Chapter 14d

Amok, Bangungot, and Nasal Acuteness Icon

March 4, 2022

Under certain conditions, which the physicians, on being questioned, could not define more precisely, the natives can support neither hunger nor thirst; of which fact I have on many occasions been a witness.

It is reported of them, when forced into such a situation as to suffer from unappeased wants, that they become critically ill; and thus they often die.

Hence arises the morbid mania for imitation, which is called in Java Sakit-latar, and here Mali-mali.

In Java many believe that the sickness is only assumed, because those who pretend to be afflicted with it find it to their advantage to be seen by newly arrived Europeans.

Here, however, I saw one instance where indeed no simulation could be suspected. My companions availed themselves of the diseased condition of a poor old woman who met us in the highway, to practise some rough jokes upon her. The old woman imitated every motion as if impelled by an irresistible impulse, and expressed at the same time the most extreme indignation against those who abused her infirmity.

R. Maak’s “Journey to the Amour" says: “It is not unusual for the Maniagri to suffer also from a nervous malady that also afflicts the people of Siberia and the Russians settled there. This frequently occurs in the district of the Jakutes and is called Emiura. Here in it is called Olon by the Maniagri and Olgandshi by the Argurian Cossacks.

They believe that eating pork causes it. But the Indians commonly eat but little flesh, and the pigs are very seldom fat.

It manifests as a the diseased person under the influence of terror or consternation, unconsciously, and without shame, imitate everything that passes before him.

Should he be offended, he falls into a rage with wild shrieks and raving. He uses a knife or any other object he has against those who have placed him in this predicament.

Amongst the Maniagri, women, especially the very aged, are the chief sufferers from this malady. Those women who returned from this sickness were strong and in good health.”

Probably it is only an accidental coincidence that in the Malay countries Sakit-latar and Amok exist together, if not in the same individual, yet amongst the same people.

Instances of amok seem to occur also in the Philippines.

The Diario de Manila reports that on February 18, 1866 in Cavité, a soldier rushed into the house of a school-teacher and stabbed him with a dagger in a struggle. He then killed the teacher’s son with a second stab.

Plunging into the street, he:

  • stabbed 2 young girls of 10 and 12 years old
  • wounded:
    • a woman in the side
    • a boy aged 9 in the arm
    • a coachman (mortally) in the belly
    • another woman
    • a sailor and 3 soldiers

He arrived at his barracks, where he was stopped by the sentry. He then plunged the dagger into his own breast.


It is one of the greatest insults to:

  • stride over a sleeping native, or
  • awaken him suddenly.

They rouse one another with the greatest circumspection, very slowly.

This comes from a widely-spread superstition that during sleep the soul leaves the body.

Numerous instances of which occur in Bastian’s work. Amongst the Tinguianes (North Luzon) the worst of all curses is to this effect: “ May’st thou die sleeping!"- Informe, i. 14.

Nasal Acuteness

The sense of smell is developed amongst the natives to so great a degree that they are able, by smelling at the pocket-handkerchiefs, to tell to which persons they belong (“ Reisesk.,” p. 39). They love to exchange pieces of the linen they may be wearing at parting. During their separation, they inhale the odour of the beloved being, besides smothering the relics with kisses.

  • Lewin (“Chittagong Hill Tracks," 1869, p. 46) relates of the mountain people at that place: “ Their manner of kissing is peculiar.

Instead of pressing lip to lip, they place the mouth and nose upon the cheek, and inhalę the breath strongly. Their form of speech is not . Give me a kiss,’ but • Smell me."