Wednesday, May 22, 2024

Paris Codex

Paris Codex

The Paris Codex is called Codex Pérez. In addition, people know this book as the Codex Peresianus. It is one of the three pre-Columbian Maya books that are still surviving, dating to 900–1521 AD, which is the postclassic period of the chronology called "Mesoamerican." It was a part of the larger codex. However, only the current fragments of it remain which makes it the shortest of the four codices. The preservation of the document wasn't done properly, because of which the corners of all pages got damaged. As a result, some of the text was lost. This codex is related to a cycle of thirteen 20-year kʼatuns and covers information related to Maya astronomical signs.

People believe that the Paris Codex is painted in western Yucatán, at Mayapan. AD 1200–1525 is considered the late postclassic period. Around 1450, it has been dated. However, recently, an earlier date of 1185 was suggested by placing the document in early postclassic. AD 900–1200 is considered the period of early postclassic. The information about astronomy and the calendar in this codex remained consistent during the period from AD 731 to 987. This period was considered a Classic period cycle. It means that the codex is a copy of a much earlier document. The Bibliothèque Royale of Paris got it in 1832. Now, it is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France in Paris and it is in the Département des Manuscrits.

What Is The Paris Codex?

Paris Codex is a Maya manuscript made in the mid-fifteenth century. It is a screen-fold manuscript book made of amate paper. This codex originated from the Mayapán region of Yucatán, located in Mexico. Possibly, it is a copy of a book that dates from the classic period of Mesoamerican civilization.

It is assumed that this codex was in use during the Spanish arrival in the Yucatán in the early stage of the 16th century. This book describes almanacs and ritual calendars. Moreover, it contains astronomical data and some tools for prognostication.

More Information About Paris Codex:

The devotion of the codex is to the Mayan ritual. Also, it is devoted to the ceremony, which is held with the purpose of celebrating the end of a 20-year period. The Paris codex is fragmentary. Paper from tree bark is used to compose it. This codex looks like a long strip.  There are a total of eleven individual leaves containing 22 pages of columns where you can see images and glyphs of gods. Additionally, you will get to see the set of year-bearers in this codex that can give a hint to the date when it was created: a period between the Mayan history's Classic and Conquest periods.

The manuscript consists of eleven panels, most of which are painted on both sides. Once the book is unfolded, it will extend to 138 cm. However, two panels i.e. four pages are lost. This book is popular for its illustrated constellation pages.

Discovery Of Paris Codex:

In 1859, people started knowing about this codex when Léon de Rosny found it in a basket containing old papers. He saw this basket in the chimney's corner in the Bibliothèque Impériale in Paris. Scholars tested the codex around 25 years ago and cataloged this. When this document was found, it had a piece of paper that attributed it to the colonial Maya documents collection that Juan Pío Pérez gathered.

Time Reconning And Prognostication:

This one is a holy book of divination, just like the other surviving Maya books, including the Codex Dresden and the Codex Madrid. This screenfold shows some katuns, which refer to the recording history measurement unit of Maya. You can see the image of Lord of the Katun on all the pages of the document. It also contains glyphs to represent auguries and time periods. The reverse has information related to maize crop yields and the prognostication of rainfall. Additionally, it includes information about spirit forces. To conclude the manuscript, two pages are used, which showcase 13 constellations of the Maya sky.

Style Reflecting Yucatán Visual Tradition:

In this book, you can see images following the style of the East coast of Tulum, Tancah, Cobá, and Mayapán. Textual content as well as formal arrangement aspects help to recall those of the Mayapán stela that contains katuns. You can see aesthetic similarities in the wall paintings' rendering at Tancah, Cobá, and Tulum.

From Yucatán To Europe:

The accurate path that the codex travelled between Mexico and Europe is still not known to people. It is assumed that Paris Codex was available in a private collection before its arrival in Paris. This book got its nickname “Codex Peresianus” in the middle of the 19th century from a now lost paper wrapper around, on which "Pérez" was written.

