The Windigo Psychosis: Psychodynamic, Cultural, and Social Factors in Aberrant Behavior


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    I am grateful to the Wenner-Gren foundation for a Pre-Doctoral Fellowship which enabled me to do field work with the Ojibwa in Wisconsin and Manitoba from which I derived many insights into Ojibwa behavior. I am also grateful to my wife, Nancy M. Hay, for her help in the field and for many helpful discussions of this paper while it was in preparation.


Although windigo cannibalism is unique to the northern Algonkians, the psychodynamic factors which produce it are general. The differential occurrence of the disorder is explained in terms of the northern Algonkian emphasis on following inner promptings, the absence of cultural alternatives, and in terms of the nature of interaction in the particular bands for which cannibalism was reported.