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Wolf, Máiitsoh

The Navajo word for wolf, "mai-coh," also means witch, and a person could transform if he or she donned a wolf skin. So the Europeans were not the only ones with werewolf legends. However, the American tribes have an overwhelming tendency to look upon the wolf in a much more favorable light. The Navajo themselves have healing ceremonies which call upon Powers to restore peace and harmony to the ill, and the wolf is one such Power.

Native American tribes recognized the wolf for its extreme devotion to its family, and many drew parallels between wolf pack members and the members of the tribe. Also, the wolf's superior and cooperative hunting skills made it the envy of many tribes. Finally, the wolf was known to defend its home against outsiders, a task with which each tribe had to contend as well.


The Skinwalker (also known as yenaldooshi or mai-coh in the Navajo language) is a type of witch or sorcerer in Navajo traditions. This witch practices black magic, and derives the name 'skinwalker' from his shapeshifting powers. By draping the hide of a certain animal (most often a coyote or a wolf, but also bear or owl) over himself, the witch takes on the form and traits of that animal. In doing so, the witch gains that animal’s strength, speed, and endurance (magnified to greater levels through the power of the transformation). Usually, Navajo Shamans use this ability to travel quickly from place to place. However, the Skinwalker is usually evil, and gains its power by committing an unspeakable act, usually by murdering a close relative.


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Ma'iitsoh, Revered Wolf: Butterfly Boy, Chapter 28

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