La Befana Cake: Honouring The Old Witch of Winter – Gather Victoria
According to Italian anthropologists and authors Claudia and Luigi Manciocco, Befana’s origins back to Neolithic beliefs in a great goddess associated with fertility and agriculture. Author Judika Illes writes, “Befana may predate Christianity and may originally be a goddess of ancestral spirits, forest, and the passage of time.”
In the book Vestiges of Ancient Manners and Customs, Discoverable in Modern Italy and Sicily by Rev. John J. Blunt , the author says: “This Befana appears to be heir at law of a certain heathen goddess called Strenia/Strenua/Strenae, who presided over the new year’s gifts, “Strenae’, from which, indeed, she derived her name. Her presents were of the same description as those of the Befana. Moreover, her solemnities were vigorously opposed by the Christians on account of their noisy, riotous, and licentious character”.