The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript - 'Diary of a Tour in the Naga Hills, 1922-1923' by Henry Balfour

caption: Ceremony of divination to recall a sick man's soul
medium: diaries
person: Mills/ J.P.
ethnicgroup: Ao
location: Mokokchung Lungkam (Nankam) Ungma
date: 28.11.1922
person: Balfour/ Henry
date: 1922-1923
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
text: Tues. Nov. 28th.
text: It had rained hard during the night & early morning & a very cold wind was blowing at 4 a.m. We started off for our last march to Mokokchung (12 miles), stopping a short while in Nankam village. After walking a bit Mills & I both took to the ponies & rode the rest of the way. I all but trod on a Russell's Viper while walking; Mills killed it. It became quite fine after the rain, and the bridle-path is a good one. Just below Ungma (Ao village) we found three men by the trackside performing the ceremony of calling back a sick man's soul or spirit (the kind that leaves the body during life occasionally). They were preparing offerings of food, which were placed on leaves. Then a fowl was taken & an old man, holding it up by the wings, made a long invocation to the spirits. The fowl's head was then cut off with a dao, & its blood was smeared on a basket which was then hung on upright sticks. Omens were taken from the way in which the dead fowl's legs crossed and another as they stiffened and also from the intestine which was drawn out of the body. Feathers were plucked from the bird & stuck into the basket (as equivalent to the bird itself;) the body being handed over to the other men to singe & cook for the men to eat. Offerings of zu and leaf-cups were made. The pot in which the food offerings to the spirits were cooked, would later be broken and placed with the other offerings. Water was also poured from a new bamboo vessel. That completed the ceremonies & the men devoted their attention to consuming the fowl, which had been cooking for a few minutes only. The omens were apparently favourable. The sick man had been travelling for trading purposes & his 'soul' had been retained by the spirits & had to be recovered to make the invalid well. We passed below Ungma without entering the village, and joined the New Sema Road, reaching Mokokchung at 12.30 p.m.