The Navajo Mystery of Skin-walkers

“There is little documented information about the details of witchcraft among the Najavo—or Diné, as they call themselves. What is relatively well known is their term ‘Skin-walker,’ or ‘yee naaldlooshii,’ which means, ‘with it, he goes on all fours.’ This is a reference to the special ability to transform into a four-legged animal. According to most modern descriptions, this seems to be the only real determinant for defining someone as a Skin-walker…In Navajo cultural beliefs, witchcraft itself is regarded as a taboo subject because it deals with concepts and objects surrounding death. Therefore, Navajo people are strictly prohibited from even speaking of such things.” N. Nez, CSI



Excerpt: Skinwalkers by Noah Nez, CSI

“The description of the Navajo witch consists of a rather general description that resembles the more familiar “witch doctor” found in much Haitian voodoo folklore. But even the standard American image of the witch character is depicted as casting spells and, more importantly, possessing the supernatural ability to transform shape; the witch is often depicted as mimicking the form of a black cat. While it is frequently mentioned that the Skin-walker possesses the ability to assume the form of any animal, it is most often reported in the forms of a few key carnivorous animals: a coyote, a wolf, a fox, an owl, or a crow.

Navajo tribal beliefs include the concept of living in harmony with nature, which is anthropomorphized as Mother Earth. The beliefs also involve two different types of beings: the Earth People and the Holy People. For instance, medicine men are thought to be the bridge between Earth People and the spirit world.



Skin-walkers are really just another type of Navajo witch; more specifically, they are considered to be practitioners of what is called the witchery way. The distinguishing characteristics between these different variations of witches are in the details. For example, one specific type of witch relies on the usage of objects to transmit curses, referred to as the frenzy way. However, in most contemporary accounts, Skin­-walkers often possess certain supernatural abilities that encompass multiple types of Navajo witch.”

“For the Navajo people, witchcraft is just another part of their spirituality and one of the “Ways” of their religion.”



Category: Culture