The ancient Maya created a remarkable mythological complex out of the cyclical movements of a specific celestial body that permeated almost every aspect of their lives, and to a certain extent still influences many elements of the lives of their modern-day descendants. The celestial body in question is the planet Venus. Venus is identified specifically as female by ancient Europeans but not by the Maya. In fact the ancient Maya associated the mythology surrounding the planet Venus with the relationship between two male characters of their mythology, the sun and a personality called Hun Ahaw or Hun Ahpu. The term "hun" is the number 1 in the Maya language. The term "Ahau" or "Ahpu" means "Lord" or "master" or "master marksman hunter".
The relationship between the sun and Venus is globally recognized and mythologized all over the world. To understand the mythology of this relationship in Maya culture one must first understand the cyclical relationship between the sun and Venus. Here is how it works:
The planet Venus (which looks like a very bright star in the sky) rises in the east and sets in the west every day just like the sun.
Sometimes its trek across the sky is visible because the sun is not up yet and the planet can be seen in the dark night time sky. However that is usually spoiled by the fact that every day at least part of Venus' journey overhead is blotted out by the brightness of the day lit sky when the sun rises or before it sets.The way that this happens is that sometimes Venus rises up out of the eastern horizon in the dark sky before morning. Then as it moves up into the sky eventually the sun rises right behind it and spoils the fun by lighting up the whole sky and completely drowning out the feeble starlight of Venus before it has a chance to go down and set in the west.
But Venus does not always rise ahead of the sun. Sometimes it rises behind the sun during the day, and follows the sun across the sky invisibly because the day-lit sky is too bright for it to be seen. However once the sun sets in the evening and the sky gets dark, Venus suddenly becomes visible again and it can be seen following the sun into the western horizon. Then everybody can see Venus dip into the west a little while after the sun does.
When Venus rises behind the sun like this and journeys invisibly each day across the sky following its bigger companion to the West only to become suddenly visible when that bright companion dips into the horizon it is known as "EVENING STAR".
So sometimes Venus is visible as the Morning Star and sometimes it is visible as the Evening Star. But there are times when Venus is not seen at all throughout the whole day. This is how that happens.
The period that Venus spends rising every day ahead of the sun is approximately 236 days. During that time Venus rises earlier and earlier each day. One day Venus rises and the sun then rises a few minutes behind it blotting it out of visibility pretty quickly. On the following day Venus rises just a few minutes earlier. This means that Venus is up in the sky just a few minutes longer before the sun rises and spoils the fun. Then the next day Venus rises just a few minutes earlier allowing for a longer period of time that it is visible before the sun blots it out. This keeps happening every day as the distance between the two companions continues to grow. Eventually the day arrives when Venus rises so far ahead of the sun that it is allowed to travel far up into the sky before the sun finally rises to blot it out. This day when Venus is traveling so far ahead of its companion is called "Maximum Elongation".
After the day of Maximum Elongation the process begins to reverse. Venus begins to rise each day just a little bit closer to the Sun. This means that as time keeps going by the planet is visible up in the sky each day just a little less time than the day before. Eventually the planet rises from the East so close to the sun that it is invisible all day long. The brightness of the sun is too intense right next to it as they travel side by side across the sky. This phenomenon is called "conjunction". Conjunction lasts for a specific period of days while Venus moves gradually back behind the sun and begins to rise after its companion. As long as they keep rising close to each other the planet is not visible and the conjunction continues, but eventually the day arrives when Venus travels so far behind the sun during the day that when the sun finally sets the planet is left up there in the sky for everyone to see for a little while before it too dives behind the western horizon. That day is the end of Conjunction. This is, of course, the beginning of the Evening Star period that I explained earlier. These Evening Star appearances do the same thing that the Morning Star ones did. Venus travels farther and farther behind the sun every day of this period, allowing for it to be visible for longer lengths of time each evening after the sun sets. Of course, just as in the case of the Morning Star, the period of days that Venus keeps lagging behind the sun finally reaches its most extreme point. On this day Venus is following the sun so far behind it that when the sun sets, the planet takes a long time before it also finally slips behind the western horizon. This day is also called "Maximum Elongation". After that day the planet begins to close the gap between itself and the sun again, lagging behind it closer and closer each day until it finally reaches its partner and there is another conjunction. The Evening Star appearances last for approximately 250 days.
