It looks like you're using an Ad Blocker.

Please white-list or disable in your ad-blocking tool.

Thank you.


Some features of ATS will be disabled while you continue to use an ad-blocker.


Skinwalkers: What Are They?

page: 1

log in


posted on Aug, 29 2005 @ 04:47 AM
Here in Arizona, mentioning the word "skinwalker" will net you several interesting tales about motorists who travel late at night through the Navajo reservation and encounter strange beasts with glowing red eyes and bloodthirsty dispositions. One such tale can be found here; it displays classic "skinwalker story" symptoms. However, this story more-or-less ends happily; others that I've personally heard are not so nice. One particular tale tells of a man and his family, whose car breaks down on a desolate road. When the man leaves to find help, he returns to see a large coyote-like beast with red eyes leap from the car. His family is mutilated and one of his children stuffed under the seat, slashed to pieces.

So, then, what exactly is a skinwalker? According to Wikipedia, skinwalkers are known by many names and by many cultures. However, each tale displays the same basic thing: taking on the shape, instincts, and/or abilities of an animal by wearing its skin.

A classic example would be the berserkers of Norse lore. Berserkers were ferocious fighters with seemingly supernatural strength and murderous dispositions on the battlefield. Though it is disputed as to the actual meaning of their name ("bare-shirt", referring to their lack of armor; or "bear-shirt" referring to the bear skins they wore), some believe they wore bear skins, perhaps to channel the abilities of their grizzly brethren. Some have been reported to even take on the shape of a bear, such as Bjarki of Hrolf's Saga fame. More on berserkers can be found here.

Still, the term "skinwalker" is mainly used to refer to those of Navajo legend--witches who, for whatever purposes, took on the form of certain animals to perform various and heinous acts. Not much is known about these creatures, mainly because the Navajo do not enjoy talking about them. Hunter Gray speaks of them like so:

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 who do.

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.

But just how true are these legends? Can people--given enough training, discipline, and power--really use the skin of an animal to take on that creature's traits? Or is it all fake--overactive imaginations jumping to conclusions?

One could argue that, in the case of berserkers, battle-weary soldiers would see the bear skin worn by the berserker, witness the berserker's powerful rage and rabid ferocity, and conclude that he had actually transformed into a bear (or wolf, in some cases). In fact, anyone wearing the skin of an animal and roaming about on all fours could be easily mistaken for a terrible monster, especially in the dark of night, when visibility is low.

A compelling argument that I've heard against the idea of a person actually taking on the animal's persona/shape is the nature of the animals themselves. By nature, a bear or wolf or coyote or what-have-you is not violent. They must be provoked in order to induce a truly fierce effect. Why, then, would merely putting on their skin drive a person into a legendary frenzy? Perhaps it is not the animal causing the rage, but rather the mentality of the human beneath the pelt. I do not call up lightly the disease of lycanthropy, a delusion in which the afflicted believes they have the ability to transform into an animal. A certain case report from 1977 describes a 49-year-old woman suffering from lycanthropy.

Another good resource offers a reason for a lycanthropic person to believe that they have indeed transformed:

A brain scanning study of two people with lycanthropy showed that these areas display unusual activation, suggesting that when people report their bodies are changing shape, they may be genuinely perceiving those feelings. Body shape distortions are not unknown in mental and neurological illness, so this may help explain at least part of the process. One further puzzle is why an affected person doesn't simply report that their body "feels like it's changing in odd ways", rather than presenting with a delusional belief that they are changing into a specific animal. There is much evidence that psychosis is more than just odd perceptual experiences so perhaps lycanthropy is the result of these unusual bodily experiences being understood by an already mixed-up mind.

So, then, perhaps taking on the animal's skin simply feeds the already psychotic mind of the skinwalker, thereby causing them to not only believe they are the animal, but also causing them to act out on violent urges, feeling uninhibited by their humane side.

What are your thoughts? I'm personally fascinated by tales of skinwalkers, so any stories you might have are appreciated. My main concern, however, are your opinions on the matter, and any alternate theories you might have on the skinwalker phenomenon.

[edit on 29-8-2005 by Wolvaurynphamir]

posted on Aug, 29 2005 @ 05:59 AM

You have voted Wolvaurynphamir for the Way Above Top Secret award. You have one more vote left for this month.

Welcome to ATS.

When I first saw the title of your thread, I imagined that you would be seeking information regarding Skinwalkers. I did not expect to see a post that was well researched and eloquently put. Your post gave an excellent run-down on various aspects of the Skinwalker mythos, as well as cross-cultural comparisions and included your own theories. This is exactly the kind of posts we need to see more of here at ATS.

There are only a few points I would like to make in response to what you have already said. The first concerns the unknown element of drug use to achieve an altered state in which an individual may take on certain characteristics of specific animals. It has been generally accepted that the berserkers of Scandinavia who, as you pointed out, wore bear skins into battle, used mind-altering drugs to increase their frenzy level, dull the effects of pain and to induce an altered state of consciousness (Reference 1; Reference 2). Although I have yet to come across an account of drug use in the Skinwalker mythos, it can be argued that the understanding or rituals related to Skinwalkers are less well understood and documented than those concerning beserkers. The use of drugs, in combination with animal skins, may explain the adoption of certain animal characteristics across a broader range of people. This may be especially pertinent given the probability that not all Skinwalkers suffer from lycanthropy or psychosis.

