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Goddess Heritage

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IxChel, Maya Goddess of Healing



Who is she, I asked Maria.  My husband Fred and I were at Maria's studio during our visit to Belize.  We had made a special trip to see her work.  Maria gazed into my eyes and asked: You don't recognize her?

Not answering, I carefully studied the statue--an old woman with a serpent headdress, wearing a skirt decorated with crossbones, and carrying an upside-down water vessel

She spoke to me, I finally said.

You're a healer, Maria said.

I'm a psychologist who sees herself as a seeker.

Healer and seeker are the same.  Both want to heal themselves, Maria replied.  Both want to heal the world.

Can I hold her?  In response, Maria placed the statue in my hands.  As I caressed the figure, Maria looked lovingly: She is IxChel, the Maya goddess of healing, medicine, and midwifery. She is our Mother.

I had gone to Maria's place to see her sculptures. But I found much more than art.

 A Maya who lives at the border of Belize and Guatemala, Maria is a shaman and an artist. As we talked, we seemed to discovered an ancient bond, like sisters reuniting after a prolonged separation. We talked about healing, female empowerment, and of course, spirituality. 

Ixchel is the goddess of life and death, Maria said.  At that moment, Sol danced in and illuminated the room. She came over to us and kissed Maria. This is Sol, Maria smiled.

My niece is five years old.

Sol took me by the hand and led us into the patio, where I met her grandmother.  Her Abuela was kneeling down in front of a water bucket brushing her long white hair.  Maria pointed to herbs and flowers floating gently along with strands of hair in the bucket.  This is my mother's medicine, she said.

I sat down in front of Abuela.  She looked into my eyes and smiled.  Words were superfluous.  Time stopped.  I entered a meditative state.  Suddenly, Sol's laughter interrupted my trance.  I had no idea how much time had elapsed.  It was late and we needed to leave.  But not without IxChel.  As Fred purchased the statue, Maria handed me a piece of copal. Burn it in your office after you see your clients, she instructed.  Go to Caracol, our sacred place, Maria instructed. Caracol is not far away from here.

The next day, Fred and I traveled to Caracol, the largest Mayan ruins in Belize.  After days of constant rain, another gray day of downpour.  The bumpy ride on at best gravelly roads took nearly three hours.  The heavy rains made the ride challenging, at times dangerous, as we careened from one crater to the next through a deep red mud.

The rain lightened when we arrived at Caracol. Devoid of tourists, silvery mists enveloped the ruins, producing a chiaoscuro effect.  We breathed deeply of the wet vegetation and silence.  

We felt blessed. We had Caracol all to ourselves.

After wandering for a while, we climbed to the top of Caana (Sky Palace), the highest pyramid in Caracol.  From above, a drenched toucan flicked its head back and forth attempting to catch the occasional ray of sun slicing through the treetops. We gasped as a single ray broke through the haze to illuminate the lush green Mayan carpet below.

While Fred was absorbed in capturing the light with his camera, I could not help but to concentrate on the energy seeping from the ancient stones.  A sense of expansion bubbled up filling my veins and flowing out with my breath into the mists.  I felt like I was somehow weightless and flying over the ancient ruins.  What would it have been like to live here, to be Maya?

We descended the pyramid's steps just as other tourists were arriving.  Snaking our way back to the car, we suddenly came face-to-face with a giant Ceiba tree.  In the Mayan religion the Ceiba is the sacred tree that upholds the world. We felt drawn into the Ceiba's massive roots, and ran our fingers over its spiny protuberances, being pulled into the heart of Maya.  Our eyes were drawn skyward to an endless profusion of branches dripping pieces of heavenly clouds, the memory of an ancient hourglass. 

Our return from Caracol was bone jarring.  Numerous close calls with the now nearly impassable muddy sludge caused our driver to swear at the road.   Halfway back we encountered a car stuck fast in the red sludge.  The anxious young driver trying to push the vehicle literally begged us to take his unfortunate passengers -- a middle-aged couple from Iowa -- to town.  As we reassured the couple, Fred and I felt fortunate that our driver had avoided a catastrophic encounter with the extended torrents of sludge and precipice. 

Further on, the incessant jarring took its tole on aging bladders and I suggested that we stop at Maria's.  Upon our arrival, an obviously  surprised Maria welcomed us with a big smile.  She talked again of the Mayan religion while our traveling companions freshened themselves and browsed through the aisles of her stonework.

Do you want to see our sweat lodge?

We exited the main building and walked a stony path back to a circular thatched hut - surprisingly unnoticed during our previous visit.  As we entered I suddenly recalled a dream fragment from the previous night:  I was on an island, on a pilgrimage...Strange, there were only women here.  I told Maria. 

What else?

We were walking toward an arch--

With a huge figure in the center?  Maria interrupted me.

Yes, it was a woman figure.

You visited IxChel's sacred oracle. Wisdom-seeking women from all over the lands of Maya traveled to her revered sanctuary, Maria explained.  IxChel priestesses taught healing, midwifery, and divination to women pilgrims. 

What do you think about my dream

Maria stared into my face:  IxChel gave you a message, a gift.

I don't know what it is.

Maria shook her head, Don't think too much.  Let it come to you. 

Back home Maria's advice replayed in my mind for days, stretching to weeks until my dream finally incorporated itself into my reality.  I realized the meaning and the gift:  To me, IxChel represents a manifestation of my calling.  I feel honored and grateful to assist my clients in healing, re-birthing, and divining their lives. 


[photograph of Sol and Abuela by Frederick Jacobsen]






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As a psychologist, healer, and writer Lillian Comas is interested in spirituality, feminism, and multiculturalism.


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