Also called Laverna, Averna is the name of a Roman goddess who was considered to be the Queen of the Dead. Averna seems to have some relationship to the Greek goddess Hecate, Queen of Ghosts, who enters the Underworld through which one entrance is Lake Averna. It was believed that hidden caves surrounded Lake Averna was through which the souls of the dead were summoned. Trees that encircled the lake were sacred to Hecate such as the Osier, Willow and Yew tree.
In ancient Jewish thought, Lilith was the first wife of Adam, who disobeyed him and was turned into a demon similar to a vampire or succubus. However, Lilith is really derived from a number of different Middle Eastern goddesses who were later demonized when they no longer fit in with rising patriarchal beliefs among the Hebrews who decided to cast their earlier goddesses aside in favor of one male God. Lilith, and other goddesses went underground, and in doing so became witches, demons and spirits from the underworld.
"The wife brought the mirror and all of the fine furnishings in the cellar to her own home and proudly displayed it. She hung the mirror in the room of their daughter, who was a dark-haired coquette. The girl glanced at herself in the mirror all the time, and in this way she was drawn into Lilith's web.... For that mirror had hung in the the den of demons, and a daughter of Lilith had made her home there. And when the mirror was taken from the haunted house, the demoness came with it. For every mirror is a gateway to the Other World and leads directly to Lilith's cave. That is the cave Lilith went to when she abandoned Adam and the Garden of Eden for all time, the cave where she sported with her demon lovers. From these unions multitudes of demons were born, who flocked from that cave and infiltrated the world. And when they want to return, they simply enter the nearest mirror. That is why it is said that Lilith makes her home in every mirror.
‘Now the daughter of Lilith who made her home in that mirror watched every movement of the girl who posed before it. She bided her time and one day she slipped out of the mirror and took possession of the girl, entering through her eyes. In this way she took control of her, stirring her desire at will.... So it happened that this young girl, driven by the evil wishes of Lilith's daughter, ran around with young men who lived in the same neighborhood."
In Celtic lore, the “Badb” meant “the fury,” and is a raven or crow-like goddess that lords over the outcome of war and battle. The Badb goddess primarily spreads evil and carnage, inciting violence wherever she travels. In ancient times, battlegrounds were often referred to as “Badb’s lands” by the Celts. She was also called the “Scald-crow,” usually taking the form of a crone or a hag with oily black hair with strands that floated like the feathers of a crow. Her other name, Badb Catha means “battle-raven.”
Babd was also thought to sometimes take the form of a wolf. During Celtic and Teutonic wars it was claimed she roamed the battlefields, wringing out the bloody clothes of the dead, somewhat like her counter-part the Bean Sidhe or Banshee.
An Italian witch-figure that has connections to Christmas and pagan celebrations of the New Year, Befana is a whimsical hag who leaves presents in children’s stockings hung near the hearth, usually on the night of January 6th. Befana is an archaic goddess of fate and is also connected the measure of time, which are on many people’s minds in early winter. Almost like a Father Christmas, Befana is often shown riding on either a broom or a goat with presents spilling out of her pack.
Even though Befana is an obvious pagan figure, she is strongly tied to the nativity story. This tale of the Christmas witch connects her to the Wise Men. The story goes that while on their way to Bethlehem to present gifts to the baby Jesus they stopped at the home of Befana to take a rest. They explained to her what they were doing and invited the witch to accompany them in their quest to visit the Christ child. Befana explained to them there was too much housework for her to do. After the Wise Men, or Three Kings, rode out of sight, Befana felt the sting of regret and changed her mind. Hurriedly, she grabbed a tablecloth and as many gifts for the baby Jesus as she could find, and fashioned it into a pack full of treats and toys.
Along the way, Befana gave each child she met a present, just in case they might be the baby Jesus. Befana never found the Christ child though, and she grew very old in her search. Eventually she transformed into a wrinkled crone that was hard to look at, even so, it is her face that represents the passing of time.
Sometimes a dummy is fashioned to represent Befana is stuffed with candies, nuts and fruit. The dummy is sawed open and the goodies are dispensed among children and adults. Following this a pyre is constructed and the dummy of Befana is fed into the flames. As fire sparkles into the night, there is a good bye to the old year, with respect for the passing of time and fate, and the embracing of the New Year with promises anew.
In Italy, it is believed by children to this very day Befana, or the Christmas witch, fills children’s stockings with curly candy for the good or a lump of coal for the bad.
In ancient Rome, Cardea was the goddess of door hinges and openings. She was also the protector against what Romans thought were vampire-witches and other menacing creatures of foreboding darkness and night.Ovid said of Cardea, obviously quoting a religious formula: “Her power is to open what is shut, to shut what it open.” More importantly, Cardea is the goddess of doorways, and that means she unlocks mystery and invites into lives every other possibility. Her primary role is to guard sleeping children from evil ghosts and influences.
Erzuelie Freda is the Haitian Vood loa (spirit) who brings passion, love, sex and beauty into our lives. Her symbol is a heart, usually surrounded by swirls, stars and the moon but sometimes pierced with a knife. By this veve we see the heart is central to Erzulie Freda, even beauty falls short of love in her spectrum of interests and passions. She is not exactly a faithful lover, but she is an ardent one once her attention is on her beloved. But her love is fickle, and she does not focus well on one man at a time. In reference to men, Erzulie loves them all as she is the loa of gay and transgendered men. She knows what it is to cultivate her feminine side and use it to gain more affection and other pleasantries. Erzulie loves to be lavished. She is certainly a beauty with her dancing green eyes and light skin, her silver jewelry, white and pink robes, but she is deft with ways of making herself even more attractive.
Erzulie Freda does not like to work that hard, she is bored by laboring and is too soft for it so some Voodoo practitioners view her as a bit lazy. She is also known for her weeping which she does often since she is the loa of the broken-hearted. However, because of her fickle nature Erzulie Freda does not cry for too long.
Erzulie Freda acts as the goddess of romance, cosmetics, luxury and sensuality. She is both passionate and jealous. At one time, Erzulie was an amazon, a female warrior who fought during an early Haitian revolution. Erzulie Freda was a popular woman, especially among men and lovers. During the throes of passion they told her too many of their secrets. Fearing she might be captured by the enemy forces, her allies cut out her tongue so she could not reveal the secrets to the opponents of the revolution. They surmised flirty Erzulie aims to please, no matter who it is, and secrets weren’t safe with her. She could easily be tricked by an amorous lover. When Erzulie Freda tried to speak, all that came out was a trilling ka-ka-ka-ka-ka the sound of her tongue clicking the roof of her mouth. This same story is told about Erzulie Dantor, who is Freda’s sister, but they have always been jealous rivals of one another.
Erzulie Freda wears three wedding rings, and surprisingly, although she is considered to be a virgin, she is married to three of the most important male loas: Damballa, Ogoun and Agwe. Erzulie is a striving spirit, forever ambitious to attain new love and affection. For this reason, she is never satisfied and is known as a weeping loa. When Erzulie Freda appears regret is possible but passion is certain.
Susan A Sheppard