W is for Wendigo
The Wendigo is from Native American mythology, more specifically to the Algonquian-speaking tribes. It is a spirit of cannibalism that either manifests itself or possesses humans and slowly turns them into a horrifying monster who craves the flesh of his own kin. Unlike vampires or zombies, the Wendigo is a living spirit. Also, it is usually tied to cold winter and starvation that impacted multiple Native American tribes.
Appearing ghoulish with ashen colored skin, bulging eyes, and an extremely emaciated body, the Wendigo strikes fear with its looks, its sharp claws and fangs, and unending hunger. The spiritual and mental corruption of the spirit slowly changes the host until nothing distantly human remains of the possessed. At the final stages, after eating human flesh, the stench of corruption and death will permeate the body of the Wendigo, making it unable to mask its presence anymore to anyone who might encounter it.
The tribes used the Wendigo as a means of self-control, moderation and cooperation, as corrupt and greedy people were apt to become Wendigos themselves. While having to eat human flesh to survive the harsh winters was a unavoidable at times, those who survived tended to commit suicide or resign themselves to death due to the fear of becoming possessed and therefore dangerous to the tribe as a whole. If left unchecked, those who had consumed human flesh were very likely to develop Wendigo psychosis, a state where the person will prefer, if not crave, to cannibalize again despite having a multitude of other food sources available.
Such state is most likely a basis to certain Wendigo tales among the natives.
- After feeding and gorging itself, the Wendigo grew in proportionate size, retaining the hunger and thus always remaining both hungry and emaciated despite consuming multiple bodies.
- For Algonquian culture, it was not uncommon for someone to develop a craving for human flesh over time, and the fear of such sparked stories of the Wendigo.
- Just 25 miles from food supplies at Hudson’s Bay Company post, Swift Runner, a Plains Cree trapper, murdered and ate his wife and five children after his eldest son had died during the winter 1878. He is one of the most famous cases of Wendigo psychosis.