The ceiba tree (or Yaxche tree in Mayan) is considered to be the Mayan Tree of Life. The tree is one of the largest in the rainforests of Mexico and Central America. The trunks are incredibly long and devoid of branches, while the tops are interestingly flat and spread out. To the Maya, the ceiba is considered to be the “world tree,” the first tree in existence and the axis of the earth itself. The roots represent the underworld, the trunk is the world in which we exist, and the top of the tree is the heavens. Even today, the ceiba often occupies a sacred space in the center of many Mayan villages.
The ceiba tree also occupies a very central place in Jaguar Sun, specifically as it relates to the mystery of Maya Delaney’s identity. As Maya learns more about her culture, she finds herself at the center of a worldwide plot much bigger than she ever possibly could have fathomed. The ceiba appears in the book just as Maya discovers her spirit magic. Confused about the effect she seems to be having on everyone around her, the question becomes one that goes far beyond a teenager’s battle for self-acceptance. The search for her true identity is a rollercoaster ride. Each time Maya believes she has discovered her true self, another mystery presents itself.
The question of who Maya Delaney is follows the 2012 theme throughout Jaguar Sun as the second major theme of the book. The two mysteries are intertwined like the branches of the rambling ceiba. And one mystery cannot be solved without solving the other as well. I hope that as readers move through Jaguar Sun, the image of the ceiba will remain in their thoughts, because as they begin Book 2, Jaguar Moon, it will take on a meaning they never could have imagined.