The Wendigo, according to legend, was a hunter who got lost. He was on the verge of famine during a very severe winter, and his extreme hunger led him to the most forbidden of practices: cannibalism. After eating human flesh, the man quickly changed into a beast-like entity; he was then doomed to traverse the frigid wilderness of Canada and Minnesota in quest of more humans to devour and never be content.
That’s Wendigo’s tale in a nutshell. It falls within myth, legend, and even folklore in modern times. The Wendigo, however, continues to hold our interest, whereas many myths and stories often vanish with the passage of each generation.
So, what is it with this fabled beast that mystifies us so much?
The Legend of The Wendigo
“The Wendigo’s dry skin was drawn tautly over its bones, making it gaunt to emaciation. It resembled a gaunt skeleton that had just been exhumed from the grave because of the bones that protruded against its skin, its deathly ash-grey appearance, and its eyes forced back far into their sockets. What lips it did have were bloodied and torn. A weird and unsettling stench of decay, decomposition, death, and corruption permeated the body’s impurity and flesh suppurations.”
― Professor and Ojibwe expert Basil Johnston, from Ontario, Canada.
The Wendigo (also spelled windigo) is an evil creature that’s said to dwell in the woodlands of the Great Lakes Region, the central parts of Canada, and Minnesota’s north woods. This entity may appear as a monster with some human traits or as a spirit that has taken possession of a person and turned them into a horrific beast.
It has a long history of being linked to cannibalism, murder, ravenous avarice, and social taboos. The names Windigo, Witigo, Witiko, and Wee-Tee-Go, which all roughly translate to the wicked spirit that devours humans, all refer to the same thing.
What is the Original Story Behind the Wendigo?
The Algonquian, Ojibwe, Eastern Cree, Saulteaux, Westmain Swampy Cree, Naskapi, and Innu peoples have long known about this species. They have called them giants who are several times bigger than people. The belief that the Wendigo is a hostile, cannibalistic, supernatural monster closely linked with winter, the north, frost, and hunger is shared by all of these civilizations, despite minor variations in descriptions.
In the Algonquian tale, the beast is referred to as a giant with an ice heart, sometimes considered to be formed entirely of ice. Lips and toes are gone, and its body is a skeleton and malformed.
The Ojibwa explains it thus:
“It was a big, tree-sized beast with a lipless mouth and sharp fangs. Any man, woman, or a kid who went into its area was devoured. Its breath was a peculiar hiss, and its tracks were covered in blood. They were the fortunate ones. Sometimes the Wendigo would rather possess a human. In such cases, the unfortunate person would turn into a Wendigo, searching for the people he had previously loved and eating their flesh.”
Legend has it that every time a person turns to cannibalism to live, a Wendigo is born. This used to happen more often when Native Americans and settlers became stuck in the harsh winter and ice of the northern forests. Often left alone for days, survivors may have felt forced to eat the corpses to live. According to some legends, persons who exhibited great gluttony, avarice, or excess lust may likewise be possessed by a wendigo.
So, the myth was a way of promoting moderation and comradeship.
Native American accounts of the monster described a massive ghost that stood over fifteen feet tall and had formerly been a person but had been magically changed into a beast. The Wendigo is often described as having blazing eyes, long, yellowed teeth, horrible claws, and excessively long tongues; every account of the monster differs just a little.
They are often characterized as having yellowish, sallow complexion, and other times as having matted hair. The beast is believed to possess various abilities, including stealth, being a nearly perfect hunter, knowing and using every square inch of its domain, and being capable of black magic and great weather control.
They are also described as gluttons who get hungrier the more it consumes. Its desire for human flesh can hence never be tamed.
According to legend, wendigos are cursed to roam the countryside in search of human flesh to feed their ravenous appetites; if nothing is left to eat, they starve to death.
In Modern Medicine and History
Wendigo psychosis, a contentious contemporary medical term, is named after the fable. Some doctors believe it to be a condition that induces a strong desire for human flesh and a dread of becoming a cannibal. Ironically, many who live close to the Great Lakes in Canada and the United States have this insanity.
For people who have been isolated for extended periods by heavy snowfall, wendigo psychosis would haunt them. It often manifests in the winter. Poor appetite, nausea, and vomiting are the first signs of the condition.
The person then believes they have been changed into a Wendigo monster. Wendigo psychosis patients progressively see others around them as being edible. They also have a heightened dread of turning into cannibals.
Traditional native healers’ (shamans) usually attempt to cure patients who have symptoms of Wendigo psychosis. In the past, if these efforts failed and the possessed individual started to behave aggressively, endanger others, or threaten others, they were executed. The first accounts of this illness date back hundreds of years.
According to a 1661 Jesuit Relations document:
“The information we received upon entering the Lake said that the men sent by our Conductor to call the Nations to the North Sea and give them a rendezvous where they were to await our approach had perished the previous winter. According to the information provided, those unfortunate folks were suffering from a new disease not exceptionally uncommon among the individuals we were looking for.
