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.

The Arch - San Gervasio - Cozumel
The Arch – San Gervasio – Cozumel

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 big house - San Gervasio -Cozumel
The big house – San Gervasio -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 goddess Ixchel from the Dresden Codex - Source: Wikipedia
The goddess Ixchel from the Dresden Codex – Source: Wikipedia

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.

Spider - San Gervasio Cozumel
Spider – San Gervasio Cozumel

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.

The Tall House - San Gervasio Cozumel
The Tall House – San Gervasio Cozumel
The path - San Gervasio - Cozumel
The path – San Gervasio – Cozumel
Structure - Cozumel - San Gervasio
Structure – Cozumel – San Gervasio

A good source for information about Ixchel is this article in Wikipedia:
I took the photos of this post during a travel in 2007. The picture of Ixchel is from Wikipedia.

>>> Read more about the Maya sites at the Riviera Maya

Christian Schoen

Christian Schoen is a globetrotter, travel writer and author of the very successful travel guide "The Maya Sites - Hidden Treasures of the Rain Forest". He loves to visit temples, pyramids and any kind of ancient ruins. The SLR in his hand, he can be met on adventurous hiking tours in tropical jungle landscapes - sometimes - or just somewhere in his neighbourhood, the Black Forest Mountains in Germany.

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