Every country has rare and unusual animals, tales of mythical beasts and rumors of cryptids, and a Venn diagram of the three groups always has a few overlaps. Depok, a city in the West Kava province of Indonesia on the western part of the island of Java, landed right smack in the middle of Indonesia’s weird creature Venn diagram with a report this week of a babi ngepet terrorizing a village in Depok. A what?
“In Indonesian lore, a babi ngepet is a person who uses a black magic-infused cloak to transform into a wild boar. In boar form, they would sneak into people’s homes and rub their bodies on the walls and furniture, which would magically draw the household’s money and valuables. When the babi ngepet shifts back to human form, the stolen fortune is contained in the cloak.”
Coconuts Jakarta gave that excellent description of the shapeshifting boar demon known as the babi ngepet which made Indonesian national news when police were called in to investigate the corpse of an alleged babi ngepet that was killed and dismembered after residents of Bedahan reportedly tried everything else to stop the black-magician-turned-boar from breaking into their homes and stealing their fortunes. The recommended method for capturing a babi ngepet is to get naked – that’s the only way to see the otherwise invisible creature – so 12 men from the village stripped down, saw it, caught it and locked it in a cage. Then it was interrogated by the villagers who claimed to have been robbed by the babi ngepet.
“While the villagers initially wanted their fortune back, they said they saw the beast gradually shrinking. So they decided to kill it before it could vanish.”
That’s why the police arrived to find a dead, beheaded and dismembered creature that looked like a boar to them. They also found that the villagers blamed a self-proclaimed local clairvoyant named Bu Wati for starting the whole thing by spreading the rumor that her neighbor was a shapeshifting boar demon thief because his family was well-off despite having no apparent job.
Money and wealth are key elements in the legend of the babi ngepet. According to Indonesian mythology, they are the result of a person practicing pesugihan babi black magic – ‘pesugihan’ comes from the word ‘sugih’ which means ‘rich’. The magic is said to bring instant wealth in exchange for being possessed by a boar demon that shapeshifts the person into a boar and forces it to break into homes and steal valuables. It’s a convenient way to explain mysterious disappearances of money and that’s why the babi ngepet often appears during bad economic times … like today.
“What else do I want to do , I have followed the residents there, I left Kampung Baru. After the RWs arrived at his place at 3 (in the afternoon). Well, at night I left."
Bu Wati told Detik News that after she confessed to the rumor, she agreed to the demands of the villagers and left town. However, she apparently didn’t act alone – the dead boar (you remember the dead boar caught by 12 naked men, don’t you?) was publicized by Ustaz Adam Ibrahim to be a babi ngepet as a way to bring attention to barbaric practices by local wild boar hunters. That didn’t work out too well for Ibrahim, who was chastised by the police for causing a huge crowd to gather while the area is still fighting the coronavirus.
That wasn’t the end of it.
“Yet the story still broke nationwide to the point that the Indonesian Institute of Sciences (LIPI) had to come forward and say that there is no such thing as a babi ngepet.”
Do you think that will change the minds of those who believe in the shapeshifting boar demon known as the babi ngepet?
For me, “You’re a shapeshifting boar demon” has become my new favorite insult.