In Romanian mythology, strigoi (English: striga, poltergeist) are the troubled souls of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. Strigoi are also known as immortal vampires.
According to Adrian Cremene, strigoi date back to the Dacians. The strigoi are creatures of Dacian mythology, evil spirits, the spirits of the dead whose actions made them unworthy of entering the kingdom of Zalmoxis. As these stories were transmitted only by oral tradition, legend has lost its original substance, and Romanians have transformed strigoi into bloodthirsty creatures.
The Croatian Jure Grando, who died in 1656, was the first vampire whose existence is documented. In his native Istria, he was called strigoi, a local dialect word to describe a vampire. He terrorized the villagers until beheaded in 1672.
A Serbian peasant named Peter Plogojowitz, who died in 1725, was believed to become an authentic strigoi after his death. Peter Plogojowitz came back to his house to haunt his own son and demand food, but the son refused, so Plogojowitz brutally murdered him.
In 1909, Franz Hartmann mentions 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.
Radu Florescu mentions in his book In Search of Dracula, The History of Dracula and Vampires, an event in 1969 in the city of Capatâneni, where after the death of an old man, several family members began to die in suspicious circumstances. Unearthed, the corpse does not show signs of decomposition, his eyes are wide open, the face is red and twisted in the coffin. The corpse was burned to save his soul.
In 1970, a series of hideous crimes shocked Bucharest. The attacks took place at midnight during rainstorms. The victims were usually waitresses returning home from work. In 1971, Ion Rîmaru was arrested and identified by teeth marks on the corpses. During the trial he was in a state of continual drowsiness. He was interrogated at the night because he was not lucid at any other time. During daylight hours, Rîmaru was intractably lethargic. Sentenced to death, Rîmaru became violently agitated. Several policemen were needed to restrain him. After the execution, Rîmaru’s father died in a suspicious accident. During the investigation of the accident, it was discovered that his fingerprints matched those of a serial killer active in 1944 whose crimes looked remarkably similar to those of Ion Rîmaru. The similarities included the weather conditions and similar or identical names of some of the victims. It was rumored that the accident was engineered by the Securitate, who decided to eliminate the dangerous individual.
During the Romanian Revolution of 1989, the corpse of Nicolae Ceausescu did not receive a proper burial. This made the ghost of the former dictator a threat in the minds of superstitious Romanians. Noted revolutionary Gelu Voican carpeted the apartment of the Conducator with braids of garlic. This is a traditional remedy against the strigoi.
Before Christmas 2003, in the village of Marotinu de Sus, a 76-year-old Romanian man named Petre Toma died. In February 2004, a niece of the deceased revealed that she had been visited by her late uncle. Gheorghe Marinescu, a brother-in-law, became the leader of 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 mixed in water and drunk by the family, as is customary. However, the Romanian government anxious to maintain a good image in preparation for the country’s accession to the European Union had banned this practice, and six family members were arrested by the police of Craiova from Dolj County for “disturbing the peace of the dead”, and were imprisoned and sentenced to pay damages to the family of the deceased. Since then, in the nearby village of Amarastii de Sus, people drive a fire-hardened stake through the heart or belly of the dead as a “preventative”.
The name strigoi is related to the Romanian verb a striga, which in Romanian means scream. The writer Romulus Vulcanescu has found a Latin origin of the name strigoi. He argues that the name is related to the Latin term strigosus meaning “skinny”, a term found in Strigeidida. Another theory relates Strigoi to the Italian word Strega which means “witch” and the Greek word Strigx. In French, stryge means a bird-woman who sucks the blood of children. Jules Verne has used in his novel The Castle of the Carpathians published in 1892, in Chapter II, the term strigoi, more local : “(…) vampires, known as stryges, because they shout for strygies, (…) “.
Different types of strigoi
Tudor Pamfile in his book Mitologie româneasca compiles all appellations of strigoi in Romania strâgoi, Moroi in western Transylvania, Wallachia and Oltenia, vidma in Bucovina, vârcolacul, Cel-rau, or vampire.
A strigoaica (singular feminine form) is a witch.
The strigoi viu
The strigoi viu (living strigoi) is a kind of sorcerer. According to Adrian Cremene, in his book Mythology of the vampire in Romania, the living strigoi steals the wealth of farmers, that is to say, wheat and milk. But it can also stop the rain, dropping hail and give death to men and cattle.
The strigoi mort
The strigoi mort (dead strigoi) is much more dangerous. Its nature is ambiguous, both human and demonic. He emerges from his grave, returns to his family and behaves as in his lifetime, while weakening his relatives until they die in their turn.
Becoming a strigoi
The encyclopedist Dimitrie Cantemir and the folklorist Teodor Burada in his book Datinile Poporului român la înmormântari 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…
…by execution for perjury
…having been cursed by a witch.
According to Ionna Andreesco, in his book Where are the vampires? published in 1997, children born with a caul atop their head will become strigoi to their death.
Inmormantarea la romani (Romanian burial) written by Simion Florea MarianIn 1887, French geographer Élisée Reclus details the 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.
According to Romanian legend, the book of Peter Haining, The Dracula scrapbook published by New English Library editions in 1976, reported that the meat of pig killed on the day of St. Ignatius is a good way to guard against vampire.