Beware the Ix’tabay!

Yucatán legend tells an age-old story of two women (possibly sisters): Xkeban and Utz-Colel, who lived in the same village.

Both women were exceptionally beautiful but while Utz Colel lived a chaste and decent lifestyle, Xkeban was considered to be a bit of a trollop.

Despite her more promiscuous ways, Xkeban was the better person of the two. She was kind and used her sexy powers for good. She often re-gifted the valuable tokens of love her many ‘amantes’ had given her, to help out the less fortunate.

Prudish Utz-Colel on the other hand, while morally pure, was not kind at heart. She was pretentious and often looked down on other villagers, despising those who were not as wealthy or virtuous as she.

One day a lovely scent wafted through the village. It was soon realized that the beautiful aroma was coming from Xkeban’s house. The villagers found her dead and it was her cadaver that was emitting the sweet perfume. She was buried with a small ceremony, for although she was loved by many, she was not considered by society to be a respectable woman. Almost immediately after she was buried, pretty, white *Xtabentún flowers started to bloom all over her grave. The honey-like scent they gave off was the same that was coming from Xkeban’s body.

Utz-Colel, being an example of female wholesomeness, was enraged that Xkeban had passed away in such a beautiful manner. She announced to all that if a common whore like Xkeban emitted such a heavenly aroma upon her death, that surely her own would be even more fragrant. Because she was considered a ‘good’ woman due to her devout adherence to social norms of the times, the villagers agreed with her.

Not long after, Utz-Colel did die and her funeral was attended by all. She was considered one of the most pure and upstanding women of the village, dying a virgin, and so a large ceremony was called for. To everyone’s surprise, upon burial, Utz-Colel’s body began to give off a stench as vile as her true nature. Like with Xkeban, a plant also began to grow on Utz-Colel’s grave but rather than a beautiful flower it was a spiny cactus called ‘tzacam’. The only aroma that the tzacam gives off is a sickening smell once you get near it.

Arriving in the After World, Utz-Colel became furious that her piety had not paid off. The tables had turned. In the Underworld, Utz-Colel, without her Earthly pretenses was now the woman of ill-repute. Xkeban’s soul meanwhile, had been rewarded. and her ‘sins of love’ overlooked.

Beside herself with envy and rage, Utz-Colel demanded to be sent back to the Land of the Living. She was determined to partake in all of the things that she had deprived herself of in the name of virtue while she was alive. Of course while Xkeban was capable of loving her admirers, thus not making it as sinful, Utz-Colel-with her cold heart-was not.

Disguising herself as Xkeban, she now roams the Yucatán as THE IX’TABAY, luring unsuspecting men into the jungle, seducing them and literally stealing their hearts. With no further use for them and an absolute lack of compassion, she leaves her unfortunate lovers’ bodies under the spiky Ceiba Tree or in a clump of cacti.

The spiky Ceiba tree holds spiritual significance in the Mayan world, believed to be a connector between realms.

The spiky Ceiba tree holds spiritual significance in the Mayan world, believed to be a connector between realms.

Consider yourself warned: If you should come across a beautiful woman in the jungle, combing her long hair with a spiny cactus, stay away! She just might be the Ix’tabay, intent on seeking her lusty revenge. (Cue dramatic spooky music).

*Xtabentun, pronounced “ish-ta-ben-toon” is also the name of a potent liquor that is made from the fermented flower. It has a taste similar to anise and is believed to cause the same effects as those of the Ix’tabay’s love spell (except for the dying part).

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