The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

miscellaneous papers, notebooks and letters on Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower, 1937-1947

caption: conditions of marriage
caption: incest
medium: notes
ethnicgroup: Zemi
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1937-1946
person: private collection
text: Incest
text: It would seem that while originally the Nriami and probably the Nkuoami were strictly exogamous groups, the rules have in many villages been relaxed until marriages within the clan and even between persons known to be related may take place. It would appear that among the western villages the rule is stricter that in the eastern, and there is still a strong feeling in favour of marriages according to the old rules. As a working rule, marriage is not permitted between persons between whom relationship can be traced; but such marriages undoubtedly do take place, the opposition to them varying with the nearness of the parties' relationship.
text: No penalty falls on the village if two of its members commit incest, nor does the community punish the crime. It is left to the families of those concerned to deal with it as they think fit. No case of incest between brother and sister (actual or by Zemi custom) can be quoted, but it was suggested that if one occurred, the relatives would cut off the culprits utterly from the family and kindred, and leave them, for good or ill, to fend for themselves. Such a case would mean the deepest disgrace for the family involved, and the couple would incur the dire displeasure of their kinsmen, living and dead. It is said that a marriage within the prohibited degrees will not prosper, and that the children will be sickly and unfortunate, and their parents always poor.