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Learning the Mesoamerican Zodiac

July 23, 2018

By Bruce Scofield, PhD   

Ancient astrological system still used by Maya in remote sections of Mexico and Guatemala

Quite possibly, as far back as 3,000 years ago, a unique form of astrology was developed in the Mesoamerican region of the New World, today’s Mexico and northern Central America. The core of this astrological tradition is a sequence of 20 day-signs that cycle within a 260-day astrological calendar. This 260-day count of days and signs, sometimes called the sacred calendar or divinatory calendar, was used by all the major cultures of ancient Mesoamerica right up to the Aztecs, and it is still being used by the Maya in the more remote sections of Mexico and Guatemala. The Maya call it the tzolkin, which means day, sun and time.

The astrological calendar consists of a cycle of 20 days, each having a name and a specific symbolism much like the signs of the zodiac. These 20 days cycle 13 times which completes the calendar (20 x 13 = 260). At the same time there is a cycle of 13 numbers that repeats 20 times within this same period. An event or a person’s birth will fall on one of the 20 signs and also on one of the numbers. These are signs of time, not of space like the zodiac, and each sign is in effect for a day. According to anthropologists who have studied these peoples, the astrological calendar has not changed since the invasion of the Spanish conquistadors and friars. We know about it from both ancient manuscripts called codices, inscriptions on ancient buildings and pottery, and from a living oral tradition.

Of the twenty named-days, ten refer to animals. The other ten refer to forces of nature, plants or life experiences. In Western astrology, one is born under one of twelve zodiac signs, eight of which are animals. In Mesoamerican astrology one is born under a day-sign. During Aztec times the knowledge of the sacred calendar was kept by both priests and calendar specialists who advised rulers, scheduled wars and state events, read fortunes and answered questions for the public. When a child was born, the parents would go to a priest or reader and learn about the child’s fate, character and profession.

Here are the twenty signs or symbols that form the core of the Mesoamerican astrological tradition. Like the twelve signs of the zodiac, they follow a definite sequence and symbolize a kind of evolutionary process. Each of the day-signs is assigned to one of the four directions in the order east, north, west and south. This order repeats five times – there are five sets of four signs that make up the key twenty signs of the 260-day calendar. We can see an analogy with the 4 elements of fire, earth, air and water in the zodiac. Signs of the east are powerful and initiating while those of the west are concerned with relationship. Signs of the north are more mental, those of the south more emotional. Determining the day-sign requires tables (too long for this short article) or the use of computer software.*

The first of the day-signs is called Crocodile. It is a sign of the east and is followed by signs of the north, west and south, in that order. Persons born under it are aggressive, yet protective, energetic, creative and initiating. They have a personal power that must be used creatively or they may become dominating. Both Johnny Cash and Walt Disney were born under this sign.

The second day-sign is Wind, a sign of intellect and communication. Natives of this sign are usually multifaceted and versatile, but also idealistic and romantic. They frequently struggle with commitment issues. Hillary Clinton and Whoopi Goldberg were born under it.

Next comes House, which rules rigid structures and traditions. Those born under this sign are deep and introspective, and they also tend to project an imposing presence. They work systematically to meet their security needs. Donald Trump and Alice Cooper were born under this sign.

Lizard is a sign of performance, sexuality and independence. This sign produces individuals who are driven to reach high standards. Self-esteem is important to them and they are often attracted to attention-getting activities. Bill Cosby and Monica Lewinsky were born under it.

The day-sign Serpent, like the sign Crocodile, is a sign of the east and it begins the next set of four signs. It rules power and charisma as well as emotional upheaval. Natives of this sign are intelligent but also extremist in many ways. Born under it was Marilyn Monroe and Noam Chomsky.

Death, the next day-sign, symbolizes personal sacrifice and acceptance of change. It is a sign of realism and practicality and produces persons with a strong sense of civic duty who work hard for the community to which they belong. Bill Gates and Jane Fonda were born under it.

Deer is a day-sign that is contradictory in many ways. For these natives community and family are of great importance, but so is their freedom to follow their nomadic instincts. Deer types are also very sensual, artistic and even eccentric. John McCain and Martha Stewart were born under Deer.

