Infobox Paranormalcreatures
Creature_Name = Piasa

Image_Caption = A modern painting of the "Piasa Bird",
on the bluffs of the Mississippi River in Alton. Wings were not present in the original painting.
Grouping = Cryptid
Sub_Grouping =
Country = United States
Region = Illinois
Habitat =
First_Reported =
Last_Sighted =
Status = Native American Legend
The Piasa or Piasa Bird is a legendary creature that was depicted in a mural painted by Native Americans on a cliff above the Mississippi River. Its original location was in Jersey County near present day Elsah, Illinois. The original Piasa illustration no longer exists; a newer version, based partly on 19th century sketches and lithographs, has been placed in Alton, Illinois, several miles southeast of the original location.

The mural was created prior to the arrival of any European explorers in that area. The "Piasa" may also be a representation of the "Uktena," or underwater panther, which appears in the mythology of many eastern native traditions.Fact|date=October 2007

The name "Piasa", pronounced in English IPA|/ˈpajəˌsɑː/ or "pie-uh-saw", is from the Miami-Illinois word "páyiihsa" (cf. Anishinaabe: "apa'iins(ag)", "little people(s)"), [ [http://www.freelang.net/online/ojibwe.php Freelang Ojibwe Dictionary] ] the name for a type of small supernatural dwarves said to attack travelers. The connection between this Miami-Illinois word and the "Piasa" illustration is confirmed by such early French transcriptions as "paillissa", found on Nicolas de Finiel's map of 1798. (See Costa 2005: 297). Etymologies which claim the word "Piasa" means "the bird that devours men" or "bird of the evil spirit" are impossible, and are not rooted in the Illinois language.


In 1673, Father Jacques Marquette discovered the painting on a limestone bluff overlooking the Mississippi River while exploring the area. He recorded the following description of his discovery:

:"While Skirting some rocks, which by Their height and length inspired awe, We saw upon one of them two painted monsters which at first made Us afraid, and upon Which the boldest savages dare not Long rest their eyes. They are as large As a calf; they have Horns on their heads Like those of a deer, a horrible look, red eyes, a beard Like a tiger's, a face somewhat like a man's, a body Covered with scales, and so Long A tail that it winds all around the Body, passing above the head and going back between the legs, ending in a Fish's tail. Green, red, and black are the three Colors composing the Picture. Moreover, these 2 monsters are so well painted that we cannot believe that any savage is their author; for good painters in France would find it difficult to reach that place Conveniently to paint them. Here is approximately The shape of these monsters, As we have faithfully Copied It."

John Russell account

The monster depicted in the mural was first referred to as the "Piasa Bird" in an article published in 1836 by John Russell of Bluffdale, Illinois. The article was entitled "The Bird That Devours Men". According to the story published by Russell, the creature depicted by the painting was a huge flying monster that lived in the cliffs. Russell claimed that this creature attacked and devoured people in nearby Indian villages. The legend, as related by Russell, claims that a local Indian chief, named Chief Ouatoga, managed to finally slay the monster using a plan that was given to him in a dream from the Great Spirit. The Chief ordered his bravest warriors to hide near the entrance of the Piasa Bird's cave. Outoga then used himself as bait to lure the creature out into the open. As the monster flew down towards the Indian Chief, his warriors slew it with a volley of poisoned arrows. Russell claimed that the mural was painted by the Indians as a commemoration of this heroic event.

Some sources report that this account was likely simply a story created by John Russell. The bird imagery is not reported in Father Marquette's description, which makes no mention of wings. Nevertheless, Russell's account is commonly related as the history behind the pictograph.

ee also

* Thunderbird (mythology)

External links

* [http://www.altonweb.com/history/piasabird/ Piasa Bird legend from Alton, Illinois - picture of mural]
* [http://www.eslarp.uiuc.edu/ibex/archive/vignettes/piasa.htm History of Piasa Bird painting]
* [http://www.prairieghosts.com/piasa.html Another version of the history of the Piasa Bird]
* [http://www.piasabirds.com/piasalegend.html A slightly different version of the Piasa Bird legend]


* Costa, David J. 'Culture-Hero and Trickster Stories'. In: Brian Swann, ed., 'Algonquian Spirit'. Lincoln: University of Nebraska Press. 2005.
* O'Conner, Mallory McCane. "Lost Cities of the Ancient Southeast." The University Press of Florida, Gainesville, Florida, 1995. ISBN 0-8130-1350-X
* Coleman, Loren and Clark, Jerome. "Cryptozoology A-Z". Fireside. 1999. ISBN 978-0684856025



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