The amazing story of Mayans and Venus

-written by Yash Jagtap, Muskan Agarwal

Prologue: Mayans are quite famous for their mysterious ancient architecture, structures and many people also suspect them of various extra-terrestrial contact, but let’s take a look at their very own work in Astronomy without any of their Alien associations.

It’s the month of January (when I wrote this article), our evening star ‘Venus‘ is now no longer visible in the evening sky. We need to look for it in the morning just before Sunrise. Anyone looking at the evening skies from winter to summer will surely notice how the evening planets – Jupiter, Venus, and faint Saturn change their location as the winter goes by.

And also, this January, Venus was at inferior conjunction, i.e., directly between the Sun and us, making it invisible for a few days. This happens every 584 days. Today, we have a ton of literature to learn and know about such movements of planets beforehand, even the complex ones. But, some people in the past whose favourite object was Venus made many observations without this knowledge and even made a calendar based on Venus.

Interested in history and astronomy? Read our blog on the early perceptions of Halley’s comet.


You surely might have heard about the Mayan civilization on History TV 18. Ancient astronaut theorists are very much fond of this civilization and also claim various extraterrestrial contacts. In the midst of these claims which are not even proved to be true, we forget to appreciate the actual astronomical knowledge and observations of the Ancient Mayan culture. They are considered to be one of the best ancient civilizations on the basis of their Astronomical knowledge!

Source: “Ancient Mayan observatory used to track sun and Venus | Antediluvian”, 2022

Venus and Mayans

If you have traced the position of Venus just after the sunset during the winter, you could observe a figure of 8 loops. For example, below is for Winter 2021 (it will look different depending on your latitude). 


Venus takes 225 days to complete one revolution around the Sun. For someone on Earth, it will appear that Venus moves to and fro relative to the Sun every 584 days. Five of these cycles, which is a total of 2920 days, represent eight solar years for us. The Mayans observed this and divided the 584 days cycle into four parts- 

  1. 250 days- Venus appears in the evening (actual 263)
  2. 8 days- Venus disappears (same as actual)
  3. 236 days- Venus appears in the morning  (actual 263)
  4. 90 days- Venus disappears (actual 50)

The Mayans had kept an excellent track of Venus’ position in the sky, and as I mentioned earlier, the five of these 584 days cycles are equal to eight solar years, giving us a ratio of 5:8. Interestingly, the Mayans were fond of the whole multiples, and Venus has five to eight rhythms with the Sun, which probably caught their interest.

The difference in the actual and Mayan calculation is due to difficulty observing Venus when it sets or rises shortly before or after the Sun, and some sources also pointing that they might have deliberately altered it for ceremonial purposes. But still, the observation and timekeeping in the form of a calendar are worth a mention. 

All of what I just mentioned can be found in the Dresden Codex, an ancient book written by the Mayans and the oldest surviving book from the Americans.

Now, you must be thinking about what the Mayans did by observing these? The answers can be a bit abstract; they mainly did it for ceremonial purposes although, there is an interesting myth/folklore surrounding Venus. Civilizations of the past were keen observers of the night sky and connected with it in a cultural context. The Mayans also had a story of Venus and the Sun.


In Mayan mythology, Chak’ Ek represents Venus. Mayans also gave the five different loops of Venus (what I had mentioned at the start) different forms of Chak’Ek. The story begins when Venus disappears for eight days and returns as a morning star just before sunrise.

During the eight days, Chak’ Ek was in the underworld, and now he has arrived, but his brother Kin Ahaw (Sun) outshined him. Hence, Chak again goes to the underworld to plot something against his brother. After returning from the underworld, Chak decided to cause havoc in the world and to execute this, he decided to ambush his brother and his allies.

In total, he had five targets, the first one being K’awii, the god of sustenance and lightning, and Chak manages to slay him. The second target was his brother, the Sun, Chak also manages to wound him. The third target was the god of maize. He managed to kill and bury him in the underworld, which led to famines for the inhabitants, although the god re-emerged again later. When the turtle Ak Na’ak showed up during the summer solstice, Chak claimed his fourth target. Chak’s fifth target was a stranger from the west; there was again havoc for the people after his death.

All of these targets were taken down by Chak’ Ek after a gap of 584 days, each event representing one of five loops/cycles of Venus. The story later tells us that the tale again continues exactly. The main premise is the emergence of chaos when Venus becomes a morning star.

This tale is a fine example of making stories with the events in the sky and connecting them with human culture. 

Enjoyed reading this article? Check our blog on Voyager 1






1 Comment

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    Posted July 29, 2022 9:12 am 0Likes

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