Ix Chel (pronounced eesh chel) is the Mayan Goddess of the moon, female cycles, weaving, the Earth, and the guardian of midwives, fertility, and childbirth. She has many phases or archetypes and some of those were almost lost to time and the Spanish invasion and genocide. Have you ever noticed how important and what a major part of life weaving is in Central America and Mexico? This is no coincidence.
The maiden manifestation of Ix Chel shows her at her loom, weaving the cosmos. She has a snake on her head, showing her power over medicine. She’s youthful, hasn’t had children yet, and has time for all of this work she does. She is the embodiment of femininity.
In her manifestation of the mother, she's sitting in the crescent moon, signifying our cycles as women, her power over those cycles, as well as her desire to help us. It is said that the Mayans learned about time from women when they recorded their menstrual cycles. She’s holding a rabbit, a symbol of fertility and abundance. Her snake is gone - she’s way too busy raising her family to be doing much healing work for others.
The queen - lost to many for some time, we are welcoming her back to us, just as we can welcome this time in our own lives. This is the time between motherhood and being post-menopausal (the wise woman or crone phase of life). A magical time where more freedom is realized and more creativity and wisdom and clarity are being birthed. By the way, only a few species experience menopause - humans, pilot whales, and orcas. Menopausal orcas lead their pods and are the keepers of ecological knowledge - information being stored in these individuals.
Finally, as the wise woman or crone, Ix Chel again is accompanied by the serpent on her head; her healing, spiritual, and intuitive abilities are stronger than ever. She is the Goddess of medicine and the moon. Her connection to plants and water are also more powerful and you can see her with her pot of herbs and water; pouring them out, she can bring us blessings or damage with rain and storms, depending upon how we treat her body, the Earth. This is your time to be revered and realize this culmination of all your time here, and share your wisdom.
All of these symbols have more meanings and significance than I give them here, but this is an overview. Ix in maya means goddess or sacred feminine. Chel means rainbow or light. She has been called Lady Rainbow or Goddess of the Rainbow. There are many interpretations as she has many duties and oversees many aspects of this living Earth.
Mayan women made pilgrimages throughout their lives to the Temple of Ix Chel on the island of Cozumel (Cuzamil). In canoes, they would depart from Xcaret (Pole) and make the dangerous ~6 hour journey to the island. Only women were allowed there. All were safe and cared for and given purpose there. It was common for women to go as they moved into their cycles, to prepare for motherhood, and to mark the journey into the wise woman years.
I have wanted to make this pilgrimage myself for a few years! This journey and rite of passage clearly spoke to me as soon as I learned of it. Who can explain the draw for me to a place I’ve never been?! But as I move into my crone years, the pull is stronger and stronger and one day, I will make the journey that so many other women have made over thousands
Ix Chel is still very much a part of the lives of Mayan people... as she is for many of us who aren’t Mayan.
Isla Mujeres, the Island of Women, has also been a pilgrimage site. All of these photographs are from both Isla and Cozumel.