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by Bruce Scofield
March 3 1999
Recently, it was brought to my attention that Aluna
Joy Yaxk'in's delineations of the 20 day-signs in
her book "Mayan-Pleidian Cosmology" were in part
copied from delineations in my book "Day-Signs"
which was published a few years earlier. Aluna did
credit me in her introduction, but not specifically
as a source for the delineations. I want to publicly
say that I hold nothing against her for this and
that she has my permission to continue selling copies
of her book. I do hope that this oversight will
be corrected for future printings. There is one
thing that bothers me about this situation, however,
and that has to do with the fact that Aluna uses
a calendar correlation that is completely different
from the one I used to "discover" the delineations
of the day-signs. Aluna has graciously offered me
this space in her website to express myself on this
matter, and I thank her for it. In order to better
understand the situation, I will need to begin with
a short history of how I developed what I believe
were the first practical delineations of the day-signs.
Astrology is the study of the interactions between
the rhythms of the sky and life on earth, and the
application of any insights (practical or spiritual)
gained. I am a practicing astrologer. I make my
living reading horoscopes for clients in the United
States and several other countries. I write for
astrology magazines, speak regularly at astrology
conferences, and have had several books on the subject
published. I've been studying Western (and some
Vedic and Chinese) astrology since 1967 and have
the highest possible astrological certification
available in this country (C.A.- NCGR). I also have
an M.A. in social sciences. This is the background
that I bring to the study of Mesoamerican astrology,
the body of knowledge that includes, among other
things, the 20 Mayan signs and the Mayan calendar
My astrological background informs me that a description
of a person involves many layers of information.
In Western astrology, there is no single sign or
planet that totally describes a person. It is in
the blending of symbols that any kind of interpretation
of a life is possible. But the symbols are constants.
Aries is always Aries and Saturn is always Saturn.
Astrologers are trained to both separate and blend
astrological influences. For over 4,000 years, these
foundations of Western astrology have been reconfirmed
by succeeding generations of astrologers.
In the tradition I call Mesoamerican astrology,
we have a magnificent system that flowered long
ago, and then faded to a degree. Later, the Spanish
conquerors did what they could to eliminate the
little that remained. Fortunately, pieces of it
have been kept alive to the present day by an oral
tradition, which, I might add, Aluna Joy has been
nurturing in her own way. While Western and Mesoamerican
astrology are as different as English is from Spanish,
they are very similar in basic ways. For example,
both English and Spanish are languages, symbolic
systems designed to carry information. Both Western
and Mesoamerican astrology use astronomical rhythms
and number to give meaning to life as it progresses
through time. Theoretically, a person well-versed
in either system should be better prepared to "see"
how the other system works than someone unfamiliar
with either. I feel that my 32 years in astrology
has put me in a unique position to attempt a reconstruction
of this lost tradition of astrology. A world-class
tradition, I might add.
In 1976 I became interested in ancient Mexico, especially
things relating to astrology and calendars. During
the 1980's I familiarized myself with the 20 day-signs
of Mesoamerican astrology. Like the 12-sign zodiac,
one of the core elements of Western astrology, the
20 day-signs seemed to me to serve many purposes.
One of these is a general model of development and
evolution, one is a device for divination, another
is as a personality matrix. In 1986 Angela Cordova,
a Mexican psychic, and I created a set of 20 dream
and psychically-inspired images for the day-signs.
Our work was published as a divination kit by Llewellyn
Publications in 1988 under the title "The Aztec
Circle of Destiny." But the idea that the day-signs
could actually function like the zodiac became consuming
and I used every resource available to better understand
these signs in that way. The first major challenge
was the calendar correlation.
Using birth data for about 400 people I set out
to see if there was a correlation between the signs
and one of five dates given by the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson
correlation, the GMT, and observable personality
traits. (The GMT correlation is sometimes referred
to as the Classic Maya or Traditional correlation.)
During the mid 1980's very little had been published
on the nature of the day-signs. Most of it was a
reiteration of Sahagun and Duran, friars who wrote
shortly after the conquest of Mexico. Also around
this time anthropologist Barbara Tedlock published
delineations of the signs that she learned from
the Quiche Maya, though these were not much of an
improvement on those recorded by the old friars.
I gleaned from these and other less well-known sources
what some of the signs might be about, though most
of them remained completely incomprehensible. Then,
in early 1989, I hit on a technique.
Using an early computer program for finding day-signs
that was created by Barry Orr (called Maya 1), I
established a day-sign for each person on my long
list. The program allowed for any base date for
the calendar conversion and I selected the first
date of the five I chose to examine, Julian Date
584,281. I next organized all the names according
to the day-sign they were computed to have been
born under. Then I computed their Western astrological
data and made notes in regard to the dominant influences
in each birthchart. A pattern soon emerged. Nearly
all the people born in any one day-sign shared certain
Western astrological factors. The next question
was whether these factors "fit" the supposed meaning
of the day-signs.
After some adjustments I decided that using Julian
Date 584,283 as a base date, which was the central
date of the five generally given for the GMT correlation,
worked the best. This turned out to also be the
correlation that is used by the Quiche Maya today.
