Navajo witches differ greatly from the European variety and can’t be recognized with the same methods. Unlike main stream European black-witchcraft there are no warning signs for the presence of a witch at work if they are in human form [i.e. blue flame, spoiled milk, etc., a la Warlock]. It would behoove you to know the behavior of a Navajo witch in order to spot and stay clear of this maleficent being.
All Navajo witchcraft categories, with one exception (see notes below bibliography), are associated with the dead and death. A couple of generations back this association was the easiest way to identify a witch. With the proliferation of weirdness in the Navajo youth population a witch can no longer be spotted by a person’s romance with the ghastly things in life. If black clothing decorated with skulls were enough to designate witchcraft then a large chunk of the Navajo population, the writer of this paper included, would be labeled as a witch.
A person who has just become a witch’s apprentice can be identified by new strange habits or a peculiar event. A common event is the murder of a close relative, usually a sibling, for his or her required initiation. Somebody with a relative buried with less than a whole body, with no plausible explanation, should cause a red flag to go up.
A common new habit for the novice is to take off in the middle of the night. It is believed that the local witches convene in an underground room littered with corpses. At these meetings they may make a sand-painting of the new victim with colored ash and mar it with human excretions. In this case getting drooled over is not a good thing. The members of this sect may also practice necrophilia with their latest female victim or prepare corpse powder with a male victim’s flesh.
Skinwalkers are another type of witch closely associated with underground gatherings. They are “wer-animals” and own an animal skin that is used to transform them into these animals. Any real animal can see through the skinwalker’s disguise but even a human can recognize the unnatural creature. For some unexplainable reason even a well seasoned skinwalker cannot obtain the perfect animal gait or leave the proportionally correct sized animal tracks.
Methods of Sickness
A strange habit that indicates witchcraft is the burying of stolen objects due the use of these personal items as props in spell castings. It might be hair, nail clippings, clothing, and favorite objects that are filched. These items are put into a bundle, sung over with a prayer that has been twisted into perversion and ending in the bundle’s burial. Waking up with a bad hair cut or more chipped nails than before is a bad sign.
A witch who shoots “arrows” to cause harm are hard to spot. They might be recognized by the instruments used to infect victims with. Small objects such as pebbles, bone fragments, or shell shards along with the possession of a blow gun may be an indication of a witch.
Some wild animals have the ability to use witchcraft. It is an inherent ability in the species and is not considered evil, even if it kills you. Even the ants are able to cause illness in humans so it’s best to leave any wild animal alone, no matter how harmless they may appear to be.
The usual effect of any witching, left untreated, is a gradual loss of the ability to function in society, either physically or mentally [insanity]. In each case it is considered an “illness” to be treated by a prescribed ceremony that should restore the victim to full function.