IxChel

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IxChel!  I first heard about this goddess in 1994 when the book Sastun, by Dr. Rosita Arvigo, floated into my life.  I read the book in one sitting, in one night.  Being of Belizean heritage, this story of an American woman who lived in the jungles of Belize, studying herbs with one of the last known Mayan shaman healers of the region, had me absolutely intrigued and awakened.  Within six weeks of reading this true account of Dr. Rosita and Don Elijio Panti’s life, I was packed and moving to Belize.  Little did I know, at the time, the Goddess had beckoned.

I had a wild idea… and the Fool/Maiden (Tarot Card 0) set that journey in motion.  I found myself in a canoe on the Macal River in Belize, with a Mayan man, being rowed six miles upriver to Ixchel Farm, home and workplace of Dr. Rosita Arvigo.  Although I had the moxy to get myself to her doorstep, I didn’t quite have the self esteem to pronounce that I wanted to be her next apprentice.  Whatever did stumble out of my mouth, I’ll never quite forget her reply.  She told me I was unseasoned for work in the jungle, that I was a young girl who needed some life experience.  She told me to go have a baby.

Well, since she was my absolute heroine for the moment.  I took her advice seriously, and quite literally.  Without a husband, man or prospect of any mate, I decided it was time to have a child.  Quite honestly, a strong biological urge had been nagging me to do just this.  So without further ado, the next man who showed interest was my prey.  Hence, began my journey into motherhood.  I was living on a three mile island, Caye Caulker, Belize and had been forbidden by the local health officials to deliver my first child at home, seeing as how there was no doctor, not to mention a hospital, on the island.  I do believe this is where my true relationship with Ixchel, a fellow Caribbean islander, Goddess of fertility, childbirth, healing & herbs, rainbow, the moon and all female issues, began in earnest.

I called Dr. Rosita to ask for her advice in locating a midwife.  I was determined to stay at home, like my Belizean grandmother before me, who had all twelve kids in the family home. Dr. Rosita referred me to one of her main herbal teachers and ally’s in Belize; the lovely, kind Hortence Robinson, who could neither read or write, but had delivered over 2000 babies in her career as a midwife.  Needless to say, all went very well and my first son Angel entered the world, not quite as we all planned, but safe and sound, on a wooden terrace in the tropics, with his Papa, my black cat Eclipse and the seagrape tree as witnesses.  Hortence arrived shortly post delivery, but just in time to facilitate my after-care, which is where I began to experience firsthand Belize’s deep & rich history with massage, abdominal care, vaginal steams and herbs; all treatments over which Ixchel definitely presides.

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True to my lot in life, ever keen to take on more than I can manage, I went on to have five lovely children as the Empress (Tarot Card 3) walked hand in hand with me for many years.  Each and every child was delivered at home, three, in the conscientious care of indigenous midwives, and two, mysteriously, of my own accord.  Again, this is where Ixchel guided and led me through these deep rites of passage & initiations to womanhood.  I’m gonna be honest, nothing is going to make you feel stronger than delivering your own babies.  (please note:  I’m not recommending anyone to run out and do anything quite so steeped in the unknown).

Living in Meso-America will keep you right in the arms of Ixchel and once you have called upon her, be prepared to meet her in all her aspects.  She can be depicted as a beautiful Maiden holding onto her rabbit, bringing fertility, abundance and all the hope of youth.  She can be depicted as the caring Mother weaving the dreams of her life and the universe, working with the healing herbs, and offering her good medicine.  She can also be depicted as the Crone, the cosmic midwife and the destroyer, accompanied by the transformational snake on her head, wearing crossbones on her skirt and pouring out a water jug onto the Earth that may bring floods and rainstorms of destruction.

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I came to know her in every aspect she choose to appear.  As the Maiden she gifted me with endless fertility.  As the Mother, she offered me multiple webs to weave in which to care for my family.  As the Crone, she came to teach me about death, decay and tragic loss.

Shockingly, my fourth child and only daughter died (Tarot Card 13) on the island, at age two, of dysenterry.  My tropical dream was no longer so magical.  The path I walked, no-one coveted.  Ergo, Ix-Chel could not remain my most venerated Deity.  She was a force with whom to be reckoned.  I had to blame someone.  I blamed God/dess.  I was a grief-stricken mother whose spiritual path had failed her, a woman with no religion, a born-again atheist.

I relocated back to the USA to a small town, Ashland, Oregon (Tarot Card 16, the Tower).  I was driving one day with my friend, shortly after arriving, a huge double rainbow extended itself from one side of our 4 mile by 4 mile town, to the other.  It was so magnificent, we stopped the car to admire the width and breath and beauty of these rainbows (the picture below does not do the rainbow proper justice).  Although my friend could not possibly know the context of this appearance, I knew this was IxChel, The Lady Rainbow herself, communicating that she was indeed with me, that she had actually never forsaken me, and that I was to carry her with me to this new land.  The Goddess diaspora is real.  Atheism is terribly lonely.

