Christmas In Ritual & Tradition - online book

The Observance Of Christmas In Various Lands And Ages.

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In Tyrol, by the way, it is often said that the Perchtl is Pontius Pilate's wife, Procula.67 In the Italian dialects of south Tyrol the German Frau Berchta has been turned into la donna Berta.68 If one goes further south, into Italy itself, one meets with a similar being, the Befana, whose name is plainly nothing but a corruption of Epiphania. She is so distinctly a part of the Epiphany festival that we may leave her to be considered later.
Of all supernatural Christmas visitors, the most vividly realized and believed in at the present day are probably the Greek Kalli-kantzaroi or Karkantzaroi.69 They are the terror of the Greek peasant during the Twelve Days ; in the soil of his imagination they flourish luxuriantly, and to him they are a very real and living nuisance.
Traditions about the Kallikantzaroi vary from region to region, but in general they are half-animal, half-human monsters, black, hairy, with huge heads, glaring red eyes, goats' or asses' ears, blood-red tongues hanging out, ferocious tusks, monkeys' arms, and long curved nails, and commonly they have the foot of some beast. " From dawn till sunset they hide themselves in dark and dank places . . . but at night they issue forth and run wildly to and fro, rending and crushing those who cross their path. Destruction and waste, greed and lust mark their course." When a house is not prepared against their coming, " by chimney and door alike they swarm in, and make havoc of the home; in sheer wanton mischief they overturn and break all the furniture, devour the Christmas pork, befoul all the water and wine and food which remains, and leave the occupants half dead with fright or violence." Many like or far worse pranks do they play, until at the crowing of the third cock they get them away to their dens. The signal for their final departure does not come until the Epiphany, when, as we saw in Chapter IV., the " Blessing of the Waters " takes place. Some of the hallowed water is put into vessels, and with these and with incense the priests sometimes make a round of the village, sprinkling the people and their houses. The fear of the
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