The night between 5 and 6: Befana’s night – La notte fra il 5 ed il 6: la notte della Befana

THE BEFANA

“If this year the Befana will not arrive, you know why”
Click here:
http://cartoline.auguri.it/pics/befana20...

It is tradition the in the night of the 5 January the children, before to go to sleep hang an empty sock on the fireplace and leave on the table a plate, tangerine, or an orange, and a glass of wine, or milk, all this because it is sure that in the night between the 5 and 6 the Befana will pass on the roof of the houses and she will enter by the fireplace and will fill the sock with toys and sweets…Toys and sweet just for good children, because to bad children she leaves only coal…The proof that all this is real is that the next morning the children will find gifts or coal in the sock, the consumed meal and the print of the Befana’s hand on the shed cinder on the plate.

The Befana is a witch, old woman, deformed, meagre, she have white and towy hair, the face covered by soot, red eyes like the brace, wears a big glasses, big and hooked nose, very big and tothless mouth.
She wears poor country dress, prefering almost always the black colour: a skirt , a embroidered bodice and a shawl on the shoulders, a big headscarf on the head, knoted under the chin, but exist also pictures with the hat like that of some or witches.
Her feet are big and knotty, with always broken and coarse shoes.
She have a big jute sack full of gifts and more gifts the Befana extracts from the sack more gifts she finds: her stores are endeless.
The country tradition narrates that the Befana passes on the Earth since 1 to 6 January, in particular the last night between 5 and 6 is full of prodigies: the trees are covered of fruits, the animals speaks, the water of the rivers and of the springs changes in gold. The children waits gifts, the girls obtains, the horoscopes about the next weddings, putting olive-leafs on the hot cinder, boys and men goes singing across the village, in some places manages a fetish by cloths and tow a fetish that shows on the windows, others brings the fetish on the push-cart, with shouts and whistles, until the village’s square where turns on the fire to burn the Befana.

The name Befana is the mutation of Epiphany, "The display of the Divinity".
A some traditions wants the Befana with black colour on her skin because is it connected to the narration of the Magi from Eastern where one of them was black.
In the Befana are fused all elements of old tradition:
the generosity of the Goddess Strenia, the spirtis of the celebrations of Ancient Rome, the concepts of fertility and fecundity of the Goddess Diana, the external look of some witches with a little of cruelty inherited from Frau Berchta.

In the ancient Rome the year was started with the celebrations in honour of the God Janus that gave the name to the first month of the year Januarius, and to Goddess Strenia; celebrations called Sigillaria where was usual to donate little golden or silvery statues. The Sigillaria was waited over all from the children that was received gifts often made by sweet pastry with forms of little dolls or little animals.
In the Middle Ages the time between Christmas and 6 January, that have 12 night, assumes a magic value and the Epiphany night was called "The Twelfth Night".
It is a share of time that comes after the sowing so a time full of hope and expectation for the next harvest.
In that 12 night the country people was believed to see to fly the Goddess Diana together a team of women ,over the sowed fields to fertilize the countries.
But when the Goddess was changed in an Infernal Divinity, the 12 nights comes definite the nights of the witch’s meetings: so born the tradition spread in all Europe that the time between Christmas and the Epiphany is suitable to the witches, at example for the north German Diana becomes Frau Holle and in South Germany becomes Frau Berchta.
That "Ladies" brings in themselves the Good and the Evil: they are kind, kindly, are Goddess of vegetation and the fertility, protectress of the thereader, but also are bad and merciless against to makes evil. They flies or rides a broom or driver a cart followed from “The Ladies of the Night”, the witches and the souls of the not baptized.
It is from this mutations that born the figure of the witch with good heart that flies on the broom in the Twelfth Night and comes in the our homes through the fireplace (place of the fire, the place most alive of the home, that represents the nut of the home and, in some folk beliefs, it is the door to the trascendental. The belief narrates that the souls of the dead , in the night returns at home by the fireplace) to leave gifts as oranges, tangerines, dried figs, chestnut, apples, dried grapes and sweets: the Befana exactly
But it is a slow mutation because until XVI century the Befana was not a person but just a feast, one of most important and joyful of the year: snging, music, dance, fireworks, parades, carousels, for all the classes.
In the '500 the appears the Befane, as female figures that strolls into the night to frighten the children.
At the end of the '600 remains 2 figures: one good and one bad the Accademia della Crusca mentions them.
In the '700 and in the '800 many towns like, Venezia, Verona, Padova, Firenze, born fairs dedicated to the Befana and in particular one of most famous is here in Rome in Piazza Navona.
Still today in Italy exists folk feasts connected to the 6 Jennuary where turns on fires to burn the Befana like a true witch or where makes cakes with honey like made the Ancient Romans with their votive flat bread dedicated to Janus in the early days of the year.

