Seeing the Start of Spring through Mayan Eyes

Chicen Itza is one of the most visited archaeological sites in Mexico for its ancient Mayan ruins. One of the busiest times of year is from March 18-22 when thousands of locals and travelers from abroad congregate to El Castillo, the grand pyramid, to witness the phenomena of Mayan astronomical accuracy, known as the Spring Equinox.

El Castillo has a staircase on all four sides with 91 steps each that total to 364 steps, but the last step on top of the pyramid totals to the 365 days in a solar year. On the afternoon of the Equinox (March 21), the Mayan snake god, referred to as the Feathered Serpent or Kukulcán, descends down the northern side of the pyramid in the glory of a shadow and light effect shaped like a zigzag. For the Mayans, this signaled that the time had come to plant their most revered food staple – corn. This annual event is the most dramatic display of Mayan astronomical knowledge encoded into architecture of any Mayan site yet discovered.

Certain scholars believe that Mayan architects had Kukulcan’s descent in mind when building the pyramid. Whether you believe in Mayan mysticism or not, the Spring Equinox represents the perfect excuse to celebrate fresh produce, warm weather and new beginnings!