Venus goes invisible again during this conjunction, traveling close to the sun each day for a little while until it finally moves ahead of the brighter sphere far enough so that it again begins to rise in front of it. This begins a new period of Morning Star appearances. The conjunction that takes place after the Morning Star appearances is called "SUPERIOR CONJUNCTION" and it lasts approximately 90 days. The second conjunction, the one that takes place after all of the Evening Star appearances is called "INFERIOR CONJUNCTION", and it lasts only 8 days.
This process is cyclical and repeats over and over continuously. It takes approximately 584 days for Venus to run through its whole cycle from first day of Morning Star to the next first day of Morning Star.
This process could be followed starting in August of 2007 by watching the sky day after day during the whole cycle.
Venus Morning Star appearance 8-26-2007
Both the ancient Maya and the ancientTaino perceived this cycle as something that had spiritual significance in their cultures.
From its very earliest pre-classical period the Maya civilization expressed in their monumental architecture elegant representations of the cyclical dance played out in the sky by Venus and the sun. These early Maya structures feature giant stucco sculpted masks stacked in pairs one on top of the other. Each pair of masks represents the face of the sun, K'inich Ahaw on the bottom (close to the horizon), and the face of Venus on the top. The masks were expressed in groups of four. In each group there were two masks on one side and two masks on the other. The first pair of masks represented the sun following after Venus during Morning Star appearances. The sun was represented below just as it rose from behind the eastern horizon, and Venus was represented above it, ahead of it rising up into the sky leading its dance partner. There were also two other masks representing the Evening Star phenomena. They crafted this other pair with the sun mask on the bottom diving into the western horizon and the Venus mask above it following it into that same horizon during Evening Star appearances.
Here is a drawing by famous archeologist Linda Schelle which shows one such group of four masks and an astronomical diagram that visualizes the meaning of the masks:
Beyond recognizing the mere fact that the cyclical dance of the sun and the planet Venus happened every 584 days the Mayas also combined this cycle with the cycle of their sacred 260-day calendar, the TZOLKIN. On each of the most important days of each cycle segment they identified a special date of their calendar and that date had spiritual significance. The most important date of each cycle segment was always the first day of that segment. For example, the first day of Morning Star appearances was a significant day with a special Maya calendar date to go with it. The first day of the Superior Conjunction was a special date. The first day of Evening Star appearances was a special date and the first day of Inferior conjunction was a special date. Each one of these dates had a significant name composed of a number and a day title. The day title was representative of a particular specific episode in the sacred Maya creation narrative, now known as the Popol Vuh. For example, on December 9 2014 the Maya date 7-Etznab came up. The word "etznab" is associated with sharp obsidian and flint knives. It came up on the first day of Evening Star appearances. This particular symbolic date actually refers to an episode in the Popol Vuh in which the two heroes of the creation story, the boy Hun Ahpu and his sister IxBalanke are forced by the demonic Lords Of Negativity to spend the night in a frightful chamber filled with bewitched knives that flew about back and forth inside the room like deadly projectiles, slicing anything in their path. They survived that terrible trial by the power of their magic. In much the same manner May 4 2013 was also the first day Evening Star appearances that year. That day marked the Maya date 8-Ix, a day that implies a jaguar robe. That date commemorates the episode in the Popol Vuh in which the hero twins are forced by the Lords Of Negativity to endure a night locked up in a room full of hungry jaguars.
Another example is April 3 2001. On that day the Maya date is 1-Ahau. This day marks the first day of Morning Star appearances. 1-Ahau is a very important date in Maya spiritual tradition. It represents one of the Venus Cycle phases in which the planet appears for the first time from behind the glare of solar conjunction and becomes visible. And then for the next several days it appears each morning farther and farther from the sun as if it was shooting out of the brighter heavenly object. The sun itself represents the head of the boy hero of the sacred narrative. His name was Hun Ahpu, a name that literally means One-Ahau (the name of that sacred date). This boy is renowned for his skill at using a blow gun. The motion of Venus moving away from the sun presented to the early Mayas an image of a pellet being shot from the sun spirit's blow gun.
