Four Directions Glossary Definition
The Mayan Cross is comprised of Day Signs (glyphs) which are oriented towards the four directions. Each direction is a grandfather/mother, a cosmic force that has character, specific qualites which influence the Day Sign. Each direction has a color, two of which appear in each Mayan Cross. The Vertical Axis has one color, the Horizontal Axis another. These directions/colors contribute to your unique energetic signature and determine your compatibility with other Day Signs. Here is how the Day Signs are grouped according to the four directions/colors/qualities:
East – Red : Father Sun, the Way of the Visionary: Reed, Knowledge, Crocodile, Serpent, Offering
West – Blue/Black: Grandmother Moon/Ocean, the Way of the Teacher: Monkey, Bird, Rainstorm, Dawn, Deer
South – Yellow: Mother Earth, the Way of the Healer: Road, Wisdom, Sun, Net, Seed
North – White: Father Sky, the Way of the Sacred Warrior: Jaguar, Flint, Wind, Death, Dog
Learn more about compatibilities among these signs.
Most Native American cultures use the concept of four Cardinal directions as a basis for their cosmology. The specifics may vary according to clan, geographic location and lore. We also find minor variations on this theme among the Maya, but most elements are fairly consistent among the 26+ Mayan subcultures. As seen below, the four directions are a symbolic not only at a personal level, but also a framework for political, social and ceremonial aspects of Mayan life.
The Mayan Flag
For the first time in over 500 years, the Mayan flag began to fly proudly around Guatemala after the most recent President, Alvaro Colom, was elected.
The example shown on the right is a depiction at the Native American Smithsonian Museum in Washington, DC for the Q'eq'chi Maya. They refer to each of the four directions as the first Grandparents. Here are the prayers they offer in each direction, in the order in which they are invoked.
Red East Kaq’ Balam Kitze
We place offerings where the sun rises because the sun is the inheritance that our grandparents left us. The sun is important because it gives us life and strengthens us. It is important that every morning you greet the morning sun.
The East where the sun rises is the region of light and blood and a source of happiness. Its color is red. It represents maturity in life, adulthood and human beings and ripeness in corn, fruit and other crops. It also stands for authority and spiritual leadership.
Black West Q’eq Balam Akab
We offer prayers towards the West because our grandparents taught us also to have contact with darkness. We cannot walk in the darkness without a little bit of light, so one has to have contact with the sun as well as with the darkness.
The West is related to death and darkness, maize, human hair and the color black. To the Q’eq’chi Maya, Death is a continuation of life, not its end. Life is a series of changes, from seed to plant, day to night, child to parent. Death is one of these changes
Yellow South Q’an Maju Kutaj
For our grandparents the south was the birthplace of water. They refer to it as Maju Kutaj, for he is the one in charge of water. We are composed of water. It is part of our life. It is for that reason that we ask that South so that we may never lack for water.
The beginning of life lies in the South. Yellow is the color of the South. The color of seeds, water, maternity and birth. Just as air comes from the North, so it blows to the South. The South also symbolizes the beginning of people’s connections to nature and to one another.
White North Saq’ Ikib’ alam
When we offer our prayers to the North we mention the name Ikab’ alam. Our grandfathers know that our air is needed for life and without air we would not survive. For that reason it is important that we talk to Ikib’ alam so that he may protect us, so that nothing bad will happen to us.
White is the color of the North. Teeth, bones, the whites of our eyes and eyesight. Growth, children and education are linked to the North.
A Mayan daykeeper from the Kaqchikel tradition readies a fire ceremony. The placement of each item in the design of the fire is carefully positioned according to the four directions, similar to the Native North American medicine wheel.
To begin the ceremony, the Daykeeper calls in the four directions which also equate to the four elements, i.e., the Heart of the Heavens, the Heart of the Earth, the Heart of the Wind and the Heart of the Water.
The candles are color coded. Note that the color in the West is either blue, black or purple.
Watch a video of Don Juan creating the Mayan Cross, aka the four directions, as the foundation of the fire ceremony.
Four Directions, Four Elements, Four Colors of Corn, Four Races of Humans on the Earth
The Maya believe that we came from the stars and that humans are made of corn. It is prophecized that when the four colors of the human race, just like the four colors of corn: red, yellow, black and white, blend together like Indian corn on one cob, we will have reached the desired state of oneness consciousness.
In the Maya-lands, it is all about the corn.