Mesoamerican Culture, History, and Religion

Identity Of The Fire Drill Constellation

Good news! My dear friend Shock answered my plea for help regarding the identity of the Fire Drill constellation that was discussed in my article on greeting the dusk. She’s studied the scholarship on Mesoamerican archaeoastronomy extensively and kindly popped in to shed some light on this issue. This is what she had to say regarding the identity of the Fire Drill:

“Anyway… About the fire drill constellation. It’s Orion’s Belt, clear as day if you look at the evidence. The Pleiades couldn’t possibly be it. It’s a seven/six star cluster within Taurus and used as a reference point for the Fire Drill in the primary source material. Taurus itself couldn’t be it for these same reasons and the fact that its other noticeable stars aren’t in a straight line. The Cygnus idea makes little to no sense considering that Sahagun clearly states in book 7 of the Florentine that the constellation is near the Pleiades. Cygnus is NOWHERE near the Pleiades in the night’s sky. In book 7, look up two parts. First, the fire drill part in Nahuatl and then Sahagun’s commentary in Spanish under Castor and Pollux. Several things are clear; the Fire Drill needs to be by Gemnini and it needs to be by Taurus. It also has to be a straight line of three bright stars. The straightness is reiterated in the Nahuatl text numerous times. And what’s right by both of these, with three bright stars? Orion’s belt. And then you have the comparative ethnography stuff from FAMSI, plus there’s more stuff similar to that which is closer to Mesoamerica.”

So, it does look like the best candidate for the Fire Drill constellation is the stars of Orion’s Belt!

Also, apparently the guy who favors the Northern Cross as the Fire Drill is a poor-quality “scholar” associated with the atrocious “” site, so I’d recommend ignoring him beyond the value of knowing what the crap arguments are out there.

Thanks Shock!

Incidentally, I have updated my other post with this important information for convenience and clarity.


9 responses

  1. Xuchilpaba

    It’s weird you made all these blogs because just the other day i was looking up at the night sky reflecting on how Orion was my fave constellation while looking at his belt. 🙂

    October 3, 2008 at 12:35 PM

  2. cehualli

    Hahaha, gotta love synchronicity, eh? You’re lucky that you can see the stars. Ever since I moved to Boston, I can’t see them any more. That’s the one shitty part about living in a major city, the damn light pollution. At least when I’m sitting on the beach in Rockport during my yearly trip up there, I get to see EVERYTHING. It’s a pretty small town so there’s not much light at night, and it’s jet black over the bay. I can see zillions of stars out there then, and I’ve had great luck for seeing “earth grazer” meteors every year I’ve been.

    Incidentally, speaking of Orion’s belt, I’ve found references that the Aztecs would mark their wrists with the Fire Drill sign. Instead of using ink like a tattoo, they’d burn the three dots onto the skin — it’d be a type of scarification I guess. It was said that those who didn’t have the constellation marked on their wrists while alive would have fires drilled on their wrists in Mictlan.

    October 4, 2008 at 1:06 AM

  3. Xuchilpaba

    No way you just did not type that!


    I watched this show about this girl that BURNED the constellation Orion into her arm because she loved it so much. I always think about that when i look at it. This is very creepy.

    Stop reading my mind! :p

    October 4, 2008 at 1:12 AM

  4. cehualli


    This is great! I love it when funny coincidences like this happen.

    Yep, Sahagun recorded the ritual of marking the wrists with the Fire Drill. It was both sides of the wrist, three dots would be burned. Both wrists were burned.

    Another tidbit I came across this evening in Book 7 of the FC — it appears that three of the nighttime incense offerings were for Yohualtecuhtli and His symbol, the Fire Drill constellation. These were at sundown/the constellation’s appearance, “well into the night” (the Spanish commentary says 10PM), and right before dawn, as things were starting to become light and the earth was becoming visible. At those times, the priests burned incense and offered their blood.

    October 4, 2008 at 1:24 AM

  5. Xuchilpaba

    Oh ok thanks. 🙂 There IS so much I want to ask you because you have the entire set.

    October 4, 2008 at 2:00 AM

  6. Shock

    Yeah… I’ve been thinking about the wrist burning thing for awhile. Body modification for beauty seemed to be rare amongst the Aztecs, but the body mods for ritual purposes does exist. As a side note, it’s said that it’s only men who had the wrist burning done, but I’d rather be safe than sorry, so I’ve been contemplating finding a tat shop that does branding.

    October 9, 2008 at 8:24 PM

  7. cehualli

    Or you’d see kinda dual-function mods, like some of the piercings where the jewelry worn was both for beauty and to show off your social status, especially warriors and their rank earned by taking captives.

    Yeah, the gender thing for the wrist burning is odd, because I swear some of the language in the FC seemed to indicate that it was everyone, without any gender specification. But this is off the top of my head, and I’ve got a couple shots of tequila in me capping off a very long, tedious, boring workday, soooo… I’ll have to double-check when I’m better rested. I wonder if there’s anything useful in the world of modern practices that have survived — I do recall a passing reference to similar practices among North American tribes on the FAMSI mailing list. Got no way to confirm anything though.

    Bah, I need to go shower and sleep, I’m useless right now.

    October 10, 2008 at 12:47 AM

  8. Yaotl

    Beautiful stuff . . . I myself have the marks . . . It’s something my grandparents did when I was younger . . . They both passed when I was nine so I haven’t had the same education since then . . . Other than notes I got and self education . . . All this helps a lot also helps clear stuff up . . .

    Thank you

    May 21, 2011 at 3:47 PM

  9. Beautiful stuff . . . I myself have the marks . . . It’s something my grandparents did when I was younger . . . They both passed when I was nine so I haven’t had the same education since then . . . Other than notes I got and self education . . . All this helps a lot also helps clear stuff up . . .

    Thank you

    May 21, 2011 at 4:01 PM

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