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The Windigo is a terrible spirit of cannibalism that haunts the Algonkian-speaking Indians of Canada that can take both physical and mental forms. It is a half-phantom, half-beast that lives in the forests and preys on human beings, especially children. It can also take the form of a mental disorder that causes its victim to become a zombie that performs acts of cannibalism.
The name is derived from the Algonkian root word witiku, and means ‘evil spirit’ and ‘cannibal’. Its pronunciation varies from tribe to tribe, as are its spelling, but ‘Windigo’ is the most common way, followed by ‘Wendigo’.
The Windigo is a creature of the Algonkian people, which including the Micmac, Montagnais-Naskapi, Algonkin, Ojibwa, Cree, and the Blackfoot. The tribes live on reserves in the Maritimes, the Northwest Territories, and the northern regions of Quebec, Ontario, Manitoba, Saskatchewan, and Alberta. The Windigo haunts the forests and tundra in the triangular domain reaching from the Atlantic Ocean in the east, to the Rocky Mountains in the west, and to the Arctic Ocean to the north.
There are many descriptions of the Windigo, but very few illustrations. The Windigo is the feared personification of both physical and spiritual famine. It can take the form of a half-phantom, half-beast that roams the forest, or a personality disorder or mental illness that causes its victim to become crazed and perform acts of cannibalism.
It can feast on flesh and blood, it can change shape at will, and it can scare its victims to death with a single look. It can strike such terror into a person that he would be rendered into a cannibalistic zombie void of all personality and individuality.
The Windigo has been described as an evil spirit, a ten-foot tall demon with an enormous head, gigantic teeth in a twisted mouth, beady eyes, and supernatural strength and speed. It moves faster than the human eye could follow, and can blend into the trees and winds. It may also be a human cannibal, for to come into the presence of an Windigo will trigger the transformation into one. To be bitten by one and to dream of one would also lead to the transformation. Unlike the transformation of vampires and werewolves, the curse of the Windigo is irreversible.