Ah ch'ibal canob: rethinking celestial animals in the Paris Codex 23-24

Keywords: Paris Codex, Maya constellations, wahy entities


Pages 23 and 24 of the Post-Classic Paris Codex contain figures of thirteen celestial beasts interpreted as Maya zodiacal constellations. Traditional scholarship has long attempted to identify those animals with Western zodiacal constellations.  Assuming this is correct, it would mean the Maya had chosen thirteen figures or names to represent groupings of stars located on or near the ecliptic. Thus, contrary to twelve Western (Greek-Roman) zodiacal constellations, each representing about 30° of the ecliptic, the hypothetical Maya constellations would occupy 13 locations within the ecliptic band covering only 27°-28° of its circle. Implicit in this is the idea that Maya zodiacal animals constituted forms of being similar to those played by Western zodiacal ones. However, this almost automatic identification of the Paris Codex figures with the Western zodiac creates an epistemic barrier in understanding what celestial beasts could mean for the Maya. To describe them in a purely astronomical light may lead us to impose our own Western concepts upon theirs, merging different cultural concepts on one epistemic level, thus restricting the further exploration of ontologically different perspectives.

This paper aims to clarify the nature of the animals pictured in the Paris Codex 23-24.


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How to Cite
Iwaniszewski, S. (2022). Ah ch’ibal canob: rethinking celestial animals in the Paris Codex 23-24. Estudios Latinoamericanos, 41, 147–164. https://doi.org/10.36447/Estudios2021.v41.art8