The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript - J.H. Hutton's tour diary in the Naga Hills

caption: Killing a python at Namkam - associated myths and rituals
medium: tours
location: Lungkam (Namkam)
date: 29.6.1922
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 15.6.1922-7.7.1922
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Hutton Ms. Box 2
text: 29th
text: To Namkam. Shot an 18 feet python in the afternoon - and skinned it, with the help of an Angami chaprasi, as neither Ao nor Kuki would come near. To kill a python in the Chang country, and apparently they have something of the same idea here, is equivalent to killing the god, and is done ceremoniously in times of great distress, the original idea probably being that the harvests are poor because the god's mana is getting weak and it is time that he was succeeded by a new god, so by the Changs someone who has nothing to lose is chosen and sent out to kill a python. He throws away the weapons used and all the clothes worn and remains tabu for 30 days, during which time he cannot touch ground nor eat food nor speak to anyone, so he lives on rice-beer on the morung machan and if he has to leave it, wears pieces of bark on each foot and covers his head with bark. But I think that there is none of this here among the Aos, though the whole village will observe amung tomorrow on account of the python's slaughter. I find that with the Aos also, as with Semas and Lhotas, it is a fearful genna to kill a snake during the pregnancy of your wife - but they can't tell me why. I suspect the idea is that the soul of the unborn child is still in some external body, probably in some snake, as the snake is a favourite recipient of a man's eternal soul. Two of the Naga Hills dobashis to my knowledge keep their external souls in snakes.