hernán Cortés met Moctezuma II on the day 8 Wind in the year 1 Reed (or November 9, 1519 in the Julian calendar).

The xiuhpohualli and the tonalpohualli would coincide approximately every 52 years.

Day signs

In the Aztec calendar, there are twenty day signs.
Nahuatl Translation
Cipactli Caiman or aquatic monster
Ehecatl Wind
Calli House
Cuetzpalin Lizard
Coatl Snake
Miquiztli Death
Mazatl Deer
Tochtli Rabbit
Atl Water
Itzcuintli Dog
Ozomahtli Monkey
Malinalli Grass
Acatl Reed
Ocelotl Ocelot or Jaguar
Cuauhtli Eagle
Cozcacuauhtli Vulture
Ollin Movement or Earthquake
Tecpatl Flint or Knife
Quiahuitl Rain
Xochitl Flower

Gallery of Day Signs

Note that the symbols are arranged counterclockwise around the calendar round.

See also

External links

  • Discussion of origin of the 260-day cycle
  • Tonalpohualli Calendar Online
  • Animated Tonalpohualli
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