Born to Weave: Traditions Inherited from a Goddess
by Elizabeth Olmedo for everMaya
Tradition holds that the Mayan Moon Goddess, Ixchel, taught the first woman how to weave. Wrought with cultural symbolism, vibrant colors, and elaborate motifs, Mayan mothers have passed down the art to their daughters from generation to generation for centuries.
Following tradition, a newborn girl is presented with the necessary tools for weaving. At the age of eight or nine, she receives her first lesson, watching her mother, older sisters, or older women in the community. Around the age of 11, the girl weaves her first piece of cloth.
For Mayan women, weaving presents an integral part of their daily lives and is viewed as one of their most important responsibilities as they are tasked with safeguarding and passing along the craft. Perfecting the skills required to weave is a badge of honor.
Aside from its religious and social aspects throughout history, weaving has held central significance to the indigenous women’s economic contribution to their families. Textiles, designs, and colors vary from one village to the next, and a woman demonstrates respect for her community by adhering to the esthetic rules and by following the cultural and social norms. A woman’s clothing identifies her as an individual within her culture while communicating the traditional Mayan beliefs about the universe.
Aspects of the Mayan culture are illustrated through metaphors woven into the material. For instance, the horizontal zigzag design found in many Chichicastenango (a town in Guatemala) weavings represent the mountains where the Maya Quiche grow their corn. Typically, patterns relate to aspects of everyday life, rituals, and nature.
Rich in heritage and culture, the symbolism encountered in Mayan weavings provides the weavers with a connection to their ancestors and traditions. Essentially, it reveals their identity — as an individual and as a member of the community. It is no wonder that young girls are groomed and prepared in this ancient, captivating art-form from the moment they enter the world.
At everMaya we are proud that our stylish handbags, beautiful pillow covers, and decorative lamps carry forward the timeless Mayan traditions of quality, handmade products to a new audience.