Windigo

Originally, a Native American name for a Cannibal Giant in northern North America. Now more commonly known as a supposed psychological compulsion to eat human flesh, said to occur among the Algonquian peoples of Canada and called "Windigo psychosis." The craving is said to be brought on by desperate cannibalism during a famine. The reality of this syndrome has been challenged, though the condition may in fact have been used in the past as an excuse to expel or execute an outcast. In recent decades, "turning Windigo" most likely refers to an emotional display of grief or worry that betrays a fear of being lost or otherwise ill equipped to deal with a harsh, subarctic environment. Some stories may also involve BlGFOOT wandering outside its normal range.

Etymology: From the Ojibwa (Algonquian) wiindigoo, "winter cannibal giant." First used in print in 1722, according to John Robert Colombo.

Variant names: Weetekow, Weetigo (Cree/ Algonquian), Wendego, Wendigo, Wetiko, Windegoag, Witigo, Witiko.

Physical description: Height, 6—9 feet. Covered with hair. Emaciated look. Face is black, possibly with frostbite. Red, glowing, staring eyes. Large fangs. Claws.

Behavior: Seen most often in winter. Can swim in cold rivers. Runs swiftly. Has a strident voice. Rubs its body with tree resin and sand. Eats people, especially children.

Tracks: Spot of blood in each print.

Distribution: Eastern and central Canada; northeastern united states.

Sources: Johann Georg Kohl, Kitchi-Gami: Wanderings Round Lake Superior (London: Chapman and Hall, 1860), pp. 358-366; Charles M. Skinner, American Myths and Legends (Philadelphia: Lippincott, 1900), vol. 1, pp. 37-38; Frank G. Speck, "Myths and FolkLore of the Timiskaming Algonquin and Timagami Ojibwa," Anthropological Series, Memoirs of the Geological Survey of Canada 71, no. 9 (1915); Joseph E. Guinard, "Witiko among the Tete-de-Boule," Primitive Man 3 (1930): 69-71; John M. Cooper, "The Cree Witiko Psychosis," Primitive Man 6 (1933): 20-24; Prentice G. Downes, Sleeping Island (New York: Coward-McCann, 1943), pp. 53-55; Richard S. Lambert, Exploring the Supernatural: The Weird in Canadian Folklore (Toronto, Canada: McClelland and stewart, 1955), pp. 167-175; Morton I. Teicher, Windigo Psychosis: A Study of a Relationship between Belief and Behavior among the Indians of Northeastern Canada (Seattle, Wash.: American Ethnological Society, 1960); Thomas H. Hay, "The Windigo Psychosis: Psychodynamic, Cultural and social Factors in Aberrant Behavior," American Anthropologist 75 (1971): 708-730; Marie Merasty, The World of Wetiko: Tales from the Woodland Cree (Saskatoon, Sask., Canada: saskatchewan indian Cultural College, 1974); Ralph Christian Albertsen, "Windigo: The Cannibal Demon," Fate 29 (March 1976): 38-45; Kamil Pecher, "What Is Our Northern Wetiko?" Pursuit, no. 48 (Fall 1979): 156-159; Richard J. Preston, "The Witiko: Algonkian Knowledge and Whiteman Knowledge," in Marjorie M. Halpin and Michael M. Ames, eds., Manlike Monsters on Trial (Vancouver, Canada: University of British Columbia Press,

WINDIGO 589

John Morris Anthropologist
WINGED CAT that lived in a builder's yard in Trafford Park, Manchester, England (date unknown). (John Morris/ Fortean Picture Library)

1980), pp. 111-131; John Robert Colombo, ed., Windigo: An Anthology of Fact and Fantastic Fiction (Saskatoon, Sask., Canada: Western Producer Prairie Books, 1982); Lou Marano, "Windigo Psychosis: The Anatomy of an Emic-Etic Confusion," Current Anthropology 23 (1982): 385-397; Robert A. Brightman, Rock Cree Human-Animal Relationships (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993).

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