by Stephen D. Houston
As usual, Shakespeare (or Hippolyta, Queen of the Amazons) said it all: “…the moon … new-bent in heaven, shall behold the night of our solemnities.”
That a correspondence might exist between a celestial body and terrestrial events is hardly strange. Every tide shows this to be so. But the relation of humans to celestial motions is less clear. Some scholars find a secure correlation between the moon and menstruation in human females; others dispute it entirely (cf. Cutler et al. 1987; Folin and Rizzotti 2001:542, also Fehring et al. 2006:6-7). We do know that the Maya linked the moon to a young woman of child-bearing age. Her favored company: a rabbit, the light-fingered trickster of Classic Maya thought and an emblem of fecundity.[Note 1]
Maya dynasts had a long stake in the sky. A basic unit of time was, of course, the k’in, meaning “day” but also “sun.” Royalty associated themselves with the Sun God, invoking his name as a key prefix to their own. But what of the moon? In the late 1980s my colleagues Barb Macleod, Nikolai Grube, and Dave Stuart sorted out the varied glyphs that went into hul, “arrive.” Hearing of this, the obvious hit me. I am sure it did to some others, too. In one such variant, especially in Glyph D of the Lunar Series, the moon-sign was not the verbal suffix I supposed it to be. It cued the moon. This had to apply equally to Glyph C, which also bore the lunar sign.
By now, epigraphers understand the elements of Glyph D. The compound consists of a number followed by a hand with an extended index finger. That finger points to a lunar crescent. (In Maya imagery, extended fingers mark conversation or emphatic declaration.) The position of the crescent to the right side, concavity to the left, is understandable. At first crescent this is precisely the shape and orientation of the moon. Underneath the hand and moon cluster two glyphic syllables, li and ya. Along with certain specialists, I view these as providing a phonic reinforcement for the final consonant in hul, a marker of single-argument predicates (-i), and a past-tense suffix (-iiy).
Finding an early example of this glyph is somewhat difficult. The sample is ragged. One of the first must occur on Balakbal Stela 5:A5, dating to May 16, AD 406 (Julian). Tikal Stela 40, from June 19, AD 468 (Julian), has it too, at position A7 (Fig. 1a, 1b, respectively). For these and other examples the likelihood is that the “arrivals” refer to the sighting of the new moon as crescent. I find this credible. A rare variant sign is a human eye peering out of a moon glyph. Perhaps this refers to first-sighting (Fig. 1c; note, however, that this may be less the eye of an observer than the Moon Goddess within).[Note 2] I would also speculate that the numbers stray from astronomical predictions—deducible by calculation—because of the difficulties of detection. During the rainy season, bad weather would work mischief with naked-eye astronomy. The example from Balakbal lies about 10 days from its predicted value, the Tikal reference 3 days or so. In both cases, the recorded number is less than the predicted quantity, a pattern consistent with observational error. (One wonders, if this held up, whether weather patterns might be loosely reconstructible for the Classic period! High deviance from prediction would be more likely during rainy seasons.)
The gist of it: at some point, Classic scribes transferred an expression for celestial motion to the arrivals of kings and queens. Heavenly bodies accorded with royal ones. An early version of non-planetary arrival employs the “moon-observation” but to describe the motions of deities—in fact, all such gods on heaven and earth (kanal k’uh, kab[al] k’uh). Their destination is a flowery place (Fig. 1d; Houston and Inomata 2009:fig. 2.3). A later spelling, on a re-used and re-cut jade from Calakmul Tomb 1, Structure 3, carts the expression into a firmly dynastic setting. Somewhat flamboyant—the gesturing hand sports a bracelet, the moon nestles the God or Goddess—the text recounts an arrival at El Zotz, Guatemala, or Yaxchilan, Mexico (Fields and Tokovinine 2012:fig. 99a; the exact site cannot be resolved on present evidence.)
