This article is about the creature of Native American legend. For other uses, see Skin-walker (disambiguation).
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In some Native American legends, a skin-walker is a person with the supernatural ability to turn into any animal he or she desires. To be able to transform, legend sometimes requires that the skin-walker wears a pelt of the animal, though this is not always considered necessary.
Similar lore can be found in cultures throughout the world and is often referred to as shapeshifting by anthropologists.
1 Navajo skinwalker: the yee naaldlooshii,
2 Totem animals and the art of the Medicine Man,
3 Skin-walkers in popular culture,
4 See also,
6 Other references,
7 External links,
Navajo skinwalker: the yee naaldlooshii:
Main article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Witch_(Navajo)
Possibly the best documented skinwalker beliefs are those relating to the Navajo yee naaldlooshii (literally "with it, he goes on all fours" in the Navajo language). A yee naaldlooshii is one of several varieties of Navajo witch (specifically an 'ánt'įįhnii or practitioner of the Witchery Way, as opposed to a user of curse-objects ('adagąsh) or a practitioner of Frenzy Way ('azhįtee)). Technically, the term refers to an 'ánt'įįhnii who is using his (rarely her) powers to travel in animal form. In some versions, men or women who have attained the highest level of priesthood are called clizyati, "pure evil", when they commit the act of killing.
The 'ánt'įįhnii are human beings who have gained supernatural power by breaking a cultural taboo. Specifically, a person is said to gain the power to become a yee naaldlooshii upon initiation into the Witchery Way. Both men and women can become 'ánt'įįhnii and therefore possibly skinwalkers, but men are far more numerous. It is generally thought that only childless women can become witches.
Although it is most frequently seen as a coyote, wolf, owl, fox, or crow, the yee naaldlooshii is said to have the power to assume the form of any animal they choose, depending on what kind of abilities they need. Witches use the form for expedient travel, especially to the Navajo equivalent of the 'Black Mass', a perverted "sing" (Navajo ceremonial) used to curse instead of to heal. They also may transform to escape from pursuers.
Some Navajo also believe that skinwalkers have the ability to steal the face of a person. The Navajo believe that if you ever lock eyes with a skinwalker, they can absorb themselves into your body. Alternately, some Navajos believe that if you made eye contact with a skinwalker, your body will freeze up due to the fear of them and the skinwalker will use that fear to gain power and energy. It is also said that skinwalkers love the light and that their eyes glow like an animal's when in animal form.
A skinwalker is usually described as hairy, except for an animal skin. Some Navajos describe them as a perfect version of the animal in question. The skin may just be a mask, like those which are the only garment worn in the witches' song.
Because animal skins are used primarily by skinwalkers, the pelt of animals such as bears, coyotes, wolves, and cougars are considered taboo. Sheepskin and buckskin are probably two of the few hides used by Navajos; the others are not used for ceremonial purposes.
Often, Navajo people will tell of their encounter with a skinwalker, though there is a lot of hesitancy to reveal the story to non-Navajos, or to not talk of such things at night. Sometimes the skinwalker will try to break into the house and attack the people inside, and will often bang on the walls of the house, knock on the windows, and climb onto the roofs. Sometimes, a strange, animal-like figure is seen standing outside the window, peering in. Other times, a skinwalker may attack a vehicle and cause a car accident. The skinwalkers are described as being fast, agile, and impossible to catch. Though some attempts have been made to shoot or kill one, they are not usually successful. Sometimes a skinwalker will be tracked down, only to lead to the house of someone known to the tracker. As in European werewolf lore, sometimes a wounded skinwalker will escape, only to have someone turn up later with a similar wound which reveals them to be the witch. It is said that if a Navajo was to know the person behind the skinwalker they had to pronounce the full name, and about three days later that person would either get sick or die for the wrong that they have committed.
Legend has it skinwalkers can have the power to read human thoughts. They also possess the ability to make any human or animal noise they choose. A skinwalker may use the voice of a relative or the cry of an infant to lure victims out of the safety of their homes.
Skinwalkers use charms to instill fear and control in their victims. Such charms include human bone beads launched by blowguns, which embed themselves beneath the surface of the skin without leaving a mark, and human bone dust which can cause paralysis and heart failure. Skinwalkers have been known to find traces of their victim's hair, wrap it around a pot shard, and place it into a tarantula hole. Even live rattlesnakes are known to be used as charms by the skinwalker. A skinwalker can use anything of personal belongs and use in ceremonial rituals against the person they are doing evil towards. Skinwalkers are always yellow in color.
According to Navajo myth, the only way to successfully shoot and kill a skinwalker is with a bullet dipped in white ash.
