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: Sangtam view of death and the soul
medium: notes
person: Chuba
ethnicgroup: Sangtam
location: Phire-Ahire (Phire Ahire)
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 5:30
text: Death - the soul. [Phire Ahire & Chuba]
text: Sangtams - a man has only one 'soul' - for 12 months after his death, his grave must be tended - offerings must be made - the soul haunts the house for 12 months. A little basket is hung up - some cooked rice, vegetables, some watered rice beer put in it - 'there the soul stays' - replenished with little bits every day. When the 12 months is up they say 'Now your time has come. You must move on. We shall tend and feed you no more'. - the basket is taken and thrown in the grave - after that no more. During this year, a widdower cannot remarry - neither can a widow take another husband - but no ban on marriages by other members of a family - if an unmarried girl dies, her parents must tend the soul for one year.
text: If apotia death - house must be destroyed - for 3 desperate days the family must dwell in the jungle - the dead man's soul is 'ruined' - No one knows what happens to it or where it goes - it is abandoned like the house - no one tends it - if a man is killed by an enemy and loses his head, the family cannot tend him - 'His soul is gone. We do not know where it is. It is not in the house'. No offerings of first fruits at his grave. Similarly if killed by an enemy even if head not taken can have no residence or first fruits. The soul of a dead enemy whose head has been taken is appeased with a pig on the day the head is brought, but after that no further residence, worship of offering - no idea that the dead enemy lingers in the village or that his soul is 'captured'. His soul goes with his head - the pig and cow sacrifice - he is abjured to bring all the other members of his family - after that he sets out on his long journey to the sky - half way up he begins to wander in the airy wastes - he never reaches a destination - he is 'lost' - his soul is not retained in the slayer's house or village - his soul is asked to bring its family but only in order that they may share his fate - the souls of dead enemies do not aid the village.