The Wechuge: Canada’s Cannibalistic Ice Giant

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Canada’s Cannabalistic Ice Giant: The Wechuge’ by Swamp Dweller

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The Uxugue is a man-eating hybrid monster feared by indigenous people with an insatiable hunger, rooted in northern Athabascan folklore, documented by an anthropologist and still present within Denza culture.

Key Insights

  • The Uxugue is a man-eating entity feared by indigenous people of the Northwest.
  • The Uxugue was once a human who broke a personal taboo and became possessed by their ancient animal spirit.
  • The victim's humanity is destroyed, and they become a monster, a hybrid of human and animal, with an insatiable hunger for living flesh and blood.
  • The Uxugue phenomenon is rooted in the folklore of tribes who speak the northern Athabascan languages.
  • The Denza, an Athabascan-speaking group, followed shamanistic magic and received instructions from dreamers through their songs and dreams.
  • Denza children went into the wild for a vision quest and received medicine from their spirit animals, but breaking a taboo could lead to possession by the spirit.
  • Possessed individuals become aggressive, irrational, and eventually engage in cannibalism.
  • The only way to destroy an Uxugue is to melt the ice inside its belly.
  • The Wendigo, a similar monster, terrorized the Algonquin tribes of the East Coast and Great Lakes region.
  • The Uxugue and Wendigo share similarities, despite being from different cultures.
  • Robin Riddington, an anthropologist, documented the Uxugue phenomenon based on his research in the 1960s and 70s.
  • Charlie Yahe, the last of the dreamers, shared stories and beliefs about the Uxugue.
  • The Uxugue legend still lingers within the culture of the Denza in the 21st century.

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The indigenous people of the Northwest have long feared a man-eating entity known as the Uxugue. A Uxugue was once an ordinary human being, but upon unwittingly breaking a personal taboo, they opened themselves to bodily possession by their ancient animal spirit. The victim’s humanity is destroyed by the invasion, and they become a monstrous hybrid of human and animal, simultaneously alive and undead, a ravenous predator whose appetite for living flesh and hot blood can never be sated.

The legend of the Uxugue has roots in the folklore of tribes who speak the northern Athabascan languages. The Uxugue phenomenon was best documented in modern times by an anthropologist named Robin Riddington. Riddington spent a number of years in the 1960s and 70s studying the culture of Denza, an Athabascan-speaking group of First Nations people. Their traditional territory lies along the Peace River, which is named after a peace treaty that was struck between the Denza and the Cree to settle a dispute over territory.

North of the Peace River was given to the Denza, while the lands south of the river were claimed by the Cree. Like many indigenous peoples, most aspects of their day-to-day lives were heavily influenced by shamanistic magic. The Denza followed otherworldly instructions that were found in the songs of the dreamers. Dreamers were people who could leave their bodies and fly to heaven. They did this in their sleep, enabling them to visit their ancestors. They would be given invaluable advice on hunting techniques, social conflict, and, on occasion, receive warning of impending danger. In fact, it’s said the Denza were not surprised when they were contacted by the first Europeans in the area, because a dreamer had already predicted their arrival.

In the mythology of the Denza, spirit animals are manifestations of the supernatural giants who ruled all of creation in the mythical past. The insects, birds, and various other wildlife we’re all familiar with today are physical representations of the giant spirit animals. It was a custom of the Denza to send their children into the wild to complete a vision quest whereupon a spirit animal would appear to them and teach them their own unique style of medicine. Medicine refers to a potent magic that utilizes bundles of totemic items, prophetic dreams, and medicine songs that are specific to a particular spirit animal.

Upon learning this powerful and secret medicine, the child would forevermore be imperiled by the possibility of accidentally committing a taboo against their spirit animal. For example, a person whose spirit animal is a frog is forbidden to consume meat that is contaminated by fly eggs, and a person whose spirit animal is a web-spinning arachnid is forbidden from listening to the music of a stringed instrument. If one of these taboos were to be broken, the spirit animal might invade the offender, body and soul, in an act of possession that was known as becoming quote-unquote too strong.

