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The myth of the moon goddess - Cynthia Fay Davis

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The sun god was in love with the moon goddess, Ix Chel. But the goddess’ grandfather was very possessive, and would not let the sun god anywhere near his beloved granddaughter. Desperate to be together, they escaped and were ready to light up the sky with their powerful rays. Unfortunately, their love story doesn’t end happily ever after. Cynthia Fay Davis details the Maya myth of Ix Chel.

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Meet The Creators

  • Educator Cynthia Fay Davis
  • Director The Animation Project
  • Lead Creative Sammi WS Chan, Teresa Park, Zander Krakowiak
  • Designer Andrea Montufar, Dasle Gang, Jin-Lyn Chin
  • Mentor Cat Gulácsy, Pakorn Bupphavesa, Melody Shih
  • Music Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Nirana Singh, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-Checker Joseph Isaac
  • See more creators
Additional Resources for you to Explore
Due to the Yucatan Peninsula's tropical climate, the Spanish conquest, and the mere passing of time, many important traces of the deity's past are lost to us. Most of what we do know about Ix Chel came from a Mayan book called the Popol Vuh. This chronicle was an attempt by the Quiche Maya to preserve their religion in writing (usually transmitted orally), before their inevitable, forceful conversion to Christianity. The Maya codices were also very helpful sources of information. These folding books were written in hieroglyphic script. The Dresden Codex is the oldest surviving book from the Americas. Painted ceramic pottery and clay figurines gave us additional understanding.

Still, Ix Chel is not an easy goddess to describe. Over her thousands of years of existence, her names, the names of her husbands, her forms, her powers, and the stories told about her, all continually changed or coexisted. This next site and the following one allow a beginner to get an overall view of all that has been attributed to her.

Yet many disagree with these findings. Even though the Maya codices gave us as an enormous amount of visual information about her, they still needed to be interpreted. Some believe that the 19th century Romantic Movement in Europe and the United States allowed archeologists of the time to arrive at idealized assumptions and conclusions. In their search for a poetic moon goddess, they might have actually rolled two goddesses into one! 

Perhaps the most amazing remaining evidence of the goddess is her 2,000-year-old shrine at San Gervaio. Not only is it still standing, but continues to attract worshipers and tourists from far and wide. 

In many cultures goddess worship has been all but forgotten. Yet, the ever-changing Ix Chel has once again been transformed to meet modern-day needs and desires. Weavers appreciate her as much today as they did in ancient times, and her name is still closely associated with Maya healing. If you are interested in discovering more about moon goddesses from other cultures, the this site will provide you with a long list of names and regions to help you get started.  

If you would like to discover more goddess and heroine folktales, you are invited to visit Cynthia Davis’ website, Goddess and Heroine Folktales from around the World, to listen to audio stories with texts. 

Today's lesson was inspired by the research and writings of the archeologist and feminist author, Merlin Stone. Her first book on ancient goddess worship was called When God Was a Woman. In writing this book, her hope was to give women back their long-lost identity as leaders, by showing the world that females had once been seen as powerful and deeply respected.

Stone went on to write another book, Ancient Mirrors of Womanhood, about goddess and heroine folklore from around the world. The Myth of Ix Chel was one of the many beautiful tales that she chose for her collection.

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About TED-Ed Animations

TED-Ed Animations feature the words and ideas of educators brought to life by professional animators. Are you an educator or animator interested in creating a TED-Ed Animation? Nominate yourself here »

Meet The Creators

  • Educator Cynthia Fay Davis
  • Director The Animation Project
  • Lead Creative Sammi WS Chan, Teresa Park, Zander Krakowiak
  • Designer Andrea Montufar, Dasle Gang, Jin-Lyn Chin
  • Mentor Cat Gulácsy, Pakorn Bupphavesa, Melody Shih
  • Music Salil Bhayani, cAMP Studio
  • Sound Designer Nirana Singh, cAMP Studio
  • Director of Production Gerta Xhelo
  • Editorial Director Alex Rosenthal
  • Producer Bethany Cutmore-Scott
  • Editorial Producer Elizabeth Cox
  • Fact-Checker Joseph Isaac
  • See more creators