Friday, February 08, 2013

Supernatural Friday: The Wendigo Hungers

“Hunger Changes”
by Pamela K. Kinney
Hunger, so much hunger
Never filling,
Cold darkness
Taking over,
No longer human,
Predator, killer, monster—
(Poem copyrighted by Pamela K. Kinney--do not take, but share the link instead.)

Though the Wendigo is first written down by writer Algernon Blackwood in his classic terror tale, "The Wendigo", Native Americans have their own stories of the monster.  The Inuit Indians of the region called the creature by various names, including Wendigo, Witigo, Witiko and Wee-Tee-Go but each of them was roughly translated to mean "the evil spirit that devours mankind". Around 1860, a German explorer translated Wendigo to mean "cannibal" among the tribes along the Great Lakes.

The tribes told of a gigantic spirit, over fifteen feet tall. Lore says that it was once human but had been transformed into a creature by the use of magic (or curse?), whenever a human resorts to cannibalism to survive. Descriptions of the creature vary here and there, the Wendigo is said to have glowing eyes, yellowed fangs of length, and long tongues. Most have a sallow, yellowish skin, while others are said to be matted with hair. They are tall and lanky and are driven by a horrible hunger. In years past, such a practice was possible, although still rare, as many of the tribes and settlers in the region were cut off by the bitter snows and ice of the north woods. Unfortunately, eating another person to survive was sometimes resorted to and thus, the legend of the Wendigo was created. 

Of course, some of the descriptions seem to fit the sightings of Bigfoot. And Bigfoot by Native Americans is considered a spirit (except to Northwestern tribes: they considered Sasquatch as a physical being). An appearance to humans is meant to convey some sort of message.

White settlers took the sightings and reports quite seriously. According to the settlers' version of the legend, the Wendigo would be seen as a sort of premonition of  a death in the community. A Wendigo allegedly made a number of appearances near a town called Rosesu in Northern Minnesota from the late 1800's through the 1920's. Each time afterwards, an unexpected death followed and it would not be seen anymore.

One Wendigo hunter was a Cree Indian named Jack Fiddler, who claimed to kill at least 14 of the creatures in his lifetime. The last murder resulted in his imprisonment at the age of 87. In October 1907, Fiddler and his son, Joseph, were tried for the murder of a Cree Indian woman. Both pleaded guilty to the crime. They defended themselves, stating that the woman had been possessed by the spirit of a Wendigo, She’d been on the verge of transforming into one and they killed her before she murdered other members of the tribe. In this day and age, there are tales of Wendigos seen in northern Ontario, near the Cave of the Wendigo, and around the town of Kenora. A creature in that area has been spotted by traders, trackers and trappers for decades. In fact, many who still believe that the Wendigo roams the woods and the prairies of northern Minnesota and Canada.

Whether a Wendigo or more likely Sasquatch, something stalks the woods hit by heavy, cold winters.  Next time, you decided to travel through those forests during that season, think about it seriously. Especially when night comes and a full moon rises above, and you swear you see a shadow move or a flash that maybe from staring eyes, maybe it is not a good idea. Maybe summer is a better time to check out the area. 

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