Around the same time Monro Edmunson, using historical
dates and the testimony of the inscriptions, came
to the same conclusion. This was published in his
work "The Book of the Year," in 1988. Having convinced
myself that this correlation "worked," and bolstered
by the support of the Quiche oral tradition and
Edmonson's calendrical archaeology, I went on to
flesh out deeper meanings for each day-sign.
I published my results in 1991 in my book "Day-Signs:
Native American Astrology From Ancient Mexico" and
at the same time as text in a computer program called
"Aztec Astro-Report." Since then I have further
developed my delineations and have integrated them
with delineations for the trecena, the Lords of
the Night, and the cycle of the years. More recently
I've developed a unique Mesoamerican horoscope that
opens a vista into planetary patterns in a way that
I believe is consistent with the practices and intellectual
leanings of the ancient Maya. Delineations for the
day-signs, tecena, years, Lords of the Night, and
Venus phases are found on the latest version of
the computer program, now called Aztec-Maya Astro-Report,
which runs on my website: www.onereed.com.
That is my history. A crucial problem has to do
with whether or not my delineations can "work" for
another calendar correlation, or correlations, other
than the one I fine-tuned it for. Aluna says it
works equally well for her choice of correlation,
the one advocated by Jose Arguelles. This correlation
is one that omits a leap day every four years, something
I find baffling and an insult to the Mayan premise
that the days are sacred. But even more disturbing
to me is the notion that you can have it both ways.
This is like saying people born under Taurus share
the same personality characteristics as those born
under Sagittarius. Anyone familiar with Western
astrology will know that these signs represent two
completely different forms of personality, but they
can occur in the same person in various ways. For
example, one person may have the Sun in Taurus and
the Moon in Sagittarius. Another May have the Sun
in Sagittarius and five planets in Taurus. But,
and this is one of my points, someone untrained
in astrology (or psychology to a lesser extent)
might not see the subtle differences here. My friend
Margaret, who is an expert birder, sees warblers
where I see none and then tells me which one is
which by its song. It's the same thing with people
watching, experience counts. Human beings are complex
The world of astrology is certainly not exempt from
problems like this. Astrology is not a hard science.
It is an interpretive discipline that utilizes scientific
materials (i.e. astronomy, mathematics, etc.) to
arrive at data which is then interpreted by someone
who has some experience. This is exactly the same
thing as medicine. Doctors use scientific tests,
but they disagree amongst themselves. Ever hear
of a second opinion?
Conflicts of opinion over the astrological meaning
of a newly discovered planet arise from time to
time. It took probably 30 years before the majority
of astrologers agreed on what Pluto was really about,
and deeper insights are always being published.
Agreement by consensus, built on arguments that
utilize anecdotal evidence, is how Western astrology
has moved forward. Only a few truly scientific studies
bolster the contentions of this field of inquiry.
Mesoamerican astrology is impoverished by comparison.
Those of us interested in this field are few, our
resources limited, and most don't have a background
in Western, Hindu, or even Chinese astrology. Most
who are interested in the field know intuitively
that something of incredible value exists among
the remnants of the great Mesoamerican civilizations.
We are drawn to the relics of a fantastic astrological
system that no one really knows exactly what it
was like when it was full-blown. We need to take
the time to educate ourselves about it, and about
other parallel systems from other cultures. We need
to get into a the astrological mind-set, a world
where symbols are not fantasy, they are a code for
they way things work. I also believe that the basic
principles of this mind-set are multi-cultural.
We need to do what the scientists have not done.
But we can't allow ourselves to force fit what we
think we see out there into the framework of our
expectations. I've spent years making sure that
I don't do this (its called being detached) and
I've paid a price for it. The search for higher
levels of order is a process that does not let one
become a true believer in one day.
I have no doubts that the world I live in is deep,
complex, and mysterious. The fact that astrology
exists at all is amazing to me. It suggests to me
that humans and other life forms have actually internalized
the sky in a strange way. But I find that it is
in "pattern perception" that astrology becomes alive.
Pattern perception is something that comes easy
for some, harder for others, but is developable.
This consensus intuitive "knowing" is how Western
astrology has been kept alive throughout a sustained
assault on it from the scientific community during
the past 300 years.
I wish to call on all users of the Mesoamerican
day-signs and ask them to think about these issues.
Any application of an ancient tradition to our personal
lives would be hollow if we found that we were fooling
ourselves. We need to dig deeper and find some kind
of consensus that is clearly observable to most
(some people will never see what everyone else sees)
and consistent with the traditions of Mesoamerican,
living and dead. I have asked for and welcomed feedback
on this matter for 10 years now, though I value
feedback more from those who have studied the complex
world of human personality. My latest quest is to
arrive at an understanding of exactly when one day-sign
ends and another begins. Is there a cusp? Is it
at sunset, midnight, or sunrise? Should foreign
birthtimes be converted to Central Time? I may be
seeing things (I'm always open to being wrong),
but it seems to me that a shift occurs shortly after
sunset and becomes complete within a few hours.
Anyone else see this? I can't do this by myself,
this is a job for many. For generations perhaps.
The restoration and future development of Mesoamerican
astrology, in my opinion the crowning intellectual
achievement of Native American civilization, has
only just begun.