Friday, March 11, 2005

Mayan Moon Goddess flute

I thought it would be fun to take a look at a flute based on Meso American cultures. The term Meso American refers to the pre-Columbian, ancient cultures of what is now Mexico and Central American. The largest ones being the Aztec and Mayan. Aztec is the general name given to the empire of the Mexica culture, centered in the city of Tenochtitlan, now modern day Mexico City. The Mayan were a collection of city-states, like ancient Greece, in what is now Chiapas and the Yucat√°n peninsula in modern Mexico, Guatemala, Belize and parts of Honduras and El Salvador. These cultures were rich with traditions that continue to the present day. Currently, there are a few makers of Meso American descent living in the U.S. that have revived the art of making flutes based on Meso American design. These flutes, like Native American flute are fipple flutes, but they lack some of the more complex construction of flutes from Native North American cultures. We'll talk more about flute construction in future postings.

The flute shown above is called the Mayan Moon Goddess flute. In Maya she is known as Ix Chel or Chak Chel. In her hands she holds the moon. It is 10” high and 4” wide across the bass. The mouth piece for this flute is the top of her head. She was made by Xavier Quijas Yxayotl. Xavier is from the Huichol culture, in modern Mexico, now living in Southern California.
Unlike the wooden flutes we’ve look at so far, this flute is made of clay. Clay, according to Meso American tradition encompasses the four elements of Life: Earth, Water, Fire and Wind. Earth is mixed with Water to make the clay, which is then Fired in a kiln. Finally the players breath is the Wind. The flute has four holes in front and one thumb hole in the back. Thumb holes are very common in Meso American styled flutes and are tuned to a half step that are not part of the North American flutes basic scale. It is in the key of F pentatonic minor. Personally, I do not consider this to be a flute but rather an ocarina as the bottom is completely sealed -not open. Never the less the sound of this instrument is a low, full, and deeply resonant. The small speakers on your computer will not do it justice. There are two examples for this instrument. Each a different verisons of my tune "Sombra de a Luna". One is a solo version from Sacred Dreams LINK: SOMBRA DE LA LUNA SOLO VERISO.
The second is a deeper exploration of the same tune with piano and guitar from New Fire.

The Mayan Moon Goddess was a major deity of the Mayans. As with many cultures throughout the world, the moon for the Mayans was associated feminine traits. She was the Goddess of childbirth, procreation, healing and by some accounts invented weaving. Note the beautiful belt that wraps around her waist and hang in front of her skirt on the flute. The moon is also associated with water and tides.

The image of the Moon Goddess sitting in a cresent moon is a common one. Native Americans and Meso Americans also associated the moon with a rabbit. They believed that you can see a rabbit’s silohette in the full moon. Here is a Mayan glyph of the Moon Goddess sitting in a cresent moon.

Look closely and you’ll see she’s holding a rabbit in her arms.

To find out more information about Xavier Quijas Yxayotl flutes, check out the Native American flute makers page on my web site. LINK: FLUTE MAKERS

Be sure to check out the photos of my flute collection on my web site. LINK: FLUTE PHOTOS.

If you have any questions, send them to me using the comment link below.


  1. Great music and very interesting article.Thank You.

  2. Hi!

    This is very informative, I've been to your website Cedar Mesa Music. The samples show the music to be absolutely beautiful!

    The flutes you use have such a nice warm sound. Myself I play a "normal" average flute. (In other words, long slivery and held horizontially to the body). I know that you can't possibly get the warmth that is in the music I heard on your side out of that type.

    I really admire anyone that goes into Performing Arts for a career, it's such a difficult business to break into, and to be a nominated and noted artist is just amazing.

    Hats off to you Scott. Your music is beautiful.

  3. This is such a fabulously informative blog! I am an ethnomusicologist in South Africa, and am really trying to get music blogging like this used more in our department. Your music is lovely, and I will be checking in often to read your updates. Just a quick question: I recently came across what was called by the person I bought it from a "Snake-charmers flute." It's about a foot long reed with six holes, and a coconut shell near the top. when I blow it, it sounds like there is a reed of sorts (probably double) in the coconut. It has a really piercing timbre, and plays roughly an equal tempered pentatonic scale with an added flat 4. I would really love to get more info about it, and learn to play it, if possible. Any suggestions?
    Again, congratulations on a lovely blog, and visit mine if you have the urge.
    All the Best

  4. Can I add you to my links list? Mayan culture was my focus for most of my anthro projects and your blog is informative. Love the photos too, btw!

  5. Ironically, the Japanese have a legend of there being *rabbits* in the moon ... and they're making "mochi" -- sticky, pounded "rice cakes".

  6. i wonder if the rabbit is moksha?

  7. It is interesting to note that both Mayan and Chinese myth refer to the rabbit-shaped silhoutte in the full moon. The rabbit is said to be a companion of Chang E, who flew up to the moon after eating her husband Hou Yi's fairy pills and stayed there.

  8. this is a good profile so you can do alot better in life.

  9. This is great, I am hoping some day to explore Mayan ruins and this is inspiring me to do so.

  10. Anonymous5:19 PM

    Loved the article. I listened to your music and it is absolutely breathtaking.
    I have an ocarina in the shape of a man that appears to be Mayan. It is 8 inches long, has ear spools and other various spools/markings, made of reddish clay with some remaining red paint. Is there a place where I could send a photo?
    I know such ocarinas are of little monetary value, but it has value to me. I'd just like to know if it is Mayan.
    Thanks! tina

  11. This world is quite the big place and to encounter a story such as this one just puts me out of my ordinary. I gotta hand it to whoever wrote this, you've really kept me updated...

  12. That is some inspirational stuff. Never knew that opinions could be this varied.

  13. I have a number of Xavier Quijas Yxayotl's flutes. The clay flutes he makes are amazing. He is a true master of making and playing these types of flutes.


  14. This piece looks more ornamental than instrumental. It would be interesting to hear the sound it makes. I bet it would be much fuller sound due to the clay.