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The Cosmic Clock ~ Canada de la Virgen

Posted by Joani Jiannine on November 13, 2020 at 9:30 AM


Cañada de la Virgen ~ The 'Cosmic Clock' 


High on a plateau in the MesoAmerican high plains area is an ancient astronomical site that stands out as very unique and special. Its strategic position with its visual domain of the Laja river basin determined this pre-Hispanic site's ceremonial importance and it was dedicated to their highest deity. the Moon; along with the Sun, Stars and Planets.

Canada de la Virgen faces the north of the heavens, where the stars circle the site every night throughout the whole year and the main plaza was built to study the movements of these all night through the seasons. They also show the movements of the Sun as their guide for when to plant and harvest along with other ceremonial days, but the Moon, planets and star movements were their main focus.

GE Coordinates: 20.51' 29.67" N  and 100.55' 42.90" W  

Very much like their Maya neighbors to the south, the Otomi people were fervent observers of the heavens and passed on their knowledge from generation to generation. These people relied on astronomical criteria for all of their religious/ceremonial beliefs and agricultural cycles, besides their day to day observances. They artificially filled this plateau to make it sit on an 18 degree tilt. In this way the ancient Otomi managed to have the Sun passing over various points of this architectural complex, marking calendar dates linked to ceremonies as well as seeding and harvesting activities.

The structures are the Ceremonial Avenue, House of the Winds, House of the Longest Night, and most importantly the House of the Thirteen Heavens, or Relox Cosmico. the Cosmic Clock.. There is another structure that has not yet been excavated.

Ceremonial Avenue

The Ceremonial Avenue that leads to the main Temple plaza shows it's importance. It is a 1-kilometre-long (0.62 mi) road that is 13 meters wide but in some areas is 17 meters wide.

The House of the Thirteen Heavens

This is a true testament to the mathematical, astronomical and architectural genius acquired over thousands of years by its original builders and their ancestors. This pyramidal structure has twelve rooms, plus one on top for a total of 13 and the Lunar calendar has 13 months for a total of 364 days in a year. It is 49 feet to the top of the six terraced pyramid and has two serpents running down both sides of the stairs and two serpent heads facing each other at the top of the steps..

The sunken patio structure of the pyramid allows for a natural reflection pool observatory to chart the movements of planets and stars. It has stone benches along the sides and was filled with water so the priests and priestesses could study the celestial movements year round.

The moon is visible at specific times in its cycle on the various steps of the pyramid structure. This alignment is not accidental. In addition, the pyramid is intentionally not symmetrical, allowing the moon to move up the left hand steps in 20 day increments, cross the top structure in a precisely calculated time and then descend the right side terraces in five day increments. How such understanding and how this engineering was achieved is forever lost to time.

Similar to the Mayan calendar, the Aztec calendar consisted of a ritual cycle of 260 days and a 365-day civil cycle. The ritual cycle, or tonalpohualli, contained two smaller cycles, an ordered sequence of 20 named days and a sequence of days numbered from 1 to 13. The 13-day cycle was particularly important for religious observance, and each of the 20 numbered cycles within the ritual year was associated with a different deity. The Otomi's, using this knowledge, created a landscape calendar here and this was an integral part of the main pyramid at Cañada de la Virgen. The sun sets into the top of the pyramid on March 4th, denoting the seed going into the earth. On the day of planting on April 17th, and harvesting August 21st, the sun rises over the portico in alignment with the doorway of the patio. These dates are associated with the start of the rainy season and their agricultural activities. The moon moves up the stairs of the pyramid during its monthly cycle and rises and falls perfectly in the pyramid notches, one notch every 20 days, which is one month in the Aztec short calendar. During solstice periods some of the planets are lined up as well.

On March 4th in 2011 the planets aligned just above the stairs along with the sign of the Water Bearer, Aquarius. The missing planet, Saturn was found 180 degrees to the East just above the Ceremonial Avenue.  This was discovered by Rodrigo Landeros, using a Star app on his smartphone.                                       

The Red Temple is on top of the pyramid and still has a red and ochre painting on the walls while the ruins on the top left are what remains of the southwest corner that miraculously still exists as in the late 1940s it was dynamited by looters looking for relics and gold.

The House of the Winds

These ancient people mirrored the terrain and cosmos in their architecture, lining up landmarks as well as equinoxes with certain points in the pyramidal structures.


The House of the Winds is a terraced round pyramidal structure that may have at one time been a spiral. It has what appears to be 5 levels with a rectangular platform with steps leading up to it in front. There is a smaller square platform on top that the center of the North side sights to a distant hill and points to the North Star rising at night. All four 'sides' follow the movement of the Big Dipper as it circles in Spring, Summer, Fall and Winter.

This platform has a short walkway through it just slightly angled from due East/West. When the sun rises on March 4th and September 4th it lights this aisle with no shadow which meant it was time for the farmers in the surrounding countryside to start preparing the ground for planting in April. In front of the rectangular platform it has two curved sections that resemble the first and last quarter moons. The front side of the platform in front faces due East towards the Equinox Sunrises.

The House of the Longest Night

The structure at the south of the complex has a step pyramid basement and an open patio to the south, unlike the others enclosed on four sides. It is a group of several structures (pyramid base, platforms of different styles, a sunken patio which is open at the northern end and these all had different functions. An example is the asymmetry of the pyramid (laid out Southwest), which has a room in the South side on the walls.

