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Monday, May 28, 2012

IAN STEVENSON - Reincarnation & biology - BIRTHMARKS.2

 IAN STEVENSON - Where reincarnation and biology intersect



7. BIRTHMARKS CORRESPONDING TO SURGICAL WOUNDS AND OTHER SKIN LESIONS ON DECEASED PERSONS


The deceased persons (or, as I call them, the previous personalities) involved in the 31 cases that I described in the last three chapters all died violently. (We know this for the verified cases and may permissibly assume it for the five unverified cases of Chapter 4.) In this chapter I describe eight cases in which the death was natural. To be sure, in four of these cases death followed a surgical operation, and I suppose surgery is a kind of violence; still, it is one to which the parties involved ordinarily consent, and I believe I am warranted in counting deaths that follow surgery as natural.
The first case of the group has few data: a dream, a birthmark, and some behavior appropriate for the woman of whom Susan Wilson, the subject, was the supposed reincarnation. By its size and position, however, the birthmark seems significant in the identification of the person, Susan Ford, as the correct previous personality.
Susan Ford, a Tlingit, was born in Juneau, Alaska, on September 30, 1910. Her mother died soon after her birth, and she was raised by her father and stepmother, Walter and Rosemary Ford. Susan Ford's mother and Susan Wilson's were cousins, as were their fathers. When Susan Ford was just over 24 years old, she became ill with what her death certificate described as "lobular pneumonia." She had had pleurisy and a surgical drainage of her chest, presumably to drain off an empyema or pleural fluid. She died within a few days, at most, of the pleural drainage, on November 2, 1934.
Susan Wilson was born some 6 years later, on September 5, 1940. Before her birth someone—I did not learn who—had a dream connecting the baby that was about to be born with Susan Ford. When, after Susan's birth, her large birthmark was noticed, she was identified as the reincarnation of Susan Ford and given her name.
The birthmark was a large heavily pigmented nevus. It was located on the left side of the chest at the lower margin of the left breast. It was irregularly rec- tangular in shape, and during Susan's adulthood it measured about 3 centimeters by 2 centimeters (*). Susan told me that the birthmark had been farther toward her back when she was younger than it later became. It had migrated forward as she grew. The birthmark was at a site where a pleural effusion or empyema secondary to pneumonia might be surgically drained.
When Susan became able to speak, she somehow drew attention to the birthmark on her chest; later, however, her mother could not remember what she had said about it.
Susan showed an unusual attachment to Susan Ford's family. She greatly enjoyed seeing them and would take them a portion of whatever food she cooked for herself. In some other respects, such as in a love of music and a tendency to be unusually active, she was said to resemble Susan Ford.
Muhittin Yilmaz was born at Yenice, near Tarsus, in Turkey, in 1960. Soon after his birth, his mother noticed that he had a red horizontal birthmark in the right upper quadrant of his abdomen. The birthmark subsequently faded some- what, but was still visible and easily photographed when Muhittin was 15 years old (*). On the basis of this birthmark and of two dreams had by members of the family, Muhittin was judged to be the reincarnation of his paternal grandfather, Muhittin Ugur Yilmaz.
Muhittin Ugur Yilmaz was a farmer who also owned and operated a cafe in Yenice. He drank alcohol excessively and continued to do so up to the time of his death. In the 1950s he developed a disease of some internal organ and underwent a surgical operation. I did not learn the nature of his illness, but jaundice was one of its symptoms, and his widow said that he had died of cancer. (I was unable to obtain a medical record for this case.) Muhittin's birthmark corresponded closely to a transverse surgical incision that would be made in the hope, among other possibilities, of removing an obstructive gallstone or perhaps a cancer of the head of the pancreas.
This being a same-family case, no one would have expected Muhittin to make statements outside normal knowledge in the family. He was, however, cred- ited with some unusual statements and recognitions. Once, when he went to the home of one of his grandfather's friends and found him drinking raki (the distilled alcoholic drink of Turkey), he said: "Selmi, we used to drink raki together, so give me a little now." On another occasion Muhittin met a man familiarly known as Uncle Halis and said to him: "Do you see, Uncle Halis, that before, I was big and you were small. Now it is the opposite. You are big and I am small."
