There is a vampiric monster, common to many nations, known with almost the same (phonetically) name. In Greek is Strigla (Στρίγγλα, plural Strigles), in Albanian is Shtriga (plural Shtrigat), and in Latin is Strix (plural Striges). In addition in all these names the monster has almost the same properties. While one would assume that this monster is globally the same, interestingly enough, the monster comes from two different entities.
The Lore of Strix
The Latin word Strix, comes from the Greek word of the same sound, Strix or Striga (Στριξ, Στρίγγα), which means Owl.
The Greek mythographer Boios/Boeus (Βοίος) in his work Ornithogonia describes the birth of the first Strix. Unfortunately his book is not saved, but thankfully Antoninus Liberalis’s only saved work “Metamorphoseon Synagoge” (Μεταμορφώσεων Συναγωγή), sometimes called as “Metamorphoses” has saved for us the Ornithogonia’s story of the Strix.
The Strix and the Gods
According to Antoninus Liberalis or Boios, God Ares with the daughter of the River-God Strymon, Tereine, gave birth to Thrassa. Thrassa with Hipponous (Ιππόνοος), not the homonymous son of Priam, but the son of Triballus (the King of the Triballi tribe of Thrace), gave birth to Polyphonte (Πολυφόντη), who therefore is granddaughter of Ares.
Polyphonte became very fond of Goddess Artemis and so she became follower of her and remained virgin. But this made furious Goddess Aphrodite who then forced her to fall in love and have sex with a wild bear. From this union two twin boys were born.
Artemis though, got angry with Polyphonte and she, along with all the forest’s animals, chased her until she went back to her father’s home, where her two half men and half bear twins, Orius and Agrius, were born. Because of all these hatred towards their mother and themselves, the two boys hated both Gods and humans and became cannibals.
Zeus ordered Hermes to punish them as he saw fit, and Hermes decided to dismember them. Ares objected though, in order to protect his great grandsons, and thus Hermes turned Orius into an eagle-owl and Agrius into a vulture.
He also transformed Polyphonte into a small owl “that cries by night, without food or drink, with head below and tips of feet above, a harbinger of war and civil strife to men”. Do notice that what Antoninus describes is more possible to be a bat than an owl, but still he names her “strix”. And so the first Strix was created!
Later, Horace in his “Epodes” will give to the Strix magical abilities, and Ovid will teach us that a strix may be born as a strix, or become a strix through a spell.
Also Ovid will tell the story of Striges attacking King Procas during the celebrations of the Summer Solstice and narrates how they were warded off by the use of beans and calmed down with pig meat. And this is why beans and pig meat should be eaten during the Summer Solstice. And do remember the reference to the pig as I am going to mention it again later.
So, the Latin Strix is coming from Polyphonte, what about the Albanian Shtriga?
Well, the Albanian Shtriga, and the Greek Strigla, comes from the Greek word Strigla, and Strigla is Megera (Greek Μέγαιρα, Latin Megaera), one of the three Erinyes, the “Furies”. There are several opinions on how the three of them were born, but all of them have something to do with death. Either they came to exist from the blood of Uranus when the latest was stabbed by Cronus, or they are daughters of God Pluto (Hades), or they were daughters of Acheron (Stiga), the river of the Underworld.
Megera and other creepy creatures
Now Megera is incarnation of envy and jealousy (Alecto is anger and Trisiphone is murder). Orpheus seems to consider her more fearsome and therefore he treats her a little more carefully. In his hymns to the Erinyes and Eumenides (both words refer to the same Goddesses) he describes them – among else – as moving very fast and by flying, acting in the night, with fearsome and ugly look, dark in colour, with snake-like hairs, thin, capable of changing their forms, invisible or air-thin, and also that through their eyes they destroy human flesh, that they cause paralysis and bring heavy aches.
In everyday speaking, the Italian word megera, the Greek words Megera and Strigla, and the Albanian word Shtriga all have the same meaning; an evil woman as well as an evil female witch. But what about the monsters with the same name?
