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


The First Vampire Exorcism?

Venice, 1576.

A great plague is devastating the city. No one knows the reason, and no one knows the cure. People are living–and dying–in fear.

The island of Lazzaretto, south of the city, is hit so bad that it’s designated a quarantine zone. There is no one there except the dying and the dead and the ones who bury the bodies in mass graves.

One of these gravediggers opens a grave with thousands of bodies in it, to add a few more to the pile–one catches his eye, making him stand back, lean on his shovel, and crosses himself.

The corpse looks ruddy, healthy, and fat. And most frightening of all, there is a hole in the shroud, in front of the woman’s face, as if she’s been eating the graveclothes.

The gravedigger knows the legends of the vampires who eat their shrouds, consume blood, and spread plague. So what do you do?

Four hundred and thirty years later, Discovery has the full story.