Joachim G. Piepke, The Yeti Does Exist after All in:

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Anthropos, Volume 115 (2020), Issue 1, ISSN: 0257-9774, ISSN online: 0257-9774,

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ANTHROPOS 113.2018: 395 – 422 Abstract. – The once more-or-less exclusively pastoral Todas of the Nilgiri Mountains in South India still retain vibrant beliefs in gods and goddesses they say once lived among them but thereafter became mountains; they tell also of ancestors who were once living Todas but subsequently became divinities. Beyond such indigenous convictions, Todas have absorbed a plethora of Hindu beliefs and ritual practices. Christian ideology has been propagated among Todas, with foreign-led Christian missionaries succeeded in establishing a breakaway Toda Christian community. But notwithstanding the many divergent sources of Toda religious ideology, the predominant and most public display of Toda ritual activity (apart from among Christian Todas) still centres on their unique sacred dairying cult, despite the rapid decline in the importance of buffaloes in the community’s modern-day economic life. This, together with their exclusively Toda deities and culture heroes seems to suggest a unique ethnic religion, frequently categorized as “non-Hindu.” But demonstrably Indic (therefore, if only loosely, “Hindu”) principles permeate Toda ritual activity. Most notable are the concepts of hierarchy and purity and those of prescribed ritual avoidance coupled with required ritual cooperation. In sum, Toda religion – like the Toda community itself – is at once unique and, at the same time, thoroughly Indic. [South India, Nilgiri Mountains, Toda] Anthony Walker, an Oxford-trained social anthropologist, retired as Professor of Anthropology at the University of Brunei Darussalam in 2011 and now lives in Kandy, Sri Lanka. His peripatetic career has included teaching positions at the Science University of Malaysia in Penang, the National University of Singapore, The Ohio State University, and the University of the South Pacific in Suva, Fiji. – He began his, still-ongoing, field studies with the Todas in 1962 and has also conducted long-term field research (since 1966) on the Tibeto-Burman speaking Lahu peoples of the Yunnan-Indochina borderlands. – For his major publications on the Todas see References Cited. The Todas believe in their Goddess Thekershi (Tö·kisy1). They worship Goddess Thekershi for protection during their eternal (perhaps “mortal” was intended) existence and they also worship God Ayan (Ö·n) to protect them after death. The Todas do not observe idol worship. Todas worship light, fire, mountains, trees, rivers, sky, sun, and moon, which are believed to be the major creations of their Goddess Thekershi.2 1 Introduction In his recent book “Religion. An Anthropological Perspective” (2015: 9), Professor Homayun Sidky, my much esteemed former PhD student at The Ohio State University, claims: “no single definition has been able to capture the entire picture” of the religious phenomenon. “For this reason”, Sidky writes, “some argue that religion is best thought of as a multifaceted phenomenon with many interpenetrating dimensions as opposed to being viewed as a unitary occurrence.” This indeed is my interpretation of religion as understood and practised by the once more-or-less exclusively pastoral Toda community 1 The orthography of Toda in this essay follows that of Murray Emeneau (1957: 19; 1984: 5–49), except that I have added hyphenation where I feel this might assist non-specialists with pronunciation, hence my To·r-θas and Töw-fił̣y, where Emeneau has To·rθas and Töwfił̣y. (Note, however, that I do not add hyphenation to Toda words when quoting directly – as I do frequently – from Emeneau’s various works. Further assistance with the pronunciation of Toda words rendered in Emeneau’s transcription can be had from Tarun Chhabra’s “A Guide for the Transliteration of Toda” in his 2015 book “The Toda Landscape,” pp. xxxvii–xliii. 2 From the pen of Pöḷ-xe·n, son of Mut-iŝky – his name anglicized as Pellican (n. d.) – a member of Ka·s patriclan, first president of the Nilgiri Toda Uplift Society, high school graduate and literate both in Tamil and English. The Diverse Faces of Toda Religion Anthony R. Walker ANTHROPOS 115.2020: 1–8 The Yeti Do Exist after All Franz Xaver Eichinger’s Field Notes about His Encounter with the “Abominable Snowman” in 1949 Joachim G. Piepke Abstract. – The search for the Yeti has a long history. Several expeditions tried to encounter the elusive creature and to reveal the mystery; they all failed. The one who did succeed was Fr. Franz Xaver Eichinger, missionary of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and trained physician, who worked in Qinghai (Northwestern China) from 1940 to 1953. On one of his medi‐ cal expeditions to Tibetan nomads, Eichinger met “Yeti” by ac‐ cident, and specifically an individual who possessed a deep spiritual knowledge and a natural gift of healing. Eichinger called him the “Naked Lama,” a hairy creature of the wilder‐ ness who was apparently not harmed by the cold. Eichinger ex‐ plained