settler accountability

The Bunyip - Australian Cryptid (wikipedia)

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The bunyip, or kianpraty, is a large mythical creature from Aboriginal mythology, said to lurk in swamps, billabongs, creeks, riverbeds, and waterholes. The origin of the word bunyip has been traced to the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Aboriginal people of South-Eastern Australia. However, the bunyip appears to have formed part of traditional Aboriginal beliefs and stories throughout Australia, although its name varied according to tribal nomenclature. In his 2001 book, writer Robert Holden identified at least nine regional variations for the creature known as the bunyip across Aboriginal Australia.  Various written accounts of bunyips were made by Europeans in the early and mid-19th century, as settlement spread across the country.


The word bunyip is usually translated by Aboriginal Australians today as “devil” or “evil spirit”. However, this translation may not accurately represent the role of the bunyip in Aboriginal mythology or its possible origins before written accounts were made. Some modern sources allude to a linguistic connection between the bunyip and Bunjil, “a mythic ‘Great Man’ who made the mountains and rivers and man and all the animals.” The word bunyip may not have appeared in print in English until the mid-1840s.

By the 1850s, bunyip had also become a “synonym for impostor, pretender, humbug and the like” in the broader Australian community. The term bunyip aristocracy was first coined in 1853 to describe Australians aspiring to be aristocrats. In the early 1990s, it was famously used by Prime Minister Paul Keating to describe members of the conservative Liberal Party of Australia opposition.

The word bunyip can still be found in a number of Australian contexts, including place names such as the Bunyip River (which flows into Westernport Bay in southern Victoria) and the town of Bunyip, Victoria.


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Bunyip (1935), artist unknown, from the National Library of Australia digital collections, demonstrates the variety in descriptions of the legendary creature.

Descriptions of bunyips vary widely. George French Angus may have collected a description of a bunyip in his account of a “water spirit” from the Moorundi people of the Murray River before 1847, stating it is “much dreaded by them… It inhabits the Murray; but…they have some difficulty describing it. Its most usual form…is said to be that of an enormous starfish.” Robert Brough Smyth’s Aborigines of Victoria of 1878 devoted ten pages to the bunyip, but concluded “in truth little is known among the blacks respecting its form, covering or habits; they appear to have been in such dread of it as to have been unable to take note of its characteristics.”[13] However, common features in many 19th-century newspaper accounts include a dog-like face, dark fur, a horse-like tail, flippers, and walrus-like tusks or horns or a duck-like bill.

The Challicum bunyip, an outline image of a bunyip carved by Aborigines into the bank of Fiery Creek, near Ararat, Victoria, was first recorded by The Australasian newspaper in 1851. According to the report, the bunyip had been speared after killing an Aboriginal man. Antiquarian Reynell Johns claimed that until the mid-1850s, Aboriginal people made a “habit of visiting the place annually and retracing the outlines of the figure [of the bunyip] which is about 11 paces long and 4 paces in extreme breadth.” The outline image no longer exists.

Debate over origins of the bunyip

Non-Aboriginal Australians have made various attempts to understand and explain the origins of the bunyip as a physical entity over the past 150 years.

Writing in 1933, Charles Fenner suggested that it was likely that the “actual origin of the bunyip myth lies in the fact that from time to time seals have made their way up the … Murray and Darling (Rivers)”. He provided examples of seals found as far inland as Overland Corner, Loxton, and Conargo and reminded readers that “the smooth fur, prominent 'apricot’ eyes and the bellowing cry are characteristic of the seal.”

Another suggestion is that the bunyip may be a cultural memory of extinct Australian marsupials such as the Diprotodon, Zygomaturus, Nototherium or Palorchestes. This connection was first formally made by Dr George Bennett of the Australian Museum in 1871, but in the early 1990s, palaeontologist Pat Vickers-Rich and geologist Neil Archbold also cautiously suggested that Aboriginal legends “perhaps had stemmed from an acquaintance with prehistoric bones or even living prehistoric animals themselves … When confronted with the remains of some of the now extinct Australian marsupials, Aborigines would often identify them as the bunyip.” They also note that “legends about the mihirung paringmal of western Victorian Aborigines …may allude to the …extinct giant birds the Dromornithidae.”

Another connection to the bunyip is the shy Australasian bittern (Botaurus poiciloptilus). During the breeding season, the male call of this marsh-dwelling bird is a “low pitched boom”; hence, it is occasionally called the “bunyip bird”.

