The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary two

caption: counter magic, a complex ritual
medium: diaries
person: Metlo/ of Wakching
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 13.9.1936
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 2.6.1936-11.7.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
seealso: notebook 6,p.95
text: A counter magic takes on a completely different form. Metlo, the young gaonbura of the Bala morung, has been feeling unwell for some time and he suspects that someone from a village across the border has put a spell on him. Therefore a few days ago a counter magic was completed of which unfortunately I only heard now afterwards. First an augury is performed with the leaf strips so frequently used. In order to find out what kind of animal (35) a cock, a dog or a cat should be used for the magic. The omen decided on a cock. Then Metlo carved the little figure of a man.
text: One evening he called the young men of the Bala morung and told them in an apparently stereotype formula. "We have made the figure of a man. The figure of the man we shall kill. Come you men" (text notebook 6 p. 95). Then a rooster was tied alive to the figure and one of the Bala men pulled figure and cock through the entire village on a string. This happens at midnight. The other men put on their warrior costumes and hid in the forest near the Bala path. When the man appeared from the village with figure and cock they rushed into the open and after the man had cut off the heads of figure and rooster they also speared both of them. Both heads were then buried underneath the path and covered with a flat rock so that all people step on it every day. The remains of statue and cock were burned. While cutting off the head the man had said, "Chi-ang, Mon-ang, Leangha-ang, the man who has taken my name (36) make his magic fall off my skin" (text notebook 6 p. 95). The names of these Angs are mentioned because they are especially versed in this type of black magic and it is likely that one of them is the guilty one. Then the men returned to the morung singing and dancing and they beat the drum just as if they had captured a head.
text: In the old days the black magic involving a head of a figure was much practised by Wakching people against their village companions as well. Now it is supposedly rare or obsolete. During the secret magic in ones own house prior to the beheading the figure is fed with rice and madhu and is smeared with betel spittle. However this magic is dangerous for the executors as well as they supposedly will have no children.