The legend begins with two women who lived in a village in the Yucatán Peninsula. One woman was named Xkeban and the other Utz-colel. Xkeban was called a sinner and Utz-colel was known as a good woman.
Xkeban and Utz-colel were both equally beautiful. However, Xkeban was involved in many love affairs while Utz-colel was known for her purity and virtue.
The townspeople looked down on Xkeban for her promiscuous behavior and belittled her whenever possible. While Xkeban was always doing good deeds for the poor, the sick and animals in need.
Unfortunately, the people could not see her kind heart. They wanted to throw Xkeban out of the town, but they decided to allow her to stay in order to humiliate her.
Xkeban was able to remain sympathetic and kind-hearted through the love of the sick and poor. On the other hand, Utz-colel was cold-hearted; she despised those in need and considered everyone inferior to her. The townspeople loved Utz-colel because she was celibate.
One day, Xkeban went missing for several days, and the townspeople assumed she was busy “pleasing” men. More days passed and a sweet scent came from Xkeban’s house. The house smelled so sweetly of perfume that the townspeople decided to go investigate. To their surprise, they found Xkeban’s dead body surrounded by flowers and animals guarding her. Utz-colel told the town that the smell was a trick of the devil to deceive them. The homeless and poor buried Xkeban, and during the funeral, flowers mysteriously started popping up the ground, surrounding her grave.
Utz-colel thought she was going to smell even better than Xkeban when she died because of her purity. Time passed and Utz-colel died. To the surprise of the townspeople, Utz-colel smelled horrible and the stench was unbearable. At her funeral, the flowers placed around her grave disappeared the next day.
Xkeban was turned into a flower known as X’tabentun. The flower has a sweet fragrance and can be found in hedges. The flower seeks shelter in the hedges because it is defenseless just as Xkeban felt defenseless when she was a human.
Utz-colel became a flower called Tzacam, it grows on top of a spiky cactus and the flower has an unpleasant odor. Utz-colel concluded that since Xkeban gave into her desire of love she too needed to do this and that is why she was punished after death.
But Utz-colel called evil spirits which assisted her into becoming a woman again to fulfill her desire for love. Her wicked heart, however, only allowed evil. Therefore, Utz-colel transformed from the Tzacam into the Xtabay.
The Xtabay wears a white dress and has large black eyes that attract all the men who are out late at night. She waits behind a ceiba tree, invites them to have sex with her and, because of her beauty, all men are drawn to her.
Once they have sex, the Xtabay then transforms into a poisonous snake and devours them.
In other versions of the myth, the Xtabay appears in any form or sex that will lure an individual person. As a female, the Xtabay will be seen under a tree to lure men, and then she rips their victim’s heart out of their chest, and throws them over a cliff.
The Yucatan Times