Ghost bead necklaces created by the Navajos represent the connection between humans and nature. Ghost beads are actually dried juniper berries. The dried berries are strung together with beads to create ghost necklaces that are believed to bring peace and protection to the wearer.
Ghost bead necklaces are also believed to ward off evil spirits and negative energy, as well as protect the wearer from nightmares. Juniper berries are a common food staple of the Navajos and are also used as a natural remedy to treat illnesses such as diabetes. The early Navajos held a strong belief in the spirit world and practiced many rituals to ward off negative energy. In addition to wearing juniper berry necklaces, the Navajos also smeared juniper ashes on their skin prior to venturing out in the dark.
Another common belief surrounding ghost beads is that the beads kept the spirits happy when the Navajos entered the ruins. Early Navajos also believed if an individual shook out their beds sheets at night, they would attract ghosts or evil spirits. Sprinkling juniper ashes around the bed was thought to provide extra protection. The early Navajos also had a strong superstition regarding witches and believed that shaking hands with a stranger would lead to a witch's curse.