The Navajo Skinwalker: Fearsome Sorcerers and Shapeshifters.

Brian Dunning of the Skeptoid podcast relates a short history of the Navajo legend of the skinwalker. While he covers a lot of ground in his piece, it seems remiss that he didn’t examine the legend in a shamanic context beyond a word or two in the final paragraph. Perhaps of particular interest to Disinfo readers is Dunning’s reference to a series of supernatural events on what has become known as the Skinwalker Ranch. Needless to say, the author dismisses any speculation that leans toward a supernatural explanation for the reported occurrences. Regardless, this is an interesting read.

From the plains of the American West comes a story with a history as long as that of the Native Americans themselves: the skinwalkers. Witches, a class of outcast criminals who practiced black magic, were said to have the ability to shapeshift into any animal they chose. Such people were called skinwalkers, and if one was suspected, it was legal to kill them on sight. Skinwalkers would take the hide of a wolf or coyote, put it on, and were said to physically transform into that animal. They would appear slightly too large, disproportionate, and have red glowing eyes. They left oversized animal footprints. When in human form, skinwalkers used various spells and potions to sicken and kill those around them. And as animals, they were fierce, vicious, and bloodthirsty. Hardly any creature in the folklore of the Native Americans was as feared as the skinwalker.

Continue reading at Skeptoid.




disinformation®­ curates the most shocking, unusual and quirkiest news articles, podcasts and videos on the web, most of which are submitted by the site’s visitors.

Latest posts by Disinformation (see all)

40 Comments on "The Navajo Skinwalker: Fearsome Sorcerers and Shapeshifters."

  1. Jesus Borg | Aug 1, 2012 at 3:15 pm |

    For what its worth, I think this is real from personal experience. Notice how The fellow Indians considered these people evil.

    • Jin The Ninja | Aug 1, 2012 at 5:06 pm |

      that sentiment was by no means universal, nor are native people in the americas in any way homogeneous in culture, language, or spiritual practice.

      • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 11:49 am |

         Since you have adopted this preachy tone toward me, once again , I am assuming you are familiar with real shamans and have talked to them, especially Navajo? You have spent lots of time with members of various Indian tribes throughout North America? From Alaska to the South West?

        • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:06 pm |

          while what i said above is 100% accurate, and not really in need of justification, i have spent time on several reservations in canada and the US, and in fact know several tribal elders and medicine men/women.
          my most formative experiences are limited to cree, sioux, mohawk, ojibway, metis and tlingit peoples, but i’ve ‘met’ peoples from the southwest nations. they also never refer to themselves as ‘shamans.’

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:18 pm |

            Well Eskimos use the word Shaman and they call themselves Eskimos also, so don;’t give me that P.C Bullshit either That Eskimo is pejorative. Indians call themselves Indians too and Indians and Eskimos have a big rivalry.

            But I tend to think you are full of shit about having :”formative experiences” with Tribes spread out all over the globe. What you do dance at Pow Wows all over North America?

            I think you are an expert on whatever you google.

          • MDCCLXXVI | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:26 pm |

            you must be an expert at speculative bullshit. 
            We’re all VERY impressed by your spooky tales of monsters from beyond, you could be a sleep-away camp counselor.

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:29 pm |

             And who am I again?

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:33 pm |

             Quick, Sign back in as Jin the Ninja, after you like all his comments!

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:53 pm |

            dude if i liked all my own comments i’d have 10,000 likes already.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:51 pm |

            inuit peoples in canada do NOT use the term ‘eskimo,’ nor do they use the term ‘shaman’ or a variant. so it’s not PC, it’s using the terms they call themselves. in alaska there is a group who prefer the term ‘yupik.’ again not PC, simply referring to their preferred term because english does not in any way encapsulate tribal or nation affiliation. we say ‘sioux’ and it can refer to over 20 ethno-linguistic groups who use different names to refer to themselves. Yes, many native peoples use the word “indian’ self-referrentially, again i am not native, so i choose actively not to. to say ‘eskimos’ and ‘indians’ have a ‘big rivalry’ – is a gross oversimplification, and in canada, inuit people since 1939, have been governed by the same laws and rights as Native people.

            the tribes i listed are concentrated in canada and the midwestern united states. In the aboriginal studies department at the city’s major university there are Cree, Anishinaabe,  Tlingit, and Mohawk instructors. Imagine that? all concentrated in one place!

            and yes, in fact, i’ve been to pow wows throughout ontario, quebec and saskachewan (perhaps Manitoba, but i don’t remember distinctly). i was just at one in quebec last month, and i’ll be going to an inter-band pow wow in minneapolis next week.
            imagine that.

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:16 pm |

            Well, I’ve lived with real Indians and Eskimos, all across Alaska and the Yukon and Northern Minnesota, and also have Mohawk blood from Quebec. I have a common Mohowk Surname, from a white ancestor that was a trader/fur trapper that married into The Mohawks.

            I lived on the White Earth Indian Reservation, grew hairloom Corn Beans and Squash from Indian Elders, mushed sled dogs I bought from Indians.

