Romanian mythology: the troubled souls of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. Strigoi are also known as immortal vampires.

[Jason Horley]


Mythology Meme » Strigoi

A bloodline rarely known outside of Romanian folklore, the Strigoi have existed for countless centuries

In Romanian mythology, strigoi are the troubled spirits of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. Strigoi are also famously known today as vampires.

So I had to do some research about Romanian mythology for a project of mine, and I thought that it was fascinating enough to share it with you guys. So I’ll make a couple of posts about Romanian mythological creatures.

Iele are feminine creatures from Romanian mythology, very common in different superstitions. They don’t have a precise profile, still, the preferred mythological form is that of thoughtless maidens, with great power of seduction, cumulating characteristics from Nymphs, Dryads and Sirens. Iele appear mostly at night, especially in the moon light, in “hore”(traditional Romanian dances), in remote locations(forests, clearings, sometimes even in the air), and they dance naked or dressed in transparent veils with bells on their ankles. Their “dance floor” remains burnt, like from a fire, after they leave. They are very revengeful when provoked or offended, or if they are seen during their dance. In that case they punish the culprits by hitting them after they made them fall asleep with their songs and dance. They are immortal creatures, incredibly beautiful and seducing, excellent dancers and singers. They always keep their hair untied and dress only in veils, most of the time transparent. They are invisible by day, and can only be observed at night, but with great risks for the observer. They can have wings, but can also fly by levitating, usually at great speeds.

In Romanian mythologystrigoi are the troubled souls of the dead rising from the grave. Some strigoi can be living people with certain magical properties. Some of the properties of the strigoi include: the ability to transform into an animal, invisibility, and the propensity to drain the vitality of victims via blood loss. Strigoi are also known as immortal vampires.

strigoaică (singular feminine form) is a witch. Strigoi is different than a moroi. They are close relatives of the werewolves known as “pricolici” or “vârcolaci”, the latter also meaning “goblin” at times.

These names are derived from strigă, which in Romanian meant “scream” or “barn owl”, cognate with Italian strega, which means “witch”, and descended from the Latin word strix, for owl. Strigoi viu is a living vampiric witch. Strigoi mort is a dead (undead) vampire. They are most often associated with vampires or zombies.

According to Romanian mythology a strigoi has red hair, blue eyes and two hearts. The strigoi can change into a variety of animals, such as barn owls, bats, rats, cats, wolves, dogs, snakes, toads, lizards, and spiders/insects. They also have the ability to render themselves invisble. They’re also known to be capable of creating damaging storms, blights, droughts, floods and even poltergeist activity. The strigoi in some accounts is also capable of a form of astral projection appearing as shadows or ghosts.


People in the western Carpathian Mountains celebrate the Sânziene holiday annually, on June 24. This is similar to the SwedishMidsummer holiday, and is believed to be a pagan celebration of the summer solstice in June. According to the official position of the Romanian Orthodox Church, the customs actually relate to the celebration of Saint John the Baptist‘s Nativity, which also happens on June 24.

The consequences of heavens opening on Sânziene are connected by some to paranormal events reported during that period of each year. According to popular beliefs, strange things, both positive and negative, may happen to a person wandering alone on Sânziene night. Strange ethereal activities are believed to happen especially in places such as the Băneasa forest (near the capital of Bucharest) or the Baciu forest (near the city of Cluj-Napoca).

Mircea Eliade’s novel, Noaptea de Sânziene (translated as The Forbidden Forest), includes references to the folk belief about skies opening at night, as well as to paranormal events happening in the Băneasa Forest.

In the form Sânziana (“the sânziană”), the word has also come to be used as a female name. It is notably used as such in Vasile Alecsandri’s comedy Sânziana şi Pepelea (later an opera by George Stephănescu).

Samca is a character from Romanian legends, a fierce unclean spirit: a naked woman, with untied hair that reaches her heels, with long breasts that hit the ground, small eyes that glow like stars, with iron hands with long and sharp nails and a tongue of fire. The demon shows itself to children younger than four years, usually at the end of the month or close to the full moon. She scares the children so bad, they get ill on the spot. She also shows herself to women close to giving birth, who she torments and scares so much, they die on the spot or fall ill and limp for their whole life.

The forms it takes are very varied: a gigantic pig, a dog grinning its teeth, a hairless cat with huge eyes, a crow with blood-colored eyes or a large black spider. The disease that the children get after seeing the Samca is called “răutatea copiilor”(literal translations being “children’s malice”).