THOUGHTS ABOUT THE BEFANA
She is ecological, since she travels on a broom
She is an animalist, since she does not exploit poor reindeer
She is a proletarian, since she dresses in non-fashionable clothes
She is a justice bearer, since she rewards only deserving ones
She is tolerant, since her punishments are very mild, just ashes and coal
She is not exacting, since in exchange for all her work she only takes some bread soaked in wine or milk.

BEFANA’S NURSERY-RHYMES
The Befana comes into the night
with broken shoes,
her dress trulla là, the Befana:
"Here I am!!!"

The Befana comes into the night
with broken shoes
with the patchs on her skirt:
long live the Befana!

The Befana comes into the night
with broken shoes,
She brings a sack full of gifts
to donate to good children

The Befana comes into the night
with broken shoes,
by the broom:
long live the granny!

BEFANA’S LULLABY
"Ninnaò, ninnaò,
who will I give this child to
if I give it to the Befana
she will keep him one whole week
if I give it to the Bogey Man
he will keep him one whole year
but if the child goes to sleep
then his mother will him keep"

PHOTOS
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...

BESOS!
Katya

--- Italian Version ---

LA BEFANA
http://cartoline.auguri.it/pics/befana20...

E’ usanza che la sera del 5 Gennaio i bambini prima di andare a dormire appendano una calza vuota sul camino e lascino sul tavolo un piatto ---- , un mandarino, o un’arancia, ed un bicchiere di vino, tutto questo perché sicuramente nella notte fra il 5 ed il 6 la Befana passerà sul tetto della casa, si calerà nel camino e riempirà al calza di giocattoli e dolci…Giocattoli e dolci solo ai bambini buoni perché ai bambini cattivi lascia solo del carbone…La prova che tutto questo accade davvero è il fatto che il mattino successivo i bambini troveranno i regali o il carbone nella calza, il pasto consumato e l’impronta della mano della Befana sulla cenere sparsa nel piatto.

La Befana è una strega, vecchia, deforme, magra, ha i capelli, bianchi e stopposi, un viso coperto da fuliggine, gli occhi rossi come la brace, porta un paio di grossi occhiali, il naso grosso e adunco, la bocca grandissima e sdentata.
Indossa abiti poveri, da contadina, prediligendo quasi sempre il colore nero: una gonna, un corpetto ricamato e uno scialle sulle spalle, un ampio fazzoletto in testa, annodato sotto il mento, ma esistono anche rappresentazioni con il cappello a punta, come quello di certe fate o delle streghe.
I piedi sono grossi e nodosi, con scarpe grossolane e sempre rotte.
Ha un enorme sacco di iuta pieno di doni, più doni la Befana estrae dal sacco più ne ritrova:
le sue scorte sono inesauribili.
La tradizione contadina racconta che la Befana passa sulla terra dall'1 al 6 gennaio, in particolare l’ultima notte dal 5 al 6 è piena di prodigi: gli alberi si coprono di frutti, gli animali parlano, le acque dei fiumi e delle fonti si tramutano in oro. I bambini attendono regali, le fanciulle traggono al focolare gli oroscopi sulle future nozze, ponendo foglie di ulivo sulla cenere calda, ragazzi e adulti, in comitiva, vanno per il villaggio cantando, in alcuni luoghi si prepara con cenci e stoppa un fantoccio e lo si espone alle finestre, altri lo portarono in giro sopra un carretto, con urli e fischi, fino alla piazzetta del villaggio, accendono i falò destinati a bruciare la Befana.

