In Albanian folklore a shtriga is a witch who preys upon infants by drinking their blood at night. But instead of transforming into an owl when she goes for her midnight snack, she is more apt to take the form of a flying insect.
Cognates with Roman strix, Italian strega; compare also Romanian strigă and Polish strzyga.
The Shtriga is often pictured as a old woman sometimes having horribly disfigured face with washed out colour eyes (sybardha) and crocked nose.
The shtriga would turn into a flying insect then suck the spirtus vitaé, the living force, out of people at night while they slept. She preferred to drink from young children or even infants. Only the shtriga herself could cure those she had drained (often by spitting in their mouths), and those who were not cured inevitably sickened and died.
How to ward off a Shtriga
Traditionally there are several methods effective for defending oneself from shtriga, such as:
- a cross made of bone placed at the entrance of a church on Easter Sunday, rendering any Shtriga inside unable to leave. They could then be captured and killed at the threshold as they vainly attempted to pass.
- as after draining blood from a victim, the shtriga would generally go off into the woods and regurgitate it, it was believed that soaking a silver coin in that blood, then wrapping it in cloth, it would become an amulet offering permanent protection from any shtriga.
- Some people take some salt in their fingers and with the fingers touch the eyes (closed eyes), the mouth, the heart and the opposite part of the heart and the pit of the stomach and then throw the salt in direct flames saying syt i dalçin syt i plaçin or just repeat 3-6 times under voice syt i dalçin syt i plaçin.
- when they build a new house, people use garlic (hudhër) or place a puppet so it will catch the evil. Newborns or children or beautiful girls can catch evil eye more easily so in some Albanian regions is used to say marshalla and touch their nose when they look them for the first time, especially newborns, so the evil eye will not catch them and to express that they are benevolent.
Even recently many Albanians regard the Shtriga as the most common cause of infant deaths.
Shtriga in other cultures
TV series Supernatural, in the episode "Something Wicked", featured a shtriga. Although there is no mentioned method for destroying shtriga in folklore, the show stated that the shtriga may be killed by a consecrated iron bullet, but only when it was feeding.