Then there is the celebrated arrival of a princess from Dos Pilas at the site of Naranjo, where she resuscitates the local dynasty (Fig. 1f). About 16 years after the arrival she performs an important sacrifice with the “Stingray-spine” God (a reading first noted by Stuart) and at some point impersonates the Moon Goddess herself (Fig. 1g). That the texts highlight an arrival, the birth of an heir, and the princess’ bloodletting and impersonation as Moon Goddess savors of an overall arc of lunation and cycles of fecundity in females. I doubt it is a coincidence that hula means menstruo o regla de la mujer in Colonial Yukatek. Consider also a term for the Moon Goddess in the Dresden Codex, sak ixik, close to sakal ixik in Yukatek, also for menstruo (Barrera Vásquez 1980:242; also Dresden 18b, 19b).[Note 3] The Dresden may even allude to such cycles in its Moon Goddess pages, which seem unusually concerned with spouses and coupling. On Dresden 21b there is a possible phrase, HUL?-IXIK ya-TA-na, “Ixik arrives, the spouse of…” The HUL is in a late form but notably similar to its Classic precursor. Is the “arrival” metaphoric? A repetitive cycle of xa-HUL?-li KAB-ba > xahuli kab, on Madrid 107 raises the possibility of re-visits. Note the prefix xa, “more” or “again” in Colonial Ch’olti’ (Robertson et al. 2010:180-181, 333).
The merger of celestial and royal movement establishes an intriguing simile. The actions of one might mirror the other. For certain arrivals, the very order of heaven traced out in human activity. Perhaps, to draw a necessary inference, Maya sakbih or causeways need evaluation as the possible correlates of heavenly motion.
(1) Oswaldo Chinchilla (2011:199, figs. 86-87, 89) makes a plausible case for a male Moon god as well, with Maize God characteristics—perhaps, to judge from a text on the extraordinary “Hunal Ye box” (now on display in the Museo Nacional de Arqueología y Etnología in Guatemala City), he was Glyph 10A (30) lunation, the female variant being—to conjecture wildly—Glyph 9A (29). A key image is from a pot (K5166) formerly in the Ranieri collection in Crystal River, Florida. When we visited the collection in 2002 or so, David Stuart observed that the vase highlights a sequence of beings that are surely related to the deities in Glyph C of the Lunar Series. There is a Maize God, along with companions like a Death God and God L, 6 in total, a pattern consistent with the 6-month lunation noted long ago by John Teeple. The male deities are in positions of entreaty, subordination, or with the opposed hands, wrists touching, that mark courtship dance in Maya imagery (e.g., K554)—are they “suitors” of the Moon Goddess, supplicants to a coy Penelope? The pot is the best evidence available that certain images are astral or planetary in nature. Stuart detected the sequence of such heads, including the Moon Goddess, in the Xultun murals (Saturno et al. 2012: 715, fig. 2). There, however, the sequence appears to consist of only 3 deities in order.
(2) By Terminal Classic times, the sign could be used flexibly to convey sound rather than meaning, as on Seibal Stela 9:D2, K’UH-HUL > k’uhul. “Seeing” also plays a role in a rare spelling in the Lunar Series, on the Palenque Palace Tablet:B15 or Copan Stela N:A10. In place of Glyph D it presents three elements: K’UH or K’UHUL, an icon for “seeing,” and a possible ordinal, “first.” I remain agnostic about the precise reading order of these signs, but the overall intent is to describe the first sighting of a god or a first “divine” sighting. Another form of Glyph D, found in the Initial Series Text in Room 1 of the Bonampak Murals, La Rejolla Stela 1:B5-A6, and Copan Stela I:B6, is more opaque: k’i~K’A’?-ji~hi-ya HUL-li-ya. Is this form of a “finished journey,” k’a’ with, perhaps, an epenthetic aspirate, based on the well-known expression for “death”? Or is it a completely different term? A more transparent sense of movement is in a spelling of Glyph D from a Coba altar drawn by Ian Graham: BIX-ya HUL-li-ya, with the sense of a past day and of human passage (Stuart 1987:33).
