The Mayan and Venus
by José Antonio Poot

Chapter I
The Cult to Venus
Chapter II
The Dresden Codex
Chapter III
The Popol Vuh
Chapter IV
Stellar Architecture

The Cult to Venus
 (the celestial star of the mayans)     The Mayan people of Mesoamerica where avid star gazzers who strived to understand the cosmos as a way to understand their creation. Through out Central America ancient observers know as Shaman, began looking at the heavens for answers to the age old riddle of where do we come from? This question lead this mathematically advanced civilization arrive at conclusions that would have marveled the great European stargazzers like Galileo among others. The mayas like many other ancient people noticed a peculiarity with the motion of the planet Venus's rotation. It is the only planet visible to the naked eye that has both a retrograde motion and is as birght as a star. This special quality of venus lead the mayans to develop myths and stories, that would eventually lead them to the mythical explanation of their creation.

    The mayan people had alot of names for this planet.  The first and most important one of these names is, nok ek (red star), followed by; sastal ek (bright star) and xux ek (wasp star).  This star was the object of worship for the entire mesoamerican culture. In the maya vocabulary this planet/deity is depicted by the serpent god Kukulcan. This god who inspired fear and awe to the people of ancient yucatan.

     Kukulcan was a character who was half jaguar and half deity. His legend, which was well known through out the region, was in many ways similar to the planet venus. That is to say that Venus disapears 8 days every 260 days is a  star (for the mayans) that was elusive to the celestial order. Thus demostrated superiority as did Kukulcan. He too rose in the in the east and disapeared in the west to one day reapear in the east. This legend, latter picked up by the aztecs foretold the comming of the spanish, who they misunderstood for gods, and proceded to become royal subjects to the crown.
    To the mayan Venus was both a good and bad star, (one must not take the western meaning of good or bad for in the time of the mayas this would just be seen as night or day with out reference to the christian concept of a sin). That is to say that this celestial object could not only bring the gods of corn and water together but also make them tide their resourses to the

more poweful god of venus. This actual act of tiding their resources would happen exactly when the planet would disappear for 8 days. During this time the maya believed that by proforming ritual sacrifices, could apease the gods and make them not cast disease upon the land. This was thought to be a way to pay their debt, and thus compensating the gods for interceding on their behalf for the return of venus.

    The Venus star was also monumental to the regulation of sacred warfare. Only during the dissaperence did and could the priests of wage wars of religion.  This group of sacred warriors were thought to be selected by the venus god Kukulcan and thus only this elite group of warriors would wage war. Pictures of wars depicted in Bonanpak and Cacaxtla in Mexico depict these battles showing these warriors dressed in ceremonial venus  garments, that even the women of these warriors wore.  

            Depiction of the mayan Venus God in Chichen Itza

The Dresden Codex
Actual tables from Germany

     The Codex is one of the most important surviving books relating to the mayan's view of the cosmos. This book's sole purpose is the describe and depict the calender of the mayan. In order to properly understand the workings of this calender it is important to understand the simbols of which only those relating to days, and periods will be shown.

Mayan day gliphs

     lmix             Ik            Akbal          Kan

  chicchan        cimi            Manik          Lamat

    Muluc            Oc           Chuen             Eb

     Ben               Ix                Men               Cib

    Caban           Eznab         Cauac           Ahau

Mayan Period Glyphs










The Explanation of the Mayan Calendar

The above illustracion depics the actual places of the gliphs.

El Haab

The Haab in composed of 18 months (uinales) of 20 days (kines), plus one month and 5 remaining days (uayeb).

1 KIN = 1 day
1 UINAL (month) = 20 KINES
1 HAAB (year) = 18 UINALES (months) de 20 KINES (days) + 1 UAYEB (5 KINES, remaining days)





    The following calender is an interpretation done by a spanish sailor that was shipwrecked of the coast of the yucatan before the spanish know that this civilization existed. He was a literate priest who later with la malinche helped Cortez invade and conquer mexico.

