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Skinwalkers For Dummies!
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Skin-walker Stories
Telling skinwalker stories is a common activity among Navajos around campfires, late trips at night, etc. If you're interested in some skinwalker stories, click here to check out the blog I set up to archive skinwalker stories.

Navajo Witches -- Skinwalkers
Here is another website dealing with the concept of skinwalkers, posted by Asdzani Bah.

Every culture on earth has an aspect that deals with witchcraft. In the Navajo culture, a portion of that aspect of the ‘dark side’ deals with supernatural beings called Skinwalkers. Other aspects do exist, but this page is devoted to the topic of Skinwalkers. Many families have their own Skinwalker Stories. This page answers the question that is only 'hinted at' in these stories, "What is a Skinwalker?"
      In the Navajo language, they are called Yee Naaldlooshii, which translates to “[beings] that travel on four legs.” Though the term Skinwalker usually refers to one individual, usually more than one person is involved in this witchcraft ‘activity

It is said that a group of people meet in some isolated region. Out of this group, three people are chosen to ‘run around in the skin.’ The three chosen people sit naked in front of the group, with a coyote skin lying before them. While the crowd behind them chants songs, these three individuals ‘enter the skin.’ Then these Skinwalkers travel around doing their evil deeds, leaving the group behind to chant songs that give them power.

The reason three individuals are chosen to be a Skinwalker is because one person is assigned to be a lookout. The next person serves to chase away any dogs, while the third person actually does the specific evil deed. The activities involved include terrorizing people, casting spells on certain people, or grave robbing. Each of them carries a ‘red light.’ It is by means of this ‘red light’ that they communicate with one another while out on their evil errands.

They say that Skinwalkers are able to run long distances, such as running over 200 miles within one evening. Other supernatural powers attributed to those ‘running in the skin’ include being able to fly across canyons, run as fast as cars, etc.

It is said that Skinwalkers tend to be found near graves of people recently buried people. They have the ability to dig up graves with amazing speed and ‘breathe’ in jewelry, saddles, or any other belongings buried with the deceased person. Once the jewelry is ‘breathed in,’ it appears hanging on their bodies (if necklaces), or from their ears (if earrings). With their magical powers, they are able to carry away loads without overburdening themselves.

It is also said that one method a Skinwalker will curse people is by blowing bones into them, causing a person to become very sick or even die. Victims recover after having the bone sucked out by a type of medicine man called a Hats’oos, which translates literally to “a sucker

People who have seen Skinwalkers describe a hollowed out “dog-like” animal, where no eyes or the inside of a mouth can be seen. They usually carry a whistle, a bullroarer (tsindi'ni'), or are armed with a long poisoned, tipped needle called a “tsahgai.” People claim to hear their ‘whistling’ sounds or the unnatural whirling sounds of the bullroarer late at night.

Other facts on Skinwalkers:

  • People become Skinwalkers by being trained by a Skinwalker. It is said that there is a 4-day ceremony that they undertake. During this time, only ‘immediate’ family members can look upon the Skinwalker in training. At this time, the trainee is painted all in white, with back & white stripes painted across their face. Only after they make their first kill is the initiation over.

  • Skinwalkers ‘seen in their skin’ die if the person within the skin is recognized & called by their personal name.

  • Skinwalkers caught with their ‘skin hanging off’ or are seen naked (away from their skin) are said to be ‘stranded.’ Only if they give the person who saw them a piece of jewelry will they have the power to make a return trip to their group. Elders suggest that you don’t accept the jewelry they offer, or else you’ll get sick & die.

  • Other stories describe Skinwalkers as 'werewolf-like' creatures, that shapeshift to wolf-like animals. Unlike werewolves, people don't become a Skinwalker by being bitten by one in these stories. Also, their transformation is not controlled by the moon. Their transformation to a Skinwalker is totally voluntary. Stories of Skinwalkers of this type are not common on my part of the reservation.