My family just returned from a weeklong vacation to Cancun, Mexico. While we had a wonderful time relaxing on the gorgeous beaches and listening to mariachi music, I could not help but be fascinated by all the Mayan and Aztec culture that surrounded us. There are temple ruins in many locations along the Yucatan and most offer tourist packages to traipse around the old, stone structures and learn about the ancient religion of Mexico’s native people. While I am sure it is fascinating to most, I didn’t have a desire to pay money to climb hundreds of feet to the top of some crumbling rocks.
However, a couple of relics that did vex me were 2 large statues just down from our condo. Along the central expressway that allows you to move along all the beautiful resorts is a promenade park with luscious vegetation and palm trees. Nestled among the flowering plants and trees are 2 stone images that caught my attention. After driving past it for the first few days without any attention, all of sudden, it caught my eye. One afternoon, I walked down to get a closer look. One stone statuette was of a rabbit at least 12-15 feet tall and the other was a stone figure of a naked man kneeling in front which was about 7 feet tall. Several feet away, on the other side of the park was another set of rabbit and man statues.
After taking a few photos with my iPhone, I walked back to our condo and began to do some research. The ancient Mayan and Aztec religions worshipped many gods. One of the main gods involved in their worship was a fertility goddess named Ixchel. An interesting dynamic of this particular goddess was its involvement of rabbits and eggs. Both are associated with fertility and were reverently worshipped by these ancient people groups. I was now beginning to understand why Mexico would proudly display stone statues of a man bowing before a very large rabbit.
A 15 minute ferry ride from Cancun lies ‘Isla Mujeres.’ Mujeres is woman in Spanish so it translates, Woman’s Island. On the island there have been found many statues of rabbits within the temple ruins. All part of the worship of Ixchel – the goddess of fertility. While I certainly recognize that the people of Mexico do not still worship rabbits or follow the ancient traditions of their forefathers, I find it interesting to know where their culture and some of their traditions originated from.
The worship of rabbits dates all the way back to bible times where Nimrod’s son, Tammuz, was worshipped. The worship of Tammuz, which originated in the Middle East, is filled with a lot of similarities of Ixchel worship. Both pagan deities involve worship of the sun and moon as well. Ishtar was Tammuz’s mother, and where we derive the name Easter. I don’t want to get into all the details of the particular genesis of these celebrations. However, I will say that upon doing some diligent research on Ishtar and Tammuz you will find earie similarities to other traditions of Christianity. Practices observed today that began thousands of years prior to Roman Catholicism.
I happen to love history so I find “digging around” in ancient cultures, religions and people groups fascinating. Since I do believe history repeats itself, there is much we can learn from going back and understanding what our forefathers did before us. And we can certainly acquire a measure of wisdom from knowing what NOT to do or rather how NOT to repeat the mistakes of those who have lived before us.
Nevertheless, you and I are here in the 21st century and in “modern” times and about to celebrate our independence from Great Britain – July 4th. I wonder if most Americans realize that July 4th could really be noted as a religious holiday. A day where we celebrate our forefathers breaking free from the iron grips of the Church of England and its kingdom power over us. A time when much bloodshed was spilled in order for us to form this great country of ours under the principles of the holy bible and God. Where man is free to worship the Creator God in fullness of truth and precept.
I can’t help but ponder if there is any correlation between the blessings our country has enjoyed over the past 238 years and its roots and foundations on the truth of the bible. I wonder if there is any correlation in Mexico worshipping rabbits hundreds of years ago and its state today. A country some might call “third world.” A country that has paradise qualities but, also serious crises of education, security, human rights and health. Sadly, a large portion of Mexico today lies in poverty and the average worker in Cancun makes just dollars a day.
During our visit, we found the native people of Mexico very hospitable and eager to take all of our American money. Yet sadly, as a people group, they are far behind other countries in development of medicine, technology and business. And yet, they still hold onto and revere their customs of old-even paying homage to their ancient religions. I wonder how long the grand rock structures of Ixchel worship will be publically displayed in their city. Do the people of Cancun even notice the 7 foot naked man kneeling before an animal with large ears?
It seems absurd to us today that man could revere a four-legged creature and pray to it for blessings and prosperity. And yet, isn’t that what so many Americans participate in with the worship of power, sex and money? As a nation and culture, will we continue to mix our forefathers religion of Judeo-Christianity with the worship of intellect, influence, and riches? If so, what demise will our country suffer? How long will America’s greatness last? Questions that need to be asked, especially for the sake of our younger generations. If we continue on the downward slide we are on, will they be able to enjoy the same blessings we had?
“I am the LORD and there is no other, there is no God besides Me.”
This morning I happened to be reading from the prophet Isaiah. One of my favorite portions of the Old Testament when my eyes fell on the 44th chapter. God is pleading with His children, Israel, to turn from their idol worship and seek Him only. In verse 10, God asks man a bold question, “who would form a god or mold an image that would profit him nothing?”
Throughout the entire chapter, you can see that man had been making their own gods to bow down before. Yet, in His love, God warns them to turn from their stone images and call out to Him. God is pleading with His people and admonishing them that images made of stone will never profit them in any way, only He can satisfy them. Isaiah reminds the people that they were created for God’s glory and the success and pleasures that they were craving would only be found in true worship to the creator rather than the creation.
On this holiday of July 4th, many of us will sing ‘God Bless America.’ I pray that as you do, stop and meditate on the words of this historic song and be thankful for the freedoms we all enjoy, and the truth that is our nation’s foundation.
While the storm clouds gather far across the sea,
Let us swear allegiance to a land that’s free.
Let us all be grateful for a land so fair,
As we raise our voices in a solemn prayer:
God bless America, land that I love, Stand beside her and guide her
Through the night with a light from above. From the mountains, to the prairies,
To the oceans white with foam,
God bless America, My home sweet home.