Mayan Legend: The Xtabay Woman

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