Literary divination.


Photo: The western sky in Belize, at sunset, on November 20th, 1012. Courtesy Neave Planetarium.


I spent the better part of my working day yesterday figuring out what day my novel starts on. Then, I could figure out what the sky would have looked like, which was extremely important to the ancient Maya and, so, would have had significant bearing on their actions that day.

I had only two constraints: that the day be in the year 1012, and fall during Wayeb’, the period of “nameless days” at the end of the solar year in the Maya calendar.

In the year 1012, that period began on November 20th. Venus was in its evening star phase, the moon was waning gibbous, and—most incredibly—Mercury was transiting the sun, which only happens once every seven or eight years. In addition, that day was 10 Eb’ in the Mayan divinatory calendar (which was distinct from the solar calendar). According to the K’iche’ Maya Day Keepers in Quetzaltenango, Guatemala, Eb’ is a good day for a man to ask a woman’s hand in marriage.

Well. And that answers a major unresolved plot point.

Working this way is like retro-divination. Facts provide surfaces on which my ideas can nucleate. And then new facts will constrain those ideas, which will lead to more ideas, which will lead to new facts.

And that is how a crystal grows.


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5 Comments on “Literary divination.”

  1. shanadubois says:

    A similar thing has been happening to me as I research my current wip. I learn a few facts and suddenly things start falling into place. I love it!

  2. jamjarhead says:

    I like retro-divination or anything that spurs imagination. One can also look forward to NOV 20th; I know I do.

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