The Three Maya Hearth Stones

On Sunday 30 September 2012 at sunset, we enter the Cauac 13-day cycle in the sacred Mayan Calendar. In the Cauac/Tempest glyph a cluster of circles is sometimes described as clouds gathering before the storm.

The calendar day-sign Cauac is also linked to the ‘tun’ which means stone in Mayan. As one of the Long Count calendar cycles, the tun has 360 days. In hieroglyphic writing the regular tun glyph can sometimes be replaced by the Cauac glyph. Found in the next Long Count units of the Katun (20 tuns) and Baktun (20 katuns) they are used in the dates carved on stone stelaes for historical events and end of cycles.

Mayan Calendar Cards

Mayan Calendar Cards

Mayan Calendar day-sign Cauac/Storm glyph from the Maya Cards

Many markings of the Cauac glyph appear on the Maya representation of the sacred mountain ‘witz’ as a natural deity or earth creature. Witz also signifies pyramid as man re-creates the mountain in the very stone that shapes it. In the ceremonial site of Quirigua, Guatemala, there are several examples of enormous carved stones depicting the living energies of this cosmic zoomorph (see Maudslay’s picture). This creature can also be a crocodile or a turtle, both earth symbols.

Quirigua Zoomorph B, Photo Alfred Maudslay 1902


In Maya cosmology man’s creation is part of the grand cycles of cosmic events. According to the Popol Vuh, the Quiché Maya epic, when the sky had not yet been raised at the time of creation, the three hearth stones were set. At the beginning of another cycle of human creation the same three stones, ‘ox tun’ in Mayan, had to be placed first to renew the order after the destruction.

These hearth stones are carried on the back of the Turtle constellation of Orion, Ak’Ek (turtle star): see picture below from the Madrid codex, with the turtle hanging from the sky band and the triangle of the 3 stones or cauac glyph on its back. This triangle is the area of Orion’s M42 nebula.

Turtle & the Three stones as Orion, Madrid Codex

Orion turtle Madrid Codex

The three stones are not from Orion’s belt, one of the most famous parts of the constellation. As shown in the diagram below, they are formed by a triangle with Alnitak, one of the stars from the belt, and the 2 other bright stars below: Rigel and Saiph.

Orion nebula M42, Hubble Telescope

Orion nebula M42

Orion constellation, from Roberto Mura

Orion constellation
















Within this triangle the M42 zone is one of the brightest nebula and most active region of star formation found the closest to Earth. For the Mayas the 3 stars are the bright hearth stones holding the flame ‘kak’ and they call the hazy nebula ‘the smoke from the hearth’.

Thus the triangle of the three hearth stones is the very foundation of the traditional Maya home. This is not only the place to cook the food (see photo below) but also the centre for household rituals.
Interestingly the triangle, the tetrahedron in 3D, universally represents the element of fire in the alchemy of life.

3 stone fire in Maya home,

3 stone fire in Maya home

Like the fertile body of earth and the flame of the lightning Cauac, the three heathstones hold the life of creation. In Maya wisdom this place lies at the heart, between Earth and sky.

To consult the dates for our next Mayan Calendar workshops, go to Events

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