Those who fall in the latter camp think "Wendigo" describes a lonely man-beast who lives in the forest waiting to feast on human flesh, while the "Windigo" is a cannibalistic spirit that possesses humans. Both concepts
originate from Native American folklore and have ties to cannibalism.
The wendigo is a cold climate creature that's been spotted in Canada and in northern states like Minnesota. Some locals who've encountered the beast consider it a relative of Bigfoot, but reports describe the beast as more of a werewolf than a Sasquatch.
Ethno-historian Nathan Carlson says the wendigo is often described as a creature with owl-like eyes, large claws and an emaciated body. Others describe it looking like a skeleton with ash-toned skin.
This strange being is said to live alone in the forest and feeds on human flesh. The Algonquian tribes called the wendigo the "spirit of lonely places," and they blamed many unsolved disappearances at the turn of the 20th century on wendigo attacks.
All cultures in which the Wendigo myth appeared shared the belief that human beings could turn into Wendigos if they ever resorted to cannibalism or, alternatively, become possessed by the demonic spirit of a Wendigo, often in a dream. Once transformed, a person would become violent and obsessed with eating human flesh.
The most frequent cause of transformation into a Wendigo was if a person had resorted to cannibalism, consuming the body of another human in order to keep from starving to death during a time of extreme hardship or famine.
Among northern Algonquian cultures, cannibalism, even to save one's own life, was viewed as a serious taboo; the proper response to famine was suicide or resignation to death.
On one level, the Wendigo myth thus worked as a deterrent and a warning against resorting to cannibalism; those who did would become Wendigo monsters themselves.
One of the most widely reported cases of a windigo spirit possessing a human is that of Swift Runner, a Native American who murdered and ate his entire family in the winter of 1879. He claimed to be possessed by a windigo at the time of the murders and was hanged for his crime. Although his case is one of the most well-known
historically, there were many reports in the early 20th century of windigo spirits possessing people in dozens of communities from northern Quebec to the Rockies.
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