(3) A recent volume on codical astronomy argues that this supernatural, Goddess I in the Schellhas nomenclature, is unrelated to the moon (Bricker and Bricker 2011:674-679). One challenge is that the book overlooks the unambiguous reading of her name glyph, Ixik or Sak Ixik, “Lady” or “White Lady.” I suspect the “white” refers to “weaving” or a clear moon (Barrera Vásquez 1980:709, 710). To be sure, there are ambiguities in the overall identification. Some time ago, in a redaction of his doctoral thesis, Taube pointed out that the goddess fails to appear with a moon sign in the Dresden Codex (Taube 1992:64-69). He nonetheless concludes, correctly I am certain, “it is likely ….Goddess I [is] related to the Classic period moon goddess” (Taube 1992:69). The complexity may arise from a complex or layered evocation: a procreative female, not Ixchel, whom Taube has shown to be an aged midwife, healer, and agent of destruction. The young female’s attributes include fertility and links to the moon.
Barrera Vásquez, Alfredo. 1980. Diccionario Maya Cordemex, Maya-Español, Español-Maya. Ediciones Cordemex, Mérida. Bricker, Harvey M., and Victoria R. Bricker. 2011. Astronomy in the Maya Codices. American Philosophical Society, Philadelphia.
Chinchilla Mazariegos, Oswaldo. 2011. Imágenes de la mitología maya. Museo Popol Vuh, Guatemala City.
Cutler, Winnifred B., Wolfgang M. Schleidt, Erika Freidmann, George Preti, and Robert Stine. 1987. Lunar Influences on the Reproductive Cycle in Women. Human Biology, vol. 59, no. 6, pp. 959-972.
Fehring, Richard, Mary Schneider, and Kathleen Raviele. 2006. Variability in the Phases of the Menstrual Cycle. Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing, vol. 35, no. 3, pp. 376-384.
Fields, Virginia M., and Alexandre Tokovinine. 2012. Belt Plaque, Plate 18. In Ancient Maya Art at Dumbarton Oaks, ed. by Joanne Pillsbury, Miriam Doutriaux, Reiko Ishihara-Brito, and Alexandre Tokovinine, Pre-Columbian Art at Dumbarton Oaks, Number 4, pp. 178-183. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.
Folin, M., and M. Rizzotti. 2001. Lunation and Primate Menses. Earth, Moon, and Planets, vol. 85-86, pp. 539-544.
Houston, Stephen D., and Takeshi Inomata. 2008. The Classic Maya. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge.
Robertson, John S., Danny Law, and Robbie A. Haertel. 2010. Colonial Ch’olti’: The Seventeenth-Century Morán Manuscript. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
Ruppert Karl, and John H. Denison, Jr. 1943. Archaeological Reconnaissance in Campeche, Quintana Roo, and Peten, Publication 543. Carnegie Institution of Washington, DC.
Saturno, William A., David Stuart, Anthony Aveni, and Franco Rossi. 2012. Ancient Maya Astronomy from Xultun, Guatemala. Science, vol. 336, pp. 714-717.
Stuart, David S. 1987. Ten Phonetic Syllables, Research Reports on Ancient Maya Writing 14. Center for Maya Research, Washington, DC.
Taube, Karl A. 1992. The Major Gods of Ancient Yucatan. Studies in Pre-Columbian Art & Archaeology, No 32. Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC.
Thompson, J. Eric S. 1971. Maya Hieroglyphic Writing: An Introduction, 3rd ed. University of Oklahoma Press, Norman.
This is material from a volume I am currently preparing with Nick Hopkins and Michael Carrasco on the art of the Palenque that is pertinent to your discussion of lunar deities. As everyone is aware, there is a goddess portrayed in a number of scenes with a moon cartouche extending from her body (K504, K5166). The name of the moon goddess is recorded on the vessel illustrated in Robicsek and Hales 1981:fig. 9. The moon goddess is shown on a bench and the caption text in front of her head is composed of the ixik (lady) sign and the moon sign. There is another sign composed of a portrait glyph and moon sign that has been interpreted to be the name of this moon goddess, but the following discussion will demonstrate that it does not refer to her. As noted by Stuart, the name of the corn deity is composed of the number one (represented by a dot) and a portrait head of the deity which is read ixim “corn”. One Ixim’s portrait glyph has frequently been mistaken for the ix-ixik glyph because they are so similar, but as noted by Stuart (2005:181-82), One Ixim’s portrait is distinguished by the jade jewelry in his hair, a curl of corn foliage or his tonsured hairstyle. A close examination of the portrait-moon name in question indicates that the portrait represents One Ixim (Bassie-Sweet 2008:206-207, see also Zender and Skidmore 2012).
