Xoc, Lady (c. 660–c. 720)

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Xoc, Lady (c. 660–c. 720)

Ritual partner of Shield Jaguar, Mayan king. Born about 660; died about 720.

Although actual biographical information regarding Lady Xoc is limited, what survives illustrates the essential role that royal women played in the Mayan religion. The Maya placed great emphasis on personal sacrifice and bloodletting. Not only did blood provide nourishment for the gods, but it also allowed the divine to enter into the performer's being. Lady was the ritual partner of King Shield Jaguar, Yaxchilan, a ceremonial city of Mayan culture. The specific actions of Lady Xoc are recorded on two carved lintels, currently housed the British Museum.

In one lintel, Lady Xoc kneels next to a standing Shield Jaguar who is dressed in ceremonial costume. Lady Xoc is shown drawing a thorn-lined rope through her mutilated tongue. The rope falls into a basket, and her blood is caught by a stingray spine. The basket would have been burned later to send the blood to the gods. The second lintel, set in 681, depicts a hallucination of Lady Xoc that was induced by a ritual experience. In it, she holds a plate of bloody paper and lancets—examples of ritual paraphernalia—as she gazes up at a large serpent that springs from another plate. On the floor of the apparition's plate lie bloody paper lancets and a rope. An armed warrior emerges from the serpent's mouth.

These artifacts demonstrate the role of women during the reigns and changes of rulers. For the Maya, auto-sacrifice, or the act of letting one's own blood, and the visionary experiences of the king's ritual partner, connected the present ruler to his ancestors and divinities, helping him see and understand the mythic past, present, and future. Other royal women, such as Lady Balam-Ix and Lady 6-Tun , performed such rituals as part of their role as the partner of a king.


Who's Who of World Religions. Ed. by John R. Hinnells. NY: Simon & Schuster, 1992.

Richard Wasowski , freelance writer, Mansfield, Ohio