[Marxism] Witchcraft: Skinwalkers and Witches
hunterbadbear at earthlink.net
Fri Aug 13 19:56:35 MDT 2004
Note by Hunter Bear:
We burn protective/healing Sweet Grass in our home and do some other
comparable things as well.
I am posting this on a very few lists: substantial excerpts from my
Skinwalker posts [that some have seen but not others] plus some new
material. Our Skinwalker posts on the much visited Lair of Hunterbear are
very heavily visited indeed on a daily basis! In addition, I do get several
questions and requests each day for help on all sorts of topics -- and I try
to be as obliging as possible. Here is my response to one query of just a
few days ago which involves a young woman's friend who believes he has been
witched in the Navajo country. H
Thanks for your note of concern . . . If your friend is now in or close to
the Navajo country, he should go to a full Medicine Man as soon as
possible. If he is not in the Navajo setting, a good Medicine Man from
another tribe -- e.g., Lakota or Pueblo -- would be helpful. At the moment,
there is probably not much point in speculating who is ultimately
responsible for this. It is important for your friend to avoid any
"defeatist" attitude or descent into a kind of "fatalism." He [and you]
should be upbeat and eat and sleep well. If the situation does not improve
fairly quickly, then he may want to go to a "western" physician -- but he
probably wouldn't want to mention the Skinwalker dimension to him/her. But
a good Medicine Man and the appropriate ceremony are extremely desirable.
Write again, any time. [She did.]
All best - H
Note by Hunterbear:
Excerpt from my first Skinwalker post of a couple of years or so ago:
This news story on a PBS / Tony Hillerman Navajo witch-craft film,
"Skinwalkers," strikes several hard, discordant notes within me -- and some
brief and very critical comment is appropriate. [The film turned out to be
[And PBS is now --2004 -- doing even more Hillerman stuff.]
First, the Skinwalkers place-line is Superior, Arizona. This -- an old
town which I knew well -- is southeast of Phoenix, in the Big Cactus and
Hot Desert country and not far from the Superstition Mountains. It's a far,
far cry distance-wise and geographically and certainly culture-wise from the
Navajo Nation: far north/northeast of Superior in the high-altitude Colorado
River plateau country of frequent cedars, pinons, yellow pines. Superior
is old Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers country and my memories of its copper
workers [mostly Chicano, some Anglo, a few Apaches] in those struggles --
consistently won by Mine-Mill -- are fond indeed. In early December, 1963,
I came up from the Deep South and spoke at Superior on the civil rights
struggle under the auspices of the Arizona Mine-Mill Council. Delegations
came from all of the Arizona Mine-Mill locals, some of which traveled great
distances [e.g., from the Mexican border.] I spoke virtually all night as
people came and went. A page about this great Mine-Mill gathering -- on
behalf of our Southern Movement -- in on our large website:
This Hillerman / Navajo film is being made in the country around Superior.
That, frankly, is bizarre. And that is only one very significant mistake.
But the other very significant mistake indeed -- in my opinion, someone who
grew up among the Navajo [the Dine'] -- is the very film itself. Tony
Hillerman is an Anglo writer whose many murder mysteries -- detective
stories set in the very vast Navajo nation, and certainly friendly to the
Dine' people -- have a wide following. But, even though they're about 80%
accurate, the 20% of inaccuracy is a vast Grand Canyon that certainly
precludes their use as reliable material in any even remotely scholarly
setting. [And, yes, I've read the Hillerman book, Skinwalkers, on which this
film is based. I find it wanting.]
For many non-Navajo people all over the country [and world], Hillerman's
stuff is their only introduction to the vast and often remote and isolated
Navajo reservation [bigger than the state of West Virginia] and the now
relatively huge Navajo Nation [about a quarter of a million people.]
This film, which will undoubtedly distort even Hillerman's distortions,
is -- like a great many other basically fast-buck enterprises -- wearing the
"public service" cloak: a spurious disservice.
In addition to the assurance of significant inaccuracy, I also have some
other profound concerns. The film deals with Navajo witch-craft, a very
real situation which is not the sort of thing the greatest majority of
Navajo and many other Indian people as well, believe should ever be
discussed publicly in any detailed fashion.
Navajo medicine men are religious leaders and healers [these dimensions as
inextricably bound together in the Navajo view -- and that of other
Natives -- as a myriad of copper wires fused forever by super-intense fire.]
Medicine men train rigorously for many, many years -- often as many as
seventeen -- before they're considered full-fledged practitioners in the
context of the very rich traditional Dine' culture and its myriad of
extraordinarily complex rituals that reach across the Four Directions to the
very corners of the Creation.
Navajo medicine men are extremely effective. Anyone who has lived for any
period of time at all in and around the Navajo country is very well aware
United States Indian Health Service [PHS] now works closely, frequently
side-by-side with the medicine men. The results are very good.
And then there is the other side: Witchery Way. Not a great deal is known,
intricately, by most people about the very shadowy and dangerous world of
Navajo witchcraft -- "bad medicine", so to speak.
But no one who has lived extensively in the Navajo country would ever make
light of this sinister situation. It's taken very seriously. Witches
practice their evil for purely mercenary purposes. Few Navajo would ever
have anything to do with them, even remotely -- but there are always a few
Witches train extensively -- in their own very isolated and secure settings.
By Navajo traditional law, a known witch, one who has thus forfeited its
status as human, can be killed and this certainly applies to a kind of
witch much involved in these endeavours: the Skinwalkers. These are
obviously profoundly deviant Navajo who travel at night for nefarious
purposes and who are believed to have the ability to turn themselves into
various animals. They certainly are garbed in the skins of respective
These -- Witches and the closely related Skinwalkers -- are not the sorts of
things about which one should talk much at all.