Samca has 19 names:  Vestitia, Navadaraia, Valnomia, Sina, Nicosda, Avezuha, Scorcoila, Tiha, Miha, Grompa, Slalo, Necauza, Hatavu, Hulila, Huva, Ghiana, Gluviana, Prava and Samca. To defend themselves from the Samca, people need to write all 19 names on a wall in the house or convince someone to write an incantation that they must carry on themselves. The incantation will make the Samca go to the person that wrote it, but if that person is an old one, that already lived their life, the Samca will leave them alone, only making them grind their teeth in their sleep.


Pricolici (pree-kuh-leech) (same form in plural) is a werewolf also Vampire in Romanian folklore. Similar to a vârcolac, although the latter sometimes symbolises a goblin, whereas the pricolici always has wolf-like characteristics.

Pricolici, like strigoi, are undead souls that have risen from the grave to harm living people. While a strigoi possesses anthropomorphic qualities similar to the ones it had before death, a pricolici always resembles a wolf or large dog. Malicious, violent men are often said to become pricolici after death, in order to continue harming other humans.

Some Romanian folklore delineates that Pricolici are werewolves in life and after they die, return as vampires. This also gives rise to the legend of vampires can turn into animals such as wolves, cats, or owls and (rarely) bats. The common theme of all these animals being that they are nocturnal hunters much like vampires.

Even as recently as modern times, many people living in rural areas of Romania have claimed to have been viciously attacked by abnormally large and fierce wolves. Apparently, these wolves attack silently, unexpectedly and only solitary targets. Victims of such attacks often claim that their aggressor wasn’t an ordinary wolf, but a pricolici who has come back to life to continue wreaking havoc.

The etymology of the word is unknown.



A Vârcolac (eng: werewolf) is, in Romanian mythology, a fabulous demon that eats the Sun and Moon, causing the lunar phases and eclipses this way. Multiple representations of this creature, from real animals(wolves, dogs) to the fantastic ones(zmei, balauri/dragons) led to a mystery of the demon’s form. The Vârcolac is the representation of evil which disturbs the natural order of the world, and any deviation from the established order of the community can generate a werewolf. Thus vârcolacii(pl.), just as Strigoii or Moroii, come from many sources, such as unbaptized children, babies with abnormalities, people who killed a brother or sister, and even an action contrary to a tradition can generate a werewolf. The wolfman turns into a werewolf during an eclipse, and most times, his soul is one who will ascend into heaven and eat the Sun or Moon. If the connection of the soul with the body is interrupted during the transformation, the soul is lost forever.

The Geto-Dacians mythology seems to have influenced the Romanian mythology as well, through the “cult of the wolf”, which is also linked to the werewolf creature. Most times it was enough for the Moon to have a reddish color for the Romanians to conclude that the werewolf is eating the Moon and its blood was dripping through the creature’s fangs.

The folk practices of Sânziene imply that the most beautiful maidens in the village dress in white and spend all day searching for and picking flowers, of which one MUST be Galium verum (Lady’s bedstraw or Yellow bedstraw) which in Romanian is also named “Sânziànă”. Using the flowers they picked during the day, the girls braid floral crowns which they wear upon returning to the village at nightfall. There they meet with their beloved and they dance around a bonfire. The crowns are thrown over the houses, and whenever the crown falls, it is said that someone will die in that house; if the crown stays on the roof of the house, then good harvest and wealth will be bestowed upon the owners. As with other bonfire celebrations, jumping over the embers after the bonfire is not raging anymore is done to purify the person and also to bring health.

Another folk belief is that during the Sânziene Eve night, the heavens open up, making it the strongest night for magic spells, especially for the love spells. Also it is said that the plants harvested during this night will have tremendous magical powers.

It is not a good thing though to be a male and walk at night during Sanziene Eve night, as that is the time when the fairies dance in the air, blessing the crops and bestowing health on people - they do not like to be seen by males, and whomever sees them will be maimed, or the fairies will take their hearing/speech or make them mad.

In some areas of the Carpathians, the villagers then light a big wheel of hay from the ceremonial bonfire and push it down a hill. This has been interpreted as a symbol for the setting sun (from the solstice to come and until the midwinter solstice, the days will be getting shorter).


Ileana Cosânzeana is a figure in Romanian mythology. This mythological personage is represented as a beautiful good-natured princess. In Romanian folklore, Ileana is the original concept of feminine beauty, the most beautiful amongst the fairies: her eyes look like the sun, her body is like the sea and her garments are made of flowers. Pearls and gold flow out of her mouth when she sings. She is also said to use her power of white magic to heal or revive. Ileana Cosânzeana signifies the most poetic imagination of Romanian genius. She impersonates the beauty, the youth, and the angelic soul, in one word the perfection of humanity. She is a mythical character with supernatural powers and with symbolic features. Ileana Cosânzeana succeeds in defeating the evil forces only because she is very brave, smart, modest and diligent. In some tales “Ileana Cosânzeana” was the fairy of flowers spring, a fairy that puts the perfume into every flower, but she has the facility to take it back. The elves love her, as do the flowers; even the wind loves Ileana, but he can never catch her. In the myth, she is a beautiful princess who is kidnapped by the Zmeu, who locks her in his castle and waits for her to give in to his marriage proposal. She is saved by Făt-Frumos, who is analogous to Prince Charming. Făt-Frumos is tested by many trials as he makes his way to Ileana Cosânzeana. Finally, he fights the Zmeu, beats him, and frees Ileana Cosânzeana. They both live happily ever after.



