(also published in The Mountain Astrologer, Spring 1999)
by Bruce Scofield, with Valerie Vaughan and Linda Mariano
Somewhere back in the early 1980's it became apparent to me that there were four major, world-class astrological traditions. Western astrology originated in the Near East, but was later developed by a succession of Mediterranean and Arab cultures. It eventually became the astrology of Western Europe and its colonies. India had an early astrological system that was strongly influenced by Greek astrology around 300 B.C. Since that time it has developed on its own, but retains many parallels with Western astrology. Today, it's called Vedic astrology. In China an ancient indigenous astrology which utilized interlocking cycles of 12 and 10 has survived to the present day. Also part of the Chinese system are a lunar zodiac and the well-known cycle of 12 years. Some aspects of Chinese astrology appear to have been influenced by the Western and Indian astrological systems. Over the centuries these three systems probably influenced each other, after all, all three cultural centers were located on the same land mass. Tibetan and Japanese astrology are regional variations of the Indian and Chinese systems.
The fourth major astrological system is the one that developed in the region of the Americas known today as Mexico and Central America and is referred to as Middle America or Mesoamerica. Its origins go back to at least 500 B.C. and portions of it have been kept alive to the present day by the rural indigenous peoples of Mexico and Guatemala. I first became aware of the existence of this system after reading Soustelle's "Daily Life of the Aztecs" back in 1973. At that time only one astrological publication on the subject, Volguine's (see below), was available. A few years later Tunnicliffe's "Aztec Astrology" appeared. But that was about it for Mesoamerican astrology. While astronomers cleaned up the astronomy of ancient Mesoamerica during the 1970's and 80's, they carefully sidestepped the fact that astrology was what ancient Mesoamerican astronomy served.
The entire Mesoamerican astrological system itself was neglected by academics, and to anyone interested in the subject it was, more or less, incomprehensible. Descriptions of signs were vague, and tables for calculating them were impossible to follow. Nothing was particularly clear, except that there really was an indigenous astrology that played a major part in all the major cultures of ancient Mesoamerica, including those of the Maya, Toltec, Zapotec, Mixtec, and Aztec.
After several trips to Mexico in the early 1980's, it became apparent to me that any understanding of Mesoamerican astrology would have to rest on an understanding of the 20 key day-signs. This sequence of signs is as important to Mesoamerican astrology as the 12-sign zodiac is to Western astrology. Unfortunately, little was known about them. Anyone who looked would find contradictory accounts by the early Spanish friars, who were attempting to eliminate the system. Ethnographic accounts were equally confusing and relevant only to people living in a world ruled by ritual and magic. It wasn't until the late 1980's and early 1990's that coherent sign delineations were published.
There were horoscopes, or something like them, in Mesoamerican astrology. Trained readers could interpret births from a complex set of tables. Important events, like coronations or wars, were commemorated with a listing of cycles, both planetary and calendrical, and the point within each that marked the event. This simple listing of astrological data is not very different from the listing of planetary positions found in very early Western astrology, before the horoscopic form came into being. A modern attempt at creating a Mesoamerican horoscope, originally published in The Mountain Astrologer, appears on this website.
Some important topics in Mesoamerican astrology:
Day-Signs: The twenty key signs unique to Mesoamerican astrology. Unlike the Western zodiacal signs which occupy blocks of space, these signs are used to interpret individual blocks of time. Normally, it is the day itself that serves as the fundamental block of symbolic time, hence day-signs. The internal structure of the signs is every bit as sophisticated, if not more so, than the Western zodiac.
260-day astrological calendar, a.k.a. the sacred calendar, divinatory almanac, tzolkin, tonalpouhalli: These are all names for the keystone of Mesoamerican astrology, a calendar-like, symbolic evolutionary cycle of 20 signs and 13 numbers. Thirteen cycles of the 20 day-signs is 260 days, a figure that resonates with some planetary cycles. This 20/13 pattern is repeated in macro form in the Long Count/Mayan calendar.
Correlation Problem: The linkage between the 260-day astrological calendar and the Western calendar is crucial. Numerous correlations have been proposed, but one, the Goodman-Martinez-Thompson correlation (GMT), has a lot more to offer than all the others combined. It is consistent with stone inscriptions, written documents from the Conquest period, and the living oral tradition of today's Maya daykeepers. It also seems to work astrologically.