The Harvard anthropologist, Clyde Kluckhohn, did a book, Navaho Witchcraft
[Boston: Beacon Press, 1944.] An excellent person, he wisely recognized
his own limitations and those of his book.
I know a few things, at least. And here is a short, personal anecdote:
When we lived and worked at very remote Navajo Community College [now Dine'
College], seven thousand feet above sea level and almost right under the
much, much higher Lukachukai Mountains and just to the north of historic
Canyon de Chelly, our little house was on the far outer edge of the small
community of Tsaile [Say-Lee.] We were 95 miles from Gallup, New Mexico
[where my youngest daughter was born in late '79] and 125 miles by road from
Farmington. Our area was split by the Arizona / New Mexico border which
means virtually nothing on the Navajo reservation. My Chev pickup had New
Mexico plates and I had an Arizona driver's license from Chinle [Chin-Lee],
the small Navajo town with a few BIA offices and a tribal police station 35
miles to the south. . .
Skinwalkers and witches in general are a concern in this setting -- as they
are everywhere in the Navajo country.
It was a July night, 1980, with the brightest high-altitude day-light Moon
one could ever imagine. I awoke suddenly at 2 a.m. in our rather isolated
house -- roughly the dimensional parameters of a traditional Navajo hogan,
but much larger -- and, through our bedroom window, I saw figures circling.
And I knew immediately.
Turning on the lights, I yelled and our house and its people and animals
came alive wildly. Our three dogs jumped from the couch, barking. One,
Ruggie, was a wonderful little terrier and the other her mother, Wendy. The
third was the very formidable looking -- but eminently gentle -- Good:
half-coyote and half German shepherd. Clad only in my underclothes and with
my always loaded Marlin .444 lever action, I went out the front door into
the moonlight. There was movement -- revealing movement -- just inside the
ring of cedar trees around one side of our little house. I held the rifle
high, the dogs now barking very wildly.
Then the shadowy but revealing motion just inside the cedars was gone.
They were gone.
Excerpt from my second Skinwalker post:
What I'm saying in my Skinwalkers review is that I believe that "good
medicine" and "bad" are real in every sense -- including that of
supernatural theology. In short, I'm a believer -- who often has to do
battle with agnostics and atheists on some of these radical [Left]
discussion lists. Our own family religious beliefs are a now very
old mix of Jesuit Catholicism with Wabanaki and Iroquois beliefs.
But I grew up within and immediately around the Navajo, and with
close Laguna connections as well, so I'm pretty ecumenical.
A Navajo medicine man trains intricately and rigorously, as I mentioned, for
as many as seventeen years before he's a full-fledged practitioner.
Although not much is known of "witch preparation and sociology," it seems
clear that a full-status witch trains very intricately and rigorously as
well. [Skinwalkers are lesser-degree witch-types who, usually working for a
full status witch, travel into the field planting spells and robbing.]
None of this, good medicine or bad, is hokum -- nor is it "psychological
Anyone who has observed a medicine man at work in a healing capacity always
recognizes the presence of a very significant non-tangible and intensely
positive dimensional force. The physicians of U.S. Indian Health Service
[PHS] in the Navajo country -- and in many other Native settings as well --
are very respectfully aware of this.
It's not at all uncommon for a person to be suddenly or insidiously and
slowly stricken with a profound and mysterious malady -- and to then bring
in a medicine man who will, with all careful speed, locate the "spell"
which a Skinwalker had secretly planted at night -- say, just outside or at
least very close to, the victim's hogan. The medicine man will immediately
destroy the spell in several ways, heal the victim, and purify the general
If there is a "rational" or "western" explanation for this -- good medicine
and bad -- it would probably lie in the realm of one particular
parapsychological dimension especially: telekinesis [TK] which is now more
often called psychokinesis [PK.] This, in essence, is mind-over-matter.
The existence of TK [or PK] has been amply proven in a myriad of spontaneous
cases over the eras of human existence -- and, within the last century,
under rigorous lab conditions. In the latter context, this has been global
in scope: e.g., the early research by William James at Harvard, decades of
work by J.B. Rhine and Laura Rhine at Duke and J.G. Pratt at University of
Virginia -- and an enormous amount of TK [or PK] research in the USSR and
Czechoslovakia over many decades [work which still continues even though the
Red East has changed.]
Boiled down to the very basic essence, this means that certain people can,
in thinking good thoughts, make things bloom and live -- whereas others, via
thought, can make things wither and die. The potential for all ESP -- TK/PK,
telepathy, precognition, clairvoyance, etc -- may well exist in all humans
[and animals as well.] Much "Western" thinking and narrow scientific
methodology can frequently suppress [but not kill] this -- but tribal
thinking encourages its conscious development and usage. And there are
certain people, who for good and ill, appear to have this much closer to the
surface and more readily at hand.
The practitioners of good medicine are far more numerous -- and, in the last
analysis -- far more powerful than those of bad medicine.
For my part, although I am a member of the very staid and august American
Society for Psychical Research [which studies various ESP phenomena,
including TK or PK -- and the survival of the human personality beyond
bodily death], I much prefer the traditional Native theological
My two full posts on Skinwalkers:
HUNTER GRAY [HUNTER BEAR] Micmac /St. Francis Abenaki/St. Regis Mohawk
Protected by Na´shdo´i´ba´i´
In our Gray Hole, the ghosts often dance in the junipers and sage, on the
game trails, in the tributary canyons with the thick red maples, and on the
high windy ridges -- and they dance from within the very essence of our own
inner being. They do this especially when the bright night moon shines down
on the clean white snow that covers the valley and its surroundings. Then
it is as bright as day -- but in an always soft and mysterious and
remembering way. [Hunter Bear
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