The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: celts and lightning
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: CELTS. (See Hutton, ANGAMIS, 403 et seq.)
text: Celts are found in the fields and jungle. They are the "bullets" of the lightning. Meteorites are believed to be stars rushing to and fro in the sky, and lightning is supposed to be caused by one of them coming to earth. There is an animal which hides at the foot of trees (a kind of beetle, by the sound of it), and this is said to war with the stars. It defies the star to hit it, whereupon down comes the star in a lightning-flash, the celt coming first "as a bullet comes before the flash of the gun." The celt strikes the tree and goes round and round it, flinging bark to great distances. The star returns to heaven, and the celt is left behind.
text: Tall trees are to be avoided when sheltering, as they are more often struck. Certain kinds of trees are more often struck than others, including one whose sap gives horrible sores. (These trees and similar ones are generally avoided in housebuilding, as it is believed they will be struck. (Nkia- tsing). If lightning strikes in the fields, a suitable genna must be done with a big pig or a mithan. R.G.) A man killed by a thunderbolt has no wound on his body. Once a house was struck. One man was killed and another partially paralysed, though he recovered to a certain extent later.
text: Namkia had no qualms about handling the small celt I showed him, and demonstrated on the mosquito-net pole how the celt and lightning damaged a tree. He said that they were often found and that children played with them. There used to be some in his village, but a Sahib took them away.