Il nome Befana è la trasformazione di Epifania, "le manifestazioni della divinità".
Una certa tradizione vuole la Befana nera, perché si rifà al racconto dei magi dall'oriente, di cui uno era nero di carnagione.
In lei si fondono tutti gli elementi della vecchia tradizione:
la generosità della dea Strenia, lo spirito delle feste dell'antica Roma, i concetti di fertilità e fecondità della Dea Diana, l’aspetto esteriore di certe streghe con una punta di crudeltà ereditata da Frau Berchta.

Nell’antica Roma l’anno iniziava con le feste in onore al Dio Giano che diede il nome Januarius al primo mese dell'anno, ed alla Dea Strenia, feste chiamate Sigillaria dove era usuale regalare piccole statue d’oro e d’argento. Le Sigillaria erano attese soprattutto dai bambini che ricevevano in dono i loro sigilla spesso realizzati in pasta dolce con la forma di bamboline e animaletti.
Nel Medioevo, il periodo compreso tra il Natale e il 6 gennaio che conta in tutto dodici notti, assume un valore magico e la notte dell'Epifania è anche chiamata la "Dodicesima notte".
Si tratta di una porzione di tempo che viene subito dopo la semina quindi, pieno di speranze e di aspettative per il raccolto futuro, da cui dipende la sopravvivenza nel nuovo anno.
In quelle dodici notti il popolo contadino credeva di vedere volare sopra i campi appena seminati la Dea Diana con un gruppo di donne, per rendere appunto fertili le campagne.
Ma quando la Dea viene trasformata in una divinità infernale, le dodici notti vengono definite le notti in cui avvengono i convegni delle streghe: nasce anche da qui la tradizione diffusa in tutta Europa che il tempo tra Natale ed Epifania sia da ritenersi propizio alle streghe, ad esempio presso i tedeschi del nord Diana diventa Frau Holle mentre nella Germania del sud, diventa Frau Berchta.
Queste "Signore" portano in sé il bene e il male: sono gentili, benevole, sono le Dee della vegetazione e della fertilità, le protettrici delle filatrici, ma nello stesso tempo si dimostrano cattive e spietate contro chi fa del male. Si spostano volando o su una scopa o su un carro, seguite dalle "Signore della notte", le maghe e le streghe e le anime dei non battezzati.
E’ da queste “mutazioni” che nasce la figura della una strega di buon cuore che vola a cavallo della sua scopa nella dodicesima notte che entra nelle case attraverso il camino (sede del fuoco, il punto più vivo della casa, che rappresenta il fulcro della domesticità, e in alcune credenze popolari, è visto anche come l'apertura al trascendente. Si crederebbe che le anime dei morti, di notte, ritornino in casa attraverso l'apertura del camino) per lasciare doni come arance, mandarini, fichi secchi, castagne, mele, uva secca e dolci: la Befana appunto.
Ma è una mutazione lenta perché fino al XVI secolo la Befana non è ancora una persona, ma solamente una festa, una delle feste più importanti e gioiose dell'anno: canti, suoni, balli, fuochi artificiali, cortei, giostre, una baldoria che coinvolge tutte le classi sociali.
Nel '500 si comincia a parlare di Befane, come figure femminili che vanno in giro di notte a far paura ai bambini, ma sono sempre più di una.
Alla fine del '600 ne restano ancora due, una buona e una cattiva, la stessa Accademia della Crusca ne fa menzione.
Nel '700 e nell'800 in molte città, come Venezia, Verona, Padova, Firenze, nascono poi vere e proprie fiere della Befana e in particolare qui a Roma in Piazza Navona.
Ancora oggi in Italia esistono feste popolari in concomitanza del 6 Gennaio dove si accendono i falò per bruciare la Befana come una vera strega o dove si preparano torte a base di miele, proprio come facevano gli antichi Romani con la loro focaccia votiva dedicata a Giano nei primi giorni dell'anno.