Totem animals and the art of the Medicine Man:
The Navajo people have a very strong emotional bond with the Earth and the plant and animal kingdoms that are so much a part of their everyday lives citation needed. Certain animals are more sacred to some individuals, families and tribes. These animals could be said to bless, heal or guide the people and become totem animals.
Totem animals are honored with their likeness in the dress, dance, music and artwork of the people. The traits and characteristics of the totem animals could be gifted to the people who developed a deep friendship with the spirits of these helpful creatures. Some individuals developed such a deep connection with nature and her magic that they could talk with the plants and animals and bring knowledge of medicine and other healing arts to their tribes. These few adepts became medicine men, healers, or wise ones.
Medicine men were known to be able to travel to other states of being. It was through the gifts of their totem animals that this travel was made. They were often seen wearing the skin of the animal that granted them this power and would sometimes be seen in animal form.
Often ancestors and heroes would appear as animals important or sacred to the family or tribe, or as an animal the individual was known for. People especially reported seeing these strangely human animals when receiving good fortune or divine messages. Some would hear the animals speak to them, act as a human would or witness impossible colors or breeds that do not exist.
A medicine man should never be confused with a practitioner of the witchery or frenzy way. Medicine men practice healing arts, blessings and the removal of curses. In the Navajo culture there is no disambiguation between witch and medicine man. Any Navajo practicing the witchery way is evil, the intent of such a practice is purely to harm. Normally others of their own tribe and rarely people outside of it.
Skin-walkers in popular culture:
In the film Mortal Kombat: Annihilation, the Native American warrior Nightwolf acted as a Skin-walker by transforming into a wolf. He calls the technique his 'Animality', the knowledge of which has been passed down through Nightwolf's people over generations. He teaches Liu Kang how to perform it as well, but since Liu Kang becomes a Dragon, the technique seems to vary from person to person.,
In the second season of "Smallville", episode "Skinwalker". Clark Kent tries to stop a skinwalker who is going around killing people and causing trouble.,
In the third season of Haven, the protagonists pursue a mysterious serial killer, known as the Bolt Gun Killer, whose criminal pattern involves a bolt gun to the base of the victim's neck, stealing seemingly random body parts and then burning their bodies beyond identifiable. It is later discovered that the serial murders were vastly under reported and that the suspect, now believed to be a shapeshifting "Skin-walker troubled", is literally skinning the victims and donning said skins so as to assume their identities. In the twelfth episode, the killer was revealed as Arla Cogan, who is the wife of the Colorado Kid.,
Navajo Skinwalkers were mentioned in the movie Arizona Werewolf, a version of which (retitled Werewolf) was shown on Mystery Science Theater 3000. However, the werewolf lore was essentially borrowed from The Wolf Man, and Joe Estevez mispronounced 'yee naaldlooshii' as "yannaglotchy".,
In the novel series The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, a Skinwalker is the primary villain in Turn Coat, the eleventh book in the series, and is referred to as a "naagloshi", a semi-divine being that used to be a Messenger of the Holy Word.,
The protagonist of Kelley Armstrong's Darkness Rising series, Maya Delaney, is one of the resurgent members of this supernatural race due to genetic modification. Other yee naaldlooshii also include Rafael "Rafe" Martinez and Annabella "Annie" Martinez. It is unknown how many others there in the series due to the scattering of the participants in the genetic experiment. Maya currently displays what is believed to be the full collection of powers, which include:,
Accelerated Healing of self and others,
Shape-shifting into the form of a Cougar,
The others display lesser versions of these powers or with serious side-effects. Annie, for example, shifts uncontrollably and has regressed to a child-like state; this is believed to be due to the poor integration of her animal instincts into her human mind. It is unknown why Rafe's development as a yee naaldlooshii is delayed in comparison to Maya or why his abilities are more limited. Theories point to him getting a lesser proportion of the genetics required for creating a yee naaldlooshii. It is unknown when Annie started shifting and how long after she began regressing, though regression did not begin until almost a year ago.
In the episode called "Shapes" which is the nineteenth episode of the first season of the x files. There is a native American skin-walker who can change into a wolf.
Several episodes of hit TV series Supernatural feature villainous skin-walkers.,
They were also featured on an episode of Lost Tapes,
In Patricia Briggs Mercy Thompson series, the main character Mercedes Thompson is a "walker" who turns into a coyote.,
In Kevin Hearnes The Iron Druid Chronicles, Atticus O'Sullivan has to stop two skin walkers in the 4th book, 'Tricked'.,
In the HBO series True Blood many characters are known for this ability such as Tommy Mickens and Luna Garza, who are Shapeshifters too.,
In the book series Experiment in Terror by Karina Halle, the book Red Fox revolves around Skin-walkers.