Ix Chel, Weaver of the Cosmos
How we can all be a bit more spider!
By Dr. Rosita Arvigo | Louise Crockart | Donna Zubrod
Maya legends recall that Ix Chel, Goddess of weaving, the moon, the earth, and guardian of mothers and midwives, daily weaves the universe anew at her cosmic loom. Maya culture honours the importance of weaving, in both physical and metaphysical terms, connecting the Maya to their sacred cultural universe. It’s said that Ix Chel taught the first woman to weave, and in doing so weaves the past and future together.
Family income was partly dependent on the women’s weaving. This gendered tendency started at birth when pre-conquest midwives brought gifts for newborn children. Infant girls received toy sized looms and spindles; infant boys received a tiny shield, a spear and a loincloth.
Before the Spanish Conquest of Central America, it was customary for Maya people to pay what we think of as taxes to their leaders and trade in the marketplace with a variety of valuable commodities, woven cloth being highly prized, along with feathers, chocolate, spices and precious stones.
The image of Ix Chel in her Maidenhood manifestation, depicts a young woman sitting with her backstrap loom fixed to the Ceiba tree, weaving the cosmos. The image conjures ideas of knowledge and skills from past and present being woven into one piece of cloth. The loom tangibly connects to the past via the sacred Ceiba tree, signifier of the Maya universe; its roots in the ancient ancestors and traditions, while the branches and leaves reach to the heavens, the universe, and all that is potential.
Ix Chel has many supporting totems depicting the varied aspects of Mother Gaia, and so spiders and their webs are associated with this weaving of self into one’s own reality and potential supported by all that has gone before.
Totems of Ix Chel and Spiders
Spiders are weavers, their silk is strong, flexible and luminous. The spider is a symbol of creativity, showing its power in the way it spins its web, never giving up when the web is broken or disturbed.
When encountering a spider or its web, what thoughts come up for you?
Spider webs can bring focus to our life choices. Just as the spider weaves a web, we to weave our own lives. No two spider webs are the same, and the intricacy of this creation has always fascinated humans. The web reminds us that our choices construct our lives. When a spider’s web gets broken, it is remade. Maybe that is a sign to rebuild our lives when things don’t go quite as planned.
We can look to Ix Chel and the spider as a symbol to try again and never give up; to cast our web far and wide and see what it brings.
In gratitude to Maya Traditions Foundation for permission to use their logo of Ix Chel weaving. To read more about the role of weaving in the Maya culture: