Mayan Legends: Bedtime Stories of an Ancient Civilization (Part 1)

Mayan mythology is based on the 3000-year-old civilization’s traditions and religion. Mayan territory covered a vast region called Mesoamerica, territories that are now the Mexican states of Campeche, Chiapas, Quintana Roo, Tabasco, and Yucatan, in addition to some parts of Central America. Even though many of the texts written by the Mayans were burned by the Spanish conquistadors, some legends survived and are still shared today.

In part 1 of this blog post, we will share:

1. The Legend of the Aluxes. mystical beings that watch over their owners, if respected.
2. The Legend of Xtabay, which tells the story of a liquor produced on the Yucatan Peninsula.

The Legend of the Aluxes

Aluxes are tiny beings created out of clay that hide and protect their owner. Once Aluxes (pronounced ah-lu-shes) were created, they were prayed for and given offerings to make them come to life.

Aluxes are faithful to their owners and mischievous with strangers. When their owners’ properties are passed down to others, they come out and scare the children. To please them, the new owners give them food, cigarettes, honey and corn.

Today aluxes continue to take care of Mayan towns. Some original clay figurines can be found at Dzitnup and Samula cenotes, near the city of Valladolid. Some people believe that aluxes are here to bring light to the world. The creatures are hardly ever seen, as they are agile and light, like the wind. Today Mayans still believe that if respected, aluxes will protect them and will take care of their properties.

The Legend of Xtabay and Xtabentun

The legend of Xtabay (pronounced eesh-ta-bai) tells the story of two beautiful sisters. One of them was known as a sinner and the other as a saint. One was rejected because she was sexually liberal, but she was loved by the sick and weak. The second one was pure, but inside she was rigid and condescending.

Upon Xkeban’s (the sinner) death, she received visitors from all over. Her tomb was surrounded by beautiful, colorful flowers and a sweet smell filled the air. When Utz-Colel (the saint) died her body emitted a disgusting smell and all the flowers around her grave died. From Xkeban’s tomb a flower called Xtabentun grows, while from Utz-Colel’s tomb, a cactus called tzacam grows.

Utz-Colel returned from eternity to take revenge on the kindness of her sister. To imitate her sister’s life, Utz-Colel offered love to strangers. She waits for them by ceiba trees as she combs her hair with a brush made out of that cactus, tzacam. She lures them in and then she kills them.

Watch for our Mayan Legends: Bedtime Stories of an Ancient Civilization (Part 2).