A shtriga (Latin: strix, Italian: strega; compare also Romanian: strigă and Polish: strzyga) is a vampiric witch in traditional Albanian folklore that sucks the blood of infants at night while they sleep, and then turns into a flying insect (traditionally a moth, fly or bee). Only the shtriga herself could cure those she had drained. The shtriga is often pictured as a woman with a hateful stare (sometimes wearing a cape) and a horribly disfigured face. The male noun for shtriga is shtrigu or shtrigan.
According to legend, only the shtriga herself could cure those she had drained (often by spitting in their mouths), and those who were not cured inevitably sickened and died.
The name can be used to express that a person is evil. Northern Albanian folklore says that a woman is not born a witch; she becomes one, often because she cannot have babies or they die and the envy makes her evil. A strong belief in God could make people immune to a witch as God would protect them.
Usually, shtriga were described as old or middle-aged women with grey, pale green, or pale blue eyes (called white eyes or pale eyes) (sybardha) and a crooked nose. Their stare would make people uncomfortable, and people were supposed to avoid looking them directly in the eyes because they have the evil eye (syliga). To ward off a witch, people could take a pinch of salt in their fingers and touch their (closed) eyes, mouth, heart and the opposite part of the heart and the pit of the stomach and then throw the salt in direct flames saying "syt i dalçin syt i plaçin" or just whisper 3–6 times "syt i dalçin syt i plaçin" or "plast syri keq."
In some regions of Albania, people have used garlic (hudhër); to sent away the evil eye or they have placed a puppet in a house being built to catch the evil. Newborns, children or beautiful girls have been said to catch the evil eye more easily, so in some Albanian regions when meeting such a person, especially a newborn, for the first time, people might say "masha'allah" and touch the child's nose to show their benevolence and so that the evil eye would not catch the child.
Edith Durham recorded several methods traditionally considered effective for defending oneself from shtriga. A cross made of pig bone could be placed at the entrance of a church on Easter Sunday, rendering any shtriga inside unable to leave. They could then be captured and killed at the threshold as they vainly attempted to pass. She further recorded the story that after draining blood from a victim, the shtriga would generally go off into the woods and regurgitate it. If a silver coin were to be soaked in that blood and wrapped in cloth, it would become an amulet offering permanent protection from any shtriga.
In Catholic legend, it is said that shtriga can be destroyed using holy water with a cross in it, and in Islamic myth it is said that shtriga can be sent away or killed by reciting verses from the Qur'an, specifically Ayatul Kursi 225 sura Al-Baqara, and spitting water on the shtriga.
In popular culture
A shrtiga was featured in the Supernatural episode, "Something Wicked", but hiding itself as a male doctor in a children's ward at a hospital where children have suddenly fallen comatose and where it can continue to feed.
- Durham, Edith: High Albania (London, Phoenix Press, 2000), pp. 87–88.
- Old believes in Albania
- The Noble Qur'an last sura and the Throne Verse, or Ayatul Kursi, is 255th verse (ayah) of the second chapter (sura) Al-Baqara