In Navajo religious belief, a chindi (Navajo: chʼį́įdii) is the ghost left behind after a person dies, believed to leave the body with the decedent's last breath. It is everything that was bad about the person; the "residue that man has been unable to bring into universal harmony". Traditional Navajo believe that contact with a chindi can cause illness ("ghost sickness") and death. Chindi are believed to linger around the decedent's bones or possessions, so possessions are often destroyed after death and contact with bodies is avoided. After death the decedent's name is never spoken, for fear that the chindi will hear and come and make one ill. Traditional Navajo practice is to allow death to occur outdoors, to allow the chindi to disperse. If a person dies in a house or hogan, that building is believed to be inhabited by the chindi and is abandoned.
It is also believed that a chindi can be used to cause harm upon someone else. Navajo witches, followers of the Corpse-poison Way—’áńt’įįzhį, are believed to infect others with chindi sickness by planting a piece of a corpse, such as a bead or powder made from a corpse bone, in a person's body.
Dust devils are referred to as chiindii and are said to be these spirits. Clockwise dust devils are good spirits and counterclockwise are bad.
An account of "ghost sickness"
One famous account of the chindi is the account of the Long Salt family. In the August-September 1967 issue of the magazine Frontier Times, John R. Winslowe wrote of his 1925 encounter with Alice Long Salt, a slender teenage girl. In the periodical, she described the reason for the Long Salts' demise. She believed that after two members of the tribe deceived a blind medicine man, he sent a chindi to destroy the Long Salts. Each member of the family was stricken with an incurable illness, and eventually died.
Curiously, anyone marrying into the family met the same fate as a blood Long Salt. Alice's mother died when the girl reached seven and she was attending the Tuba City boarding school at the Indian agency. Alice's father became skin and bones, dying two years later... The remaining three Long Salts [Alice's two uncles and an aunt] were ill, crippled, and helpless. Friends cared for them, watching them fade into nothing before their eyes.
In the winter of 1928, Alice Long Salt was found dead three miles from the trading post on Red Mesa.
- Steiger, Brad. "The Chindi." The Werewolf Book: The Encyclopedia of Shape-Shifting Beings. 1st ed. 1999.
- Wyman, Leland, W. W. Hill, and Iva Osanai. "Navajo Eschatology." American Anthropologist 45(1943): 461-463.
- Furst, Jill Leslie (1997). The Natural History of the Soul in Ancient Mexico. US: Yale Univ. Press. p. 151. ISBN 0-300-07260-0.
- James Burgess Waldram (2004). Revenge of the Windigo: the construction of the mind and mental health of North American Aboriginal peoples. University of Toronto Press. p. 200ff. ISBN 0-8020-8600-4.
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