La Befana is a magical old woman who delivers gifts to children throughout Italy and Sicily on the eve of Epiphany (January 5th). Her story could be one reason we hang stockings on the mantle for Christmas. Though she has retained the image of an old, crone or ‘Strega’, her origins are more likely Christian; part of the Catholic Church’s efforts to convert Italian pagans. Regardless, Befana is one example of the witch as a positive figure in folklore. One legend bestows upon her the title of “mother of all children in Italy”. Her maternal aspect connects her as a folklore character to the ancient archetype of the Mother Goddess or Creatrix of physical life on the Earth.
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