North America has its fair share of legends and folklore. Long before European settlers colonized the land, the Navajo people used to dominate the content. They held different beliefs. One of the beliefs that people that adhere to the Navajo culture will tell you about is the belief in skinwalker. If you have not heard of skinwalkers, they are harmful witches that can quickly turn into animals or possess people. According to the Navajo culture, anyone that encounters the witch would go on all fours.

There are different types of witches in Navajo culture. However, skinwalkers are the most dangerous and volatile witches. Witchcraft is considered normal and is part of spirituality. This is why witchcraft has always been part of traditions, history, and culture. Witches are not supernatural creatures, and they usually exist alongside ordinary humans. It is believed that there are places where different powers can be harnessed. For instance, medicine men use these powers for healing and aiding members. On the other hand, those that practice witchcraft tend to direct spiritual force for causing harm to others.
The Navajo refer to witchcraft that is used to cause misfortune as the “Witchery Way.” It relies on human corpses. The skinwalkers use the bones of human corpses to make concoctions for killing, harming, or cursing victims. The elders pass down knowledge through the generations. When referring to the Navajo culture, it also includes Ute, Hopi, Apache, and the Pueblo people. They all have their own version of skinwalkers. However, each culture believes that an evil witch can change its form into an animal. Each tribe has reported various stories through the years, as mentioned below.

Hastobiga, the Navajo Medicine Man (As Told by Edward Curtis in 1904)

Some witches evolved from spiritual guides or healers and chose to utilize their abilities for spreading evil. Although skinwalkers can be either a man or a woman, they are more familiar to be a man. They roam freely during the daytime, and as the night darkens the sky, the skinwalkers transform into their proper form.
To become a skinwalker, one has to be initiated by the secret society. To be accepted, they would need to commit evil deeds such as killing close family members such as their siblings. Only when they finish their task would they acquire supernatural powers. It would enable them to change form. Typically, skinwalkers transform into bears, dogs, cougars, foxes, wolves, and coyotes. They can transform into just about any animal. It is common for skinwalkers to wear the skins of animals they have transformed into. There were even some skinwalkers that wore antlers or animal skulls.
The animal that skinwalkers transform into depends on the task they intend to perform and the abilities needed for it, such as teeth, claws, stealth, endurance, strength, and speed. It is due to this reason that the Navajo people do not wear the pelt of predatory animals. But, they can wear buckskin, leather, and sheepskin.

Changing Skinwalker

Another ability of skinwalkers is possession of the body of their victims besides transforming into animals. For them to possess someone, the person has to lock their eyes with them. Once the witch takes control, it can make victims do just about anything. One of the ways through which it is possible to tell a skinwalker apart from any other animal is their eyes. Skinwalkers have different eyes as compared to normal animals. In fact, they have human eyes. If light shines on their eyes, they will turn red. On the other hand, if they are in their human form, they would have eyes that look similar to animals.


Typically, the witches would live in dark caves or a secluded part of the jungle. There are various reasons behind this. One of the reasons is that it allows them to quickly initiate new members, harm people using black magic, plot activities, and perform ceremonies. The ceremonies are just like any other tribal affairs. They include feasts, dancing, sand-painting, and rituals. However, there are dark connotations to the practices. It is common for evildoers to engage in necrophilia. They also commit grave robberies, incest, and cannibalism. The main leader of the clan is an old man who has lived a very long life and is extremely powerful.

Black Magic

In addition to the above, skinwalkers also have other abilities like reading other people’s minds, causing illness and disease, killing people, and destroying property. Anyone who has encountered a skinwalker would tell you about the evil things they do. They produce sounds like scraping the house’s roof, banging on the wall, and knocking on the window. It is also common for them to spy through the window. They even appear in front of cars to cause a terrible accident. The skinwalker can also control all the night creatures like owls and wolves. Besides this, powerful skinwalkers can even reanimate corpses and summon dead spirits to attack enemies. It is due to this reason that the Indians feared venturing out alone in the dead of night.

Skinwalkers are mythical creatures that the Navajo continue to believe in to this day. They are extremely cautious of them and try their level best to keep their tribe safe. Skinwalkers possess the immense supernatural ability. They can run quicker than a car and can jump from high cliffs. It is impossible to catch them. Anyone who has seen a skinwalker has reported that they are neither wholly human nor animal. They tend to be entirely naked. Generally, skinwalkers kill out of revenge, spite, envy, anger, or greed. They can rob massive wealth from victims. The witches rely on the bodies of their victims for casting black magic. They must continue killing people, or else they would end up perishing. Unexpected deaths are linked to skinwalkers. Some of the tragedies caused by them include extreme illness and droughts, which result in starvation.