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I surrendered to the spiritual journey once again and began my small practice of spiritual healing with a few humble offerings, but with IxChel always at my side as my patron guide & goddess.  It took six years in Ashland to come alive and heed her call to return to Belize to work with Dr. Rosita Arvigo in earnest.  Thus, I arrived at IxChel Farm, 24 years after my initial pilgrimage, this time by road & vehicle, carrying 24 pounds of rose quartz for my daughters grave, and enrolled as a student to participate in a Mayan spiritual healing course being offered to learn the art of spiritual bathing.  A dream realized.  Some things take time.

I needed each and every one of the multiple herbal flower baths we took through these trainings.  Layers upon layers of memories and grief were released into the land of Belize at IxChel Farm.

I came to realize that due to Dr. Rosita’s life path and story, she had brought me numerous gifts: she lured me back to my homeland where I could establish real roots in sweet Belize, she gifted me the omnipotent IxChel, she encouraged me to get on with my life as a mother, she guides me in healing with the plants and herbs of Belize, but most importantly, she opened the door for me to find my true life calling and purpose (Tarot Card 21, the World).

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As I approach menopause and the crone phase of life, I am busy researching a trip to Isla de Mujeres, the Island of Women, in Mexico which was IxChel’s original home.  I am spiritually preparing for this epic ceremonial pilgrimage to Her power place.  Historically women travelled to island three times in their life, to consecrate their menstruation, to pray for fertility & safe passage with childbirth and to bring offerings at menopause.  I am gathering up my gifts:  jade, clay statues, cocoa beans, turquoise, and hand woven objects; and planning, as well as anyone can plan for such a journey.  Lady Rainbow has looked after me and it is soon time to pay homage to this mysterious Goddess of the Moon (Tarot Card, 18).

This true tale, obviously, is to be continued…

In the Temple of Ixchel

I have come with my sisters before
where aqua waters arc their constant caress
around the southern point of the island.
Now when the ruins are nearly disappeared,
I walk this path that curves above the cliffs,
but once before,
I prayed and sang in procession.
Once before we laughed to be so safe
in the Temple of Ix Chelab Yax.
Faint music from the past—

flute and voice, gull,
something sweetly strung—
all for Her, the Fecund Mother.
Here I greet my gone-before,
who nods in glad surprise
to me, her elder descendant.
I walk the sea wall singing
for Daughter IxChel, for Mama Tonantzin.
The rocks remain, and the rolling sea,

where I return to honor Her.
Ask, Ixchel demands. And so, again, I do.
Goddess of Conception, change my view
and let me trust in Love.
Goddess of Birth,
in the time of the fifth sun, may I give light,
and may I learn to receive it.
Goddess of all Nurture,
grant that I and the world be done with blaming.
May I with the earth, rise as your daughter,
free and whole in love.

©Susa Silvermarie 2013

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Denai Grace Fuller, Cihuatochtli, is a Mama of five, Tarot Guide, Acolyte of IxChel, spiritual healer, flower essence practitioner, flower alchemist and student of Nahualism. She can be found @ http://www.moonflowermedicine.love

An Altar for the Ancestors!

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“Walking. I am listening to a deeper way. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.” -Linda Hogan, Native American Writer

My ancestral worship began early this year, at the end of August actually. I was fortunate enough to be invited into a wonderful circle of women for an in-depth story telling ritual. Our commitment was to hear each others life stories, in full, with complete attention & awareness, without judgement or critique, hopefully, with love & compassion. There were six of us and the process took approximately 7 non consecutive weeks of meeting with one another for a three-hour period. I didn’t know these women well, it was definitely a stretch to share brutal truths amongst strangers and yet, from the very beginning, it was clear to me that the ancestors had been summoned and were indeed intrigued and listening…

Maybe it’s because the intention was to tell our stories from the beginning, from our births and ancestry to present day. Imagine! How would you be able to fully tell ones life story without an inadvertent homage to all those who have come before you? Thus, we wove our tales, week after week, outdoors, by a gentle creek, with the sound of bubbling and moving water, with benevolent breezes and more oft than not, the summer’s heat. In witnessing, hearing and holding each other stories, there were tears, there were sighs, there were gasps, there was outrage, there was shock, there was compassion, there was respect and most of all there was acknowledgement for six wild women and their passionate life journey’s.

In completion, we decided to build an ancestral altar thereby introducing our ancestors to each other. Afterall, we had just heard the guts and the glory of all these family lineages. We had opened closets, pulled out skeletons, called on ghosts all while declaring our sovereignty from lineage traumas, challenges, patterns, addictions and other inflicted pains. We had stated our truths to the four corners of the universe and we were ready to release and celebrate all that we had been through, in our time together as a woman’s circle, and in our lifetimes of collected stories.