This Ixim portrait-moon sign appears in the Glyph C of the Lunar Series where three different lunar patrons occur. The first Glyph C variant is composed of One Ixim’s portrait and the moon sign (the clearest example of this Glyph C variant is found on the Hun Nal Ye box); the second Glyph C deity is the head variant for the number seven (GIII a.k.a. JGU) and the moon sign; and the third is the head variant for ten (a skeletal deity) and the moon sign. The head variant for the number one is a portrait of One Ixim. Consequently, it seems likely that these Glyph C names were simply read One Moon, Seven Moon and Ten Moon. In other words, the three number deities (one, seven and ten) were also lunar patrons (this shouldn’t be surprising because number deities also show up as month patrons).
Clear evidence that the name One Moon is not the personal name for the moon goddess is found on K5166. This scene illustrates an episode from the subordination of God L. God L kneels before the moon goddess who sits on a bench holding a rabbit and the accoutrements of God L. Behind God L are four deities with moon signs extending from their bodies. The first deity is One Ixim and the last deity is a skeletal being (a depiction of the deity Ten Moon found in the Lunar Series Glyph C). There are many examples where the nominal glyph of a deity is simply a condensed portrait of the deity, and this appears to be the case with One Moon and Ten Moon.
There are several examples where a full figure of One Ixim is juxtaposed with the moon sign (Taube 1992:64-67; Looper 2001:182-84). Although these examples have been characterized as a merging of One Ixim and the moon goddess, a better explanation is that they are simply full figure depictions of One Moon. In hieroglyphic writing, it was common for the scribe to replace a logographic sign or head variant of a sign with a full figure depiction. The Copan Structure 66C bench demonstrates this convention (Webster et al 1998). The edge of the bench is decorated with a sky band that contrasts full figure depictions of day, night, moon and star. To the right of the central motif, day is represented by the sun god emerging from a solar disk with k’in signs on his body. On the left side of the central motif is a Chahk deity with ak’bal “night, darkness” signs on his arm and leg. He is in the reclined pose representing emergence. This same complementary pairing of night ak’bal and day k’in is found in the tz’ak glyph (Stuart 2003:fig. 1b). The right outer cartouche on the Copan bench is a deity holding a star sign with the tail of a scorpion while the left outer cartouche is the full figure One Moon sign. This pairing of a star deity (likely the morning star) and lunar deity is similar to the pairing of star-moon in the tz’ak glyph on the Palenque Tablet of the 96 Glyphs (E7). The grouping of a moon sign, ak’bal sign, k’in sign and star sign is also found on the four walls of Rio Azul Tomb 12 which are also labeled with north, west, east and south glyphs, respectively.
There are examples in Maya art where the mother of a lord is illustrated in the guise of One Moon. One such case is found on Naranjo Stela 24. During the late seventh century, Naranjo was engaged in wars with Caracol and Calakmul that apparently annihilated the royal line at Naranjo. Piecing together evidence from various inscriptions, researchers have concluded that an unnamed Naranjo lord married Lady Six Sky, the daughter of the Dos Pilas king Bajlaj Chan K’waiil in order to reestablish or legitimize the Naranjo line (Martin and Grube 2008:74). Like some of the other foreign princesses who married into local dynasties, Lady Six Sky was a Tlaloc priestess (Bassie-Sweet in press). She arrived at Naranjo on August 30th A.D. 682, and three days later dedicated a building. If is quite possible that the building was a Tlaloc temple and that she brought with her Tlaloc effigies for the shrine. This would be similar to the Tlaloc priest Sihyaj K’ahk’ who brought Tlaloc effigies to Tikal. Five year after Lady Six Sky’s arrival, the future Naranjo king K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Chaak was born. Although the inscriptions that might have contained the parentage statements for this king are eroded, his close association with Lady Six Sky has led epigraphers to conclude that he was her son. Although he acceded to the throne at the age of five, Lady Six Sky conducted many of the important ceremonies during the early life of K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Chaak including Period Ending rituals. The caption text on the front of Naranjo Stela 24 begins with the date 9 Lamat 1 Sootz’ (April 19, A.D. 699) and states that the image is a portrait of Lady Six Sky in the guise of the “yax deity”. The main text on the right side of Naranjo Stela 24 begins with an Initial Series date and describes the arrival at Naranjo of Lady Six Sky (A.D. 682) and the birth of the future Naranjo king K’ahk’ Tiliw Chan Chaak (A.D. 688). The narrative continues on the right side text with the 9 Lamat impersonation date and states that Lady Six Sky impersonated the deity One Moon (E4). The E4 glyph clearly has the corn curl of One Ixim’s portrait and not the black cross-hatching of the ixik glyph. The narrative ends with the Period Ending event performed by Lady Six Sky in A.D. 702. It seems reasonable to assume that the One Moon impersonation event of the main text is a restatement of the yax deity caption text impersonation. The image illustrates Lady Six Sky dressed in the diamond patterned jade skirt that is frequently worn by One Ixim. Because the One Moon name was identified as that of the moon goddess, it has been concluded that when women (i.e. Lady Six Sky) donned this skirt they were taking on the guise of the moon goddess. In light of the evidence that the name One Moon refers to One Ixim in his role as a lunar patron, this interpretation of Naranjo Stela 24 must be set aside.