this phenomenon by pointing to the fact that children born with a congenital hypertrichosis, due to endogamy, were frequently expelled from villages because they were believed to be possessed by evil spirits. [Tibet, Tibetan myths, Yeti, shamanism, hypertrichosis] Joachim G. Piepke, born in 1943, high school in 1962 at Berthold-Gymnasium Freiburg im Breisgau. – Noviciate at the Divine Word Missionaries in St. Gabriel, Mödling near Vienna. – In 1969 ordination to priesthood at St. Augu tin’s semi ary, near Bonn, Germany. – After concluding philosophical-theo‐ logical studies, sojourn in São Paulo, Br zil, from 1970 to 1980, parish work suburbs of the city and assi tant professor f syst matic theology at he Ins ituto Teológico São Paulo (ITESP) in São Paulo. – Director of the same institu e from 1978 to 1980. – 83 Dr. theol. at the Pontificia Universitas Gr goriana in Rome, transfer to the Philoso hisch-Theologisch Hochsc ule SVD St. Augustin. – From 1986 to 2017 Director of the Anthropos In titute at St. Augus in – Research and pub‐ lishing activities in the areas of cultural anthropology and sci‐ ence of religion. – Main fields of research are Afro-American religions, popular religiosity and Pentecostalism of Latin America, indigenous cultures of Brazil, and the ph nomenon of rupture between modern culture and evangelization. – From 1998 to 2013, President of the Philosophisch-Theologische Hochschule SVD St. Augustin, emeritus in 2013. – Recent publications: „Ein befreiender Gott ist anders. Für Menschen, die an der Kirche verzweifeln“. St. Ottilien: EOS, 2017. Email: Introduction After the recent publication by Daniel C. Taylor about the hunt for the “Abominable Snowman” (2017), it seems obvious that the discussion about Yeti is definitively closed. All traces of the myste‐ rious being found by several expeditions during at least one century point to a species of Himalayan or Tibetan bear. However, I discovered the field notes of the former missionary and physician Franz Xaver Eichinger, who was working in the 1940 s and early 1950 s near the Tibetan frontier, in the Chinese provinces of Gansu and Qinghai. As a physician, he attended the nomads living around Lake Kukunor (Lake Qinghai). Staying in the camp of the Shawrong nomads in the Hokka Valley, at the foot of the Semonow Mountains, at a height of 3,000 meters to the west of Lake Kukunor, one day he faced the “Abominable S wman,” or “Yeti,” brought in by he natives in order to heal their childr . Eichinger had been aware of the myths and sto‐ ries of the Yeti circulating all over the Himalayan and Tibetan territories, but he did not give any credit to stories, fables, or even the supposed “sci‐ entific proofs” concerning that mysterious crea‐ ture. On November 5, 1949, however, he stood in front of the Yeti and was even able to interview Anthropos 115.2020 him. The mystery about this creature, unresolved for more than 100 years, was now revealed: the in‐ dividual turned out to be a child of a Gansu tribe expelled by villagers due to his congenital hyper‐ trichosis. It was common among the moun‐ taineers, Eichinger says, to view such children as possessed by an evil spirit, which was obviously interpreted as a threat to the entire community. Consequently, they were expelled to the moun‐ tains, where they usually died although some did survive. This fact remained unknown to outsiders for centuries because communities believed that its revelation could bring evil to the affected clan. Eichinger provides more details about this matter in his field notes. In Search of the Yeti It is amazing indeed, how many expeditions were organized over the last two centuries in order to find, catch, or kill the supposed monster. In 1832, the trekker B. H. Hodgson reported that his local Sherpas claimed to have seen in the mountains of northern Nepal a shy, tall, bipedal living being covered with long dark hair. He took it for an orangutan: “My shooters were once alarmed in the Kachár by the apparition of a ‘wild man,’ possibly an orang, but I doubt their accuracy. They mistook the creature for a câcodemon or rakshas, and fled from it instead of shooting it. It moved, they said, erectly: was covered with long dark hair, and had no tail” (1832: 339). Laurence A. Waddell reported that he had seen footprints in the snow left by a creature in 1889. Waddell took them for footprints of a bear: “Some large footprints in the snow led across our track, and away up to the higher peaks. These are al‐ leged to be the trail of the hairy wild men who are believed to live amongst the eternal snows, along with the mythical white lions, whose roar is reput‐ ed to be heard during storms. The belief in these creatures is universal among Tibetans. None, how‐ ever, of the many Tibetans I have interrogated on this subject could ever give me an authentic case. On the most superficial investigation it always re‐ solved itself into something that somebody heard tell of” (1900: 223). The rumors concerning Yetis increased and be‐ came more detailed during the time of the first at‐ tempts to climb the Himalayas. In 1921, Colonel Charles Howard-Bury and members of his British Mount Everest Reconnaissance Expedition, on their way from Kharta to the Lhapka-la Pass, ob‐ served from a distance dark spots moving in the snowy landscape. When they later reached the place, about 7,000 meters above where they have seen them, they found enormous footprints. The Colonel took them for prints of a large stray grey wolf. His Sherpas, however, trembled with fear because they believed them to be prints of the “Abominable Snowman” (Coleman 1989: 33 f.). In 1925, N. A. Tombazi, a Fellow of the Royal Geographical Society, reported a similar story in his “Account of a Photographic Expedition to the Southern Glaciers of Kangchenjunga in the Map: The Chinese provinces of Gansu, Qinghai and the Tibetan Borderland. 