Windigo & Warriors – A Winter’s Tale

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Windigo is a name given to a selfish, cannibalistic entity spirit in the spiritual traditions of the Algonquin Nation (and possibly other First Nations). It is the spirit of insatiable consumption – always hungry, seeking, and consuming. Windigo is a little like the Boogeyman, someone we warn our children about, not to give into, not to let it consume us. Windigo is immortal – existing through the abundance of Spring and Summer, lurking quietly in the shadows. We do not notice it in those times because we are celebrating the bounties of the Earth. But as the seasons change, as autumn creeps up and the icy touches of Winter move in, Windigo gets braver and steps out to hunt. It is the Spirit that keeps us in want, forever consuming to fill the abyss of emptiness within, always taking, for fear of insufficiency and bitter loneliness.

In moments of our life when we feel lack – whether it is in love, in money, in acceptance, or opportunity – we have allowed the spirit of Windigo to rule our desires, relationships, and experiences.

We see Windigo traits all around us as well:

  • In the form of greed, like destroying natural resources for more homes, no one can afford.
  • In the form of lack, like the debt-based financial system and the systemic poverty, we’ve been sold as normal.
  • In the form of paralyzing and entrenched fear that dictates taking away freedoms, choices, and power.

We see this in the world around us, and maybe in other ways we also see it in ourselves; we recognize it because we are familiar with it.

The spirit of Windigo is immortal. Like darkness, it simply exists – not possible to kill or destroy, but we can overcome it. This is one such story.

“Windigo looms above me, wild red eyes blazing against the frost of his face. His yellow fangs reach for me with his bony hands, my own hands tremble as I thrust into his blood-stained fingers a cup of scalding Buckthorn tea.
He slurps it down at once and howls for more, devoured by the pain of emptiness, always wanting more. I see him doubled over overcome with violent wretching. A small dose of buckthorn is a laxative. (The quantity he drank) is emetic.

It is Windigo nature.

He wanted every last drop.

And he vomits and he wretches and wretches and when he is done, his stomach continues to heave but all that comes up is the thin liquid of loneliness.

He lies spent in the snow, a stinking carcass, but still dangerous when the hunger rises to full the new emptiness. So, I run back into my house and I carry the second pot of tea that I have made. His eyes are glazed over, but I hear his stomach rumble so I hold the cup to his lips. He turns his head away as if it were poison. So, I take a sip to reassure him because he is not the only one who needs it.

I feel the medicines standing beside me.

And then he drinks.

Just a sip at a time of the Golden Pink liquid – Tea of Willow to quell the fever of want and Strawberries to mend the heart, with nourishing broth of the Three Sisters (Corn, Squash and Beans), infused with savoury Wild Leeks.

The medicines enter his bloodstream – White Pine for unity, justice from the Pecans, humility of Spruce roots. He drinks down compassion of Witch Hazels, respect of the Cedars and a blessing of Silver Bells; all sweetened with the Maple of gratitude.

You cannot know reciprocity until you know the gift and he is helpless before their power.

His head folds back leaving the cup still full.  He closes his eyes.

There is just one more part of the medicine.

I am no longer afraid.

I sit down beside him. “Let me tell you a story” I say, as the ice around us and around his heart melts away.”

Robin Wall Kimmerer, Defeating Windigo, Braiding Sweetgrass.

The author of the excerpt above is a botanist and lives the wisdom of plant medicines. She is from Potawatomi Nation and is a storyteller. All of this and all that she is became her arsenal in facing and overcoming Windigo.

It is in knowing that our gifts, our medicines, and our guidance stand within us and around us that we truly get to know our power; the medicine of the Warrior.

On the outside, a Warrior may appear similar to a soldier or a fighter. So, when other people view us, they may not know the difference.

But, we will know it because we know ourselves.

To deeply understand what we are bringing to a moment, we put aside labels and everyday thoughts and ideas and press into the essence of ourselves.

