The toltec time.




Another interesting aspect, to better understand the philosophical view that ancient Mexicans had on the world, is undoubtedly the conception of time and space. Indeed, time is a consequence of movement. In fact, we have given the category of "time" to the measurement of movement. But it is only an abstraction, as time does not exist, what exist is movement. Therefore, the motion of the Earth about its own axis, earth movement around the Sun and the movement of the Solar system around the Group of stars we call Pleiades104 and the Venus orbit around the Sun, the ancient grandparents deduced, from rigorous observation and accurate mathematical calculations, the perfect time measurement, as few peoples in the world did in ancient times.

"If modern astronomy tells us that the tropical year lasts 365.2422 days, it is astonishing to learn that the Mayan sages had achieved an 114 approximation certainly extraordinary, by assigning a period of 365.2420 days." (Miguel Leon Portilla. 1968)


The time was cyclical and non-linear. The exact measure in which they divided the day and night periods were 22 units, while earth rotates on its axis. The Vigesimal105 conception makes the figures perfect. Where 5, 13, 18, 20, find amazing combinations. The weeks of 5 days, the 20 day months and the 18 months forming a year, plus the five "nemontemi" days and their "bundles" of 52 years. The calendars can be seen as a series of circles which perfectly fit about each other. That is, the lunar calendar or 260-day Tonalpohualli, it fits exactly within the solar calendar of 365 days and the solar calendar in turn, fits perfectly with the bundle of 52 years or Xiuhmolpilli and all three with the Venus calendar of 584 days. However, the Maya count takes our breath away, because they register dates, past and future, which we admire for its accuracy and size.


"But it was in the Maya obsession on the cycles where primarily lies the importance of Venus: 5 orbital cycle periods of this planet correspond almost exactly to 8 years of 365 days (5 X 584 days = 8 X 365 days = 2920 days). The connection with the "ritual year" of 260 days was given after a Huehuetiliztli period of 104 years corresponding to 65 Venus orbital cycles and 146 "ritual years". These numbers are rounded, since the Venus orbital cycle is actually of 583.92 days while the solar year lasts 365.24 days.


The Mayans made elaborated tables to correct the small discrepancies between the Venus orbital period, the year and other cycles.


Thus, when 301 cycles of 584 days have lapsed, the Mayans had subtracted a total 24 days (analogous to our custom of adding one day every four years) and with this correction they could predict the position of Venus with an error of just 2 hours in 481 years! The knowledge of this last correction by the Maya is without doubt one of 115 the most outstanding discoveries of ancient astronomy." (Esperanza Carrasco Licea y Alberto Carramiñana Alonso106)


While considering time as an abstraction resulting from measurement of movement and that it was circular and thus cyclic, the ancient grandparents could "avoid" the linear view of time and therefore could "scrutinize" the past and the future, something the Western civilization has never been able to do. However, there is a date found by archaeologists in linear time, going back beyond the year 1500 BCE, in which specialists assign the emergence of the Olmec culture. This date, paradoxically is Maya:


"A third type of time record was known as the long count. This time computation began in the formative period, somewhere in the Tehuantepec isthmus, and was perfected by the Maya during the classical era (300-900 CE). The long count registered the number of days since a mythological starting-point, an imaginary beginning of time that the Mayans placed in year 3114 BCE." (Enrique Florescano. 1987)


The time for ancient grandparents was something very different than time for Europeans. In the same way that it is today, for indigenous people and peasants, in relation to urban people. This philosophical perception of time makes us somehow different, as time grows and shortens, and even ceases to exist. The cyclic time, sacred, family, and social, for Mexicans has a philosophical, sacred and festive sense.


