Meaningful Mayan Symbols

mayan symbol
The Mayans were an ancient civilization that lived in parts of modern-day Mexico, Central America, and South America. They were known for their advanced architecture, astronomy, and mathematics. They created several symbols and glyphs to represent different concepts and ideas. It is difficult to describe a single "Mayan symbol" as the Mayans used a variety of characters, some of which had multiple meanings. 

What is the Mayan symbol?

Mayan symbol is a complex hieroglyphic language and symbols. Mayan hieroglyphics and symbols took many different shapes and forms. They were used for a variety of intents. 

Many had strictly religious connotations, while others could be used as metaphoric and religious symbols, as well as for trade, politics, and other everyday activities.

Almost all Mayan symbols represented personality traits like wisdom, bravery, and integrity. The symbols are generally classified into religion, astronomy, nature, and everyday life. 

mayan symbol
Mayan culture was an incredibly symbolic culture.

How many Mayan symbols are there?

The Maya used 800 individual glyphs or signs paired with cues that read from left to right and upper part to bottom. However, the Maya script contains around 1,000 symbols. Scribes used between 300 and 500 signs at any given time. Even though the Maya language has only five vowels and nineteen consonants, there are 200 syllabic signs.

What Does the Mayan Sun Symbolize?

The Mayan sun symbolizes many things in Mayan culture. According to Mayan hieroglyphics, Mayans viewed the sun as the central deity and the source of all life, warmth, and light. It is also seen as a symbol of power, strength, and renewal. 

The sun is often depicted as a deity with a human face associated with yellow or gold. The sun is said to travel through the underworld at night and is believed to be reborn every morning. 

It was believed to be a powerful force that sustained life on earth and brought about day and night cycles. It also represents the corn god, to whom the Maya pray for a bountiful harvest.

mayan symbol
The Mayan sun is an incredibly important symbol that highlights the role of the sun in sustaining life.

What are the Mayan zodiac signs?

The Mayan civilization flourished in Mesoamerica and had a complex system of calendars and mythology that included a set of astrological signs. These signs were based on the cycles of the planets and were used to predict events and guide the lives of the Mayan people.

The Mayan zodiac includes 19 signs associated with animals and elements. Here are the 19 Mayan zodiac signs:

  • Ch’en: 2nd January to 21st January
  • Yax: 22nd January to 10th February
  • Sak’: 11th February to 2nd March
  • Mak: 23rd March to 11th April
  • K’ank’in: 12th April to 1st May
  • Muwan’: 2nd May to 21st May
  • Pax: May 22nd to June 10th
  • K’ayab: June 11th to June 30th
  • Kumk’u: July 1st to July 20th
  • Wayeb’: July 21st to July 25th
  • Pop: July 26th to August 14th
  • Wo’: August 15th to September 3rd
  • Sip: September 4th to September 23rd
  • Sotz’: September 24th to October 13th
  • Sek: October 14th to November 2nd
  • Xul: November 3rd to November 22nd
  • Yaxk’in’: November 23rd to December 12th
  • Mol: December 13th to January 1st

Each Mayan zodiac sign is associated with specific characteristics and traits, and people born under each sign are believed to have certain personality traits and tendencies. 

Some people may use Mayan astrology to gain insight into their personalities and characteristics or make decisions about their lives. 

However, it is important to note that Mayan astrology is not widely recognized or practiced outside of the Mayan culture and is not based on scientific principles.

mayan symbol
The Mayan zodiac is related to various cycles of the planet throughout the year.

The Mayan Calendar

The Mayan calendar dates back to 3114 BC. Surprisingly, while we romanticize the Mayan calendar today, its structure was very similar to our Gregorian calendar.

The Mayans employed the following unit system:

  • Days (called Kin) 
  • Months (Uinal) 
  • Years (Tun) Katun is longer 7,200-day periods
  • Even longer periods of 144,000 days are known as Baktun.

Every month/Uinal had a total of 20 days/Kin, and each Kin had its symbol. Likewise, the Mayan Tun/year had 19 Uinal, each with its symbol. The first 18 Uinals had 20 Kin each, while the 19th Uinal had only 5 Kin. The Mayan Tun had 365 days total, just like our Gregorian year.

Mayan Number Symbols 

The Mayans used a complex numbering system for both their calendar and mathematics, in addition to hieroglyphic symbols. 

The Mayans’ system was as simple as it was effective, with a dot representing one unit and a horizontal bar representing five. Two dots would mean the number 2, and two bars would represent the number 10. As a result, the Mayan mathematical system was built on twenty units, with 19 represented by three bars and four dots, 18 by three bars and three dots, and so on. 

The Mayans used an eye symbol with a dot on top for the number 20 and two dots placed one over the other for the number 21. The Mayans used the same system for all numbers above 21, simply keeping a dot underneath to signal the higher base.

What is the Mayan symbol for power?

The Mayan symbol of power is Ahau. Ahau is a term used in the Maya civilization to refer to a lord or ruler. It is often associated with the sun god, the supreme ruler of the cosmos and the source of all life. 

The symbol for ahau is often represented by a sun glyph or a head with a sun emblem on the forehead. It is also sometimes depicted as a quetzal feather, symbolizing high status and authority among the Maya. 

The term ahau was used by some Maya communities to refer to a leader or respected community member.

Keep learning more about symbols with this great article on the meaning of the Vesica Pisces symbol.


Vanessa's liberal arts background has prepared her well for Symbol Scholar. A self-proclaimed theology nerd, Vanessa has interests in world religions, Reformation theology, history, and more. When she's not working, Vanessa enjoys spending time with her family, reading, exercising, and watching professional basketball.

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