Although Muhittin showed a strong desire for alcohol as a young child, he had not, during his short life, become an excessive drinker of alcohol. At the age of 20 he killed himself when depressed over a marriage into which he believed he was being forced.
Susumu Ogura was born in Niigata, Japan, on March 21, 1944. At his birth he was found to have a crescent-shaped birthmark behind his right ear. On the basis of this birthmark and it alone, he was identified as the reincarnation of his older brother Shizuo, who had died, probably of pneumonia, after an operation for the drainage of the cells behind and above the right ear. This operation, called mastoidectomy, was often performed in the 1930s (before the development of antibiotics) on patients with severe infections of the middle ear and adjoining cells, called the mastoid cells. The surgeon made a crescent-shaped incision for this operation. Shizuo died on April 20, 1939, at the age of about 18 months.
I have not yet been able to meet Susumu Ogura, and the photographs of his birthmark that I have were sent to me by his brother, Dr. Tadao Ogura, and Tosio Kasahara. In adulthood, Susumu's birthmark remained crescent-shaped, although it had shown some migration (away from the ear) as he grew up. It was a hairless, slightly elevated area behind the right ear and measured about 3 centimeters long and 5 millimeters wide at its widest (Figure 8).
Susumu never made any statements about the life of his older brother, who had died in infancy.
Because Susumu's mother was well aware of the operation on Shizuo, this case might be interpreted as an instance of a maternal impression. A difficulty with this interpretation, however, arises from the birth of a male baby, Takashi, who was born between the death of Shizuo and Susumu's birth. One might have expected that a maternal impression, if it played a role, would have produced a birthmark on Takashi, but he had none.
Jacinta Agbo, an Igbo of Nigeria, was born in 1980. She had the most extra- ordinary birthmark that I have ever seen. It consisted of an area, about 3 centime ters wide, of pale, scarlike tissue that extended around her entire head (Figure 9). In some respects it resembled a bandage, and I believe it did in fact correspond in location to a bandage placed around the head of the deceased person with whom Jacinta was later identified.
This person, Nsude Agbo, had been engaged in a quarrel during which one of the combatants hit him on the head with a club. He was taken to the University Hospital in Enugu and operated upon. I was unable to obtain copies of the med- ical record of this operation which occurred in March 1970. (Many of the medical records in the University Hospsital had been mislaid or destroyed during the Biafran War, which lasted from 1967 to 1970.) It is safe to assume, however, that a neurosurgeon attempted to prize up the battered-in skull bones of Nsude. In order to do this he would first have made an extensive incision in the scalp, which he would afterward have sewn up. Jacinta's birthmark was much wider than the incision would have been, and this is why I believe it corresponded to a bandage placed by the surgeon around the head after he had sewn up the scalp.
This is a case of the sex-change type. When I met Jacinta, she was only 2 years old. One of my assistants in Nigeria was able to make follow-up visits to her, first when she was 4 and again when she was almost 8 years old. He learned that she had shown definitely masculine traits. She thought of herself as a boy and "did everything that they [boys] do." Her birthmark had not faded; if anything, it had become more prominent.
Maung Nyunt Win was a member of a small crowd observing my assistant and me as we were studying another case in his village in Upper Burma. I noticed the enormous hairy nevus on his cheek (Figure 10) and thought this might derive from a previous life. We called him over and learned that this was indeed so. Later, we were able to interview several informants for the case.
The informants told us that Maung Nyunt Win's hairy nevus corresponded to what I believe was a sebaceous cyst at the same location on the cheek of the man, U Po Hla, whose life Maung Nyunt Win remembered. Such cysts tend to enlarge and become unsightly and sometimes uncomfortable. U Po Hla decided to drain the cyst himself. After puncturing it with a pin or needle, he squeezed out its contents. Miraculously, he did not infect the cyst, and he lived some years longer before he died of some unrelated illness. He had not, however, fully abolished all trace of the cyst; some kind of scar must have remained after the drainage.
Maung Nyunt Win made a few statements showing that he had some imaged memories of the life of U Po Hla.