Night-blooming florals carried on the scent of the feral woods and a strange, unnamable sweetness.


Vârcolacs are the Romanian kin to werewolves and shape shifters, but with more power. Theses creatures supposedly ate the sun or moon and were the causes of eclipses. They could transform into wolves , or occasionally other creatures, at will. They are ravenous and Godlike in their power, the creature that inspired the Freak series.

Vântoase are creatures present in Romanian folklore, as a sort of female spirits (Iele). Popular beliefs describe them as capable of causing dust storms and powerful winds. They live in forests, in the air, in deep lakes, and use a special wagon for traveling. The Vântoase are also believed to be capable of attacking children, and the only protection against them is the mysterious “grass of the winds”. In other legends, they are believed to be servants of God.

A Zgripțor(or zgripsor, fem: zgripțoroaică, zgripsoroaică, zgripțuroaică) is, in Romanian mythology, a bird of colossal size, which usually helps the prince(specifically Făt-Frumos, a common hero in Romanian folklore and fairytales) to return from the “other land”, as a reward for saving his/her eggs or younglings before they were killed by a giant snake or a dragon(balaur).

The Zgripțor has several mythological interpretations. He is the image of Zeus, ruler of the skies, and he also suggests, according to Homer’s Odyssey, the city of Troy. Others believe that the Zgripțor in his feminine form, zgripțuroaica, is actually a ship that leads the hero back home.

A bălaur is a creature in Romanian folklore, similar to a European dragon. A bălaur is quite large, has fins, feet, and is polycephalous (it usually has three, sometimes seven, or even twelve serpent heads). As a traditional character which is found in most Romanian fairy tales, it represents Evil and must be defeated by Făt-Frumos in order to release the princess (see also Zmey). It is also believed, in Wallachia that the saliva of a bălaur can form precious stones.

The term Bălaur (Macedo-Romanian bul'ar) is of unknown etymology. It has been linked with Albanian boljë (“snake”) buljar (“water snake”), all terms possibly stemming from the same Thracian root, *bell- or *ber- “beast, monster”, the traces of which can also be found in the name of the Greek mythological hero Bellerophon (“the beast killer”). The Transylvanian Saxon balaur “dragon”, and balaura, an insult term in Serbia, are borrowed from Romanian. The Serbo-Croatian blavor/blaor/blavur (“European legless lizard”) is cognate with balaur, and it is regarded as one of few pre-Slavic Balkan relict words in Serbo-Croatian.


Iele are supernatural nymph-like creatures found in Romanian mythology.


Iele tend live in secluded places, including the sky, in forests, in caves, on isolated mountain cliffs and in marshes, and reported to have been seen bathing in the springs or at crossroads.

They are usually invisible, but can be seen at night when they gather to dance and sing in open fields or the tops of trees. It is noted that they dance in a circle (horas). Then they appear as beautiful young women, and often said to appear naked. According to some sources, after the previous night, the next day the places where they dance appear scorched. When the vegetation grows back, it has a different colour such as red or dark green, (this can be compared to fairy rings). The animals would then not eat it, but instead mushrooms would thrive on it.

The Iele are said not to be solitary creatures, but gather in groups in the air, where they can fly with or without wings; they can travel with incredible speeds, either on their own, or with chariots of fire.

Iele are not malevolent spirits, but will seek revenge if offended. In many cases, the Iele abduct the offenders. Possible offences include:

  • Watching them dance without their permission.
  • Joining in their dance without their approval.
  • Drinking from a particular spring.
  • Sleeping beneath a certain tree.
  • Stepping over the (fairy ring) circle where they have danced.


To please the Iele, people dedicated festival days to them: the Rusaliile, the Stratul, the Sfredelul or Bulciul Rusaliilor, the nine days after Easter, the Marina etc. Anyone not respecting these holidays was said to suffer the revenge of the Iele: men and women who work during these days would be lifted in spinning vertigo, people and cattle would suffer mysterious deaths or become paralysed and crippled, hail would fall, rivers would flood, trees would wither, and houses would catch fire.

People have also found cures and preventions against the Iele:

  • Wear garlic and mugwort around the waist.
  • Hanging the skull of a horse on a pole in front of the house.

The most important cure is the dance of Călușari.