2 Joachim G. Piepke Anthropos 115.2020 Sikkim Himalaya.” About 14 kilometers from the Zemu Glacier, at an altitude of some 4,500 meters, he noticed his porters waving and pointing at an object lower down: The intense glare and brightness of the snow prevented me from seeing anything for the first few seconds; but I soon spotted the “object” referred to, about two to three hundred yards away down the valley to the East of our camp. Unquestionably, the figure in outline was exactly like a human being, walking upright and stopping occa‐ sionally to uproot or pull at some dwarf rhododendron bushes. It showed up dark against the snow and, as far as I could make out, wore no clothes. Within the next minute or so it had moved into some thick scrub and was lost to view (cited in Coleman 1989: 35). The natives of Tibet agree in the main that the Snowman is a huge creature (dzu-teh) and/or a liv‐ ing being about the size of a 13–14 year-old boy (meh-teh), half man, half beast; it lives in inacces‐ sible caves, high in the mountains. The dzu-teh at‐ tacks herds of yaks and livestock and may be ag‐ gressive to human beings as well; it is a large beast and goes on all fours, has thick long reddishbrown hair. The meh-teh has a white facial skin; the body is covered with dark or reddish hair. Its face looks human and the head is conically shaped. It eats leaves and roots, mountain berries, and the raw flesh of little animals, which it disem‐ bowels. Meh-teh is not aggressive towards humans or animals. Sometimes it yells like a seagull but much louder. Nobody can catch or kill it. These legends are found all over that part of Asia, from Karakorum to northern Burma, in Tibet and China, Nepal, Sikkim, Burma, and Assam. The names differ widely from region to region, but the term “Yeti” is universal in the whole area (Stonor 1955: 63 f.).1 Stonor, member of the Daily Mail Himalayan Expedition of 1953-1954, gives a vivid account of an interview with a Tibetan businessman named Pinechu, at Namche in the Dudh Kosi Valley. The informant clearly distinguishes two different kinds of “snowman”: Do you know of a beast, which the Sherpas call Yeti? Yes, I do. Is there only one kind, or are there more? There are two, the Dzu-Teh and the Mih-Teh. What is the Dzu-Teh like? 1 The etymology of the term yeti derives probably from the Tibetan g.ya’ dred (rock bear) and is a misspelling; other words are miché (man-bear), dzu-teh (Himalayan brown bear), meh-teh (small manlike animal), mi-go (wild man), bun manchi (jungle man), kang admi (snow man). It is hardly ever seen where I come from, but it is very large, and has thick, red fur. Does it walk on two legs? No: it goes on all fours. What is its food? The Dzu-Teh is a great danger to yaks. People say also that it will kill foxes by following up their tracks to where they live in the rocks. Does it make any noise? I do not know. Have you ever seen one? No: but I have seen its footprints in the snow. What is the Mih-Teh like? It is smaller than the Dzu-Teh. It goes on two legs like a man. It has long hair on the legs and waist, but it is said by those who see it to be less hairy on its chest. It is stoutly built. What colour is it? The same colour as a Tahr [Himalayan mountain goat]. What noise does it make? Pinechu imitated a mewing-yelping call, in just the same way as all Sherpas who had up to now given informa‐ tion. He said that he himself had heard it several times during his life. What does the Mih-Teh feed on? The small animals living in the rocks. Do you know how it catches them? They say it waits among the rocks until one comes out, and the Mih-Teh grabs it, and bangs it on a rock to kill it. Then it pulls out its insides, which it does not eat but throws away. Is the Mih-Teh common? Some people say they are fairly often seen. I have never seen one, but my father saw one a few years ago (1955: 112 f.). Stonor adds a report of a second informant and concludes: Could the two sets of descriptions, so closely tallying, be based on a vague myth, or be no more than an invention to please the white man? Why should I be “pleased” to know that Pinechu thought the Yeti disembowelled its prey? Surely it would need a tortuous mind indeed to think up such a thing merely for effect (1955: 114). The expedition left the valley on January 31, 1954 and went to Pangboche, stopping by the monastery of Thyangboche. There, they succeeded in examining the venerated Yeti “scalp” in the lo‐ cal