The Concept of Opposite Nahuales in the Tzolkin

#NewParadigmAstrology: New Concepts in Mayan Astrology

Some of the most important concepts and insights that led to the notion of #NewParadigmMayanAstrology  came to me the day after visiting a sacred site in Guatemala or Mexico, or during or after a Mayan ceremony. The concept of opposite nahuales, for example, arose during a Path of the Feathered Serpent ceremony in my courtyard at Lake Atitlan several months ago.

#NewParadigmMayanAstrology offers fresh insights and concepts for applying Mayan astrology to your daily life.

On the Road to New Paradigm Mayan Astrology

The Circle of Jade Nahuales

For a personal ceremony, I usually arrange a set of 20 jade amulets with glyphs of the nahuales in a circle around me and place the candles of the four directions outside them. The day was Toj/Muluc, or Water, so I put that amulet directly behind the red candle on the eastern side of the circle.

For some reason, I wondered if the glyph on the opposite side of Toj was Noj, which is Earth. After all, water and earth are opposite in nature. Yet when I looked around, I saw the glyph for Cauac, which is Storm. Cauac is also a water-related nahual, and both are associated with women. So rather than having opposite meanings, the opposite nahuales had something in common.

The difference? Toj is a passive water sign, while Cauac is a strong and active one. I decided to further investigate the concept of opposite nahuales.

Opposites in the Structure of the Tzolkin

First I looked for other instances of opposite nahuales in the structure of the Tzolkin and other Mesoamerican time cycles. And found several. The four Year Bearers (whichever nahuales you consider correct) are opposites. Ik (Wind) and E’ (Road) two of the traditional Year Bearers, are on opposite sides of the circle of 20 nahuales. This is also true for the other conventionally accepted Year Bearers, Noj (Earth) and Kej’ (Deer).

The four nahuales that mark the burner day cycle, which divides the 260-day cycle into four sub-cycles, are also opposites: Ajpu (Sun) and T’zi (Dog), and Kan (Snake) and Tzi’kin (Eagle). Curiously, these four nahuales are the current Year Bearers, which were introduced on March 6, 2014, according to the Gran Wayeb system.

So there turned out to be a solid basis for the concept of opposite nahuales in the very structure of the Tzolkin. Next I examined each pair of opposites, which are easily discovered by counting 11 forward or backward in the circle, with the starting nahual as the first (as is done when calculating a Mayan Tree of Life or Constellation chart). The number 11 itself seemed significant. The numbers 7 and 9 are employed when doing such charts. 11 would naturally continue the progression.

New Paradigm Mayan Astrology introduces fresh concepts such as that of the "opposite nahuales" and their application to daily life.

Figure 1: The Opposite Nahuales of the Tzolkin

Figure 1 above and Table 1 below present all ten sets of opposite nahuales, using their names in English. It begins with Crocodile, the glyph at the top of Figure 1, and cycles counter-clockwise through the nahuales depicted hieroglyphically in this circle.

Some make more sense than others, but they all felt right. The most striking was Tijax (Knife) and Q’anil (Seed/Rabbit). The glyphs of these nahuales are almost identical, and represent the quincunx, among the most ancient of all symbols in the Mesoamerican sacred calendar.

  • Crocodile – Monkey
  • Wind – Road
  • Night – Corn
  • Net/Lizard – Jaguar
  • Snake – Eagle
  • Death – Vulture/Owl
  • Deer – Earth
  • Seed/Rabbit – Knife
  • Water – Storm
  • Dog – Sun

Table 1: The Opposite Nahuales

Before reading further, stop and examine each set of opposites and see what you find.

I said stop! Okay, now proceed.

Time’s up.

Did you notice that the Eagle and Snake are the symbols from the legend about the founding of Tenochtitlan, and recall that the Eagle and Snake are natural enemies? Or that Dog and Sun share a core meaning of authority, which leads to sub meanings of counsel and guidance? How about Death and Vulture/Owl, both related to the ancestors and the spirit world? Aspects of certain other opposite nahuales, such as Night and Corn, are not as obvious as these examples. But a blend of common sense and intuition led me to conclude that each set of opposites is related, though not always in the same way.

How to Apply the Concept of Opposite Nahuales

My next question was “What, if anything, does this mean, and how to interpret and apply this knowledge?” I’ll reveal the answers and offer more discoveries and insights, and how I arrived at them in my next post on the opposite nahuales.

Until then, review the table and illustration of opposite nahuales and, instead of approaching these questions strictly with logic or with intuition alone, try to “think with your heart and feel with your brain.” Use both common sense and intuition simultaneously. Blending dualistic concepts such as these into one is a key element in the new paradigm.

I would appreciate your comments and questions about this topic, for some of you are certain to see things that I have overlooked.

Posted on 1 Akabal/Aq’ab’al (Night) in July 2014.

Copyright Shay Addams 2014 All Rights Reserved.


2 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. Rev. Ben Ferguson
    Jun 29, 2014 @ 07:57:54

    I’ve thought about this for a long time, and I honestly enjoy Arguelles’s idea when it came to opposites, that they can’t exist without each other, and that each ones inexplicable gifts come from another. For example, Road signs may have their best moment when they have a burst of Wind, or the breath of life, and Wind signs can make the biggest differences when they stick to a path, or Road.


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From the Guatemalan Highlands

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