Aboriginal Monsters and Their Meaning

February 29, 2020

A rich inventory of monstrous figures exists throughout Aboriginal Australia. The specific form that their wickedness takes depends to a considerable extent on their location.

In the Australian Central and Western Deserts there are roaming Ogres, Bogeymen and Bogey women, Cannibal Babies, Giant Baby-Guzzlers, Sorcerers, and spinifex and feather-slippered Spirit Beings able to dispatch victims with a single fatal garrote. There are lustful old men who, wishing to satiate their unbridled sexual appetites, relentlessly pursue beautiful nubile young girls through the night sky and on land – and other monstrous beings, too.

Arnhem Land , in Australia’s north, is the abode of malevolent shades and vampire-like Wind and Shooting Star Spirit Beings. There are also murderous, humanoid fish-maidens who live in deep waterholes and rockholes, biding their time to rise up, grab and drown unsuspecting human children or adults who stray close to the water’s edge. Certain sorcerers gleefully dismember their victims limb by limb, and there are other monstrous entities as well, living parallel lives to the human beings residing in the same places.

The existence of such Evil Beings is an unremarkable phenomenon, given that most religious and mythological traditions possess their own demons and supernatural entities. Monstrous beings are allegorical in nature, personifying evil.

In the Christian tradition, we need to look no further than Satan. In the Tanakh, ‘The Adversary’, as a figure in the Hebrew Bible is sometimes described in English translation, fulfils a similar role. Often, akin to many of the Monstrous Beings that inhabit Aboriginal Australia , these evil supernatural entities are tricksters, shape-changers and shape-shifters.

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