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: Lhota substitutes for human heads
medium: notes
keywords: Potsoritzokisha
person: Mungkhau LhotaBicho LhotaHutton
ethnicgroup: Lhota
location: Sanis Topo Pangsha Pangti Noko (Nokhu)
person: Archer/ W.G.
date: 1946-1948
refnum: 13:26
text: Lhota. Substitutes for head-taking ritual.
text: When a Lhota dies, he is sometimes given a memorial (ritombeng) outside the village by a public path. The memorial consists of a framework of criss-crossing bamboo poles from which two kinds of model heads can be suspended.
text: Ritzo = a little basket ball spiked with a wooden model of a hornbill's feather.
text: Kisha = a matted ball made from a jungle root - and similarly spiked.
text: Both represented heads - One ritzo may be suspended for every time an actual head or piece of head has been worshipped by the deceased - one kisha for every time he has joined in the annual worship at the mingetung or head tree - but subject to a maximum of 2 kishas. In the last 20 years, scraps of head have come in from the following expeditions: Abor, Kuki (2), Dafla, Pangsha (2).
text: Mungkhau Lhota of Sanis has done the head-taking ceremony 6 times.
text: Bicho Lhota of Sanis who died in August 1946 aged 40 had 6 ritzo and 2 kisha on his memorial frame.
text: Topo - got a piece of skull 30 years ago.
text: Sanis got a piece from Pangsha 8 years ago - a man from Pangti had gone on the column - Pangti passed the piece on.
text: A piece from: Tambula (1900's), Abor war, Nishima, Kuki, Nagpumi, Singhai (Hutton Sahib's time as D.C.), Nokhu, Pangsha. When a piece of head came to the village whoever did the head-taking ceremony achieved warrior's status - entitled to warrior's dress and a basket head on his grave (no other consequence).
text: First put down in the forest on a stone - then brought to the morung - rice beer made - + meat (pork or cow - at discretion) each householder participating had to make rice beer and get meat - 6 days' genna - then a warrior's dance round the village stopping and drinking and eating at each house that joined - finally taken to the head-tree - at death 1 bamboo with 1 spiked basket ball hung up for every head-ceremony performed - not at the grave - but on a bamboo structure outside the village.
text: The head-taking ceremony must be performed once every year - if an actual head available, it is done with the head - ritzo - if no head can be got it is done with a dummy head - kisha - made from a jungle root - in february. [eg. At Sanis, a dummy head (kisha) spiked and suspended on a slanting bamboo erected last february by the derelict head-tree] - all participating - rice beer and meat - no dance but a house to house visit and chants - no enemy village named - this qualifies for a kisha after death. Why do people still do the head-taking ceremony even in dummy form? What is the significance of the kisha ceremony? - so that the crops may be good - tigers may be killed and everyone prosper - the kisha is offered at the head-tree in the name of Potso - if not given no crops will be good. 'If we had got a head we would have given it to you. As we have none, we are giving you this instead' - an index to good intentions - a mark of respect.
text: Sanis (Lhota) death - a little fire is lit on the grave 'to keep the insects away so that the dead man may not be bitten' - those who have done the mithan sacrifice have a long projecting prow supported on a pole SKETCH