Content Of Paris Codex:

The nature of this codex's content is ritual. In its one part, patron deities and some related rituals for a cycle of thirteen kʼatuns are described. Another fragment elaborated animals that represent the signs of astronomy and ecliptic, like a scorpion and a peccary. Moreover, you can see an image of the fragments of Maya "zodiac" on the two pages of this book. Annotations that are made with Latin characters are used to mark some of its pages.

On one side of this book, every page's normal format follows the same arrangement. You can see a standing depiction at the left hand side on every page. Along with this, you get to see a seated drawing on each page's right side. Every page contains the Ajaw Day glyph and is combined with a numerical coefficient to represent a date that marks a calendrical cycle's last day. The preservation of the document was not done properly, resulting in some text being lost. Fortunately, some texts survived that helped to demonstrate this document's major dates series correspond to the ending of kʼatun that helped in the construction of a few lost date glyphs again in the text. You can see seated figures here that are linked to a sidereal glyph. It means that these figures represent every kʼatun's ruling deity.

You can see two pages in the codex mentioning the days of the tzolkʼin 260-day cycle, which corresponds to the start of every solar year over fifty-two years. In the last two pages, you can see the drawing of a series of thirteen animals that represent the "zodiac". As per the conclusion of the document's modern studies, the end of the zodiac cycle represents a predilection to Mayan fatalism psychologically. According to this, the end of the Mayan Classic Period could be the outcome of a self-fulfilling prophecy.

Origin Of Paris Codex:

This codex is expected to be made in Yucatán like the other two generally accepted codices. J. Eric S. Thompson, who is an English Mayanist, thought that the codex was painted in western Yucatán and dated between AD 1250 and 1450. Bruce Love saw similarities between a scene on the codex's 11th page and Stela 1 at Mayapan. Depending on this, he said that this codex was produced In Mayapan, around 1450.

The Bottom Line:

In this article, we have discussed Paris Codex in detail, which is one of the three surviving pre-columbian Maya books. For further queries, feel free to ask us via comments. We are always here to guide you and answer your queries.

Frequently Asked Questions

  1. Where is the Paris Codex?

The Bibliothèque Royale of Paris acquired this codex in 1832. At present, it is held at the Bibliothèque Nationale de France, in the Département des Manuscrits.

  1. How many codices survive today?

Only three or four Maya codices have survived. 

  1. What does codex mean?

Codex refers to an ancient book with some stacked pages, which are hand-written.

Thursday, February 1, 2024



Selkie is a type of mythological creature that removes or wears its seal skin to shapeshift between seal & human forms. The source of this specific term  “selkie” is the Scots word for "seal." People pronounce the term as silkies, silkies, or selchies. These mythological creatures are even called selkie folk, which means 'seal folk.' They are especially associated with the Northern Isles of Scotland where Selkies are used to live as seals in the sea. But they shed their skins to turn themselves into a human on land. Let's dig into the article to learn more about selkie.

What is a Selkie?

Selkie is basically the Scots name for a seal. This mythical creature can become a human by removing its skin. According to some stories, when the Selkies transformed themselves into humans, they used to have webbed hands and feet. Most people believe that they have beautiful brown eyes and hair. People can find stories about selkie throughout Northwest Europe. But selkies are associated especially with Scotland.

Dual Nature Of Selkies:

They have a dual nature. For instance, while they can help humans and are friendly to them, they can be dangerous. When they form the shape of a human, they look seductive and attractive. In many stories, you can see that they have romantic or sexual relationships with people that sometimes results in children.

If someone hides or steals their seal skin, they plan to take revenge on them. In order to do so, they can even do different tricks, like marrying humans.  In such cases, marriages are not happy. The reason is that they always long for the sea. Once they find their skins, they will escape.

These mythological creatures have counterparts in several other cultures like Faroese, Icelandic, Irish, & Manx. People can sometimes confuse them with finfolk, mermaid, or seal-like creatures. However, Selkies have inspired a lot of works of art, literature, music, & film.