Here we find what truly drives us. A fighter may be driven by the reactionary need to fight against something. A soldier is likely following orders. These are not inherently wrong things, and there are times when they may be necessary.

Warriors, however, are defined by their inner being; some write, some fight, some sing. Others sit in group meditation and fast, some dare to love more prominent than before, and some walk without masks in a world that likes to hide.

Unlike the fighter and the soldier, the Warrior Spirit knows peace, love, and freedom and that nothing on Earth is worth the loss of these.

We cannot always define Warriors, but we know when we are in their presence – we feel it, regardless of their age, gender, where they are from, or how they look today.
Warriors forge themselves in the fires of their own Spirit. Their interest is beyond the righteousness of the battle today; they tend to hold the interest of the collective after the now-time. These people may be busy creating New World systems because they know that there will be a vacuum of power created when the old systems fall – and they cannot risk something less-than-love to usurp the space.

We each have our gifts, medicines, and the unique expression of our Warrior Spirit – that which we already are and continue to become.
Herein lies a common trap for us – judgment.

If fear is the ‘mind-killer,’ judgment is the ‘unity-killer.’

The truth is that these are times of great battles fought on every front and in every area of life because all these battles are physical representations of the spiritual war that rages. We may want our friends and our people to act and fight in the way we do. So, we must remember that we are multi-dimensional, and as such, everyone is reclaiming their natural gifts and tuning to the call of their Soul.

This reclamation is what makes diversity so incredibly powerful. Every person brings their gifts and expressions into being, and a great complement of energies occurs. There is synthesis and growth. Strength and power arise here, not because it is taken from others, but rather because the natural order of things is learning, growth, and evaluation. A broader or different perspective is more readily available here so that when problems arise when we hear the howl of Windigo on the coldest, darkest Winter’s night. Someone remembers the stories; someone else makes the tea, and we are soothed and spirited as we are reminded who we are.

Defeating Windigo for some people may look like standing up against an institution, calling them out for their injustices – a journalist, a brother at a protest, a mother pulling her child out of school.

For some others, it may be healing your body, cooking a meal for your family while they are bickering, and offering kindness to those who have never known it. Loving your friends and family when all they want to do is judge, label, and shame you is no small feat. Politeness or pretense is not the reason, as it requires the courage of lions to forgive those who have hurt us (knowingly or unknowingly).

Overcoming Windigo may come in the form of dance, dreaming, and loving retreat from the world, which can allow necessary spaciousness, as these people are doing the terrifying work of looking so deep into the Self and meeting whatever lies there.

Defeating Windigo is not about permanently destroying what is dark and wanting within us. It is not overcome by throwing a blanket of shame, blame, or denial upon it. It is the meeting place within ourselves of all we are – the dark and the light.

It is that incredible teaching of contrast that we all experience here.

It exists both in our inner and outer worlds, and it will show up in the form of relationships, situations, and while we are meditating.

Just like it doesn’t serve us to judge the Warrior Spirit within another, it does not serve us to do for ourselves either.

We may be used to serving Windigo for any number of reasons. In every experience we have, we get to choose which spirit within us we feed – the Windigo or the Warrior. This choice does not make us stupid or weak. When we awaken to ourselves, we learn to recognize our fears. We also realize that the only moment we truly have a sovereign choice in is this one, right now. So, maybe we repeat a destructive pattern – until the day we do not.

The teaching of Windigo is powerful – it is that we are not as powerless as we have been made to feel. It allows us to become our own Warriors.

Terror may paralyze us just as loneliness, maddening hunger, and fear, and we learn to face each of these with more of our Selves. We learn to see the imprints of culture, religions, institutions, and societies and come to discern lies from our essential values and beliefs. We connect with our Spirit and our eternal place of power – a place where loneliness and fear cannot exist.

We still feel fears, hungers, grief, pains, but we no longer are enslaved to them.

We choose to take that next step and continue to walk forward.

We choose the Warrior’s way.

And we do not walk alone.

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