The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

'The Feast of Merit among the Northern Sangtam Tribe of Assam', by C.R. Stonor, 1950

caption: details of the ritual
caption: method of killing sacrificial animals
medium: articles
ethnicgroup: Sangtam <NorthernLhotaRengmaSemaAo
date: 12.1947
person: Stonor/ C.R.
date: 1950
refnum: 'Anthropos', vol. XLV 1950
text: [9] The ritual has many features of great interest. The method of killing the sacrificial animals is the same as among the Sema Nagas ( J. H. Hutton [ footnote: J. H. Hutton, The Sema Nagas (1921), p. 229.] ), and similar to that employed by the Lhota and Rengma Nagas ( J. P. Mills [ footnote: J. P. Mills, The Lhota Nagas (1922); The Rengma Nagas (1937). ]. As Hutton has suggested, the use of the wand to give a symbolic blow is very probably a relic of the days when the beasts were clubbed to death - a custom which prevailed among the neighbouring. Ao Nagas until very recent times ( J. P. Mills [ footnote: J. P. Mills, The Ao Nagas (1926). ] ). Similarly the use of a wooden stake to dispatch the mithan can be ascribed either to a tabu on the use of iron or to ritual need to use the original weapon. The use of a metal spear to make the first cut is of course a practical device for penetrating the tough hide. It is, I think, not impossible that these rituals go back further still and symbolise the times when there no tame mithan, and wild animals were trapped and killed with primitive weapons. In support of this we may cite the Lakher tribe among whom sacrificial mithan are first shot in ritual fashion with a bow and arrow ( N. E. Parry [ footnote: N. E. Parry, The Lakhers (1932), p. 374. ] ).
text: The dragging of the mithan round the feasters khel at the Tchar Tsu feast is exactly paralleled by the western branch of the Rengma Nagas ( J. P. Mills [ footnote: J. P. Mills, The Rengma Nagas (1937), p. 186. ] ) and is an interesting link between these two tribes who are completely cut off from each other by several ranges of hills, and for very many generations have had no contact, direct or indirect. So far as is known the practice is confined to these two Naga tribes and it is, superficially at least, suggestive of a scape-goat ceremony.