If you've been following the blog you might remember a post I did about Skin-Walkers. They were based on an Native American legend, but had manifested into sightings of an actual creature. Today I would like to talk about another abomination based on a Native American legend... The Wendigo. The Wendigo is a half demon, half human entity that feeds on human flesh. The association with cannibalism is strong and the name Wendigo has been used to describe the more modern medical disorder know as Wendigo Psychosis. Wendigo Pychosis is used to describe someone with an intense and insatiable craving for human flesh.
It was believed by the American Indians of the Great Lakes region that someone who was full of greed, gluttony and or someone who had resorted to cannibalism was susceptible of becoming a Wendigo. Here is a description from Basil Johnston an Objibwe teacher:
"The Wendigo was gaunt to the point 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 suffering from suppurations of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption."
The Wendigo myth was used as a deterrent by Shamans and tribal leaders especially in hard times like winter and times of drought and famine. The idea was basically to scare people to walk the straight and narrow (especially when it came to eating family members). One case of Wendigo Psychosis involved a Plains Cree trapper from Alberta named Swift Runner. Here is the story from Wiki:
"One of the more famous cases of Wendigo psychosis reported involved a Plains Cree trapper from Alberta, named Swift Runner. During the winter of 1878, Swift Runner and his family were starving, and his eldest son died. Twenty-five miles away from emergency food supplies at a Hudson's Bay Company post, Swift Runner butchered and ate his wife and five remaining children. Given that he resorted to cannibalism so near to food supplies, and that he killed and consumed the remains of all those present, it was revealed that Swift Runner's was not a case of pure cannibalism as a last resort to avoid starvation, but rather of a man suffering from Wendigo psychosis. He eventually confessed and was executed by authorities at Fort Saskatchewan"
The Wendigo has super-natural implications and is very similar to the Jikininki or "Hungry Ghost" from Japan. Here is the description of the Jikininki again from wiki:
"In Japanese Buddhism, jikininki (Japanese: 食人鬼, "human-eating ghosts"; pronounced shokujinki in modern Japanese) are the spirits of greedy, selfish or impious individuals who are cursed after death to seek out and eat human corpses. They do this at night, scavenging for newly dead bodies and food offerings left for the dead. They sometimes also loot the corpses they eat for valuables, which they use to bribe local officials to leave them in peace. Nevertheless, jikininki lament their condition and hate their repugnant cravings for dead human flesh.
Often, jikininki are said to look like decomposing cadavers, perhaps with a few inhuman features such as sharp claws or glowing eyes. They are a horrifying sight, and any mortal who views one finds himself or herself frozen in fear. However, several stories give them the ability to magically disguise themselves as normal human beings and even to lead normal "lives" by day."
Here is some video of alleged Wendigo sightings: