Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Under the skin...Navajo Skinwalkers

"Navajo American Indian" The New Student's Reference Work (1914)
 via Wikimedia Commons
In Navajo legend, there are people who have the ability to transform themselves into any animal of their choosing. These are the Skinwalkers (Yee Naaldlooshi in the Navajo language.) Before you think of them in potentially cuddly terms of transformations into kittens and bunnies or romantic notions of deer running through the forests or eagles soaring majestically above the clouds, be aware they turn themselves into animals for evil purposes in order to inflict harm upon other people. The animal of choice is often an owl, crow, coyote, wolf, or fox. Not sure why these are all thought of as capable of evil but they do all have a high degree of intelligence and can be thought of as cunning. Perhaps that is why they make the Skinwalker's list of most popular creatures.

"Stalking Coyote" photo by KL Wood
Who are the Skinwalkers? They are men and, more rarely, women who have reached the highest level of supernatural powers. (Not to be confused with Medicine Men who are benevolent people. And unlike werewolves of European legend, Skinwalkers are not victims of circumstance or the lunar calendar. They turn into animals whenever they please.) In order to attain the ability to transform into animals they have to perform the most heinous of acts: killing members of their own families in order to capture their souls and destroy their own humanity. In order to make the transformation--under the cover of night--it is thought they must wear the pelt of the animal of choice. (Perhaps they wear the feathers of the birds.) For that reason, the Navajo do not wear animal skins except for ceremonial purposes in which they may wear the skins of sheep or deer. 
"Stygian Owl" photo by By Hector Bottai via Wikimedia Commons

Skinwalkers are not allowed into your home unless you invite them inside but they use devious means to lure their victims outside the safety of those walls. They will tap on the windows, bang on the walls, mimic the cry of a child, and even vocalize perfect imitations of the victim's loved ones. They are also said to be able to read your thoughts, another weapon in their arsenal of ways to get inside your head and do you harm. Sometimes a Skinwalker is injured while in his animal form and you may see a man nursing a similar injury. Stay away and keep your thoughts to youself! The Navajo avoid speaking of Skinwalkers for fear of evil retribution. According to Navajo legend, Skinwalkers are very cruel and vindictive and do not take kindly to being talked about. 

"Denali Fox" photo by KL Wood
So, if you are travelling in Navajo country, accidentally clip an animal running in front of your car and see it limp off with a hurt leg, be on the lookout for a man limping toward you the next day. Don't mention your suspicions unless you also find out his full name and announce it aloud. Once his full name is pronounced along with the exposure of his Skinwalker identity, he becomes sick and dies from the harm he has inflicted upon others. Hmmm...there was some other guy who didn't want you to guess his name and "skin" was part of it. Oh yeah--Rumplestiltskin

Have a good couple weeks, dear Reader. Thanks for stopping by...y'all come back now! 


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