"Tonalism": Name, Soul, Destiny and Identity Determined by the 260-Day Calendar in Mesoamerica

  • Lars Kirkhusmo Pharo Harvard University


In various Mesoamerican cultures, i.e. civilisations of Middle America, a calendar name is part of the antroponym. Besides having conventional personal names, both human beings and deities carry day-names from the 260-day calendar. In addition, world ages or world periods, periods of the traditional 365-day calendar and the 52-year calendar as well as the cardinal directions of the quadripartite world were categorised by day-names of the 260-day calendar. Thus not only human and divine beings but also space and time received designations from this calendar. Moreover, this onomastic practice of giving personal names from day signs of the 260-day calendar - called "tonalism" (from Nahuatl) - is related to the Mesoamerican concepts of destiny and to what is known in history of religions as the "freesoul". Consequently, this anthropnymic tradition provides identity to human, divine beings and spatial-temporal phenomena.