Thursday, June 22, 2006

Monkey Man

Reuters reports on a Monkey Man:

Thousands of people are flocking to an impoverished Indian village in eastern West Bengal state to worship a man they believe possesses divine powers because he climbs up trees in seconds, gobbles up bananas and has a "tail."

Devotees say 27-year-old villager Chandre Oraon is an incarnation of the Hindu monkey god Hanuman -- worshipped by millions as a symbol of physical strength, perseverance and devotion.

Tucked away in a hamlet in Banarhat, over 400 miles north of Kolkata, the state capital, devotees wait for hours to see or touch Oraon's 13-inch tail, believing that it has healing powers.

Doctors said the "tail" -- made up of some flesh but mostly of dark hair -- was simply a rare physical attribute.
When I saw the story, I sent it off to James Randi, who I thought would enjoy it and might be able to shed some light on it. He replied:
Paul, while I was in the Philippines some years ago, I met a doctor who told me that in the Islands, about one in eighteen boys is born with a vestigial tail, which is snipped off (ouch!) immediately at birth. It’s usually very tiny and unobtrusive, but it’s really there.

Reminds me of the "sacral spot"phenomenon in Japan. My Japanese neighbors in NYC expressed to me their concern about an egg-shaped purple spot that their newborn son Kelvin had just at the "tail position." It looked like a bruise. I asked around, and found that a small percentage of Japanese males are born with this, especially if they trace their families to Hokkaido, the northern island, where the Ainu people originate. Sure enough, this father had Ainu forebears. Usually, by the age of 12, the spot fades away…

Ain’t nature grand…?