Suicide is a difficult subject to address because it’s so painful. I have lost three friends over the years due to suicide and each death has left its mark upon me. This is further complicated in Christian circles by the belief some espouse that suicide is an unforgivable sin. For the record, I am not one of those people! If God is “gracious and merciful, slow to anger and abounding in steadfast love” as the Torah says, how can this same God not embrace those whose pain and lack of clear thinking led them to such a desperate act. All three of my friends were not really in their right minds when they chose to take their lives. I cannot worship a Divine being who would refuse to embrace these lost lambs and condemn them to more suffering. Sermon over!
Enter Ixtab, the Mayan goddess of suicide we see as depicted in the Dresden Codex. Her name means “woman of the rope.” Ixtab is depicted as hanging from the sky by a rope which is coiled around her neck. Her eyes are closed in death and on one of her cheeks is a black circle which represents the discoloration of the flesh due to decomposition.
It is believed that those who committed suicide or died by hanging, together with slain warriors, sacrificial victims, priests, and woman who died in childbirth, went straight to eternal rest in paradise. Ixtab gathered them and brought them there. According to Wikipedia, It is here that “they enjoyed a delectable existence rewarded with delicious food and drink and resting under the shade of a pleasant tree, Yaxche, free from all want.”
I find this description of Ixtab very comforting. Although there is only this one surviving image of her, I would like to believe that this is how the goddess works in our world. She is the Mother of Compassion who comes to us in our most desperate hour and cradles us in her loving arms. She is, in the words of Jesus, the One who left the ninety-nine sheep on the mountains and went in search of the one that was lost until She found it. [Matt 18:12-13, Luke 15:3-6]
So, maybe it’s time for us to add this image of Ixtab to our iconography of the goddess. It might be very helpful to those who are coping with the loss of loved ones due to suicide.
Copyright ©2017 by David Taliesin, http://www.sabbatsandsabbath.com