25 YEARS AGO ON AMBERGRIS CAYE   BY ANGEL NUÑEZ

"La X'tabai"- San Pedro Folklore


N
OBODY, absolutely nobody that reads or enjoys about Belizean Folk tales can live with his conscience of having read La Llorona or, Tata Duende, or Sisimito without enjoying the stories of La X'tabai. Folks, you have to enjoy the X'tabai. She is the enchantress, or one that enchants you. What is an enchantress? Is she the next door's neighbor's wife that enchants you? An enchantress (Spanish is encantadora) is a woman whose beauty you cannot remove from your mind 25 hours a day, 8 days a week and for all the 14 months of the year. To enchant is to charm or bewitch, to put under a spell, to entrance or entice and fascinate. Okay, it does seem like the effect your neighbor's wife has on you. But folks, we are about to enjoy the most enchanting woman in the world, the legend that has always existed in San Pedro, The X'tabai.

Two forms of La X'tabai
(Illustration from Characters and
Caricatures in Belizean Folklore)
Most of the legends we have about La X'tabai talk about a beautiful, enchanting woman of Indian descent with long silky black hair, and who is always luring men to follow her and make love with her. One legend tells us of two women fighting over the same man. One of them, determined to win him, give the other girl a potion that awakened her erotic desires so she shamelessly went into the arms of countless men. She eventually fled into the forest and took the form of the X'tabai who seduces men and sometimes kills them if they cannot satisfy her heightened sexual desires. Another legend of the X'tabai tells us of a woman who was a very passionate lover and was one day deceived and rejected by both her husband and her lover. This made her very upset and now roams the forest in search of men on whom she can make love to and kill them as her revenge. Still another story tells us of a woman who had an affair with a lover and her husband caught her in the act and was going to kill her but she transformed into a prickly tree. That is why The X'tabai can transform into a woman or tree whenever she wants and is in constant search for men, hoping to find her lover.

The X'tabai can be very tricky. She can transform herself into to a prickly tree, but very frequently she can also transform herself into a snake. Others claim they have seen a woman without any flesh. Some claim to have encountered a woman with a rough back that is covered with scales, which she tries to hide. Some men have described her as having one foot like a goat and the other one like a turkey.

A man in San Pedro was said to have met the X'tabai in the bush one day and when she wanted to choke him, he stabbed her several times with his knife. When he took the villagers the next day to see what was there, they discovered that the knife was stuck in the body of a large, green snake. Don Felipe also had an encounter with this enchanting woman and claims to have made love to her but he was semi-conscious. He then contracted a fever that lasted several days and then he died. According to the old-timers, if a lover stays with the X'tabai he is unharmed, and the fever or harm only comes when he tries to leave her. Don Espiridion said that he prayed when he saw her in the bush one day and this caused her to turn into a heap of rotten wood. The sign of the cross is also a good way to make her disappear.

So there you have it folks. Don't say you have not been warned. The next time you have an encounter with the X'tabai, if you want to stay unharmed, you better stay with her, or if you rather, make the sign of the cross and no evil will come to you. But to be on the safe side, try to avoid an encounter with the X'tabai, and to do that, you have to stay away from all beautiful women with black hair. Blondes are okay. Here is another thing that I had forgotten to tell you. If you are bold and adventurous and you can manage to pull a strand of her hair, she will follow you forever, like a slave. But remember, it is a strand of black hair, not red lipstick.


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