strix or striga

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strix or striga

Post  Admin on 10/27/2008, 2:19 am

The strix or striga (pl. striges; occasionally bastardized to stirge) was an Ancient Roman legendary creature, usually described as a nocturnal bird of ill omen that fed on human flesh and blood, like a vampire. Unlike later vampires, it was not a revenant—a risen corpse—but the product of metamorphosis. The name is Greek in origin and means 'owl', with which bird it is usually identified (the name of the genus Strix follows this meaning).
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Classical stories

The earliest recorded tale of the strix is from the lost Ornithologia of the Greek author Boio, which is partially preserved in Antoninus Liberalis's Metamorphoses. This tells the story of Polyphonte and her two sons Agrios and Oreios (their father being a wild bear), who were punished for their cannibalism, like Lycaon, by being transformed into wild animals. Polyphonte became a strix "that cries by night, without food or drink, with head below and tips of feet above, a harbinger of war and civil strife to men".1 The first Latin allusion is in Plautus's Pseudolus (819), dated to 191 BCE, in which a cook, describing the cuisine of his inferiors, compares its action to that of the striges—i.e., disemboweling a hapless victim. Horace, in his Epodes, makes the strix's magical properties clear: its feathers are an ingredient in a love potion. Seneca the Younger, in his Hercules Furens, shows the striges dwelling on the outskirts of Tartarus. Ovid (Fasti, vi.101 ff.) tells the story of striges attacking the legendary king Procas in his cradle, and how they were warded off with arbutus and placated with the meat of pigs, as an explanation for the custom of eating beans and bacon on the Kalends of June.
Though descriptions abound, the concept of the strix was nonetheless vague. The scientific Pliny, in his Natural History (xi.232), confesses little knowledge of them; he knows that their name was once used as a curse, but beyond that he can only aver that the tales of them nursing their young must be false, since no bird except the bat2 suckled its children.[edit]

Medieval and modern

The legend of the strix survived into the Middle Ages, as recorded in Isidore's Etymologiae (book 12, ch. 7.42, and gave both name and attributes to the strigoaicǎ, the Romanian witch, and to the strega, the Italian witch. Also the Albanian shtriga is described as a witch and derives from the Strix; she can transform into a flying insect.[edit]

See also



Note 1: Translation by Oliphant, pp. 133-134 Note 2: In the ancient world the bat was commonly classified as a bird; only Aristotle differed, considering it halfway between bird and land animal. See Oliphant, p. 134 n. 4


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