Long Count/Mayan calendar: This is the 5,125-year period that began in 3114 B.C. and ends on 12/21/2012. It is 1/5 of the precessional cycle and its ending marks the time when the winter solstice point precesses through a mythologically important part of the milky way, essentially the galactic center. The entire 5,125-year period is divided into 260 units of about 20 years each. The Long Count is the tzolkin writ large.
Katun: A period of 7,200 days or 19.71 years. This is the basic generational cycle of ancient Mesoamerica which is a close approximation of the Jupiter/Saturn cycle of 19.86 years. 260 katuns comprise 1/5 of the precession cycle (see above).
Venus/Quetzalcoatl: The Mesoamerican perspective on Venus is fascinating and enlightening for Western astrologers. "She" is a "he" who symbolizes the struggle for control over bio-reproductive drives and the effect that the success or failure of this struggle has on society, culture, and civilization.
Primary Sources for Mesoamerican Astrology
The Codices: The Spanish burned entire libraries of picture books and glyphic manuscripts when they conquered the indigenous peoples of ancient Mesoamerica. Only a few survived, these having been shipped back to Europe as souvenirs by the conquering heroes. Four Maya codices exist, the Dresden Codex being the best preserved and most sophisticated. From highland Mexico a dozen or so codices survived, about half of which deal with astrology. One of the more complex of these, the Codex Borgia, is now available from Dover Publications for a mere $14.95. In addition to the Dresden and Borgia, Codex Vaticanus B, Codex Fejervary-Mayer, Codex Borbonicus, and the Madrid and Paris Codices (both Mayan), will be of interest to researchers. Copies of, and commentaries on, these codices can be found in most university libraries.
The Spanish Friars: anthropologists with a religious bias.
Landa, Friar Diego de. Yucatan Before and After the Conquest. Trans. William Gates. New York: Dover Publications, 1978.
Landa burned hundreds of Maya books. Four survived to the present day. Some tidbits of Mesoamerican astrology can be found in his account of Maya culture written after the Conquest. The cycle of 13 katuns, sometimes called the "Short Count," is documented.
Sahagun, Fray Bernardino de. Florentine Codex: General History of the Things of New Spain, Books 4 and 5. Trans. C.E. Dibble and A.J.O. Anderson. Ogden: University of Utah Press, 1957.
The most complete account of the 20 signs is found in Book 4. Sahagun let his native informants (Aztecs) speak freely about their native astrology and it appears he recorded their words verbatim. Sadly, he did this so that future friars would be able to better eliminate all traces of native beliefs. The delineations of the signs are very fatalistic and read like some ancient Roman astrological texts.
Duran, Fray Diego. The Book of the Gods and the Rites and the Ancient Calendar. Trans. and ed. by F. Horcasitas and D. Heyden. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1971.
Duran offers brief delineations for the 20 signs as used by the Aztecs in their 13-day sequence, which he calls the "weeks." There is also some useful information on the various gods here, many of whom have a role as ruler of a specific day-sign.
Native texts written in Spanish after the Conquest
Craine, Eugene R. and Reginal C. Reindorp, translators. Codex Perez and the Book of Chilam Balam of Mani. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1979.
Makemson, Maud W. The Book of the Jaguar Priest: A Translation of the Book of Chilam Balam of Tizimin, with Commentary. New York: Henry Schuman, 1951.
Roys, R.L., The Book of Chilam Balam of Chumayel. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1967.
Generations after the Spanish had subjugated the Maya, a number of basically similar manuscripts appeared in an number of towns in the Maya homeland. They were written in a phoneticized Spanish version of the Mayan language and all had the same basic title - the Book of the Jaguar Priest (Chilam Balam). It is believed that these books contain some of the same material found in the earlier codices, namely lists of the days and katun cycles. The one from Mani contains a bizarre mix of ancient Mayan and 16th Century European astrology.
Books on Mesoamerican astrology as a subject in itself:
Volguine, Alexandre. Astrology of the Mayas and Aztecs. Kent, England: Pythagorean Publications, 1969. First published in France in 1946.
The author wrote at a time when academic information on the subject was limited and for this reason some of his ideas are wrong by today's standards. However, Volguine organizes the material quite well and makes comparisons with Western astrology throughout the book. He draws heavily on Landa and Sahagun, and also a number of French writers on astrology and symbolism. The latter part of the book deals with the Codex Borbonicus in detail which he compares with the tarot trump cards.
