The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

letters from J.P. Mills to Henry Balfour

caption: Dying custom of wooden heads to represent real heads taken
medium: letters
person: Balfour/ Henry
ethnicgroup: Angami
location: Pfutsero
date: 22.1.1934
person: Mills/ J.P.
person: Pitt Rivers Museum Archive, Oxford
refnum: Mills Ms.
text: Kohima,
text: Naga Hills
text: Jan. 22nd 1934
text: My dear Balfour,
text: I am sending these four wooden heads separately because they want a little explanation. I heard quite by chance that when one E. Angami village pays a ceremonial visit to another men who have taken one or two heads carry one of these models with them and boast about it (men who taken several have skin "faces" on their shields). The model is either carried by hand or with a loop of string round its neck and represents a definite individual's head. Very few original ones exist now and in any case are never by any chance parted with, as they must go on the taker's grave. (You will see the resemblance to the stone funeral figures I sent you from the same village). So I ordered a modern copy, which is definitely accurate and reliable. The man brought in 4 so I sent them. It is really in a way another form of the human-headed breast plate from Pfutsero I posted a week or two ago.
text: Anyone collecting in the Naga Hills now ought to concentrate on dying customs...
text: Yours ever,
text: Philip Mills.
text: These models are apparently never displayed at village festivals. They are carefully kept in their owner's house - since the loss of one is serious - and only taken on ceremonial visits, where presumably someone can be found willing to listen to a story of a deed of valour with which the hero's village was bored years before!