The Skinwalker

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Sport a part of Dine' mythology.


In Navajo culture, a skin-walker (yee naaldlooshii) is a type of harmful witch who has the ability to turn into, possess, or disguise themselves as an animal.  “Yee naaldlooshii” translates to “with it, he goes on all fours.” It is one of several types of Navajo witches and is considered the most dangerous.


For the Dine', witchcraft is part of their spirituality.  The Dine' believe there are places where the powers of both good and evil are present and that those powers can be harnessed for either. Medicine men utilize these powers to heal members of their communities.  Those who practice Navajo witchcraft seek to direct the spiritual forces to cause harm to others. The knowledge of these powers is passed down from the elders through the generations.


Sometimes, these witches evolved from living their lives as respected healers or spiritual guides, who later chose to use their powers for evil. Though they can be either male or female, they are more often male. They walk freely among the tribe during the day and secretly transform under the cover of night.


In order to become a Skinwalker, the practitioner must be initiated by a secret society that requires the evilest of deeds – the killing of a close family member, most often a sibling. After this task has been completed, the individual then acquires supernatural powers, which gives them the ability to shape-shift into animals. Most often, they are seen in the form of coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, dogs, and bears, but can take the shape of any animal. They wear the skins of the animals they transform into. They choose what animal they want to turn into, depending on the abilities needed for a particular task. They may transform again if trying to escape from pursuers.  Because of the Skinwalker practice of wearing animal skins, the Diné consider it taboo to wear the pelt of any predatory animal.

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