Most societies have folklores and legends of witches, werewolves, Sasquatch, and creatures that walk amongst us. The Navajo Indians or Deni’ people have Skinwalkers. They are those who trot along here and there on all fours, those who change skins depending on powers they seek, those who follow the ‘Witchery Way’, the ones that the Navajo people defer from talking about for fear of reprisal. The Skinwalkers are the Witches Witch, the Highest Priest or Priestess who turns evil, who practice cannibalism and necrophilia, those who are no longer human – but are profound deviants – pure evil.
Yenaldlooshi, as the Navajo call Skinwalkers, literally means “it that walks/travels like an animal – He who trots along here and there on all fours.” It is said that skinwalkers transform into the animal they want to utilize particular powers from. The skinwalker dons the fur of the animal while un-clothed underneath, and the transformation begins. A variety of animals are favored: the bear for strength, coyote for speed and cunning, wolf for heightened sense of sight, hearing and smell, cat for stealth and agility, and so forth. Any animal can be chosen. Yet when the skinwalker transforms they never get the gait and the rhythm of the animals walk exactly right, so it is said they can be tracked while they are traveling on the ground just not when soaring with the vultures.
Besides transforming into animals, the skinwalker has other powers. He/she can read your mind, control your mind, bring forth disease, destroy your home, even cause death. Trained in both physical medicine for the body and spiritual medicine for the spirit, they wrap the two tightly together in their practice. Most are trained high priests or priestess who then choose to follow the skinwalker’s path. Initiation into this deviant life is normally through killing a member of their immediate family, usually a sibling. They believe this provides them access to the powers of the skinwalker. Not all Navajo witches are skinwalkers, but all skinwalkers are witches.
Transformation to animals is not the only power the skinwalker has. They can sound like a baby crying or like any animal to get one’s attention, and they have their potions and spells. They use a mixture some call “corpse powder”, others call an immobilization powder, to blow into their prey’s face. This powder causes the tongue to turn black and swell, then convulsions, paralysis, and eventually death. Corpse powder is believed to be ground human infant bones which are powdered and made into a potion. Sometimes if the skinwalker chooses to target a whole family, the powder will be poured down the chimney or smoke hole of a home onto the waiting fire below. This brings sickness and possible death to all who are within.
Revenge and jealousy are the motivation for skinwalkers. The only ways to be rid of a skinwalker is to hire an expensive good medicine man to cleanse your home and perform ceremonies for protection. The only other way the Navajo get rid of the skinwalkers is by learning their identities and calling out the full name of the skinwalker. It is believed the skinwalker will then die in about three days. The Navajo say to shoot the skinwalker with bullets dipped in white ash. This doesn’t usually kill them, but when the skinwalker returns in everyday dress, the gunshot wounds make him/her recognizable so they can call out the skinwalker’s full name and destroy the evil amongst them.
- Navajo Skinwalker Hunt for the Skinwalker I was gripped with fear at what I was watching in the headlights of the car.
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