21 August 2009

Vampires in Ethiopia

I prefer to write parallel articles for the malaria and revenant blog whenever I can, but in Ethiopia I found a problem. There are certainly blood-drinker legends that circulate in Ethiopia, but few are of "true" vampires. Instead, we have the Bouda, which "is a hard creature to classify because its evil qualities are many and they overlap. For example, it is a living vampire, and a shape-shifter, a bloodsucker, and a flesh-eater" (Maberry 51). They are rumored to live in the "Devil's Cave, somewhere near Nek'emte, in the Welega division of Ethiopia" (Eberhart). They are "unique among the world's theriomorphs" as they take the form of a "were-hyena". Originally from Morocco, this creature is "also found in Tanzania". It "is a living vampire--a bloodsucker that has the nature while still alive, as opposed to one who becomes a monstrous predator after rising from the grave. The Bouda is also a deliberate theriomorph and uses sorcery to transform itself." "Most Boudas are blacksmiths by trade, and they labor in their forges to make amulets and charms of enchanted metals that will enhance their own inherent preternatural strengths" (Maberry 51).

"Without the charm two things happen: first, the Bouda is unable to regain human form, and second it eventually becomes a true hyena, losing all of the human cunning it...possesses even when in animal form". "Though fierce, the Bouda does not possess supernatural strength and has no powers of invulnerability, and can therefore be killed by any ordinary means either in human or animal shape" (Maberry 51).

With the legends of Bouda, we find the myths of an Ethiopian vampire bat that is "said to feed on the blood of animals and humans, causing puncture wounds and debilitating sickness" (Eberhart). The myths of Bouda and mysterious vampire bats intrigued Byron de Prorok, who in the 1930s "explored a cave said by the locals to be haunted by hyena-men and a death bird. The hyenas proved real enough, and so did the death birds, in the form of a huge swarm of bats." In truth, "the only known sanguinivorous bats are found in Mexico, Central, and South America," yet Prorok referenced illness in relation to them and the cave he explored (Eberhart). Eberhart speculates that "infected bites from parasites carried by the bats might be mistaken for bat bites" themselves.

As any reader of my blog knows, parasites can cause particularly debilitating illnesses. Ethiopia has not yet escaped the blight of parasites and is still contending with the assault of malaria.

Dehna hunu,

Byron Khun de Prorok, Dead Men do tell tales.
Eberhart, George. Mysterious creatures: a guide to cryptozoology.
Maberry, Jonathan. Vampire Universe: The Dark World of Supernatural Beings...
Wikipedia. Spotted Hyena [Photo].

1 comment:

  1. a most intriguing article. i have heard of the devil birds, but not of the hyena men. thank you once more for a very informative artical