Shapeshifting Of Selkies:

Shapeshifting indicates their transformation into humans when they shed their seal coats. But Shapeshifting is draining for many non-magical Selkie. Several selkies are able to transform themselves and get the human form once every seven years. Some of them know how to transform the body more often through magic.

Sometimes, Selkies remain in human form for more than a day. If it happens, then they might suffer, grow ill, and even die. So, it is essential for them to have their seal coat to turn back into a seal. In case the coat is stolen or lost, they get trapped in human form. As a result, they can't return to the sea.

Appearance Of Selkies:

They can't be visually distinguished from the normal seals when they are in their natural form. Similarly, when they transform their body into humans, no one can identify them as a selkie.

Food Habits Of Selkies:

They like to eat fish, squid, shrimp, mollusks, crustaceans, & other seafood. When they are in human form, they can eat “human” foods. But seafood is always their favorite.

In Magical Society:

They have the capability of interacting with magical society rather frequently. Usually, they do it out of curiosity and also when they wish to have company. They know very well that there are risks if they come out from their aquatic home. Selkies could be trapped if their seal skins are stolen.  After living life and enjoying days on land, they start to feel uncomfortable. They want to return to the sea as they have been away from the sea for a long time. Sometimes, when their seal skins are stolen, they need to live a long time on land. As a result, they could even have children. But once they find their seal coats, they will return to the sea. It's not out of any apathy for their family that they made. Instead, due to the deep calling to return to their aquatic home and to turn themselves into their natural form, they are unable to ignore it, once they find their seal skins.

Usually, they are playful and very kind. Also, they are not harmful to humankind. But in order to take revenge on those who kill other Selkies, they sometimes can pose a threat. Generally, seal hunters can kill selkies. 

Usually, their kids are Selkies themselves or humans. They are seen with a few features that seals have. For instance, they have webbed skin between their fingers & toes. Children who get the form of Selkies often join with their selkie parents to their aquatic home when the selkie returns, generally after seven years because of how long the selkie parent needs to recharge the shapeshifting ability. The selkie parents often leave coins behind to those who raise their children (stuck in human form) on land.

Scottish Legend:

You should know that a lot of folk stories on Selkie are collected  from the Northern Isles (Orkney and Shetland).

In Orkney lore, selkie refers to a variety of seals who have greater size compared to the grey seal and can only transform their body into humans, and they are known as "selkie folk". This kind of large seals are seen on the islands, including:

  • the Greenland seal called the Harp Seal, and
  • the crested seal called the hooded seal.

In Shetland tradition, you can find some similar things are stated that say Mermaids and mermen like it to assume the shape of larger seals, and it is called Haaf-fish.

  • Selkie Wife And Human Lover:

There is a folk tale of a man who has stolen the skin of a female selkie. Then, he found her naked on the seashore. Later, to become his wife, he compels her. But the wife waits for many days in captivity and is longing for the sea, her actual home. She often gazes longingly at the ocean. Although she has several kids with the man she married, after getting her skin back, she will return to the ocean and abandon her children.

Her one kid even discovers or knows the whereabouts of the skin. She also had a husband of her kind, which is revealed sometimes. However, in some children's story versions, it is said that the selkie goes to her family on land once every year. Again, in a version, it is stated that no one in the family saw the selkie wife again in human form. However, the children would witness a large seal coming near them to greet them plaintively.

 Male Selkies are described as handsome when they transform themselves into human form. They also come with great seductive power over human women who have a lot of dissatisfaction in their lives, like married women who often wait for their fishermen husbands. There was a rumour in a popular tattletale version about a certain "Ursilla" of Orkney, where it was mentioned that she used to shed seven tears into the ocean in order to contact her male selkie.

  • Binding Rules And Sinful Origin:

According to the legends, selkies were able to turn into humans very often whenever the conditions of the tides were suitable. However, oral storytellers did not agree as to the time interval.

 According to Ursilla's rumour, the male selkie whom she contacted came to see her at the "seventh stream" or spring tide. Whereas in the ballad The Great Silkie of Sule Skerry, it is mentioned that the seal-husband promises to come back in seven years.

