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 Yucatán 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.
LINK: SOMBRA DE LA LUNA.
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.