Tunnicliffe, K.C. Aztec Astrology. Essex, England: L.N.Fowler & Co., 1979.
As far as I know, this was the first English-language book that attempted to correlate the day-signs with the Western calendar. Readers have to run through numerous tables to do this, however, and the results are not satisfying because of the way the author tackles the correlation problem. Although he leaves no footnotes or references, the descriptions of the day-signs appear to be derived from Sahagun and Seler.
Day-Signs: Native American Astrology From Ancient Mexico. Bruce Scofield. Amherst, MA: One Reed Publications, 1991.
This book, and the following one, are essential texts for anyone interested in an astrological study of the calendar cycles that form the foundations of pre-Conquest Mesoamerican astrology. The focus of Day-Signs is the 260-day cycle. Descriptions of each sign, based on the accounts of conquest-period Spanish friars are followed by the author's extensive observations. After the sign descriptions is a table-like ephemeris, based on the GMT correlation, that allows the reader to convert any date from 1900 to 2000 to the equivalent in the 260-day cycle. (Linda Mariano)
Signs of Time: An Introduction to Mesoamerican Astrology. Bruce Scofield. Amherst, MA: One Reed Publications, 1994.
Signs of Time offers a further exploration of the 260-day calendar, a look at the trecena, the burner periods, and the 9 Lords of the Night. Delineations for the katuns, a portion of the Long Count, as well as the mythology and phases of Venus (in relation to the ball game and ritual warfare) make this an extraordinary reference book. The author informs the reader of the existing conflicts over the correlation question. The inclusion of a version of the Tonalamatl from the Codex Borgia provides a visual option in the understanding of the issues raised by Scofield's informative studies. There are many more fascinating topics, tidbits, and resources than can be mentioned here. This book contains as much information, practical and conceptual, including suggestions for future developments, as some works with twice as many pages. (Linda Mariano)
Colmer, Michael. Aztec Astrology: An Introduction. London: Blandford, 1995.
One of the peculiar things about this book is that it gives delineations for the day-signs, including long lists of famous people born under them, but does not offer a way for readers to determine their own sign. Instead, the author suggests that readers could either "decide" which sign they belong to, or order a computer printout. No explanation or source is given for the overly-confident delineations offered in this book.
Johnson, Kenneth. Jaguar Wisdom: Mayan Calendar Wisdom. St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publication, 1997.
This book is an excellent introduction to the day-signs and the living culture of the Maya, who use them as a kind of astro-calendrical divination. After a sensitive account of the history, mythology, and worldview of the Maya, the author offers a discussion of each day-sign. To his credit, he bases his interpretations on Native myths and traditions instead of offering us loose speculations or delineations copied from other writers. Although the book is primarily Mayan in orientation, the author also draws on the mythology and traditions of Aztecs who shared the same astrological system. Using the tables in the back of the book (which utilize the GMT correlation) readers can determine their year-sign, day-sign, and directional signs that complete a "Tree of Life" diagram, a kind of Medicine Wheel, that is used by contemporary day-keepers in Guatemala. As far as I know, the use of this diagram has not previously appeared in an English publication. In all, this is a well-researched (footnoted) and well-written book.
Mesoamerican astrology as a form of divination or lifestyle
Scofield, Bruce and Angel Cordova. The Aztec Circle of Destiny.
St. Paul, MN: Llewellyn Publications, 1988.
This was an early attempt to flesh out the meanings of the twenty day-signs using history, myth, dowsing, and dreamwork. Twenty original images for the signs appear on cards, 13 wooden chips do the numbers, and a 216-page book explains the system and the processes that led to the divinatory and astrological delineations.
Arguelles, Jose and Lloydine. Dreamspell. Makawao, Maui, HI: Self-published, 1990.
This is the "dungeons and dragons" of Mesoamerican calendars, astrology, and divination. The kit includes a book and several game boards and wheels. Lots of cool sounding words, like holon, fractal, and galactic, give it an elitist quality. The basic idea of preparing spaceship earth for its rendezvous with the galaxy in 2013 is fine, but do we need to be engaged in a game to do it? John Major Jenkins has written an amazing challenge to this product called "The Key to the Dreamspell Agenda" which is posted on his website (http://edj.net/mc2012/).
