Velikovsky's Comet Venus-9
52-YEAR CALENDAR ROUND
Across Mesoamerica, the combination of two calendars, the solar
or seasonal calendar and the 260-day ritual calendar, produced
an extended sequence of sacred time, in which the two calendars
concluded on the same day only once every 52 solar years–a
cosmic cycle of extreme import.
This 52-year cycle the Maya called the Calendar Round and the
Aztecs a "bundle of years" or "Perfect Circle" of years.
Interestingly, to Sylvanus Morley observes that the Maya "never
indicated dates in hieroglyphic texts or historical documents
by the solar year designation alone. Most often the date was
specified by its designation in the Calendar Round."
Among the Aztecs this extended cycle was intimately tied to the
myth of Quetzalcoatl, who was born on the day ce acatl ("One
Reed") and departed on the day ce acatl 52 years later. He
will return, the Aztecs claimed, on a future day ce acatl. It
is only reasonable to assume, therefore, a close relationship
between the symbolism of the Calendar Round and the symbolism
of the founding god-king.
Mesoamerican timekeepers show an extreme ambivalence about this
extended calendar period. Its conclusion was both a renewal-
the end of the old cycle and the beginning of a new cycle–and
a potential moment of disaster, since the Aztecs believed that
the entire world order was then in jeopardy. At that critical
moment the astronomer priests anticipated world destruction by
fire, wind, or water, repeating the great cataclysm that ended
the golden age of Quetzalcoatl.
The synchronous Earth-Venus movements appear to have figured
prominently in the calendar, enabling priest astronomers to
draw on the mathematics of Venus cycles to anticipate the
recurrence of doomsday. For example, 65 Venus cycles were
equivalent to 104 solar years, or two 52-year cycles, which the
Aztecs called "huehueliztli", an old age or "long-period."
To Velikovsky, this role of Venus in calculations of world ages
was, at the very least, evidence to be considered in assessing
Venus' catastrophic role in the past.
The works of Fernando de Alva Ixtlilxochitl, the early
Mexican scholar (circa 1568-1648) who was able to read old
Mexican texts, preserve the ancient tradition according to
which the multiple of fifty-two-year periods played an
important role in the recurrence of world catastrophes.
He asserts also that only fifty-two years elapsed between two
great catastrophes, each of which terminated a world age.
Now there exists a remarkable fact: the natives of pre-
Columbian Mexico expected a new catastrophe at the end of
every period of fifty-two years and congregated to await the
event. "When the night of this ceremony arrived, all the
people were seized with fear and waited in anxiety for what
might take place." They were afraid that "it would be the
end of the human race and that the darkness of the night may
become permanent: the sun may not rise anymore."
It happened that the end of a cycle occurred in mid-November,
1507, and available records give us a good sense of the
collective fears embedded in the symbolic rites of renewal. It
is said that five priests moved in procession with a captive
warrior out of the city of Tenochtitlan to the great ceremonial
center on the Hill of the Star. The occasion was proceeded by
ritual extinction of fires across Mexico, the casting of
statues and hearthstones into the water, and rites of sweeping-
-all of these gestures bearing a significant symbolic tie to an
ancient cultural memory of catastrophic transition. We are
also told that on this frightening occasion women were locked
in granaries to avoid being turned into man-eating monsters,
pregnant women donned masks of maguey leaves, and children were
kept awake to keep them from turning into mice while asleep.
(That these fears trace to the cosmic night and the associated
chaos hordes should become clear in the course of this series.)
David Carrasco writes,
For on this one night in the calendar round of 18,980 nights
the Aztec fire priests celebrated "when the night was
divided in half": the New Fire Ceremony that ensured the
rebirth of the sun and the movement of the cosmos for
another fifty-two years. This rebirth was achieved
symbolically through the heart sacrifice of a brave,
captured warrior specifically chosen by the king. We are
told that when the procession arrived "in the deep night" at
the Hill of the Star the populace climbed onto their roofs.
With unwavering attention and necks craned toward the hill
they became filled with dread that the sun would be
When the priest astronomers did confirm that the heavens were
still in order, the country broke into celebration, the Sacred
Fire was rekindled, houses, roads and walkways were swept clean
and normal life resumed, the gods having granted man another
As in the case of disaster portents, the fears implicit in the
calendar symbolism flowed from a core idea of recurrence. In
the same way that the appearance of a comet OR the rising of
Venus recalled the world-ending catastrophe, the calendar
system (which undeniably related to observed Venus cycles)
rested on a memory of former upheaval, when heaven fell into
confusion. Could the terrestrial king, whose life always
mirrored that of the founding god-king, escape the fate of the
great predecessor, whose death ENDED a cosmic cycle? Would the
world itself survive a full turn of time's wheel?
It's too easy for archaeoastronomers, when chronicling the
calendar symbolism, to slip into a state of enchantment over
the system's mathematical symmetry, forgetting that there is a
far more vital question: what were the experiential origins of
the collective fear–the fear of a world falling out of
control? And why did the planet Venus figure so prominently in
the calculations of world ages?
Perhaps the answer lies with the famous Calendar Stone, on
which the time-keeping hieroglyphs are recorded. Enclosing the
stone, and thus encompassing the entire cycle or world age is
the two-fold form of the great serpent Xiuhcoatl, the mythical
parent of comets, the great celestial torch launched against
the rebel powers when the world was overrun by demons of chaos.
That the archetypal comet should define the great cycle of time
does not surprise us. For it seems that bringing one world age
to an end and inaugurating another is, in the universal
tradition, the comet's most distinctive role.
ONE FEAR, MANY EXPRESSIONS
Due to the progressive fragmentation of evidence over time, the
experts have missed the most significant fact of all.
Mesoamerican cultures as a whole expressed the doomsday anxiety
in pervasive ritual practices which themselves offer vital keys
to the nature of the original events: the rites of sweeping
practiced in every sacred precinct; the great festivals
reckoning with critical moments in the calendar and repeating
memorable episodes in the age of the gods; the virtually
endless rites of sacrifice, by which tens of thousands died in
a culture-wide bargaining with celestial powers; and the
ritually-ordained wars by which the city's bravest and strongest
repeated the catastrophic interlude between two world
ages. Together with the available information on disaster
portents, these mythically-rooted themes provide a great
reservoir of evidence as to the character of the remembered
catastrophe. (See sections to follow.)
The repeated ritual patterns re-enacted on every scale (from
household sweeping rites to nation-wide celebrations of the 52-
year cycle) a world falling into darkness; the death of the
creator-king, whose heart-soul was torn from him to soar aloft
as a comet-like "spark"; the end of the kingdom (symbol of the
"world"); a sky filled with celestial dust and cometary debris-
-the feared chaos-hordes; the gathering of great armies in the
heavens to wage celestial combat; and overwhelming commotion:
reverberating shouts and cries, the earthshaking moans of the
great goddess, the shrieks of whistles, trumpets blaring, the
beating of drums, and–in the very midst of this world-ending
havoc–a smoking star (the prototypical comet of the Aztecs and
Maya, the planet Venus) announcing the disaster in the most
literal, causative sense, and presiding over the recovery of
order, as if sweeping clear the darkened and cloud-filled sky.
To see how these vivid memories of cometary disaster found
expression in the local rites, we shall next turn to the role
of the feared chaos hordes in the remembered events.