I’m putting the piasa in with dragons because I’m too lazy to start a category for feathered serpent birds of the Western Hemisphere and put in the piasa and Quetzacoatl.
As far as we know, the first white guy to see the frightening dragon bird was Father Jacques Marquette, a Jesuit priest who came to Illinois in 1673. His Illini tribe guides explained that the creature he saw portrayed as a petroglyph on a cliff face above the Mississippi was called a ‘piasa.’ The name means ‘bird that devours humans.’
Apparently, the bird was a gentle neighbour of the Illini tribe, preying on deer and other mammals. It lived in the cliff while and the Illini lived on the plains below. The red, black, and green piasa was at least 30 feet long, with a wingspan of 16-18 feet. It also had the antlers of a deer–and the face of a man, but twisted and deformed.
Unfortunately, another tribe invaded the Illini and they went to war. The good guys won, but the piasa ended up scavenging the battlefield.
“Yum,” thought the piasa when it tasted human flesh. “Gotta get me some more of this.”
So it started to prey upon the Illini.
A brave group of 21 warriors decided to take on the piasa before it ate the entire tribe. The bravest of them all was Massatoga, who had to serve as bait for the bird. Under Massatoga’s command, the warriors defeated their enemy and the Illini were safe once more.
The piasa hasn’t been seen since 1856. That’s when work in a nearby quarry shattered the cliff face and the petroglyphs fell into the Mississippi.
- Piasa Bird from Forgotten Runes (forgottenrunes.blogspot.com)