Let’s Look At The Folklore About Santa Claus

Folklore of Santa

Santa is a folk figure with multicultural roots. He embodies characteristics of Saturn (Roman agricultural god), Cronos (Greek god, also known as Father Time), the Holly King (Celtic god of the dying year), Father Ice/Grandfather Frost (Russian winter god), Odin/Wotan (Scandinavian/Teutonic All-Father who rides the sky on an eight-legged horse), Frey (Norse fertility god), the Tomte (a Norse Land Spirit known for giving gifts to children at this time of year), and Thor (Norse sky god who rides the sky in a chariot drawn by goats). Julbock or Julbukk, the Yule goat, from Sweden and Norway, had his beginnings as carrier for the god Thor. Now he carries the Yule elf when he makes his rounds to deliver presents and receive his offering of porridge.

When Early Christians co-opted the Yule holiday, they replaced the ancient Holly King with religious figures like St. Nicholas, who was said to live in Myra (Turkey) in about 300 A.D. Born an only child of a wealthy family, he was orphaned at an early age when both parents died of the plague. He grew up in a monastery and at the age of 17 became one of the youngest priests ever. Many stories are told of his generosity as he gave his wealth away in the form of gifts to those in need, especially children. Legends tell of him either dropping bags of gold down chimneys or throwing the bags through the windows where they landed in the stockings hung from the fireplace to dry. Some years later Nicholas became a bishop–hence the bishop’s hat or miter, long flowing gown, white beard and red cape.

When the Reformation took place, the new Protestants no longer desired St. Nicholas as their gift-giver as he was too closely tied to the Catholic Church. Therefore, each country or region developed their own gift-giver. In France he was known as Pare Noel. In England he was Father Christmas (always depicted with sprigs of holly, ivy, or mistletoe). Germany knew him as Weihnachtsmann (Christmas man). When the communists took over in Russia and outlawed Christianity, the Russians began to call him Grandfather Frost, who wore blue instead of the traditional red. To the Dutch, he was Sinterklaas (which eventually was mispronounced in America and became Santa Claus). La Befana, a kindly witch, rides a broomstick down the chimney to deliver toys into the stockings of Italian children. These Santas were arrayed in every color of the rainbow–sometimes even in black. But they all had long white beards and carried gifts for the children.

All of these Santas, however, never stray far from his earliest beginnings as god of the waning year. As witches, we reclaim Santa’s Pagan heritage.

La Befana – The Celebration of Epiphany

La Befana – The Celebration of Epiphany

By GrannyMoon, For The Lunar Monthly
 
Holidays in Italy are rich in traditions which have,for the most part,a religious history.
A favorite Italian holiday occurs on January 6.It is commonly known as “La Befana “
(Twelfth Night or the Eve of the Epiphany or Little Christmas ). La Befana is a personification of
the “spirit of the Epiphany ” and can almost be considered a nickname for “Epifania,” the proper
Italian word for epiphany.While the Western Christian Church celebrates December 25th,the
Eastern Christian Church to this day recognizes January 6 as the celebration of the nativity.
January 6 was also kept as the physical birthday in Bethlehem.
 
Tradition depicts La Befana as a kindly old lady with a stereotypical nose with a big red mole on
top of it and a pointy chin.Wearing an old coat mended with carefully with colorful patches and
tattered shoes,she flies around on a broom and carries her black bag filled with sweets and
presents for the children.Entering the houses through the chimney she places her gifts inside
the children ’s stockings hung with care,the night before.The buoni ragazzi (good kids)are very
happy to find their stocking filled with presents.They have been busy writing letters to La Befana,
la buona strega (good witch).But for the children who have not been good,there will not be
presents,but a lump of coal!
 
The origin of the tradition is veiled in mystery and in all likelihood this poetic figure goes
back to country legends of pre-Christian times.Befana also exists in various other popular
traditions.For instance on the evening of January 5 th ,”The Old Woman ” ((symbolizing the
out going winter),Befana appears in street processions as a masked figure with her consort,
“Befano “,”The Old Man “.Their followers revel as music fills the street,they receive
offerings,the gift of prosperity and blessings from Befana.Then to assure a good year,
the dolls are burned in effigy in the town square,welcoming the returning spring.
Her festival has usurped an ancient pagan feast set celebrated on the Magic Night,the 6th day of
the New Year,chosen by ancient Eastern astronomers according to their complicated calculations.
Epiphany was, therefore, pagan in origin.Only later was the day associated with the life of Christ.
 
