ahau ajaw symbol history and meaning

Ahau Symbol (Ajaw) – History And Meaning

The ancient Mayan people had such high regard for the sun. The sun symbol is known as Ahau, also spelled Ajaw, which is said to mean ‘teacher’ or ‘the light of knowledge.’ This makes Ahau symbolic of awareness, clarity, and ascension.

If you want to learn more about the Ahau (ajaw) symbol, read on to find out the meaning, history, and significance of this Mayan symbol.

Ahau (Ajaw) Symbol – History And Meaning

ahau ajaw symbol history and meaning

The sun god was Kinich Ahau, one of the more powerful gods of the Mayan pantheon. He was considered an aspect of Itzamna, one of the creator gods. It is said that Kinich Ahau would shine from the heavens all day, transforming into a jaguar at nightfall to pass through Xibalba or the underworld. 

The sun appears during harvest season, the height of productivity and the Yucatec Maya believed this appearance brought about high-yielding crops. But the gift was not limited to crops as the sun was thought to warm their souls, allowing their divinity to prosper.

Not only did the sun bestow crops to the Mayan people, it also aided them in telling time.

They worshiped the sun, whom they considered a god. Ahau was the light of knowledge—enlightenment—which was a gift from the teacher, Ahau, himself.

Ahau Symbol History

Ahau (‘lord’/‘chief’) is a pre-Columbian Maya political title, which is also the name of the 20th day of the tzolkʼin or the Maya divinatory calendar.

The ‘ahau’ title was given to a member of the Maya priesthood because the Ahau also performed religious activities.

The Mayans were among the few ancient civilizations to devise their own writing system through symbols or hieroglyphs, believed to have started about 3,000 years ago. The first of the Mayan symbols were discovered by John Lloyd Stephens and Frederick Catherwood in 1839.

An archaeological site called Kʼo boasts of what is deemed to be the royal tomb of the earliest known ruler of the Mayan empire. The said tomb dates back to 350-300 BC. The earliest evidence of the institution of ahau in the Maya Lowlands is found there.

The Ahau Symbol

The Mayan symbols that represent the sun signify enlightenment, productivity, and divinity. No other civilization probably beats the Maya in their very high regard for the sun.

Some Mayan dynasties even claimed to be descended from it, so it’s no surprise these people were extremely good at predicting solar phenomena such as eclipses, solstices, and equinoxes. They were also expert at calculating when the sun reached its apex.

Suffice it to say, the Ahau was a very important symbol among the ancient Mayan people. They considered the sun symbol as the personification of power and strength. This is so because Ahau has also been interpreted to mean ‘lord’ or ‘chief.’ 

Ahau or ajaw in the hieroglyphics writing system of the Maya is represented as either a logograph or spelled-out by syllables. An image of the ruler (lord or chief) is substituted for the more abstract design that we often see today.

The Ahau Symbol Meaning

The meaning of the Ahau symbol is the sun, power, and flowers. They are a symbol of the energy, life, and health of the whole society.

It is believed that the sun sign personifies everything perfect and noble, including the world of the Mayan ancestors.

This roots from the ancient Mayan belief that the souls of the departed can return, prosper and blossom like flowers on the World Tree. Thus, the ‘flowers’ in the meaning of the Ahau symbol.

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