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The Mayan Goddess Ixchel and the Island of Cozumel Mexico

Updated on September 25, 2019
Austinstar profile image

L. Cargill, Medical Laboratory Scientist, ASCP. Retired Blood Banker and Laboratorian. Loves to write about a wide range of subjects. Enjoy!

The Mayan Goddess Ixchel

Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of Fertility and Medicine
Ixchel, the Mayan Goddess of Fertility and Medicine | Source

Ixchel and the island of Cozumel...

Ixchel (pronounced Ish-Chel) is a well known Goddess of the Maya people. She is considered a woman's God and represents birth and medicine. She has been associated with the moon, particularly the waning moon as in an aging woman. Representations of lunar forces seem to be quite common among god cultures around the world. Women needed their gods too as men did.

Sometimes Ixchel is associated with the other rain gods. The Dresden Codex shows Ixchel with a jar of water that she is pouring out. Flowing water from a god can be interpreted as rain, as life, as birth (water breaking) and as a flood (disaster). Most interpret Ixchel's jar as holding water associated with birth and life.

The Yucatan peninsula of Mexico supported a large civilization of Maya. When Hernández de Córdoba, one of the Spanish Conquistadores, landed in the New World, one of the places he visited was the Island of Women or Isla Mujeres. This island had at one time been a favored place of Ixchel. At some point, the shrines and pilgrimages had shifted to Cozumel, a much larger island still within view of the mainland.

Many Mayan women took to canoes and headed to the island of Cozumel to pay homage to the goddess, A large Mayan ruin was found and carelessly bulldozed to pave the area for an airport during WWII. Another smaller, but still well preserved site called San Gervasio, was found more towards the interior of the island. There is an estimated 40 or so limestone buildings still standing that were originally constructed by the Maya around the time of the first century, C.E.

At the time of the conquistadors, about 40,000 inhabitants were present on the island of Cozumel. Most of them were wiped out from smallpox and syphilis brought by the Spaniards.

Mayan Glyph for Ixchel

The glyph associated with Ixhcel
The glyph associated with Ixhcel | Source

Main Mayan Gods

  • Ah Pukuh - God of Death
  • Bakab - God of Earth and Thunder
  • Balam - The Jaguar Gods
  • Chac - Major rain god
  • Ixchel - Goddess of fertility, medicine, weaving
  • Kinich Ahau - Sun God
  • Kulkulcan - The Feathered Serpent

The Maya of Today

The Maya people of today are much like the American Indian tribes. They are re-learning their heritage and deities. Much of the population and culture of the Yucatan was wiped out by the Spaniards and later on, the Mexicans. The state of Quintana Roo has always been much in rebellion with Mexico and at one point wanted to annex with Texas and bypass Mexico entirely.

The Mayan Indian has always been mathematically advanced and well versed in astronomy and architecture. Even without the wheel, they made paved roads and great pyramids. They almost completely lost their written language, but thanks to a few dedicated historians and archeologists, they have regained the ability to read their glyphs again.

Unfortunately, the world will never recover the knowledge that was burned by the Spanish priests who worked so hard to convert the "savages" to Christianity. Their story is quite similar to other conquered people. Hopefully, someday, humans will become more understanding and tolerant of other cultures. Perhaps Ixchel will smile.

Mayan Jaguar at Chichen Itza
Mayan Jaguar at Chichen Itza | Source

Cozumel, Isla Mujeres

Cozumel, Quintana Roo, Mexico

get directions

San Gervasio ruins of Ixchel

Cancún, Quintana Roo, Mexico

get directions

Cancun and the Island of Women - Isla Mujeres

This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.

© 2011 Lela

Comments - Have you visited the islands of the Goddess Ixchel?

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  • profile image


    8 years ago

    Best place ever!

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Yes me too! I had purchased our tickets before we got there - with 3 kids - I could only choose one tour and I picked Chichen. We also went to Selvatica - I had planned Chichen last - so did not have time to rebook another tour before our departure. I really wanted to see those Mayan ruin sites. I will have to keep watching Discovery:-)

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    I'm sorry you missed Chichen! It's an incredible sight. I did not get to see it all when I was there and have always wanted to go back. Did you at least go to Tulum? That's a pretty fabulous place too.

  • RealHousewife profile image

    Kelly Umphenour 

    9 years ago from St. Louis, MO

    Austinstar - excellent! I was just in Mexico - and was writing my next hub about that trip! I had purchased tickets to go to Chichen Itza - and the tour bus driver did not show up! I wanted to visit that site so much. I did have a great time with my family there. I will never forget it.

    While reading your article I could just imagine the Indian Women in canoes going to pay homage:-) Thank you for such an educational hub.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    [[[[Jane]]]]! Welcome back from vacation.

    Yep, that Apocalypto was pretty terrifying and I think you're right. The Maya may have been revving up the sacrifices. But there is another school of thought that the Maya weren't near as bloody as the Aztecs. The Aztecs pretty much stole everything from the Maya and Inca and Toltecs and revved it all up!

    The Maya were considered the smartest of all the South American Indians. Did you know that they never surrendered and at one time asked to annex to Texas instead of Mexico? The Yucatan could have been part of the Lone Star State! I would have voted for it.

  • Jane Bovary profile image

    Jane Bovary 

    9 years ago from The Fatal Shore

    Hey Austin, how I would love to visit these beautiful places. They were fascinating civilisations.

    Have you seen Apocalypto? That film had me on the edge of my seat. If Mel Gibson is to be believed (and he's probably not)...religion was screwing the Mayans up too. As the Mayan civilisation declined, the priests thought it would be a good idea to build more temples and rev up the numbers of human sacrifices. Need less to didn't work.