Mayan Date Calculator

    The above like will take you to a web site where you will be able to calculate the actual mayan long count date of today.

The Venus Tables

    The venus tables were designed by the ancient mayan astronomers to as the key to decode the enigmas of time in reference to creation. In order to understand these tables on needs to recognize two characteristics. The first being their division of the cycles and the other being their observations relative to the movements of venus.

The mayan calender is divided in 584 day cycles and is divided in four parts and the fact that venus repeats itself every five periods of 584 days. This means that during 8 seasons the cycle of venus coincides exactly with the calendar. These tables account for the transition that venus makes from being the morning star to being the evening star. This 4 cycle repetition is further divided by the following.
     The interval of apperences as the moring star which they set as a 236 day period. The dissaperience of the venus which is accountes for 90 days. The appearence of venus as the evening star which accounts for 250 days, and finally the second relatively breif dissaperence of 8 days. This makes a total of 584 days thus giving the calendar a mathematical basis.

    The ancient maya viewed Venus as the celestial center of their universe. To understand this it is important to realize that unlike the heliocentric perception of the earth that the western world acquired with the renaissance, venus is infact more consecuention due to its apparent independance from the sun. This planet as seen and understood by the mayans is thus more important than the sun itlself. They based their view of religion, worship and even creation as a result of this cycle.

The Popol Vuh

    The story of the Popol Vuh, is in essence the story of the two hero twins, Hunahpu and Xbalanque, who represent the Venus and the Sun. These two characters are portrayed as the heros who protect the world from the wrath of the gods. They fight the gods for the chance to live. They fight the evil gods in order to buy time for the mayan people in order continue living. The idea is that life is borrowed and thus one must either apease the gods or fight them in order to survive as long as possible. These fights and apeasements are directly correlated with the rise and fall of venus. When Venus dissapears, the hero twins are in the underworld fighting for it to comeback. Wh en venus is the morning star, the hero twins managed to buy some more time for their people to live, when it is the evening star the gods are beginning once again to get upset and require more sacrifices. Then it dissapears and once again the story begins. The point to be taken from this is not the actual facts or myths, but the idea that time is cyclical and that history will and is prophesized to repeat itself. This idea very foreign to the western civilization is also used by the hebrew people in their alegory of the creation. In the genesis time is said to repeat itself. That is when human nature becomes evil and is corrupted it will once again be destroyed to create anew. Today, however this idea is not necessary focused on, since this does not correspond with the idea of free will.

    The alegory of the birth of venus and the aid of the sun for survival is in essence the cosmological explanation, for the quiche mayans. Their idea that the sun protects yet hides the planet is richely depicted in their stories and mural in cities like Bonampak (5) and Tikal (near Guatemala City) , even the little understood glyphs of Copan(8) depict this idea. The book itself is a way of explaining to their people the mathematical concepts that made the classic mayan the great scientists that they were. Compared to Europe the Mayan people were far ahead. In Europe the scientists were using the cumbersum roman numerical system for calculations yet the mayans with their complete understanding of the "0" were able to use their point vantesimal system to calculate in the millions to an unprecented accuracy. They were the first ancient people to accuratly calculate dates and conceptualize time in millions of years instead of thousands which was the limit for the Europeans.

Stellar Architecture

    The stars played an impotant role for the mayans. This order in relation to venus and the sun determined everything in terms of planing and building thier temples. The mayan were well aware of the poles and of the North-South orientation of the forces. They

however did not know much about magnetisim nor did they find a need to consider or develop a way of measuring this. They were more concerned about the actual alignement of the stars and the sun at any given time in the year. They did however give extreame importance to the change in season or the equinox. This they were able to measure and use to their advantage with astaunding accuracy. They built cities like Chichen-Itza and Dzibitzaltun so as to use the change in positions to reflect the shequin2.jpg (3130 bytes) adow the sun casts in order to make of it a religions ceremony. Clarifying the idea that the cosmos is directly related to humans in relation to their creator who guides them via the stars namely venus

    The remaining and discovered mayan temples indicate to us that they had an impresive understanding of the cosmos. They built them in order to be able to better view the stars from whithin.