PENSIERI SULLA BEFANA
La Befana è ecologica perché viaggia su una scopa
E' animalista, perché non sfrutta le povere renne
E' proletaria, perché si veste in maniera evidentemente non firmata
E' portatrice di giustizia, perché premia solo chi se lo merita
E' tollerante, perché punisce in maniera blanda, portando la cenere e il carbone
E' di miti pretese, perché chiede in cambio per il suo lavoro solo un pò di pane inzuppato nel latte o nel vino.

FILASTROCCHE DELLA BEFANA
La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte,
il vestito trulla là, la Befana:
"Eccomi quà!!!"

La Befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
con le toppe alla sottana:
Viva, viva la Befana!

La befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte
porta un sacco pien di doni
da regalare ai bimbi buoni

La befana vien di notte
con le scarpe tutte rotte,
con la scopa di saggina:
viva viva la nonnina!

NINNA NANNA DELLA BEFANA
"Ninnaò, ninnaò,
questo bimbo a chi lo do
se lo do alla Befana
se lo tiene una settimana
se lo do all'Uomo Nero
se lo tiene un anno intero
ma se il bimbo fa la nanna
se lo tiene la sua mamma"

FOTOGRAFIE
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr... http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...

BESOS!
Katya

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bladerunner's picture
Member since:
1 May 2004
Last activity:
3 weeks 6 hours

Thank You for the story behind todays beliefs. I always love your stories, myths, and insight into our Pagan beliefs. I myself practise a wiccian based spirituality. Blessed Bee!

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

So you have appreciated the Befana's story:
thank you from me and thanks from the Befana too.

I have dedicated a blog to the Befana because she is my favourite character, even if to call Befana a woman is almost "offensive" or anyway ironic (because her look is not exactly the look of a champion of beauty…) instead I continue to say that can be a congratulation ;-)
Anyway I continue to be her fan :-)
I have rather little Befana-dolls hanged in my home, also my key ring is a Befana!
Also I very happy that in these last years she has been rediscovered, because for some years was not mentioned in the Italian Calendars…

If in my next blogs you have something to say to supplement what I narrate, I will be very happy if you will post your stories.

STRONG EMBRACE!
Katya

kennc's picture
Member since:
2 March 2005
Last activity:
7 years 27 weeks

Katya

You really know how to make interesting blogs! Salvo! They are very informative! I love them!

kennc

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

Thank you, you are always kind.
Ti ringrazio, sei sempre gentile.

At the next
Alla prossima
Katya

kennc's picture
Member since:
2 March 2005
Last activity:
7 years 27 weeks

Thank-you for the Italian!
Italano ti ringrazio!
Italia-go domo arigato gozaimasu!

Italia-go = Italian Language
Italia-jin = Italian People
Italia = Italy

Alla prossima
Mata ato de

kennc

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

Thanks!
So when I will meet Japanese tourists that will ask me where is the Colosseo, I will answer without problems by my strong Japanese: “Domo arigato gozaimasu”, instead to who will ask where is Circo Massimo I will say “Yoi otoshiwo” ;-)

Continue to send Japanese translation.

MATA ATO DE & EMBRACES (= ABBRACCI)
Katya

Carol Maltby's picture
Member since:
8 January 2006
Last activity:
3 years 50 weeks

Katya, thanks for the Befana information. I have a question about photograph #10 at http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr... .

What is the hollow (?) mound in the lower left, in the picture where the families are walking up the path? Would that be where charcoal is made?

