Wendigo (or Windigo)
A creature of the forests featured in the mythology of many
North American and Canadian native peoples. Algonquin
tribes believe that a hunter lost in the bush without food may
become a Wendigo, seeking other human beings in order to eat
their flesh. Members of the Ojibwa tribe use the term ‘‘Windigo’’
to denote a ferocious ogre who will take away children if
they do not behave properly.
A powerful horror story called The Wendigo was written by
novelist Algernon Blackwood (1869–1951). It was first published
in The Lost Valley and Other Stories, London, 1910. It was
probably drawn from legends encountered by the author during
his own travels in the Canadian backwoods.
In 1982 John Colombo assembled a comprehensive compilation
of accounts (both traditional and modern) on the Wendigo.
He observed
‘‘Windigo has been described as the phantom of hunger
which stalks the forests of the north in search of lone Indians,
halfbreeds, or white men to consume. It may take the form of
a cannibalistic Indian who breathes flames. Or it may assume
the guise of a supernatural spirit with a heart of ice that flies
through the night skies in search of a victim to satisfy its craving
for human flesh. Like the vampire, it feasts on flesh and blood.
Like the werewolf, it shape-changes at will.’’
Colombo lists some 37 variant forms of the word ‘‘Windigo’’
or ‘‘Wendigo’’ and states that the first appearance of the word
in print appears to be in an account by the French traveler Bacqueville
de la Potherie in 1722, when it appeared as ‘‘Onaouientagos.’’
The word derives from the Algonquian Indian root
witiku meaning ‘‘evil spirit’’ or ‘‘cannibal.’’ Legends of the
Encyclopedia of Occultism & Parapsychology • 5th Ed. Wendigo (or Windigo)
Wendigo are current among the Algoquian tribes in the Northwest
Territories of Canada and the northern regions of Quebec,
Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta.
The Wendigo is said to inhabit a large territory bounded by
the Atlantic Ocean in the east, the Arctic Ocean in the north,
and the Rocky Mountains in the west. According to Algonquian
belief, a human being may ‘‘turn Windigo’’ through an act of
cannibalism, being in the presence of the demon, or the sorcery
of a shaman. Such transformation has much in common with
legends of the vampire and werewolf.
Colombo, John R., ed. Windigo An Anthology of Facts and
Fantastic Fiction. Lincoln University of Nebraska Press, 1982.

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