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: attitudes to head-taking in Wanching
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wanching
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 13:13
text: Wanching.
text: 'If a man loses his head, one of his sons goes to Yimpu. The other must tarry in the slayer's village until the killer himself dies. That day the killer's soul will go to Yimpu and the soul of the slain will go with him "to carry his loads"'.
text: 'We took heads so that our men might become warriors and win their battle honours'.
text: Head brought in - offered at the drum - made to dance on it - then hung up below the morung (not in it) - then when the skull was clean, the killer killed a pig. Fed his clansmen and the head was taken to the house of the clan's leader (malik) - there it was kept. (The same procedure for ritual heads ie. those needed for a new drum, new morung etc.) Nowadays boys get their warriors' tattoos automatically as soon as they reach the age of 12 or so, it is given. No longer any expedition into hostile land or any test of courage - to get extra tattoos eg. of little men, a man must have gone with a column and actually got a head. Similarly can only wear a brass head if he has actually taken one.
text: 'Since head taking was stopped, Wanching has got smaller. Formerly when illness swept through the village, we took a head, offered it and the sickness stopped. Nowadays we cannot offer heads and the sickness goes on and on. Man after man falls ill and dies, and there is nothing we can do. The fields too have gone off and we do not get the crops we did. When we took heads, we did not have to post sentries as all the villages around were either our 'sons' or allies and they guarded the village for us. An enemy could only reach us after going through them'.
text: 'When the British go we will wait a little. Then we will start to take heads again'.