In the mythology of many different cultures, it is believed that spirits may help individuals while they are experiencing nightmares. It was considered good luck to have a Baku spirit around to protect you when you need it, but not necessarily to have one living in your home permanently. In Japan, these spirits are known as the “Baku.” The Baku are said to have many different characteristics, but for the most part, they are pleasant creatures who help human beings even though they do have a ferocious appearance. The chief characteristic of a Baku is that he “eats” bad dreams. In doing so, nightmares can turn
It is common to think of Baku as having the head of an elephant (including the tusks), the body of a horse or a lion, legs and feet like a tiger, and the tail of a cow; however, there are some representations that have a pig-like appearance, although retaining body parts from other species. The Baku are said to have a very peculiar appearance, being a composite of several different creatures.
Baku are the subject of numerous folktales and legends. Sometimes, it is said that they respond to human entreaty, only going where he is needed and eating those dreams that are causing the person sleeping distress. On the other hand, there is a less common depiction of Baku in which they exist almost as an infestation in people’s homes, eating every dream rather than just the bad ones. People who are in this situation would lose all of their dreams, and may even have trouble sleeping at all.
Ivory carvings of the Baku from the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries are popular, as are lithographic prints of the creature. Like the Native American Dreamcatcher, the Baku is proving that mythological spirits can cross cultural boundaries. Who knows, if you implore him to, this creature may even visit your bedroom to eat up your bad dreams.