Navajo Superstitions About Animals

Only a few wild animals or birds are considered friendly to the Navajos. Owls, crows, mice, and coyotes are considered helpers of the witches and evil spirits. When the monsters were seeking the infant Hero Twins, the owls, crow, mice, and coyotes spied for them. Cottontail rabbits are also associated with witches.

Antlers from elk and deer are not used. Mountain sheep horn, buffalo parts, and antelope horn are used in rituals and ceremonies. Navajos can use mountain lion skin and a few feathers. The eagle’s feather is the most important feather that is used by the Navajos. Most feathers from other birds are prohibited. All water animals can be found in Navajo taboos. Snakes are associated with lightning and rain.

  • Do not kill frogs, lizards, salamanders, and toads because it will rain and keep on raining, result in a flood, ruin your crops, you will jump around, you will become crippled, it will effect you unborn child, or it will cause paralysis and other diseases.
  • Do not kill horned toads because they are grandfathers or guardians of arrowheads. If you kill one you will get a stomachache, or swell up, or have a heart attack.
  • Do not watch a frog eat or you will have throat problems later and trouble swallowing.
  • Do not kill a spider unless you draw a circle around it and say, ” you have no relatives.” Or “a Zuni did it.” If you don’t its relatives will come and bite you. If you blame the Zunis, the angry spiders will go and bite them instead of coming after you.
  • Do not urinate on an anthill because you will have trouble going to the bathroom.
  • Do not burn ants because red spots will cover your body or you will get a rash.
  • Do not burn bees because you will have a rash.
  • Do not throw stinkbugs in the fire or you will get a rash or sores.
  • Do not kill grasshoppers because it will give you a nosebleed.
  • Do not bother baby hawks or eagles because you will get a rash or sores on your body.
  • Do not kill moths or you will jump in a fire.
  • Do not count the number of legs on a centipede or the number you count will be the number of years that you have left to live.
  • Do not kill a bald headed insect and spider or you will go bald.
  • Never carry or handle feathers from ravens, crows, owls, buzzards, or most any bird because you will get boils. (Since it is difficult to know the source of many feathers it is best to leave all alone!)
  • Do not kill porcupines or you will get nosebleeds.
  • Do not spit on a spider rock or you will not be able to breathe right.
  • Do not put food in a bird’s mouth or you will get a sore throat.
  • Do not kill a lizard or you will get skinny.
  • Do not burn any animal skin or you will get a rash.
  • Do not urinate on a deerskin or you will clog up.

While bear claws are commonly warned for their talisman’s power by almost all Native Americans, Navajos avoid any parts of the bear. Some of the taboos associated with bears are probably due to their rather human appearance when they are standing straight up. Bears are also the main figure in an important Navajo ceremony, the Mountain Way. The bear taboos have a common theme. If a human being mimics a wild animal, he will become like that animal. In the case of bears, the taboo is more powerful because of the human-like resemblance of the bears. Also, because bears are one of the were animals associated with witchcraft.

  • Do not step on a bear’s waste because it will bother you or act like a bear.
  • Do not make fun of a bear or it will make you sick.
  • Do not step on rocks turned over by a bear or bears will chase you.
  • Do not walk over a bear track because you will get hairy, you can not get off the track, or you will act crazy.
  • Do not walk on a bear track or you will turn into a skinwalker.
  • Do not say “Shush” (bear) in the mountains because bears will come after you.
  • Do not laugh at bears or they will come after you.

Since their introduction, cattle sheep, and horses have always been important to the economy and lifestyle of the Navajo. Large herds of mustangs roam the Navajo reservation and eat the grass that could have been used for sheep and cattle.. However, the Navajos do not consider these animals worthless and they will not consider the disposal of some of these animals. Navajo take good care of their livestock. There was a time in the history of the Navajo that a man’s wealth was measured by how many horses he owned. The Navajos were well known across the Southwest due to their excellent horsemanship skills.

  • Do not say bad things about your livestock or something bad will happen to them.
  • Do not kill a sheep or goat that is unusual, or has three horns, or is of both sexes. They are good luck and you will lose your flock if one of these animals were killed.
  • Do not count your sheep to much or you flock will get smaller.
  • Do not clap at sheep because things will happen to them and you will have a small herd.
  • Never put a sheep’s head on the ground upright or it will go away and you will lose your herd.
  • Do not play with a ball when you are herding sheep or your lambs will be born deformed.
  • Do not throw things at the sheep or they will disappear.
  • Do not ride on a sheep’s back or as punishment you will be hurt.
  • Do not waste any part of the animal after butchering or your flock will be less.
  • Do not burn livestock manure because you are burning the animals too.
  • Do not kill to many sheep at the same time because the herd will not like it. They will disappear and run away.
  • Do not burn wool because your sheep will be poor and something will happen to them.
  • Do not play with the horns of a goat because one will bother you and it is bad luck for the herd.
  • Do not twist goats’ tails because they might come off. You will have bad luck.
  • Do not go to sleep while you are herding sheep because a crow might take your eyes out.
  • Do not say, “I wish I had some meat” when you have the hiccups or your livestock won’t grow.
  • Do not cut the tips off of a horses ears off or earmark the ears because he will become stupid and hard to manage.
  • Do not burn horsehair because you will lose your horses.
  • Do not ride a pregnant animal or make it work hard because it will lose the baby and never give birth again.
  • Do not watch a horse or other animals give birth or you will go blind.
  • Do not cut a horse’s tail because it will fall of a cliff.
  • Do not leave deer blood where sheep can walk on it or all the wool will fall out.
  • Do not let your sheep or yourself walk on a deerskin or they will go crazy and run away.
  • Do not spit on anyone because you will owe him a white stallion.
  • Do not eat livestock killed by coyotes or other will animals because you will go crazy and act wild.
  • Do not put a rug over the head of a horse because he will go blind.
  • Do not buy a dog or cat for a pet or you will get poor.
  • Do not open the eyes of newborn kittens or puppies because you will go blind.
  • Do not kill dogs because they belong to the spirits and you will become paralyzed.
  • Do not brand a dog as a joke or you will lose your livestock.
  • Do not choke a kitten or you will have throat trouble.
  • Do not watch a dog mate or you will go blind.
  • Do not watch a dog go to the bathroom or you will go crazy.
  • Do not give food from a ceremony to the dogs because it will spoil the ceremony.
  • Do not let a dog bite the Medicine man because the sing will not work.
  • Do not talk to dogs or other animals because they might talk back and you will die.
  • Do not let a dog eat in front of you when you butcher or you will lose the meat.

SourceNavajo Central

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