James Wilder, a member of the Gitksan tribe of British Columbia, was born in Kitwancool, British Columbia, Canada, on June 13, 1938. At his birth he was found to have a large, heavily pigmented nevus in his left upper abdomen. In adulthood, when I met him, it measured approximately 3 centimeters by 1.5 centimeters (*).
James's mother, Gertrude, perhaps had an announcing dream before his birth. He himself had only some vague possible memories that might or might not have derived from a previous life. He was, nevertheless, identified as the reincarnation of James McIntosh, who had died of an abdominal cancer, probably of the stomach, on August 27, 1931. The cancer had been neglected or was considered inoperable when James first consulted a doctor. Before he died, it eroded the
Birthmarks Corresponding to Surgical Wounds 59 abdominal wall, where a fistula developed. James Wilder's birthmark was at the location of this fistula.
Ma Khin Sandi was born in Rangoon, Burma, on September 9, 1983. Her parents were U Hla Shein and Ma Omar. Before Ma Khin Sandi's birth her moth- er had a strong impression that her mother, Daw Khin Mya, was to be reborn as her baby and would have birthmarks on her back and left wrist.
Daw Khin Mya had died on November 16, 1979, at the age of 50. She had suffered from hypertension for many years. Some months before her death she had had a stroke with paralysis of her right side and became bedridden. From lying more or less helpless on her back she developed a bedsore in the lower back.
When Ma Khin Sandi was born, she was found to have a birthmark on her lower back at the site of the bedsore from which Daw Khin Mya had suffered (*). It was a small, triangular area of increased pigmentation and measured (when Ma Khin Sandi was an infant) about 1 centimeter by 5 millimeters.
Ma Khin Sandi had another birthmark. This was a small round area of increased pigmentation on the upper surface of her left wrist (*). It corresponded to a mark that someone had made at this site on the body of Daw Khin Mya, either as she was dying or soon after her death. This birthmark was of the type that I call "experimental birthmarks," and I will delay a further discussion of them until Chapter 10, where I shall describe other examples.
I met Ma Khin Sandi first when she was an infant in arms and then again when she was about 21/2 years old. She was then just beginning to use pencils and crayons. Watching her draw, I noticed that she was using her left hand. All the other members of the family were right-handed. Daw Khin Mya had also been right-handed. She, however, had lost the use of her right hand after her stroke. I have asked myself whether Ma Khin Sandi's left-handedness might derive from a residue of Daw Khin Mya's inability during the last months of her life to use her right hand. In Chapter 23 I describe some other cases in which left-handedness seemed to derive from a previous life.
Bir Sahai belonged to a group of older subjects in India whose cases Dr. Satwant Pasricha and I investigated together in the 1970s. We wanted to learn whether Indian cases two generations apart would have similar features, and we found that they had. Bir Sahai, like many of the other subjects of this group, lived in a relatively inaccessible village. It was not the village of his birth. That was a place called Saunhar in the Etah District of Uttar Pradesh, India. He was born into the Chamar caste, one of the lowest in India. As often occurs with subjects of Bir Sahai's generation (and social class), no written records fixed the date of his birth, and he himself could not state it accurately. From various indications we settled on 1912 as a plausible year for his birth. When Bir Sahai was born, he had a large, scarlike birthmark on his back, and 1 shall describe that later.
It happened that a circuit judge had learned of Bir Sahai's case in the 1920s (when Bir Sahai was a youth). The judge had made some inquiries about the case from firsthand witnesses and wrote a report of it that eventually came to me. To supplement this information, Dr. Pasricha and I found some older persons still liv- ing and still able to remember something of how the case developed; this group included Bir Sahai himself.
I did not learn how old Bir Sahai had been when it first occurred to him that somehow he was a Thakur (a much higher caste than that of the Chamars) and did not belong in the village where he had been born; but his first communication of this information occurred when he was about 4, when a Thakur in the village ordered Bir Sahai's mother to perform some menial task, such as, perhaps, to collect cow dung for fuel. Bir Sahai protested at this; from his childish perspective he was a Thakur himself and therefore his mother must also be one and should be treated respectfully. This was not the view of the Thakur who had ordered Bir Sahai's mother to do some work, and he roundly abused Bir Sahai. Thereupon, Bir Sahai said that he would send for some of his people from Nardauli, who would punish the Thakur for his impertinence. The other villagers then asked Bir Sahai to explain his connection with Nardauli, which he did.
