Bunyip and Bori

If we believe that angels walk among us, then it is only natural to accept that demons are with us as well. Just as we are taught from “Star Wars”, there has to be balance with the force. We cannot have good without evil, we cannot have light without dark.

Demons can be found in almost every culture. They lurk in the forests and the cities, and can even dwell in the human psyche.  They are responsible for bringing to light issues we need to address within ourselves. They also inhabit sacred spaces and warn us to be careful with the land and be conscious of how we live upon it. Carol and Dinah Mack sum up the demon perfectly in their book, “A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits”:

Whether these spirits were spawned from a collective unconscious or by diffusion of stories is unknown. It is clear, however, despite their variations, plot twists, and details, that they illuminate the universality of humankind’s most profound concerns.

With that brief introduction to the demon, I would like to introduce you to two of them.


The Bunyip lives in lagoons among the Aboriginal peoples of Australia. It is said to be about four times larger than a seal and is covered with grey hair or feathers. It has a fang filled mouth and two walrus like tusks, hoofed feet (a common characteristic of demons), and a flat, wide tail. It also makes a distinctive, very loud roar. Often one hears the Bunyip before he sees it.

The lore surrounding the Bunyip is full of stories of people being taken into the lagoon and held captive. Stories also tell of the Bunyip becoming angry and flooding the countryside. Once the Bunyip is angry there is nothing you can do to appease it. Therefore, the Bunyip serves an environmental purpose. It reminds us to not over consume or pollute the waters of the lagoon. The Bunyip also demonstrates the fury of nature and reminds us that at any time nature can retaliate and drastically change our lives and our world.


The Bori is a very common demon found residing with the Hausa people in West Africa.  The Bori are shape shifters, but frequently appear as humans with hoofed feet (This is where my colleague, a Drama professor, came into the office and asked what I was writing. I told him I was writing about demons and he eluded that perhaps he was a demon. I threatened to sprinkle ashes at the office door to see if he left hoof-prints, a sure fire way of identifying demons among us.).  When taking human form, not only do they have hoofed feet, but they also have unfocused eyes and come off as being a bit strange. The Bori can also appear as large serpents, or headless humans.

Really the Bori just want to be wanted, and are called upon for things like building a house, starting a business, or healing the sick. However, be careful if you summon a Bori, as they must be offered things like fowls, incense, songs, and colorful trinkets. Although usually mild natured, if you offend a Bori it will kill you slowly by sucking away your life force. The moral is if you choose to summon a Bori you better have a lot of incense, chickens, songs, and colorful objects around.

The Hausa believe that the Bori are responsible for causing sickness and misfortune. They serve as an answer to unanswerable problems, such as why family members are sick, or why the house burned down in a fire. To placate the Bori, the Hausa perform a wide variety of songs and dances and the Bori are invited to join in the festivities.

I accept that just as angels walk among us, so do demons. When we are presented with various trials in life there is often a demon behind it. Identifying what demon you are dealing with can be helpful in solving your dilemma. Demons don’t have to leave us cowering in fear. Instead they can be seen as messengers letting us know what we can develop in our psyche and reminders of how to treat each other and our planet.


Carol K. Mack and Dinah Mack, A Field Guide to Demons, Fairies, Fallen Angels, and Other Subversive Spirits. Henry Holt and Company, LLC

Bunyip image from the following website:



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