Apparently there was a woman with a broom called Befana found on some Etruscan scratchings.
The people in remote areas of the Emilia still call on her by that version of the name to bestow or
cure malocchio (evil eye).Even la scopa (the broom)is considered a blessing against evil.
In Italy tradition,however,the Christmas holidays ending on 6th January,is quite fitting for a gift-
giver since the Feast of the Epiphany commemorates the visit of the Magi (or 3 Wise Men)to the
infant Jesus,with their gifts of gold,frankincense,and myrrh.The Magi were named Balthazar,
Melchior,and Gaspar,according to tradition.According to legend the three men during their
journey stopped and asked an old woman for food and shelter.She refused and they continued
on their way.Within a few hours the woman had a change of heart but the Magi were long gone.
The Befana is depicted as a witch astride a broom,still searching the world for the Baby Jesus.
Thinking of the opportunity she had missed,Befana stops every child to give them a small treat in
hopes that one was the Christ child.Each year on the eve of the Epiphany she sets out looking
for the baby Jesus.
 
Many welcome La Befana by laying out a small meal for her.Consisting of sausage and
broccoli and usually accompanied by a glass of wine.After her arrival, it is a time for celebration
and people move from house to house visiting friends and relatives.
 
This is a song used by some Italian children,a rough translation into English would be:
 
La Befana comes at night
In tattered shoes
Dressed in the Roman style
Long live la Befana!!
She brings cinders and coals
To the naughty children
To the good children
She brings sweets and lots of gifts.
 
Take frankincense, both of the best and the inferior kind,also cumin seed.Have ready a
separate scaldino (spirit bowl),which is kept only for this purpose.And should it happen that
affairs of any kind go badly,fill the scaldino with glowing coals,then take three pinches of best
incense and three of the second quality,and put them all ‘in fila ’ (in a row)on the threshold of the
door.Then take the rest of your incense and the cumin,and put it into the burning coal,and
carry it about,and wave it over the bed and in every corner,saying:
.
In nome del cielo!
Delle stelle e della luna!
Mi levo questo mal d ’occhio
Per mia maggior ’ fortuna!
Befana!Befana!Befana!
Che mi date mal d ’occhio maladetta sia
Befana!Befana!Befana!
Chi mi ha dato il maldocchio
Me lo porta via
E maggior fortuna Mi venga in casa mia!
.
Translation:
In the name of heaven
And of the stars and moon,
May this trouble change
Befana!Befana!Befana!
Should this deed be thine;
Befana!Befana!Befana!
Take it away,bring luck,I pray,
Into this house of mine!
 
Then when all is consumed in the scaldino,light the little piles of incense on the threshold of the
door, and go over it three times, and spit behind you over your shoulder three times,and say:
 
Befana!Befana!Befana!
Chi me ha dato maldocchio!Me lo porta via
 
Translation:
Befana!Befana!
Befana!I say,
Since thou gavest this bad luck,
Carry it away!
 
Then pass thrice backwards and forwards before the fire,spitting over the left shoulder,and
repeating the same incantation.
 
Looking for a place to celebrate in the typical Italian tradition…here are a few!
Paularo,Italy :La Femenate Bonfire (January 6).
Tarcento,Italy :Pignarul Giant Bonfire Festival (January 6).
Cividale,Italy :Historical Pageant and Costume Parade (January 6).
Gemona,Italy :Messa del Tallero Medieval Pageant (January 6).
Milan,Italy :Epiphany Parade of the Three Kings proceeds from the Duomo to the church of
Sant ’Eustorgio (January 6).
 
The legend of the Befana has had an important role in the imagination of all children of the world.
Those who wish to relive the magic of the first wonders of infancy and understand the meaning
and origins of this extraordinary figure,should be prepared to undertake a long voyage that will
carry them back in time,to the origins of human ’s history.
 
This little old lady so dear to children has continued to fascinate them for centuries, and they still
await her arrival on the night of her holiday.The gatherings at La Befana are filled with music,
song,traditional foods, sweets and gifts.Celebration reigns supreme, with people opening their
hearts by sharing love and peace in the World.
 
