The Xtabay

01Mar07

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If someone always wanted to know what that Xtabay is that Yma Sumac sings about, here’s the answer:

Xtabay litterally means ‘Female Ensnarer’ and can refer to (1) a basically Mesoamerican demon who seduces and kills, and (2) a female deity of the hunt, on a par with the male Ah Tabay. The Xtabay is not to be confused with Ix-Tab, a 16th-century Yucatecan goddess of suicides.

A legend of Xtabay (the female demon) tells us about two women who lived in a village in the Yucatán Peninsula. One was named Xtabay, but people called her Xkeban (which means prostitute, bad woman or who practices illicit love), the other was Utz-Colel (a good, decent woman).

People said Xkeban was sick with lust and gave her favors to every man who asked her. Utz-Colel was virtuous and honest…” more…

In another tale  – incindentally to be found in Benjamin Péret’s retelling of American myths and legends – La Xtabay turns out to be a female demon consisting of nothing else but hair.

A French documentary about Yma Sumac with some beautiful stock footage can be found here.

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