Mayan Goddess Ixchel
Ixchel was a notable Mayan goddess, whose role in faith was sometimes vague and/or confusing. However, most have come to accept her as a feminine goddess of fertility and healing because of her name: “ix” meaning goddess of the feminine and “chel” meaning light or rainbow. Thus, she is often referred to as the Lady/Goddess of the Rainbow and Lady of the Sacred Light.
As a feminine and maternal goddess, the Ixchel symbolism was also associated with all bodies of water, from small creeks and streams to large lakes and seas – fitting, as these were places where one would be most likely to see a rainbow. As goddess of water and divination, the rainbow offered itself as the perfect symbol of Ixchel.
By gazing at it, the Mayans believed that they were invoking her infinite wisdom and allowing themselves to travel through the gateway to the divine.
Additionally, her roles in Mayan culture included female warrior, goddess of midwifery, and healer. However, we will focus on three of her main roles and their respective symbols: moon goddess, mother, and crone.
Symbolism Of Goddess Ixchel
The Maya Ixchel was often depicted as a serpent wearing a skirt and crossbones and carrying an upside-down vessel in her hands. From this vessel, she provided the gift of water (and thus life and sustenance) to the people of the Earth. Portraying this important goddess as a serpent was no accident.
The snake was one of the Mayans most sacred symbols for several reasons. First, the gaping hole of a snake’s mouth allowed it to swallow its prey whole, which was thought to signify a powerful metamorphosis that humans were incapable of performing.
This was a sacred magic beyond our realm. Also, serpents were associated with the sky and its wisdom, which further supports the idea of Ixchel as a sky goddess. The snake was also thought to be the representative of Ixchel’s healing powers, as serpents are associated with medicine. An ancient divine doctor, this goddess possessed unmatched intuitive forces.
Secondly, Ixchel meaning would have been viewed as the great Mother. Goddess of motherhood, the menstrual cycle, and fertility. It is no wonder that the moon was commonly used as one of her symbols. While she sits inside a crescent moon (holding a rabbit, I might add), Ixchel guides the formation of babies in the womb and determines their sex.
Her infinite wisdom is also reinforced with symbols of the moon. Creatures and deities of the night do not require the bright light of the sun to be successful in their endeavors. Rather, they remain silent, moving quietly, and gaining great wisdom from their dark treks.
To receive this wisdom is a major gift and must be earned and deserved through subtle and humble means, not brashness. The Mayans believed she used her wisdom, maternity, and quite frankly, old age to manipulate the dark shadows of night and restore balance to the Earth.
Because they are conducted in the dark, many of the negative and harsh experiences of life are thought to be the work of Ixchel, weaving consequences behind the scenes in order to teach valuable lessons to humans.
Finally, Ixchel meaning is also portrayed as the Crone. In these depictions, she also beholds all of the other symbols listed above. As an elderly woman, she is all-knowing. She possesses the gifts of medicine and thus represents the serpent.
She has been a mother and has matriculated toward further knowledge, making her the ruler of the night. As the Crone, she no longer requires the bright light to see what is there. She uses her great spiritual knowledge in the light of the moon, assisting the much younger mothers in procreation and raising children.
Ixchel the Crone, too, holds her vessel, blessing the Earth with rain and fertility and punishing it with floods and hurricanes. She was the ultimate in multi-faceted goddesses, which explains both the reverence and terror that she provoked in the ancient Mayans.