Preventing the Evil Dead from Arising, Ancient Practices Alive in Present-Day Romania Part 2
As shown in numerous existing Romanian legends and testimonies, the main measure of protection against strigoi (vampires) is respecting funeral rites in detail. (The majority of strigoi appear as a result of incorrect funeral rites.) In this way, arranging burials correctly is the main preventive measure so that a deceased person can be stopped from turning into a strigoi. The dead, satisfied with the way and place of burial, will have no reason to rise from the grave.
Ways to Prevent a Strigoi
According to Romanian folklore, some defensive measures can also be applied at the birth of each individual in order to prevent the possibility of the deceased becoming a strigoi. For example, if a new born bites its own umbilical cord, those present must be careful to remove it immediately, burn it and give some of the burnt ash combined with water to the child to drink.
Other protective measures against strigoi refer to protecting houses in such a way that the evil dead cannot enter. Garlic flowers are believed to keep strigoi at a distance. Thus, in order to protect a house from these evil entities, doors and windows should be rubbed with garlic flowers, garlic can be hung up, incense and dill are placed in the bedroom, and crosses must be drawn with coals taken from the incensory.
Garlic is thought to be useful in preventing strigoi from entering houses. ( Public Domain )
The Importance of a Proper Burial
At the funeral, there are certain signs which can indicate the fact that the dead person is a potential strigoi. These signs include: a body which smiles and does not become rigid, a tomb that does not settle, open eyes, open mouth, and the fact that someone trips and falls over an open grave.
Once again, in order to prevent the transformation into a strigoi, funeral rites must be strictly respected. This means that various practices must be adhered to: tears must not fall on the deceased or on the cerement, the deceased must not have the cerement in his mouth, the name of the deceased must not be called out (to prevent the dead from awakening), the burial hole must be dug on the day of the funeral, no animal can be allowed to jump over the dead body, and the deceased must not be taken out of the house with his head first (so that he will not get a chance to look one last time at the place he resided in life (which may cause the desire to remain there)).
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These are but a few of the numerous protection methods against strigoi which have been recorded by the Romanian folkloric tradition throughout time.
The Premature Burial. ( Public Domain )
Noting and eliminating the threat of a strigoi are a series of events that take place in several stages. These are as follows: a chain of deaths, the identification of the strigoi causing them, opening the grave, and killing the strigoi.
Chain deaths refer to the fact that after the death of a person from the area, several other deaths take place without any clear or visible cause and at short intervals of time one from the other. The people affected by the negative influence of the strigoi then lose their appetite, begin to lose weight and, after a short number of days, pass away without fever or symptoms of disease. Some of these people have declared that before dying they had seen a white entity following them everywhere, but nobody else was able to see the being.
A strigoi laying on its death bed. ( CC BY-NC-ND 3.0 )
Methods to Destroy a Strigoi
The strigoi is identified by the specific signs which could be observed before and during the funeral. Then, when people want to take the necessary measures against the evil dead, they must go to the grave where the entity has its shelter and destroy it.
The methods of destroying a strigoi include: cutting off the head and the reburial of the body with the head placed at the feet, the removal of the heart and burning it, thrusting a stake into the heart, or the incineration of the entire body.
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Around 1920, in Romania near Cujmir, there was a well-known execution of a strigoi. When several people died shortly one after the other, all belonging to the same family, an old man not long dead was suspected of being the strigoi. Upon digging up the body, the dead was found red, full of blood, and in a different position. People managed to get him out of the grave, then they took out his heart and liver and burned them. Then, the ash was mixed with water - resulting in a drink that was consumed by all of those who had suddenly become ill. They got well quickly, the old man was reburied, and nobody else died.
Vampire Killing Kit ( CC BY 2.0 )
A similar occurrence took place sometime in 2004, in Upper Marotinu village (“Marotinu de Sus”). Petrica Toma had died and, shortly after his funeral, his relatives began to see objects apparently moving on their own in the house, they heard terrifying voices, and began to fall ill. Building up their courage, the villagers went to the grave, dug up the deceased, removed his heart from his chest with the tip of a scythe, lit a fire at a crossroad where they burned the heart, and then drank the ash mixed with water. Shortly after all of this, they got well and everything in their homes returned to normal.
The dismemberment and burning of the body in order to get rid of the strigoi is a method that has been documented since 1592. An old Romanian account discusses the case of another strigoi:
About fifteen years ago, the old mother of the peasant Dinu Gheorghita died in Amarasti village, in the north of Dolj County. After a few months, the children of her eldest son began to die one after the other, then, they were followed by the children of the younger brother. The old lady’s sons became afraid, they opened the grave, cut the body in two and put it back in place. Despite all of this, the deaths did not cease. Therefore, they opened the grave for a second time and what did they see? The body was untouched, without any wound mark! It was a huge marvel. They took out the body, took it to a forest and placed it under a tree in an isolated part of the woods. There, they opened the body, took out its heart, out of which blood flowed, then they cut it into four pieces which they threw in the fire and burned. They gathered the ashes, mixed them with water and then gave the mix to the children to drink. Next, they threw the body into the flames to burnt it and then buried the ashes. The deaths ceased.
Cases of strigoi also existed in the eighteenth century in the Banat region of Romania. Here, there is still a local belief that if a deceased is face down in the coffin it indicates that he had suffered a violent death and wants to get out.
Featured image: An illustration of a strigoi. Source: Skorganizedchaos/Devianart
By Valda Roric
Valda Roric – “Supernatural in the Land of Count Dracula”
A. Murgoci, “The Vampire in Roumania”, Folklore 14 (1926)
Claude Lecouteux – “The Secret History of Vampires – Their Multiple Forms and Hidden Purposes”