Don't feed the Windigo - Black Friday stalks the north woods
I have a couple of personal rituals which help me check in on the year; the first canoe paddle on Spring's lighter evenings, a Solstice sleepout high on the moors, a Boxing Day wander with the family...
And my annual Black Friday anguish.
In November's book Braiding Sweetgrass, Robin Wall-Kimmerer reminds us that ceremonies, even stupid ones like these, are the way we 'remember to remember'.
Black Friday reminds me that I am at odds with most businesses, though thankfully not all.
There are other brands, in the outdoor industry in particular, that recognise we're on the wrong path.
But for the majority, cranking the siren call of consumption is impossible to resist.
Robin skewers this mania by sharing a tale told on freezing nights in the north woods of the Windigo, a legendary monster of the Anishinaabe people (a theme picked up in our deep read for November/December, Jeremy Lent's The Web of Meaning):
"You can feel it lurking behind you, a being in the shape of an outsized man... yellow fangs hang from its mouth that is raw where it had chewed off its own lips. Most tellingly of all, its heart is made from ice."
The Windigo by Nick Hayes
Windigo stories were told around the fire to scare children into safe behaviour, yet this is no natural beast, no bear or wolf to fear; Windigos are humans who have become cannibals with a bite that transforms victims into cannibals too.
"The more a Windigo eats, the more ravenous it becomes. It shrieks with its craving, its mind a torture of unmet want. Consumed by consumption, it lays waste to humankind."
Although rooted in a historical need to caution against eating each other under the Hunger Moon - when the snow is deep, and the deer are gone - this is a story that reveals a worldview of a people who understand their place in the system of the world.
"Traditional upbringing was designed to strengthen self-discipline, to build resistance against the insidious germ of taking too much... (Now) the indulgent self-interest that our people once held to be monstrous is celebrated as success."
These old teachings recognise that Windigo nature is in all of us. The stories were shared so we might learn to recoil from our greedy and destructive urges.
Robin brings this ancient lesson right up to date with a passage that reflects her own angst:
That 'fabricated demand' is Black Friday.
"We have unleashed a monster. It is the Windigo way that tricks us into believing that belongings will fill our hunger, when it is belonging that we crave."
It's true; we have unleashed a monster, one which lurks in our minds as much as our malls, devouring society and destroying our future.
But we don't have to feed it.
We can choose a different path and cultivate, instead, our connection to sources of renewal and regeneration. I
So this year, our Christmas Gift Guide features good folk and great gift ideas, from free to priceless, to feed your connection through experiences, craft and culture
Illustration - Nick Hayes