We cannot, however, apply this interpretation to all cases of women dressed in the diamond patterned skirt and assume they are impersonating One Moon because there are several examples where the moon goddess also wears this skirt such as on Robicsek and Hales fig. 48c. The broader questions are – why did Lady Six Sky impersonate One Moon, what was One Ixim’s function as a lunar patron (as well as Seven Moon’s and Ten Moon’s functions), and why did both One Ixim and the moon goddess wear this skirt? Topics better addressed in another posting.
I have a question to your reading of Glyph D. You took a parallel in using the moon-sign (T181) in Glyphs D and C. Some scholars (David Stuart, Ignacio Cases, Carlos Pallan Gayol and other) read this sign in Glyph C as logographic UH (Moon). Do you think the same is the case in Glyph D and the glyph has to read as NUMBER huliiy UH (X (days ago) the moon arrived)?
I doubt that these epigraphers read the moon as a logographic UH, at least in these contexts. (Or, rather, I have no information that they do; I doubt David does.) If they did, they would need to show the existence of such a HUL ‘hand’ *without* a moon. I know of no such sign. In other words, the logograph HUL consists of the hand + moon: they are not separable elements. This is simply a root intransitive, HUL-li-ya. The point here, of course, is that the logograph *begins* in astronomical usage and extends to human motion.
It occurs to me as well that the corpus at Tonina is relevant to such an expression, and in ways that, if there were further need to do so, countermand any proposal that the “moon” is a separable element. Note, for example, the HUL-li-ya u-TZ’AK-TE’ YAX-K’IN-ni on Fragment 35. As Peter Mathews pointed out long ago, this is almost certainly an alternative means of describing the change to “1.” I do not see any clear way that this could be a conjectural *HUL-li-ya UH u-TZ’AK-TE’. (To be sure, there is a unique spelling of the HUL sign on Tonina Monument 167Ap, as a TZUTZ semblant, but I suspect a graphically analogical confusion. It cannot be TZUTZ in this context.) Another panel that is/used to be in the Emiliano Zapata Museum has a purely historical expression that describes activity related to the tomb of a lord from Tonina. Here: HUL-li tu-MUK. The “moon sign” is above the [li], bonded to the “hand.” Again, the dynastic setting would make little sense as a lunar expression. Of course, the Siegal Mask strips away any [li] and simply gives us HUL-ya > hul-iiy. But the essential point remains: to suggest that there is a “hand” glyph read HUL would require that such a sign be found without a “moon.” I do not know of any.
And I should stop now! …but it is a serious question that needs the final piece of evidence, which just came to me: Uaxactun Stela 22:B9. This is none other than the arrival of Sihyaj K’ahk’, the celebrated ‘entrada’ of Maya history. Proskouriakoff was the first to make sense of this date, and her reconstruction remains impeccable and persuasive–the 6 k’atun anniversary of Sihyaj K’ahk’s arrival at Tikal. Again, the text has HUL-ya, but with the “hand-moon” variant. Here, too, I see no chance that this is HUL-ya UH Sihyaj K’ahk’. The La Sufricaya mural found by Francisco Estrada-Belli presents the same form, with the same date.
