Dreams have been every child’s own world. I have yet to come across a child, who hasn’t dreamt about something and is simply too eager to talk about it. As a child, I was no different; rather the recollection of my dreams were so vivid, that many a times my mother thought I was weaving yarns! But childhood sleep was not just about dreams and fantasies, there were nightmares too. While I didn’t wake up with a jolt as we see them in the movies, I did wake up a lot disturbed. Tried many means of avoiding them, some worked, if there were none that night, while many didn’t. If only I had known about Baku, way back then.
Baku, also known as the dream-eater, is a mythological creature from the Chinese and Japanese folklore which eats up nightmares! It has an interesting description, more like a chimera (a Greek hybrid mythological creature), a beast made out of different parts of animals. Baku has been depicted as an animal which has body of a bear, the nose and tusks of an elephant, feet like a tiger, tail of an ox and the eyes of a rhinoceros. It is said that Baku was created with the left-over pieces of animals after God had finished creating the other animals.
|Baku (Pic courtesy - www.hyakumonogatari.com)|
Baku has undergone change over time. Ancient Chinese legends spoke about hunting Baku’s and hanging their skins on the walls of the bedroom to avoid nightmares. But now, hanging pictures of Baku on the wall was good enough to ward off the nightmares. When a Chinese or a Japanese child wakes up in the middle of the night due to a nightmare, the child says “Baku, come and eat my dream” three times and goes back to sleep. Baku is then supposed to eat the nightmares and relieve the child of the trauma. However, one should be cautious enough of the severity of the nightmare before calling. If the nightmare is not very severe, then the Baku is not left with much to eat. Under such circumstances, it might end up feeding on to the dreams, hopes and desires of the child, which could be counter-productive. Thus it is important to understand when to call Baku. It acts as a deterrent to nightmares if summoned before falling asleep and thus it is quite common to find, Baku talisman at the bedsides of Japanese children.
|Baku at the Konnoh Hachimangu Shrine, Shibuya, Tokyo, Japan|
Though a number of colourful depictions of Baku in its original descriptions are found, in Japan it is also depicted like a tapir (a pig like animal with a long snout), since the kanji (Japanese form of writing) for Baku is same as that of the tapir. According to a modern tradition, children sleep with small Baku amulets under their pillows between Jan 1st and 2nd, and if they have good dreams, then its an indication of a good year ahead! To avoid a nightmare, just invoke the Baku before going to sleep and you will be relieved of a bad year!
In modern times, Baku in the form of a tapir has found a representation in well-known series like the Pokemon as the character Bakumon, who can hurl ‘undigested nightmares’ at the opponent in the terror of nightmares!
So here’s wishing all of you a very happy new year and a year where your dreams are fulfilled and nightmares are eaten away by Baku!!