Wednesday, 11 March 2009
The Manitous: The Spiritual World of the Ojibway by Basil Johnston
"Manitou - Mystery, essence, substance, matter, supernatural spirit, anima, quiddity, attribute, property, God, deity, doglike, mystical, incorporeal, transcendental, invisible reality."
"Weendigo (Weendigook or Weendigoes) - A giant cannibal ( or cannibals). These manitous came into being in winter and stalked villagers and beset wanderers. Ever hungry, they craved human flesh, which is the only substance that could sustain them. The irony is that having eaten human flesh, the Weendigoes grew in size, so their hunger and craving remained in proportion to their size; thus they were eternally starving. They could kill only the foolish and the improvident."
Prior to reading this book my image of a Manitou was of a small, mystical character who could intervene in human lives in either a good or bad manner, or could sit back and watch us get into trouble. I didn't realize that the Weendigoes were also Manitou.
My first knowledge of the Manitou came through a carol I used to sing at school, "The Huron Carol" in which Gitchi Manitou is featured. This would be the same as Kitchi-Manitou who is the Creator. My other exposure to the Manitou is through books by Charles de Lint. He often has North American as well as old world Manitou equivalents in his stories.
I enjoyed reading this book. I learned about the Manitou and the role they play in the Ojibway life. Interwoven through the book are the stories of the Manitou. I like this approach, linking the short stories with explanations. Kind of tricking the reader into learning more than they might have intended.
See my review of 'By Canoe & Moccasin: Some Native Place Names of the great Lakes' also by Basil Johnston
This is my 10th read for the 2nd Canadian Book Challenge.