Having opened themselves to invasion by a giant spirit animal, the possessed would become aggressive and irrational, acting more and more like an animalistic spirit with each passing hour. Eventually, the afflicted person would eat their own lips, a precursor of the grisly acts of cannibalism that were soon to follow. When the possession is complete, the lipless lunatic transforms into a half-human, half-animal monstrosity, a supernatural horror with ice in its guts, an insatiable hunger for human flesh, and almost completely impervious to physical harm.

According to the oral tradition recorded by Riddington, the only way to destroy a rampaging Ushugae is to melt the ice inside of its belly. In some folktales, an especially brave hunter is able to push the Ushugae into a bonfire, repeatedly shoving it into the heart of the blaze until the block of ice inside its torso melts into steam. In other tales, a dreamer will instruct the afflicted person’s loved ones to use their combined medicine powers against the invading spirit, which proves to be enough to arrest the transformation. It should be noted, however, that once the possessed has eaten their own lips, there is little hope for redemption. The only options are to kill the Ushugae with fire, or be eaten alive.

As it turns out, while the Athabascan-speaking peoples of the Northwest were living in fear of the dreaded Ushugae, over on the other side of the continent, the Algonquin tribes of the East Coast and Great Lakes region were being terrorized by an eerily similar monstrosity, the cannibalistic ice giant known as the Wendigo. Like the Ushugae, a Wendigo was once a human being, but has been transformed into a predatory supernatural monster through their own moral failings. The Wendigo has an enlarged heart that is made of ice, and in some tales, their humanity is trapped inside their frozen heart like a prison.

It is very interesting that two separate cultures, each located on opposite sides of a continent as vast as North America, could somehow wind up creating monsters as similar as the Ushugae and the Wendigo. This gruesome twosome could almost be long-lost cousins on the cryptid family tree if such a thing ever existed. Two ancient cultures, two very similar monsters, and a thousand miles of plains, mountains, and forests between them. It’s definitely food for thought.

Professor Riddington thought it was significant enough to publish a book on the subject in 1976, a work that has been referenced in numerous scholarly works on the subjects of psychoanalysis, theism, and sociological implications behind the folklore of Native Americans.

During this time living among the Daneza, Riddington became very interested in the spiritual aspects of their culture. He was particularly intrigued by Charlie Yahe, who was the last of the dreamers, born in 1881. Charlie had been guiding his people with his song since he was a young man. Dreamers are said to have the power to untether themselves from the physical world when they sleep, ascending to the world of the afterlife like a swan to communicate with their ancestors. They receive vital instructions on hunting and general survival, which they carry back to Earth in the form of a song. Charlie learned many songs in his formative years from Gaea, a well-respected dreamer, and he inherited his mentor’s famous drum when Gaea passed on to the other side.

According to Charlie, a person is in danger of becoming a wushuge when they become too strong, which is a euphemism for being possessed by one of the giant spirit animals in its primordial form. Charlie told Riddington the story of Asa, a man in his seventies who unwittingly broke the taboo of his spirit animal and almost became a wushuge. Asa had consumed some meat that, unbeknownst to him, had been contaminated by fly eggs. Unfortunately, his medicine animal was the frog, which made the consumption of fly eggs a grievous taboo for him. Asa soon began to exhibit frog-like behaviors, jumping up and down on his bed as he sang his medicine song. The other villagers were thrown into a panic. If the curse could not be stopped, the little old man would soon devour his own lips and transform into an unstoppable killing machine.

Many villagers prepared to flee for their lives if their songs and medicine bundles could not heal the afflicted man before he ate his own lips. If they failed to save him

This article is a summary of the YouTube video ‘Canada’s Cannabalistic Ice Giant: The Wechuge’ by Swamp Dweller