Thursday, September 1, 2011

Bran Castle

Way back in June, Sarah and I took a trip to visit what is popularly known as Dracula's Castle with the father of our host family, Jovanka, and Candice. Turns out that the castle has nothing to do with either the Bram Stoker book, or the historical prince the book was based on. It's just the most prominent castle in Transylvania and someone was really good at marketing. But, the castle is still lovely and we had a great time.

On the way up we stopped at a memorial site for one our host father's relatives that was killed by the securitate during the Ceaușescu regime. We also visited a memorial for a large battle fought in WWI in the area. We got a long tour in Romanian by someone at a small museum. I think Jo understood most of it, but I was clueless.

Don't miss the picture of Jo starting the biggest curent ever felt in Transylvania. Curent is what we would call a breeze or a draft, but here it is considered extremely dangerous to your health. Jo seems to revel in this risky behavior. And definitely don't miss the gummy Dracula teeth. They're scary sweet.

After the photos, I have included a text that we saw in the castle about a more ancient demonic myth, similar to vampires. My favorite part is how dangerous it is for a woman to go outside without covering her head.


In Romanian Mythology, Strigoi are the evil souls of the dead. The word is derived from the Romanian "striga," cognate with Italian, which means "witch."

The strigoi is born as any child, but they have a distinctive sign: a bonnet, a veil on the head or a nightgown. Such a child is given birth by a woman, who drank accursed water when she was pregnant, or when she went outside with nothing on her head. Then, Satan comes and puts a red bonnet on her head, just like the one he has. To prevent the child from turning into a strigoi, the bonnet must be removed off the child's head as soon as possible, or else the child takes the bonnet and swallows it undergoing the transformation.

A strigoi is said to be bald on top of his head. He does not eat onions or garlic, fears frankincense, and during St. Andrew's Night, he sleeps outside. His spinal cord is prolonged in a tail, covered in hair.

If there is drought in a village, it means that a strigoi exists there and hinders rain; if it rains and hail falls, then God is punishing the strigoi and if it rains while the sun is shining it is believed that a strigoi is getting married.

Infants who die not baptized, the dead who did nothing but bad deeds while they were alive, those who die of sudden deaths (hung, shot, drowned...), the sick who are not watched and walk over a cat, or the dead who have been walked over by cats, dogs, chickens or any other birds risk turning into one.

At full moon, they come out of their graves or leave their bodies and start dancing or doing all kinds of bad things. Their night is St. Andrew's Night (November 30).

The strigoi also steals cow milk, wheat, people's strength, hinders rain, brings about hail and death among people and animals. On St. George's Day (April 23), young men sprinkle water on young women so as not to be affected by the strigoi or turn into one.

In order to kill them, the grave of the one supposed to be a strigoi needs to be found and priests hold a religious service (but they are often powerless) and a stake, made of oak or ash tree, is driven through its heart, and then the creature is nailed to the coffin to prevent it from getting out and harming people.

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