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Ancient Sacred Mayan Journey: History

The Sacred Mayan Journey is a ritual in which the Maya braved the ocean on their canoes and crossed to Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel.

A journey back in time

More than 1000 years ago, people from all over the land of the Mayans carried out a yearly pilgrimage to worship the goddess Ixchel. This ritual began days before in the marketplace known as Kii’wik, where they traded for the different objects that were to be offered to the goddess.

Market days were great festivities for the valiant oarsmen who prepared to undertake the sacred journey crossing the ocean and to obtain special favors from the goddess of fertility for all their people.

The goddess Ixchel

Known as Ixchebelyax, Ix Hunic and Ix Hunieta, this deity ruled over fertility, health, water and vegetation, and was also considered inventor of painting and weaving. She was represented with the characteristics of the Moon: as a young deity corresponding to the full moon; like an old woman in the waning moon; or with one eye closed, lying dead, representing the new moon.

The religious importance of the Caribbean Sea in the Sacred Mayan Journey

The Caribbean Sea was of great importance to the Mayan culture, considered as a source of food, transportation, and, like the cenotes, it represented an entry to Xibalba, the underworld. Therefore, the sea voyage involved a transition to the beyond. The two main points of departure and arrival in the sea crossings by the ancient Maya were: Polé (Xcaret) and Cozumel.

The importance of Xcaret (Polé)

The name Polé comes from the Yucatecan Maya, Polé, derived from the root p'ol, which means "merchandise" and "treatment of merchants." The name of Xcaret comes from the deformation of the Castilian word "creek or inlet". The prefix "X" in Maya means "small." Thus, a translation for Xcaret can be "little inlet."

Polé (Xcaret) is mentioned in the Chilam Balam of Chumayel as a starting point for the Itzaes, Maya group descendant of the Putunes and Chontales, who established trade colonies and sea routes from the Mexican state of Tabasco to Belize and Honduras.

The importance of Cozumel

It was harbor for navigation, a central site for the trade network of the Post Classic period and main port of embarkation of the pilgrimages to Cozumel to worship the goddess Ixchel.

Kuzamil (today known as Cozumel) was one of the great pilgrimage sites, along with Tulum and Coba, where merchants and pilgrims arrived from all over the peninsula to render homage to Ixchel, the Mayan goddess of the moon.

The importance of Playa del Carmen (Xamanhá)

The village of Xamanhá (current day Playa del Carmen), that in Maya means "water from the North" was an embarkation port for the Mayan pilgrimages for more than 1,000 years. As the ancient Mayan culture declined, it became the first settlement of the early 20th century as a fishermen and farmers community.