If you share our captivation with the Mesoamerican Indians, you must be equally, if not more, intrigued by their ability to communicate through symbols. The Mayan civilization was so advanced that we are still unearthing new stories from scripts that have existed for centuries.
In this article, we seek to establish the Mayan symbol of love. We will look at a couple of Mayan symbols associated with love and justify why they were classified as such. We will also highlight where scholars get material to study the Mayan language.
Mayan Symbols of Love
Here are some common Mayan symbols of love.
The Maquech Beetle
This is probably the most prominent symbol of love that any Mayan person will identify with. It gets its status from ancient Mayan mythology. There is a legend about an ancient princess whose lowborn lover was sentenced to death when their forbidden love affair was discovered. They ignored her father’s warning and kept their affair behind his back.
Seeing how heartbroken the princess was, a shaman transformed her lover into a beetle so that she could wear him close to her heart as a reminder of their eternal bond. The princess, after that, adorned the beetle with jewels and always wore him as an ornament so that he would be close to her heart for eternity.
By extension, wearing the symbol of the beetle means you are constantly reminded of true and eternal love.
The Maquech beetle is a native dry forest dweller and can survive for days without eating or drinking, a quality that makes it adaptable to life as an ornament. It hangs around decomposing wood in significantly hot and arid regions from South-Central Mexico to Venezuela and Northern Colombia.
Another feature that might have contributed to the Maquech beetle’s association with jewelry is their natural appearance; they can easily be mistaken for ancient Mayan treasures. They have a natural golden hue that is speckled with black.
They are flightless and play dead when they sense trouble, so they are easy to capture. They blend very well with their wood habitat, though, so they may be hard to spot.
The beetles are also docile and harmless. It is relatively easy to glue those colorful decorative gemstones on their backs. They are fastened on gold trim chains with clips that allow some wiggle room as they are pinned on clothing. The level of ornateness determines how much the accessory will cost.
Wearing bejeweled insects as a fashion accessory has existed in many cultures for centuries. It is a significant feature of Mayan culture, but the Maquech beetle only returned to mainstream popularity in the 1980s.
The beautiful beetle, a native of Central and South America, has been worn as a live pendant for centuries. You will find vendors in Mexico with different presentations of them attached to leashes made from gold chains and pins that allow the live insects to move around on the wearer’s shirt.
They don’t come without limitations, though; the use of live insects as fashion accessories raises issues with activists. The Mexican Maquech beetle is also protected. Importing it live into the United States, for example, will cost you a fine of $500.
If the thought of a mobile insect brooch turns you jittery, there are other ways to adorn this Mayan symbol of love that are less dramatic. There are ready-made handwoven fabrics, and you can customize your own with images of the beetle. The symbol can also be incorporated into a tattoo design as a reminder of everlasting love or forbidden love that has to be kept secret.
The Mayan Goddess Ixchel
This Mayan God is revered as the most powerful female deity, the moon goddess. According to Mayan culture, she represents women and femininity. She is the goddess of love, pregnancy, water, textile arts, gestation, and medicine, among other disciplines.
She is often portrayed with a rabbit next to her, which brings us to her relationship with the star sign Lamat.
Lamat- The Mayan Star Sign
Lamat means the star. Its totem animal is the rabbit, and its patron is the moon goddess Ixchel. The Mayan sign symbolizes self-love, abundance, transformation and new beginnings. It is associated with Venus, symbolizing the continuous cycle of death and rebirth. It heralds transformation to a life of creation, abundance and love.
In romantic relationships, persons of the star sign become sensitive and caring partners. They love their children intensely and will do anything to ensure their happiness. They are sensual, vulnerable and empathetic.
Mayans viewed chocolate as a symbol of love through luxury. They believed it was a gift from the gods. The Aztecs gave it to victorious warriors after battles, and it is featured in religious rituals. Cacao beans were even used as currency. Ancient Mayans can be seen using cacao in the context of love through marriage rituals. Chocolate was often drunk as an aphrodisiac.
Sources of Mayan Symbols
Most of the ancient Mayan civilization as we know it has been pieced together from different sources throughout Central America and its environs.
The original Maya writing system is evidenced by Maya hieroglyphs dating as far back as 200 to 300 BC. Inscriptions were found on stone slabs, lintels, sculpture, pottery and a few codices (books) that survived the purging phase of the Spanish clergy after they conquered Yucatan in the 16th century. They burned a lot of Ancient Mayan scripts which they considered pagan.
The Dresden Codex
This is perhaps the most wholesome of the only four surviving manuscripts written in the Americas before the Spanish conquest. It has astonishingly accurate astrological and astronomical tables and predictions for favorable timings for agriculture.
It also bears conjunctions for constellations, planets and the moon, among religious references. It was written in the Americas in Yucatec Maya, specifically in Chichen Itza, Yucatan, Mexico.
The Books of Chilam Balam
This is a group of documents written in Chol and Yucatec Maya using Spanish characters between the 17th and 18th centuries. They are key sources of ancient Mayan culture. They contain myth, prophecy, medical lore, information about the Mayan calendar and historical chronicles.
Chilam Balam loosely translates to ‘The secrets of the soothsayers.’ They are the only recordings of Mayan history available that were actually written. Some of their content is drawn from older Mayan glyphs, and their source material is estimated to be a combination of ancient hieroglyphics and oral traditions.
The original Chilam Balam were elite spiritual guides in ancient Maya. Their position can be likened to that of priests. They were referred to as the spokesmen of the jaguar. Several Mayan towns had their own individual Chilam Balam, and their books would be named after the towns resulting in different scripts.
The Popol Vuh
This is the creation myth of the Mayan people that was initially written in hieroglyphics but has since been decoded into the Roman alphabet. It archives the origins of modern Central America and Latino culture. It is an invaluable source of knowledge of ancient Mayan mythology and culture.
So, What Is the Mayan Symbol for Love?
The Mayan writing system had over 800 characters split between hieroglyphic and phonetic signs representing syllables. Maya hieroglyphs were pictorial, meaning they were identifiable pictures of people, animals and objects in daily life.
That being said, Mayan symbolism was not without its complications. Logographic and phonetic values were shared across signs. A sign could represent several words with similar pronunciations. There are signs whose meanings have been deciphered, but scholars have yet to determine how to read them. Others are readable, but their meanings are still unknown.
While the Maquech beetle will take the lead as the most prominent Mayan love symbol, there are many other symbols the Maya people will associate with love based on the context. The subject should be approached with an open mind.