Friday, January 6, 2012

La Befana The Christmas Witch

La Befana at Disney World
Every year I try to remember to say something about La Befana, the Italian Christmas witch.
This year I remembered, but had set the date wrong.  Oh well.

You can read more about her here,

The most common tale is she directed the Three Wise Men to the new baby Jesus, but declined to go with them till her housework was done.

Like St. Nick/Santa, she gives out gifts to Children on Epiphany Eve.  Befana, like many other Christianized myths has her origin in an older story of the Goddess Strenua.  So she is seen a protector figure in myth.

Given that she is such a complex character it would be difficult to do her justice in a write-up.

But I can talk about her broom.
Her Broom seems to be perfect as a powerful witch artifact that you can drop into your games.

The following is released as Open per the OGL.

La Befana’s Broom
La Befana was a great and powerful witch. Legend says that she once helped three great and powerful Magic-Users find their way when they were lost, search for a young king. They had asked La Befana to go with them, but she declined telling them she had cleaning to do. In reality she did not want to go because she had lost her own baby and seeing this new one would have made her sad.
 The Magic-Users on their return brought La Befana a gift, a magical broom that would clean her home for her if she uttered the proper word. It would also render her invisible and allow her to enter the home of anyone unnoticed as long as her intentions were good and pure. La Befana used this magic to go into people’s homes on the eve of the Magic-Users' return to her each year to clean the homes of the good people in her village and leave a small present, usually a bit of candy for the good children or a bit coal for the bad ones.
She has let the broom go now so it may continue to do good in the world where she can’t go.
In the hands of a Good witch this broom will manifest the following powers:

  • Act as a Broom of Flying 
  • Act as a Broom of Protection, Threshold 
  • When held it will render the witch Invisible 
  • When used to knock on a door the door will open as if a Knock spell was cast on it. Inhabitants will not be able to hear the knock.

Neutral witches can also use these powers, but only if their intent is pure and good. If they attempt to do anything that is considered harmful or against those pure intentions then the Broom treats them as if they were Evil.
Evil witches cannot use the Broom at all. Once they touch it it becomes a Broom of Animated Attack. The broom will attack for 1 round (it gets the initiative due to surprise) then it disappears.
Typically the Broom will remain with any given witch only for one year then it will disappear to find another worthy witch.


Theodric the Obscure said...

Christmastide a few years ago, my wife and I were in Genova on our honeymoon and we saw La Befana everywhere as they were anticipating her arrival. She was especially prominent in bakeries and sweet shops, and we were very intrigued with this figure that was completely new to us. I'm excited to see her appearing on your blog!

Happy Epiphany, Timothy!

Woodclaw said...

Thanks for keeping the "local christmas traditions" theme running and to include this.
To be honest here in Italy there's much confusion about the origin of the character. That's because during the Fascist regime the role of the Befana was put forward as "purely Italian" tradition, opposite to the Anglo-Saxon figure of Santa Claus. As a result lots of people consider the Befana to be a more modern tradition than she really is.

Anonymous said...

Befana! Never heard of her until now and I already think she's brilliant. I intend to write a witch story soon and this is so inspiring.

Martin R. Thomas said...

So glad you revisited this and posted it on your social media. I'm a big fan of reading about Christmas traditions from other countries and I first read about Befana in my old Time Life book "The Book of Christmas" that was part of their "Enchanted World" series.

Decades later, my dad's cousin gave my wife and me a homemade Befana "doll" as our Christmas gift after our wedding. He used to make all kinds of dolls of gift givers from around the world, and the Befana doll he gave us was displayed in several museums before he gave it to us. We put it out every year as part of our Christmas decorations.