A Symbolic Agricultural Temporal Ritual

As noted, the 260-day cycle was used to celebrated agricultural rituals in Mesoamerica (Broda de la Casas 1969: 52-54; Bricker and Miram 2002: 4041). The 260-calendar is utilised as an agricultural calendar by the Ch’orti’ (Girard 1960: 304-305; 1962: 328-342; 1966: 7-40), by the Mopan of San Antonio in Belize (Thompson 1930: 41) and Tzotzil (Lopez Austin 1997: 137- 145)[1] [2] [3]. The growth cycle of one of the corn plants in Guatemala is, according to Dennis Tedlock, 260 days. The K’iche’ calendar specialist, Aj Q’in, calls thus the 260-day calendar for “the calendar of the earth” to distinguish it from the astronomic intervals like the year of the sun (Tedlock 1996: 206).27 This is possible when the starting and termination date of the 260-day calendar was determined in the time-system of the individual Mesoamerican culture—which had to be adapted to the harvest seasonable (solar) cycle of the community of a given region because there is considerable variation in climate and topography in Mesoamerica.

Chac, one of the most important deities in the lowland Maya pantheon, is rain god (Taube 1992: 17-27). He is associated with the four cardinal directions but, however, not acknowledged as connected to Burner day’s stations in other almanacs of Codex Dresden. It is therefore difficult to conclude with any certainty that these scenes have anything to do, even if the interval quadripartite 65-day sequence marked by Burner days, with the Burner ceremonies.

Four Burner rituals at each 65-day section of 260-days were associated with a cardinal direction accordingly defining the world. The four-sided world is conceived as a rectangular house and a symbolic milpa associated with agriculture and maize in Maya philosophy.28 The symbolic space of the world, milpa or maize field, is also identified with the community (Taube 1988: 159-161). Redfield and Villa Rojas has found that the milpa is associated with the village community conception in the Yucatec village Chan Kom where “... the world, the village and the milpa are thought of as squares with four corners lying in the four cardinal points of the compass and with defined central points” (Redfield and Villa Rojas 1934: 114). The

260-day calendar is outlined as an agricultural calendar in The Codex Perez and The Book of Chilam Balam of Mani(Craine and Reindorp 1979: 154-155). The four Burner ceremonies of a quadripartite 65-day sequence may therefore have functioned as a symbolic agricultural ritual delineating the 260- day agricultural period and the milpa (earth). I emphasise, however, that this hypothesis is quite arguable. But as noted, the 65-day interval rituals of the 260-day calendar have a division into 4 periods of 65 days in Codex Borgia (lam. 27-28), Codex Vaticano B (fol. 69) and Codex Fejervary-Mayer (fol. 33-34). There is strong relation with agriculture, as in the scenes there are four figures of the rain deity Tlaloc irrigating crops.[4] This indicates, although these Mesoamerican manuscripts are not Yucatec, that 65-days temporal interal rituals of the 260-day calendar are connected with agriculture.

  • [1] For the Tzotzil cf. Calixta Guiteras Holmes. Los peligros del alma. Vision del mundode un tzotzil. Mexico: FCE. 1965.
  • [2] Cf. also Tedlock (1992: 204-205).
  • [3] It is indicated by ethnographic research of the contemporary Yucatec and Ch’orti’—by Redfield and Villa Rojas (1934: 43), Wisdom (1940: 40; 383) and Girard (1966: 29-34)—thatthe four-sided milpa represent a metaphor for the earth or world.
  • [4] Anonymous reviewer.
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