A lot of fundamentalist Christians see radical environmentalism as a neo pagan religion, so when some bimbo invoked a Mayan goddess, it was sure to raise a few eyebrows.

From the WashingtonPost:

Christiana Figueres, executive secretary of the U.N. Framework Convention on Climate Change, invoked the ancient jaguar goddess Ixchel in her opening statement to delegates gathered in Cancun, Mexico, noting that Ixchel was not only goddess of the moon, but also “the goddess of reason, creativity and weaving. May she inspire you — because today, you are gathered in Cancun to weave together the elements of a solid response to climate change, using both reason and creativity as your tools.”

The lady is from Costa Rica, but presumably if she had invoked La Nigrita, the title of the popular Virgin shrine in Costa Rica, there would have been an outcry. After all, invoking Holy Mary (beloved of a billion Catholics, a half billion Orthodox Christians and a billion Muslims) would be a no no, but invoke a bloody goddess, no problem.

Why do I say a “bloody goddess”? Sorry, it’s a British expression. Maybe I should have said a killer goddess, which is more accurate:

Ix Chel was depicted as an old woman wearing a skirt with crossed bones, and she had a serpent in her hand. She had an assistant sky serpent, whom they believed carried all of the waters of the heavens in its belly. She is often shown carrying a great jug filled with water, which she overturns to send floods and powerful rainstorms to Earth.

Ah, yes, let’s invoke the goddess of floods and landslides to bless us?

True, IxChel is not as evil as some of the so called Mayan deities, who demanded human sacrifice.

But as the PBS special on decoding the Maya language showed, the Mayans were pretty bloody, both in war and in using human sacrifice.

The reason that most westerners, especially New Age types, see the Mayan as the ultimate pacifists, living in harmony with the earth. This is a myth, of course. The myth was based on a theory by an early archeologist, based not on evidence, but inspired by his own psychological need to find a lost utopia (what psychologists call “projection”).

Newer archeology suggests otherwise.

And although the Maya are portrayed in popular culture as living in tune with nature, more recent studies suggest that many of these cities were abandoned after environmental degredation. From the Cambridge Journal of ancient MesoAmerica:

Both computerized agricultural simulations and settlement demographic reconstructions indicate that increased levels of agricultural intensification necessary to meet the subsistence needs of Copan’s growing population would have led to large-scale erosion in upland areas and a significant reduction of soil fertility in all regions of the valley at that time. Mound-group abandonment patterns tend to support the hypothesis that environmental degradation played a dominant role in the collapse of the Copan polity.

In other words, the Mayan, like the people of ancient Mesopotamia, degraded their environment. This is indeed a lesson for today’s world, warning that sustainable agricultural policies are needed, and also warning that organic and traditional farming techniques might not be the panacea that many in the environmental movement claim it to be.

So what is going on here?

To a scientist like myself, invoking an imaginary deity is unscientific.

To a Christian like myself, invoking a pagan goddess is dangerous.

Finally, as one who has worked with many Native American cultures, and as an amateur student of history and anthropology, I think her invocation of a goddess, using the superficial speculations of 20th century Europeans, not facts, are insulting to the 7th century pagans who actually revered that goddess.

The most disturbing thing is that no one at the Climate conference objected to her remarks. Presumably those attending were being polite.

A more disturbing possibility is that these delagates, like Ms.Figueres, are so enmeshed into the “green” religion that they didn’t notice that her remarks insulted good atheists, skeptics, agnostics, Christians, and Muslims.

All of this brings up a disturbing question: Is the failure of those attending to object to her remarks indeed is because the climate change meeting is trying to push a pseudo religious agenda that may or may not have anything to do with hard science?

Where is Richard Dawkins when you really need him?


(actually Dawkins has weighed in on this superstition too LINK).


Nancy Reyes is a retired physician living in the rural Philippines. She writes about human rights at MakaipaBlog.

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