Since its first appearance in a 1996 issue of the International Society of Vampire’s newsletter, the Midnight Sun, the loan-word “Strigoi” has been picked up by portions of the modern vampire community and used as an alternate label of self-identification. However, those familiar with the word strega may wonder how and why strigoi — so close to the Italian word for “witch” — came to be associated not with witchcraft, but with vampirism.
Within the modern vampire community, the term strigoi has become synonymous with “living vampirism.” Although vampires of the undead variety are the most widely recognized vampires of folklore, it is important to note the most of the Eastern European countries from whence our folklore about vampires originates acknowledged living vampires as well. In the folklore of Romania, several words are used to denote vampires. One of the most common is strigoi (fem. strigoica), followed by moroi (sometimes also spelled moroii). Both terms generally refer to vampires of the undead variety but can also be used to refer to living vampires.
In Romanian and related folklore, living vampires are mortal men & women who are able to (even driven to) suck the “power” from people, animals, and even the land itself. It is interesting to note that the Romanian word for this “power” is mana, another loan-word frequently used in English to denote the energy or essence of magick.
The line between vampire and witch in this case is a thin one indeed, and there is a great deal of crossover. However, living vampires are believed to always come back as the undead variety after their passing. Furthermore, they are believed, during life, to have the ability to send their souls out of their bodies, often while sleeping, in order to appear to & prey upon others. The language & imagery used to describe this power of soul-flight is strongly reminiscent of astral travel.
Notably, in this E. European folklore, those born as vampires have no choice in the matter. They are born, not made, and will remain living vampires until their death at which time they are typically believed to linger post mortem as the more traditional variety of undead vampire, hungering either way.
Were-Wolf and Vampire in Romania by Harry Senn. East European Monographs: 1982*
The Vampire: A Casebook. Edited by Alan Dundes. University of Wisconsin Press. Madison, WI: 1998
Agnes Murgoci. “The Vampire in Romania” (essay in Dundes book): “As regards the names used for vampires, dead and alive, strigoi (fem. strigoica) is the most common Romanian term, and moroii is perhaps the next most usual.” (pp 13-14)
*It was a review of Senn’s work that sparked the discussion of strigoi in the ISV’s Midnight Sun so long ago. The library at my college, John Carroll, had a copy which was instrumental to my own research on vampire folklore in the early 90s.