Aztec Calendar & Colors
Aztec Calendar & Colors
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The civilizations of ancient Mexico used the most accurate calendars ever invented till very recent times. The priests, magicians and sorcerers were could also be called scientists and philosphers. Among their most important tasks was prophecy or the prediction of future events. Predicting the end of the current age or Fifth Sun where a great cataclysm was expected to destroy all life was the most important task. The philosophical acceptance of death as an integral part of the life cycle is the manifestation of the Mexican culture which most distinguises itself as we move towards a global culture.

The three days beginning October 31st are the most important set holidays for which is dedicated to the promotion of annual universal people's events. As Carnival is the spring holiday the triumvirate of Halloween- All Souls- Day of the Dead is its counterpart to fall and as the dead will tell you. There can be no life without death. With the wonderful exception of New York's Greenwich Village parade there are no great parades beyond the schoolyard. On the other hand, the ritual processions inspired by Mexico's Dia de los Muertos are many and growing. On this page we examine two components: Calendar & Colors

Clockwise, the Twenty days of the Aztec Calendar are as follows:
Snake - Coatl
Lizard - Cuetzpallin
House - Calli
Wind - Ehecatl
Crocodile - Cipactli
Flower - Xochitl
Rain - Quiahuitl
Flint - Tecpatl
Movement - Ollin
Vulture - Cozcacuauhtli
Eagle - Cuauhtle
Jaguar - Ocelotl
Cane - Acatl
Herb - Malinalli
Monkey - Ozomatli
Hairless Dog - Itzquintli
Water - Atl
Rabbit - Tochtli
Deer - Mazatl
Skull - Miquiztli
/items/calendar/ mayan/day

meanings for the twenty day names are based on an explanation given by Mayan priests

MONTH 14. Oct 31 - Nov 19 QUECHOLLI-
The Precious Feather (*118). The first five days of this month were spent quietly, honoring of the dead through Mixcoatl. All men spend time outside. A time of hunting.


 Day of the Dead & Aztec Calendar Dia de Los Muertos
(31 Oct - 2 Nov)  

previously fell on the ninth month of the Aztec Solar Calendar; however, the beginning of November works well as a match for the Aztec calendar, while also finding harmony with the Catholic and pagan traditions from Europe. It shares similarities with the Church's Feast of All Souls, where we can honor and better communicate with our community of souls, which includes those among us, souls in purgatory waiting to enter heaven and the triumphant souls who have already been admitted. It is a striking, vital 3-day holiday in honor of our collective soul, right in relation to both nature and society.

Halloween also has a connection with non-Christian worship, including a strong fear of death.

Artist: Roberto Sieck Flandes (1939)

The Aztec Calendar is based upon the calendar systems of the other great meso-american civilizations which preceded them. The Aztec civilization, like many segments of today's society, was focused on an Armageddon. Click to learn about the growing discussion about the endpoint in this calendar.

The Mexica worshiped gods and planned their festivals in a fixed eighteen month cycle, or "Xiuitl". The 18 month system fit neatly into the 365 day yearly cycle, with 5 days left over. The first day following the five day span marked the beginning of the next civil year. Religion maintained the five special holidays as unlucky for any attempted work.
The Egyptians had a similar 5 days period of time outside of time which are cited as the 5 days of Carnaval. These days were a time when the world was most likely to come to an end.

LUNAR CALENDAREvery 52 years the calendars would synch
There was also the 260-day festival calendar, with the conjunction between it and the solar calendar occurring every 52 years, when both began their new years. The 260-day calendar, called a tzolkin, is a lunar calendar, highly developed by the Mayans and associated with the 90month period of human gestation. It is explained as consisting of two wheels: a larger one of twenty days and a smaller one with the numbers one through thirteen. The numbers are important: twenty was based on the digits of a "whole man" (i.e., fingers and toes); the thirteen numbers represented their philosophy of thirteen directions in space, as well as the 13 times the moon orbits the earth in a year. The early Central Americans believed that this ritualistic calendar represented an archetypal state of human and cosmic harmony.

The late Maya cultures and the Aztec cultures used only a "short count" of years, starting each group of fifty-two - known as a "bundle" of years - as a new unit unlike the "Classic Maya" whose long count extended world history over the millenniums.


  • 52 Years per Calendar Round x 360 Days per Year = 18,720 Days
     72 Sacred Years x 260 Days per Sacred Year = 18,720 Days
  •  52 Years per Calendar Round x 5 Special Feast Days
    = 260 Days per Extra Sacred Year = 1 Sacred Year
  •  72 Sacred Years + 1 Sacred Year = 73 Sacred Years of Calendar Round
     18,720 Days + 260 Days = 18, 980 Days per Calendar Round

  •  73 Sacred Years x 260 Days per Sacred Year = 18,980 Days per Calendar Round
     52 Years x 365 Days per Year = 18,980 Days per Calendar Round
    52 Years x 365 Days per Year = 73 Sacred Years x 260 Days per Sacred Year = 18,980 Days per Calendar Round

The first day of each month was a solemn day with no activity allowed or encouraged.


The Offering of Flowers. Little Feast Day of the Dead. All gods in general and ancestors were worshiped. The dead were greatly honored and ancestors were revered, as was the trickster god Tezcatlipoca and the war god Huitzilopochtli. The people would gather for two days to pick wild flowers outside the city. Solemn ritual dancing occurred. It was ritually presided by the goddess Mictecacihuatl ("Lady of the Dead"), and dedicated to children and the dead.

The first mesoamerican civilization, the 3000 year-old Olmecs were skilled carvers of jade.

In the beginning, then, the world was black and white



AZTEC COLOR Red =  flowers, Quetzalcoatl. Cit Chac Coh, the Maya god of war, is a red puma.

Black =  cold and arid, Tezcatlipoca. Black was the color for Uzin, the Maya death god, who wore black and yellow spots, and Tezcatlipoca is always black. Ixtilton, the god of lust, is black-faced, like the black-faced Aztec dancers who represented ghosts.

White =  cold and arid, Mixcoatl.

Yellow = south, dry and spring, Huitzilopochtli and Mictantecuhti,

Blue-green (Turquoise) = prosperity, rain and storm gods like Tlaloc. Turquoise was the color of gods and royalty. Also the color of natural life and fecundity. Maya's clothing during the spring month Yaxkin, when fields were fired for sowing, was all turquoise.

Color symbolism laden with cultural significance are key elements in reconfiguring reality through magical speech.
The Aztecs and the Maya had a color-direction system as complex as any culture. The system was widely adopted in pieces throughout North America. The militaristic Aztecs had many exception; while conceptually very similar to Mayan tradition, they made many changes as well.
  East South West North
Maya Red Yellow Black White
Aztec Red
Blue White Black

Diego Rivera's The Weaver

The mestiza Mexican peasant weaves a pattern of four colors: red, blue, white and black. Both elements are significant in an Aztec and Mayan context: Xochiquetzal is the Aztec goddess of weaving and fertility (and Ixchel, for the Mayans), and in both cultures the act of weaving is considered "giving birth.'' The four colors chosen are the colors which represent the four cardinal directions in the Aztec and Mayan cultures and in most Mesoamerican cultures
more at /

The Mexican Marigold flower is the official flower of Dia de Los Muertos.

Last Update & Link Check: 31OCT 2005