In addition to beserkers, it has also been suggested that Palaeolithic shamans may have used a combination of drugs derived from plants, an engineered group mentality and the use of animal skins and behaviours to in essence become a specific animal. The famous depiction of The Sorcerer at the Sanctuary at Trois-Freres indicates that the practice of dressing in animal skins to adopt the characteristics of that animal are likely very ancient indeed.

I also noted the use of the bone pellet, which is shot into a victim's body, in the Skinwalker tales. Here in Australia, I have heard from Aboriginal elders the tale of the Kadaicha Man, which is similar to the Skinwalker legends in many respects. Kadaicha Man is a combination of shaman and hit-man. In the stories I was told, Kadaicha Man would pursue those who had broken taboos. He would use his magic to adopt the characteristics of specific animals necessary in this pursuit. For example, I was told that Kadaicha Man wore feathers on his feet and behaved like an emu, to better track his foe and to leave no tracks himself. Kadaicha Man would infuse a kangaroo bone with powerful magic and would then point the bone at whomever had broken the taboo. The bone would magically and invisibly fly through the air and kill the person in a matter of days. To me, these two stories, the Kadaicha Man's bone and the bone pellet of the Skinwalker mythos, share similar traits. Perhaps if we understood better the rituals of the Skinwalker, we might see a link between the adoption of certain animalistic traits and the enforcement of cultural taboos or other specific tasks in which the Skinwalker might need to adopt those traits.

For now, I have a difficult time believing that any physical change takes place. I am confident that, similar to berserkers, Palaeolithic shamans and our own Kadaicha Man, the change is a purely psychological one. I would further argue that this change is likely to be enhanced by the potent combination of the use of animal hides as clothing and mind-altering drugs to induce an altered state of consciousness in which a close empathy with a speciifc animal may be developed. I am also certain that the mystery and aura of foreboding surrounding the Skinwalker mythos is probably deliberate, as it is with the Kadaicha Man, to prevent unwanted disclosure of the Skinwalker's secrets and a subsequent dilution of the legend and therefore their power.

Congratulations again on an excellent post. I know we will be seeing more from you here on ATS in the future.

P.S. Thanks for contributing to my "Local Flavours of Monster" thread. I love hearing about local legends and wierd but localised cryptos. I had forgotten all about the dreaded jackalope and am beginning to suspect that hoop snakes secretly control the world, by the familiarity that such diverse people have with them.

[edit on 29/8/05 by Jeremiah25]

posted on Aug, 29 2005 @ 03:05 PM
There was a two part "investigation" early in 2003 in the UFO magazine called "Path of the skinwalker". It was about a rancher who bought a ranch(unsurprisingly) and noticed the previous owner had fortified it. He soon discovered why, as he had a lot of strange occurences happen there. later an investigation team went there, and put up surveillance cameras in parts of his land. Wherever the cameras went, the activity moved. on one occasion a camera was "deactivated", and it was being covered by another camera, but nothing was there.

It was in an area of Utah where the indians feared to go, by the way.

posted on Aug, 29 2005 @ 06:04 PM
Great Topic & post Wolvaurynphamir

I made a thread a lil while back about this too.

I was & still am very curious if theres any ATS peeps that have any first hand knowledge, like some Navajo's that might spill the beans since you know this is only the internet.

posted on Aug, 29 2005 @ 08:26 PM
Thank you for the welcome.

The drug theory does make sense, but I'm not sure about Amanita muscaria specifically. Though some of the effects sound like they might have induced a berserker rage (or bloodthirst in a skinwalker) and may account for some of the berserker's classic tell-tales (excessive saliva, increased stamina and strength), the reactions to the drug are said to vary from individual to individual. For this person, it was a horrific experience, as it was for a few others (here, here, and here).

Admittedly, however, one of my above sources says about Amanita muscaria:

An individual’s natural tendencies will strongly dominate and be performed with increased vigor and energy. For example, a person who enjoys talking will talk incessantly and a person who enjoys dancing will dance continuously.

So if a berserker or skinwalker were already naturally inclined to do battle and/or destroy/kill others, then they would likely do this even more when under the influence of Amanita muscaria (and if not that, some other drug). But this just again leads me to lycanthropy. If the individual was under the belief that they could indeed change into an animal by use of ceremony and pelts, Amanita muscaria may have heightened that. In fact, drug use has induced lycanthropy before (not Amanita muscaria specifically).

So, I do think the drug theory is credible, and might even fit in with the theory of lycanthropy.

posted on May, 17 2008 @ 06:54 PM
But I'm planning to write a storry about 'Skinwalkers' and I was wondering where you got some of the information.
I wanted to do some research before starting my writing

posted on May, 17 2008 @ 08:28 PM
A very good site if you are seeking entertainment but not very factual. Any person that is fooled by a person on drugs wearing animal pelts deserves whatever happens to them. You are merely offering an opinion to try to explain facts you do not understand. Skinwalkers are composites of multiple entities that are not readily visible, apodal and are insubstantial, they require a mode of transportation. Witch doctors and shaman know these entities as "evil spirits", not the make believe kind but the ones that will terrorize a person or animal before they kill it and drink their blood. They also consume the sex organs, anus, lips, eyes. etc. These are the entities that kill and mutilate cattle and other wild life. Any time you read and article about bigfoot, werewolves or chupacabre, they are what you are reading about. I know what i say is true because i took pictures of my skinwalkers.

posted on May, 17 2008 @ 10:59 PM
click on photo for full image. Skinwalkers are not relegated to a single image or creature, nor are they found only in isolated places.

posted on Oct, 27 2008 @ 12:13 AM
reply to post by debris765nju

please if you know anymore about the evil of these creatures please post more... i am dealing with this kind of thing.... Nate


log in