Strigoi in Romanian mythology are troubled spirits that are said to have risen from the grave. They are attributed with the abilities to transform into an animal, become invisible, and to gain vitality from the blood of their victims. Bram Stoker's Dracula has become the modern interpretation of the Strigoi through their historic links with vampirism.
Strigoi is a Romanian word that originated from a root related to the Latin terms strix or striga with the addition of the augmentative suffix "-oi" (feminine "-oaie"). Otila Hedeşan notes that the same augmentative suffix appears in the related terms moroi and bosorcoi and considers this parallel derivation to indicate membership in the same "mythological micro-system." The "-oi" suffix notably converts feminine terms to the masculine gender as well as often investing it with a complex mixture of augmentation and pejoration. The root has been related particularly to owls. Cognates are found throughout the Romance languages, such as the Italian words strega or the Venetian word strìga which mean "witch". The Italian stregone even has the parallel cognate augmentative suffix and means "sorcerer." In French, stryge means a bird-woman who sucks the blood of children. Jules Verne used the term "stryges" in Chapter II of his novel The Castle of the Carpathians, published in 1892. The Greek word Strix, Polish strzyga, and the Albanian word shtriga are also cognate.
In the late Roman period the word became associated with witches or a type of ill-omened nocturnal flying creature. A strix (Late Latin striga, Greek στρίγξ), referred to night-time entities that craved human flesh and blood, particularly infants'.
It is related to the Romanian verb a striga, which means "to scream".
One of the earliest mentions of a historical strigoi was Jure Grando Alilović (1579–1656) from the region of Istria. The villager is believed to have been the first real person described as a vampire because he was referred to as a strigoi, štrigon or štrigun in contemporary local records. Grando is supposed to have terrorized his former village sixteen years after his death. Eventually he was decapitated by the local priest and villagers. The Carniolan scientist Johann Weikhard von Valvasor wrote about Jure Grando Alilović's life and afterlife in his extensive work The Glory of the Duchy of Carniola when he visited Kringa during his travels. This was the first written document on vampires. Grando was also mentioned in writings by Erasmus Francisci and Johann Joseph von Goerres (La mystique divine, naturelle, et diabolique, Paris 1855), whose story was much more elaborate, full of fantastic details to make the story more interesting and sensational. In modern times, Croatian writer Boris Perić has researched the legend and written a book (The Vampire) on the story.
Striga are mentioned by the Moldavian statesman and soldier, Dimitrie Cantemir, in his work the Descriptio Moldaviae (1714–1716). He thought that the striga were mostly Moldavian and Transylvanian beliefs. However, he associated them with witches or warlocks rather than blood-drinking undead vampires. The book ascribes dunking – a traditional test for witchcraft – as a method of identifying a striga.
An 1865 article on Transylvanian folklore by Wilhelm Schmidt describes the strigoi as nocturnal creatures that preyed on infants. He reports a tradition in which, upon the birth of a child, one tosses a stone behind oneself and exclaims "This into the mouth of the strigoi!"
In 1909, Franz Hartmann mentioned in his book An Authenticated Vampire Story that peasant children from a village in the Carpathian Mountains started to die mysteriously. The villagers began to suspect a recently deceased count was a vampire, dwelling in his old fortress. Frightened villagers burned the castle to stop the deaths.
In his book In Search of Dracula, The History of Dracula and Vampires, Radu Florescu mentions an event in 1969 in the city of Căpățâneni, where after the death of an old man, several family members began to die in suspicious circumstances. Unearthed, the corpse did not show signs of decomposition, his eyes were wide open, and his face was red and twisted. The corpse was burned to save his soul.
During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the corpse of Nicolae Ceaușescu did not receive a proper burial. This made the ghost of the former dictator a threat in the minds of superstitious Romanians. A revolutionary activist, Gelu Voican, carpeted the apartment of the Conducător with braids of garlic. This is a traditional remedy against the strigoi.
In February 2004, a woman from the village of Marotinu de Sus in Dolj County, revealed that she had been visited by her late uncle, a 76-year-old Romanian man named Petre Toma who had died in December the previous year. Fearing the deceased might have become a strigoi, the woman's brother-in-law, Gheorghe Marinescu, organized a vampire hunting group made up of several family members. After drinking some alcohol, they dug up the coffin of Petre Toma, made an incision in his chest, and tore the heart out. After removal of the heart, the body was burned and the ashes were mixed in water and drunk by Toma's niece, believing that this would put an end to the haunting. Dolj County police later arrested six of the family members who participated in the ritual, charging them with "disturbing the peace of the dead". They were sentenced to six months' imprisonment and ordered to pay damages to the family of the deceased. Since then, in the nearby village of Amărăştii de Sus, people drive a fire-hardened stake through the heart or belly of the dead as a "preventive measure".