They have a mix of all these diseases, which affects their imaginations and makes them hungrier than a dog, rather than being influenced by insanity, hypochondria, or frenzy. They become so insatiably hungry for human flesh. As a result, they leap upon women, children, and even men like true werewolves. They are always looking for new prey, and voraciously they consume. Because death is the only cure for this illness among those simple people to prevent such murderous crimes, our deputies were killed to stop the progression of their craziness.”
Another example was recorded in 1878 when Swift Runner, an Alberta-based Plains Cree trapper, became possessed by the Wendigo in one of the worst documented cases. Swift Runner was the father of six children and a Hudson’s Bay Company merchant. He was a guide for the North West Mounted Police in 1875.
Swift Runner, his family, and many other Cree families were hungry during the winter of 1878–1879. Swift Runner’s oldest kid was the first to pass away from malnutrition. Eventually, he developed Wendigo’s psychosis. He did not try to go to the nearby Hudson’s Bay Company station, even though it had emergency food supplies. Instead, he slaughtered the rest of his family members and ate them. He ultimately confessed, and the Fort Saskatchewan authorities executed him.
Wendigos in the 19th Century
From the late 1800s through the 1920s, a Wendigo made many sightings close to Rosesu in northern Minnesota. Every time it was announced, there was an unexpected death that followed until it ultimately vanished.
The example of Jack Fiddler, an Oji-Cree leader and medicine man renowned for his abilities to slay wendigos, is another well-known instance of Wendigo psychosis. In his lifespan, Fiddler claimed to have vanquished 14 wendigos. Some of these monsters were allegedly dispatched by rival shamans. In contrast, others were allegedly members of his group who had developed an unquenchable, incurable need for human flesh.
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In the latter scenario, family members often requested that Fiddler murder a very ill relative or friend, before they became Wendigo. Peter Flett, Fiddler’s brother, died after turning into a wendigo on a trade excursion when there was no more food.
The Wendigo mythology was known to Hudson’s Bay Company merchants, the Cree, and missionaries. Still, they often described it as a superstition or mental disease. However, the company’s archives include multiple instances of individuals becoming Wendigo and devouring human flesh.
Canadian police detained Fiddler and his brother Joseph in 1907 on suspicion of murder. Jack committed suicide, but Joseph was guilty and sentenced to life. He eventually received a pardon but passed just three days later in custody before learning of it.
To emphasize the gravity of the wendigo taboo, the Assiniboine, the Cree, and the Ojibwe sometimes perform a satirical ceremonial dance.
Where Can I Find a Wendigo?
As Native Americans encountered more and more Western beliefs throughout the 20th century, the number of instances of Wendigo insanity dramatically dropped.
However, reports of the Wendigo monster are continually made, particularly in northern Ontario, close to the Cave of the Wendigo, and in the area of Kenora, where merchants, trackers, and trappers are said to have seen it for decades.
The Wendigo is still widely believed to prowl the northern Minnesotan woodlands and Canadian prairies. The Canadian city of Kenora, Ontario, has earned the moniker “Wendigo Capital of the World” by many.
Sightings of this cursed beast in Canada, especially in Ontario, have continued well into the 2000s.
How Can I Kill a Wendigo?
A wendigo is said to be very difficult to escape from. Wendigos are very swift hunters that don’t let anything stand in the way of their insatiable appetite. Even if you could avoid bodily harm them (unlikely), the mere knowledge that you had come into contact with an extraterrestrial wendigo would leave you emotionally empty. For months or perhaps years, wendigos hibernate, but when they emerge, oh, sorrow!
Thanks to their superhuman speed, endurance, and enhanced senses, such as hearing so acute they can detect terrified heartbeats from kilometers away, wendigos can pursue their prey covertly for long periods. There is no question that this ability is quite helpful in the woods.
When the pursuit starts, wendigos play a cruel game. They lure their victim, let forth shrieks or growls, and even imitate human sounds pleading for assistance. A wendigo gets serious as the search gets going. It will sprint after its prey, uprooting trees, inciting animal stampedes (which will lead to further starvation), and igniting tornadoes and ice storms.
Don’t let the idea that being inside makes you safe deceive you. The wendigo can open doors and enter houses, where it would murder and consume the occupants before transforming the buildings into wendigo homes for hibernation.
Can you outgun a wendigo if you can’t outrun one? Not quickly. A wendigo that is hurt regenerates. The secret is to pierce the wendigo’s icy heart using silver bullets, a pure silver sword, or a stake. (Note: It’s generally accepted that a steel blade plated in silver would function in a pinch.)
You must be careful to break the wendigo’s heart after hurting it, then enclose the parts in a silver box and bury them in a churchyard.
Not one to seek an easy end, the wendigo’s remaining parts must be severed with a silver-plated axe before the corpse can be salted, burned, and its ashes sent to the winds. Alternatively, you may bury the fragments in a far-off place, so that no one one in the right mind would ever find it accidentally .
If you omit a step, the wendigo could be able to revive, would most certainly track you down, and cause an agonizingly slow death.
Good luck, and don’t fail.
Enjoyed what you just read? You’ll love to read the story of How The CIA Killed John F Kennedy! That’s right, I uncovered it, haha! Or if you want something spooky for the weekend, try the Khamar Daban Incident. Guaranteed nightmare fuel!
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