Thursday, November 26, 2015

HGB Podcast, Ep. 85 - The Legend of Indian Corn and Windigo

Moment in Oddity - The Phantom of Flatwoods

During the Summer of Saucers in 1952, three young boys saw something quite strange in Flatwoods, West Virginia. A UFO streaked through the sky and the boys watched it land at a nearby farm. Two of the boys were brothers and they ran home to tell their mother what they had seen. She went a grabbed a couple of neighbors and they all headed to the farm to see what the boys had been talking about. As they topped the hill near the farm, they saw a large ball of fire and smelled something that made their noses burn. One of the neighbors noticed something that looked like eyes in the darkness and he shone his flashlight in that direction. The light revealed a creature that hissed when the light hit it. The creature glided away from them and the witnesses took off running. They contacted the local sheriff, but he found nothing at the site. A reporter later found tracks and then started taking eyewitness accounts. It would seem that more than just the locals at this incident had seen the creature. Previously, a mother and daughter had seen a weird creature and smelled the weird ozone scent. Others would later report encounters. Witnesses claimed the creature was nearly ten feet tall and seemed to have a metallic or robot body. It's head was round and red and encircled by a cowl shaped like the ace of spades in a deck of cards. Two large orbs that glowed a greenish orange were thought to be its eyes. They called the entity the Phantom of Flatwoods or the Flatwoods Monster. Was this thing an alien or some other kind of weird creature? We'll never know, but it certainly was odd.

This Day in History - Great Storm of 1703

On this day, November 26th in 1703, the worst storm in British history ripped across East Anglia. The Great Storm of 1703 was a catastrophic hurricane with winds over 80mph that were able to lift men and animals off their feet. Two thousands chimneys were blown down in London alone and 400 windmills were destroyed. One hundred churches lost their lead roofs, including Westminster Abbey. Rain lashed the country and caused flooding. Daniel Defoe, who wrote "Robinson Crusoe," claimed that he witnessed a tornado snap the trunk of a large oak like it were a twig. Eight hundred homes were destroyed, 15,000 sheep drowned and 8,000 seamen were killed in shipwrecks. The Eddystone Rocks Lighthouse on Plymouth was wooden and so easily destroyed in the storm. The man who designed it, Henry Winstanley, was killed at that time along with five others. The storm was unprecendented and lasted a long time. It took months for the area to recover and a day of fasting was observed. Sermons for many years after would use the Great Storm as a part of some lesson to remind the people of humility.

The Legend of Indian Corn and Windigo

The Ojibwa Native American tribe tells a legend about Indian corn that involves a member of their tribe. He lived with his family in what is today Wisconsin. It was imperative for the native people to be able to provide for themselves via hunting, but this Ojibwa man was a terrible hunter. His children were young and not of much help to him, but they enjoyed a good relationship and he was a very content man.

His eldest son grew strong and was of the same disposition as his father. The Ojibwa believed that each male had a special Guardian Spirit. When they approached adulthood they were sent on their Guardian Spirit Quest. This spirit would give the male a spirit name and special power. The eldest son set off on his quest and he worked on his first trial, which was to construct a hut. He chose an isolated location, so that his dreams would not be disturbed by anything. After building the hut, he began his seven day fast. He passed the time by taking walks in the woods and studying the plant life. He would walk far enough to ensure that he would be able to sleep soundly at night.

The eldest son would find himself wondering why the plants and trees around him were able to grow so well with no one caring for them. It occured to him that if his people could find the secret to this, then hunting would not be so important. After all, his father had a hard time providing for the family because his hunting skills were lacking. He decided that he would start asking for dreams about this secret. By the third day of his fast, he felt himself becoming weak. He decided to stay on his bed and he had a vision of a young man coming out of the sky. He was coming towards the eldest son and he was beautiful and strong. His clothing was adorned in yellows and greens. His walk was graceful and his head had a covering of magnificient feathers. He told the son that he was in fact his Guardian Spirit sent from the Great Spirit. He told the son that from now on he would be known as Wunzh.

He told Wunzh that the Great Spirit was pleased with how he had been conducting his Spirit Quest and that he knew the desires of Wunzh's heart. The Great Spirit was pleased that Wunzh did not seek strength or the ability to become a great warrior and instead wanted to find a way to help his family and his people. The Guardian Spirit said that he had been sent to test Wunzh and that they must wrestle. Wunzh was faint and unsure, but he took strength in the desire of his heart and he wrestled to the best of his ability. He was not able to beat his guide, but he also did not lose either. His Guardian told him that he would return the next day. The following day, the two wrestled again and Wunzh still was not able to win. On the third day, the Guardian told Wunzh that he must win the wrestling that day.

Wunzh prayed to the Great Spirit for strength. His limbs were weak, but his determination was strong. He wrestled hard and after the same amount of time had passed as had in the previous two days' wrestling matches, the Guardian stopped and declared Wunzh the winner. He led Wunzh into the hut and told him that tomorrow would be his final day of fasting. He reminded Wunzh that his father would be bringing him food to break the seven day fast. And he informed Wunzh that he would have to wrestle him again. He told Wunzh that he must fight hard and that when he defeated the Guardian, that he must strip him naked and bury him in a place in the soil that has been cleared of roots and weeds. The yellow and green clothing that the Guardian wore was to placed on top of him before burial.

The Guardian Spirit continued that Wunzh must leave his body in the earth, but that he was to come visit the grave. When he visited, he was to make sure no weeds were growing on the grave and he was to place fresh dirt atop the grave. He promised Wunzh that if he did these things, then he would have the desire of his heart and his family and people would be helped. The two shook hands and the Guardian left. Wunzh's father arrived the next morning and gave his son food. The father commented that the son had done well and that he should eat, so that he would not die and he asked his son to return home with him. Wunzh said that he could not leave yet and that he had personal reasons for this. His father told him that he would wait for him at home until the setting of the sun.

