I went to Transylvania and all I got was this stupid T-shirt!
My favorite word for vampire is “strigoi”. Strigoi is the Romanian word for poltergeist. In Romanian mythology, they are the troubled souls so fowl that even Satan refuses them to enter the gates of Hell. And so, these troubled souls rise again from the grave to trouble the living and drain the vitality of their victims via the blood. Strigoi can become invisible and shapeshift into animal form as well.
The origin of the strigoi dates back to the Dacians, a group of people living in the area that has since become Romania, mainly the area around the Carpathain Mountains and east to the Black Sea. The strigoi represent the spirits of the dead who were evil by word and deed during their lives and were deemed unworthy of entering the kingdom of Zalmoxis.
In the Middle Ages, a Croatian named Jure Grando was the first strigoi, the first vampire documented in writing. After rising from the dead in 1656, he terrorized the villagers until he was beheaded in 1672. For 16 years he would rise from the grave at night, when he would knock on a door in the town and within days, someone in that family would die.
He would also appear to his own widow, whom he would force himself on her. She described him as smiling and gasping for breath. Father Giorgio, the village priest, eventually confronted the strigoi and held out a cross and yelled, “Behold Jesus Christ, you vampire! Stop tormenting us!” This made the vampire weep.
Eventually a mob visited the grave of Jure carrying a cross, lamps and a hawthorn stick with which to pierce the strigoi’s heart. They found a perfectly preserved corpse with a smile on its face. They tried to pierce its heart, but the stick would not penetrate the body of the vampire.
After some exorcism prayers, villager Stipan Milasic took a saw and sawed the head off. The vampire screamed and blood flowed from the stump with such vigor that it filled up the whole grave. Thus, peace finally returned to the village.
Later in the Middle Ages, Serbian peasant Peter Plogojowitz was believed to have become strigoi after his death in 1725. He returned to his own house and demanded food from his own son. The son refused and so Plogojowitz murdered him. He went on to kill nine villagers total.
The details of these strigoi are interesting and actually tend to point one in the direction of mass hysteria and superstition and our knowledge of how the body reacts in death is much greater than it was in those days. Still, it’s easy to see how these stories could take on a life of their own and live on well past the villagers in them.
It is still tradition in certain parts of Romania for the family to exhume the body of the recently deceased and cook the heart and drink its ashes with water. Just to be safe. I mean, if it ain’t broke, why fix it.
Have a drink on Jure!
Until tomorrow night, my vampires!