temple, which later on in London has been es‐ tablished by Dr. Wood Jones to be texture of a goat or sheep (Stonor 1955: 117 f.). Ralph Izzard, senior Foreign Correspondent of the Daily Mail, sent a summary of the last excur‐ sion to the journal: Among the towering peaks, rugged cliffs, glaciers and icefalls of the Upper Dudh Kosi valley, Gerald Russell The Yeti Does Exist after All 3 Anthropos 115.2020 and I have for two consecutive days, been following the tracks of at least two Yetis over a total distance of about eight miles. … In doing so a fascinating picture unfolded itself of a shy, timid creature which uses man-made paths with the ut‐ most caution; which studiously avoids contact with hu‐ man beings; which makes immense detours round possi‐ bly inhabited cottages; which will hunt in company with a fellow – possibly even with a stranger; and is not above such antics as sliding on its rump down a steep snow slope. Although light conditions were unkind I was able to se‐ cure photographic evidence of this last manœuvre, which must surely be taken as conclusive proof we are dealing with a quite extraordinary creature, whatever it may be (cited in Stonor 1955: 166). The following expeditions by Tom Slick (1957– 1959), the Edmund Hillary expedition (1960), and the expedition of Daniel C. Taylor and Robert L. Fleming (1983) found nothing what would have confirmed the existence of the Yeti. New tracks and skulls investigated by the Smithsonian Institu‐ tion, the American Museum of Natural History, and the British Museum identified them as a sin‐ gle species of the Asiatic black bear. The South Tyrolean mountaineer Reinhold Messner pub‐ lished in 1998 a report concerning his search for the Yeti to the Himalayan Mountains. He claimed to have had an encounter with the creature in 1986 and to kill one. His conclusion is that the “mon‐ ster” is the critically endangered Himalayan brown bear (Ursus arctos isabellinus) or the Ti‐ betan blue bear, also known as Himalayan snow bear (Ursus arctos pruinosus). In the 21st century, several new samples of footprints, hair, tissue, bone, and feces have been found. Genetic analysis of 24 samples in 2017 showed that they belong to the species Ursidae (bears), except one tooth sample collected from a stuffed exhibit at the Reinhold Messner Mountain Museum, which matched a dog (Canis lupus fa‐ miliaris). The research team conducted a compre‐ hensive genetic survey of field-collected and mu‐ seum specimens to explore their identity and to clarify the evolutionary history of bears in the re‐ gion: Phylogenetic analyses of mitochondrial DNA sequences determined clade affinities of the purported yeti samples in this study, strongly supporting the biological basis of the yeti legend to be local, extant bears. Complete mito‐ chondrial genomes were assembled for Himalayan brown bear (U. a. isabellinus) and black bear (U. t. laniger) for the first time. Our results demonstrate that the Himalayan brown bear is one of the first-branching clades within the brown bear lineage, while Tibetan brown bears diverged much later. The estimated times of divergence of the Tibetan Plateau and Himalayan bear lineages overlap with Middle to Late Pleistocene glacia‐ tion events, suggesting that the extant bears in the region are likely descendants of populations that survived in lo‐ cal refugia during the Pleistocene glaciations (Lan et al. 2017: 1). Eichinger in Tsinghai (Qinghai) Franz Xaver Eichinger, born in 1910 in Marien‐ thal, Bavaria, was ordained a Catholic priest as a member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) in 1937. In 1940, he arrived in China via the Trans-Siberian Railway and worked for the first five years in Tsaochowfu (Caozhou/Heze), Sin‐ siang (Xinxiang), because there was no possibility to reach his destination, Kansu (Gansu), due to the Japanese occupation. He finally arrived in Lan‐ chow (Lanzhou) in 1947, and then went to Sining (Xining) in 1949 where he worked at the mission station of Huangyuan, east of Lake Kukunor (Lake Qinghai). After completing his studies in medicine in Rome (1935 – 1937), he founded in 1946 a mis‐ sion hospital in Minchow (Mincho), South Gansu, with 10 rooms. In 1948, he received the doctor de‐ gree of Chinese medicine from the State Universi‐ ty of Chongqing, Department of “Chinese Western Medicine” in Shanghang, Fujian. In 1951, he be‐ came medical superintendent at the Catholic Hos‐ pital of Xining. His medical knowledge and repu‐ tation among the Chinese community helped him to survive five years under the communist govern‐ ment until 1953, when he had to return to Ger‐ many. He reports the following on his career as a physician in China: When an endemic disease broke out in Xinxiang, the Chinese government sent around 10 to 12 physicians who had recently finished their academic studies at Tian‐ jin to combat the epidemic. In order to diagnose the pathogenic agent correctly, it was necessary to set up a living culture of it. However, the whole of Xinxiang did not possess an incubator. One day they appeared in my hospital, because they had heard that I was able to make a reliable diagnosis and now they wanted to know how I