The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - J.H. Hutton, Diaries of Two Tours in the Unadministered Area East of the Naga Hills', 1926

caption: first tour
caption: to Naginimara; Semas working in colliery - fear of going underground; Sema clairvoyance
medium: articlestours
person: Kohoto
location: Naginimara R.S. (Naginimara)
date: 26.4.1923
person: Hutton/ J.H.
date: 4.1923-27.4.1923
text: April 26th. - To Naginimara, where I stayed with the colliery manager for the night.
text: Nagas, mostly depatriated Semas, have at last taken to work underground. At first they refused to enter the shafts at all, and even some of my own interpreters were afraid to go in with me in 1916. The fear of the underground is great and I remember how I was told by the Semas of Lukobomi and Tsivikaputomi that the cave below their villages went right to the bowels of the earth as no one had ever been in far enough to reach the end. This latter was true, and not a soul from those villages had dared to go in far enough to find out that the cave was not more than fifteen to twenty feet deep, nor would they come into the dark with me to see. We may smile at their fears, but perhaps less separates us from them than we are apt to think. Kohoto, my Sema Interpreter, tells me that there are Sema mediums, akhashemi, who go into trances (and knowing their kind I can make sure that they " twitch and stiffen and slaver and groan" with due realism) during which their clients are enabled to speak with their dead. These do not appear visibly, but speak audibly with their own and recognizable voices, so presumably there are Semas acquainted with ventriloquy, which I had not known. The Maoris used to indulge in exactly the same ventriloquial seances, apparently, [Old New Zealand by a Pakeha Maori, ch x.] and also the Polynesians of the Marquesas. [Frazer Belief in Immortality II. 370.] Mills tells me of Ao mediums who go into trances to speak with the dead, and of one of them who, being in heaven in the spirit was bitten in the body by an earthly flea - and scratched, paying pork as penalty to his client. The Road to En-dor is easy to tread, apparently, for primitive as for civilized man, and is beset with not dissimilar incident.