Strzyga (plural form: strzygi), in English often spelled striga, is a female creature who feeds on human blood. Her male counterpart is called strzygoń. They are considered a type of vampires, and are placed among the most dangerous beings in the Polish tales.
Their origins are connected to the belief of duality of the souls. A common explanation known from the tales and ethnographic resources was that a human born with two souls could become a strzyga after death. Such people were easy to recognize, born also with two rows of teeth, two hearts, or other similar anomaly. They can die but only partially – one of the souls is leaving to the outerworld, but the second one is getting trapped inside the dead body, loosing many aspects of humanity. Strzyga or strzygoń is living between the spheres of life and death until the second soul leaves too.
Strzyga’s appearance can resemble a normal person, only with gray or blueish skin. The longer they live as a strzyga, the more they change. They are often presented with bird-like features: claws, eyes, feathers growing off the back.
They are sleeping in their graves and coming out at nights for a hunt. They need the blood to survive – sucking it out of the bodies of their victims and eating out their entrails. Their main targets are humans but they could live off the animal blood as well for short periods of time. Apart from the nourishment, the attacks are often a revenge for the harm or injustice they met during their “first” lifetime.
One of the most common methods seen as a protection from their comeback (as well as of other types of vampires) was to burn their bodies, decapitate the corpse, or to put the corpses face-down into the grave and cut the tendons in their legs. At nights it was advised to avoid thick bushes and dark nooks, and to walk directly along the middle of the roads, not stopping or looking around, especially in the areas close to the cemeteries.
According to some tales, their humanity (or the first soul) could be brought back if a courageous person managed to sleep inside their grave or tomb for the whole night when she’s out for a hunt, up until hearing the third crow of a rooster at dawn.
Other creatures from Polish mythology described on my blog:
- ogniki (błędne ogniki) – demons comparable to ignis fatuus
- płanetnicy – supernatural beings called ‘shepherds of the clouds’
- zmory – demons feeding on human vitality during sleep
- boginki – female spirits / demons connected to childbirth
- latawce – demons of the wind forces
- biesy – primeval spirits, evil forces of nature that hide in untouched parts of nature
- południce – midday ladies, demons of betrohed women who died before wedding
- bieda – a shapeshifting demon bringing misfortune and poverty
- biali zimni ludzie (white cold people) – demons being a personification of illnesses