Some Native American tribes willingly share their myths and stories with outsiders to help others understand their cultural values. However, other tales are considered taboo subjects, and tribe members refuse to discuss the matter amongst themselves or outsiders.
One such example is the legend of the skinwalker. A skinwalker is a type of harmful witch in Navajo culture. These witches have the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as various animals through the practice of dark magic.
Witches Of Navajo Culture
Skinwalkers are a type of witch called “yee naaldlooshii” by the Navajo people, translating to “with it, he goes on all fours.” Skinwalkers are one of several forms of Navajo witches but are considered the most dangerous.
In Navajo culture, witchcraft is considered another aspect of their spirituality and one of the “ways of life.” That said, witchcraft has always been integral to Navajo culture, history, and traditions. The tribe believes the powers of good and evil are present and can be harnessed for various tasks, both positive and negative.
How Navajo Skinwalkers Come To Be
Skinwalkers can be male or female, but they are more frequently male. And there are various ways a skinwalker comes to be.
Sometimes, skinwalkers are witches that evolve from living their lives as respected healers to using their powers for evil and wrongdoing.
However a person becomes a skinwalker, they must be initiated by a secret society that demands the most evil of deeds to be accepted. The secret society demands that to become a skinwalker, the individual must kill a close family member, most often a sibling.
Once this act is complete, the individual acquires supernatural powers and can shape-shift into various animals.
What Form Can A Skinwalker Take?
Frequently, skinwalkers take the form of dogs, foxes, cougars, bears, wolves, and coyotes. The individual then wears the skins of the animals they transform into, explaining the name “skinwalker.”
Sometimes, skinwalkers also wear animal skulls or antlers on their heads, which are believed to give them additional powers. Skinwalkers have the freedom to choose which animal they want to transform into, depending on the tasks they wish to complete. For instance, skinwalkers can change based on whether they desire speed, strength, endurance, claws, etc.
Therefore, in Navajo culture, it is considered taboo for individuals to wear the pelt of any predatory animal. The only exceptions are sheepskin, leather, and buckskin.
In addition to transforming into various animals, skinwalkers can also take possession of human bodies by locking eyes with another person. After taking control of a victim, the skinwalker can force its victim to do or say things a person wouldn’t normally do.
Skinwalkers have additional powers, like reading other peoples’ minds, controlling their thoughts and behaviors, causing disease and illness, destroying property, and causing death.
Given the severity of what skinwalkers can accomplish, the Navajo tribe is hesitant about discussing such matters for fear they will be a witch’s next victim.
Navajo Skinwalkers: Fact Or Fiction?
Some people are skeptical about the tales of skinwalkers. Others who claim to have encountered the witches warn their powers are nothing to ignore.
To this day, there has not been scientific confirmation that skinwalkers do indeed exist. Still, given the centuries of stories passed down from one Navajo generation to the next, skinwalkers may be more than just a legend…