Skinwalker, Yee naldlooshii

To become a skinwalker requires the most evil of deeds, the killing of a close family member. They literally become humans who have acquired immense supernatural power, including the ability to transform into animals and other people.

These evil witches are typically seen in the form of a coyote or wolf – although they do have the ability to turn into any animal they choose.

Skinwalkers walk freely among the tribe and secretly transform under the cover of night. The term yee naaldooshii literally translates to “with it, he goes on all fours."

The yee naaldlooshi can be spotted and singled out from other people, because their eyes glow like an animal's, sometimes even more so, even in human form. In animal form they can be spotted by moving stiffly and unnaturally, or acting strangely.

“Do you hear that?” Katie asked René.

Neither spoke as they tilted their heads to scan the airwaves.

He nodded uncertainly.

“From the west, behind us,” she figured. At first, it sounded like distant thunder, but the consistent rhythm suggested hoof beats.

“It sounds like a jet in the sky,” René decided.

She shook her head.

There were no contrails; nothing moved above them in the starry blackness, only cold twinkling stationary stars. The noise increased. It was like the sound of horses galloping in from the west.

“It sounds like a herd of horses,” he hoped.

“It isn’t! Just keep going, now!”

Suddenly, something hit the truck on Katie’s side.

“Oh my God!” she screamed in panic and slid next to René.

“What happened? Did we hit something?”

She leaned over and rolled up the passenger window as fast as she could and moved even closer to René. “Keep going straight ahead,” she said, her throat muscles constricted in terror when she tried to talk.

“Just keep going René, don’t stop.”

“It may be a dog. We may have hit a dog.”

“No, it’s not a dog.” As she spoke, a black shadow covered the window on the passenger side. Katie trembled. “It’s hanging on the car, René, go faster, keep going, look straight ahead, and focus on driving.”

The thing started thumping the top of the truck letting out a high-pitched scream. When Katie dared look to her right, she saw the black shadow diminishing.

“It’s off the car now. Can you go any faster?”

But it didn’t matter how fast they went. The shadow moved faster too and stayed even with the truck, toying with them

It let out a scream again, louder and shriller and Katie squeezed so close to René he felt she was going to crawl inside his shirt. Then, at last, it fell away. René looked for it in the mirror, but he only saw inky blackness. “Oh my God, Katie! What was that?”

“A skinwalker.” She spoke so softly he didn’t hear her.

“A what?”

“It was a skinwalker, a Navajo boogie man. It’s like a Yeti or the abominable snowman. They live in the hills on the rez.”

Because skinwalkers wear the skins of the animals they transform into, it is considered taboo to wear the pelt of any animal. In fact, the Navajo are only known to wear two hides, sheepskin and buckskin, both of which are only used for ceremonial purposes.

Those who have talked of their encounters with these evil beings describe a number of ways in which a skinwalker will try to inflict harm. Some describe hearing knocks on the window or banging on the walls. Others have spotted an animal-like figure peering in through a window. According to Navajo skinwalker legend, they are seldom caught. Those who do track a skinwalker and learn of their true identity must pronounce the name of the evil one in full. Once this happens, the skinwalker will get sick or die for the wrongs they have inflicted against others.

Or another story from the desert town of Tuba City, Arizona near Monument Valley, where a building contractor is doing repairs on an old ranch home. Thinking himself alone, the man is surprised to hear laughter coming from somewhere off in the sheep pens. Following the noise, the man turns a corner to the edge of the sheep pen where before him the entire flock is huddled shivering into one end of the pen while on the other a lone ram stands separated. He is standing upright, his two front hooves across his chest and his horned head thrown back in gleeful, maniacal laughter that is unmistakably human. Watching this, the man jumps and suddenly the ram spots him. For a fleeting moment the two lock eyes and, just like the laughter, the ram’s eyes are familiar and anything but animal. The ram falls back down to all fours and mills along as if nothing had ever happened.

They are accounts of nighttime drives on the lonely road between Farmington, NM and The Four Corners when, in the distance ahead, a coyote appears on the roadway, its eyes glowing in the headlights. Except that they are not coyote eyes, they are something else, something almost human, and when the car speeds past the waiting coyote the coyote bolts and begins speeding along with it, running at 60 miles per hour, its eyes still aglow in the headlights. The driver looks away and presses pedal to metal, and when he looks back suddenly it is no longer a coyote running at pace next to the vehicle, but a man. A man with the yellow eyes of a coyote fixed on the driver, one hand banging on the hood.

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Skinwalkers: Butterfly Boy, Chapter 24

Skinwalker stories from the web:

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.

I grew up in Utah and when I was in scouts I remember one of my leaders talking about them around the campfire. It was kinda a scary story thing. When I grew up and became a chef I started working at resorts. At 2 of the places I worked (Lake Powell and the Grand Canyon) there were alot of Navajos. When I was in Lake Powell, I was told by a older Navajo to watch out for the Skinwalkers if I was out side late at night, I could be attacked. This caused me to remember what my scout leader had told me so, I asked him about them. He told me that 2 brothers had been cursed for some reason. They had to forever walk the earth in a form other than their own until they broke the curse. He also said that they usually take the shape of a wolf but can become any creature they want, except human. For this reason, they dispise man and, they will attack and try to kill any man they see. I also heard similar stories at the Grand Canyon. I really don't know what to make of it though, I took the warning to heart. Like most legends, I feel that there must be some air of truth to it. Maybe the Skinwalkers are the same think as Bigfoot or Sasquatch. Maybe their the same as werewolves. Maybe their something else entirely. I don't know but, I do know that when I'm in the desert at night, I always keep my eyes and ears open for them

“Stop René I want to say goodbye.” Katie rolled her window down and waved to Fred. He flashed his brights, turned the truck around, and disappeared into the darkness.