did that. I did not have an incubator. I led them to our stove. There were 10 thermos bottles with hot water cor‐ rectly tempered. I filled used, empty ampullas, with the heads cut off, with the fluid culture medium and the ob‐ ject. Then I suspended them in the flasks and shut them. After 18 hours, the living culture was ready. The Chi‐ nese physicians were astonished to learn this simple 4 Joachim G. Piepke Anthropos 115.2020 method, which was just as efficient as an incubator de‐ vice (Eichinger 1982: 1 f.). Eichinger was a self-made man. He had a natural empathy with the people, principally sick people, and a talent for diagnosis. He was widely recog‐ nized to be a better physician than the Chinese ones. He combined the Western medical methods with Chinese traditional ones and obtained a wide‐ ly recognized professional success. Fig. 1: Franz Xaver Eichinger in Qinghai 1950 (Foto: Eichinger). Eichinger’s Encounter with the Yeti After the seizure of power by the communists in 1949, Eichinger had to move over the border, to Tibet, for a number of months. He travelled with two Chinese nurses from one tent village of the Ti‐ betan nomads to the other in order to attend the sick. In October 1949, he arrived at the tent village of the Shawrong nomads in the Hokka Valley, at the foot of the Semenow Mountains southwest of Lake Qinghai. The nomads wanted to spend win‐ ter on the spot, at a height of 3,000 meters. Eichinger’s group set up tents near the dwelling made of black yak hair that was owned by “Thou‐ sand Prince,” the leader of the nomads. The tem‐ perature was around minus 22° Celsius. Fig. 2: Among the Shawrong nomads, October 1949: (left) Ine, the son of the “Thousand Prince”, (right) the guide to the tent village (Foto: Eichinger). Health conditions within the clan were rather dis‐ tressing: the birthrate had dropped dramatically and the average per family was about one to two children. At the time of Eichinger’s arrival, an epi‐ demic was causing deadly crying fits in children, and nobody was able to find a remedy – neither parents nor shamans. The children screamed 10 to 15 hours, the stronger ones 28, girls up to 32 to 34, until death. Eichinger was not familiar with those symptoms but he supposed an irritation of cerebral nerves; he came to cure dermatological diseases, such as boils or abscesses, and was quite helpless in that situation. Now, he heard that natives had sent several messengers to the mountains in order to search for the Yeti. They did not know exactly where he ac‐ tually was, because his walking territory stretched over 120 to 150 km in length and 70 to 80 km in width. The new problem caused by the arrival of the three was that the Yeti would not come to the camp if there were any strangers there – no matter if they were traders, clerks, soldiers, researchers, or somebody else. They sent therefore another group to the mountains with the purpose of warn‐ ing the Yeti about the presence of the strangers. They found him in the valley as he was just com‐ ing down from the Semenow Mountains. They in‐ formed him about the new situation begging him to make an exception, because they were very concerned about the deadly disease of their chil‐ dren. He had compassion with them and asked who the strangers were. They answered that they were no traders, no clerks, no researchers but rather “praying people” because they had seen the group saying prayers in their tent. The Yeti re‐ solved to visit the camp and arrived there on November 5, 1949 at 4 p.m. They set a little black tent up for him, the so-called “guest tent,” be‐ The Yeti Does Exist after All 5 Anthropos 115.2020 tween Eichinger’s and the Thousand Prince’s ones. At midnight, one of the nurses went out of the tent and saw him standing before the tent in di‐ rection of the rising sun. She returned into the tent and woke up Eichinger urging him to hurry up with his camera and to take a picture of that in‐ credible man. When Eichinger appeared with his camera, he saw the Yeti dressed in a thin rotten long Chinese cloth waving his hands to refuse a photograph. Eichinger withdrew immediately. Lat‐ er on, he learned from the man that a cloth would cause to feel the cold more than nakedness. He used to walk always naked even in the snow on the mountains at minus 40° Celsius. Afterwards, Eichinger spoke with Ine, the son of the Thousand Prince, who was also his inter‐ preter among the nomads, asking him to mediate between him and the man whom they called the “Naked Lama.” At first, the healer refused, but then, when he heard that the group attended the sick and healed boils, he agreed and wished to ob‐ tain the remedies that healed furuncles, because his own medicines of herbs only healed inside the body. Eichinger agreed on condition that he could take a picture of him. So they exchanged the medicine for photographs. One condition, how‐ ever, had been put by the Yeti – namely, that the missionary was not to photograph his eyes. In‐ deed, every time Eichinger took a photo, he closed his eyes. His reason was that his eyes only exist to see the heaven and to grasp the glance of a suffer‐ ing person. After healing the children in course