Oct. 9, 2022

Wendigo // 132 // mythological creature

Wendigo // 132 // mythological creature

Wendigo is a mythological creature or evil spirit that is said to invoke feelings of insatiable greed and hunger and they have a strong desire to cannibalize other humans.  Descriptions of the Wendigo will vary, but they are typically associated with winter and famine.  When they eat another person, they grow in proportion to that meal, so they can never be satisfied.



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What would you do if you were starving? Not the 2 AM, drank all day, starving for Taco Bell kinda starving. The kind of starving where you're actually so deprived of food that you are going to die. Would you become a cannibal to survive? This very question becomes the entire dilemma surrounding the legend of the wendigo. Stories and legends have been recorded by native cultures, explorers and missionaries for centuries. This has been referred to as Wendigo or Windigo most commonly. There are many other translations, but we are sticking with wendigo. 

The Wendigo is a mythological creature or evil spirit which originates from the folklore of Plains and Great Lakes Natives as well as some First Nations. It's based in and around the East Coast forests of Canada, the Great Plains region of the US, and the Great Lakes Region of the US and Canada. The wendigo is a malevolent spirit that is sometimes depicted as a creature with human-like characteristics, which possesses human beings. The wendigo invokes feelings of greed and hunger along with the desire to cannabalize other humans. In Algon-qui-an cultures, cannibalism, even to save your own life, is a very serious crime and it's completely taboo. 

The wendigo is described as a giant humanoid, naked emaciated body with large claws, owl-eyes, matted hair, a heart of ice and a foul stench. They are about 6 to 16 feet tall with grey or white skin, giant glowing eyes, and razor sharp teeth. They are very bony or skeleton like, you can see their ribs because they're so thin and their skin is tightly stretched over their bones. This creature is defined as looking extremely hungry. 

Basil Johnston, an Ojibwe scholar from Ontario provides the following description:

The wendigo was gaunt to the pointo of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tautly over its bones. With its bones pushing out against its skin, its complexion the ash gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into their sockets, the wendigo looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody...Unclean and sufferening from suppurations of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.”

Movies have represented the wendigo as a creature with antlers or horns, but that has never matched the original stories. They can hibernate for months, but once they're up, they can stalk their victims for long periods of time and they can pick up on panicked heartbeats from miles away.

In wendigo legends, “Wendigo psychosis” is characterized by symptoms of an intense craving for human flesh and an intense fear of becoming a cannibal. In some areas, other symptoms are insatiable greed and destruction of the environment. The wendigo is the embodiment of gluttony, greed, and excess: never satisfied after killing and consuming one person, they are constantly searching for new victims. It's extremely destructive. The more it eats, the hungrier it gets, so it just keeps killing.

They are said to possess powers such as mimicking voices, superhuman strength, mind control, weather manipulation, the generation of darkness, and the ability to create confusion and fear. They can use their powers to bait their prey by shrieking, growling, or mimicking human voices to call for help. 

The Wendigo craves human flesh, bones, and blood. When they get it, they grow and they get hungrier and hungrier. Never to be satisfied. Some stories say that the Wendigos are missing their own lips and parts of their face because they get so hungry that they eat it.

Among the Ass-ini-boine, the Cree, and the Ojibwe, a satirical ceremonial dance may be performed during times of famine to reinforce the seriousness of the wendigo taboo. The ceremony is known as a-wiindigo-okaan-zhimowin. This involves wearing masks and dancing backwards around a drum. The last known wendigo ceremony in the US was at Lake Windigo on Star Island of Cass Lake, located within the Leech Lake Indian Reservation in northern Minnesota. The lake derives its name from a mythological or malevolent, cannibalistic spirit.

The wendigo came from water. Native Americans do water ceremonies to appease the spirits of the water and according to their legends, it's believed that the first Wendigo that ever existed, rose up out of a lake and began devouring humans. Some say that it's a lost hunter who turned into a monster during a harsh winter. The hunter couldn't find any food, so he started eating humans. Legends say that in Minnesota, Lake Windigo actually has a Wendigo living in it. Anyone walking around the banks of the lake, will be snatched and pulled into the water to spend eternity in the lake with the Wendigo. 

The first wendigo was said to have been a warrior who made a deal with the devil in exchange for the fearsome skills and stature to fight his enemy which would allow him to save his tribe, but this resulted in the warrior giving up his soul. When the battle was over, he was indeed a successful warrior, but he was also a full time wendigo, so he was banished from his tribe and forced to live as an outcast, cursed with cannibalistic desires. 

