When we hear the word calendar, we immediately think of the time. One thing we cannot force or even control is the passage of time, days, and years. From our forefathers to the next generation after them, and up to the present day, we have been taught that when a year passes, we should celebrate it to welcome the next year and be prepared for what it has in store for us.
This thought, however, differs from that of other ancient tribes, one of which is the Aztecs. They place a high value on time and year, mainly because their two calendars (which will be discussed later) are the ones that tell them when to do something, and these signs are the main reason why their Empire thrived.
Before the Aztec empire flourished and became the well-known Mesoamerican Civilization, Mesoamerican people fought with each other to conquer territories. Despite the never-ending war, they had one thing in common.
MESOAMERICAN OR AZTEC CALENDAR
The calendar was the only thing that kept ancient Mesoamerica together. The Mesoamerican Calendar is unlike any other calendar in the world up to this point. It is unique that different cultures adapted the calendar in various ways to meet their needs, aiding them in organizing their daily lives. It was so crucial to their identity that you can still find it in communities in Mexico and Guatemala that adhere to the ancient calendar as their forefathers did.
The Mesoamerican Calendar, or the Aztec Calendar, is made up of two calendars that cycle together. The 365-cycle solar calendar is called Xiuhpohualli, and the 260 sacred calendars are called Tonalpohualli.
TONALPOHUALLI: 260-day Aztec Calendar
The first was the Sacred 260-day calendar known as Tonalpohualli by the Nahua people. There are many theories about the origins of this calendar. Still, one that stands out the most is the theory that 260 days correspond to approximately nine months in our calendars, the length of one human pregnancy. Some archeologists believe that 260 days is a manageable number to calculate eclipses.
260-DAY AZTEC CALENDAR USE
The sacred calendar governed their religious and ritual life. Each day has a distinct meaning. It was even said that Individuals used the Aztec Calendar to name their people, depending on the day they were born. The sacred calendar was divided into 13 months of 20 days each. Mesoamerican would count 13 days, then reset to one and repeat the process for the rest of the month.
Tonalpohualli, the 260-day Calendar or "Counting of the Days," is often used to predict phenomena, divinations, or whether to avoid dates that may bring forth lousy luck. It is often used for marriage dates or agricultural chores, whether it is the best or wrong time to plant or harvest. It is also used to predict eclipses, which is bad luck for the tribe.
This calendar is also used for preparing for war, whether Aztec's gods blessing is with them during their conquest and attacks on their enemy's territory.
XIUHPOHUALLI: 365-DAY SOLAR AZTEC CALENDAR
While Xiuhpohualli is the name of the 365-day solar calendar, the Xiuhpohualli solar calendar has 18 months with 20 days plus five extra days at the end of the year, which is considered unlucky. People try to avoid doing anything important these days. Because it did not consider leap years, this calendar is frequently referred to as the "vague year." The Gregorian calendar, which is also a solar calendar, operates similarly to how the solar calendar does, in contrast to the sacred calendar. Like the holy calendar, each month contains 20 days, but there is a standard way to tally each day.
365-DAY SOLAR AZTEC CALENDAR USE
The 365-day calendar, known as "Counting of the Years" or Xiuhpohualli, is frequently used for festivals and religious ceremonies. When used in unison, these two calendars meet at the 52nd-year cycle, where the calendar renewal is being held.
The Aztec Calendar: What Is It?
The Aztec Calendar, commonly called the Sun Stone, is a massive monument just over 3 feet thick and weighs a whopping 24,590 kg. Eight overlapping circles with a total diameter of about 11.5 feet are displayed on the front panel's round surface.
They depict various local creatures, such as crocodiles, eagles, and jaguars; natural phenomena, such as breeze, liquid, and rainfall; some crude symbols of society, such as homes; and universal human traits, such as motion and mortality. The menacing face of a god or a beast stands in the center.
Several critics agree that the image depicts the sun god Tonatiuh, among the most significant gods in Aztec mythology, despite disagreements over who or what is shown. The fact that the creature is depicted with a person's heart in its talons and its dagger-like tongue exposed makes the image very menacing. It is interpreted as a call for blood obtained by ritual sacrifice.
Who Produced The Sun Stone?
Before new information and study, the monolith was believed to be chiseled in the late fifteenth century. However, fresh news and research have changed that opinion. It discovered that the identity of the Aztec emperor Moctezuma II, who reigned between 1502 and 1520, was depicted as a symbol on the center disk.
Moctezuma's administration saw the Aztec Empire reach its height, but it finally fell to the conquistadors, who gained control of the capital just after the ruler's death. The Spanish conquistadors reported that the Sun Stone had been engraved seven years before their conquest in 1512. Yet, their accounts must be independent of authenticity, considering that they also asserted that it required 10,000 men to drag the stone.
The Sun Stone's Revelation
In 1521, the Spanish invaded the Aztec empire, and the conquistadors feared its new topics might carry on with their horrific religious practices. The Sun Stone was placed inverted in the center of Mexico City today by the Spaniards to put a stop to blood sacrifices and sun worshiping. The monolith deteriorated over time, becoming a ruin.
The rock was formerly vividly colored, as shown by the presence of paint remains in its pores. Through time, individuals once scraped off any remaining stain.
The Aztec Calendar was discovered in 1790 by workers installing the city's drainage system. The Sun Stone was put on the façade of the Metropolitan Cathedral by the Spanish emperors who were in charge of Mexico at the time as proof of the kingdom's long history.
The elements—wind, rainfall, and American military bullets—progressively destroyed the rock until individuals moved it to the National Museum in 1885.