of the night, the Yeti vanished. The Yeti’s outward appearance was horrible; in‐ deed it could frighten every person. Nonetheless, he had a strange power over the children: he used to enter the tent where a sick child was crying, bowed over looking intensely at the infant for about 3 to 5 minutes, and the child calmed down, began to smile and was healed. After Yeti’s visit in the village, no child died ever since. “That is a medical masterpiece,” Eichinger commented, “that we will probably never be able to explain” (1982: 4). As stated above, Eichinger’s diagnosis pointed to a strong irritation of the nervous sys‐ tem, a kind of encephalitis caused by a bacterium. The psychic energy of the Yeti’s eyes may have succeeded to stop the convulsion. Eichinger was not able to investigate the disease in more detail because people refused all further medical exami‐ nation of the children after the successful healing. They were afraid that the malignant spirits ex‐ pelled by the Yeti would return to the children. Eichinger refuses completely the Western and communist Chinese theories that the Yeti may be the missing link between primates and hominids or an unknown animal species. He argues that the footprints and the remnants found in the moun‐ tains by natives and researchers were either of ani‐ mal provenance or they were deliberately misin‐ terpreted by locals. In Tibet, children are often born with a congenital hypertrichosis, especially male babies, probably due to endogamy by crosscousin marriages. The genetic defect is hereditary and causes the continuation of the fetal lanugo hair, frequently coupled with tooth anomalies and facial deformations.2 The people consider these hairy children as being possessed by evil spirits that threaten the welfare of the entire community. Generally, they kill such babies soon after birth. But sometimes, the mothers hide the baby and this is condoned by the others until some calamity strikes the village. Later on, however, at the age of 8 - 10 years, the child has to be expelled from the village and lives in the wilderness. Many children 2 These children are also known in other parts of the world like India or Europe, sometimes called “wolf children” or “werewolves” (cf. Mensing 2016 and Johnson 2017). Fig. 3: The Yeti or “Naked Lama”, 5 November 1949 (Foto: Eichinger). 6 Joachim G. Piepke Anthropos 115.2020 do not survive, but the stronger ones do, as they are able to adapt. On reaching sexual maturity, they often abduct young girls from camps and vil‐ lages in order to satisfy their sexual drives (Eichinger 1982: 8). The Yeti whom Eichinger called the “Naked Lama” left his clan at the age of 10 to 12 years. He belonged originally to the clan of the copper‐ smiths. In the mountains, he encountered an eremite who taught him meditation and prayer. The people said that he was able to pray better than the monks. Eichinger observed him praying in the tent for two hours, naked in the cold in front of a dead eagle. He ate vegetables and roots, ac‐ cepted yak milk and milk products when he stayed in the tent village, but refused any kind of meat. He used a thin Chinese wrap only upon entering a village or camp in order to cover his nakedness, having deposited a dozen of them at several spots in the mountains. The cold did not harm him. His skin was warm when Eichinger touched him. Sup‐ posedly, he knew how to influence the autonomic nervous system in a way that it totally closed the skin surface so that there was no thermal loss through osmosis at all. People did not dare to dis‐ turb him during his meditation: every such attempt would bring his curse upon the intruder (Eichinger 1982: 9ff.). Conclusion Eichinger’s report about the so-called “Naked Lama” complements well with the findings and re‐ ports by Sherpas and participants of Yeti expedi‐ tions. There are two different kinds of footprints mentioned in these reports: human ones and ani‐ mal ones (bear, wolf, and leopard). The human prints (with five toes) also differ in size and weight, suggesting that they were left by teenagers as well as by adults. The animal prints, especially the bear footmarks, indicate a heavier creature than a human being. All skulls or even the hands of Makalu and Pangboche or the Pangboche scalp, alleged relics of a Yeti, proved to be of animal ori‐ gin (Coleman 1989: 89–92). Stool samples of the creature did not allow an unequivocal conclusion whether they are human or animal (Coleman 1989: 86 f.). The fact that several observers saw a naked hairy creature at some distance, plucking out plants and roots, or found disemboweled corpses of small rodents (mouse-hares), is clearly pointing to human behavior. The yelling-sound in the mountains often heard at night that people take for the Yeti’s voice, seems to be the yowl of the snow leopard.3 The shyness of the so-called Yetis is probably due to their special social situation: they know that people are afraid of them, because they are possessed by malignant spirits, and they themselves are convinced of that supposition. They avoid therefore human settlements, as their status is comparable to that of leprosy. Finally, Sherpas or other guides do not