Wendigo/Windigo

The Wendigo (or Windigo) is a cannibal monster or an evil spirit that is native to the northern forests of the Atlantic Coast and the Great Lakes Region of both the U.S. and Canada. It originates in Algonquian folklore. The Wendigo might appear as a monster with some characteristics of a human, or a spirit who has possessed a human being and made them become monstrous. It’s historically associated with cannibalism, murder, insatiable greed, and the cultural taboos against those behaviors. A psychosis that steamed from the Wendigo that is highly debated is the Wendigo Psychosis, which is considered a form of culture-bound syndrome with symptoms such as intense craving for human flesh and a fear of becoming a cannibal.

In some indigenous communities, environmental destruction and insatiable greed are also seen as a manifestions of Wendigo Psychosis. Part of the traditional belief system of a number of Algonquin-speaking poeples most notably the Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Cree, Naskapi, and the Innu people. The descriptions of the Wendigo vary but the common aspect that is associated with these cultures is that it is a malevolent, cannibalistic, supernatural being and is strongly associated with winter, the north, coldness, famine, and starvation.

In Ojibwe, Eastern Cree, Swampy Cree, Naskapi, and Innu lore often describes them as giants many times larger than human beings, a characteristic absent from the myth in other Algonquin cultures. When a Wendigo ate a person it would grow in proportion to the person they just had ate so that it was never full. They are simultaneously portrayed as gluttonous and emaciated from starvation. The creature is seen as the combination of gluttony, greed, and excess. They’re never satisfied with killing and eating one person so they are always hunting for more.

More human-like Wendigos are those who are overpowered by greed and turn into Wendigos themselves. This myth served as a way of encouraging people to cooperate and to practice moderation. The Wendigos are extremely deadly and feared creatures that are the results of greed and sin. They are what people could become if they are not careful with their greed.

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