Maya sacred book “Chilam Balam Tekax” astrological predictions analyzed by INAH experts

Chilam Balam Nah (INAH)

The first specialized integral study of the Chilam Balam Tekax, an anonymous text that dates from 1833 written in Yucatec Maya language with Latin characters, was published by the researcher attached to the Ethnohistory Department of the National Insittute of Anthropology and History (INAH), María de Guadalupe Suárez Castro

According to the historiography, the Chilam Balam Tekax is a compilation of texts of prophetic type written in different communities of Yucatan from prehispanic times, until the 19th century. The doument is now part of the collection of Maya codex, property of the National Library of Anthropology and History (Biblioteca Nacional de Antropología e Historia).

Researchers recovered the documents, and said that the Chilam Balam Nah or Na contains a santoral, a solar and lunar calendar, astrological predictions according to the signs of the zodiac and the planets, as well as herbal remedies.

Its writing was in charge of Maya scribes who had access to texts of European origin that are located in the churches and libraries of Franciscan convents, and even in the Hospital of San Juan de Dios, in Mérida, Yucatán.

“The authors were individuals with a position within the modern Maya religious community, that also served as Catholic teachers of doctrine, sacristans, or church cantors,” said Suárez Castro.

The archeology teacher, who devoted five years of work to research the writings, said it is the first time that a full investigation of this document is made, since the only thing that existed was a translation that date back to 1981.

“It was designed to be used by the ah dzac yah (Maya healers), who were specialists in remedying illnesses and performing rituals of birth and death among the Yucatec Maya,” she said about the restricted use of the document.

The book is composed of eight chapters and an appendix; in the first chapter, the author reflects on the concept of Chilam, a character who, prior to the arrival of the Spanish conquistadors, had direct communication with the gods through psychotropic substances.

In the second chapter, the book deals with the history of the Tekax people, dedicated to the cultivation of sugarcane.

The third tells the story of the manuscript; describing the materials that were used for its elaboration, like the sepia-colored paper of Italian origin, the ink, the text font and the headers.

In chapter an analysis of the intellectual context of the document is made.

Chapter five refers to the content, the sources from which the authors obtained the information and the analysis of the functions of the Chilam Balam Tekax.

The sixth chapter is basically a transcription of the complete text.

The seventh chapter offers a month by month relation in which the differences and similarities between the names of the saints recorded in other manuscripts and those of Tekax are observed.

And finally, the eighth chapter presents a free version of the translation of the text; and the appendix brings together a morphological analysis of the entire document.

The manuscript consisted of 18 pages, but four of them were lost, probably during their journey, because at some point in time, the Tekax’s book was moved to the town of Teabo, also in Yucatan, where the Chilam Balam de Nah was written.

In the early twentieth century, the document was taken to the United States, where it was part of the collection of William Edmond Gates, a professor specializing in the study of the Maya, but soon after he died, around 1947, the document entered the BNAH collection as an acquisition for which 500 pesos were paid.

The incomplete original is stored in the BNAH, while the rest of the content is known through reproductions available for consultation in some U.S. libraries, such as Harvard University.


TYT Newsroom with information from