If you grew up in the 90s like myself, you might remember a book series and, later, the TV show on Nickelodeon called “Animorphs.” The series, in a classic young adult narrative, follows relatively normal teenagers who have relatively normal teenage problems, but these teenagers also can morph into animals. The Navajo people of the American Southwest have in their culture, the folklore of similar entities. However, unlike teenagers who use their powers to fight aliens, the skinwalkers of the Navajo are understood to be harmful witches.
Navajo Skinwalkers? What are These?
Navajo Skinwalkers, or skinwalkers, are not a supernatural creature like the name may imply. Instead, they are spiritual healers of the Navajo who have been corrupted by dark magic.
It’s sort of hard to know much about the skinwalkers. The Navajo are fairly tribalistic (no pun intended) when it comes to particular spiritual beliefs, particularly ones that involve the darker side of cosmic magic. But, there are a few things we do now.
The main thing we know is that they have the ability to shape shift into a variety of animals, oftentimes coyotes, or wolves. Still, it could really be anything — bears, dogs, foxes—just about every animal that is known to that region of America.
The best skinwalkers could even take the form of another person, even one who is still alive and known to the tribe. You can tell when an animal is actually a skinwalker by the eyes. They’ll look human. When the skinwalker takes on the form of another person, their eyes will look like an animal’s.
Where Do Navajo Skinwalkers Come From?
As stated before, skinwalkers are essentially just corrupted healers. You see, to become a healer in the Navajo tribe, you must be well versed in magic, period. It is not like you can just learn the “good” magic and not learn the “bad” magic.
Think of a skinwalker as analogous to a mad scientist. The only difference between a good scientist and mad scientist is that the mad scientist used their knowledge and power for bad.
Well, maybe it’s not EXACTLY like that.
You see, it’s not as simple as just starting to use your magic for bad. In order to become a skinwalker you need to be accepted into an order of other skinwalkers. To let out my inner nerd, it’s basically like the Sith in the Star Wars universe. Anakin Skywalker didn’t just decide one day to become Darth Vader.
He was corrupted by the Sith and accepted into their order. Prospective skinwalkers are brought to gatherings, which take place in the dead of night, far away from the rest of the tribe, and partake in a variety of dark rituals. What exactly happens at these gatherings is a bit of a mystery. Still, we know that if one wants to become particularly powerful that you must commit one of the evilest acts possible—kill a family member.
Are There Still Skinwalkers To This Day?
While there, unfortunately, are not as many Native Americans in the U.S. as there used to be, the Navajo still boasts a population of more than 356,000, so there are definitely still skinwalkers out there.
The Reddit community /r/Missing411, which is dedicated to the widely underreported number of people who go missing across the country, often hypothesize that at least some of these are due to skinwalkers.
If you ever happen to be wandering the American Southwest, just keep your wits about you. If you see an animal with human eyes, or a human with animal eyes, just run.