In any case, perhaps I’ve flogged this too long.
By the way, the spelling on Tikal Stela 31:C20 is, in my view, TZUTZ-yi, a way of describing motion that is paralleled on the much later Tikal Temple IV, Lintel 3:C7.
thank you for your comments. To clarify this: I don’t wrote that the mentioned epigraphers read the moon-sign as logographic UH in the context of Glyph D, but in the case of Glyph C (i.e. Pallan Gayol in his Edzna-Thesis). But in your essay you made a connection between the moon-signs in Glyphs D and C, that’s why my question.
By the way, I don’t think that TZUTZ at Tonina Mon. 167 Ap4 is a graphically analogical confusion, because there are some other TZUTZ-glyphs in the position of Glyph D, clearest examples at CPN Stela 12:B5, CPN East altar of Stela 5:F, COL Glyphic panel “Brüssel”:A6 and LAC Stela 7:B7. In my opinion this could perhaps indicate a count of days from the last visibility of the moon or new moon instead of new light (first visibility of the moon) as indicated by the HUL-glyphs.
Yes, of course, both lunar glyphs cue the moon. Perhaps Glyph C includes a logograph reading UH, as you suggest. Perhaps it doesn’t. I don’t see much evidence either way. My gut feeling, in fact, is that it’s simply an iconic clue to the nature of those beings, not a separable logograph. Yes, good point about those other TZUTZ glyphs. There is something systematic going on here; you’re quite right.
But the puzzle is in their subfixation, which, like the HUL, takes the [li] or, perhaps, a [ya]. The example from Copan Stela 5, east altar, subfixes, evidently, [-li-li]. Barb Fash’s drawing of Copan Stela 12 is a bit unclear about the subfix, but it may be a [ya]. The Bruxelles stela looks to me more like a standard ‘hand-moon’ HUL–the one image I have trends towards that identification, not a TZUTZ. (A feather from the staff intrudes into the text, just above what appears to be the ‘moon’ sign with its crescent curving to the left.)
The question remains, are these the TZUTZ signs deciphered by Dave Stuart or some odd, graphical variant of HUL? The Lacanha stela and the Bonampak-area monuments worry me especially. You have suggested–it is an interesting argument
–that they are intended to show two different concepts of lunations, one from “last visibility of the moon or new moon instead of new light.” Consider, though: they have precisely the same date (188.8.131.52.0 5 Ajaw 3 Ch’en), they are in closely similar style, they come from the same general dynastic setting, and both have the same number for Glyph D, 17. Yet one shows what appears to be a HUL, the other the TZUTZ variant. Perhaps a better photo from Bruxelles will prove me wrong.
Anyway, I fear I’d probably best get back to other things at this point. Thanks for your inquiry–I’ve learned from it.
Short remark: I don’t mean the Bruxelles Stela, I mean the Bruxelles panel with IS 184.108.40.206.1 and clear TZUTZ-ya for Glyph D
We’d probably better wrap this up, I’m afraid, but the Bonampak-area examples are probative. To sum up: I am unsure whether Glyph C contains a separable UH logograph but tend to doubt it; the “moon-sign” in HUL is part of that sign; I am somewhat skeptical that the Glyph D variants are clearly read TZUTZ in these contexts (the [li] do not work well with that reading or need some further explanation); the BPK-area evidence confirms that the variant conveys the same information about lunation, making it unlikely that the variants communicate different information; and, curiously, two of these variants (the Copan Altar and the Lacanha stela) are followed by a conventional and quite unambiguous TZUTZ. That is, in both cases, the first verb after the TZUTZ-semblant in Glyph D is an actual TZUTZ. This suggests to me the operation of some unusual pattern of cross-sign, cross-graphical influence.
Good luck with your researches.
Short remark on Glyph D in the inscription of the Coba altar (expressed in note 2 of the essay):
Of course, the glyph is badly eroded, but it seems to me that there is BIX infixed in MZ4 (T672), identified by Schele 1989 as ho’ (five) on Copan Stela E. So perhaps it could be a “normal” 5-BIX-HUL-li-ya expression in the Coba inscription