  • TahoeDoc profile image


    9 years ago from Lake Tahoe, California

    Great hub, very intersting and well written! Thanks for the info, I love this stuff. I visited Cozumel only once and it was amazing.

  • magnoliazz profile image


    9 years ago from Wisconsin

    Another great hub AustinStar!

    The Mayan ruins would be a great place to explore, however, I will wait until the turmoil in Mexico dies down, if it ever does. Such a shame.

    I read somewhere, there are many more Mayan ruins in the jungles, just waiting for someone to find them! That would be a trip worth taking.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Thanks, Audrey, er, Ixchel. You sure are writing a lot these days what with the contest going on. Congrats on the one win, hope there's more to come!

  • akirchner profile image

    Audrey Kirchner 

    9 years ago from Washington

    I have not visited - only Tiajuana and I'm not sure that qualifies as 'Mexico'.....but I do want to visit SOMEDAY when I can still stand upright. I also am thinking of changing my name to Ixchel - it has a kind of phlegmy sound to it doesn't it? It could almost sound Jewish...though I'm not Jewish no matter what everyone thinks with my 'oy vey'. Good piece!

  • christopheranton profile image

    Christopher Antony Meade 

    9 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom


    I can well believe that.


  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Chitchen Itza figures prominently on my hub about the 2012 Mayan prophecy. Yes, I have visited there and I was quite blown away! I would dearly love to spend a night there alone. I think it would be the highlight of my life.

    Ixchel did have an itch! She wore ocelot (jaguar) skins and those darn things are about as ixtchy as you can get. She obviously wore no bra, she was master of her domain too.

    Christopher, you are assuming I would be the victim instead of the priestess doing the cutting. I'm pretty sure I would be the one holding up the beating heart!

  • GusTheRedneck profile image

    Gustave Kilthau 

    9 years ago from USA

    Hi Lela (Austinstar) - I do not think that you are right about Ixchel smiling again. The poor gal was named after an ixch, something she has kept with her in discomfort,and it must bug her so as to limit any smiling genes. Just look at the image. No smile in the offing.

    Gus :-)))

    p.s.: This is another of your really fine articles, by the way.

  • christopheranton profile image

    Christopher Antony Meade 

    9 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom


    If you were a prisoner about to have your still beaten heart ripped from your body, by an obsidian knife wielding Aztec priest, I think you would be very happy to have someone intervene to suppress that practice.

    Not everything that people do to suppress other cultures is bad.

  • Truckstop Sally profile image

    Truckstop Sally 

    9 years ago

    Thanks for a quickie history lesson. Did you visit Chichen Itza when you were there? Beautiful.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Vegetarians think that eating meat is barbaric. Should we suppress that too?

    I don't think it's necessary to suppress anyone's practices. We should ask to teach them our ways and let them make up their own minds. What harm is asking for permission to live with a culture rather than enforcing death and mayhem? What drives mankind to conquer and suppress?

    Why was the invasion of the Americas necessary? Just to get some gold? How ridiculous!

  • christopheranton profile image

    Christopher Antony Meade 

    9 years ago from Gillingham Kent. United Kingdom

    I think it should be a good place to visit, with plenty of interesting people to talk to.

    Sadly it has almost always been the case, that when one culture conquered another, much of the defeated culture gets destroyed. But the question must be asked. What part is just cultural vandalism, and what part is necessary suppression of barbaric practices?

    For instance the pre conquest mexican cultures engaged in mass human sacrifice.

    Were the british in India wrong to suppress "Suttee" i.e the suicide of widows on the funeral pyres of their husbands, or the activities of the "Thugee" who indulged in ritual murder of travellers?

    Some could see that as cultural vandalism.

    I am not defending the conquistadors as such.

    But these issues are rarely black and white.

  • fi fi profile image

    fi fi 

    9 years ago from Niagara, Canada

    Really good read :)

  • Micky Dee profile image

    Micky Dee 

    9 years ago

    "Hopefully, someday, humans will become more understanding and tolerant of other cultures." Maybe the top 1% who own more of America than 94% of Americans will be tolerant of others. I'll hold my breath. I love history. Great write as usual Austinstar!

  • jennyjenny profile image


    9 years ago from Somewhere in Michigan

    Ah...Cozumel. Beautiful, Ancient, Gorgeous Cozumel. I want to go back. :) The experience was completely enlightening! I bet Maui is pretty awesome,

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Yes, I used to be a scuba diver extraordinaire! I even took the basic course three times to learn it thoroughly. I very nearly moved to Cozumel 20 years ago, but took a detour through Maui and met my husband there. Otherwise, I would be running the best therapeutic massage spa for divers ever! They stole my idea and now a lot of Cozumelenos are rich because of it.

    During my college years I spent every holiday at Cozumel and every vacation. I still don't understand why that ad for Maui caught my eye right when I was ready to move to Mexico. I guess it was destiny.

  • drbj profile image

    drbj and sherry 

    9 years ago from south Florida

    Lela - I have visited both Cozumel and Isla de Mujeres and if you are a scuba-diving enthusiast it is Paradise. The sea is clear blue-green with tropical fish everywhere on the reefs.

    Thanks for the excellent information about the Mayans. Maybe you are right and Ixchel is smiling again.

  • Austinstar profile imageAUTHOR


    9 years ago from Somewhere near the heart of Texas

    Well, every time a hurricane comes through and wipes most of the trash off, the tourist industry rebuilds it again. Right now, the tourists are winning. I came very close to moving to Cozumel about 20 years ago. I wouldn't do it now, though.

  • profile image


    9 years ago

    Yes. I spent some time in Cozumel so many years ago I may have predated the Maya! Not really,,,I saw all the old buildings they erected and the surviving village, still populated with "modern" Maya. Lovely spot, virtual paradise. Bob


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