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We began by laying a red velvet clothe on the ground at the base of a tree, perhaps it was symbolic of a world tree. We topped the red with a sacred & pure white clothe. We began placing our photos & memorabilia, items such as a Jewish star, A Cherokee poem, a Catholic rosary decorated the altar, which also included candles, incense, alcohol, chocolate, fruit, toys, clothes, crystals, bowls, feathers, jewelry, essential oils, flowers. We collectively adorned a space filled with beauty, with heartfelt prayers, in deep reverence, we built our group ancestral altar and we allowed that sacred space to sit under the tree for 9 long days and nights.

I imagine that our ancestors spoke, while they laughed, and drank, possibly they smoked, maybe they even gambled, they definitely danced and celebrated in a joyous manner. They were remembered! When the six of us eventually returned to break down the altar, it was a solemn affair, a drum beat sounded, the wind rustled around our feet, we made our goodbyes, like a quiet dawn of a new morning, we took our ancestral talismans home, and this ritual was declared complete.

“No one can be free who has a thousand ancestors” -LM Montgomery

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It is that time of the year now, Halloween, when the veils are thinning, that I consciously, purposefully and willingly acknowledge my ancestors. From All Hallows Eve through All Saints Day to All Souls Day (October 31- November 2), I celebrate all three days of Day of the Dead. I have written in great length and detail on this topic before, so as not to repeat myself, this Samhein season, I will simply share my process in building an ancestral altar.

Begin by clearing a space in your home or garden to create an altar, quite often a designated table top will do just fine. I like to ritually clean it with white vinegar prior to spreading a beautiful piece of ceremonial clothe atop your chosen altar space (this varies from tradition to tradition, some require white or red clothes, some require clothe with fringe… in all matters of the esoteric world, do what feels correct to you). Next, it is important to maintain a clean & clear space, free of clutter, thus malignant or unwanted spiritual forces will not be attracted to your home. Afterall, we wouldn’t invite Great Gram over to a dirty house. Before I bring anything to the altar, I clear my home with a strong smudging ritual of Belizean copal… I begin with black copal to dispel any darkness, then I end with the white copal, which welcomes the heavenly & angelic presence of my ancestors. (Note: any smudge of your preference will do… sage, sweatgrass, cedar, etc…).

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Now, consecrate your space with a prayer. Because I follow a Native American path blended with some old school pagaen worship… I welcome in the four directions by turning to the east with an offering of AIR (a feather) and say, “I show honor and respect to the ancestors of my mother’s side.” I turn to the west with an offering of water (a glass) and say, “I show honor and respect to the ancestors of my father’s side.” I turn to the north with an offering of earth (a crystal) and say, “I show honor and respect to the spirits that are known to me.” Finally, I turn to the south with an offering of fire (a candle) and say, “I show honor and respect to the spirits that are unknown to me.”

“To my ancestors, all those remembered, I honor you. To my ancestors, all those whose names have been forgotten, I honor you. To my ancestors, those who dust is scattered to the four winds, I honor you. To my ancestors, those whose bones lie within the Earth. I honor you”.. http://www.africaspeaks.com/reasoning/index.php?topic=2775.0;wap2-

It is now time to conjure up your ancestors and decorate the altar. Contemplate who you are inviting to the altar this year. If you are not adept in this sort of ritual, please use extreme caution in inviting any deceased family members who committed suicide or who died a traumatic death, or anyone who was emotionally, physically, or sexually abusive and/or those who had an unresolved substance abuse. These characters tend to bring disruptive energies to your life if they have not been assisted in an elevated crossing. Pets? Yes, you can welcome deceased pets. Living people with who you are disenfranchised? No, do not put a picture of a living person on the altar lest your bring some harm to their lives.

Old photographs, objects of memorabilia, flags, stones from their birth country, dirt from a graveyard, jewelry, names written on paper, official documents, alcohol for the drinkers, tobacco for the smokers, family heirlooms, money, food, fruit, candy and lastly, flowers are a MUST. Some traditions insist on white flowers, white candles and white everything! Being from Caribbean ethnicity, I use lots of color!

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Prostrate yourself in front of this beautiful creation with a commitment to communicate with these wonderful relatives over the next days (or whatever time frame you deccide on, I leave my altar up til after the Winter Solstice holidays). Bring them food, refresh their water, direct prayers at them, share their stories with your living relatives. They are pleased to be called on, they would love to assist you in the current dilemmas of your life. Celebrate them! Remember them! Honor them! They are the road map that has led you to the place you currently find yourself in your own life.

We all will die, maybe we will be remembered, by a future ancestor, possibly our story will be told!

Death

Before us great Death stands
Our fate held close within his quiet hands.
When with proud joy we lift Life’s red wine
To drink deep of the mystic shining cup
And ecstasy through all our being leaps—
Death bows his head and weeps. Continue reading