Pilgrimage to Mother Goddess Ix’Chel
Since ancient times the Mayan women have undertaken pilgrimage to the coastal islands of Isla Mujeres (Island of Women) and Cozumel, on Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula. The voyage is an annual event, embarking by canoe or boat across the crystal clear waters of the Caribbean to reach their island destination. They bring offerings of small dolls, shells, corn and fruit to give up to the Mother Goddess Ix’Chel.
In the Mayan Pantheon, Ix’Chel is the goddess of childbirth and fertility. She watches over pregnant women and helps with safe deliveries. She is associated with the night and the moon. She pours water from a vessel, giving life to the lands and the crops. She commands the weather, storms, hurricanes and rains. She assists with healing baths and temazcales (sweat lodges). She is a shaman, a shapeshifter that takes on the form of the jaguar and blends into the jungles. She holds the feminine aspects of the weaver, building community and connections between people.
My Pilgrimage to Ix’Chel
My own journey to Isla Mujeres was a very personal one and more special to me than many of the sacred sites I have visited. For I had been given the spiritual name of Ix’Chel and I was very interested to discover what my connection with the goddess was about.
I had planned this adventure on my own and was traveling by myself. It was my first time in the Mayan part of Mexico. With ten days in the Yucatan my first stop was Isla Mujeres, so I took a cab from the airport right to the ferry to the island.
My pilgrimage began on the one-mile ferry ride across to the island. With the sea breeze blowing my hair I gazed down into the clear blue water and could see the coral and sea life below. I felt the blessings of the God Quetzalcoalt (or Kulkulkan to the Mayan) as I noticed a dragon-shaped cloud on the horizon.
I awoke early the following morning and decided I’d rent a bicycle to take me the 4.5 miles to the southern tip of the island, to the Temple of Ix’Chel. I wasn’t in great physical shape and not used to bike riding, but the island is fairly flat and a bike is a great way to get around there. From the spiritual perspective, the physical exertion can help bring the entire state of being more into alignment, as it clears the mind, focuses the attention, and can move us more into focus as we move towards our physical destination.
The bike trip nearly did me in. I wasn’t used to the direct heat of the tropical sun and quickly became somewhat dehydrated. Buying some water and resting, I realized I was bordering on sunstroke, so I found some shade and rested a bit more. The last mile or so became hilly and even harder to pedal, but finally I made it. I locked the bike and went in the souvenir shop where I bought more water and a hat. Though I’m not a big hat-wearer, I knew it would be very helpful here, and on the ride back.
I found the Temple of Ix’Chel was a very small temple, sitting alone and overlooking the southern-most tip of island. It is also the easternmost point of Mexico. The temple was damaged in the hurricane of 1988, so not much is left of it, except the rock base. Yet, it appears it was never more than a small temple, and being on the tip of the island it appears almost more like a lighthouse.
Contemplating this I found that my ego was a bit shattered. Ix’Chel is the goddess I am named for and connected with and all she gets is this little stump of a temple. The land was barren as well, just the grasses of the windswept point of the island.
I sat for a while and meditated near the temple. What came to me was the reminder that outward appearances mean little in the world of truth and the heart. What matters is so much deeper. The women came from everywhere to connect with Ix’Chel. They came because what she had was of the heart. They came because they loved her. They came because they could learn to bring more of the beauty and femininity of Ix’Chel into their families … to learn to be good mothers, to bring compassion and kindness, holding and caring.
Ix’Chel was more like the lighthouse that this promontory represented. She held the guiding principles for the women. She held the truth against which all the challenges and dramas of their life could be measured. She held with a steadfast certainty that wasn’t going anywhere, that would always bring them home.
I made my offering to Ix’Chel. I surrendered the ego. I surrendered the need to be special as a goddess, that in my truth and my light I would be even more, I would inspire and bring the guidance to others that I have always known was my piece to bring.
I walked down to the ocean. I watched the waters lap against the rocks. The ocean was intense and beautiful. In many spiritual practices the water represents the emotions. Being here the oceans and the storms are representative of the storms of chaos and emotion in our lives. Yet, when we hold fast to the truth, to the higher principles, we are like a lighthouse and we will always find our way home.
I felt complete. Though it seemed like little, in the simplicity of it all I had gained a lot. I said my goodbyes and went back to my bike for a much easier ride back to the hotel.