Microkhan by Brendan I. Koerner

Bear Fat as Mental Savior

January 6th, 2010 · 5 Comments

Just before we broke for Christmas, we posted about the possibility that America’s recent love affair with unsaturated fatty acids may be part of the reason our crime rates have dropped so precipitously. Now comes word that fat may have another positive application: curing folks afflicted with witiko psychosis, which (allegedly) causes a sudden craving for human flesh.

In a 1970 American Anthropologist article, a professor at San Diego State University related the typical Ojibwa cure for this malady:

When one is caught in time, that’s before going berserk, they’d give him or her large quantities of fat after it was melted and this was supposed to melt the crazed demon in the person who was going to turn into windigo…The melted fat was a sure cure for any one turning to a windigo.

The author opines that this fat, traditionally taken from bears, acts as a sedative, due to the source animals’ propensity for eating berries rich in Vitamin C (said to have calming properties).

Don’t buy it? Yeah, neither do these guys.

A recent witiko sighting on a Texan military base is described here. And you can read Algernon Blackwood’s fictionalized take on the mythical backwoods beast here.


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5 Comments so far ↓

  • captured shadow

    Reminds me of the high fat diet to control epilepsy

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    Wow again. Meryl Streep makes a cameo in that article. I vaguely remember that movie’s brief appearance, but had no idea it was made in order to advocate a specific dietary treatment.

  • shothotbot

    I have been more or less unaware of bear fat, but it plays a recurrent walk-on role in Manituana, the best book about the American revolution ever written by an Italian Writers Collective with definite Socialist Tendencies. And now on Microkhan. Bear fat is in the zeitgeist.

    Lets just see how long Brendan can refrain from investigating that.

  • Brendan I. Koerner

    @shothotbot: Not very long at all, I’m afraid. Wasn’t able to dig up the bear fat reference, but did enjoy reading about Wu Ming.

    I was also struck by the richness of the book’s website. I especially like how they offer “extras” in the form of side stories–presumably story lines they couldn’t fit into the published text?:


  • shothotbot

    The Mohawks and Mohawk-ized settlers smear themselves with foul smelling bear fat to keep mosquitoes away. Nothing earth shaking, just an odd synchronicity.

    Wu Ming are pretty intriguing. This is their last book. I liked Q very much and like it even more knowing that it was written by a pseudonym for an anonymous collective. 54 was like a Saturday Night Live skit that threatens to be funny but just gives you a wry smile rather then a laugh. Manituana is good, a pro-loyalist take on the American revolution. I keep intending to put together a metafilter post about them…