The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Journey to Nagaland', by Mildred Archer. An account of six months spent in the Naga Hills in 1947

caption: visit to Litsimi
caption: Sema songs
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Sema
location: Litsimi
date: 21.11.1947
person: Archer/ Mildred
date: 9.7.1947-4.12.1947
text: After dark some of the villagers came to sing their old Sema songs. A fire was lit and we all crouched round it. Six men sat in two groups with their arms round each other's shoulders singing in two parts one against the other. While they sang they sat quite immobile, their sensitive faces gaunt in the glow of the fire and still like masks. Their heavy-lidded eyes were almost shut, only their lips moved. The plaintive melody with a vibrating bass like some stringed accompaniment rose and fell in the silent night. No one stirred, even the small children crouched against their parents. There was no movement save for the flickering fire and the clouds scudding across a watery moon. The songs were plaintive as the music-
A boy is coming to take me from my village
But I do not want to leave my friends
My parents are willing to accept his word
And send me to a distant land
I cannot disobey them
Leaving my village and my friends
I must go to that far land.
text: Towards the end of the singing I noticed that the men behind me were shuffling about and examining the ground with (155) glowing embers. Then an interpreter ran to our hut and brought our lamp. He shone it on the ground and we saw a snake drowsily moving to and fro in the very place where the men had been sitting. It seems odd that in such an open place and on such a cold night, a snake should be stirring.