Bir Sahai said that he was a native of Nardauli (another village of the Etah District, northwest of Etah, about 40 kilometers from Saunhar). He said that he was Thakur Megh Singh. Megh Singh's mother was still living then, and when she learned of Bir Sahai's statements, she sent for him to come to Nardauli. There, he recognized her and also recognized Megh Singh's gun and spear as well as two other persons known to Megh Singh. Bir Sahai's statements impressed Megh Singh's family so much that they thereupon adopted him. He moved to Nardauli and spent the rest of his life there; it was there that we met him.
Caste is still a serious matter in India, but it was even more so during the first decades of this century, when Bir Sahai was a child and youth. When Megh Singh's family adopted Bir Sahai, they probably assumed that the other Thakurs of Nardauli would accept him like one of themselves, as they did. It did not work out that way. The other Thakurs of Nardauli regarded Bir Sahai as a Chamar (which he was by birth), and they would not marry their daughters to him. He, for his part, regarded himself as a Thakur (from the previous life), and he would not marry a girl of a lower caste. Thus he remained a bachelor all his life, a social prisoner, we might say, of the caste system in India. Even so, he was certainly better off economically among a family of prosperous landowners in Nardauli than he would have been if he had remained among the impoverished Chamars of Saunhar.
I come now to Bir Sahai's birthmark. The judge who wrote the first report of the case in the 1920s excited my interest in finding Bir Sahai by mentioning that he had personally seen "a big scar near the spine of Bir Sahai. This is the scar of the carbuncle from which Megh Singh had died." Nearly 50 years later Dr. Pasricha and I were able to examine and photograph this "scar." Its description with the word scar did not seem inappropriate, because it closely resembled the sort of scar that a furuncle or carbuncle might leave if it healed. It was ovoid in shape, but somewhat irregularly so. It was approximately 3 centimeters long and 2 centimeters wide. It was a reddish purple. The center was slightly depressed and darker than the peripheral area (*).
According to Bir Sahai, the birthmark had not discharged when he was born. Nor had its appearance changed since then. (He could not have seen it him- self, but he would have been informed by older persons, if this had happened.) He had never had any pain or other discomfort in the area of the birthmark.
It remains to consider why Bir Sahai, a Chamar of Saunhar, should have had the memories of a Thakur of Nardauli. If we are willing to consider reincarnation as a plausible interpretation of the case, an answer presents itself. An informant in Saunhar told us that Megh Singh's wife came from Malawan, which is the nearest town of any substance to Saunhar. Bir Sahai's memories of the previous life had included the detail that Megh Singh's wedding party (when it was coming to Malawan) had camped under some trees outside the village of Saunhar. If we add to this information the detail that Megh Singh's widow might have moved back to her village after his death—as many widows do in India—and suppose that a discarnate Megh Singh wanted to remain near her, we can imagine that the discarnate Megh Singh got himself "accidentally reborn," so to speak, to Bir Sahai's mother. This line of reasoning provides another example of what I call the "geographical factor" as a hypothesis to understand cases like Bir Sahai's in which, at first examination, there seems no reason for a child in one village to have memories about a life in another and remote one. I gave another example of the geographical factor in my report of the case of Maung Aye Kyaw in Chapter 4. Interested readers can find additional examples in some of my other books.





8. BIRTHMARKS CORRESPONDING TO OTHER TYPES OF WOUNDS OR MARKS ON DECEASED PERSONS


In this chapter I describe a heterogeneous group of cases that illustrate further the variety of wounds and other marks to which birthmarks may correspond. The deaths of the previous personalities in these cases were all natural, and the rele- vant wounds or marks had no connection with the deaths, as they had in all but one of the cases of the preceding four chapters.
Santosh Sukla was born in the village of Panchwati, Uttar Pradesh, India, on July 3, 1950. A girl called Maya had said before her death that she was going to be reborn to Santosh's parents. The two families were acquainted and distantly related. When Santosh became able to speak, she spoke abundantly about the life of Maya. Her statements and some recognitions of persons and places familiar to Maya convinced the members of both families that she was the reincarnation of Maya.
