The feast of La Bafana

5 January 2019 – “Speaking with the Stars”: New Moon – exact at 7:28 p.m. CST.  As we enter the very coldest time of the year, the dim Little Dipper (Ursa Minor) turns to hang straight down from Polaris after dinnertime. The Big Dipper, meanwhile, is creeping up low in the north-northeast. Its handle is very low &its bowl is to the upper right. And Cassiopeia, a flattened letter M, is nearly overhead in the north-northwest, just beginning to tilt.

Rudolf Steiner’s Lectures on this day

The Eve of Epiphany

The Witch of Christmas, La Befana, is celebrated on the Eve of Epiphany – The legend of La Befana began thousands of years ago & remains to this day a tradition practiced by many folks with an Italian heritage (my father’s people are from Montefegatesi, the highest of the Bagni di Lucca villages in Tuscany) also practiced in many Waldorf schools.

Image result for la befana painting

The Legend: This story takes place at the time of the birth of the Matthew Jesus. La Befana is an old woman who lives in a house in the hills of Italy. Befana spends her days sweeping & baking, when she’s not needed as a healer. One night, Befana notices a bright light in the sky, she thinks nothing of it & goes back to her work. Later, a glorious caravan led by Three Wise Men stop & ask La Befana for directions to Bethlehem inviting her to join them in their search for the Christ Child. But Befana is too busy & knows nothing of this far-away place nor the birth of a special baby. After the caravan disappeared over the hills, she remembered that box of old toys that she had collected over the years, many that were tossed out because they were broken. She had fixed & re-painted them, handing them out to every child who needed one, because she loved seeing them smile. So she placed some baked goods & gifts for the Christ-child in a sack, took her broom to help the new mother clean & raced out after the caravan in search of the Baby Jesus. La Befana was soon lost. And just as she was getting very tired, angels appeared from the bright light, the magic star in the sky to give flight to La Befana on her broom –it was a night of miracles after all. She searched & searched for the Baby Jesus.

Image result for la befana painting

La Befana still searches, even today, after all these centuries. And so, every year on the eve of the Epiphany, whenever La Befana comes to a house where there is a child, she drops in to see if it might be the child she seeks. It never is, but Befana leaves a gift anyway. For La Befana has come to realize, over the years, that her searching is not vain, that in a way, the Christ Child is found in all children.

Ever since then the old wise woman has been known as “La Befana” or simply “Befana.” In fact, Befana’s name comes from the ancient Greek word “epifania” which means “epiphany.” It is significant since the religious feast of the Epiphany is celebrated on January 6th. So on the eve Befana flies from house to house on her old broomstick & delivers gifts to the good girls & boys, in the name of the Holy Child.

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This celebration, in remembrance of the Magi’s visit, often includes purifying rites & benedictions with water. Water set out by the fireplace on the eve of the Epiphany (the night that La Befana flies the skies) is said to have sacred properties that can ward off evil spirits & is used in critical moments of a family’s life.

Celebration of the Epiphany can be traced as far back as the 9th century, & is one of the most popular Italian feasts especially in the backcountry or in the hills. In the time when our grandparents were children, La Befana was tremendously popular & was awaited with a mixture of joy & anxiety. Children hung hand-knitted stockings on the fireplace & wrote long letters to her expressing their wishes. Often they were disappointed as their families had little money to spend on gifts; however, sometimes they found little hand-sewn dolls & puppets in their stocking. If they had been bad, their stockings were filled with onions, garlic & coal. In modern-day Italy some shops sell carbone or black rock candy that actually looks like pieces of coal.

And to celebrate this day, people would gather together on Epiphany morning to & chestnuts, & fruit pancakes.

My Waldorf girl learned this song at school many years ago:

Babuska, Babuska, she sweep & sweep all day
Babuska, Babushka, would not take time away.
Kings came ariding 1, 2, 3
Over the land & over sea
Following following yonder star
Calling out to them from afar
But Babuska, Babuska, she sweep & sweep all day
Babuska, Babushka, would not take time away.

~hag

Come see the Christmas Witch tonight, Played by Joen Delande, as part of our 3 Kings Pageant.

Image result for la befana with the 3 kings painting

Saturday 5 January 2019 – The 3 Kings Pageant 7 pm

At the Christian Community 2135 Wilson Ave. Chicago

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Sunday 6 Jan. Epiphany DAY 2 pm – 4 pm

The Baptism / 3 Kings Day / 12th Night / The feast of La Bafana

Eurythmy with Mary Ruud 

Leading Thoughts & Storytelling with Ann Burfiend

Social Art, Movement & Form Drawing with Nancy Melvin

 $10 & Snacks to Share Encouraged

 For more info. contact Festivals Coordinator Hazel Archer Ginsberg

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Rudolf Steiner Branch of The Anthroposophical Society, 4249 North Lincoln Avenue. Chicago, IL 60618 (map)

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