Many countries have mythical creatures as part of their history; some creatures have their origin in traditional mythology and have been believed to be real creatures while others were based on real encounters originating from patchwork accounts of travelers’ tales passed down generation by generation.
Often mythical creatures are hybrids, a combination of two or more animals. For example, a centaur is a combination of a man and horse; the minotaur has the head of a man and the body of a bull; and the mermaid is half woman and half fish.
I met Hafiz Prasetya, staff of economic affairs with the Consul General of the Republic of Indonesia, at the Travel & Adventure Show in Chicago and asked him about the colorful and large Balinese mythical creature in their booth that caught my attention.
“His name is Barong and he is the king of the spirits and leader of the hosts of good,” Prasetya tells me. “His nemesis is the demon queen Rangda. The battle between good and evil is featured in the Barong dance which is performed regularly in Bali.”
I also learned that the Barong mask is handmade by local artisans in Bali. The lion-like creature’s head is carved from pule wood, a special wood believed to have magical properties. The hair is comes from special materials such as peacock feathers and horse mane.
Mythical creatures are yet another way to connect us to our past and to teach us about different cultures. Do you have a favorite mythical creature or story you like to share with your family and loved ones?
Megy Karydes is founder of Wandering Tastes, a lifestyle and travel site that is meant to inspire adventure and exploration through traveling and food.