The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, Naga diary four

caption: swear words and curses; eating tigers' meat; magical power of the jaw bone
medium: diaries
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
date: 26.3.1937
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 12.2.1937-31.3.1937
note: translated from german by Dr Ruth Barnes
person: School of Oriental and African Studies Library, London
text: I now ask what kind of swear words (236) and curses are used by the people of Wakching. The choice does not seem to be very great and consists apparently not so much of actual swear words as of combinations of words which are completely innocuous in another context. Apart from phrases like "You are like a dog" or "You are like a pig", there are others which include the accusation of a crime, for example "You pig thief". Curses with a sexual content are not remarkable for their imagination: "You adulterer", "You shameless man", are the most common ones and more severe curses are "You sleep with a woman of your own house and clan, you thick skull" (with the meaning of hardened sinner). Towards people who originally came from other villages one may use their place of origin against them and refuse them the right of staying in a Wakching morung.
text: Two severe curses are "You cannibal" and "You eater of tiger's meat". The former refers to a kind of vampire belief according to which some people bite others, who are asleep, without being visible. These then wake up to find bleeding sores without having previously injured themselves. This curse is so bad that Shankok did not want to say it in the Wakching language. Whoever uses it is punished with a fine. It is not clear why eating tiger's meat is almost as bad an accusation. It is not genna and some old men obviously eat tiger's meat if they get a chance. Last year before I arrived, people from Kongan killed a tiger which had eaten a boy. Several older men ate of the meat although it is considered to be dangerous. The Ang of Wakching received the tiger's skull which is his appropriate tribute.
text: Not rare are curses in which Ghawang's punishment is evoked to come down upon the opponent. For example, "You are lying. Ghawang can see it. He will tear your mouth apart". Another curse: "You will not live long. Your lower jaw will lie removed from your skull", that is, it will fall down from the platform and will remain lying at some distance from the body, which is considered to be very bad as the lower jaw is an especially important part of the body and apparently is considered to be the seat of magic spiritual powers. Therefore the main types of curses are in evidence but it seems that there is a lack of hinting at the incredible as they are so frequent among the sexual curses of other peoples.