Wendigos can possess people and they transform them into wild-eyed, violent, flesh-eating-maniacs with superhuman strength. If a Wendigo attacks you....you could become a Wendigo. They either kill you, or turn you. If you're attacked, there's a physical transformation and it all starts with a chill. You get colder and colder, can't really seem to warm up, then the hunger takes over. Some stories say that the Wendigo is actually a shape-shifter. They can look like the creature when they're hungry, then they can turn back into their human form, so they don't actually realize they've turned. So, if this happens, the person that has turned is completely possessed, but they could be walking among us like normal looking humans. 

It's nearly impossible to escape a wendigo because they have a supernatural speed and endurance. The only way to kill them is by using silver bullets or a silver blade or stake and you must strike through their icy heart. Once you've pierced the heart, you have to shatter it into pieces, then lock the heart pieces in a silver box and bury it in a church cemetery. You're not done there. You have to go back and dismember the wendigo with a silver-plated axe so you can salt and burn the body, then scatter the ashes into the wind. If you skip any of the steps, the creature can resurrect itself and hunt you down. 

Native American mythology warns of the evil spirit called the wendigo and during the 1800s, several Al-gon-quin natives did resort to cannibalism as a result of a mental disorder modern-day psychologists call wendigo psychosis. This refers to a condition where the person is suffering from an insatiable desire to eat human flesh even when there are other food sources available. If it was discovered that someone was suffering from wendigo psychosis, there would typically be attempts by traditional native healers or Western doctors to cure them. If they were too far gone, the person was executed.

The intervention of a shaman was typically the last resort after using ceremonies, rtituals, and talismans to ward of the evil threat. If someone is believed to be nearing the final stage of fully turning, they would exhibit delirium, insanity, nightmares, and the uncontrollable urge to run through the woods naked, and they would of course, crave human flesh. If someone is at this point, it's too late for rituals or ceremonies and they need to be ended.

Brady DeSanti published an article for the University of Nebraska called Classroom Cannibal: A Guide on how to Teach Ojibwe Spirituality Using the Wendigo and Film

He wrote, “The Windigo represents something different from its cinematic predecessors in that it remains a viable feature of Ojibwe spirituality. In order to truly grasp the windigo's meaning it must be positioned alongside the entirety of Ojibwe beliefs about the tripartite (Try-par-tight) nature of human beings “two souls and a physical body”, spirtitual beings, ideas of personal and communal harmony, and kinship towards the nonhuman world. When the windigo is severed from its cultural foundation, it's relationship to the Ojibwe cosmological world is lost.”

Brady explains that most Western and Eastern understandings of personhood are limited to human beings, but Ojibwe and other indigenous traditions are not that limited. They believe that trees, plants, waters, stars, clouds, animals, and other components of the natural world are understood as different types of “people” who possess some attributes that could be similar to humans. Ojibwe peoples are to treat humans, animals, and various spiritual forces with respect and the windigo is a precise example of what evil can happen if this concept of maintaining their internal equilibrium between their soul and body isn't followed.

An Ojibwe author, Basil Johnston believes the name Windigo may actually mean “soley for self” so this speaks directly to satisfying one's own desires at the expense of the community. Ojibwe teachings caution against selfishness and have historically viewed cannibalism as an unspeakable act, even during famine.


On December 20th, 1879, Alberta, Canada, performed their first official hanging and the man who was hanged was a Cree Native American born as Ka-Ki-Si-Kutchin who went by the name Swift Runner. He had cannibalized his entire family, but he blamed the evil wendigo spirtit. He was 6 feet tall and made his living as a trapper and a guide for the North West Mounted Police. Over time, Swift Runner developed a taste for whiskey and eventually lost the ability to hunt or take care of his family as the alcoholism took over. He was an angry drunk and the police force ended up firing him, then he was kicked out of his tribe for being violent.

In the winter of 1878, Swift Runner and his wife, Sun In The Moon, took their six children, his mother-in law, and brother out to the forest. Months later, as spring set in, Swift Runner emerged from the woods and went to a nearby Catholic mission. The priests lead him inside and he said his whole family was dead, he lost them during the winter because they couldn't find food, so he watched them slowly starve to death. The priests immediately recognized that something was wrong. Swift Runner looked very healthy and didn't appear to be starved at all....so why did his family starve? Also, they knew other Cree natives who had a very successful winter because the hunting was good. They also were quite disturbed by Swift Runner's nightmares. He would wake up screaming every night and he said he was being tormented by an evil spirit called wendigo and one night, he tried to lure a group of children into the woods and the priests were like, RED FLAG! 