             So I know real Indians and Real Eskimos. I’ve been picked up by Indians while hitch hiking and some of them were crazy as fuck and some were cool and a lot of them were born again Christians, believe it or not. I drank beer with them, smoked weed with them, ate food with them mushed sled dogs with them. Indians and Eskimos have a banter between them from a long standing rivalry. I met REAL PEOPLE, not political organizers, not Left Wing College professors.

            I notice that some Indians, hang out with people of your ilk, and get all Marxist and politicized and PC, probably do talk like you.

            But being out in the middle of nowhere and meeting regular Indians and Eskimos, you get a different picture than in a fucking Feminist History or whatever Bullshit college course.

            You sit down have some fry bread and moose riibs and smoked salmon and shoot the shit. Its not the same thing as going to political rallies.

            Actually the ones I met in Olympia Washington were fucking assholes that wanted to change the names of Sports teams as their goal in life. I think those are the kind you hang out with.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:46 pm |

            i think the point you made unintentionally is that ‘real’ native peoples are not the same as the noble magical savages you posited in your first comment.

            they are a mixed bunch, who live diverse lives between the paternalistic policies of the state, modernity, identity and tradition.

            and actually i eat bannock occasionally too.

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 3, 2012 at 2:28 pm |

            No, my point was that some Shamans are evil and that Indians would be the first to tell you that.

            Only over educated pin heads get all up in arms about that statement and say its culturally insensitive.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 3, 2012 at 2:56 pm |

            medicine women/men are considered rare, and reputation in native communities matters. so while there may be some modern medicine men/women working whom are feared, it is not likely they are encountered frequently. and ‘evil’ in an indigenous spirituality is on a totally different quantum than judeo-christian- and many native peoples are now christian. so how do YOU, a non-native, with non-native spirituality quantify “evil?” (on a spectrum that resonates with native peoples).

            paste/copy the exact text where i said “culturally insensitive.”

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:32 pm |

            They do mostly hate white people. So If you are all like “yeah, don’t white people suck. I am a queer/person of color/yada yada yada.” they would probably feel sorry for you. So maybe you aren’t totally full of shit on that count. I am sure you can get a conversation going about how white people suck.

            The thing is though I am as white as a motherfucker and they talk to me. If you are white and you live on an Indian Reservation They can pretty much tell you aren’t the opresser. Its pretty fucking obvious to anyone with any common sense, that some broke assed white dude hitch hiking through an Indian Reservation is not the oppressor.

            Really it comes down to treating everybody the same. Most people respond well to it people who want to be treated special hate it.

            Saying/thinking that an oppressed group of people is more noble, just because they got the shit end of the stick is actually condescending and patronizing. People pick up on that shit. So yeah, I walk through Indian Reservations at night. I don’t give a fuck.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:48 pm |

            in one moment you say , ‘they mostly hate white people.’ and in another you say you chilled with them. doesn’t that seem very odd to you?

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 3, 2012 at 2:25 pm |

            No its doesn’t. Because people don’t always make sense. But to you they have to. So that’s why you like to pigeon hole everybody. .

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 3, 2012 at 2:52 pm |

            nah, i just like to call you out on your ignorant bullshit.

          • Matt Staggs | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:17 pm |

            To be fair, ‘Shaman’ has been adopted as an anthropological term used by those studying these indigenous religious practices. Carry on. 

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:39 pm |

            it’s a fair point that in anthro- they would call the practice shamanism, but my point of contention is that the people themselves would never say, ‘i’m a shaman.’

      • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 11:54 am |

         In other words if you haven’t lived on a reservation maybe you should shut the fuck up.

        • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:02 pm |

          basically. or at least taken an intro to aboriginal studies course. but you wouldn ‘t be spouting bullshit if you had.

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:20 pm |

             Yeah, you took a class. Now we are getting closer to the truth.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:52 pm |

            quite a few actually. not only on aboriginal studies, but post-colonialism, ethnic, diaspora, and area studies.

  2. Jesus Borg | Aug 1, 2012 at 4:43 pm |

    So anyway, uh, Graham Hancock posted on here before. He talks about the existence of evil.  He allegorized it in his Book “entangled” I know he resonates with the Gnostics. So you can go the Evangelical Christian route and call it Satan but there are other approaches to pointing out the same thing.

    Then of course there are Theistic Satanists and also think this is reality also from the other end.

    So just lending a little context here. This is basically a “power” available to certain adepts that are completely sold out to the Dark side. And there are occult lineages where these types of things are passed on. So its plausible that there were schools of Shamanism among the Navaho that practiced this.

    Shamans, real ones, among actual indigenous people, and not self help gurus, are not really akin to say a Pastor of a Church in a small town. They aren’t that kind of religious leader. Often not. Often they are feared and considered evil. Some are considered good, but some are feared hated, but respected for their power. This is the way it is with Eskimos. Eskimos are the real deal, especially the ones in Siberia. They can do some serious conjuring type shit. Like Hard core stuff. Stuff that scares the shit out of people. Haiti is another place IMO with real power.

