Okay, this one is a weirdie, because (as with Gaelic or Germanic names) the people giving their kids this name “Itzel” do not necessarily care about its actual meaning. They are giving the name out of ethnic pride, or because it’s a family name, or because it’s an “old” name or a “cool” name. And there’s nothing wrong with that. OTOH, there’s a big Mayan language resurgence, among people of Mayan descent and people who just like Maya stuff. So you could run into someone who could give you a dissertation on the name.
“Itzel” means “star” in Nahualá K’iche’, a Guatemalan dialect of Quiche Maya. So it’s the exact equivalent of names like “Esther,” “Stella,” “Estrella,” “Aster,” “Zvezda,” and so on. It’s pronounced with the “ts” in English “mats.”
It may be related to the Mayan word “itz,” meaning dew or nectar. The ancient Mayan tablets record a title, itz’at, which means something like “scholar” or “learned man.” So it’s possible that this title is also a cognate. (Yeah, you can tell I don’t know bupkis about Mayan languages/dialects, and this is just me looking stuff up on the Internet. If you are serious about learning Mayan glyphs and language, famsi.org has a huge printable study guide.)
There are also close “false friend” cognates which don’t mean the same thing. “Itzehl” is the name of a moon goddess among the Huastecan and Poqom, in southern Mexico. “Itsehl” is a Yucatecan and Quichean name, also in southern Mexico, and people think of it as meaning “rainbow.” Both are names descended from the old Mayan goddess named Ixchel (pronounced “Ishchel,” and meaning something like “Lady Rainbow” or “Female Rainbow,” but her name was also written in Mayan glyphs as “Chak Chel” or “big rainbow”) who was the goddess of the moon, midwifery, etc., was a jaguar, and had the rabbit in the moon as an attribute.
On the old Mayan tablets, a woman holding an office has her office preceded by the prefix “ix-“, meaning “woman.” So anyone titled kalomte’ was a very high status king, but an ixkalomte’ was a very high status woman ruler. (So maybe there were other gods holding the title of Rainbow, at some point, but Ixchel was the female rainbow, or rainbow-ess.) However, it was also used as a generic female name prefix, where the male prefix was ah-. (Unless those “names” were actually titles also.)
Anyhoo, they say that Itzel was an uncommon name in Guatemala, but it’s now a common name among Americans of Guatemalan, Mexican, or Mayan heritage, or those who wish to identify with Mayan heritage. So is Ixchel and its modern-day versions, Itzehl and Itsehl.
Obviously Ixchel can be a sticky Catholic baptismal name if somebody were actually worshipping pagan goddesses or trying to do so. But Christians have a right to give names that have been well-established among local Christians, just like you meet Catholics named Diana.
And like I said, the name Itzel is analogous to Esther in the Bible. So no problem there. The Bible associates stars with angels, and obviously there’s the Christmas star.
St. Esther’s Day is July 1. Her feast is often forgotten because it’s also the Feast of the Most Precious Blood of Jesus, but she’s got one.
There are twenty-one Maya languages just in Guatemala, so the Guatemalan government standardized the Latin alphabet used to write them down, in 1987. Resources from before this standardization will employ different spellings.
K’iche’-English Dictionary, by Allen Christenson, which includes a pronunciation guide, and reversed English-K’iche’ Dictionary. In this K’iche language, which is spoken in Momostenango and Totonicapan, “ch’umil” means star — and “itzel” means bad or evil, with “itz” meaning a demon or the devil, and “itzij” meaning to bewitch someone. So you can see there’s a lot of differences between vocabulary in closely related languages! OTOH, “Ix Motz” (female star-cluster) is the name of the Pleiades.
Combined Dictionary/Concordance of the Yucatecan Maya Language, linked to the “itz” page. “Itz” is a sap, resin, or liquid. “Itz caan” is dew, ie, sky-liquid, as explained by a legend about the king/god Itzamat-ul. “Idzat” as a verb is to learn an art, and an “idzat” is either a learned, wise man or artist, or the apprentice of such a person. “Idzil” is something annoying that makes you angry.
Ancient Mayan glyphs for “star”. I think it’s a very pretty glyph; and very suitable for drawing, if you’re looking for kids’ activities. (Of course, since I’m not good at drawing anything complicated, I love simple and pretty things!) Anyway, yet another word – ek’. Presumably the “star” meaning of “itzel” is derived from this, somehow.
The morning star (ie, Venus seen in the morning) was associated in ancient Mayan materials with the reborn/deified One Hunahpu, the slain father of the hero twins, who became the morning star, One Ixim. (If I understand this correctly.) Apparently this was reenacted by a lot of Mayan kings in rituals. The day name “Lamat” was supposedly referring to Venus as the star in question.
Dictionary of the Chuj (Mayan) Language. Star is k’anal, from k’an, yellow.
Obviously this is a big topic!