The Mayan Oracle: Return Path to the Stars. Ariel Spilsbury and Michael Bryner. Santa Fe, NM: Bear and Company, 1992
This work, a book and cards, advocates the use of the 20 day-signs of the 260-day sacred calendar not for divination but as a "meditational device." The fact that the book contains no mention of the correlation question and no tables to find the day-sign equivalent for today's date emphasizes a focus on the interpretation of the signs themselves. The Mayan Oracle cards offer visual images that aid in the understanding of the archetypes behind the signs, although phrases like the "lenses of the mystery" and "language of light" can at times elude comprehension. The book's outline page for the 20 signs organizes a variety of symbols associated with each sign and offers positive suggestions for transforming the more challenging qualities ascribed to the day-signs. (Linda Mariano)
Aluna Joy Yaxk'in. Mayan-Pleidian Cosmology. Mt. Shasta, CA: Hauk'in - Center for Solar Initiation, 1995.
In this spiral-bound work, the author encourages the use of the Mayan calendar (the Arguelles/Dreamspell correlation) as a way of life. There's a lot of information about the internal structure of the tzolkin here, expressed in a kind of "new age" jargon, and also a methodology for doing readings. The unreferenced text errs in regard to astronomical facts, however, and some say the delineations of the day-signs were copied from other works.
Mardyks, Raymond. Tzolkin: Book of Days, Calendar and Ephemeris. Sedona, AZ: Star Heart Publications, 1995.
Tables for determining the day-signs make up the bulk of this 44-page booklet. While the tables are geared towards the Arguelles/Dreamspell correlation, conversion tables to the GMT or traditional count are included. A Mayan oracle kit consisting of 20 handcrafted stones and a guidebook are also available from the publisher.
Kaser, R.T. Mayan Oracles For the Millennium. New York: Avon Books, 1996.
This 520-page book contains many tables consisting of numbers in boxes,
a wide variety of delineations, and instructions for using Mesoamerican
day-signs in several ways. The author is primarily concerned with divination,
but tables (using the GMT correlation) allow one to determine their sign.
This is a basically solid, though somewhat bizarre, piece of work.
Hail, Raven. The Cherokee Sacred Calendar. Rochester, VT: Destiny Books. 2000.
The author, a member of the Cherokee Nation of Oklahoma, has produced a book that delineates the 20 day-signs of the Cherokee. It is claimed that Cherokee astrology, which is essentially the same as the day-sign astrology of the Maya and the Aztecs, has long existed but is only now being revealed to the public. The 20 day-signs are presented one at a time and following this a set of tables allow one to find the day-sign of oneís birth. The names of the signs are basically the same as those of the Maya and Aztecs, with subtle differences relevant to North American environmental conditions such as crocodile being replaced by turtle and monkey by raccoon. The book includes no bibliography or references and basically claims to be an authentic presentation of Cherokee tradition.
It is certainly possible that the Cherokee assimilated elements of Mesoamerican astrology. Trade between Central and North America existed in Precolumbian times and there were undoubtedly cultural exchanges. However, I know of no studies pointing to such a complete assimilation of Mesoamerican calendrics and astrology by the Cherokee. What I find most disturbing about this book is its blatant similarities to my own book on Mesoamerican astrology, "Day-Signs," published in 1991 in which I offered completely original delineations. For example, In the section on the Cherokee day-sign Serpent (pp.27-28), which is the same name used in Mesoamerican astrology, the author writes:
"Serpent Day Sign types are not only strong-willed but also charismatic personalities. Others are very aware of them, but never seem to know them at all Ė they give off an unpretentious air of mystery. They have sex-appeal; they take center stage and know how to hold attention. They have a dramatic flair and sometimes are still in performance long after the final curtain has been lowered and the stagehands are striking the set."
"Serpent types are intellectuals; they have high IQs and usually keep abreast of what is happening in the world. They often take up mental pursuits, science, technology, or psychology. They sometimes become so overloaded with theory that they need therapy themselves."
Compare this with text from my book "Day-Signs" (pp. 82-83) describing the day-sign Serpent.
"Those born under the day-sign Serpent are often strong-willed and charismatic person who project a mysterious or charismatic facade. They can be quite dramatic and are usually regarded by others as having "sex-appeal.
Typically, they project and aura of mystery, or they are charismatic in some way and manage to attract a number of followers.
Serpent types excel in the dramatic arts and have a tendency to "keep the act going long after the curtain has gone down."
"Those born under Serpent are usually of high intelligence and very well-informed. They tend to be interested in subjects that involve strategy and transformation, particularly psychology. Many Serpent types spend years in therapy, or become therapists themselves."