reveal the habitat of the creatures to strangers out of fear of the Yeti’s curse (Eichinger 1982: 11). Yeti stories are widespread all over the Hi‐ malayas and beyond. People speak of an animal with human footprints that steels sheep, or of a lonely traveler in the mountains with ears flopped forward who can walk erect (Taylor 2017: 336). In 1991, Taylor found a cave in the Barun Valley which showed three little fireplaces with ashes; from one of them smoke yet arose. In the cave, a huge human footprint appeared in the soil; no doubt that here a human being had stayed a short time before (358). Later on, he discovered another spot with rising smoke: Peering down over the rim, the lake is below. It must be almost 1,000 feet. Small trees surround its shore, a meadow too. Mist rises from its surface. Off to the right, where a gentle slope leads to Tibet’s Gama Valley, smoke rises. Smoke, not mist. Against the cliff whose rim I now stand on, and along the sides of the cliff ap‐ proaching this meadow, appears to be a cavity cut into the rock face, cut probably by a glacier that once moved on the meadow whose remains are the lake. Into these overhangs stones seem to have been stacked to make walls, appearing to have rooms behind them. Smoke seeps from three (366 f.). Taylor’s final statement is inconclusive: maybe there are smugglers, herders from Tibet, or spiritu‐ al seekers discovering a complementary con‐ sciousness of the yin of humanity with the yang of nature? Then, he makes the point that the Yeti do not live in the snowy landscape but in human de‐ sire. “People believe in this Yeti as an embodiment of the human connection to the wild. As an icon represents faith and as an idol symbolizes an idea, so is this second Yeti both an icon and an idol” (372). He further defends the wilderness against the human desire to turn it into a cosmos: 3 “The explanation of known animal for mysterious Yeti may also include the snow leopard’s eerie yowl which from time to time reverberates off high Himalayan walls, an animal very rare in Sherpa country in the middle of the last century where the Yeti legend grew. But with recent conservation, its numbers increase so the snow leopard is now known to have a range of vocalizations” (Taylor 2017: 377). The Yeti Does Exist after All 7 Anthropos 115.2020 Wildness is disappearing. It does not matter that the Yeti is a bear that clambers out of jungles and crosses high passes. To people who hunger for the wild what matters is to have alive a mystery from the frontier of the planet – reminding us that, in the Anthropocene, wildness is still possible. What helps in this new age of human mak‐ ing is a hope that guides our way as we apprehend the frighteningly changed wild that is coming (379). This is a statement by a Westerner who is longing for a lost natural world, considering life in the wilderness as a form of liberation from industrial civilization. The Hindus have their sadhus, seek‐ ers of moksha, liberation. The Himalayan people have their Yetis. “Such people circle the world” (385). Eichinger’s “Yeti,” however, is not an icon or idol, not a spirit of the wild nor a mythological figure. He is a real human being that shows spe‐ cial characteristics, such as a deep spiritual con‐ nection with the supernatural world and a natural gift of healing.4 On the other hand, he is an outcast of society. Moreover, his appearance and behavior conform to the data gathered by research expedi‐ tions, such as human footprints, hairy body, di‐ etary customs, shyness, nakedness, insensibility to cold, far-flung habitat, and avoidance of strangers. Eichinger met the Yeti purely by accident – he en‐ tered a camp of Tibetan nomads and was confront‐ ed there by a rare medical condition that was killing infants. If it had not been for that coinci‐ dence, he would probably never have encountered that mysterious mountain creature. The author expresses his gratitude to the Stadtmuseum Ingolstadt which made the photographs of Fr. Franz Eichinger available. References Cited Coleman, Loren Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti. Boston: Faber and Faber. 1989 4 The connection of the “Yeti” with shamanic healers exists in the Himalayan mythology and traditions. Peters writes in the beginning of his study about Nepalese shamanism : “The fo‐ cus of this paper is the intimate connection between the shaman’s ‘calling’ in Nepal and those liminal figures of the ancient forests, jungles, mountains, and caves known as the yeti and the ban jhankri. These anomalous characters have an overlapping cultural mythology: they are indigenous be‐ lieved to be spirits but also current-living vestiges of the an‐ cient past, with a physical appearance and presence, who also manifest in dream and trance states. Thus they coexist in two realities which interpenetrate and are not separated in Nepali consciousness” (2000: 429). Eichinger, Franz Xaver Begegnung mit dem Schneemenschen (Yeti) 1949 und schamanistische Praktiken in Tibet. Sankt Augustin: Anthropos Institut. [Manuscript] Hodgson, B. H. On the Mammalia of Nepal. Journal of the Asiatic Soci‐ ety of Bengal 1: 335–349. [18.12.2019]; [18.12.2019] Howard-Bury, Charles Some Observations on the Approaches to Mount Ever‐ est. The Geographical Journal 57/2: 121–124. [18.12.2019] Johnson, Jon What Is Hypertrichosis? MedicalNewsToday (16.11.2017): [18.12.2019] Lan, Tianying, Stephanie Gill, Eva Bellemain, Richard Bischof, Muhammad Ali Nawaz, and Charlotte Lindqvist Evolutionary History of Enigmatic Bears in the Tibetan Plateau – Himalaya Region and the Identity of the Yeti. