Art & Culture

Ixchel and Itzamná: Maya Gods of the Sun and the Moon

Learn about two of the most important deities in the Maya cosmology

“… Itzamná is a god of heaven, associated with the Sun, Kinich Ahau, and the moon, Ixchel. The Sun God was especially adored in Izamal and the moon goddess in Cozumel…Adultery was first committed by the moon, who was unfaithful to her husband, the Sun.” This is what French anthropologist Jacques Soustelle wrote in his book, Los Mayas. He describes these gods as being of great importance in the Maya cosmovision.

Itzamnáaj or Itzamná is the creator god and is at the highest level; the K’inich Ajaw (Lord of the Solar Eye), is a manifestation of Itzamná. One of the symbols used to represent him is the glyph K’in (Sun) and a flower with four petals, alluding to the four cardinal points, among other meanings. The god is represented as an old man with strabismus (misalignment of the eyes), a symbol of hierarchy among the Mayas. It is an aesthetic trait that is highly appreciated, seen in some children destined for an important position.

CIxchel and Itzamná / Photo: Wikimedia Commons/Francis Robicsek

In order to learn more about the Maya of pre-hispanic times, why not visit Izamal? This beautiful pueblo magico* (magic village) is located approximately two hours from Playa del Carmen. Its name refers to Itzamná, the god of the sun, which is one of the reasons that the houses and buildings are painted yellow.

Ixchel, on the other hand, is a complex personality. This goddess, wife of Itzamná, is sometimes depicted as a young woman, while other times she appears as an old lady with a headdress of snakes and a jug spilling water. She was worshipped on the island of Cozumel, and there have been many great pilgrimages made there to receive her favours. As goddess of the moon, she presided over fertility, life, harvests, rainbows, art, weavers, and healers. Moreover, in her creative-destructive duality, she also represents tides and disasters.

*Denomination within the magic village program of the Ministry of Tourism of the federal government


Soustelle, Jacques. The Maya


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