The Christmas Witch: La Befana

Sorry, sorry, sorry.

I’m such a bad girl. I owe you demons. I had to take a little break. Stuff happens.

To make up for my horribleness, watch for something special in February–yes, that’s right, it’s another ZOMBIE MONTH!!! With prizes this time! It will be worth checking out this blog every day…

For now, a post I’ve been saving for TWO YEARS. Finally, the time is right for La Befana.

La Befana, Christmas Storytelling, Italy Pavil...

Image by Fraochsidhe via Flickr

There are parts of Italy where Santa Claus doesn’t visit. Instead, a crone of a witch brings presents on Epiphany, January 5, the traditional day the Wise Men showed with their gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.

The witch’s name is La Befana. The story goes that on their way to find Baby Jesus, the Magi stopped at this witch’s house for refreshment, and discovering that she was a fellow wise person, they invited her to come along. She said she was too busy, but later received a revelation that she needed to go give the baby presents too.

She ran after the Magi, but never caught up. She never found Jesus either, so now she gives gifts to all children on Epiphany, to make up for her mistake.


Dorothy Gladys Spicer, Festivals of Western Europe, Forgotten Books, 1973


Demonspotting: Gusion

Here’s what the Goetia says about Gusion:

The lamen of Gusion

A great and strong Duke… He appeareth like a Xenopilus. He telleth all things, Past, Present, and to Come, and showeth the meaning and resolution of all questions thou mayest ask. He conciliateth and reconcileth friendships, and giveth Honour and Dignity unto any. He ruleth over 40 Legions of Spirits. His Seal is this, the which wear thou as aforesaid.

Now that sounds like a handy dude to have around for a soulless monster who would like nothing better than to drag you to Hell to suffer with the rest of the Damned.

I get the part about knowing the past, present, and future. And knowing the answer to all the questions you might ask. Honor and dignity are handy. So are friends.

But what the heck is a “Xenopilus”?

A little research turned up Xenophilius, which is the Greek term for someone who loves all things foreign (I can dig it.) and a character in Harry Potter. Somehow I didn’t think that was the answer.

Finally, a winding path led me to the possibility that it’s a mistranslation of “Cynocephalus.” As in a creature with the head of a dog.