This temple is oriented to the Winter Solstice Sunset. This architectural type is only documented in the Maya area (Yucatec Puuc) and Cañada de la Virgen. During the excavations a cross section public functions and rituals substructure with was found.

The Design

The Otomí's art reflects a sun with seven moons, drawn as spirals coming off of the sun. There were 7 tiers, 7 bands of color, 7 hills. This is shown drawn out with stones on the North end of the site east of the House of the Winds.

The Otomi people, one of the earliest complex cultures, were the original inhabitants of the central Mexican high plains. They have lived in the San Miguel De Allende Valley for five thousand years but it is 'presumed' that construction at Canada de la Virgen only began after the collapse of the Teotihuacan culture, where they may have previously lived until around 530 AD. Some archaeologists believe parts of this site to be much older.

This important site was also a pilgrimage destination for people from as far away as both coasts, who brought tribute to the elite astronomer priests/priestesses who lived and died there and used the place as a refuge, an observatory, and very likely was a school of astronomy for future priests and Priestesses.

The dormant volcano, Volcan Palo Huerfano, is referred to by locals as Los Picachos because of the jagged edges of the rim of the crater. The peaks and other topographical features were deeply significant to the architects of the pyramids. The astronomer priests understood that the celestial bodies and land forms were the Gods interacting. This was not metaphorical to them. They viewed it as their job to keep the celestial clock progressing, ensuring that the sun would continue to rise.

Due to this old volcano looming over the valley, these ancient people had fertile soil, sharp obsidian to make tools and several types of stone, including basalt and cantera that could and was used to build the pyramids.

But natural resources weren’t the only thing these highly sophisticated people had going for them. Since 5000 B.C. and maybe even further back, they understood the symbiotic relationship between what we know today as the 'Three Sisters', corn, beans and squash (which when grown together provide just the right combination of everything from growing conditions to human health). The corn supports the vines of the beans which add needed nitrogen to the soil for the corn, while the squash shades the soil and keeps the area weed free.

There is also evidence that this was a matriarchal society, in line with the relationship of the Otomi’s belief in the duality of the heavens and earth (Sun and Moon, Man and Woman, etc.), and the House of the Thirteen Heavens.

Part Two

Astronomer Priests and Priestesses alike lived their whole lives at Canada de la Virgen. They were born there and died there, and they were buried there. But a new unknown came to light with the radiocarbon dating of two exceptional burials that were discovered at the site. The dating shows that the deaths of the two individuals called "The Hierarch" and "The Warrior Girl" occurred around 700 BC, a time long distant from the known period of occupation of Canada de la Virgen, which was between 540 and 1050 AD.

This means that more than a dozen generations had carried these two relics of their ancestors with them everywhere they migrated to. One of these, now named The Hierarch, was found wrapped in a mat with his dog alongside to accompany him on his arduous path to the underworld.


'The Warrior Girl, Little Girl of the Rain'

This young child, no more than seven years of age and thought to possibly be related to El Hierarch, was also recently re-buried with great honor in the temple floor in the House of the Thirteen Heavens.

This Little Girl of the Rain was found buried near a drain with a very rich offering composed of an obsidian knife, necklaces and earrings made with snails and mother-of-pearl the patio area of the House of the Longest Night, along with various symbols for water. When her remains were unearthed, the archaeologists had to put off work for over two weeks due to sudden, torrential rains!

It appears that this was a society in which the feminine was much revered. Their culture exhibited leadership, and they excelled in art and astronomy. The Spaniards, who wished to bring an end to the Orion 'Three Hearth Stones' Society that was venerated in this old and established culture, brought only warfare, disease and poverty.

'The Hierarch, Buried With His Dog'

Xoloitzcuintle is the spiritual guide of the Mexicans. And this story in the Aztec mythical garden is about two mythologies revolving around this dog.

The first mythology recounts that in the beginning there were two twin brothers, gods embodying the antagonistic face of the planet Venus in transit against the Sun. The first of these was Quetzalcoatl, the Feathered Serpent, representing life, light, and knowledge; his antagonistic brother was the god Xolotl, associated with the darkness.

After several attempts to give life to humans they realized that they had to descend into Mictlan and obtain the underworld bones that would make the creation of humanity possible. Sometimes Xolotl is omitted and only Quetzalcoatl descends through the bones of Mictlan but Xolotl is said to have offered himself to go down to the underworld despite the fact that it would have strong repercussions, and there he transformed into a dog, now known as Xoloitzcuintle.

The second legend is about Xolotl creating the dog out of a splinter Mictlantecuhtli gave him from the Bones of Life. .According to Aztec mythology, the god Xolotl made the Xoloitzcuintli from a sliver of the Bone of Life from which all mankind was made. Xolotl gave this gift to Man with the instruction to guard it with his life, and in exchange it would guide Man through the dangers of Mictlan (the Aztec underworld), toward the Evening Star in the Heavens.

Esteemed as guards and protectors, 'Xolos' were believed to safeguard the home from evil spirits as well as intruders. In ancient times Xolos were often sacrificed and buried with their masters in order to guide the soul on its journey to the underworld.

The Xolo held a place of special religious significance for many ancient cultures. Clay and ceramic effigies of Xolos date back over 3000 years and have been discovered in the tombs of the Toltec, Aztec, Mayan, Zapoteca, and Colima Indians.. 

article researched and written by Joani Jiannine 2020

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