Tuesday, January 6, 2015

La Befana - The Witches Come!

La Befana vien di notte
Con le scarpe tutte rotte
Con un sacco pien di doni
Da portare ai bimbi buoni

“La Befana comes by night, 
With her shoes all tattered and torn,
And a bag full of presents 
to deliver to good children.”

Happy La Befana to all! 

So what did you get? Sweets or a lump of coal?

Yes, today is La Befana, and in Italy over the eve of 6th January, an old witch has flown across and brought gifts to the little children. Centuries of folklore and ancient tradition has made this celebrated female figure as well known overseas as she is in her native Italy. 

Santa should be very worried, because we love her!

This year, to help you celebrate La Befana with all its magic and intrigue, I invite you to discover a time in late medieval Venice when La Befana was as present as she is today in people's minds.

The Mascherari: A Novel of Venice, a historical mystery with supernatural themes has just been released on paperback and should reach all Amazon* territories by the end of the week. The Mascherari is an epistolary novel set in 1422 from the Winter Solstice to La Befana. You can read more about it here.  

Priced at $14.99 USD with a gorgeous cover illustration created by designer Caryn Gillespie, it is a treasure to behold for now and years to come. 

*  Available next month from The Book Depository, Barnes & Noble and Angus & Robertson websites.

How would you like to own The Mascherari: A Novel of Venice for free? Then don't miss my Q & A at Unusual Historicals on 18th January 2015, where I will be speaking about the Venice of The Mascherari and giving away a FREE paperback copy to one lucky reader. Viva La Befana!

Below is an excerpt from The Mascherari: A Novel of Venice.

"Here, along the Grand Canal, a band of old men, as old as tradition demands, have scrubbed their skin with paint, strapped disfigurement upon their faces and donned their tattered witch’s costume.  Hideous they are with their crooked noses and wrinkled skin. Hirsute old hags, they would rouse fear if it were not for the cheerful tales spread of them. For everyone in Venezia awaits them now and only those children who have been bad ought to fear. 

Each of the five men holds a broom and steps inside a boat.  The race is soon to start, the race that will lead them to the Rialto.  And before long, the coarse haired witch rowers make their way in silence. They sweep with force toward San Marco, gliding beneath a clouded sun. A sinister sight they are these odd witches, hunched at the prow, their muscles tense where they ought to be frail, their vessels creeping forth through the gray winter mist. 

The witches come! These lagoon creatures ought to make one shiver. Instead, the costumed men in their boats are serenaded by cheers all along the canals.

In the Campo di Rialto, all Venezia bustles. Maffeo watches them all. He recounts them all. He has a brilliant memory, Maffeo. Doctors and lawyers in their black robes, move among the rich citizens toward the Bridge.  Velvet clad patrician merchants and tradesmen alike—the Arsenalotti in their red sashes and white shoes, the Nicolotti in black—all have brought their children with them to see the Regatta della Befana.  Many of them are masked men and women, still eager to enjoy Carnivale before the Lenten days begin.  It is a sinister sight, that of masked children of all ages, shrieking in the campo and singing La Befana songs, while their equally masked parents look on."