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In some versions of Navajo traditional beliefs, when people die, their ghosts, which are understood as their essence or spirit, can linger in the place of dying and possible cause harm to the living. The Navajo word for a ghost is “chindi," and chindi is associated with ghost sickness, a malaise that can manifest through a variety of physical, mental, or emotional symptoms. There are very specific precautions used to prevent ghost sickness, such as avoiding all contact with the deceased person's belongings, destroying the person's possessions whenever possible, and removing footprints from around the site of the grave. Additionally, if a Navajo were to die inside his/her dwelling place, their ghost is thought to be released into the room, where it can remain for a long time. If this happens, then the hogan would have to be permanently vacated in order to avoid potentially infecting any Navajo who entered it. In such cases, the dead person would either be left in the hogan or brought out of the structure through a hole made in the northern wall. After the deceased has been removed from the hogan, the house is never to be inhabited again in hopes that the ghost will eventually leave through the same hole that was made in the north-facing wall.

In the Navajo belief system, ghosts are generally not perceived as malevolent, but as a natural phenomenon that is part of the transformation entailed in the dying process. Right before death ghosts are often described as dark shadows, and after death they may reappear on earth in the form of an animal, whirlwind, or certain unusual sounds and movements. Ghosts tend to become malignant forces when the corpse is not handled properly in the prescribed manner set by traditional customs.

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