06 April 2010

Old Maids and Easter Nudity

Did you attend Easter mass naked? --No? Well, it's for the best.

Albanian folklore speaks of the mysterious Shtriga, who is a witch that loves "to eat human beings, especially young boys," but in a crunch she will also eat anyone whom she dislikes. "Though any woman, young or old, can be found to be a shtriga, they are usually ugly old hags [read: 'old hags' as unmarried twenty year-olds] who live in hidden places in the forest and have supernatural powers" (Elsie).

But, how will you know if the woman you suspect is a Shtriga or if she is just weird? Well, "if a woman's hair turns white when she is twenty, this is a sure sign that she is a shtriga" (Elsie). Young men should be wary of this woman. She is a heartbreaker. She will tear out a man's heart [literally] and "fry it for dinner" (Elsie).

Derived from Latin 'striga', meaning witch, these creatures will "often plot to eat one another's sons" should more than one striga exist within the same village. When afflicted women fall asleep at night, "their souls wander off, leaving their lifeless bodies in bed. On the night before Ash Wednesday, they fly down their victim's chimney and drink his blood, whereupon the victim dies" (Elsie). However, there is hope for avoiding death by Shtriga. "If you catch the shtriga in time, you can save the victim's life by forcing the shtriga to spit into his mouth" (Elsie). Furthermore, you can create a "grim safeguard . . . against Shtrigas, but it is hard to get. You must secretly and at night track a woman you believe is a Shtriga." If she was sucking blood, then she will venture "out stealthily to vomit it, where no one sees. You must scrape up some of the vomited blood on a silver coin, wrap it up and wear it always," (Durham 64).

A striga's spirit must return to her body through the mouth. "Should someone have turned the bodies over in their absence, the shtrigas will cause great commotion in their attempt to get back in. Equally, if you turn a sleeping woman around so that her head is where her feet were, and then wake her up, she will die on the spot if she is a shtriga because the spirit cannot find its way back into her body."

"One can prevent shtrigas from entering a house at Shrovetide [the days preceding Lent] by placing a sack in the chimney." A resourceful hunter may also trap the Shtrigas in the church on Easter Sunday by nailing a piece of old pork [leftover from Shrovetide] to the cross or by forming a crucifix from pig bones. Do this, and the Shtrigas attending Easter mass will be caught inside the building. On he who traps them may release them, and if "they are caught, they will pay handsomely for their release." (Elsie).

Surely the Shtriga will pay, for in order to release them from the church the trapper must enter the church naked and wash off the cross" (Elsie). And what vile woman wouldn't pay to have their young hunter enter the church nude during Easter mass?


Durham, M Edith. High Albania. P 64.
Elsie, Robert. A dictionary of Albanian religion, mythology, and folk culture. P 237.

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