The Importance of Nahuales to Mayan Culture

The Importance of Nahuales to Mayan Culture

The Importance of Nahuales to Mayan Culture

Do you want to better understand the people of Guatemala? One way is to start with their ancestors—the indigenous Maya who still live and work in the region today. Many aspects of life that were important to the indigenous Maya’s worldview long ago are still appreciated and even held sacred by modern-day Guatemalans. One of these important concepts is the nahual (Nah WALL).

 In Mayan culture, you are born “under” a specific date on the Mayan calendar that shapes your personality. Based on this, every person has their own energy—their nahual—that includes a spirit animal, stone, metal, number, color, and other unique information. A person’s nahual is believed to reveal details about who you are, which in turn gives you insight on how to effectively relate to and grow in community with others. When studied with an open mind, one’s nahual can lead to increased self-awareness as well.

It’s important, because connection to others is the basis for Mayan religion (in addition to appreciation of nature). Both of these are reflected in Mayan ceremonies. Mayan ceremonies begin by showing respect to nature, which they did by asking permission of spirits of the earth and heavens to lead the ceremony. Candles are placed corresponding to the four cardinal points (east, west, north, south), and each direction exerts a distinct energy, which sets the stage for the day. Each direction also corresponds to a nahual. Though nahuales are connected to alignment with the stars, it’s not the same as a Zodiac sign—it’s taken much more seriously. 

Finding Your Nahual

How do you determine your nahual? It’s easy with this free online nahual calculator. Simply insert the day, month and year you were born to learn more about your own distinct energy. The results will tell you your strengths, weaknesses, possible careers, and much more. 

Sussan Hrozek, Senior Coordinator at Handmade by Friendship Bridge®, believes in the power of her nahual. She was born under the sign, B’atz’, symbolized by the monkey. The energy of B’atz’ corresponds to independence and freedom, to which Sussan personally connects. “Monkeys have to move, and I am always moving in the way that I am always involved in different projects that make me meet other people and experience other cultures,” she says.

B’atz’ is characterized by abundance, which could mean abundance in love, business success, intelligence, connection to others, or other experiences. It is also known as the artist or the one with the creative mind.  Potential careers include sculptors, musicians, lawyers, or the medical field. “For the Mayans, to be doing what you love is the best way to be healthy,” Sussan explains. Sussan sees these characteristics come through not only in her career with Handmade, but also through her personal interest in natural remedies to heal ailments.

One’s nahual reveals areas that could lead to negative outcomes too. “We [B’atz’] want to be ready and prepared and we want to learn a lot of things. It’s scary for us to not have control, and it is a challenge to work on not being a know-it-all. I was very competitive in school and tended to compare myself to others,” Sussan reflects.

Nahuales Inspire Our Artisans’ Work

Our Handmade by Friendship Bridge® artisans are inspired by their nahuales, and this is reflected in their work. For example, our artisans are often inspired by the energy from their spirit animals. For this reason, birds are common in their work, both in textiles and beaded products. Another example is Maria’s beadwork, particularly her Tesoro Collection of  beaded necklaces that draws inspiration from Mayan energy and symbols. 




Later this year, Handmade by Friendship Bridge will be developing a new collection—Beading Wonders—based specifically on nahuales. The collection will serve as a new way for our artisans to collaborate and think creatively, while connecting their beadwork with the cultural heritage of their communities. We can’t wait to share it with you!

Will you donate to support our artisans?

When you donate by July 31, your donation will be matched by a generous $3k distribution from the Marilyn Lone Endowment for Artisans.