The Legend of the Skinwalker

WL writes: “Can you please tell me what a skinwalker is, and how is this related to witchcraft?”

A Skinwalker is an alleged supernatural being that Western Indian tribes such as the Navajo believe to be shapeshifters who can assume the form of animals in order to travel more quickly and hide in plain sight. However, a person can turn into a Skinwalker after being initiated into what is known among the tribes as the Witchery Way which is a form of Navajo witchcraft.

“To become a Skinwalker, he or she must be initiated by a secret society that requires the evilest of deeds – the killing of a close family member, most often a sibling,” this site explains. “After completing this task, the individual acquires supernatural powers, which give them the ability to shape-shift into animals.”

Typically, a Skinwalker employs various mystical practices such as hexing and casting spells and curses on their targets via rituals and incantations designed to invoke destructive supernatural forces.

Skinwalkers favor appearing as coyotes, wolves, foxes, cougars, dogs, and bears, wearing these animal skins – which is how the name Skinwalker originated.

“They choose what animal they want to turn into, depending on the abilities needed for a particular task, such as speed, strength, endurance, stealth, claws, teeth, etc. They may transform again if trying to escape from pursuers. Because of this, the Navajo consider it taboo for its members to wear the pelt of any predatory animal. However, sheepskin, leather, and buckskin are acceptable.”

Skinwalkers are believed to be able to take possession of anyone who locks eyes with them, are able to read minds, and can control people’s thoughts and behavior. They are also believed to be capable of causing disease, illness and death.

“The Skinwalker kills out of greed, anger, envy, spite, or revenge. It also robs graves for personal wealth and collects much-needed ingredients for black magic use. These witches live on the unexpired lives of their victims, and they must continually kill or perish themselves,” the site explains.

Tribes native to the American Southwest, such as the Navajo, Hopi, Utes, and others, each have their own version of the Skinwalker, says the New Mexico Explorer website.

“But each boils down to the same thing — a malevolent witch capable of transforming itself into a wolf, coyote, bear, bird, or any other animal. When the transformation is complete, the human witch inherits the speed, strength, or cunning of the animal whose shape it has taken.”

The legend of the Skinwalker only grew in fame thanks to a so-called “haunted” ranch named Skinwalker Ranch in Utah which is believed to be the sight of UFO and other paranormal activity. A former owner claimed to have encountered a giant wolf in his backyard that was not stopped even after it was shot three times. The spooked owner sold the property just two years after buying it to a millionaire named Robert Bigelow, founder of the National Institute for Discovery Science who was an avid researcher of UFO’s and the paranormal. To date, none of the claims made about incidents of paranormal and alien activity at the Ranch are considered credible.

While the practice of witchcraft and the destructive rites associated with it are very real, supernatural beings known as Skinwalkers who allegedly walk the earth disguised as animals remain the stuff of legend.

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