Strix, Shtriga, and Strigla as monsters are almost the same as well. The main difference is that while Strix in order to attack turns herself into an owl, Shtriga turns herself into a flying insect, and Strigla would not change her form. Also Strigla is a mortal witch, while Shtriga can be either undead or human (that will become undead), and Strix is undead that pretends to be a woman.
From now on I will refer to them using the word Shtriga as whatever is going to be mentioned applies to all of them. If it is necessary, I will state it clearly.
The British writer Mary Edith Durham in her book “High Albania” gives us enough information about the nature of the Shtriga. She says that she is a vampiric woman that sucks the blood of children and the life force of both children and grown humans alike. She may live for long time in a village pretending to be a woman, while she is preparing her evil plan.
In order to catch the Shtriga, you should take the bones of the last pig (remember Ovid’s story?) you ate during the carnival and with them you should make a cross on the door of the church upon Easter Sunday, when everyone is in the church. If this is done, the Shtriga will be unable to exit the church.
It is also said that only the Shtriga can cure the evil she has caused to a person by spitting in the person’s mouth before the Sun sets the next time.
Also the Shtriga can causes great and incurable pains and aches (remember the Megera?), but in this case there is a solution if the Shtriga cannot be found in time. A mage should cut some hairs from the head and from each armpit of the victim and burn them saying a spell and the pain will vanish. I will come to the spell later in this post.
If the Shtriga sucks the blood of a person, she will go somewhere that she thinks nobody can see her, and vomit it. It is said that if you rub a silver coin in this blood and have it with you, you are safe from any Shtriga for all times.
Ovid also says that if you sprinkle around your home and on your doors blessed water and put hawthorn to your windows you’ll be safe from the Shtriga.
Later, coming to the 20th century, garlic is mentioned as well for protecting someone from the Shtrigat.
In rare cases the Shtriga will eat the flesh of her victims. Also sometimes the Shrigat do nothing more than foretell the death of a resident of a house or a relative of them, by screaming outside the house. That is also a common belief for owls. And here we can find a connection between Shtriga and the Banshee.
For those who didn’t want to leave things up to chance, offerings to the Shrigat were made. Pig meat would be the best choice. But when Pope Zacharias, through the Synod of Rome (734 A.D.), forbade all offerings to the spirits (even the ones of Angels and Christian Saints) as act of idolatry or demonolatry, this practice ended and therefore it is not very well known, although it is one of the most ancient.
Now, in folklore there is no suggested way in order to really kill a Shtriga. The TV series “Supernatural” states that you can kill one with a blessed bullet, but don’t count on it. As Shtriga being a vampiric entity I believe they can be terminated as all the vampires. But keep in mind that the Slavic Strzyga (which is not exactly the same thing but something alike) has two hearts and not just one.
Now, the actions of the Shtrigat and the power of the Evil Eye are considered very strongly linked. Most of the talismans that are used for protection from the Evil Eye are considered to offer protection from the Shtrigat to one level or another. Also all the spells I know to remove the problems that a Shtriga (or Shtrigë as it would be the correct grammatical form) causes are in fact spells to remove the Evil Eye. Keep in mind though, that for the Shtriga you should use spells that are Earth and Fire based and not Water and Air based, as on these elements the Shtriga has more power (maybe this is because of the Megera)
So, to perform the previous ritual, find somebody that can perform a strong evil eye removing spell. Have him/her cut some hair from your head and some from each of your armpits and then burn them while he or she chants the spell.
Finally, I should mention that Italians, and especially Venetians, believe that if a girl is born during Christmas Eve, she is, or will become, a Strix, while Greeks believe that Strigles usually eat their food (dead animals, insects, small lizards etc) on the streets, and if somebody passes and steps on their food, they curse him. Remember that they can be invisible. Also the Italian word Strega refers both to witches and Striges.
I have never come across a Shtriga or a victim of one, so I do not really know if they do exist, but the “High Albania”, as well as some other books, mention such stories as to be true. You choose!