The Signs of the Days

by Mildred Boyd

      Every MesoAmerican child born on that particular day of the sacred calendar was automatically named "Thirteen Death". A day earlier he would have been "Twelve Serpent" or later "One Deer." With only 260 possible names available, he would also bear an individual name like "Eight Deer-Tiger Claw."
      Birthdays automatically determined fates as well and, though it seems that parents sometimes tried to fool the gods by renaming the child to avoid a particularly ominous future, those fates were inevitable. Special deities, benevolent or malign, influenced the fortunes of each named day as well as each thirteen day tercena and twenty day "month" but other factors, such as seasons and directions, also affected the future. Many of the lavishly painted pre-conquest "books" were divinatory and, possibly, diagnostic tools. Extremely complex and little understood, their overall purpose is clear; to discover the most auspicious days, not only for births, but for more easily controllable endeavors such as getting married, planting crops or starting journeys.