On the Problem of Delineations and Correlations

by Bruce Scofield

March 3 1999

Recently, it was brought to my attention that Aluna Joy Yaxk'in's delineations of the 20 day-signs in her book "Mayan-Pleidian Cosmology" were in part copied from delineations in my book "Day-Signs" which was published a few years earlier. Aluna did credit me in her introduction, but not specifically as a source for the delineations. I want to publicly say that I hold nothing against her for this and that she has my permission to continue selling copies of her book. I do hope that this oversight will be corrected for future printings. There is one thing that bothers me about this situation, however, and that has to do with the fact that Aluna uses a calendar correlation that is completely different from the one I used to "discover" the delineations of the day-signs. Aluna has graciously offered me this space in her website to express myself on this matter, and I thank her for it. In order to better understand the situation, I will need to begin with a short history of how I developed what I believe were the first practical delineations of the day-signs.

Astrology is the study of the interactions between the rhythms of the sky and life on earth, and the application of any insights (practical or spiritual) gained. I am a practicing astrologer. I make my living reading horoscopes for clients in the United States and several other countries. I write for astrology magazines, speak regularly at astrology conferences, and have had several books on the subject published. I've been studying Western (and some Vedic and Chinese) astrology since 1967 and have the highest possible astrological certification available in this country (C.A.- NCGR). I also have an M.A. in social sciences. This is the background that I bring to the study of Mesoamerican astrology, the body of knowledge that includes, among other things, the 20 Mayan signs and the Mayan calendar itself.

My astrological background informs me that a description of a person involves many layers of information. In Western astrology, there is no single sign or planet that totally describes a person. It is in the blending of symbols that any kind of interpretation of a life is possible. But the symbols are constants. Aries is always Aries and Saturn is always Saturn. Astrologers are trained to both separate and blend astrological influences. For over 4,000 years, these foundations of Western astrology have been reconfirmed by succeeding generations of astrologers.

In the tradition I call Mesoamerican astrology, we have a magnificent system that flowered long ago, and then faded to a degree. Later, the Spanish conquerors did what they could to eliminate the little that remained. Fortunately, pieces of it have been kept alive to the present day by an oral tradition, which, I might add, Aluna Joy has been nurturing in her own way. While Western and Mesoamerican astrology are as different as English is from Spanish, they are very similar in basic ways. For example, both English and Spanish are languages, symbolic systems designed to carry information. Both Western and Mesoamerican astrology use astronomical rhythms and number to give meaning to life as it progresses through time. Theoretically, a person well-versed in either system should be better prepared to "see" how the other system works than someone unfamiliar with either. I feel that my 32 years in astrology has put me in a unique position to attempt a reconstruction of this lost tradition of astrology. A world-class tradition, I might add.

In 1976 I became interested in ancient Mexico, especially things relating to astrology and calendars. During the 1980's I familiarized myself with the 20 day-signs of Mesoamerican astrology. Like the 12-sign zodiac, one of the core elements of Western astrology, the 20 day-signs seemed to me to serve many purposes. One of these is a general model of development and evolution, one is a device for divination, another is as a personality matrix. In 1986 Angela Cordova, a Mexican psychic, and I created a set of 20 dream and psychically-inspired images for the day-signs. Our work was published as a divination kit by Llewellyn Publications in 1988 under the title "The Aztec Circle of Destiny." But the idea that the day-signs could actually function like the zodiac became consuming and I used every resource available to better understand these signs in that way. The first major challenge was the calendar correlation.

Using birth data for about 400 people I set out to see if there was a correlation between the signs and one of five dates given by the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson correlation, the GMT, and observable personality traits. (The GMT correlation is sometimes referred to as the Classic Maya or Traditional correlation.) During the mid 1980's very little had been published on the nature of the day-signs. Most of it was a reiteration of Sahagun and Duran, friars who wrote shortly after the conquest of Mexico. Also around this time anthropologist Barbara Tedlock published delineations of the signs that she learned from the Quiche Maya, though these were not much of an improvement on those recorded by the old friars. I gleaned from these and other less well-known sources what some of the signs might be about, though most of them remained completely incomprehensible. Then, in early 1989, I hit on a technique.

Using an early computer program for finding day-signs that was created by Barry Orr (called Maya 1), I established a day-sign for each person on my long list. The program allowed for any base date for the calendar conversion and I selected the first date of the five I chose to examine, Julian Date 584,281. I next organized all the names according to the day-sign they were computed to have been born under. Then I computed their Western astrological data and made notes in regard to the dominant influences in each birthchart. A pattern soon emerged. Nearly all the people born in any one day-sign shared certain Western astrological factors. The next question was whether these factors "fit" the supposed meaning of the day-signs.