Please click on this LINK to access the interpretation of the Popol Vuh by my associate, Maya teacher Antonio Aj Ik from Guatemala.
The adventure of the Hero Twins that is narrated in the Popol Vuh provides a complex system of morality tales and ritual behavior for the Maya. This system is predicated by the episodes of the story and the fact is that the most important episodes of that story are actually played out in dramatic form in the series of Maya dates that come up on the key dates of the Venus Cycle.
The pattern of Maya TZOLKIN Sacred Calendar dates that come up at significant points of the 584-day Venus cycle create a larger cycle of their own which the ancient Maya combined with their non-sacred solar calendar (typically known as the Haab and lasting 365 days). They worked out a broader pattern that spanned a set of five Venus cycles. This means that they were combining five periods of 584 days each. The result of this calendrical exercise is a construct that lasts eight haabs (approximately eight years). The American researcher of Maya culture John Major Jenkins called each one of these eight-year periods a "VENUS SEQUENCE". Venus sequences are important to the mythological construct of the Maya Venus mythology because they create an eight year narrative as each one of the significant dates come up on key Venus cycle days representing a specific series of important episodes of the Popol Vuh, one right after the other.
The post-classic Maya created a beautiful document on amatl paper which amounts to a sacred book. This document is known as the "DRESDEN CODEX" because it is currently housed in a museum in Dresden, Germany.
It contains an enormous amount of mythological and astronomical information which is valuable in understanding the way the ancient Maya understood astronomy. One section of the Dresden Codex is specifically dedicated to the Venus cycle. There are five pages. Each page contains the four significant dates of a typical Venus cycle; First day of Morning Star appearances, first day of Superior Conjunction, first day of Evening Star appearances and finally the first day of Inferior Conjunction. Since there are five pages this means that all five cycles of a sequence are included in this segment of the book. But that is not all. The ancient Maya then listed a series of 13 of these Venus sequences. This means thirteen patterns of eight years each. Each sequence was stacked one below the other in a neat column creating a huge construct of approximately 104 years, a little over a century. This huge time construct is significant because it ends and begins with the sacred date 1-Ahaw, the date that coincides with the name of the male solar Hero twin HUN AHPU. Both these terms "1-Ahaw" and "Hun Ahpu" represent the term "MASTER BLOW GUNNER HUNTER". So this means that every one hundred and four years (approximately) the first day of the Morningstaf appearances coincides with sacred Maya date ONE AHAW, a date that bears the name of the hero of the Popl Vuh tale.
Here is a photo of the pages in the Dresden Code and detailed explanation of how it works:
It was the German mathematician Ernst Forstemann who first figured out that the red numerals which appear at the bottom of each of these particular five pages of the Dresden Codex add up to 584. He knew that the full length of a typical Venus cycle is approximately 584 days and so he figured out that those five pages must be dedicated to the Venus cycle. Later research deciphered the meaning of all the other elements in those five pages.
We in the Caney Circle's MAYA TAINO PROPHECY INITIATIVE, which was founded jointly by Maya teacher Antonio Aj Ik and myself, have constructed the current Venus Cycle pattern dating back all the way to the beginning of the current VENUS ROUND which began on April 3 2001 with a first day of Morning Star appearances coinciding with the Maya date ONE AHAU. We have created visual representation that presents colorful diagrams of each Venus cycle showing each one of the four phases of the cycle, the significant modern-day date of each one of these phases and the Maya date associated with it. Here is the pictorial representation of the current Maya Venus Cycle as presented by us in our MAYA TAINO PROPHECY INITIATIVE diagram:
This cycle began on the first day of Morning Star appearances (approximately) 3-30-2017 4-Ahau. The first phase of this cycle ends on the first day of Superior Conjunction (approximately) 11-21-2017.