Thursday, January 08, 2009

Maya Deity of the Day: Ixchel

In modern representations Ixchel is usually sensualised. However, the Maya themselves liked to depict her as a hideous old crone crowned by a snake.

The confusion of identities persists to this day. It would seem that the classic Maya moon goddess was more often represented as a young and fertile woman, so Ixchel, as seen here, was probably associated principally with the waning moon, which the Maya like to describe as "our grandmother".

Diego de Landa referred to her as "the goddess of making babies," and we can today ascertain that Ixchel was venerated for her role in midwifery and other kinds of practical healthcare...and divination.

Las Casas relates a myth from Verapaz in which Ixchel and her hubbie Itzamná, have thirteen sons, two of which (corresponding to the Howler Monkey Gods) go on to create heaven and earth. In another she runs off with the king of the vultures and he has to enter his rival's palace in disguise in order to retrieve her.

In the 16th century Cortés discovered that Cozumel had become a major centre of goddess worship and the stack of feminine idols found on another nearby island by Hernández de Córdoba, led to it being christened Isla Mujeres.


1 comment:

scott said...

Good stuff. I think I prefer the sensualized image of Ixchel...

(BTW the Museo Ixchel at the Universidad Francisco Marroquin is pretty amazing)