To the early Slavs, forests and swamps were omnipresent. Around farms and villages as well as on the mountains, the woods were inescapable. And in the shadows of those trees, spirits lurked.
Most spirits in Slavic mythology aren’t depicted in a positive light. Tales of demons in the shadows of the night spread all across the Slavic tribes and nations, and one of the most frightening tales told was that of striga.
Striga/Strzyga is usually a female demon with two lines of teeth with scary claws from Slavic mythology. Not only does Striga possesses two sets of teeth, but she also has two hearts and two souls.
She is said to turn into an owl during the night and hunts down unfortunate people. Some of her characteristic make her similar to a vampire, but she differs from them.
According to a Polish scholar of Slavic languages Aleksander Brückner, the word is derived from the Latin word Strix, meaning owl.
Popular beliefs about Strigas
As mentioned before people who were born with two hearts, two souls and two sets of teeth were believed to be Strigas. People suffering from sleepwalking and people without armpit hair could also be seen as ones. Some other sources claim that a newborn child with developed teeth is also a Striga.
During epidemics, it was common to bury sick people alive, and the ones who have managed to escape their graves, usually weak, sick and with mutilated limbs, were seen as Strigas as well.
If you were unfortunate enough to be considered a Striga people would drive you from the villages and other human dwellings. It is said that Strigas mostly died at a very young age, but according to the legends only one of their souls would pass to the afterlife whereas the other one would come back to life and terrorize living humans.
This soul that has came back to life terrorized people that have wandered in the forest during night in a form of an owl and those unlucky enough to get caught by a Striga would get their blood sucked and their insights eaten out.
Humans were not the only prey for Strigas – animal blood could also satisfy them for a short period of time.
How could one protect themselves against Strigas?
The most common preventive measure was to decapitate Striga’s body before burying it under the soil but in a separate place from the head. This was supposed to prevent Strigas from coming back to life.
Other methods included
- Burying the Striga face down with a sickle over its throat
- Burning the body
- Nailing her body to the coffin in different places
- Putting a flint into her mouth after exhumation
- Pealing(ringing) the church bells (the Striga then turns into tar)
- Slapping the Striga across the face with your left hand
- Burying her again, outside of the village, and pinning her down with a big rock
- Scattering poppy seeds in the shape of the cross in every corner of the house
- Putting small objects in the Striga’s grave to make her count them
This was the sixth episode of Slavic Saturday. There are many other creatures I am ready to cover for you, my lovely fans. If you missed our previous episodes then you can find that here. I hope to see you all return next Saturday!