One of the things I’ve noticed in the Pagan circles I’m a part of is a lack of god/goddess imagery from Central America. Most of what I’m accustomed to seeing is European or a precursor to European Pagan religion such as Roman and Egyptian. So, I’d like to remedy this situation and introduce you to a few of the goddesses I encountered during my time in Mexico. Let’s start with my favorite: Ixchel.
According to the Ix Chel Center (http://www.holisticnp.com/ixchel.html), Ixchel is the ancient Maya goddess of fertility & healing. “Ix” means goddess of the feminine. “Chel” means rainbow or light. In other words, she is the: Lady of the Rainbow, Goddess of the Rainbow and Lady of Sacred Light. She is always associated with bodies of water, lakes, streams, rivers and creeks. Anywhere you would be likely to see a rainbow.
The predominant image of Ixchel comes from the Dresden Codex which is the oldest surviving book from the Americas and dates back to the 13th or 14th century. Here, she is portrayed in her Crone aspect. The symbols which surround her are as follows:
Serpent—The serpent is a powerful symbol in ancient Mayan culture. It represents may things including wisdom (Google Vision Serpent), rebirth, transformation, initiation, and Divine communication.
Water Jug—This vessel is symbolic of the womb and speaks of Ixchel’s role as midwife and goddess of childbearing. It also speaks of her power as a healer and one who brings new life into the world.
Crossbones—These are seen on her back. It is a Mayan symbol of foreboding/warning. It may indicate that over time Ixchel morphed into a warrior goddess in addition to her healing/birthing powers. Needless to say, she is a goddess to be reckoned with!
In addition to the Dresden Codex, other symbols which may accompany Ixchel speak of her Maiden and Mother aspects:
Moon—Scholars disagree regarding whether this symbol is attached to Ixchel. However, it makes perfect sense to me that it is associated with this powerful deity. The Moon is a Mayan symbol of regeneration and birth which ties in with the serpent and water jug found in the Dresden Codex. It also speaks of shadows and mystery which are common attributes of the goddess in most ancient cultures.
Rabbit—The rabbit is often synonymous with the moon in Mayan symbology. It is also a symbol of fertility in many cultures.
According to The Gods and Symbols of Ancient Mexico and the Maya by Mary Miller and Karl Taube, “At the time of the Spanish Conquest, Ixchel was a prominent Maya goddess, patroness of childbirth, pregnancy, and fertility. Women from all over Yucatan made long pilgrimages to seek her attention at shrines on Cozumel and Isla Mujeres…She also appears to be a patroness of of weaving, divination. and midwifery.” To add to the observation that few sources agree on Ixchel’s true identity, they add “She is probably not the beautiful young weaving woman given form in a number of Jaina figurines. Nor is there reason to think that she is the beautiful young moon goddess of Classic Maya art with whom her name has been widely identified: that young woman, sometimes depicted within the crescent of the moon, does not bear the name Ixchel or Chac Chel.”
So Ixchel came to represent many things to the Mayan people throughout the ages including other aspects I have not mentioned in this post such as earth goddess and patroness of weaving. Her image may be a powerful one for us to utilize as we contemplate and work with the Divine energy of the goddess.
Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbaths.com
I am surprised that Mayan scholars have not connected the reason for a rabbit as a symbol of the moon. In Western culture we see a “man in the moon” or a “witches moon” while most Eastern (Asian) cultures see a “rabbit in the moon”. It seems likely that the Mayan Moon Goddess sees a rabbit in the moon as did her ancestors (The Olmec ?) who most likely migrated from China a few thousand years ago. I have just created an image of IxChel sitting on a rabbit moon done in Chinese brush ink on rice paper.