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Piasa

by Gerald Musinsky
Piasa refers to two petroglyphs once visible on a rock near Alton, Illinois, USA, first described by Jesuit missionary Juliette Marquette in the 16th century.

The term, probably an idiomatic for "the Bird..." or "that Bird..." from the phrase "the bird that devours men", is associated with Illini and Miamis legends regarding the origins of the winged petroglyphs. Legends recount Piasa attacks on Miamis chieftains turning the tide of an inter-tribal battle with the Illini and Mitchigamie. The other concerns the vengeance of Wassatigo (Ouatago) who slew one after his betrothed fell prey to the beast. Erroneously ascribed as "Devil Birds", "Devil Beasts", and " thunderbirds".


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