Santosh had markedly visible red lines in the outer surfaces (sclerae) of her eyes; they were in fact abnormally dilated small arteries (arterioles). Maya had had similarly prominent red lines in her eyes. She and Santosh were the only members of the families with this abnormality. The dilated arterioles were still sufficiently prominent when Santosh was 25 years old in 1975, so that I was able to photograph them (*).
Savitri Devi Pathak was born on June 5, 1947, in the village of Ahmedpur, which is in the Mainpuri District of Uttar Pradesh, India. Her family were Brahmins. When Savitri Devi was born, her mother noted that one of her finger- nails was black; but she attached no importance to this abnormality until Savitri Devi began to speak about a previous life. Savitri Devi did not do this until the comparatively late age of 5 years. (She had begun to speak much earlier, at between 2 and 2'A years of age.)
Savitri Devi said that she had a house in Shikohabad (a small city about 15 kilometers east of Ahmedpur) and belonged to a family of Dhobis (the caste of washermen). She gave no name for the person whose life she seemed to remem- ber, nor for that of her (previous) father. She referred, however, to one "Minminia" (without explaining who this person was) and to a brother called Nadaria. She explained the mark on her nail by saying that in the previous life a weight (from a balance used for weighing grain) had dropped on her thumb and left a permanent bruise. When someone asked Savitri Devi how she had died, she replied that she had died after drinking some red water drawn from a well.
Despite the paucity of proper names that Savitri Devi had stated, her uncle Komal Singh thought that he could solve the case by making inquiries among the washermen at Shikohabad. (The task was made easier by the tendency of urban members of the same caste in India to inhabit the same quarter of a town or city.) He found a family of washermen having a member, Puniya, whose nickname was "Minminia." (The name means "one who speaks through her nose"; Puniya had a cleft palate.) This family had lost a daughter, Munni, some years earlier, and Munni had had her left thumbnail injured some time before her death when a weight had accidentally fallen on it. She had been left with a permanent blackness of the nail, called in medicine a subungual hematoma. Munni's black fingernail was well remembered in her family. One informant told us that Munni's parents had said, when they heard about Savitri Devi: "if she has a mark on her left thumb, then she is our child."
The blackness of Savitri Devi's left thumbnail persisted at least until 1974, when she was 27 years old. I photographed it in that year (*).
Ma Chit Chit Than was born in Mandalay, Burma, on June 21, 1971. Before her birth her mother, Daw Than, had a dream that prepared her to expect the rebirth of one of her daughters. Ma Khin San Tin, who had died about a year earlier, at the age of about 4.
When Ma Chit Chit Than was born, her parents noted that she had a red birthmark on the upper eyelid of her right eye and the surrounding area of her forehead above the right eye. This birthmark corresponded in location to some medicine that Daw Than had accidentally spilled on the face of Ma Khin San Tin when the girl was on the point of dying. Daw Than had been trying to put some red medicine into her dying daughter's mouth, but she was so distraught by the child's condition that she spilled the medicine on the child's eye and forehead. Daw Than then tried to wipe the medicine off her daughter's face, but much of it remained when, a few minutes later, Ma Khin San Tin died. Daw Than thought that the red medicine might generate a birthmark on a later-born daughter who could thus be recognized. Ma Khin San Tin was therefore buried with the residue of the red medicine still on her face.
When Ma Chit Chit Than became able to speak, she had some memories of the life of Ma Khin San Tin. These included the moments before death, when Daw Than had spilled medicine on her face.
Ma Chit Chit Than's birthmark was a port-wine stain that, as I mentioned, covered an extensive area of her right upper eyelid and adjacent parts of her forehead (Figure 11). I photographed it first when she was not quite 6 years old and again 7 years later, when she was 121/2 years old (*). Like most port-wine stains, hers had not faded as she grew older.
John Rose, a Tlingit, was born in Angoon, Alaska, on October 5, 1963. At birth he had a somewhat faint birthmark on the back of his left hand. On the basis of this birthmark and an announcing dream, he was identified as the reincarnation of William Paul (a great-uncle of his mother), who had had the head of a wolf tattooed on the back of his hand. The birthmark on John Rose did not show much of the wolf's head, but I could easily discern a part that corresponded to one of the wolf's ears, and I sketched that (*).