Katie left the window down to feel the warm, night breeze. A series of coyote yips floated in above the engine noise.

“Do you hear that?” She asked René.

Neither spoke as they tilted their heads to scan the airwaves.

He nodded uncertainly.

“From the west, behind us,” she figured. At first it sounded like distant thunder, but the consistent rhythm suggested hoof beats.

“It sounds like a jet in the sky,” he decided.

She shook her head.

There were no contrails, nothing moved above them in the starry blackness, only cold twinkling stationary stars. The noise increased. It was like the sound of horses galloping in from the west.

“Start the car; I don’t know what this is.”

“Roll your window up,” she told him.

“It sounds like a herd of horses,” he hoped.

“It isn’t, just go, now.”

Suddenly, something hit the truck on Katie’s side.

“Oh my God!” she screamed in panic and slid next to René.

“What happened? Did we hit something?”

She leaned over and rolled up the passenger window as fast as she could and moved even closer to René. “Keep going straight ahead,” she said, her throat muscles constricted in terror when she tried to talk. “Just keep going René, don’t stop.”

“It may be a dog. We may have hit a dog.”

“No, it’s not a dog.” As she spoke, a black shadow covered the window on the passenger side. Katie trembled. “It’s hanging on the car, René, go faster, keep going, look straight ahead, and focus on driving.”

The thing started thumping the top of the truck.

Suddenly they heard a high-pitched scream. When she dared look to her right, she saw the black shadow diminishing.

“It’s off the car now. Can you go any faster?”

But it didn’t matter how fast they went. The shadow moved faster too and stayed even with the truck, toying with them. René tried to look at it, to see what it was, but he was driving so fast he had to keep his eyes straight ahead on the road.

It let out a scream again, louder and shriller and Katie squeezed so close to René he felt she was going to crawl inside his shirt. Then, at last, it fell away. René looked for it in the rear view mirror, but he only saw inky blackness. “Oh my God, Katie! What was that?”

“A skinwalker.” She spoke so softly he didn’t hear her.

“A what?”

“It was a skinwalker, a Navajo boogie man. It’s like a Yeti or the abominable snowman. They live in the hills on the rez, and they come out once in a while.”

“Oh,” René let out a long, slow breath.

An awkward, uncomfortable silence permeated the cab for some time as both Katie and René stared out the windshield.

Finally, René broke the quiet. “What do we do now?”

“What do you mean?”

“What should we do about that black thing, what did you call it?”

“A skinwalker. It’s an evil ghost, René. You don’t do anything except try to keep away from it. Just stay still and wait until you feel okay again.”

“Will it come back?” He checked the mirrors and looked out the side windows for it.

“I don’t know, but probably not. They’ve been known to terrorize people in houses, and they come and go all night. But we drove through their territory, so we got a visit or an escort.”

It took a few minutes, but the comforting hum of the truck calmed them. Katie opened the side window again, and René cracked his. The warm breeze smelled of sage.

René chuckled and pretty soon, they were both laughing with relief.

“If I hadn’t seen it with my own eyes, I never would have believed it, Katie. I’m laughing now, but shit, I was scared. Wow, I hope I never see anything like that again.”

“Yeah, me too, but I know I will. This is my home; I can’t stay away from here.”

Katie eventually moved back over to her side of the truck, and René turned on the radio. They listened to a country station for a while lost in their thoughts.

Finally, René broke the silence. “Katie, I wanted to ask you something about today.”

“Sure, what is it?”

“When you introduced yourself to Marjorie, is that the way the Navajos, er, the Diné greet each other?”

“A formal introduction, like the one you heard today, shows others how I fit in our society. Clanship, which we call dooneeike’, establishes relationships between Navajos, by tracing them to a universal mother.”

“Are you talking about a real woman?”

“I’m talking about many women, René. Each clan and there are two-hundred-ten of them, can be traced to a specific matriarch from the distant past. Changing Woman established the first four original tribes. Afterward, women who joined the tribe either brought a clan name with them, or were assigned a group upon acceptance into the tribe.”

“I’m sorry, Katie, I don’t know who Changing Woman is.”

“Many things are attributed to Changing Woman, René. First Man and First Woman found Changing Woman as an infant, on a mountaintop. She was a fast grower, and she grew from infancy to puberty in four days, marked by her menarche, which was the first Kinaaldá ceremony performed in Diné history. The Kinaaldá ceremony is a public declaration of Changing Woman’s fertility, although it was a fruitless statement because there were no people yet on the earth. However, the sun noticed she was fertile and sent his personal form to lie with her. From this intercession, Changing Woman was impregnated, and nine days later she delivered the twins we called Monster Slayer and Born for Water. A while later…”

“It was just a few days, right?”

“You’re catching on to the Diné historical timeline and numerology! Four days later the twins were grown, and they were asked to rid the world of monsters. When he cleaned up the world, it was ready to receive the Diné. So Changing Woman created four pairs of people by rubbing the skin of various parts of her body. These are the original clans and the ancestors of all the Diné today.”

“You know, we have a lot of stories handed down from generation to generation, but none of them are as beautiful or as mystical as yours.”

“These aren’t just stories. They’re part of our origin; part of our religion. We don’t have a church, but we have priests, ceremonies, and stories that reflect our identity and beliefs. We are one with the earth and with everything around us, even with evil spirits.”

“That’s really beautiful, Katie, really beautiful.”

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