“Mayan weavings have so many symbols, spells, sayings, stars and speculations wrapped in their cloth.” Miguel Ángel Asturias
Guatemala’s highlands are an explosion of color. Volcanoes are covered in lush trees, plants, and flowers while they loom over crater filled lakes and valleys. Nature’s stunning palette doesn’t stop in the forest, either. Indigenous Mayans honor their natural world by weaving festive environmental images into their textiles. Each town has its own distinct style, patterns, and colors with a tradition going back 2,000 + years. The huipil holding the most significant role in their clothing.
There are no two huipiles exactly alike.
In Guatemala, weaving is an integral part of a Maya woman’s daily life and is an important responsibility that is passed on from generation to generation. Although the textiles have evolved and there have been changes in types of threads, dyes, and designs over the centuries, the basic back strap loom has changed very little. Many types of fabric are handwoven on these looms, and every woman makes her own unique huipil, the traditional blouse still worn in these regions. The design of the huipil expresses cultural identity, role in society, and personal aesthetic.
One of the most important symbols found in the huipil and other textile garments worn by the Maya is the mythical double-headed eagle which has evolved from a geometric, yet recognizable representation to the highly abstracted forms. Found mostly in weavings from Chichicastenago, Nahuala, and Chajul, the double-headed eagle motif in Maya mythology represents the Great God with two faces, one looking to good and the other to evil, or to heaven/sky and earth or to past and future, or the act of looking both forward and backwards at the same time. Double-headed raptors are motifs frequently used for decorating ceremonial garments, but are also found in daily wear like in these vintage huipiles found on our website and Etsy shop Colecion Luna Vintage.
Stay tuned for more blogs on our website as we uncover the symbols, patterns, history, and cultural significance behind this fascinating and beautiful textile tradition!