The Sacred Diamond Back Rattle Snake

The Diamond Back Rattlesnake is central in Mayan Cosmogony

Though not a Yucatan diamond back rattler, this Arizona specimen shows some similarities.
Though not a Yucatan diamond back rattler, this Arizona specimen shows some similarities. | Source
This artistic rendition of a diamond back rattlesnake is closer to the type that forms the foundation of the Maya creation myth.
This artistic rendition of a diamond back rattlesnake is closer to the type that forms the foundation of the Maya creation myth.
This is a photo of that magical moment at the pyramid of Kukulcan where the shadow of the sky serpent is seen descending to the earth over the day of the solstice.
This is a photo of that magical moment at the pyramid of Kukulcan where the shadow of the sky serpent is seen descending to the earth over the day of the solstice. | Source
Mayan textiles often feature a diamond pattern that recapitulates the 4 X 13 pattern of the diamond back rattlesnake and the calendar round
Mayan textiles often feature a diamond pattern that recapitulates the 4 X 13 pattern of the diamond back rattlesnake and the calendar round | Source
The contemporary Maya also create requisite patterns based on natural themes. All in all, their clothing is denoted by its brilliant color.
The contemporary Maya also create requisite patterns based on natural themes. All in all, their clothing is denoted by its brilliant color. | Source

The View of the Maya

The Polpol Vuh contains the detailed creation story of the Maya that was first translated in the 16th century into Quiche. From there we got the information translated in various European languages, principally, Spanish, English, French and German. It is fortunate that we have this foundation upon which much of the later information that was gleaned in the 19th and 20th centuries was later teased out. This has been a tedious task involving hundreds of archeologists, linguists and historians. What we have uncovered thus far is related as follows.

According to the Maya, the creation of all that there is was carried out in accordance with the geometric design on the scales of rattlesnake. The Mayan creator, Kukulchan-KuKulcán, is described as a mathematician. The root of the word Tz’akol and the Tzolkin (from the calendar system), is Tza, as in Tzamná or Itzamná, which comes from the word Tzab, translated as rattlesnake, “onomatopoeic with the sound of the rattle”, a wake up call. Tz’akol is the creator bring who is a god, a man, a bird and a serpent all in one being known as Quetzalcóatl or Kukulcán. This creator is a mathematician/geometer extraordinaire, the creator of all things. Tzab is also the Yucatec Maya word for the cluster of stars we identify as the “Pleiades” displaying 7 seven visible stars, analogous and compared to the 7 rattles on the tail of the sacred rattlesnake. It is even said that there is an “Ahaw”, a lord/sun sign on the serpent’s tail end where the rattle connects. We know today that the Pleiades are located in the constellation of Taurus, which is close to the “Heart-of-Sky” located between Taurus and Gemini, which is also called the loop of the snake.

The feathered serpent in Maya cosmogony, signifies among other things, the milky way, time including the chronology as laid out in the complex calendar system such as the Tzolk'in, which is the combination of the various cycles of the three principle calendars that result in the 52 year calendar round. This number is reflected in the scale count on the diamond back rattler. This is shown in the account of Quetzalcóatl/Kuculcan who was reputed to be the inventor of the science of the measure of time. The rattlesnake emblem used in Maya writing is called Can or Coatl.

The number four relates to Kukulcán and Quetzalcóatl, corresponding to the four sides of the square appearing in the designs on the skin of the Yucatan diamond back rattle snake. This rattle snake's body has this pattern of proportion containing from end to end and provides the base for the astronomic arithmetic of the Maya. This arithmetic has the numbers four and thirteen repeated in various aspects of the geometric model found on the diamond back rattlesnake. The dot product of 4 and 13 is 52, a number that is sacred to the Maya. It also shows itself as the symbol of the four calendar solstice blades; “Can” or “Nahui 0lin”. All in all, it is a well integrated system and the astonishing fact that the diamond back rattlesnake recapitulates this in its design leaves little wonder that the Maya considered the diamond back rattlesnake to be sacred.

To the Christians, the snake is considered one of the symbols of the anti-Christ or that devil, Satan. Thus we see the foundations of the conflict between the beliefs of the Maya and that of the invading Spaniards. The fact of the sacredness of the diamond back rattlesnake, that was the representation of Kukulcán, the feathered serpent, was enough to get the Catholic padres accompanying the invaders to burn the fabulous libraries of the Maya, leaving following historians a stupendous task of reconstruction. There were other causes given to us by historians, such as the practice of human sacrifice, but we wonder when the Catholics were no strangers to torture and human sacrifice. Certainly sending soldiers into foreign territories to enrich the aristocracy and church in Europe constitutes a veiled form of human sacrifice. The miserable mission work camps in the California region certainly added to human sacrifice by way of over work, starvation and disease. So bad were the conditions in the mission work camps, that it inspired a successful rebellion on part of the California First Nations.