Source: “The Legend of Old Befana “, Harcourt Brace Jovanovich,1980,by Tomie dePaola
“Etruscan Magic &Occult Remedies” by Charles Godfrey Leland,University Books,NY,1963
Befana incantation from “Etruscan Magic &Occult Remedies “, by Charles Godfrey Leland,University Books,NY,1963.
“Befana ” by Fabrisia
 
Copyright GrandmotherMoon

Deity of the Day for Jan. 5 – BEFANA

BEFANA

Befana Fair (Italy)
 
Themes: Overcoming Evil; Wisdom
Symbols: Broom; Horns; Hag Poppets
 
About Befana: Befana is the Italian crone goddess. Call on her for wisdom and guidance through the other eleven months of the year. Because she has lived a long life, her astute insight will serve you well. Today is her festival day in Italy, celebrated with horns, noise makers, songs, and music. These loud sounds drive out evil and mark the passage of winter’s darkness out of the region.
 
To Do Today: Have any children in your life follow the Italian tradition of leaving Befana a broom to fly on and a gift basket. According to legend, Befana rewards this kindness with little gifts in stockings much like Santa Claus.
 
Find a “kitchen witch” at a gift shop and hang it up near the hearth to welcome Befana’s wisdom into your home.
Or, take a broom clockwise around your house, sweeping inward toward a central spot to gather her beneficent energies.
To protect your home for the rest of the year, use a kazoo or other noise maker (pots with wooden spoons work well). Go into each room and make a loud racket saying,
 
All evil fear! Befana is here! Away, away, only goodness may stay.
 
If your schedule allows, make a poppet that looks like an old woman. Fill it with dried garlic, pearl onions, and any other herbs you associate with safety. Keep this near the stove or hearth to invoke Befana’s ongoing protection.
 
 
By Patricia Telesco

Twas the Night Before Yule

Yule Comments & Graphics

Twas the Night Before Yule

 

Posted byPatrick McCleary

 

This is a delightful poem by Richard De Angelis, that I found again after hearing it years ago in ritual. Hope you all like it as much as I did.

‘Twas the night before Yule, when all ‘cross the heath,
not a being was stirring; Pagan, faerie, or beast.
Wassail was left out & the alter adorned,
to rejoice that the Sun King would soon be reborn.

The children lay sleeping by the warmth of the hearth,
their dreams filled with visions of belov’d Mother Earth.
M’lady & I beneath blankets piled deep,
had just settled down to our own Solstice sleep.

Then a noise in the night that would leave us no peace,
Awakened us both to the honking of geese.
Eager to see such a boisterous flock,
When we raced to the window, our mouths dropped in shock!

On the west wind flew a gaggle of geese white & gray,
With Frau Holda behind them in her giftladen dray.
The figure on her broomstick in the north sky made it clear,
La Befana was approaching to bestow Yuletide cheer.

From the south came a comet more bright than the moon,
And we knew that Lucia would be with us soon.
As these spirits sailed earthward o’er hilltops & trees,
Frau Holda serenaded her feathery steeds:

“Fly Isolde! Fly Tristan! Fly Odin & Freya!
Fly Morgaine! Fly Merlin! Fly Uranus & Gaea!
“May the God & the Goddess inside you soar,
From the clouds in the heavens to yon cottage door.”

As soft & silent as snowflakes they fell:
Their arrival announced by a faint chiming bell.
They landed like angels, their bodies aglow.
Their feet left no marks in the new fallen snow.

Before we could ponder what next lay in store,
There came a slow creaking from our threshold door.
We crept from our bedroom & were spellbound to see
…There in our parlor stood the Yule Trinity!

Lucia, the Maiden, with her head wreathed in flame,
Shown with the radiance for which she was named.
The Lightbringer’ s eyes held the joy of a child,
And she spoke with a voice that was gentle, yet wild:

“May the warmth of this household ne’er fade away.”
Then she lit our Yule log which still burns to this day.
Frau Holda in her down cloak stood regal & tall;
The Matron of Solstice, the Mother of all.

Under her gaze we felt safe & secure.
Her voice was commanding, yet almost demure:
“May the love of this family enrich young & old.”
And from the folds of her cloak showered coins of pure gold.

Le Befana wore a kerchief on her silvery hair;
The veil of the Crone who has secrets to share.
In her eyes gleamed a wisdom only gained by spent youth.
Her voice was a whisper but her words rung with truth:

“May health, glad tidings, and peace fill these rooms.”
And she banished misfortune with a sweep of her broom.
They then left a gift by each sleeping child’s head,
Took a drink of our wassail, and away they sped.

While we watched them fly off through the night sky we laughed,
At the wondrous magick we had found in the Craft
As they departed, the spirits decreed
Merry Yule To You All & May All Blessed Be! 

 Pagan Dad  

~Magickal Graphics~