Bultungin, The Werehyena


In the Kanuri language of the Bornu Empire in the Lake Chad region, Werehyenas were called ‘Bultungin’ (“I change myself into a hyena”). It was traditionally believed that one or two of the villages in the region was populated entirely by Bultungin. Ethiopians traditionally believed that blacksmiths were really wizards or witches who could change into hyenas. These ‘Bouda’ were believed to rob graves at midnight. The fact that blacksmithing is a traditional profession for Jewish men may be a reason for the characterization of Ethiopian Jews as being ‘Bouda’. Belief in the‘Bouda’ is also present in Sudan, Tanzania and Morocco. In twestern Sudan folklore there is human creature who is nightly transformed into a cannibalistic monster that terrorizes people, especially lovers. The creature is often portrayed as a magically powerful healer, blacksmith, or woodcutter in its human form, but recognizable through signs like a hairy body, red and gleaming eyes and a nasal voice. The Korè cult of the Bambara people in Mali “become” hyenas by imitating the animals’ behaviour through masks and role plays.


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