The priests went to the police and told them about all the weird things going on and mentioned that Swift Runner may have murdered his family. Swift Runner was arrested and they ordered him to show them where his winter campsite was. When they arrived, they saw pieces of bones, hair, and flesh scattered about. Some of the bones were broken and hallowed out, like someone had sucked the marrow out and they found a pot of human fat. 

Swift Runner said he had been haunted by nightmares of the Wendigo spirit telling him to eat the people around him. The spirit was lurking in his mind and was slowly taking control of him until he was possessed and no longer himself. As the windigo, he killed and at his wife, then his children. None of this happened quickly either. The windigo forced one of the boys to kill his younger brother, then fed him human flesh before killing him. After the children were gone, the wendigo made Swift Runner eat his brother, then his mother-in-law and he said she was a bit tough.

The trial started on August 8th, 1879 and the jury did not accept the story of the wendigo. After just 20 minutes of deliberations, he was sentenced to death and he was the first man to legally be hanged in Alberta, Canada on the morning of December 20th. Swift Runner admitted his guilt to the crowd that gathered and thanked the jailers for their kindness, but was upset that the guard made him wait in the cold. A man named Jim Reade was present for the execution and he's quoted as saying, “That's the purtiest hangin I ever seen, and it's my 29th.”

There were around 60 people that showed up to see the hanging which had already been delayed by the snow. When it was close to time, they realized that the crowd had taken the trap from the gallows and burned it because they needed extra firewood and the hangman forgot to bring straps to bind the prisoner's arms. The sheriff and hangman had to rush off to get the equipment they needed and they plopped Swift Runner near one of the fires and he just sat there with the noose around his neck and chatted with the people that were going to watch him die. He even made a joke and said, “I could kill myself with a tomahawk and save the hangman further trouble.”


Jack Fiddler was also know as zhauwuno-geezhigo-gaubow or he who stands in the southern sky and he was a chief and shaman born an Oji-Cree, but he was affiliated with the Sucker clan which now goes by the Sandy Lake First Nation. He was a famous for his alleged ability to conjure animals and protect his people from spells. He had supernatural abilities; he could shape-shift, conjure animal spirits, chase away evil spirits, deflect spells, and he was a wendigo hunter. He was known for his healing abilities and his power to fight evil spirits and defeat the Wendigo, which not many hunters could do. 

The preferred method among the people of the tribe was to kill the wendigo during the transformation, before they were fully taken over. That way, the person that was transforming, wouldn't be able to use any powers on the person hunting them. With this method, the accused person....still looks like a person. They haven't changed. So, you're assuming that the “hunter” is correct when they murder someone for being a wendigo. This method was used to save someone's soul before they were turned and the tribe believed they were saving sick people.

In October of 1907, two members of the North-West Mounted Police heard about Jack Fiddler's strange wendigo powers and they decided to introduce him to the Canadian law. Jack and his brother, Joseph were arrested for murdering Joseph's daughter in-law, but they were known for killing more than 14 people who they claimed were Wendigos. Jack Fiddler was said to have killed 18 Wendigo and was one of the best at it. He could track and kill the creatures at any stage of their transformation. 

He even killed one of his own brothers who had apparently turned into a wendigo after resorting to cannibalism on a trading expedition. Both men were held at Norway House to await trial and newspapers started printing headlines that talked of murder and devil-worship, black magic, and deadly superstition. The woman they murdered had been strangled to death with a rope and there were signs of a ritual that had been performed near her body. So, the cops knew the rumors about the wendigo hunters were true. 

Jack and his brother Joseph didn't hide the fact that they were the ones that murdered the woman. They said they did it because her family asked them to. She had been in the middle of transforming into a wendigo and they put a stop to it. This may have been a new thing for the police to hear, but this was NOT new to the Native people of the region. They had rules in place for fighting off evil. On September 30th, Jack Fiddler escaped during a walk outside and he took his own life by hanging himself nearby.

Joseph Fiddler still went to trial and an eyewitness, Angus Rae, testified that the woman they murdered was in horrendous pain and she had an incurable illness. According to their customs, the tribe had specific people that were tasked with putting someone out of their misery or as they put it, euthanizing them. Jack and Joseph Fiddler were the ones that did this and they also hunted the wendigos. Joseph was sentenced to death. This was appealed and he was supposed to be released, but the orders came three days after his death from illness in 1909. 

If you think you're safe from the Wendigo by staying inside, you're wrong. They can possess you if you dream about them. It is mentioned that they have some similar characteristics to the grey aliens and are often seen in connection with UFOs or other aviation-based anomalies.