Early accounts of settlers

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An 1882 illustration of an Aboriginal man telling the story of the bunyip to two white children

During the early settlement of Australia by Europeans, the notion that the bunyip was an actual unknown animal that awaited discovery became common. Early European settlers, unfamiliar with the sights and sounds of the island continent’s peculiar fauna, regarded the bunyip as one more strange Australian animal and sometimes attributed unfamiliar animal calls or cries to it. It has also been suggested that 19th-century bunyip lore was reinforced by imported European memories, such as that of the Irish Púca.

A large number of bunyip sightings occurred during the 1840s and 1850s, particularly in the southeastern colonies of Victoria, New South Wales and South Australia, as European settlers extended their reach. The following is not an exhaustive list of accounts:

Hume find of 1818

One of the earliest accounts relating to a large unknown freshwater animal was in 1818, when Hamilton Hume and James Meehan found some large bones at Lake Bathurst in New South Wales. They did not call the animal a bunyip, but described the remains indicating the creature as very much like a hippopotamus or manatee. The Philosophical Society of Australasia later offered to reimburse Hume for any costs incurred in recovering a specimen of the unknown animal, but for various reasons, Hume did not return to the lake. It might be noted that Diprotodon skeletons have sometimes been compared to the hippopotamus; they are a land animal, but have sometimes been found in a lake or water course.

Wellington Caves fossils, 1830

More significant was the discovery of fossilised bones of “some quadruped much larger than the ox or buffalo” in the Wellington Caves in mid-1830 by bushman George Rankin and later by Thomas Mitchell. Sydney’s Reverend John Dunmore Lang announced the find as “convincing proof of the deluge”. However, it was British anatomist Sir Richard Owen who identified the fossils as the gigantic marsupials Nototherium and Diprotodon. At the same time, some settlers observed “all natives throughout these… districts have a tradition (of) a very large animal having at one time existed in the large creeks and rivers and by many it is said that such animals now exist.”

First written use of the word bunyip, 1845

In July 1845, The Geelong Advertiser announced the discovery of fossils found near Geelong, under the headline “Wonderful Discovery of a new Animal”. This was a continuation of a story on 'fossil remains’ from the previous issue. The newspaper continued, “On the bone being shown to an intelligent black (sic), he at once recognised it as belonging to the bunyip, which he declared he had seen. On being requested to make a drawing of it, he did so without hesitation.” The account noted a story of an Aboriginal woman being killed by a bunyip and the “most direct evidence of all” – that of a man named Mumbowran “who showed several deep wounds on his breast made by the claws of the animal”. The account provided this description of the creature:

“The Bunyip, then, is represented as uniting the characteristics of a bird and of an alligator. It has a head resembling an emu, with a long bill, at the extremity of which is a transverse projection on each side, with serrated edges like the bone of the stingray. Its body and legs partake of the nature of the alligator. The hind legs are remarkably thick and strong, and the fore legs are much longer, but still of great strength. The extremities are furnished with long claws, but the blacks say its usual method of killing its prey is by hugging it to death. When in the water it swims like a frog, and when on shore it walks on its hind legs with its head erect, in which position it measures twelve or thirteen feet in height.”

Shortly after this account appeared, it was repeated in other Australian newspapers. However, it appears to be the first use of the word bunyip in a written publication.

The Australian Museum’s bunyip of 1847

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The so-called bunyip skull

In January 1846, a peculiar skull was taken from the banks of Murrumbidgee River near Balranald, New South Wales. Initial reports suggested that it was the skull of something unknown to science. The squatter who found it remarked, “all the natives to whom it was shown called [it] a bunyip”. By July 1847, several experts, including W.S. Macleay and Professor Owen, had identified the skull as the deformed foetal skull of a foal or calf. At the same time, however, the so-called bunyip skull was put on display in the Australian Museum (Sydney) for two days. Visitors flocked to see it, and The Sydney Morning Herald said that it prompted many people to speak out about their “bunyip sightings”. Reports of this discovery used the phrase 'Kine Pratie’ as well as Bunyip and explorer William Hovell, who examined the skull, also called it a 'katen-pai’.

In March of that year 'a bunyip or an immense Platibus’ (Platypus) was sighted 'sunning himself on the placid bosom of the Yarra, just opposite the Custom House’ in Melbourne. 'Immeadiately a crowd gathered’ and three men set off by boat 'to secure the stranger’ who 'disappeared’ when they were 'about a yard from him’.

