Aztec/Maya Tattoo Symbolism

Maya/Aztec Astrology

At the core of Mesoamerican astrology are the 20 day-signs. Like the 12 signs of the Western Zodiac, these are signs descriptive of both personality and possibility. In other words, the signs can be used to describe a person, or they can describe an event. In the Western 12-sign zodiac, the signs are sections of space spread across the sky along the path of the Sun, Moon, and planets. The Maya/Aztec day-signs are very different. They are based on time and are actually names of days. Each sign lasts only one day, until it comes up again twenty days later. Like our 7-day week, which is astrological and named for the planets, the Maya and Aztecs used a 20-day week for astrological purposes.

There is no presently known reason why the Maya and Aztecs used only 20 signs. Perhaps they had discovered an important biorhythm or cycle. But besides the 20-days, they also used a 13-day cycle (or sign) and these intertwined with each other. While the days of the 20-day cycle each have a name, the days of the 13-day cycle are numbered from 1 to 13. If you start both cycles together, the first day of the 20-day cycle coinciding with the first day of the 13-day cycle, it will take exactly 260 days for all possible combinations of day and number to occur. This period, 260 days, is the length of the sacred Mesoamerican astrological calendar that this program is based on.

Find out your Aztec Astrological sign here:

The 20 day-signs each have a name and a symbol. The names of these with a brief meaning are listed below.

1: Crocodile (east) - protective and dominating.
2: Wind (north) - agile, clever and multifaceted.
3: House (west) - deep, thoughtful and conservative.
4: Lizard (south) - active, dynamic and sexual.
5: Serpent (east) - powerful and charismatic.
6: Death (north) - sacrificing and helpful.
7: Deer (west) - cooperative and nomadic.
8: Rabbit (south) - clever and playful.
9: Water (east) - emotional and imaginative.
10: Dog (north) - loyal and helpful.
11: Monkey (west) - clever and demonstrative.
12: Grass (south) - careful and useful.
13: Reed (east) - knowledgeable and crusading.
14: Ocelot (north) - intelligent and secretive.
15: Eagle (west) - free and independent.
16: Vulture (south) - authoritative and wise.
17: Earthquake (east) - intellectual but practical.
18: Knife (north) - self-sufficient but romantic.
19: Rain (west) - helpful and healing.
20: Flower (south) - loving and artistic

You may have noticed that each of the signs is connected to a particular direction. The signs of the east are initiating and forceful. Those of the north are intellectual and critical. Signs of the west are cooperative and compromising. Signs of the south are emotional and reactive.

The day-sign a person was born under is the named day that occurred on their birthday. It delineates their most obvious personality characteristics and traits. A person is also born during one of twenty 13-day periods, periods that begin with a day-sign linked to the number 1. The 13-day period delineates their more subtle, possibly subconscious, personality qualities. It shows their deeper instincts and yearnings. The combination of day-sign and 13-day period yields a quite complete personality description, perhaps as good or even better than does the Western 12-sign zodiac. It should be said that these two signs represent only a partial reconstruction of what was once a more complex system. The rest, including signs ruling the year and the hour of birth, have been lost or completely recovered and made workable. 

From your birthday, every 260 days represents one completed cycle in life. If this cycle of 260 days is divided by 4, or quartered, four sets, or "seasons," of 65 days is the result. Using the symbolism of the Sun/Moon cycle as a model, the occurrence of the birth day-sign is like the New Moon, the beginning of the cycle and a time of personal centering and new, barely conscious, beginnings. 65 days later corresponds (symbolically) to the first quarter, a time of crisis that demands action and adjustment. The midpoint of the cycle, 130 days, corresponds to the Full Moon, a time of separation or perspective. 195 days from the start of the cycle compares with the third quarter, a time of crisis requiring conscious choice. 

The second perspective on the critical days is to recognize that each of the four dates in the cycle corresponds to one of the four directions. These are listed below.

East: Crocodile, Serpent, Water, Reed, Earthquake. These are points that emphasize the need to be creative, to do something new and to move forward.

North: Wind, Death, Dog, Ocelot, Knife. These are points that may indicate crisis and the need to protect oneself from negative energy. The mind is under pressure during these times.

West: House, Deer, Monkey, Eagle, Rain. These are points of encounter with others, times of sharing and loss of ego. Relationships are important now.

South: Lizard, Rabbit, Grass, Vulture, Flower. These are points of strong feelings and emotional extremes. These may also be times of accomplishment and activity in the outside world.

The Year Of Birth
The Maya and Aztecs believed that the year of birth could be read astrologically and that the astrological qualities of any given year were dependent on two factors. First is a cycle of 4 years. In this cycle each succeeding year is associated with one of the four directions in the order east, north, west, and south. The directions are similar to the elements (fire, air, earth, and water) in Western astrology. The Aztec delineations for the years are as follows.

East: creative/mental -- fertile/abundant
North: violent weather -- barren/dry/cold
West: wild/losses/illness -- cloudy/evil
South: good business/health -- variable

Aztec Tattoo Ideas for Creation

The medallions in the Aztec symbol for creation represent: Creation, Vitality, Life, Astrology (cosmos), Order

These spiraling seeds of life are all moving together in perfect harmony. The Aztecs understood human life works in the same kind of rhythmic pattern this symbol depicts the flowing nature of life in all its perfection.
Each of the spiral medallions also represent a symbolic seed of the Universe and a unique phase of life: Birth, Childhood, Adulthood, Death, Afterlife

Another form of the Aztec legend states that in the beginning, there was an expansive void from which Ometeotl, the first Aztec god(dess) created himself. Ometeotl was androgynous: both male and female, light and dark, good and evil (Ometeotl is represented by the center spiral seed in the Aztec tattoo symbol shown above). Ometeotle birthed four children, who were deities and they were called the four Tezcatlipocas. These four gods are represented in the four surrounding medallions in the symbol and are known as:

Quetzalcoatl: God of light, wind, mercy and rules the southern directions

Huitzilopochtli: God of energy, war, vitality, strategy and rules west directions

Xipe Totec: God of agriculture, spring, renewal, gold and rules the north

Tezcatlipoca: God of discernment, night, secrets, magic and rules the east

    These four deities and their maker, Ometeotle, were considered responsible for all life and order as it is known today. Hence, this is a powerful symbol of life; a powerful Aztec tattoo conveying cosmic order and harmony between all the elements.