The encyclopedist Dimitrie Cantemir and the folklorist Teodor Burada in his book Datinile Poporului român la înmormântări published in 1882 refer to cases of strigoism. The strigoi can be a living man, born under certain conditions:
- Be the seventh child of the same sex in a family
- Lead a life of sin
- Die without being married
- Die by execution for perjury
- Die by suicide
- Die from a witch's curse
Tudor Pamfile in his book Mitologie românească compiles all appellations of strigoi in Romania strâgoi, Moroi in western Transylvania, Wallachia and Oltenia, vidmă in Bucovina, vârcolacul, Cel-rau, or vampire. The types described are:
- Strigoaică: a witch.
- Strigoi viu: a living strigoi or sorcerer.
- Strigoi mort: a dead strigoi, the most dangerous. They emerge from their graves in order to torment their families until their relatives die.
Prevention & protection
A common way used to identify a vampire was to place a 7 year old boy dressed in white on a white horse near the graveyard at midday. It was believed that the horse would stop at the grave of the suspected vampire.
In 1887, French geographer Élisée Reclus details burials in Romania: "If the deceased has red hair, he is very concerned that he was back in the form of dog, frog, flea or bedbug, and that it enters into houses at night to suck the blood of beautiful young girls. So it is prudent to nail the coffin heavily, or, better yet, a stake through the chest of the corpse."
Simeon Florea Marian in Înmormântarea la români (1892) describes another preventive method, unearthing and beheading, then re-interring the corpse and head face-down.
The Dracula Scrapbook by Peter Haining, published by New English Library editions in 1976, reported that the meat of a pig killed on the 17 October, the feast day of Saint Ignatius, was a good way to guard against vampires, according to Romanian legend.
- Burial at cross-roads
- Christmas in Romania § Advent
- Folklore of Romania
- List of ghosts
- Vampires in popular culture § Strigoi
- "Strigoi". www.dexonline.ro. Retrieved February 7, 2019.
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- Hedeşan, Otila (1998). Şapte eseuri despre strigoi. Timişoara: Marineasa. pp. 15–16.
- Oliphant, Samuel Grant (1913). "The Story of the Strix: Ancient". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. Philadelphia, Pennsylvania: American Philological Association. 44: 133–49. doi:10.2307/282549. JSTOR 282549.
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Drago Orlić je još prije dvadesetak godina (Orlić, 1986) prikupio i tiskao vrlo zanimljivo gradivo o ukorijenjenosti i životnosti tradicije vezane uz štrige i štrigune u Istri. ... Štrige i štriguni su najbliži pojmu vještica. Štrigun se rodi u črnem mihuru koji se potom sašije pod pazuh. Bez tog črnog mihura ili u drugoj varijanti crne kugle s kojom se rađa, gubi moć. Štrige i štriguni su opaki i vrlo opasni i po život ljudi, a piju i krv.
- Writer Boris Peric at the Literaturhaus in Switzerland
- Boris Perić, Vampir, Biblioteka 21, Zagreb (Naklada Ljevak) 2006. (Croat) ISBN 953-178-741-7
- Boris Perić, Vampir, translated into Slovene by Iztok Osojnik, Zbirka Beri globalno, Ljubljana (Tuma) 2007. ISBN 978-961-6682-05-3
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- Definition of Vídmă
- DEX Online
- Perkowski, Jean Louis (1989). The Darkling: A Treatise on Slavic Vampirism. Slavica Pub. ISBN 0893572004.
- Nouvelle Géographie universelle, tome I, Hachette, Paris, 19 volumes, 1876-1894
- "The Dracula scrapbook". morduedevampires.pagespro-orange.fr (in French).
- "Publicaţiile Periodice Româneşti - PPR Tom. I. (1820-1906)". Bibliografia naţională retrospectivă. Biblioteca Academiei Române. Retrieved 18 March 2016.
- Chereches, Alexandra Oana, y Violeta Catalina Badea. 2018. «De cadáveres Desenterrados Y Corazones Quemados: Los Muertos Vivientes En La Literatura Oral Rumana» [Of Exhumed Corpses and Burnt Hearts: The Living Dead in Romanian Oral Literature]. In: Boletín De Literatura Oral 8 (julio): 115-32. https://doi.org/10.17561/blo.v8.6. (In Spanish)
- Perkowski, Jan Lois (1998). "footnote 10 in 'The Romanian Folkloric Vampire'". In Dundes, Alan (ed.). The Vampire: a Casebook. Madison: University of Wisconsin Press. p. 46. ISBN 978-0-299-15924-5. citing Cantemir, Dimitrie (1714). "Striga". Descriptio Moldaviae (in Latin).
- Guiley, Rosemary Ellen (2004). "Strigoi". The Encyclopedia of Vampires, Werewolves, and Other Monsters. New York: Facts on File. pp. 268–270. ISBN 978-0-8160-4684-3.
- Across the Forest, a documentary that interviews Transylvanian villagers about their experiences with strigoi, pricolici, and mama padurii.
- Tom Harris. How Vampires Work § Later Vampires at HowStuffWorks. This section of the vampire article contains a drawing of a strigo and a discussion of the strigoi's characteristics.