What is the Supernatural Wendigo?

Darian West
4 min readNov 7, 2019
What is the Supernatural Wendigo?

Among Native Americans in certain parts of Canada, there is a terrifying legend of an evil spirit that roams the woods and eats people. The spirit can have the form of a demonic figure or it can manifest in people, possessing them and causing them to become murderers and cannibals. What is terrifying about the legend is that it is true.

The wendigo legend does not belong to only one tribe. It is common to several tribes which spoke Algonquin. Most of these tribes were in the forests of Nova Scotia and around the Great Lakes. Some of the tribes were the Ojibwe, Saulteaux, Cree and Innu. All of the tribes describe the spirit as a supernatural being which is malevolent and starving to the point of eating people. It is associated with coldness and famine and the season of winter. One researcher describes the wendigo as follows:

The Wendigo was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tightly 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 suppuration of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.

Basil H. Johnston — Ojibwe Heritage

After consuming a person, the wendigo was thought to grow larger but remain starving just the same. These supernatural wendigos were greatly feared by native peoples throughout the region.

Wendigo Psychosis

A big component of the wendigo legend is that it can possess individuals, causing them to have an irrational desire for human flesh and both causes and is caused by greed and avarice. Psychologists have even given it a name, Wendigo Psychosis. The first account was first reported by a Jesuit in 1661:

Those poor men (according to the report given us) were seized with an ailment unknown to us, but not very unusual among the people we were seeking. They are afflicted with neither lunacy, hypochondria, nor frenzy; but have a combination of all these species of disease, which affects their imaginations and causes them a more than canine hunger. This…

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Darian West

I ferret out things that interest me and then I write about them with fervor. Love me.