Thursday, May 30, 2013

Cherokee Witches: Kâ'lanû Ahkyeli'skï

"Of all the Cherokee wizards or witches the most dreaded is the Raven Mocker (Kâ'lanû Ahkyeli'skï), the one that robs the dying man of life. They are of either sex and there is no sure way to know one, though they usually look withered and old, because they have added so many lives to their own.
He flies through the air in fiery shape

"At night, when someone is sick or dying in the settlement, the Raven Mocker goes to the place to take the life. He flies through the air in fiery shape, with arms outstretched like wings, and sparks trailing behind, and a rushing sound like the noise of a strong wind. Every little while as he flies he makes a cry like the cry of a raven when it "dives" in the air--not like the common raven cry--and those who hear are afraid, because they know that some man's life will soon go out. When the Raven Mocker comes to the house he finds others of his kind waiting there, and unless there is a doctor on guard who knows how to drive them away they go inside, all invisible, and frighten and torment the sick
man until they kill him. Sometimes to do this they even lift him from the bed and throw him on the floor, but his friends who are with him think he is only struggling for breath.

"After the witches kill him they take out his heart and eat it, and so add to their own lives as many days or years as they have taken from his. No one in the room can see them, and there is no sear where they take out the heart, but yet there is no heart left in the body.  ...
"The following is told on the reservation as an actual happening:

"A young man had been out on a hunting trip and was on his way home when night came on while he was still a long distance from the settlement. He knew of a house not far off the trail where an old man and his wife lived, so he turned in that direction to look for a place to sleep until morning. When he got to the house there was nobody in it. He looked into the âsï and found no one there either. He thought maybe they had gone after water, and so stretched himself out in the farther corner to sleep. Very soon he heard a raven cry outside, and in a little while afterwards the old man came into the âsï and sat down by the fire without noticing the young man, who kept still in the dark corner. Soon there was another raven cry outside, and the old man said to himself, "Now my wife is coming," and sure enough in a little while the old woman came in and sat down by her husband. Then the young man knew they were Raven Mockers and he was frightened and kept very quiet.

Typical Cherokee house
"Said the old man to his wife, "Well, what luck did you have?" "None," said the old woman, "there were too many doctors watching. What luck did you have?" "I got what I went for," said the old man, "there is no reason to fail, but you never have luck. Take this and cook it and lees have something to eat." She fixed the fire and then the young man smelled meat roasting and thought it smelled sweeter than any meat he had ever tasted. He peeped out from one eye, and it looked like a man's heart roasting on a stick.

"Suddenly the old woman said to her husband, "Who is over in the corner?" "Nobody," said the old man. "Yes, there is," said the old woman, "I hear him snoring," and she stirred the fire until it blazed and lighted up the whole place, and there was the young man lying in the corner. He kept quiet and pretended to be asleep. The old man made a noise at the fire to wake him, but still he pretended to sleep. Then the old man came over and shook him, and he sat up and rubbed his eyes as if he had been asleep all the time.

"Now it was near daylight and the old woman was out in the other house getting breakfast ready, but the hunter could hear her crying to herself. "Why is your wife crying?" he asked the old man. "Oh, she has lost some of her friends lately and feels lonesome," said her husband; but the young man knew that she was crying because he had heard them talking.

"When they came out to breakfast the old man put a bowl of corn mush before him and said, "This is all we have--we have had no meat for a long time." After breakfast the young man started on again, but when he had gone a little way the old man ran after him with a fine piece of beadwork and gave it to him, saying, "Take this, and don't tell anybody what you heard last, night, because my wife and I are always quarreling that way." The young man took the piece, but when he came to the first creek he threw it into the water and then went on to the settlement. There he told the whole story, and a party of warriors started back with him to kill the Raven Mockers. When they reached the place it was seven days after the first night. They found the old man and his wife lying dead in the house, so they set fire to it and burned it and the witches together."

From James Mooney, Nineteenth Annual Report of the Bureau of American Ethnology 1897-98, Part I. [1900]:
Next week we will take a look at how the Cherokee medicine men dealt with the Raven Mockers.


  1. Some believe these are just tall tales are myths but I am sure that I know a Raven Mocker that lives near me and she is always knowing those that die soon and is always around them when they die

  2. Very interesting, Goslow. When the elders and medicine men shared the story of the Raven Mocker with James Mooney in 1800's, they believed that the witch existed and even related a recent event of contact with a couple of Raven Mockers by a local boy. Thanks for your comment.

  3. hey as a cherokee native these things are real well most of them boogers are what we call them or ski-li they can be balls of fire in the sky or big owls

  4. Growing up in Western NC my entire life I have befriended many Native peoples. I have also worked with the Great Smoky Mountains NP in their combined effort with The Cherokee Nation to document burial sites in the Qualla Boundary that dated up to 9,000 years old or at least that was concensus at the time. I am fortunate to have been chosen for this and it was around 20 years ago. I have been told by several Cherokee friends about their encounters with shape shifting witches which they all called Booger or even skinwalker which I know is used by other Natives too. Usually an elderly person who you would want to help then they trick you and turn to a wolf or other creature and attack trying to take your life and suck your spirit. These people were all credible and lived the experiences they related to me without doubt. Many of them had elders with them at the time who were important Tribal leaders.

  5. Thank you for sharing your experiences and for helping document burial sites.

  6. Very welcome. I also had experienced personally a huge variety of paranormal activities living here including seeing what the Cherokee refer to as the Smart People of the Forest. Instead of my story thought I refer to 4 young Cherokee men I went to school with and were friends. They all told me of a camping trip the 4 just took to Bear Lake that was undeveloped at the time. The guys had been fishing all day on the lake in canoes. They got to shore and started walking down a trail to their camp about 1 mile away. One of them a very large guy named Johnny realized he forgot something at the canoe and told the guys to keep walking he would go back himself and catch up. He went to his canoe and was bent over getting something out and said he say about 60 feet away bent over drinking water from its hand was what people call Bigfoot. He froze in fear as they connected eyes and it stood which this 300lb man claimed was massive. He took off running back down the trail. When he got to camp the others were already there and they saw him running looking like the color drained from his body. They asked him what he saw and he told them. They were all too scared to go back. So the following weekend at their Pow Wow. They asked an Elder who was very much like a Grandfather to them about what they saw. He calmly smiled and told them they saw one of the Smart People of the Forest. Next time do not be scared because we have always lived with them. That they also understand our language. If you get their attention again ask them a question about anything in the Forest and they will answer with great knowledge. I have as mentioned also seen such a creature close up just on the edge of Asheville a few years ago. As a former Wilderness Park Ranger I have encountered every other animal claimed to be here including Mountain Lions several times throughout WNC. So I can with absolute certainty say that what I saw was no other creature or even remotely resembled anything else in these Forests known. It did however fit exactly the description of the Natives told to me and what others call Bigfoot. I hope this is helpful.