Feb 21, 2019 I Paul Seaburn

Mythical Aboriginal Bunyip Paintings Found and a Possible Recent Sighting

While it holds a predominant place in Australian Aboriginal mythology as well as in tales by European settlers, the cryptid known as the bunyip has been rarely seen. That makes the news of both the discovery of Aboriginal cave paintings of bunyips as well as a possible video of one a two-fer for their fans. If you’re not one yet, you may become one after hearing one of the origin stories, and if you believe the video, you may want to avoid rivers and billabongs for a while.

The word bunyip comes from the Wemba-Wemba or Wergaia language of Aboriginal people of Victoria, but tales of similar creatures are found throughout Aboriginal folklore. Most say it’s a water spirit, usually evil, with a wide variety of characteristics, including a dog-like face, a crocodile-like head, dark fur, a horse-like tail, flippers, and walrus-like tusks or horns, or a duck-like bill – many of these coming from unidentified fossils attributed to the bunyip.. The National Library of Australia has a famous drawing by an unknown artist illustrating the strange combination of features. Since the sightings are always in water, there’s some speculation the creature is based on a seal, a prehistoric ancestor to the platypus or even an aquatic prehistoric marsupial.

Bunyip by C D  Richardson 570x777
Bunyip by C.D. Richardson

The Aboriginal people have their own ideas, which brings us to the cave paintings. They were rediscovered in 2016 during an expansion of the Grampians Peaks Trail in a shallow cave atop a cliff in the Mt. Difficult Range in Grampians National Park Victoria. Four red-ochre bunyips, well-worn but still identifiable possibly tens of thousands of years after they were drawn on the sandstone wall, have been kept secret until now for their protection – in fact, the exact location of the caves has not been revealed to anyone but traditional owners, park rangers and archaeologists. (See the photos here.)

The traditional owners tell an interesting tale of the bunyip. Bunjil, the creator spirit, lived on a cliff in the Mt. Difficult Range. One day he jumped from it safely with his wife and two children in his arms. However, when his mother-in-law jumped, he couldn’t catch and she broke into pieces. Still alive, she crawled to a waterhole where a bunyip attacked her. She offered her clumsy son-in-law instead and the bunyip killed Bunjil.

I told you some people would become fans of the bunyip after hearing this story!

Bunyip 1890
The Bunyip

That brings us to the recent video. (See it here.) There is very little information on it, other than it was allegedly shot in the western Australia outback, far from Victoria, and the barely visible creature swimming in the water allegedly ate a horse. The explanation refers to it as possibly a rainbow serpent, which is sometimes used to describe a bunyip but with more benevolent characteristics – it came with the great mother from the sea, brings the wet seasons and deposits spirit-children in pools where women swim to impregnate them. Sounds better than eating a horse, doesn’t it? The word “bunyip” has entered common usage as a synonym for “imposter” or “pretender” and that also seems to fit this video.

The cave paintings of the bunyip are truly an historic find and will add to the heritage of Mt. Difficult and the Grampians National Park. Of course, all of that changes if a better video of a surfacing bunyip surfaces.

Paul Seaburn

Paul Seaburn is the editor at Mysterious Universe and its most prolific writer. He’s written for TV shows such as "The Tonight Show", "Politically Incorrect" and an award-winning children’s program. He's been published in “The New York Times" and "Huffington Post” and has co-authored numerous collections of trivia, puzzles and humor. His “What in the World!” podcast is a fun look at the latest weird and paranormal news, strange sports stories and odd trivia. Paul likes to add a bit of humor to each MU post he crafts. After all, the mysterious doesn't always have to be serious.

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