I'x B'alam, the Jaguar, a mysterious and multi-layered figure in the Maya worldview. Acting as a bridge between the earthly and cosmic realms, the Jaguar is not just an animal totem but a complex Nawal that embodies themes of pregnancy, spirituality, materialism, and even the world itself. From its role in the 260-day Tzolk'in or Cholq'ij calendar to its representation of cosmology and epic secrets, I'x B'alam is a nuanced Nawal that requires a deeper exploration. In this comprehensive examination, we will unpack the pivotal keywords that define I'x B'alam and delve into why these terms serve as cornerstones for understanding this Nawal's role in the Maya Calendar.

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I'x B'alam

I'x B'alam represents the world itself

The Sun and the Jaguar

An excerpt from "The Maya Calendar: An Archetypal Structure of Reality"

"In Maya cosmology, when the Sun sets behind the horizon it transforms into the Jaguar. As the Jaguar, the Sun makes its journey through the underworld, battling the Lords of Death. Victorious, the Sun rises again to become the new day. I have found that this motif goes much further than just a simple tale.

Carrying the stars on its back, the Jaguar is a symbol of the Sun traveling through the twelve houses of the zodiac. In the Trecena of Jun Aq’ab’al, I'x B'alam is the twelfth day. Aq’ab’al as the night, clarity, is segmenting the stars into twelve houses, classifying their role in the heavens.

The Jaguar's significance goes beyond its nocturnal voyage. Its approximate 105-day pregnancy solidifies it as a missing piece to the sacred calendar. When combined with the 260- day Cholq'ij, the Jaguar's representation completes the full solar year of 365 days.

In its physical form, the Jaguar bears 18 claws, with five on the front and four on the back. This numerological arrangement corresponds to the 18 regular months of the Haab, the Maya solar calendar. Additionally, the Jaguar's four legs and tail even symbolically embody the Wayeb, the five final days of the Haab’s irregular 19th month.

Through its mystical symbolism, the Jaguar embodies the cycle of the Sun within the heavens. These connections show the Maya's profound wisdom in understanding the sacred connections of our world."

I'x B'alam the Jaguar

I'x Balam

The Jaguar and the Altars of the World

I'x B'alam as the world itself represents the altar, the table in which ceremony, payments, and offerings are made. The altar, an ancient concept, has evolved into what is known today as the "ofrenda", where pictures of deceased family members, flowers, incense, and candles are placed.

Within the context of the sacred calendar, the relationship between various elements of life and death is meticulously mapped out—much like the symbiotic relationship between the sun and the earth. The sun nurtures the earth, giving life to its inhabitants, while the earth in return becomes the final resting place for all, turning man to dust, flowers to decay. This cyclical process reflects the underlying archetypal structure of reality, where everything has a beginning and an end, yet remains interconnected in a continuous loop of timeless existence.

In essence, I'x B'alam, as the world-altar, symbolizes this perpetual cycle of life, offering, and renewal. It stands as a cosmic interface, allowing us to make our offerings, be it material or spiritual, in an attempt to harmonize the forces that surround us and maintain the delicate balance that sustains all life.

I'x B'alam the Jaguar

The Jaguar watches from the shadows

Secrets of the Land

Ix B'alam as the world itself represents the theme of development. As the land weighs between being fertile and barren, a woman weighs the same in pregnancy. As Oxlajuj Kame (13 Death) is the ruler of I'x B'alam, the land accumulates death. The opposite day being K'at acts as a gravity, bringing everything back to the land, whose magnetism holds the calendar in place. At the heart of the Jaguar comes a loud roar of thunder echoing throughout the forests and canyons. An endless black hole of hunger, all the gold, silver and precious stones return to the earth.

Conclusion

I'x B'alam remains a compelling symbol within Maya cosmology, captivating those who seek to understand its complex secrets of power, spirituality, and cosmology.

Interested in discovering your own Nawal? Our homepage features a Mayan calendar calculator that might just reveal your kinship with the Jaguar.

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For an even deeper exploration, my book, "The Maya Calendar: An Archetypal Structure of Reality," is available for purchase. Are you ready to walk the path of the Jaguar?

The Haab as a Solar Calendar

The Maya understood the positioning on the earth in relation to the sun and the rest of the solar system. From this, as well as their understanding of the mathematical concept of zero, they were able to create an incredibly accurate solar-based calendar of 365 days, just like our current one.