Linda Chijioke, an Igbo, was born on September 16, 1981, in a village near Ndeaboh, Anambra State, Nigeria. Almost immediately after Linda's birth, her parents noticed that she had a large birthmark of blue-black pigmentation at the top of her head. It covered about one quarter of the surface area of the upper part of the scalp (*). Her parents thought this might be from some disease and consult- ed a doctor without obtaining any help from him. They had given Linda the name of a deceased person—on what basis I did not learn—but Linda became ill, and they thought they might have made a mistake in naming her. (The Igbo often attribute illnesses in infants to misnaming.) They consulted an oracle, who told them that Linda was in fact the reincarnation of her paternal grandmother, Ori Chijioke, who had died in 1967. He explained Linda's birthmark as a residue from abrasions on the skin resulting from carrying heavy loads on the head.
All Nigerian women of the villages carry loads on their heads. There were two aspects of Ori's carrying such loads, however, in which she differed from most other Nigerian village women. First, her husband was a trader over long distances, and his wife accompanied him on his trading journeys, which were made on foot. She carried on her head some of the goods to be traded, and, on the way back, she carried the money her husband had earned. In the days of his trading the currency was an ingot of heavy metal called an okpoo, and a successful trading journey meant that on the way home Ori carried on her head a heavy load of these ingots. The second distinctive feature in Ori's circumstances was her attitude toward carrying such heavy loads on her head. She was happily married, and she never openly grumbled about having to carry heavy loads on her head. One informant, however, remembered that Ori had told her privately that she did not intend to suffer in this way—meaning from carrying heavy loads on her head—in her next incarnation.
Some Nigerian women develop abrasions and even blisters at the tops of their heads, where the loads they carry sit; and Ori had had such a lesion at the top of her head. Birthmarks related to such lesions, however, occur rarely. (I learned of some others, but Linda's was the only one I saw.) The Igbo interpretation of Linda's birthmark attributed it to Ori's "rejection of one's lot in life." This means that her discontent with carrying loads on her head, although mostly tacit, had generated Linda's birthmark.
When Linda became able to speak, she showed a strong identification with Ori and asked to be called Ori. She made only a few statements about the life of Ori. When asked about the birthmark on the top of her head, she said that it came from the life of Ori. Unlike other Nigerian children of her age, she did not play at carrying loads on her head. When the other children in playing would put something on their heads and carry it in this way, she would carry her load in her hands.
I have investigated the cases of nine subjects who had birthmarks on their ears that informants said corresponded to holes in the previous personalities' ears which had been pierced for earrings. Of these subjects, two were in India, three in Burma, one in Sri Lanka, and three in British Columbia, Canada. The informants sometimes said that when a subject had been born, there had been a hole entirely through the helix of the ear; but these had later closed up. Some of the birthmarks I examined still had small pits as well as increased pigmentation; others had only increased pigmentation. I examined and photographed all of these myself (*), except for 1 subject in Burma whose birthmark I sketched (*) and 2 subjects in British Columbia whom I was unable to meet; from informants' descriptions I made sketches of the birthmarks on these last 2 subjects (*). To complete this chapter, I will summarize the case of the subject in British Columbia whose birth- marks I examined and photographed.
Edward Taylor, a member of the Gitksan tribe, was born in Hazelton, British Columbia, Canada, on November 26, 1973. Edward was born with birthmarks at the back of the helix of each ear. The marks were areas of increased pigmentation; and they were slightly depressed below the level of the surrounding skin (Figures 12 and 13).
A resident of Hazelton, Patrick Carter, had died the year before Edward's birth after predicting that he would reincarnate and stay in the home of a relative, Jean Slade, of whom he was fond; Edward was this man's great-nephew. At the age of 4 Edward moved to Jean Slade's house and seems to have spent much of his childhood there.
Patrick Carter's ears had been pierced for earrings when he was young, and Edward's birthmarks were considered evidence that Patrick had reincarnated as planned. When Edward became able to speak, he made a few statements and showed behavior suggestive of his having memories of Patrick Carter's life.
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