The Guardian returned just as the sun was ready to set and he and Wunzh wrestled. Wunzh had not eaten any food yet, but he felt an inner strength. The strength felt supernatural. He grabbed the Guardian and threw him to the ground and the Guardian lay still. He was dead. Wunzh quickly followed the directions he had been given earlier, believing that his Guardian would rise again. Wunzh returned home, but all Spring and Summer he tended the grave, removing grass and weeds and placing fresh dirt upon the grave. After some time, Wunzh noticed the curious plumes of some kind of plant pressing up through the earth. And the more he cared for the grave and these plants, the faster they grew.

Wunzh had told no one of what he was doing, but when Summer came to an end, he invited his father to join him at the site of his Spirit Quest. His father was amazed to see when they arrived, tall stalks of green plants topped with yellow silken hair. Bursting from the stalks were gold and green clusters of fruit. Wunzh explained to his father that the plants were from his Guardian Spirit. He said, "My Spirit's name is Mon-daw-min and that name means "corn for all people." This was my heart's secret wish and now it has been answered. We will not have to hunt every day for food anymore. If we care for this corn gift, the Earth will continue to feed us." He gave the first ear of corn to his father.

Wunzh continued by explaining all the things that Mon-daw-min had told him to do in regards to the corn. He showed his father how to remove the ears of corn. He explained that they needed to save the first seeds in order to plant more corn the next season. He even showed his father how to cook the corn near the flames of the fire while still in the husks, just long enough to get the kernels to taste sweet and juicy. The family gathered for a feast of corn and gave thanks to the Great Spirit for this gift. They ate heartily and always remembered how to care for their corn. This is how Wunzh came to be known as the father of Indian Corn.

For Native American tribes, corn is considered one of the Three Sisters. The other two are squash and beans. And many tribes considered corn to be a god. Because corn was either considered to be a god or a gift from God, many times it was used in ceremonial rites and dress. It was given as a spiritual offering as well. Native Americans called corn by different names. The term maize was Spanish in origin. The Algonquin that we mentioned on the last episode used the terms hominy, pone and succotash to describe their dishes they made from corn. The Cree used the term sagamite and the Aztecs called corn Chicha. The Pueblo have a Corn Dance and other tribes have Corn Clans. These tribes include the Mojave, the Navajo, the Muskogee Creek and the Pueblo.

The Ojibwa tribe that give us the legend of Indian Corn is better known as the Chippewa. They lived in the northern part of America in areas that would become the states of North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. They also lived in what is today Canada and actually are the second largest tribe there presently. Their name means "original people." The tribe was broken up into clans and they lived in family units. they used birch trees to fashion canoes and built homes that are called wigwams. Today, they live on reservations and continue to keep their customs as best they can. One group that they formed that continues today is the Grand Medicine Society that is a secret order open to men and women that conducts esoteric ceremonies believed to bring supernatural assistance to members. Members are generally thought to be shaman and seers and many of the rituals are used for healing purposes. To become a full member, an initiate goes through a death and rebirth inside a medicine lodge. There are four degrees of initiation and when they are done, the individual is thought to have the power of healing and the ability to be victorious in growing food and battle.

The Ojibwa bring us more than just the legend of Indian Corn. They also have a legend about an entity known as the Windigo. The Windigo is a fearsome, nasty looking creatures. It appears as though it were a half-starved wolf with its eyes deep in its sockets, the skin pulled taut against bones and a gray complexion. The creature has very skinny and elongated limbs with the body and head of a wolf. Some describe it looking like a Bigfoot creature. And the legend claims that this beast really is a human that has transformed, similiar to the tales of werewolves. The Native American people were generally against the eating of human flesh, but some tribes did take part in such things. The legend of the Windigo has origins in cannabalism. It more than likely was to solidify the taboo of cannabalism by claiming that those who indulged in such practices might become susceptible to the disorder that would cause them to become a Windigo.

Others believe the windigo is a demonic spirit and that it can possess men. A Cree man named Swift Runner was starving one winter along with his family. After the death of his eldest son from starvation, Swift Runner seemed to lose his mind. He killed his wife and remaining five children. He then ate them. Swift Runner admitted what he had done to the authorities and he was put to death. Some claimed that he suffered from something called Wendigo Psychosis. But could he have been possessed by the spirit of a windigo?

Canadian folklore tells the tale of an Ojibwa that came face to face with a windigo. He was hunting alone in the forest when he came upon some bloody footprints in the snow. Then he heard a strange hissing sound. He could not see what creature might be making the sound. He heard the hissing again, but instead of to the side of him, it sounded like it was coming from the front. And then he heard it again behind him. He whipped around with his heart pounding. He could not see what was hissing. He feared a windigo was hunting him. His father had warned him about this cannabalistic creature. He gripped his spear and knife hard.  He began to back away from the bloody footprints. A creature sprang from behind a snow bank and hurtled itself towards him.

The man threw his spear at the creature, but it seemed to be of little help. He rolled himself in snow and dove behind a tree. The windigo was sniffing the air for him and looking around. As it approached the hiding place, the young man jumped out and stabbed the windigo in the eye. It howled in pain and he jammed the knife into the other eye. He stabbed at the creature's head multiple times. The windigo collapsed on the man, nearly crushing him. He pulled himself free and saw that the creature was dead. The warrior was shaken, but he was alive and he returned home.

Does the windigo actually exist? That is for you to decide!

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