William Buckley’s account of bunyips, 1852

Another early written account is attributed to escaped convict William Buckley in his 1852 biography of thirty years living with the Wathaurong people. His 1852 account records “in… Lake Moodewarri [now Lake Modewarre] as well as in most of the others inland…is a…very extraordinary amphibious animal, which the natives call Bunyip.” Buckley’s account suggests he saw such a creature on several occasions. He adds, “I could never see any part, except the back, which appeared to be covered with feathers of a dusky grey colour. It seemed to be about the size of a full grown calf… I could never learn from any of the natives that they had seen either the head or tail.” Buckley also claimed the creature was common in the Barwon River and cites an example he heard of an Aboriginal woman being killed by one. He emphasized the bunyip was believed to have supernatural powers.


Oh the Bunyip’s very bad
And the Bunyip’s very bold
And they tell you that the Bunyip’s
Now a thousand years old.

So you better come home quickly
And you better hide very soon
Or the Bunyip’s going to get you
In the Bunyip moon

The Bunyip’s not the animal
The Bunyip’s far too bird
The Bunyip makes the strangest sounds
That you’ve never even heard

So you better come home quickly
And you better hide very soon
Or the Bunyip’s going to get you
In the Bunyip moon  

The Bunyip’s always nasty
And the Bunyip’s very mean
It’s the most unpleasant monster
That you’ve never even seen

So you better come home quickly
And you better hide very soon
Or the Bunyip’s going to get you
In the Bunyip moon

In the moon
In the moon
In the moon

-The bunyip lyrics from Dot and the Kangaroo

Green Witchcraft: Walking the Green Path IV

No matter what her/his access to nature, the green witch works closely with the earth. You can live on the forty-seventh floor of a high-rise apartment building and still have a meaningful relationship with the earth.

   Among the green witch’s common allies are earth spirits. Earth spirits can be valuable partners and aides in your practices. An earth spirit is an intelligence or awareness (presence) attached to a particular place, a plant or tree, a natural object such as rock or stream, or a specific type of weather. These intelligence are sometimes called devas, sometimes faeries. Often we simply refer to them as “earth spirits” , “spirit of”, or “force of” something. It is important to understand that these spirits are not deities.

  Do all green witches recognize or work with earth spirits? No. Some green witches are comfortable with talking about faeries or devas, whereas other roll their eyes and down to hoeing the garden. Most do recognize that nature has an intelligence, or a sense of spirit, that varies according to the location. Not all of us give a name or classification to that sense of spirit. 

   How each green witch works with these spirits or forces depends on how she perceives them. Most green witches will agree that connecting with the various forces and energies of nature is key aspect of their practice, but it’s likely that no two green witches will be able to agree on how to do it, or even what forces they connect to. This shows how highly individualized the green practice is. One thing that most green witches would agree on is that they strive to work in harmony with these force of natures.

   How you visualize these spirits is completely up to you. You may see them as tiny people or orbs of light (for me plant spirit appear in my mine’s eyes as a mix of their physical plant self but have human-like features, for example. Comfrey appears to me as a little old woman, the blue-purple flowers of the plant are her bonnet and the leaves are arms). You may not see them at all, nut instead experience emotions or sensations when you are near the tree, flower, standing stone (I get this when I’m out in nature) or phenomenon with which the spirit is associated. Whether your visualizations matches other visualization is unimportant. What is important is that if you choose to work with them, you must honour the spirit as allies in your green witch to attune to the natural world and to re-balance and harmonize life.

    You can encounter nature spirits in many places and through a variety of methods. The simplest method is to reach out and connect with the spirit of a single plant, then ask the plant spirit for information on the plant’s uses and properties. In his book Plant Spirit Medicine, Eliot Cowan stresses that the energy possessed by each individual plant is entirely personal. The information and/of gift the spirit of that plant offers you is exactly what you need at that moment. This gift is not necessarily energy that is traditionally associated with the plant. For example, if you project your awareness to a rose bush, the energy you receive in return will not necessarily be love. The spirit of the rose bush may perceive that you require something difference and offer it to you. The key to working with nature spirits like this is to be open to what they have to offer you without expectations or preconceived ideas. Referring to a list of correspondences associated with particular plants is useful for getting a general idea of how to use the plant’s energy, but it is much more useful to communicate directly with the spirit of the plant to acquire your own understanding or interpretations of the energy and how it may be applied. The green witch never assumes she/he knows something, or presumes that he/she is correct, or takes something at face value. It is important to seek out your own experience and build your own opinions as you deepen your understanding of an elements, a process, or a situation. Although the green witch uses herbs for their medical qualities, the magical qualities of the natural world are also very much their friends. If you look  at the uses traditionally associated with various herbs throughout the ages, the medicinal benefits often parallel the magical uses. this is because, while a herb has a certain chemical makeup that determines its effect when applied to the physical body, it also possesses a unique energy that affects the emotions, spirit, and energy of a person.