Are these families making a trip to Befana's house to meet her like we take children to meet Santa Claus at malls and other places in America? When we do this there is usually a little house set up for Santa. Mrs. Santa and the elves take pictures of the child sitting on Santa's lap and telling him what to bring for Christmas. There are usually small children howling in terror at meeting this strange supernatural being. :)

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

I don’t know what is that hollow mound in the picture, it can be a charcoal.
The children can meet the Befana in many places and can to talk with her.
This character is very popular and familiar, there is not big reference to her supernatural nature and never there is terror in children’s approach to her; for the Italian children she is like a special granny, is also “called” Santa Claus’s wife.
The photo that you mention belongs to Barga, that Befana's house is a tourist and recreational initiative for children:
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/tr...
http://www.comune.barga.lu.it/TURISMO/co...
instead what is defined as true Befana’s home is in Urbania:
http://151.1.141.232/

AT THE NEXT!
Katya

doggybag's picture
Member since:
14 January 2006
Last activity:
8 years 13 weeks

Katya said " I don’t know what is that hollow mound in the picture, it can be a charcoal."

Well spotted - they are the mounds used to make the charcoal ... the wood has to burn slowly and in an oxygen deprived situation

As for seeing the Befana, no better place to go than here:

http://www.barganews.com/daily/2006/01/0...

at the bottom of that page there are links going back to 2000 showing her entry into Barga

and what about the befanotti ? Be sure to watch the film of the group of befanotti arriving in Barga

http://www.barganews.com/daily/2006/01/0...

ciao
db

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

Thanks for the links!
I wait you in my next Blogs

HUGSHUGS
Katya

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

I want to post, on this my old blog, other stuff that I have found some minutes ago on YouTube:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Ak-fM35AO8Q

Canti della Befana - Befana's Songs
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GViiNnt_-pw

See video
/>
See video

Strong embrace!
Katya

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
4 hours 51 min

Here in Mexico the ones that bring the gifts on Jan 6 are the Magi, or as they're called in these lands, "Los Reyes Magos"

They can still be found in the Alameda park in downtown Mexico, where parents take their children to take a photo posing with them.

As a grownup, there's still the satisfaction of the traditional Rosca de Reyes, a sweet bread made up like a large donut (or a torus, for the Math-lovers out there); it has to be eaten carefully though, for inside every Rosca there's a plastic figurine representing the baby Jesus, and whoever has the fortune —or misfortune— to get it, has to pay the tamales & Atole (a hot sweet beverage made with corn & water) on February 5th, the Day of "La Candelaria".

Now, getting back to the Befana, let's be serious here: do we really think there was ever a boy or a girl who got a piece of coal in their sock?? ;-)

PS: And about that lullaby where the mom says if the child does not go to sleep she will give it to the Befana or the Bogey man? Yeah, that will make ME sleep like a baby right away! And then the parents wonder why their children send them to the asylum later in life :-P

-----
It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

Interesting your news.

Here the Candelora is the 2 February, http://www.dailygrail.com/node/2507

About the coal, it is usual to find coal in the socks, also in the socks of good children, in the past it was true coal, now often it is a false coal, it is made of sugar, it is another kind of sweet...but I continue to prefer the chocolate:
anyway, always and forever! :-)

Besos!
Katya

red pill junkie's picture
Member since:
12 April 2007
Last activity:
4 hours 51 min

Feb 2nd is the Day of the Candelaria, not the 5th.

-----
It's not the depth of the rabbit hole that bugs me...
It's all the rabbit SH*T you stumble over on your way down!!!

Red Pill Junkie

Kathrinn's picture
Member since:
10 August 2004
Last activity:
5 weeks 5 days

You went to a lot of trouble to tell us that story and it was much appreciated. Befana may not be 'beautiful' in the accepted physical sense of the word, but I think her actions are rather beautiful and she obviously has a kind heart - bet she didn't leave too many pieces of coal! That makes her beautiful to me.

Hugs, Kathrinn

KATYA's picture
Member since:
10 August 2005
Last activity:
2 weeks 16 hours

Thank you Kathrinn!

I am very happy to see that this my old blog have a so long life! I am a true fan of Befana and even if many people continue to say that the Befana is an old ugly (and poor) witch, I continue to underscore that she is not ugly but she is an old (magic) woman!

Hugs from the paladin of the Befana :-)