Rabbit, a sign of cleverness, games and competition, produces persons with active minds who must always be doing something. They have a great liking for music and humor, but they can also be argumentative and even self-destructive at times. Born under it were Gary Busey and Whitney Houston.

Water is the next sign of the east and it represents emotional power and leadership. Persons born under it struggle with powerful emotions and urges. They are great dreamers and are sometimes psychic. Both Oprah Winfrey and Neil Young were born under this day-sign.

Dog, a sign of loyalty and leadership, comes next. Consistency and commitment characterize persons born under it. They are good team players, usually very creative, and strive patiently for authoritative positions. They also have a liking to roam, but not too far from their territory. Robin Quivers and Willie Nelson were born under it.

Monkey is the sign of the performer or actor. This sign needs attention and is often found in the performing or communicative arts. Although they are socially active, they often struggle with close intimate relationships. Ronald Reagan was born here as was Tina Turner.

Grass is a day-sign of realism, compromise and healing. Persons born under it are easy-going, but they are also very touchy and hide deep hurts and feelings. They are slow to get going, but once they do they don’t stop. Howard Stern and Nancy Pelosi were born under it.

Powerful Reed, the fourth sign of the east, begins the next set of four day-signs and is associated with knowledge, strong opinions and forcefulness. Persons born under it are usually popular, accomplished and competent, having deep knowledge of human nature. Deepak Chopra and Barack Obama were born under it.

Ocelot, the day-sign of Edgar Cayce and Shakira, comes next and produces persons who are secretive and private but make good healers and consultants, they not being afraid of getting involved with other people’s lives. They are often deeply moved by spiritual or religious matters.

Eagle is a day-sign associated with vision and attention to detail. Persons born under it are usually independent, perfectionists, and technically minded. They can be very ambitious and critical, yet they also enjoy a good escape now. This is an open-minded day-sign, the sign of Henry David Thoreau and Susan Sarandon.

Vulture is a day-sign of authority and hierarchy. Those born under it are status-conscious and driven to high positions, or they become the victims of those already so positioned. They are serious people, often hardened to life and difficult to reach emotionally. Bob Dylan and Ayn Rand were born under it.

The last set of four day-signs begins with another sign of the east, Earthquake. This is the day-sign of forceful intellectual activity and progressive thinking. Persons born under it are often controversial because they believe strongly in ideals and work to implement a new order. This is the day-sign of Benjamin Franklin and Dolly Parton.

Knife is a day-sign of both self-sacrifice and self-interest. Persons born under it frequently struggle in close relationships because of this conflict. They are also practical and mechanically inclined, compromising, very social and sometimes vain. Examples are Paul Simon and Jackie Onassis.

Rain is a sign of mind, compassion and healing. Its natives are youthful, restless, mentally active and friendly. They are usually multi-accomplished, though the counseling and healing professions are where they are at their best. These persons are concerned with purification and cleansing. Princess Diana and Sandra Yoko Ono were both born under it.

Flower, symbol of beauty, perfection and the ideal, is the last of the twenty day-signs. These persons are persistent dreamers, socially awkward, but always well-intentioned. They are devoted friends and lovers, but often suffer in relationships because of unrealistic expectations. Calvin Klein and Rachel Carlson were both born under Flower.

The day-signs are one of the greatest intellectual achievements of New World civilization, and one that is alive in the indigenous oral tradition and in modern interpretations by students of ancient astrology. They are the foundation of a far more complex system of numbers, planetary cycles and mythology that make up the Mesoamerican astrological tradition.

More information and a free Maya-Aztec Astro-Report can be found at


*See the latest edition of Day-Signs: Native American Astrology From Ancient Mexico (2017 – The Wessex Astrologer) for tables and lengthy descriptions of the day-signs. Astrolabe’s software, *Mayan Life-Path Astrology, handles calculations of the day-signs and more and offers delineations.

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About the author

About the Author Bruce Scofield, Ph.D., is an author and practitioner of astrology and a speaker at conferences. He is a strong advocate for astrological education and certification and has been involved with the National Council for Geocosmic Research’s educational program for more than 40 years. He taught at Kepler College and taught geoscience and evolution at the University of Massachusetts. His interest in Mesoamerican astrology has a web presence at

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