Part Four of the Americas Connected
by Richard Thornton, Architect and City Planner
The original Sunrise Services, Easter bunnies and Easter egg hunts were in Scandinavia and they were all about fertility!
In spring of 2007, Dr. Deborah Clifton, a Creek-Choctaw Anthropology professor at LSU-Lafayette, called me up excitedly. Normally, she merely emailed me with research updates.
For several years, Deborah had been studying the Comanche People. The Comanche language is classified as a branch of the Shoshone Language Family. References tell you that the Comanche originated as a band of Shoshone in the Great Basin of the American West. Deborah had linguistic and cultural proof that the Comanche had originally been agriculturalists, living on the fringe of Mesoamerican civilization in Mexico. They had only become raiders and hunters after acquiring horses from the Spanish . . . either wild horses or stolen horses . . . that was not certain.
Then Deborah told me that she had figured out the etymology of Amichel. This word was what the Spanish recorded as the name of a Native American province along the Gulf Coast between Mobile Bay to Apalachicola Bay. It was the Spanish way of writing “Am Ixchel” . . . which is Tabasco Maya and means “Place of the (Goddess) Ixchel.”
I told her that the words sounded familiar, but from my fellowship in Mexico, not Southeastern Native American History. In most North American anthropological texts, Ixchel is the Classic Maya name of the middle-aged jaguar goddess of midwifery and medicine. Information on Ixchel in such references as Wikipedia are misleading, because they were written by academicians, who were primarily familiar with Classic Maya Civilization cultural traditions.
Among the Itza and Tabasco Maya, however, she was the young goddess of the moon, fertility, medicine, rain, and trade, plus was the consort of the Sun God, or in some provinces, Kulkulkan (Feathered Serpent). Itza and Tamale temples, dedicated to Ixchel are either in the shape of a crescent or an oval. She was traditionally portrayed in Itza and Chontal art as a noblewoman, carrying a pet rabbit. There are several crescent-shaped mounds still visible in Florida. In the Georgia Mountains, her shrines are typically crescent or oval shaped piles of rocks. In proto-Creek towns such as the acropolis at Ocmulgee National Historical Park, her temple was place on an oval earthen pyramid.
That association with the rabbit is quite intriguing because the Scandinavian goddess of fertility, Easter (alternatively Ester, Æster or Öester*), was also associated with a pet rabbit. On the morning of the Spring Equinox, pagan Scandinavians would hold a sunrise service in her honor. At the close of the worship, young women would scour the countryside looking for baby rabbits and birds eggs. Finding either was a sign from the goddess Easter that the girl would get married or pregnant in the coming year.
*Easter is derived from the name of the Semitic goddess of fertility, Esther. Her worship in Bronze Age Scandinavia was probably introduced by the crews of Phoenician or Carthaginian merchant ships.
It took me several years to figure out, however, where I had heard the words Amichel and Am Ixchel. I found the explanation in one of my books from Mexico. Those were the names of the tip of the Yucatan Peninsula and Tampico Bay, Tamaulipas, where the Chontal Mayas constructed major artificial harbors and ports. While writing The Itza Mayas in North America, during the winter of 2012, I noticed on Google Earth maps that the three provinces, named Am Ixchel formed an equilateral triangle. There probably was a Chontal port in the Florida Keys. It also would form an equilateral triangle.
It is obvious that at some point in the past, there was extensive maritime contact between the Gulf Coast of North America and the Gulf Coast of Mesoamerica. Whenever things got unpleasant in Mesoamerica, there were many peoples, who know that there was a fertile land to the north with abundant natural food resources, whose only drawback were the much colder winters, if one was living in the mountains, where the gold and mica was obtained.
Now you know!