Some particular diamond back rattlesnakes have thirteen scales in each of four rows for a total of 52, hence the connection to the calendar round of time measuring. This pattern is recapitulated in many of their designs found in the design of the calendar, their clothing patterns and in village layout. This is the number of years in the Maya and Toltec astronomical cycles known as canturÍa the main period that combine the movements of the Sun, the Moon and Venus. As we have related about the Metonic lunar cycle of 235 lunations over 19 years and Venus' curious 8:13 orbital cycle relationship with Earth, this is all astoundingly synchronized.

In all the Mayan regions, there are stellae and stone reliefs on important ceremonial centers of priests holding a ceremonial rod in both hands that has, in the center, the row of vertical squares of the “Ajau Can” or the rattlesnake's diamond pattern. Often these rods have a snake head, similar to the medical caduceus derived from ancient western sources. These were the mathematical insignias of the Maya wise priests that ordered the construction of the Mayan temples from which we get visions such as the descending and ascending serpent on the Kukulcán pyramid at Chitzen Itza.

As the living diamond rattlesnake moves, the patterns shift and change, indicating to the Maya, the changing and fluctuating nature of the cosmos while basic number symbolism remained constant. These patterns revealed geometry, arithmetic, cosmology/cosmogony and architecture.

Spring equinox descent of the sky serpent

More by this Author


Comments 12 comments

christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

There is a lot to take in there, but very interesting. It is a great pity that snakes should have always got such a bad press in "western culture", since they really are fascinating creatures.

The chinese have a high regard for them as well. So did the ancient vikings.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

Snakes are one of the most stable species, seeing little by evolutionary change except in detail and markings. The form itself is ancient, going back to the foundations of complex life. On an interesting note, the Maya calendar stretches back half a billion years. Snakes, like any other creature, adapted to existing environmental conditions and survive like any other species including humanity. Given the snake and some people in how they behave, the snake is predictable and functions for survival of itself and the offspring. Human beings go far beyond this, claiming ownership of whatever they touch and see. Given humanities proclivity to war that is one of the most harmful of activities to the natural environment upon which all species depend, I would say that the rattlesnake and other snakes have a higher moral character by mere default.


christopheranton profile image

christopheranton 5 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

How very true.


ruffridyer 5 years ago from Dayton, ohio

A lot to think about. Very well researched. I find it interesting that the snake is used as a symbol of lucifer in the Bible[ in the garden of eden], and al;so the symbol of Christ[ the brass serpent held up in the wilderness to heal the isrealites].


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 5 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

Moses and the uplifted serpent are symbolic of Orion, where in Mayan culture and belief, the upraised arm is the loop of the snake in the heart of sky, a central point where the cross between the galaxy and the ecliptic is formed.


ambertale 5 years ago

Very interesting, indeed! Thank you for sharing. For me it is a special knowledge now, because I saw a vision about the rattlesnake, after that I drew two pics and wrote a story...it is fabulous to read your article and start to think, maybe I saw in my vision something from my previous life...is it possible?


chris temp 4 years ago

the snake upon the southern side as sun strkes it is to indercate the correct timing for the Eastern side and the spilling of water down the raffels provided to produce bubbles in the water that then burst and make mist, or Hydro H2o@Atomic six(6)that then is struck by the suns electromagnetics that then generatesthe four ellerment array that produces the white Rainbow wave that generates a magnetic plume, that inturn draws the low pressure system or storm cell Barometric low = hot spot or magnetic plume in the primordial magnetic grid system

In other words they were making climate or making it rain, mother nature dose this very same thing and has done so for millions of years the mayans were just coping mother nature , and making it artificialy, given climate change we may well have to learn this technolage again


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

@ chris temp: I found your comment most interesting. Do you have a reference for that and perhaps you should also consider joining hubpages and submit articles.


Akashananda 4 years ago

What the mathematical codes of DNA are to life forms, the Harmonic Matrix of the Maya is to all of the manifestations of the universe. The Serpent has been regarded as a symbol of wisdom by every culture of the world until power hungry fanatics forming the basis of Christianity skillfully demonized this profound symbology. The Maya have mathematical genius that far exceed what we have even yet discovered. The snake is part of the profound wisdom of the universe that reproduces the macrocosm in the microcosm.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

@ Akashananda: Very good, and I couldn't agree more!


Akashananda 4 years ago

I could send you a jpg of the harmonic matrix in a repeating sequence that demonstrates how similar it is to the diamondback pattern, but I'm not being successful at copying it this comment box. If you have access to a copy of Jose Arguelles, Earth Ascending that also has many images of the matrix in sequence. I think his work is some of the most important info available concerning the Maya.


syzygyastro profile image

syzygyastro 4 years ago from Vancouver, Canada Author

@ Akashananda: Send the info you described by either posting a link here or directly to me at syzygywjp@yahoo.com

    Sign in or sign up and post using a HubPages Network account.

    0 of 8192 characters used
    Post Comment

    No HTML is allowed in comments, but URLs will be hyperlinked. Comments are not for promoting your articles or other sites.


    Click to Rate This Article
    working