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From Ojibwe wiindigoo, from Proto-Algonquian *wi·nteko·wa (owl; malevolent spirit, cannibalistic monster). Compare Cree wihtikow, ᐃᐧᐦᑎᑯᐤ (iyhtikow, greedy person; cannibal; giant man-eating monster).



wendigo (plural wendigo or wendigos or wendigoes)

  1. (mythology) A malevolent and violent cannibal spirit found in Anishinaabe, Ojibwe, and Cree mythology, which is said to inhabit the body of a living person and possess him or her to commit murder.
    Synonyms: wetiko, wihtikow, witigo, witiko (derived from Cree)
    • 1905, Ernest Thompson Seton, “The Wendigo: Winter Death”, in Woodmyth & Fable, New York, N.Y.: The Century Co., OCLC 503772490, page 161:
      Through the pine woods of Keewaydin, / Over the snows of Shebandowan, / The Wendigo roams in the winter's frost / And pursues to destruction the hunter. / Yet no man can meet with the Wendigo, / No man can face him or see him; / Only his track in the snow is seen, / And lost is the hunter that sees it. [] The heart that ne'er quailed on the war-path / Turns to stone at the name of the Wendigo.
    • 1984, Louise Erdrich, “Windigo”, in Jacklight, New York, N.Y.: Holt, Rinehart, and Winston, →ISBN:
      The Windigo is a flesh-eating, wintry demon with a man buried deep inside of it. In some Chippewa stories, a young girl vanquishes this monster by forcing boiling lard down its throat, thereby releasing the human at the core of ice.
    • 1988 fall, Robert A. Brightman, “The Windigo in the Material World”, in Ethnohistory, volume 35, number 4, DOI:10.2307/482140, ISSN 0014-1801, JSTOR 482140, page 337:
      The noun windigo [Ojibwa wīntikō, Cree wīhtikōw] refers to one of a class of anthropophagous monsters, “supernatural” from a non-Algonquian perspective, who exhibit grotesque physical and behavioral abnormalities and possess great spiritual and physical power.
    • 1998, Sidney L. Harring, “‘The Enforcement of the Extreme Penalty’: Canadian Law and the Ojibwa-Cree Spirit World”, in White Man’s Law: Native People in Nineteenth-century Canadian Jurisprudence, Toronto, Ont.; Buffalo, N.Y.; London: Published for The Osgoode Society for Canadian Legal History by University of Toronto Press, →ISBN:
      A series of ‘wendigo’ killings – a ‘wendigo’ was an evil spirit clothed in human flesh – brought to the attention of Canadian law around the turn of the twentieth century represent the extension of Canadian law to the heart of traditional Indian culture. These killings, however, also represent the extent to which some of the First Nations defied or ignored that law. [] Machekequonabe, an Ojibwa, was found guilty of manslaughter in an 1896 trial for killing what he believed to be a wendigo. [] Furthermore, in additional cases it seems that Indians, in order to protect their religious and cultural beliefs from Canadian law, carefully distorted the facts of homicide cases to conceal that they were wendigo killings.
    • 2004 September, Michael Jensen, chapter 9, in Firelands, Los Angeles, Calif.: Alyson Books, →ISBN, page 130:
      Suddenly, I was certain what I had found had been the rest of the dead girl. I told the others about it, then added, "God Almighty. It must have been eating her." / "I think I know this creature," said Gwennie, and we all looked at her. "It called a wendigo. A most terrible thing." [] / Gwennie shook her head. "It is an evil creature. I hear of it once when I traveled far from here. The Ojibwe brave who told me about creature say it is a beast of the north, of the cold."
    • 2005, Joseph Boyden, Three Day Road: A Novel, Toronto, Ont.: Viking Canada, →ISBN; republished Toronto, Ont.: Penguin Canada, 2008, →ISBN, page 49:
      No one is safe in such times, not even the Cree of Mushkegowuk. War touches everyone, and windigos spring from the earth.
    • 2016, Michelle Lietz, Cannibalism in Contact Narratives and the Evolution of the Wendigo (unpublished M.A. dissertation)‎[1], Ypsilanti, Mich.: Eastern Michigan University, OCLC 958461109, archived from the original on 12 July 2017, pages iv and 2:
      [Abstract, page iv] To close, I demarcate the trend of American television shows to appropriate the wendigo, ascertaining a fundamental misunderstanding of indigenous cultural beliefs by American popular culture. [] [Introduction, page 2] The wendigo is a cannibal monster from the traditional stories of many northern tribes, specifically the Anishinabe stories, and is most often associated with winter and desperate hunger.

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