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Page 11 reverse from Codex Magliabechiano, showing four day-symbols of the tōnalpōhualli: (ce = one) Flint/Knife tecpatl, (ōme = two) Rain quiahuitl, (ēyi = three) Flower xōchitl, and (nāhui = four) Caiman/Crocodile (cipactli), with Spanish descriptions.

The tōnalpōhualli (Nahuatl pronunciation: [toːnaɬpoːˈwalːi]), meaning "count of days" in Nahuatl, is a Mexica version of the 260-day calendar in use in pre-Columbian Mesoamerica. This calendar is solar and consists of 20 13-day (trecena) periods. Each trecena is ruled by a different deity. Graphic representations for the twenty day names have existed among certain ethnic, linguistic, or archaeologically identified peoples.[1]


Tonalpōhualli calendar representation

The basis of the tōnalpōhualli is unknown. Several theories have been advanced for this calendrical period: that it represents a Venusian cycle, that it represents the human gestation period, or that it represents the number of days between the zenithal passage of the sun in the tropical lowlands. On the other hand, some scholars including J. E. S. Thompson suggest[citation needed] that the tōnalpōhualli was not based on natural phenomena at all, but rather on the integers 13 and 20, both considered important numbers in Mesoamerica.

The other major Mexica calendar, the xiuhpōhualli, is a 365-day year, based on 18 months of 20 days and five nameless days. A xiuhpōhualli was designated by the name of its first tōnalpōhualli day. For example, Hernán Cortés met Moctezuma II on the day 8 Wind in the year 1 Reed[citation needed] (or November 8, 1519 in the Julian calendar[2]).

The xiuhpōhualli and the tōnalpōhualli would coincide approximately every 52 years.

Day signs[edit]

[citation needed]

Trecena Glyph[3] Spirit Cardinal point
1 1 Cipactli (Caiman or aquatic monster) Cipactli.jpg Tōnacātēcuhtli East
2 1 Ehēcatl (Wind) Ehecatl2.jpg Quetzalcoatl North
3 1 Calli (House) Calli.jpg Tepēyōllōtl West
4 1 Cuetzpalin (Lizard) Cuetzpalin.jpg Huēhuecoyōtl South
5 1 Cōātl (Snake) Coatl.jpg Chalchiuhtlicue East
6 1 Miquiztli (Death) Miquiztli.jpg Tecuciztecatl North
7 1 Mazātl (Deer) Mazatl.jpg Tlāloc West
8 1 Tōchtli (Rabbit) Tochtli.jpg Mayahuel South
9 1 Ātl (Water) Atl3.jpg Xiuhtecuhtli East
10 1 Itzcuintli (Dog) Itzcuintli.jpg Mictlāntēcutli North
11 1 Ozomahtli (Monkey) Ozomatli.jpg Xochipilli West
12 1 Malīnalli (Grass) Malinalli.jpg Patecatl South
13 1 Ācatl (Reed) Acatl.jpg Tezcatlipōca East
14 1 Ocēlōtl (Ocelot or Jaguar) Ocelotl.jpg Tlazōlteōtl North
15 1 Cuāuhtli (Eagle) Cuauhtli.jpg Xīpe Totēc West
16 1 Cōzcacuāuhtli (Vulture) Cozcacuauhtli.jpg Itzpapalotl South
17 1 Olīn (Movement or Earthquake) Olin (Aztec glyph from the Codex Magliabechiano).jpg Xolotl East
18 1 Tecpatl (Flint or Knife) Tecpatl.jpg Chalchiuhtotolin North
19 1 Quiyahuitl (Rain) Quiahuitl.jpg Tōnatiuh West
20 1 Xōchitl (Flower) Xochitl.jpg Xōchiquetzal South

Gallery of day signs[edit]

Note that the symbols are arranged counterclockwise around the calendar stone.

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Macri, Martha J. "Day-Signs." In David Carrasco (ed). The Oxford Encyclopedia of Mesoamerican Cultures. : Oxford University Press, 2001
  2. ^ "Codex Florentino (1540–1585) Aztec narration of Moctezuma meeting Cortés upon the Spaniards' entrance into Mexico City (Tenochtitlán) November 8, 1519" (PDF). Santa Fe College. Retrieved 2015-05-25.
  3. ^ The glyphs shown are taken from the Codex Magliabechiano

External links[edit]