What is very peculiar about these obvious similarities (I would call it a rip-off without reference) is that they only occur for some of the day-signs. Other day-sign descriptions are obviously not derivative from my work and are fleshed out with Cherokee myths and stories.
The Cherokee Sacred Calendar is a piece of writing that begs for explanations. Why is the Cherokee astrological system essentially the same as that of the Maya and Aztecs and why hasnít this come out before? (We are also informed of the news that the Cherokee counted in a vegisimal system of dots and bars exactly like that of the Maya). Why do only some of the personality descriptions seem to be cleverly lifted from my book Day-Signs without any citation of source? Why are the tables exactly the same as those in my book Day-Signs? These are questions that both the author and the publisher need to answer. I think it would be reasonable of me to expect some kind of citation in a future edition.
Books on the Long Count/Mayan Calendar
Arguelles, Jose. The Mayan Factor. Santa Fe, NM: Bear and Co., 1987.
This was the book that set off the Harmonic Convergence of 1987. The author's thesis is that the Long Count, a.k.a. the Mayan Calendar, was established by the ancient Maya to map out humanity's historic route toward an encounter with the Galactic beings. It is dense reading and not very helpful in an astrological sense, though that is what one would expect from a non-astrologer attempting to do astrology. Arguelles avoids the correlation question by offering his own and not mentioning the alternatives. Two very important things came from this book and the Harmonic Convergence, however: the recognition of the sophistication of Native American cosmic science, and the idea of large groups of people praying for the Earth itself.
Jenkins, John Major. Tzolkin: Visionary Perspectives and Calendar Studies. Garberville, CA: Borderland Sciences, 1994.
The author takes on some complex problems in this book, including the 260-day calendar and its synchronization to the synodic cycle of Venus. Recommended to serious students of sacred geometry, numerology, and philosophical astrology/astronomy.
Jenkins, John Major. Maya Cosmogensis 2012: The True Meaning of the Maya Calendar End-Date. Santa Fe, NM: Bear & Co., 1998.
This is a scholarly and insightful investigation into the fascinating cosmology of the ancient Maya, written by a leading independent researcher on Mesoamerican astrology and calendar studies. Jenkins explains the Mayan calendar end-date of December 21, 2012, as the culmination of a 5,000-year cycle of human evolution, and he presents a well-researched and convincing argument that the Maya anchored their great calendar system to the precessional alignment of the winter solstice sun with the center of the Milky Way Galaxy. Assisted by numerous illustrations and sky maps, a definitive bibliography, and entertaining text, readers will gain a thorough understanding of Mayan calendrics, astronomy and celestial mythology. This book is recommended for all levels, from beginning students to experienced scholars. Does not require the reader to have an extensive background in Mesoamerican studies. (Valerie Vaughan)
John Major Jenkins. Galactic Alignment: the Transformation of Consciousness According to Mayan, Egyptian, and Vedic Traditions. Rochester, VT: Bear and Company. 2002. $18.00 ISBN: 1-879181-84-3.
Since the late 1980ís John Major Jenkins has been developing his own unique views on Maya mythology and astronomy. He has steered a middle course between the New Age extremes of "Mayan Factorist" Jose Arguelles and the overly cautious academic investigators who study what they call Ethnoastronomy. He has investigated and commented on Maya astronomy and numerology in his book Tzolkin and he has promoted in his more recent book Maya Cosmogenesis 2012 the concept that the Mayan calendar, also known as The Long Count, is actually tracking the Earthís precessional movements.
In Galactic Alignment, his latest book, Jenkins attempts to show that other ancient cultures, specifically Egyptian and Vedic, also knew about precession, and that they related this astronomical movement to the solstices. Along the way we are treated to discussions of other realted writings including Robert Bauvalís The Orion Mystery, Santillana and von Dechendís Hamletís Mill, Sri Yukteswarís The Holy Science, and Ovasonís The Secret Architecture of Our Nationís Capital, among many others. There isnít much that is completely new in this book (Jenkins has done that in his previous books) but there are a number of interesting connections that are drawn. Some of them seem to me to be a bit of a stretch, but they are probably good for sales to a larger public and consequently the publisherís (not necessarily the authorís) bank account. That being said, Iíd recommend this book to those who enjoy cross-cultural excursions that (1) suggest the ancients were wise and (2) that weíd better pay attention to what they knew.
