Postmortem: we, wendigo

we, wendigo is an experimental poetry piece (as noted in the tag). Normally, I don’t mind doing these postmortem self-evaluations on prose, but dislike providing too much explanation to poetry because I think that poetry should have some mystique surrounding it and room for the reader’s interpretation.

But, in this case, I think some background is warranted.

First though: Did the experiment work? I don’t know, it felt rough around the edges and I’m not sure I captured what I was going for as I played around with the words. Do I think that kind of experimentation might lead to something in the future? A cautious “perhaps”.

More importantly, however, was the focal source of the piece: The Wendigo. A comment by the twisted mouse (who is a blogger you may want to check out) at the end of the piece made me realize that, without a frame of reference, the post might be utterly indecipherable, especially if you don’t live in a region where the wendigo is part of the folklore. While TTM seemed familiar with the wendigo, I pointed out that I would be surprised if more than a handful of people in Minnesota knew about the wendigo folklore, though we could likely be seen as wendigo country.

As wikipedia describes the wendigo:

The wendigo is part of the traditional belief system of a number of Algonquin-speaking peoples, including the Ojibwe, the Saulteaux, the Cree, the Naskapi, and the Innu. Although descriptions can vary somewhat, common to all these cultures is the view that the wendigo is a malevolent, cannibalistic, supernatural being. They were strongly associated with winter, the north, coldness, famine, and starvation.

Whenever a wendigo ate another person, it would grow in proportion to the meal it had just eaten, so it could never be full. Therefore, wendigos are portrayed as simultaneously gluttonous and extremely thin due to starvation.

The Wendigo is seen as the embodiment of gluttony, greed, and excess: never satisfied after killing and consuming one person, they are constantly searching for new victims.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wendigo

So, now it might be more clear as to what I was trying to accomplish. I was trying to capture the feel of someone who had been afflicted with the wendigo curse, half-mad with hunger and thinks in terms of a “royal” we, seeing themselves as superior to their prey. Except… now come the wendigo hunters, which are a real thing, by the way:

[A] well-known case involving Wendigo psychosis was that of Jack Fiddler, an Oji-Cree chief and medicine man known for his powers at defeating wendigos. In some cases, this entailed killing people with Wendigo psychosis. As a result, in 1907, Fiddler and his brother Joseph were arrested by the Canadian authorities for homicide. Jack committed suicide, but Joseph was tried and sentenced to life in prison. He ultimately was granted a pardon but died three days later in jail before receiving the news of this pardon.

ibid.

My own familiarity with the wendigo probably stems either from reading August Derleth’s “The Thing that Walked on the Wind” and “Ithaqua”, which were loosely based on the wendigo folklore. Derleth lived in the region (Wisconsin is a neighboring state) and I was an avid Cthulhu mythos fan back before it became more mainstream. Or it might have erupted out of my deep digging into Native American folklore when I was younger, hanging out with Lakota medicine men (which is not a typical source for wendigo folklore) and attending regular pow-wows in Minnesota (which did include Anishinaabe/Ojibwe folklore references). I don’t recall my first encounter with the term, but it was probably in dealing with Ithaqua, either while reading it, or reading criticisms of the tale.

Think of the piece as trying to get into a wendigo’s head, a place were words may no longer be the words we know due to the anguish of forever hunger.

So there you have it. Far too much explanation for a piece a fraction of the above size. But still something that seems right to go about giving a frame of reference for.


Originally posted on sceadugenga.com

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