This calendar is named the Haab, which means ‘vauge’ in the Mayan language. The Haab is made of 19 months, with the first each having 20 named days made of number-glyphs combinations. The last month only held 5 days, to account for the non-exact nature of the way earth travels around the sun. They did this rather than have leap years like we do, so that calendar did not fall out of sync with the changing of the seasons, which was highly important for an agricultural based society. 

The Haab calendar is still used by some Maya communities today in Guatemala and Mexico. It remains an important part of modern Maya culture and provides a unique way of understanding time. 

Maya sun

Predictions of the Haab

There are 19 months in the Haab; the first 18 consist of 20 days, while the final month only has 5 days. This final month was called Wayeb and was considered unlucky and the Maya would try to not do anything important or different like traveling on these days to avoid ill fortune . 

Haab was used to track the movements of the sun and moon in relation to earth. It was also used to understand and predict eclipses, the equinox and solstices, and other astronomical events. Such important astronomical events were held in high esteem for the Maya and were days that held significant cultural and religious importance. Rituals and ceremonies would be conducted on important buildings or plazas in the cores of the cities in accordance with these astronomical events.

Together with the Tzo’lkin (260-day sacred calendar) made up the Long Count, which the Maya used to understand deep time, the same way that we use BCE or CE with the Gregorian calendar. In that way, the Maya were able to understand time and history very much like we do today, just with a different starting point then our date of 0 CE. 

The Meaning on the Months and Days

Haab months

The Haab Months

Each of the 18 months of the Haab had a patron deity that ‘ruled’ over the next 20 days. Each day had unique characteristics that were determined by the deity that ruled it. For example, days ruled by Chac, the god of rain, are said to be good for planting, while days ruled by Ah Puch, the god of darkness, are said to be bad for hunting. 

By understanding the characteristics of each day, farmers and others can make better decisions about when to plant, harvest, or take other actions. But it wasn’t just farmers who kept track of these days. The kings and priests would have as well, and would have performed certain rituals and ceremonies based on the days and meanings they had. 

The Haab calendar is used to track the seasons and understand when certain events will occur, such as time of year when the seasons would change. This was important to know, so that the timing of planting and harvesting food could take place, as well as preparing for the rainy season. 

The names of the months are listed below (with their meaning/translation in brackets)…

Pop (Mat)

Wo’ (Black Conjunction)

Sip (Red Conjunction)

Sotz’ (Bat)

Tzec (Death)

Xul (Dog)

Yaxk’in (First/New Sun)

Mol (Water/Jade)

Ch’en (Black Storm)

Yax (Green Storm)

Sak’ (White Storm)

Keh (Red Storm)

Mak (To Cover/Enclose)

K’ank’in (Yellow Sun)

Muwan (Owl)

Pax (Planting Time)

K’ayab’ (Turtle)

Kumk’u (Ripe Maize/Granary)

Wayeb (Misfortune/Nameless Days) – The Unlucky final month of 5 days only.

The Maya had many calendars

Mayan Alphabet. Close up of hieroglyph or glyph writing system found in Copan (Honduras), Tikal (Guatemala) and Chichen Itza, Palenque, Uxmal, Yaxchilan, Bonampak (Mexico).

The Maya calendar is comprised of three distinct calendars- the Haab, the Tzolk'in, and the Long Count. Each calendar served a different purpose in Maya society. The Haab, or "civil" calendar, was used to schedule ceremonies and rituals. 

The Tzolk'in, or "sacred" calendar, was used for divination and predicting auspicious days for certain activities. It was comprised of thirteen weeks of twenty days each. It would have been this calendar that would be most similar to the Greek-based system of astrology that is commonly used today.

The Long Count was used to record historical events and track the passage of time. It consisted of a sequence of numbers that were reset to zero every 5,125 years. Together, these three calendars allowed the Maya to keep track of time in a highly accurate and sophisticated way.

Understanding Maya culture and mythology

The Maya calendar is a complicated system of interlocking cycles, used by the ancient Maya to keep track of time. Although it was no longer regularly used after the Spanish Conquest, today it can still be used to help us understand Maya culture and mythology. 

The Maya believed that time was divided into a series of cycles, each lasting for a certain period of time. By tracking the progress of these cycles, they were able to make predictions about the future and tell when important events would take place. 

The Maya calendar is also rich with symbolism, and many of the symbols used in its design have specific meanings. For example, the sun-god Kinich Ahau is often represented as a jaguar, while the god of death, Ah Puch, is usually depicted as a skeleton. Understanding the symbolism of the calendar can help us to better understand Maya culture and beliefs.

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