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Legendary Native American Figures: Rolling Heads (Cannibal Head)

Name: Rolling Head
Also Known As: Cannibal Head, Severed Head, Wife's Head
Tribal affiliation: Cheyenne, Ojibwe, Cree, Arapaho, Assiniboine
Native names: Chichipischekwan, Cihcipiscikw‚n, Chichipistigan, Tihtipistikwan, Cih cip sci kwan
Type: Monster, undead creature
Related figures in other tribes: Flying Head (Iroquois)

Rolling Heads are man-eating monsters from the legends of the Midwestern and Plains tribes. The Rolling Head appears as an undead, disembodied head with long, tangled hair, which rolls along the ground in pursuit of humans to kill and devour.

Rolling Heads are created when victims of particularly violent murders rise from the dead to seek revenge. In most stories, this takes the form of an angry man who murders his unfaithful wife (although in some versions, the victim is killed for witchcraft or violating a taboo instead.) Sometimes the story is made more gruesome by the addition of forced cannibalism: the homicidal husband either feeds his dead wife's flesh to their children, or else feeds her dead lover's flesh to her before killing her. (Sometimes the husband is made even more unsympathetic by describing him as neglectful or a bad provider to begin with, or by having him try to kill the children or leave them to die.) Eventually this series of evil acts results in a Rolling Head rising from the victim's grave. The Rolling Head takes revenge upon the murderer, then proceeds to terrorize its own children and/or the neighboring people until someone finally manages to destroy it.

It is sometimes said that Rolling Heads can only be killed by drowning. In some Ojibwe and Cree folklore, a drowned Rolling Head turned into the first sturgeon. But in other stories, Rolling Heads were defeated through magical power or by causing them to fall off cliffs or into pits.

Native American Rolling Head Stories

*The Rolling Head * Case of the Severed Head:
    Cheyenne Indian legend about the creation of a Rolling Head monster.
*The Rolling Head Cheyenne Version:
    Cheyenne Indian legend about the creation of a Rolling Head monster.

Recommended Books Including Stories About Rolling Heads

When the Chenoo Howls: Native American Tales of Terror:
    Collection of horror stories about the Rolling Head and other Native American monsters, told by an Abenaki Indian storyteller.
Algonquian Spirit:
    Excellent anthology of stories, songs, and oral history from the Algonquian tribes, including Rolling Head legends.

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Additional Resources

 We Look in All Directions
 Anishinaabe mythology
 Plains Indian languages
 Native American vampire legends



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