The marvel of Chichen Itza’s equinox

There isn’t a more astonishing spectacle in Peninsula de Yucatan that the equinox in Chichen Itza. The wisdom and technology of the Mayan culture unveil with splendor the change of season, twice every year the sun delineates a snake out of light over “El Castillo” of Chichen Itza.

Discover how the Mayan cosmovision is related to this natural spectacle, and how it reflects its brilliant culture.

The equinox

An equinox is the moment of the year when the sun forms a perpendicular angle with Earth’s equator, at this point, day and night last the same all over the world. The equinox marks the change of season, the beginning of spring in the northern hemisphere and autumn in the southern hemisphere. It occurs twice a year; first in spring, between the 20 and 21st of March; then in autumn, between the 22nd and 23rd of September.

The spectacle of the Feathered Serpent

In the Mayan culture this was a phenomenon that, among other things, represented the harvest, due with the arrival of the autumn’s equinox. But today, this event evokes the advanced Mayan knowledge in astronomy, architecture and mathematics.

In Chichen Itza, one of the Seven Wonders of the Modern World, “El Castillo” (pyramid dedicated to Kukulcán, the Feathered Serpent) is the stage of a magical spectacle you must experience live.

With every equinox, the afternoon light, moments before sunset, traces a snake slowly sliding down through the west alfarda (the prehispanic railing) of the north staircase, seven inverted triangles of light descend upon the base of the staircase, where the serpent head (that represents Kukulcán) is lightened… A chilling visual illusion.

The drawing of light was discovered thanks to the 1927 restauration of the temple, before this intervention, “El Castillo” was covered by the jungle. The first one to sight the marvelous appearance of the light snake over the staircase was Jean-Jacques Rivard, in 1969. The light effect is no coincidence, is by design; actually, the same effect is to be found on other Mayan temples of the region, but nowhere as in Chichen Itza.

Symbolically, the Feathered Serpent merges the sky, the earth and the underworld; day and night. As well, this deity was the one thought to have given the calendar to men, therefor its close relationship with the study of time and the universe in the Mayan world.

A temple and a calendar: the Mayan cosmology

For 45 minutes, the lights glide towards the base of “El Castillo”, sliding down its 365 steps, which represent the days of the year, and the beginning of a new era. This type of ceremonial temple was constructed with the clear purpose of staging the Mayan cosmology, and their profound study of the cosmos. To witness this moment, in which centuries of history are binded, it’s like standing on the borders of time, space and history while intimately watching the Mayan world. Don’t miss your opportunity, live this magical and shivering moment.