The toad symbolizes fertility of Earth, a sacred being in ancient Maya cosmology. During the first Spring rains, cornfields are filled with toads mating and singing. Mayan elders say that when the toads sing, they make the Saints happy and the Saints will send rain. In stories from San Pedro Chenalhó, a toad called Antonia guards the Earthlord’s house or cave – the entrance to Earth.
ANCIENT MAYA COSMOGRAM
The cosmogram depicts a quartered universe moving through time, uniting Earth and Sky. It also charts the path of the Sun, a principal Mayan deity. The cosmogram appears in various versions; in each version viewers look straight down on the world from just above the highest point of the heavens. Five diamond designs mark the four cardinal directions, and the central diamond may stand for the nadir, the lowest point under Earth where Sun passes at midnight on its circle back to the east. Weavers often put dots of brightly colored threads in the cosmogram designs representing stars, which they call the eyes of the universe.
MAYA WEAVING SYMBOL UNIQUE TO CHENALHO, CHIAPAS
The ancient Maya number for men was four and for women three. The contemporary weaving symbol for man has four fingers and toes standing for the four corners of the milpa, the corn and bean field where men have traditionally fulfilled their principle duties – to grow food for their families. The weaving symbol for women has three fingers and toes representing the three stones that hold up the comal – the clay griddle on which women make tortillas. Preparing food for the family continues to be Maya women’s primary responsibility. The woman symbol was lost to weavers in Chenalhó until 1992 when members of Tsobol Antzetik discovered the image of a woman with three fingers and toes amidst other designs on a ceremonial cloth (b’ut corision, sacrificial victim) and brought it back into circulation in their community. The woman design now appears on many items that the women weave.