I can’t find much information on this week’s mythological subject, but she was just too interesting to pass up. Ixtab was the Mayan goddess of suicide, and patron deity of the noose and gallows. While many religions and cultures frown on suicide, the Mayans presumably didn’t. Rather than ending up as a tree in Hell, the fate Dante reserved for those committed suicide, Mayans who hanged themselves were apparently taken to a paradise, alongside warriors who died in battle and women who died in childbirth. In a way, I kind of think the Christian view on suicide was thought out a little better. I mean, if you really, truly believe that you’ll end up in paradise when you die, wouldn’t you WANT to hasten your death? Saying that people who commit suicide DON’T get into Heaven encourages people to stick it out, which would have to be generally better for society. Then again, maybe the Mayans only encouraged suicide among people who were widely disliked. “Yeah, sure, just go kill yourself. You’ll go straight to paradise!” And I’m sure both Mayans and Christians, as well as followers of numerous other religions that include a blissful afterlife in their belief systems, often aren’t quite as sure about this future existence as they might claim to be. The common belief in modern society seems to be that suicide is cowardly, but I’d say that might depend on how it’s done. Overdosing on pills isn’t particularly brave, true, but hanging yourself takes guts. I would say it might make more sense to replace “cowardly” with “short-sighted.” This isn’t always the case, as I think suicide can be justified in serious situations, but I get the impression that a lot of suicides take place in moments of weakness that will probably pass if you let them. Don’t give in to Ixtab and her empty promises!
The only known official picture of Ixtab appears in the Dresden Codex, a Mayan book kept in Dresden. Even then, no one is totally sure this hanging woman is actually the goddess, as it appears in a section on solar and lunar eclipses, not suicide. A proposed explanation is that this person is a moon goddess, and that this goddess might also serve as the deity of suicide. After all, as this page says, it’s kind of unlikely that there would be a goddess devoted to nothing but suicide by hanging, right?
Picture of Ixtab by Budgie
Ixtab in Final Fantasy XII