The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes made by W.G. Archer between 1946 & 1948, and miscellaneous papers and letters

caption: head-taking and the symbolism of warriors' dress
medium: notes
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 5:9
text: Head-taking
text: When the boys of a particular group reach about 18 - 14-15 in a group - they must form the front rank in an attack on a village - (see techniques of war) - this is their first trial - 3-4 veteran warriors will take them out and control the attack - other veterans guiding the retreat - if they themselves get defeated the expedition qualifies for nothing - if they either take a head or kill a man (but do not get a head) it gives them the following status:
text: 1. the boy who struck first - full warrior's status and the right half of the head - 4 boar's tusks (2 front of neck 2 back of neck) - red waist band long drooping ear-rings - ipung - down to the chest - 'the dangling brains of the killed man' - 'eyes' on dao holder - cowrie gauntlets - khikum edged with red goats' hair (the red is the blood which sprinkled the hands at the killing) - necklace of long white china beads in 5 ranks - athangla (like sticks of white chalk) + painted cloth strip on cloak - with head design (same design as Ao) - black bears' skin wig - + 1 hornbill feather for every head taken - a baldric from the right shoulder to the left waist made of black and red goats' hair - rahrah - the hair is the blood which splashed the body - if more than 5 heads, a second baldric from the left shoulder to the right hip - + the shaggy tail - tsipung - to the panji carrier - made of woman's hair = 'the swaying head of an enemy when tied to the bamboo pole' - the hair of a woman whose head has been taken - a fully 'clothed' spear - red on both halves - all the way down - the red hair = 'the spear soaked in blood' - apron with lines of cowries = 'the enemies teeth' - dao with red hair on handle - 'the falling blood'.
text: 2. the second and third strikers - 2. left half of the head, 3. back of the head. - 2 boar's tusks, 1 front 1 back - red waist band - ipung - khikum (but without red hair) - athangla + 1 sipung - 'eyes' can be incised on the wooden dao holders + painted cloth strip on cloak (Longsa pattern) - black bear's skin wig 1 hornbill feather per head taken - rahrah - cowrie apron with cowrie 'stars' - 'the attack by star-light' - dao with red hair on handle.
text: 3. others who gave the 4th or later blows or touched the body with a spear - the red waist band with red cords & little yellow beads + dao holder - the cords are the blood streaming down - yellow no significance - plain dao holder.
text: 4. the one who severed the head (if not among first 3 - get the jaw) - cowrie apron - with cowrie 'stars' - red waist band + a dao with red hair.
text: On the expedition they wear ordinary dress - if a surprise raid - warriors' dress only if a pitched battle. The head is cut up only if 3 or 4 villages combine - if only 1 village goes the shares are 'imaginary' the head is not chopped up.