(My thoughts on plant correspondences: As mentioned above, a list of plant correspondence can be useful in getting a general idea of a plant, but it is worth noting that these correspondence tend to come from observations of the physical attributes, planet associations & medicinal uses of a plant rather then it’s actual spirit itself, so it well worth reaching out & learning from the plant spirit itself)

In green witchcraft, one of the most important practices is constantly re-establishing your understanding of nature as it is now around you, nature in your personal surroundings, Maintaining contact with your physical environment is crucial to maintaining a meaningful individual practice. If you lose touch with your environment, you lose the one thing that connects you to your natural surroundings.

   Green witchcraft is always about the now, about the current state of your environment. Being aware of your environment means knowing the energies moving through it, the energies it produces, its health and rate if vibration. It is also being aware of your own energy and mental or emotional state fit into your surroundings. If you’re not aware of the current state of your environment, then how can you evaluate what sort of work is required of you? You may think you know your environment, but you might be surprised when you stop to create a new relationship with it. One of the basic foundations of living the green witch path is forging a connection with nature and natural forces. It is imperative that you forge a connection with what is actually there, and not what you assume to be there.

  As a green witch, you constantly reassess your connection to the environment around you, to individual energies and objects within that environment, and also the plant itself. Browsing through books about gods and goddess with help you understand the allegories cultures have developed to explore and explain mankind’s relationship with the planet and a culture’s natural surroundings. It may be especially helpful to look at the earth-related deities of the cultural groups who are native to your geographical location. Understanding how earlier people perceived their relationship to the earth and their surroundings can help inform your own understanding of how the area has evolved or remained constant.Research the history of your town, you’ll be amazed at what you discover, read accounts of settlers and how they related to the land to discover how they used the bounty of nature in their everyday lives.

Complacency has no place in the life of a green witch; you must be open and aware at all times in order to be as in tune with nature as possible. If you live in an urban setting, the the city’s energy is the energy to which you must open yourself in order to be in tune with your neighbourhood, and your environment. It is crucial to interact with your natural environment as it actually is, not the nature you imagine or idealize. The environment you knew yesterday or last month is no longer the environment that surrounds you, energy id in a constant state of change. Thus, the green witch must also be aware, and always adjusting her/his knowledge.

   Although the green witch uses herbs for their medical qualities, the magical qualities of the natural world are also very much their friends. If you look  at the uses traditionally associated with various herbs throughout the ages, the medicinal benefits often parallel the magical uses. this is because, while a herb has a certain chemical makeup that determines its effect when applied to the physical body, it also possesses a unique energy that affects the emotions, spirit, and energy of a person.

(Source & inspiration The Path of the Green Witch)


The Wendigo (also known as Manaha) is a demonic half-beast creature appearing in the legends of the Algonquian peoples along the Atlantic Coast and Great Lakes Region of both the United States and Canada. The creature or spirit could either possess characteristics of a human or a monster that had physically transformed from a person. It is particularly associated with cannibalism.


  • The Algonquian believed those who indulged in eating human flesh were at particular risk, because then they would transform into a Wendigo, or alternatively, become possessed by by the demonic spirit of a Wendigo.
  • Once transformed, a person would become violent and obsessed with eating human flesh.
  • The most frequent cause of transformation into a Wendigo was if a person had resorted to cannibalism, consuming the body of another human in order to keep from starving to death during a time of extreme hardship, for example in hard winters, or famine.
  • Among northern Algonquian cultures, cannibalism, even to save one’s own life, was viewed as a serious taboo, the proper response to famine was suicide or resignation to death.
  • The Wendigo was gaunt to the point of emaciation, its desiccated skin pulled tautly over its bones. With its bones pushing out against its skin, its complexion the ash gray of death, and its eyes pushed back deep into their sockets, the Wendigo looked like a gaunt skeleton recently disinterred from the grave. What lips it had were tattered and bloody [….] Unclean and suffering from suppurations of the flesh, the Wendigo gave off a strange and eerie odor of decay and decomposition, of death and corruption.

Early European settlers dismissed accounts of the creature as simple Native folklore until the 17th century when missionaries and explorers began to report encounters with the strange devil-like monster.

In many cases, witnesses reported physical changes - bodies swelling and growing, lips and mouths enlarging. Some of the victims spoke of icy cold in their chests and an inability to warm up.