Cozumel – Pilgrimage to Ixchel – San Gervasio
Ixchel was the goddess of fertility of the ancient Mayas. She was associated with several different attributes like the moon, water, child birth or the rain bow. She was one of several Jaguar Gods to which the ancient Mayas did worship to. An image of the Dresden Codex shows an old woman with claws instead of toes.
She is usually illustrated with a snake covering her head. Other traditions say, that she was a young woman and invented weaving techniques. Ixchel appears in different shapes and ages.
It seems that San Gervasio on the island Cozumel was the main place of worship for Ixchel. It had a similar importance as Chichén Itzá. Pilgrims from the whole Maya area the so called “Mayab” traveled to Cozumel.
The outbreak of small pocks was recorded by Spanish sources and the majority of the people on the island died short after the arrival of the Spanish conquerors
The site has only few big buildings remaining. The biggest is the pyramid called Ka’na Nah. Ka’na Nah in Mayan language means “Big House”.
Spanish chronicles report that the priests used a hollow figure with a hidden backdoor. A priest could enter into the statue and talk to the pilgrims who believed that a god would talk to them.
Only a small part of the area is open for visitors.
A very impressive structure is El Arco, the arch, that was reconstructed according to other known structures of this kind. Behind this arch a long ceremonial road, a Sac-Bé starts and leads to another small temple building called Nohoch Nah – the big building.
The distance between Cozumel and the Yucatán peninsula is just 18 miles. Ferry boats from Playa del Carmen need 30 minutes to reach the island. San Gervasio is in the north of the island. It’s possible to take a taxi to get there or if you have a more adventurous character you could rent a scooter for the small distance. The road is in a good condition and there is few traffic on the island.
The majority of tourists arrive on cruise ships on the island, but not many find their way to visit this ancient Maya site. Beside this, Cozumel is famous for the coral reef and has a strong attraction for divers.
I recommend to plan a visit at San Gervasio as early in the morning as possible. Due to heavy storms occur in this area during the hurricane season, there are not many high trees and therefor shadow is rare.
A good source for information about Ixchel is this article in Wikipedia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ixchel
I took the photos of this post during a travel in 2007. The picture of Ixchel is from Wikipedia.