The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary four

caption: mentally disturbed people; people protected by jungle spirits
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 12.3.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 12.2.1937-31.3.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: Yesterday I mentioned an apparently mentally disturbed girl from the plains who is wandering around in the area, however she has not been taken to the doctor as I had erroneously believed but there only is an intention to take her when she has been found. (171) But this brought the conversation around to a remarkable occurrence called Ya-bu-bu which manifests itself by people leaving their village and wandering around in the jungle aimlessly for a long time. I had already heard of the same phenomena in Kohima. It is also found among the Sema and Ao.
text: The strangest aspect is that these people usually come back finally and take up their normal lives again. It is not clear what they live on in the jungle. The Konyak believe that these people seek out the caves of the spirit called Ya-nu-long-ba. Furthermore it is said that they fly like birds and thus disappear immediately from peoples field of vision. This condition is considered to be a kind of illness and shame. If one accuses a man of being afflicted by it one has to pay him a penalty. However Ya-bu-bu also is considered to be contagious especially between spouses. When choosing a wife a man therefore takes care that no such case has occurred in the girl's family. The daughter of a man who has suffered from Ya-bu-bu will hardly find a husband.
text: (172) Last year a man of the Aukheang was struck by Ya-bu-bu and he was wandering around in the vicinity of Oting for a long time. He had been married to a Shiong woman from a family where Ya-bu-bu is supposed to be hereditary. Furthermore there is a woman in the Aukheang who with her son once spent a whole year living in the jungle. Ya-bu-bu refers to the supposed flying of these people, "bu-bu" means flying. The fear of Ya-bu-bu is so great that today a genna was held because of the wandering girl from Assam which prohibited the people to work on the new fields. The old ones seem to be less susceptable to magic danger.