Tzolk'in - The Twenty Day Names

The Twenty Day Names

The tzolk'in calendar combines a cycle of twenty named days with another cycle of thirteen numbers (the trecena), to produce 260 unique days (i.e., 20 × 13 = 260). Each successive named day was numbered from 1 up to 13 and then starting again at 1. There were 20 individual named days, as shown in the table below:

Tzolk'in calendar: named days and associated glyphs (in sequence)
Seq.
No. 1
Day
Name 2
Inscription
glyph example 3
Codex
glyph example 4
16th C.
Yucatec 5
Reconstructed
Classic Maya 6
Associated natural phenomena
or meaning 7
01 Imix' Imix Imix (?) / Ha' (?) waterlily, crocodile
02 Ik' Ik Ik' wind, breath, life force
03 Ak'b'al Akbal Ak'b'al (?) darkness, night, early dawn
04 K'an Kan K'an (?) Net, sacrifice
05 Chikchan Chicchan (unknown) cosmological snake
06 Kimi Cimi Cham (?) death
07 Manik' Manik Manich' (?) deer
08 Lamat Lamat Ek' (?) Venus, star, ripe(ness), maize seeds
09 Muluk Muluc (unknown) jade, water, offering
10 Ok Oc (unknown) dog
11 Chuwen Chuen (unknown) howler monkey
12 Eb' Eb (unknown) rain
13 B'en Ben (unknown) green/young maize, seed
14 Ix Ix Hix (?) jaguar
15 Men Men (unknown) eagle
16 Kib' Cib (unknown) wax
17 Kab'an Caban Chab' (?) earth
18 Etz'nab' Etznab (unknown) flint
19 Kawak Cauac (unknown) rain storm
20 Ajaw Ahau Ajaw lord, ruler, sun

The Tzolkin does not have a generally-recognized start and end, although there are specific references in the books of Chilam Balam to 1 Imix as the beginning day.

Each of the twenty days has its specific primary association connected to the day name's meaning.

  • Imix : 'Crocodile' - the reptilian body of the planet earth, or world
  • Ik : 'Wind' - breath, life. Also violence.
  • Akbal : 'Night-house' - darkness, the underworld, realm of the nocturnal jaguar-sun.
  • Kan : 'Maize' - sign of the young maize lord who brings abundance, ripeness. Also lizard, net.
  • Chicchan : 'Snake' - the celestial serpent
  • Cimi : 'Death'
  • Manik : 'Deer' - sign of the Lord of the Hunt
  • Lamat : 'Rabbit' - sign of the planet Venus, sunset. The glyph may depict four grains of maize. Invoked by the feminine name "Ixq'anil" by Xquic.
  • Muluc : 'Water' - symbolised by jade, an aspect of the water deities, fish. Invoked by the feminine name "Ixtoj" by Xquic.
  • Oc : 'Dog' - who guides the night sun through the underworld.
  • Chuen : 'Monkey' - the great craftsman, patron of arts and knowledge. Also thread.
  • Eb : 'Grass' or 'Point' - associated with rain and storms.
  • Ben : 'Reed' - who fosters the growth of corn, cane, and man.
  • Ix : 'Jaguar' - the night sun. Also maize. Associated with the goddess Ixchel.
  • Men : 'Eagle' - the wise one, bird, moon
  • Cib : 'Owl/Vulture' - death-birds of night and day. Also wax, soul, insect.
  • Caban : 'Earthquake' - formidable power. Also season, thought.
  • Etz'nab : 'Knife' - the obsidian sacrificial blade.
  • Cauac : 'Rain' or 'Storm' - the celestial dragon serpents and the chacs, gods of thunder and lightning.
  • Ahau : 'Lord' - the radiant sun god. Also associated with the Mayan hero twins.

The variant names and associations below are common to three post-conquest Guatemalan highland calendars, whose interpretations are based primarily on an 1854 manuscript by Hernandez Spina.

  • Imox is a bad day, associated with the insane, on which the priests of the sun pray that harm may come to their enemies through evil spirits.
  • Iq is a bad day, symbolic in the same way of the destructive forces of nature; that power is localized in stone idols, who are honored with incense, roses, candles, pine needles, and aguardiente. Tumours and painful swellings are attributed to the influence of this day.
  • Aqabal is a bad day on which the priests of the sun go to shrines to pray against their enemies. The day is symbolic of evil in general and of slanderers in particular.
  • Kat is a bad day in the same sense as Aqabal, symbolic of evil in general.
  • Kan is a bad day. It brings sickness and is symbolic of the arbitrary cruelty of nature.
  • Kame is recorded as a bad day by one 19th century source and as a good day by one 20th century source, Ruth Leah Bunzel. It is symbolic of the ultimate dissolution of everything good and everything evil by death. It is a good day to confess one's evil deeds, and ask for pardon.
  • Keej is a good day on which wishes are made. It is a good day to ask favors and to commemorate ancestors.
  • Qanil is a good day, sacred to fertility gods, associated with human nourishment, the growth of crops, the cycle of death and rebirth, and of the milpa. After the harvest is completed, thanksgiving is made on Qanil.
  • Toj is a bad day, symbolized by sickness, and anyone born on it will be perverse. It is a good day to wish sickness upon an enemy.
  • Tzi is a bad day, symbolized by sexual depravity. No ceremonies must ever be held on this day.
  • Batz is a bad day, symbolized by paralysis. According to some, it is a good day, symbolic of the ancestors.
  • E is a good day, symbolized by destiny, fortune, and the essential characteristics of one's personality. It is a day on which marriages may be held, and sacrifices to benign deities may be made.
  • Aj is a good day, consecrated to fertility gods, herdsmen, and domesticated animals. The day is symbolic of one's destiny as embodied in one's nagual.
  • Ix is a good day, sacred to the mountain and forest spirits. On this day, protection may be sought from wolves and wild preadators, in favor of flocks and animals. The day is symbolic of the creative force in general, and of the earth itself.
  • Tzikin is the most excellent day of all. Double offerings are made at shrines, in forests, and in caves. It is a day on which wishes may be made, forgiveness may be sought, and important matters may be finalized.
  • Ajmaq is also a very good day, on sacred to the spirits that preside over good health.
  • Noj is an auspicious day, on which good judgement may be prayed for. The day is symbolic both of humanity's amoral and moral qualities.
  • Tijax is a good day. It is a day of verbal arguments, and a good day to confess sins.
  • Kawoq is recognized as an indifferent day or a bad day. It is symbolic of the malice of the dead.
  • Junapu or Ajpu is an indifferent day, neither a bad or good portent, on which the power of the ancestors is embodied by the house itself.

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