Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Winter Traditions and Holidays Part 8 - Winter Witches

In Christian legend Befana was approached by the Three Wise Men who asked for directions to Jesus.
  • She gives them shelter for a night, and the magi invite her to join them in finding the Jesus, but she declined, stating she was too busy with her housework.
  • Later, she changes her mind and tries to find Jesus but can’t so she is forever searching for the little baby.
  • She leaves all the good children toys and candy or fruit, while the bad children get coal onions or garlic on Epiphany Eve (the night of January 5).
  • The child's family typically leaves a small glass of wine and a plate with food, for the Befana.
  • Some suggest that Befana is descended from the Sabine/Roman goddess named Strina. (goddess of the new year, purification, and wellbeing)
  • Being a good housekeeper, many say she will sweep the floor before she leaves - sweeping away of the problems of the year.
  • She is usually portrayed as an old lady riding a broomstick through the air wearing a black shawl and is covered in soot because she enters the children's houses through the chimney.
  • Befana is said to have a possible connection to Perchta.

The two faces of PerchtaPerchta/Holle Bride of Wotan

  • Perchta is sometimes a beautiful lady in white, and sometimes a hideous monster who comes out of the forest to terrorize villagers at Christmas.
  • When she is the beautiful lady she is sometimes called Holle who is associated with the god, Wotan/Odin and together they lead the Wild Hunt.
  • She is the protectress of agriculture and women's crafts


  • witchy figure associated with Christmas is Grýla - an Icelandic giantess whowas not known to be part of Christmas festivities until the 17th century.
  • In Icelandic tradition, Grýla is the mother of the Yule Lads, a group of mischievous gnomish creatures who descend from their mountain to wreak havoc in the towns below.
  • Grýla plays the role of the punisher of naughty children. Just as Krampus in Germany drags away bad children, Icelandic children who do not behave themselves may find themselves being carried away by the wicked Grýla.

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