by Gerald Musinsky

Piasa refers to two petroglyphs once visible on a rock near Alton, Illinois, first described by Jesuit missionary Father Marquette in the sixteenth century and which was seen as late as 1860. Father Marquette described it as a man-eater. It had the body of a panther, wings like a bat, and head and horns of a deer.

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