"The Mayan priests computed in their steles "Suns Veintenas" that went back hundreds of millions of years into the past and also provided future cycles. If the day is for them a solar presence, time is an endless succession of all cycles of the Sun". (Miguel Leon Portilla. 1968)


One of the main concerns and information source of the ancient grandparents was time. Few people in the world have recorded time as 116 the ancient Mexican sages. There has been much speculation about the ability of ancient Anahuac sages, not only of measuring time with an extraordinary, but of the possibility that they could forecast the future. Indeed, some of the ancient prophecies known have happened rigorously.




The philosophical perception of space is achieved by the ancient grandparents with an admirable accuracy. There were three spatial levels: earth or human (Tlatipac) everything on earth‘s surface. The heavenly or divine entities (Ilhuícatl) from the clouds through infinity and the underworld or the place of the emaciated (Mictlán) which is all under earth.


The terrestrial space had an energy center which was "the navel of Earth". In the Nahuatl language, the prefix "co" is more than a geographical center, is a representation of the Energy Center.


The central point where the four directions of existence starts. Each point to the four cardinal points and sets its convergence point at the center of the world. Each will have its own color and it will be represented by a symbolical animal or object, in a totally philosophical reference. At the center resided the old God or fire God, called Huehueteotl-Xiuhtecuhtli and from where the four directions of the universe started, its color was green:


The east, place where the Sun rises, was identified by the red color and its glyph "Reed" governed by Xipe-Tópec; It was the male part of the universe.


The West, white and with a "House" glyph, ruled by Quetzalcoatl; It was the female region known as Cihuatlampa.


Northern, colored black, whose glyph was the "knife of sacrifice", was governed by the black Tezcatlipoca; it was the region of cold and dead. 117


The South, which was blue and the glyph "rabbit", ruled by Tezcatlipoca blue, place of sacrifice known as Huitztlampa; it was a region related to the wet.


We must remember that the concept, "the red and black ink" symbolically meant wisdom. Similarly, the four Tezcatlipocas each had a color, which had a philosophical meaning. The cardinal points and the colors had a philosophical meaning for the ancient grandparents.


"Earth‘s surface (Tlatipac) is a large disk located at the center of the universe that extends horizontally and vertically. Around earth is huge water (Teo-atl) spreading everywhere like a ring, makes the world, "the-forever-surrounded-by-water" (cen-a-náhuac). But, both land and its enormous water ring are not something amorphous and undifferentiated. Because the universe is divided into four major quadrants or directions, which open at the navel of Earth and extend up to where the waters around the world meet the sky and are named celestial water (Ilhuica-atl). The four directions of the world imply swarms of symbols." (Miguel Leon Portilla. 1956)


Another way to represent space, by the ancient grandparents was with a huge tree, which could be a Ceiba or an Ahuehuete107 and a cactus. The thirteen skies were represented by the leaves, the nine levels of the underworld by the root and the human level the earth's surface where the tree is.



104 In astronomy, the Pleiades, or Seven Sisters (Messier object 45), is an open star cluster containing middle-aged hot B-type stars located in the constellation of Taurus. It is among the nearest star clusters to Earth and is the cluster most obvious to the naked eye in the night sky. Pleiades has several meanings in different cultures and traditions. The cluster is dominated by hot blue and extremely luminous stars that have formed within the last 100 million years. Dust that forms a faint reflection nebulosity around the brightest stars was thought at first to be left over from the formation of the cluster (hence the alternate name Maia Nebula after the star Maia), but is now known to be an unrelated dust cloud in the interstellar medium that the stars are currently passing through. Astronomers estimate that the cluster will survive for about another 250 million years, after which it will disperse due to gravitational interactions with its galactic neighborhood.


105 The vigesimal or base 20 numeral system is based on twenty (in the same way in which the ordinary decimal numeral system is based on ten). 106 Dr. Alberto Carramiñana Alonso is Astrophysics area coordinator at The National Institute of Astrophysics, Optics and Electronics (in Spanish: Instituto Nacional de Astrofísica, Óptica y Electrónica, INAOE) is a Mexican science research institute located in Tonantzintla, Puebla. Website   

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