Mayan Legend: The Xtabay Woman

1 Oct

Some of you may know that my husband, Jorge, is from the Yucatan Peninsula, along with his entire family. (Specifically, near the city of Merida.) This particular area is filled with Mayan heritage and culture, which can still be seen a bit in Jorge’s family.

When we visited the Ek’ Balam Mayan ruins recently, we saw a “ceiba” tree (SAY-bah).

The ceiba tree we saw at Ek' Balam

My mother-in-law told us the Mayan legend regarding the ceiba tree.

If a man is out wandering around at night and passes by a ceiba tree, he just might see an “Xtabay” (ish-tah-BYE). An Xtabay is a seductive temptress who stands under the tree, brushing her long, dark hair.

The Xtabay will seduce the late-night traveler. Then, one of two things will happen:

1. The man will be led by the Xtabay off the path, deep into the jungle, to die. (This is the version my mother-in-law prefers.)

2. The Xtabay will ensnare him in an embrace, and violently kill him right there. He’ll later be found filled with the thorns of the ceiba tree.

thorns on the branches of the ceiba tree at Ek' Balam

Most of the Xtabay’s victims are found dead, but over the centuries, a few have managed to escape and tell their story.

According to my in-laws, you’re more likely to come across the Xtabay when you’re drunk. I don’t find this surprising 🙂 haha

8 Responses to “Mayan Legend: The Xtabay Woman”

  1. Kate October 1, 2010 at 2:56 pm #

    haha Very cool-love to learn about cultural stories. It’s pretty interesting to me how different cultures have the same stories only different names-my dad tells a story about a lady who stands on a one lane bridge near his home town. She flags down the passerby & when they stop she says she needs a ride. Different people tell the ending differently, some people say she disappears after she gets in the car & others say she drags you down under the bridge to drown.

    I’ve gone & looked for her-she doesn’t appear for me. Maybe I should try getting drunk first! lol

  2. Krysten October 1, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    How cool, Mexico has such great culture. Thanks for sharing!

  3. Ashlie October 1, 2010 at 4:03 pm #

    I have always loved this tale and I especially like your Suegra’s version that you are more likely to come across one whilst drunk LOL

  4. Julie M. October 1, 2010 at 4:38 pm #

    I can think of a few people I’d like the Xtabay to find (no, not really). Interesting cultural story!

    Hope you have a great weeken!

  5. Daddy October 2, 2010 at 4:32 pm #

    Your mom has long, dark hair. I am glad that she is not out there seducing strange, drunk men other than me.

    • gringation October 2, 2010 at 4:42 pm #

      I’m glad, too.

      But don’t worry… you’re neither strange nor drunk.

  6. Ang October 4, 2010 at 1:17 pm #

    lol.. I love the last line of this.. when you’re drunk… too funny!

  7. Nikki October 5, 2010 at 3:33 pm #

    That was me standing under the tree. I only wanted a hug.

    Those thorns are crazy. I’ve never seen a tree like it. Love the vegetation down there.

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