The astute reader may have already noticed that the word astrology seems to be conspicuouly missing from my description of this book. Letís define astrology as the subject that links astronomical cycles with symbolism and offers interpretation. Now here is a book that deals with precession cycles, symbolism, cosmology, mythology, and prophecy but only mentions astrology occasionally, and not in any direct connection with the main theme. This is something also true about Jenkinís previous book, and it is true about other writers on Mayan cycles as well. The subject of ancient measurements and interpretations of precessional cycles are not seen as astrology by those who are not in the field of astrology, they are seen, for the most part, as mythology and cosmology. What Iím saying is that Jenkins (and others) do not fully recognize precession mythology as a topic contained within the larger subject area called astrology.
Those in astrology know that the precession of the equinoxes has long been the astrological yardstick for measuring long periods of time like the "ages" - you know, the age of Pisces, age of Aquarius, etc. Most astrologers know that timing the exact date of the ages is highly controversial, there is no agreement within the field. Still, many astrologers have written intelligently on this astrological topic including the great Dane Rudhyar and Rob Hand. The later has even written and spoken on the tracking of all four points of the framework of the year Ė both equinoxes and both solstices. But neither Rudhyar or Hand are cited in Galactic Alignment. When reading the book, I noticed that astrologers were mentioned from time to time, but only in passing. One exception is a quote from David Frawley who is quoted as saying that "all of Vedic astrology orients the zodiac to the galactic center." But Frawley is introduced as a Vedic scholar, not an astrologer. In my view, any discussion of the long-running debate about the tropical versus the sidereal zodiac - one of astrology's most central and enduring issues - is ultimately about the nature of the precession cycle and its correspondences to real or perceived long-term trends in history and the geosciences, in addition to typology. If this is so, how can Jenkins's "Galactic Alignment" be anything other than a discussion of a topic that falls well within the range of the larger subject area of astrology?
Now on the other hand, why wasnít the fact that the winter solstice was about to cross the galactic equator recognized by the larger astrological community? Astrologers have long had the data and a few (eg. Michael Erlewine, Phillip Sedgewick) have been doing various kinds of galactic astrology for decades. But I donít recall any of them drawing attention to this alignment. Ray Mardyks was doing his own brand of galactic astrology (several of his articles appeared in this magazine in the mid 1990ís) and he was aware of it as early as 1987, but it didnít seem to be an item picked up by the larger astrological community. In short, mainstream astrologers have either not been aware of this alignment, or they have not thought it of much importance. Perhaps they have been blinded by the equinoxtial focus engrained in our traditions. And so, it has been left to others outside the field to study and promote and they have not identified it as within the province of astrology. To them, itís simply a connection between mythology and cosmology. Letís all think about this for at least a minute.
So what does it mean that the precession of the winter solstice point is now passing the vicinity of the galactic center (actually itís been crossing the Galactic Equator Ė see Jenkinís book for the details on the astronomy). Frawley, as quoted by Jenkins, says it signifies "a slow harmonizing of humanity with the divine will as transmitted from the galactic center." Jenkins points out that the ancient Mesoamerican myths point to the changing of the ages as times of renewal and transformation, and he adds that we have a responsibility to make these changes happen. This alignment may be the biggest astrology event of our lives, and probably well beyond that, and I suggest that those within the field of astrology get to know more about this event. Read this book or Jenkins masterpiece Maya Cosmogenesis 2012. Discover for yourself one of the many astrological gems that exists in the tradition of Mesoamerican astrology.
Books by archaeoastronomers and archaeologists
While books from the academic community generally ignore the astrological implications of the astrological systems of Mesoamerica (when they do get close to astrology they call it ethnoastronomy), they do provide us with well-researched material that is quite useful in understanding the system.
Seler, Eduard. The Tonalamatl of the Aubin Collection. Berlin and London, 1901. Codex Fejervary-Mayer: An Old Mexican Picture Manuscript in the Liverpool Free Public Museum. Trans. A.H. Keane. Berlin and London, 1901-1902. Codex Vaticanus B. Berlin and London, 1902-1903.
Seler, a German scholar who wrote at the turn of the century, was part of a wave of academic interest in astrology that included Neugebauer (Greek Horoscopes and The Exact Sciences in Antiquity). Seler is surprisingly creative in his interpretations of Mexican picture books and is highly recommended as a secondary source on the codices.
