Mayan Glyph Tangling

While doing the research for Creative Tribal Tangling, I came across some interesting facts. For this week, I want to challenge you to a fun activity. Draw your name in Mayan glyphs! Crazy, right? I can assure you that this is a lot of fun!

Here is a link to a .pdf file that explains Mayan Glyphs in detail.

The complete Writing in Maya Glyphs Book 1 – Names, Places, and Simple Sentences (if you can, print page 17-22)

Alternatively, you can read this book here:

I will give you a quick summary and include a few step-by-step instructions on how to draw the glyphs.

Palenque Glyphs

The ancient Maya created their very own way of writing by carving these symbols into stone or into wood.

Tortuguero Box

I find these glyphs incredibly decorative.

Names, for example, can be written in glyphs by splitting it into syllables. “Ina” would be split into 2 syllables: I-NA

Many names, however, have syllables that are unknown in the Mayan language. The closest resemblance you find if you pronounce your name in Spanish.

Tricia Long helped me along here. Her name, Patricia, is pronounced in Spanish as Pa-chi-si-a.


The glyphs are written in a specific, yet logical order:

Glyph order

You find more options in the .pdf file.

If we now have a look at the order in which Tricia wrote her name, it all makes a lot of sense.

Patricia Glyph

Brenda deBock played along as well. She picked her middle name and created 2 different versions.


And here is a digital version Bob Chernow created of his name in glyphs, using a stone background:


Lisa Jane had a go at this too:

Maya Glyph Lisa

And finally, here is Ina in Mayan glyphs – I added shading.

Maya Glyph Ina

So far we all had a ton of fun 🙂 I will have this printed on a T-Shirt.

The challenge is, how can we incorporate this into our tangles?

Before that I would like to show you how to deconstruct a glyph (and I picked the most difficult ones!) :
With a pencil draw your block. Then find the shapes that you recognize. Build up the image slowly. You probably need to sketch the lines before committing to it in pen.

Here I deconstructed one of the A-Glyphs:

Maya Glyph A

And this is an example of how I deconstructed the E-Glyph:

Maya Glyph E

This one was really hard as I couldn’t find a proper indicator of how to draw the shape in Step 2. And it is also not a shape that we would normally draw when tangling. I penciled and erased, penciled and erased until I got it right.

The positive aspect is, the less perfect you draw, the more authentic the glyph will appear!
Scrapping Chel practiced tangling with a brush pen. It turned out that the imperfections of the brush pen make the glyphs look more authentic than the glyphs drawn on a tablet, where you have total line control.

Maya Glyphs by Scrapping Chel

Can you figure out what she wrote? 🙂

Lisa Jane created this beautiful tile. She incorporated the glyph for her name with Creative Tribal Tangling:

Maya Tribal Artwork by Lisa Jane

I played around and wrote my name with glyphs I found, that ‘should’ represent I-N-A. Not sure if any Mayan can read it like this, but … <shrugging shoulders> it’s art 🙂

Maya Tribal Artwork by Ina Sonnenmoser

As you can see, the more you practice, the better the result.

To get back to Creative Pattern Tangling … I am now looking at all these glyphs from a different perspective: What shapes are used in the glyphs and in what combination?

Analysing Mayan Glyphs

For demonstration purposes, I marked some of the shapes on the photo.

Analysing Mayan Glyphs 2

  1. This spiral shape (volute) we use in tangling
  2. Circles we use in tangling
  3. Rounded rectangles with an S-Shape inside is familiar too
  4. Connected U-Shapes
  5. Another ‘sausage’ with an inner aura
  6. C’s and L’s
  7. More Volute shapes
  8. Auras – lots of auras!
  9. Again the ‘sausage’ with 3 S’Shapes
  10. Brackets
  11. X’s filled with C-Shapes
  12. Longer U-shapes and a connected Spiral
  13. .. and most importantly: everything is drawn in a little block

Now we can start creating a pattern! (Please note: This is not an official step-out YET) I need to show repetition and proper artwork before I can add it to the website)

Mayan Glyph Fantasia by Ina Sonnenmoser

I used the first three shapes and combined them to create this pattern. As you can imagine, there are ENDLESS possibilities! My head is spinning just thinking about all the amazing patterns that can be created! I can see myself using multiple Mayan Glyphs as borders or in a Mandala. And you can make up your own too!

I also found an online translator! However, this translates every single letter and not syllables – but for fun, you might want to have a look at it: Mayan Translator and 3D Mayan Glyph Translator

This site here offers the MAYA HIEROGLYPH DICTIONARY and I think it’s a lot more accurate as it includes syllabic glyphs as well!

I could go on and on … especially creating patterns and drawing Mandalas. But, duty calls!

Hopefully, this write-up inspires you to try something new this weekend. Never a dull moment ..haha..


2 thoughts on “Mayan Glyph Tangling

  • September 20, 2019 at 10:29 am

    You are amazing!


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