After some adjustments I decided that using Julian Date 584,283 as a base date, which was the central date of the five generally given for the GMT correlation, worked the best. This turned out to also be the correlation that is used by the Quiche Maya today. Around the same time Monro Edmunson, using historical dates and the testimony of the inscriptions, came to the same conclusion. This was published in his work "The Book of the Year," in 1988. Having convinced myself that this correlation "worked," and bolstered by the support of the Quiche oral tradition and Edmonson's calendrical archaeology, I went on to flesh out deeper meanings for each day-sign.

I published my results in 1991 in my book "Day-Signs: Native American Astrology From Ancient Mexico" and at the same time as text in a computer program called "Aztec Astro-Report." Since then I have further developed my delineations and have integrated them with delineations for the trecena, the Lords of the Night, and the cycle of the years. More recently I've developed a unique Mesoamerican horoscope that opens a vista into planetary patterns in a way that I believe is consistent with the practices and intellectual leanings of the ancient Maya. Delineations for the day-signs, tecena, years, Lords of the Night, and Venus phases are found on the latest version of the computer program, now called Aztec-Maya Astro-Report, which runs on my website: www.onereed.com.

That is my history. A crucial problem has to do with whether or not my delineations can "work" for another calendar correlation, or correlations, other than the one I fine-tuned it for. Aluna says it works equally well for her choice of correlation, the one advocated by Jose Arguelles. This correlation is one that omits a leap day every four years, something I find baffling and an insult to the Mayan premise that the days are sacred. But even more disturbing to me is the notion that you can have it both ways. This is like saying people born under Taurus share the same personality characteristics as those born under Sagittarius. Anyone familiar with Western astrology will know that these signs represent two completely different forms of personality, but they can occur in the same person in various ways. For example, one person may have the Sun in Taurus and the Moon in Sagittarius. Another May have the Sun in Sagittarius and five planets in Taurus. But, and this is one of my points, someone untrained in astrology (or psychology to a lesser extent) might not see the subtle differences here. My friend Margaret, who is an expert birder, sees warblers where I see none and then tells me which one is which by its song. It's the same thing with people watching, experience counts. Human beings are complex entities.

The world of astrology is certainly not exempt from problems like this. Astrology is not a hard science. It is an interpretive discipline that utilizes scientific materials (i.e. astronomy, mathematics, etc.) to arrive at data which is then interpreted by someone who has some experience. This is exactly the same thing as medicine. Doctors use scientific tests, but they disagree amongst themselves. Ever hear of a second opinion?

Conflicts of opinion over the astrological meaning of a newly discovered planet arise from time to time. It took probably 30 years before the majority of astrologers agreed on what Pluto was really about, and deeper insights are always being published. Agreement by consensus, built on arguments that utilize anecdotal evidence, is how Western astrology has moved forward. Only a few truly scientific studies bolster the contentions of this field of inquiry. Mesoamerican astrology is impoverished by comparison. Those of us interested in this field are few, our resources limited, and most don't have a background in Western, Hindu, or even Chinese astrology. Most who are interested in the field know intuitively that something of incredible value exists among the remnants of the great Mesoamerican civilizations. We are drawn to the relics of a fantastic astrological system that no one really knows exactly what it was like when it was full-blown. We need to take the time to educate ourselves about it, and about other parallel systems from other cultures. We need to get into a the astrological mind-set, a world where symbols are not fantasy, they are a code for they way things work. I also believe that the basic principles of this mind-set are multi-cultural. We need to do what the scientists have not done. But we can't allow ourselves to force fit what we think we see out there into the framework of our expectations. I've spent years making sure that I don't do this (its called being detached) and I've paid a price for it. The search for higher levels of order is a process that does not let one become a true believer in one day.

I have no doubts that the world I live in is deep, complex, and mysterious. The fact that astrology exists at all is amazing to me. It suggests to me that humans and other life forms have actually internalized the sky in a strange way. But I find that it is in "pattern perception" that astrology becomes alive. Pattern perception is something that comes easy for some, harder for others, but is developable. This consensus intuitive "knowing" is how Western astrology has been kept alive throughout a sustained assault on it from the scientific community during the past 300 years.

I wish to call on all users of the Mesoamerican day-signs and ask them to think about these issues. Any application of an ancient tradition to our personal lives would be hollow if we found that we were fooling ourselves. We need to dig deeper and find some kind of consensus that is clearly observable to most (some people will never see what everyone else sees) and consistent with the traditions of Mesoamerican, living and dead. I have asked for and welcomed feedback on this matter for 10 years now, though I value feedback more from those who have studied the complex world of human personality. My latest quest is to arrive at an understanding of exactly when one day-sign ends and another begins. Is there a cusp? Is it at sunset, midnight, or sunrise? Should foreign birthtimes be converted to Central Time? I may be seeing things (I'm always open to being wrong), but it seems to me that a shift occurs shortly after sunset and becomes complete within a few hours. Anyone else see this? I can't do this by myself, this is a job for many. For generations perhaps. The restoration and future development of Mesoamerican astrology, in my opinion the crowning intellectual achievement of Native American civilization, has only just begun.

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