Thompson, J. Eric S. Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: An Introduction. Norman, OK: University of Oklahoma Press, 1960.
For years Thompson was the acknowledged dean of Mesoamerican studies. He dominated the field with his voluminous writings and strong opinions, some of which actually held back a deeper understanding of the Maya glyphs. In Maya Hieroglyphic Writing, Thompson has left astrologers with perhaps the best single academic source on the day-signs, Venus, the cycle of the katuns, and the various calendars. The work is also loaded with insights into the Mayan languages and mythology. Unlike many other Mayan scholars, Thompson knew that Mayan astronomy served to support Mayan astrology. Probably because he was, more or less, an independent scholar and unbeholden to academia, I don't think that fact really bothered him.
Aveni, Anthony F. Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico. Austin, TX: University of Texas Press, 1980.
Aveni is a prolific author who has a commanding knowledge of Mesoamerican astronomy. In 1975 and 1977 he edited two collections of academic articles on Mesoamerica astronomy titled Archaeoastronomy in pre-Columbian America and Native American Astronomy, both of which are highly recommended to serious students. In Skywatchers of Ancient Mexico Aveni breaks down the material into textbook form. Cycles, alignments, calendars...it's all here, spiffy clean and well-organized. In my opinion, Skywatchers is the best reference book on Mesoamerican astronomy. Since then, Aveni has written a number of other books that discuss Mesoamerican astronomy, including Empires of Time and Conversing With the Planets (see below).
Tedlock, Barbara. Time and the Highland Maya. Albuquerque, NM: University of New Mexico Press. 1982.
Barbara Tedlock and her husband Dennis became initiated day-keepers in Highland Guatemala, a place where the old ways have been kept alive. In this very readable and academically respectable book, Tedlock describes how the modern-day Quiche Maya of the Guatemalan Highlands use the 260-day count to perform divinations and to time rituals. Highly recommended.
Edmonson, Munro S. The Book of the Year: Middle American Calendrical Systems. Ogden, UT: University of Utah Press, 1988.
This exhaustive study of the calendar systems of Mesoamerica begins with an explanation of the Middle American calendar, its numerology and structure, focusing on the 52-year calendar round. Subsequent sections include a survey of the original texts used as evidence correlating various calendars with the European one, and the historical development of these calendars from the 7th century B.C. to the present. Having laid this background, the author presents a theory which refines the chronology and confirms the "Thompson correlation" or (GMT). He further demonstrates that the Middle American calendar was used for predicting solar astronomy (eclipses) for over 2,500 years, and that the Mesoamericans of the 5th century B.C. calculated the tropical year as accurately as we do today. Highly recommended for readers with an intermediate to advanced level of experience in Mesoamerican studies, it can also can serve as a permanent reference book for serious students of Mesoamerican calendrics and astrology. (Valerie Vaughan)
Schele, Linda and David Freidel. A Forest of Kings. New York: Morrow, 1990, and Schele, Linda and David Freidel. Maya Cosmos. New York: Morrow, 1993.
These two works contain a wealth of information of interest to students of Mesoamerican astrology and cosmology. In Forest of Kings the authors offer a chronological history of the Maya that is anchored by dates that were probably chosen by ancient astrologers. In Maya Cosmos the astronomically-based worldview of the Maya is explored. Both books are academically clean, very readable, and are required reading for astrologers visiting Mayan ruins in Mexico or Guatemala.
Aveni, Anthony. Conversing With the Planets: How Science and Myth Invented
the Cosmos. New York: Times Books, 1992.
There are two good reasons to read this book. The first is to discover
the common ground that the Maya shared with the Babylonians in their astronomy,
astrology, and mythology, especially with regard to Venus. The second is
to understand the subtle, revisionist agenda of modern ethno-astronomy,
namely that it's OK to study ancient astrology in its religious, cultural
context, but (as the author says), "contemporary astrology has little to
do with the worldview of its ancestor." Readers will have to pay close
attention to notice the author's bias. Aveni defends the importance of
studying ancient astrology, in contrast to "how it has been reduced to
what it is today" (modern astrology is entertainment and its omens have
a "playful quality," astronomy uses terminology, while "cusp" is astrological
lingo). This book is useful for its factual information about the Mayan
calendar, the Dresden Codex, the Venus Tablet of Ammizaduga, and the history
of astrology, but read between the lines and you'll discover that the author,
like many scientists, just doesn't get it. (Valerie Vaughan)