All cultures in which the Wendigo appeared shared the belief that human beings could turn into Wendigos if they ever resorted to cannibalism or, alternatively, become possessed by the demonic spirit of a Wendigo, often in a dream. Once transformed, a person would become violent and obsessed with eating human flesh. The most frequent cause of transformation into a Wendigo was if a person had resorted to cannibalism, consuming the body of another human in order to keep from starving to death during a time of extreme hardship or famine. Among northern Algonquian cultures, cannibalism, even to save one's own life, was viewed as a serious taboo; the proper response to famine was suicide or resignation to death. On one level, the Wendigo thus worked as a deterrent and a warning against resorting to cannibalism; those who did would become Wendigo monsters themselves.

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