    So anyway, I at one time dabbled with this stuff and came to a kind of threshold and met a Gate Keeper type figure asking me to swear allegiance to a power I did not want to be beholden to. 

    Shit is real.

    • EEEEEVIIIIL | Aug 1, 2012 at 7:37 pm |

      Shit is subjective

      Humans have the monopoly on “Evil”

    • Calypso_1 | Aug 2, 2012 at 1:13 am |

      You “dabbled”. 

      And this lends credence to your insight how?

      • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 10:47 am |

        You think things people say anonymously on the internet has credence?

        • Calypso_1 | Aug 2, 2012 at 11:30 am |

          I think. 
          Here’s some serious Creedence.

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 11:45 am |

             See humor is good! Well let me just ask you this, because really everybody can be full of shit but also might have a point. If you think this is all hard facts here and we are air traffic controllers with lives depending on us through what we say here we can get off track. Playful is good.

             What if you were meditating in order to shape shift and a Demon appeared to you and said that if you Bow down and surrender you life to Satan you will be granted this power.

            What would you do? For me it was off putting. It really made me think. It made me stop what I was doing. It made me think, Wow, this is fucked up. And that wasn’t my context at the time, I hadn’t been raised a born again or anything. But later for a good while I did give Credence to what Evangelicals had to say because this experience fit their world view. But later i determined they were full of shit too. But this stuff makes me think. I don’t think its Bullshit. I suppose I could have said to the Demon “Rock and Roll! Fuck Yeah! Sign me up I want to be a Coyote!” But I didn’t.

            Anyway, I dabble kind of hard core in things. For me dabbling is probably more hard core than what most people do. Dabbling in canoeing is going on a 150 mile trip through the upper reaches of the Mississippi. Dabbling in Camping, is spending 2 weeks in the Alaskan Wilderness. 

          • Sticky Tickler | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:16 pm |

             “What if you were meditating in order to shape shift and a Demon appeared to you and said that if you Bow down and surrender you life to Satan you will be granted this power.”
            I’d say it’s YOU who believes in Satan, not me. Belief is a powerful thing

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm |

             And who is ME? So you are saying I believe one thing and you believe another? And this makes you angry because……?

          • Sticky Tickler | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:47 pm |

            lol, keep posting walls of text. maybe you’ll eventually convince someone on the internet you know what you’re talking about

          • That was a wall of text?

          • Calypso_1 | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:32 pm |

            Depending on my inclination or purpose in the meditation, ritual, what have you, I might:
            1)      Command the entity to Identify itself and its realm of power.
            2)      Go to a different “Gate”(as you had identified it as a gatekeeper).
            3)      Banish the entity.
            4)      Command the entity to bow down to me and perform a task or take me to it’s master if it were not capable of said task. 
            5)      Allow the entity to invite some of his friends so that they could eat my intestines, while I go do something more important.
            6)      Tell the entity to get into a sack.
            7)      Transform myself into Coyote anyway and piss on said entities spats.

            Kudos on your form of dabbling.
            You might find that the playfulness (albeit verging on cruel – it is a scary world) is a recurrent theme in my modus operandi.

          • Jesus Borg | Aug 2, 2012 at 12:57 pm |

            Yeah, I guess those are good options. I guess if having demons appear to me had been more commonplace at the time I might have thought of that. But I was just hoping to be able to shape shift not have demons show up and talk to me about extraneous Bullshit, you know bowing to Satan and crap like that.

            I thought the article was interesting because it shows factions of Navajo’s not agreeing on this stuff and doing evil  shit to each other and people using Supernatural power for nefarious ends as well as healing ends.  I think its a more accurate picture of real life, than shoe horning them in to a Marxist lense of an oppressed proletariat and looking at them as a Unified block. And looking at Their Spiritual practices as only positive.

            In real life you have more of a cluster fuck of agendas and interests going on. But I think There are really powerful Native American shamans out there and some of then are Evil.

            But maybe Jin is right, maybe only white people are evil and all other ethnic groups should be looked at in a condescendingly, patronizingly  positive light. Maybe all Indians actually do shed a tear when they see roadside litter. That’s what i like to think when i wear my wolf t-shirt and hang my dream catcher up on my rear viewe mirror.

          • Jin The Ninja | Aug 2, 2012 at 10:04 pm |

            it’s not ‘white’ people, it’s many of the conceits of western civilization i take issue with. i am biologically, physically, and racially a very tangible by-product of trans-national globalisation. and of course 1/2 ‘white.’ and if i were 100% ‘white,’ or had never mentioned my race at all, my critique would still be as stringent and biting as before, and you’d have naught a racist peg leg to stand on.

          • we don’t cry thats why we are warriors

          • Deth Cree | Mar 30, 2013 at 2:44 am |

            we don’t cry that’s why we are warriors

    • Deth Cree | Mar 31, 2013 at 3:15 am |

      doesnt scare me

Comments are closed.