As per a version, selkie was able to assume human form once in seven years. The reason is that their bodies house condemned souls. A notion says that they are those humans who have committed sinful wrongdoing or fallen angels.


People from the Scottish Isles would kill seals to use their blubber and skin. During that time, people used to believe that a seal’s death because of killing might result in misfortune for the perpetrator.

There was a story of crofters who came with their sheep to graze upon holms within the Orkney Islands. In the month of summer, a person placed his seven sheep on the largest holm. But when he was returning home from grazing sheep, he killed a seal. At night, all of his sheep disappeared. However, the sheep of other crofters didn't disappear as they had not killed a seal. 

How Did Folklore Help Archeologists?

 Icelandic folk-tales:

Jón Árnason published a folk-tale called "Selshamurinn" that can provide an Icelandic analogue of the selkie folk story. In this story, you get to know how a man from Mýrdalur forced a woman who has transformed from seal to marry him after he took possession of her seal coat. This woman finds the key to the chest in her husband's regular clothes while he is getting ready for a Christmas outing. Later, the seal woman joined her male seal.

Jón Guðmundsson recorded another story called The Learned in 1641. As per her reports, these seal folk were denoted as sea-dwelling elves. The tale is about a man who comes towards a cave by the ocean where elves are dancing. All of the elves kept their seal skins in a line near the cave. Once they see the man, they rush to get their skins and then return to the sea. But he stole the smallest of the skins. As a result, the skin's owner attempts to retrieve her skin from him. But he took the hold of the young elf and took her to his home to make her wife. For two years, they were together and had two kids— a boy and a girl. The elf didn't have any affection or love for her land husband. During that time, the seal husband of that woman swims by the couple's home along the shore. After finding her skin, she escaped and was never seen again.

Irish folklore:

Hence, the mermaid, which is known as merrow in Hiberno-English, is called a seal-woman. In a story in Tralee, it was said that the Lee family was descended from a man who married a mermaid. However, she later runs away to join her seal husband, which suggests that she is like a seal-folk kind.

Selkies In Scottish Folklore:

In Celtic and Norse mythology, the most famous folktales involve selkies. Mythology says that they shed their skills to transform themselves into humans from seals. When you hear the selkie stories, you get to know about the passionate relationships between humans &  these creatures. But usually, such tales have unhappy endings and serve as cautionary tales.

Although there are many variations of selkie tales that we find throughout Scotland, the common element is that they need to cast off their seal coats for shapeshifting. These magical skins provide them the power to go back to their seal form and return to their aquatic home. In case their seal skins were stolen, the species continued to hold their human form until seal skin was discovered.

Selkie Children:

According to several versions of the selkie myth, the selkie kids are born with specific physical characteristics. Because of these, the Selkie children become different from normal kids.

In The Folklore of Orkney and Shetland, as per the story from Ernest Marwick, a woman has given birth to a son who has a seal's face after she married and loved a selkie man. Marwick mentioned that there was a group of selkie descendants who had greenish, white colored skin and they had cracks ( which exuded a fishy odor) in a few places on their bodies.

Modern Treatments:

George Mackay Brown, a Scottish poet, wrote the story's modern prose version. It is known as "Sealskin".


In this article, we have discussed almost every detail about selkie. Along with elaborating on their characteristics, appearance, food preferences, we have discussed their nature, behavior and so on. For further queries, do ask us via comments.

Frequently Asked Questions

  • What is the myth of the Selkie?

They are mainly associated with the Northern Isles of Scotland. Selkies lived as seals in the ocean, but to turn themselves into humans, they shed their skin.

  • Are selkies only female?

Selkie species also have male members in mythology. Usually, we know them as mermaids with seal attributes instead of fish. Besides, they can shed their skin to behave as humans on land. They have both males & females of their kind.

  •   What does the Selkie symbolize?

Selkies are the symbol of their calm & bountiful temperament, who save the lives of fishermen or kids who have fallen into the ocean.