They used windows and narrow tubes in order to pin point the exact possition of venus and other stars at any cerimonial date in time. These observation points, once thought to point out the cycles of the moon or other celestial objects were later found to be placed to follow the movements of venus. One example is in the Caracol which was decifered by american anthropologists be tween 1973 and 1975 show that tubes and holes in the door and sides actually have a view to venus every 8 years. This temple is also built at a 27 1/2° north of west which puts it in line with venus allowing a perfect observation of this planet every 8 years. The above picture is an actual picture taken during the alignment of venus. This temple is aligned differently according to the hight. That is to say that the lower platform aligns simetrically with the sun and the upper platform with the motions of venus. The interior however is totaly consecrated to the observation of venus. In order to achieve this the temple has 4 openings that align with this planet at the 8 given positions it will take thoughout time. Currently archiologists are only able to understand the 3rd and 4th vantage points, the rest are thought to be linked to solar eclipses as well as other observed positions of both venus and the sun. What is certain about windows 1 and 2 is mark the precise location of the nothernly and suthernly standstills of venus.

    During the post classic period most rules designed cities in order to replicate what they though were the dwellins or ancesters and deities of the night sky. The reason these were built at a hight was to depict the several dimentions of  life and the cosmos that to them was the essence of their religion. The castle in chichen Itza for example is built at a 29 1/2° angle which allows for it to be 2° off centered with the sun. This allows for what appears to be a shadow to decend from the temple twice a year during the equinox, and allows also the ability to observe venus as the morning star or as the evening star. The top of the temple is also skewed to a degree that allowed the ancient priests to better see the coming and going of the venus star. Both of these temples are thought to have been adorned with black and red colors which indicated where the sun shadow or venus's prime observation point might have been.

    This window depicted to the left is one such orifice from where the acient mayan are said to have seen venus.

    The origin of the Popol Vuh, even though it was written many years after the conquest and in the quiche region of what is today modern Chiapas, Belize and Guatemala, is said to have been written in accordance with the Dresden Codex, which is the work of scientists from an area somewhere in the middle of Chichen Itza (1) and Uxmal (2).


chichen2.jpg (18315 bytes)
    Chichén Itzá
1 Cenote Sagrado
2 Juego de Pelota
3 Templo del Jaguar (superior)
4 Templo del Jaguar(inferior)
5 Plataforma de los tigres y Aguilas
6 Plataforma de Venus
7 Templo de los Guerreros
8 El Castillo
9 La Casa Colorada
10 El Caracol
11 El Anexo de Monjas

ux.jpg (43531 bytes)

Uxmal which is in fact the largest of mayan cities in Yucatan is said to not only have the most beautiful achitecture but also the most

precise. The temple of the governers is another of those buildings that was built at a different angle. This temple lines up to the 9th and 10th degrees respectively to the east of north axis. This alignment allowed the mayan astonomers to better view the changing positions of venus. The actual spot in which this can be seen is in the middle of the quad. In this location every 8 years venus is seen from precisely with in. The platform  located at the steps of the entrance is directly aligned with venus when it is the morning star and the top of the great pyramid is aligned with the  evening star. The exact reason of why this was built like this remains a mystery to this day, yet archeologists believe that i s has to do with the actual places of celebration and sacrifice realted to de dissapperence and reapperance of venus. Another curiosity is that in the entire city of Uxmal the only place where one can see the depiction of the heliacal decent of venus is on this pyramid next to the depiction of chac mol, the rain god . This deity was said to be the one to collect the sacrifice made to the venus god and the one to renew the cycle.