After six months of arduous dawn training sessions, 350 oarsmen from Cancun, Xcaret, Xel-Ha and Cozumel are ready to embark on the 2015 Sacred Mayan Journey, May 21-23. They will be following the perilous sea route taken by ancient Mayan pilgrims who traveled to the sacred island of Cozumel (Kuzamil) to worship at the shrine of Ixchel, the goddess of fertility, childbirth and the moon and tides. Depicted as an old woman or a beautiful young maiden, Ixchel was also the patron of fishing, painting and weaving.

This is the ninth year of the Sacred Mayan Journey, which is the representation of a pre-Hispanic pilgrimage and rituals from the Late Post-Classic period of Mayan history (A.D. 1250-1519). From the canoes made from hollowed out logs to the clothing, headdresses and face paint worn by the priests, everything has been carefully researched to make it as authentic as possible. The event originated as an initiative from the Experiencias Xcaret group to restore an ancient tradition and has been enthusiastically embraced by the people of the Mexican Caribbean.

Xcaret is the location of the ancient port of Polé, once a trade center and the departure point for pilgrimages to Cozumel.

The Sacred Mayan Journey begins the night of May 21 in Xcaret Park with the representation of the Kii’wik or Mayan Market and rituals in honor of Ixchel. Visitors can use cacao beans to barter for Mayan food, honey, copal, wood and stone carvings and see some of the other goods that would have been traded in ancient times.

At dawn on May 22, after a blessing from the priests, the 35 canoes depart for Cozumel. As the pilgrims’ families bid farewell a flock of scarlet macaws flies overhead in a salute to the rising sun. A fitting tribute as macaws and parrots were sacred birds in the Maya and other Mesoamerican cultures and were associated with the sun god.

The pilgrims make landfall on Cozumel at Chankanaab Park at around 1 p.m. and make their way to the shrine of Ixchel. They return to the mainland the following day and are greeted in Polé with great jubilation.

If you would like to witness the Sacred Mayan Journey ask your Concierge for assistance.