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Tonalli has three meanings: day, heat of the sun, and luck. [1]

Tonalli as day

A day in the Anahuaca calendar is a combination of a day number, 1-13 and a day sign, Cipactli-Xochitl. There are 260 unique day signs together known as the tonalpohualli because 260 is the resulting product when 13 is multiplied by 20. This 260 day cycle was used for divination in Pre-Cuauhtemoc times.
A complete 260 day cycle
Each day sign was considered to be good, bad, indifferent, or both good and bad depending on the various influences of the day numbers and day signs. The day number 13 for example was considered to be the luckiest and most powerful day whereas a day sign like malinalli was bad because it is associated with beasts. Many of the surviving Pre-Cuauhtemoc codices contain a complete tonalamatl (book of days) which were consulted by a Tonalpouque (interpreter of day signs)on important days such as childbirth and marriage. Various Teteo were assigned to both the day numbers and the day signs and are widely described as patrons in this context.

Relation to the Xiuhpohualli

The tonalli differs from the cempoalilhuitl because it is considered to be "movable" whereas the cempoalilhuitl is considered to be "fixed." This is the result of the inability to match the tonalpohualli with with the solar year exactly. As a result, in one solar year there is one complete tonalpohualli cycle with 105 additional days. Therefore a particular tonalli such as 5-Cuetzpallin in one solar year will fall in a completely different place in subsequent years and will only fall at the same time of the year every 52 years.

Teteo Day Number Assignments

Tlapohualmachiyotl Teotl Tototl
1 Xiuhtecuhtli Blue Hummingbird
2 Tlaltecuhtli Green Hummingbird
3 Chalchiutlicue Hawk
4 Tonatiuh Quail
5 Tlazolteotl Eagle
6 Mictlantecuhtli Screech Owl
7 Centeotl Butterfly
8 Tlaloc Eagle
9 Quetzalcoatl or Ehecatl Turkey
10 Tezcatlipoca Horned Owl
11 Chalmecatl or Mictlantecuhtli Macaw
12 Tlahuizcalpantecuhtli Quetzal
13 Ilamatecuhtli Parrot


Teteo Day Sign Assignment

Tlanahuatia Day Sign Machiyotl Teotl
1 Crocodile Cipactli Tonacatecuhtli
2 Wind Ehecatl Quetzalcoatl
3 House Calli Tepeyollotl
4 Lizard Cuetzpallin Huehuecoyotl
5 Serpent Coatl Chalchiuhtlicue
6 Death Miquitzli Tecciztecatl
7 Deer Mazatl Tlaloc
8 Rabbit Tochtli Mayahuel
9 Water Atl Xiuhtecuhtli
10 Dog Itzcuintli Mictlantecuhtli
11 Monkey Ozomahtli Xochipilli
12 Grass Malinalli Patecatl
13 Reed Acatl Tezcatlipoca-Ixquimilli
14 Jaguar Ocelotl Tlazolteotl
15 Eagle Cuauhtli Red Tezcatlipoca or Xipe Totec
16 Vulture Cozcacuauhtli Itzpapalotl
17 Movement Ollin Xolotl
18 Flint Tecpatl Chalchiuhtotolin
19 Rain Quiauitl Tonatiuh
20 Flower Xochitl Xochiquetzal


The Movable Feasts

  1. Nahuatl-English English-Nahuatl, Fermin Herrera, page 196.
  2. Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate. page 46
  3. Boone, Elizabeth Hill. Cycles of Time and Meaning in the Mexican Books of Fate. page 47