Navajo Ghost Sickness

This article pays close attention to certain superstitious beliefs and actions of the Navajo tribe of Native Americans. According to Navajo folklore, the Anasazi are a group of prehistoric people who existed before the Navajo did. This tribe of individuals was killed off by the wind spirits due to trespasses committed against nature, what specifically defines a blasphemy against nature is not clearly defined. Some groups of the Navajo believe that the Anasazi ruins are still inhabited by their malevolent spirits and others view these spirits as their ancestors. The common shared theme is that these grounds are inhabited by long perished souls and the grounds are sacred. The Navajo believe that disturbance of the Anasazi grounds will antagonize the resting spirits here resulting in dire consequences. As a fundamental belief in Navajo culture, one should not disturb the dead, meaning treading on burial grounds or even viewing exposed prehistoric bones. Disturbance of the dead or exposure to them may leave an individual vulnerable to a condition termed “Ghost Sickness”. Ghost sickness is a Navajo sickness that is characterized biologically by unexplained nonspecific physical illnesses as well as sudden misfortunes after unearthing any artifacts related to the dead or disturbing grounds which may be inhabited by spirits. The Navajo people believe that Ghost Sickness is caused by a malevolent spirit inflicting retribution as penance for the disturbance of its grounds or artifacts. A Navajo concern which relates to modern-day archaeologists excavating these Anasazi lands is that if the perpetrator somehow escapes the spirits punishments then the bad luck will stick around with the inhabiting Navajo people, causing Ghost sickness in them. Navajo individuals take this sickness very seriously and completely avoid disturbing the dead, however some archaeologists insist upon proceeding with their excavations, often hiring Navajo religious figures to perform rituals protective against Ghost Sickness.

The only treatment of this illness discussed pertains to the folk sector, rituals performed by Navajo religious figures. The main strategy discussed for this illness was prevention by avoiding disturbing the dead. In the professional sector, it is debatable whether or not this is a real illness or if it is a psychological phenomenon.

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