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sci‐ ences 284(1868): 20171804. [18.12.2019] Mensing, Hartwig Übermäßiger Haarwuchs (Hypertrichose). (08.12.2016): [18.12.2019] Messner, Reinhold Yeti. Legende und Wirklichkeit. Frankfurt: S. Fischer. Peters, Larry G. The “Calling,” the Yeti, and the ban jhankri (“Forest Shaman”) in Nepalese Shamanism. In: Ram Pratap Thapa and Joachim Baaden (eds.), Nepal: Myths and Realities. In Commemoration of the 75th Birthday of Dr. Wolf Donner; pp. 429–451. Delhi: Book Faith In‐ dia. Stonor, Charles The Sherpa and the Snowman. London: Hollis & Carter. Taylor, Daniel C. Yeti. The Ecology of a Mystery. New Delhi: Oxford University Press. Waddell, Laurence Austine Among the Himalayas. Westminster: Archibald Consta‐ ble; Philadelphia: J. B. Lippincott. [18.12.2019] Würdinger, Josef Erinnerungen an den Steyler-Missionspater Franz Xaver Eichinger anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstages am 1.12.2010. [Manuskript] [18.12.2019] 1982 1832 1921 2017 2017 2016 1998 2000 1955 2017 1900 2010 8 Joachim G. Piepke Anthropos 115.2020


The search for the Yeti has a long history. Several expeditions tried to encounter the elusive creature and to reveal the mystery; they all failed. The one who did succeed was Fr. Franz Xaver Eichinger, missionary of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) and trained physician, who worked in Qinghai (Northwestern China) from 1940 to 1953. On one of his medical expeditions to Tibetan nomads, Eichinger met “Yeti” by accident, and specifically an individual who possessed a deep spiritual knowledge and a natural gift of healing. Eichinger called him the “Naked Lama,” a hairy creature of the wilderness who was apparently not harmed by the cold. Eichinger explained this phenomenon by pointing to the fact that children born with a congenital hypertrichosis, due to endogamy, were frequently expelled from villages because they were believed to be possessed by evil spirits.

Coleman, Loren
1989 Tom Slick and the Search for the Yeti. Boston: Faber and Faber.
Eichinger, Franz Xaver
1982 Begegnung mit dem Schneemenschen (Yeti) 1949 und schamanistische Praktiken in Tibet. Sankt Augustin: Anthropos Institut. [Manuscript]
Hodgson, B. H.
1832 On the Mammalia of Nepal. Journal of the Asiatic Society of Bengal 1: 335–349. <> [18.12.2019]; <> [18.12.2019]
Howard-Bury, Charles
1921 Some Observations on the Approaches to Mount Everest. The Geographical Jour-nal 57/2: 121–124. <> [18.12.2019]
Johnson, Jon
2017 What Is Hypertrichosis? MedicalNewsToday (16.11.2017): <> [18.12.2019]
Lan, Tianying, Stephanie Gill, Eva Bellemain, Richard Bischof, Muhammad Ali Nawaz, and Charlotte Lindqvist
2017 Evolutionary History of Enigmatic Bears in the Tibetan Plateau – Himalaya Region and the Identity of the Yeti. Proceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences 284(1868): 20171804. <> [18.12.2019]
Mensing, Hartwig
2016 Übermäßiger Haarwuchs (Hypertrichose). (08.12.2016): <> [18.12.2019]
Messner, Reinhold
1998 Yeti. Legende und Wirklichkeit. Frankfurt: S. Fischer.
Peters, Larry G.
2000 The “Calling,” the Yeti, and the ban jhankri (“Forest Shaman”) in Nepalese Sham-anism. In: Ram Pratap Thapa and Joachim Baaden (eds.), Nepal: Myths and Realities. In Commemoration of the 75th Birthday of Dr. Wolf Donner; pp. 429–451. Delhi: Book Faith India.
Stonor, Charles
1955 The Sherpa and the Snowman. London: Hollis & Carter.
Taylor, Daniel C.
2017 Yeti. The Ecology of a Mystery. New Delhi: Oxford University Press.
Waddell, Laurence Austine
1900 Among the Himalayas. Westminster: Archibald Constable; Philadelphia: J. B. Lip-pincott. <> [18.12.2019]
Würdinger, Josef
2010 Erinnerungen an den Steyler-Missionspater Franz Xaver Eichinger anlässlich seines 100. Geburtstages am 1.12.2010. [Manuskript] <> [18.12.2019]


Anthropos is the international journal of anthropology and linguistics, founded in 1906 by Wilhelm Schmidt, missonary and member of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD). Its main purpose is the study of human societies in their cultural dimension. In honor of Wilhelm Schmidt‘s legacy, the cultivation of anthropology, ethnology, linguistics, and religious studies remain an essential component oft he Anthropos Institute – the organizational carrier of the journal.


Anthropos - internationale Zeitschrift für Völkerkunde wird vom Anthropos Institut St. Augustin seit 1906 zweimal jährlich herausgegeben. Ursprünglich als Sprachrohr für katholische Missionarsarbeit geplant, gilt sie heute als wichtige Fachzeitschrift der allgemeinen Ethnologie. Sie behandelt sowohl kulturelle als auch sprachliche Themen in mehreren Sprachen, mit Schwerpunkt auf den Völkern des gesamtamerikanischen und afrikanischen Kontinents.