The Mexican island of Cozumel, in the Caribbean Sea, is a living sanctuary for those seeking the favours of the moon Goddess Ix Chel (also known as Ixchel), the lady of medicines and childbirth. It was the latter role for which Ix Chel was most famed, and to this day women seek Her assistance in all matters of fertility and birth — whether it be a longed-for child or a creative project which needs additional focus. As the Goddess of mothers, babies, and most especially of birth, She commands powers of transformation and initiation, whilst also offering Her guidance in matters of healing and medicine. As Goddess of the moon Ix Chel has also been considered to have three forms — that of the young woman, ready to conceive; the mother with children around Her; and the aged crone, midwife of the mysteries of death.
Ix Chel is also a Goddess who has two faces: that of a benevolent mother, and that of a malevolent presence. As such, She is not a Goddess to be trifled with, for Her moods can shift as suddenly as a cloud darkening a bright spring day. Indeed, the power of rain also falls under Her dominion, though whether Her waters were found to be destructive — in the form of a flood said to cleanse the world of all evils — or nurturing, remains to be seen. As a water deity, Ix Chel is considered to be a lady of healing and fertility, and in particular the waters of Cozumel’s many temples were said to offer curative properties as well as aid in both conception and labour. A statue of Ix Chel placed beneath the bed was said to ease delivery of a child, while one of Her symbols is the jar, said to be representative of the womb, and of the amniotic fluids around a fetus. The opening of said jar represents both birth and life-sustaining (or destroying) rain pouring down upon the people.
As well as being a fertility and healing Goddess, Ix Chel governs sexual relationships, intuition, and the weaving of fabric and cloth. She was often called upon to bless young women with the skill to dye, spin, and weave cotton, and many woven items were also considered sacred to Her.
Many of Ix Chel’s myths have been lost to time, and it is likely that much Maya myth was passed down as an oral tradition — in Ix Chel’s case, this possibly happened in the pus, or steambaths, which were favoured by new mothers after childbirth as the combination of healing waters and herbal decoctions were considered to restore fertility and promote lactation. However, a myth survives in which Ix Chel took the sun as Her lover, but She was killed by Her grandfather in a jealous rage. For thirteen days, grieving dragonflies cried over Ix Chel, until She rose again and returned with Her lover to his palace. However, in time, the sun also became jealous of Ix Chel’s friendship with his brother, the morning star. After much turmoil, Ix Chel left the sun’s bed permanently, and made Herself invisible whenever he was near — hence, the moon rising as the sun sets, and vice versa. She was also thought to hide within rainbows.
In addition to dragonflies, Ix Chel is connected with the hare, snake, and jaguar. The latter is one of Her forms when She shapeshifts, and She is commonly depicted with the claws of an eagle and is crowned with feathers or a snake. A statue of Ix Chel as mother stands on Isla Mujeres, an island to the north of Cozumel, whilst another depicting the Goddess in Her crone form can be located in Xcaret Park, on the coast of Mexico’s Quintana Roo. Ruined temples dedicated to Her can be found on Cozumel itself, which is still a place of pilgrimage for those hoping to curry the Goddess’ favour.
Ix Chel’s role — particularly in fertility, conception, pregnancy, and birth — has little changed over the centuries; She is still considered to be one of the most appropriate deities to petition and work with for aid in any or all of these areas, and also where creativity and crafts are involved. Considered by some to be the First Woman, Ix Chel’s line stretches out before Her, within all the women who have birthed and died, over and over, throughout time — and to us, Her legacy, Her hand is only a reach away.
Ann, M., and Imel, D. M. (1993). Goddesses in World Mythology. Oxford: Oxford University Press, p.28.
Groark, Kevin P. (1997). To Warm the Blood, To Warm the Flesh: The Role of the Steambath in Highland Maya (Tzotzil-Tzeltal) Ethnomedicine. Journal of Latin American Lore 20-1, pp.3-96.
Marashinksy, A. S., and Janto, H. (1997). The Goddess Oracle. Boston: Element, pp.91-93.
Mihaltses, B. M. (2012). Gathering for Goddess. Schertz: Feminine Divine Works, pp.237-257.
Monaghan, P. (2014). Encyclopedia of Goddesses and Heroines (Revised Edition). Novato: New World Library, pp.346-347.
Tate, K. (2006). Sacred Places of Goddess: 108 Destinations. San Francisco: Consortium of Collective Consciousness, p.304, pp.321-322, pp.325-328, p.381.
Note: On a fairly regular basis, I’ll randomly select a Goddess to talk about here on the blog. Want to know more? I’ll share some of my personal thoughts and experiences with this aspect of the Divine Feminine in the next instalment of my monthly newsletter, Reflections. You can sign up below (and when you do, you’ll get a link to my eBook, “My Personal Favourite Vibrational Essences”, straight to your inbox.)