Wednesday, March 5, 2014

It's hot cocoa time!

What are the first words you learn when you learn another language? Hello, goodbye, yes, no, how are you, please, thank you, and bathroom. What’s the next word you learn? Chocolate, of course. (And if it isn't, maybe it should be.)

In Spanish class, we had a homework assignment involving the Mayans and chocolate and I became fascinated by the Mayan symbol for "cocoa." It looks like a feather and a fish and is actually very cute. You can see it here on this cocoa pot from Río Azul (460 AD).

You can learn more about the history of the Mayans and chocolate at and It's pretty interesting.

The cocoa glyph was so fascinating that I decided to make it part of something knitted. I wanted the glyph to be as authentic as possible, so I did some research into the written Mayan language. Two exceptionally helpful sites were and Here's what I gleaned, in a nutshell. The ancient Mayan language was a combination of phonetic glyphs (symbols), which represented syllable sounds, and picture glyphs, or logograms, which represented ideas. Individual glyphs were grouped together into a square format to convey a word or phrase.

All these glyphs are the same word: cacao.
The Mayan word for chocolate, kakaw (cacao), is put together with phonetic symbols. The fish was one of the symbols for the syllable "ka". Add the feather-like symbol for another "ka" sound and the circle and crescent for w(a), and you get "kakaw." Symbols could vary in exact appearance and arrangement, much as modern handwriting does.

Since the symbol was going to be part of a tea cozy, it seemed appropriate to show the chocolate being warmed. Enter the logogram for fire, which looks like a flame. I rearranged the cocoa symbol to fit the flame below it, and voila - hot chocolate!

This pattern was so much fun to design and knit. I just want to cuddle the little fish! The chart wouldn't be appropriate for plain stranded colorwork due to very long color floats, but in double-knitting, this isn't a problem. Bonus: it's reversible. There's no sewing involved, since the pieces are joined with i-cord.

Mayan Hot Cocoa Tea Cozy - $5.95
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View details at Ravelry | Patternfish

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