Xtabay

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Xtabay literally means 'Female Ensnarer' and can refer either to a Mesoamerican demon who seduces and kills or a female deity of the hunt, along with the male Ah Tabay. The Xtabay is not to be confused with Ixtab, a 16th-century Yucatan goddess of suicides.

A legend of Xtabay (the female demon) tells of two women who lived in a village in the Yucatán Peninsula. One was named Xkeban (which means "sinner", "bad woman" or "one who practices illicit love"); the other was Utz-Colel (a good, decent woman).

People said Xkeban was beautiful, but sick with lust, and gave her favors to every man who asked her. Utz-Colel was virtuous and honest, as well as beautiful and austere. Xkeban was humble; she had a good heart and kindly helped the poor, sick and homeless, and also the animals abandoned for being considered useless, by giving up the jewellery and fine clothes she got from her lovers. She was not a haughty woman, nor did she insult other villagers. Xkeban humbly received the humiliations from the people of her village. On the other hand, Utz-Colel was cold, full of pride, harsh of heart and easily disgusted by the poor.[1]

One day, Xkeban was not seen anymore. Days passed and a fine delicate perfume was smelled all over the village. People found it came from the house of Xkeban who had died there, protected only by the animals who stood watch around her, fending off the flies.

Utz-Colel argued it wasn't possible, that the perfume couldn't be that of such a vile and corrupt body; nothing but decay and stench could come out of her. She argued that had to be bad spirits or demons still trying to tempt men. "If that is the odor of a dead prostitute, mine shall be much more fragrant when I die", she said.[2]

A few people buried Xkeban, feeling pity for her. The next day, her grave was covered with beautiful flowers of a delicate perfume. The flowers growing on Xkeban's grave were named Xtabentún.

When Utz-Colel died, a virgin, the entire village attended her funeral; they remembered her virtue and honesty. To the amazement of the crowd, an intolerable stench came out from her grave; the Tzacam, a spiny cactus flower with a disagreeable odor, grew there.

Utz-Colel, converted into a Tzacam flower reflected, envious, on what had happened to Xkeban and she came to the conclusion that she had fared so well after death because her sins had been "sins of love". Thus, she decided to imitate Xkeban's promiscuity, without realizing that it was Xkeban's good heart and her generous and natural attraction to love-making that had sealed her fate. Thus, Utz-Colel called on evil spirits that helped her return to the world whenever she wanted to, to seduce men with nefarious love, since her hard heart had not room for any other kind of love. This is how Utz-Colel became the X'tabay, who awaits men under the ceiba tree combing her long, beautiful hair with the spiny needles of the Tzacam. When she seduces wayward men, she kills them in an infernal act of love-making.[3]

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Notes and references[edit]

  1. ^ From: Mario Diaz Triay’s "Guia Turistica de la Peninsula de Yucatan, La tierra de los Mayas" (“A tour guide of the Yucatan Peninsula, Land of the Maya”)
  2. ^ From: Mario Diaz Triay’s "Guia Turistica de la Peninsula de Yucatan, La tierra de los Mayas" (“A tour guide of the Yucatan Peninsula, Land of the Maya”)
  3. ^ From: Mario Diaz Triay’s "Guia Turistica de la Peninsula de Yucatan, La tierra de los Mayas" (“A tour guide of the Yucatan Peninsula, Land of the Maya”)