The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: Potpatngi genna: done in September after the early rice has been harvested
caption: gennas
medium: notes
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: 2nd day.
text: Any chillies or vegetables required must be fetched from the fields before the mithan is killed. It is tethered to a post by which a bit of the tree called 'ntabang' must be stuck in the ground; unless this is done the mithan must be killed. The mithan's legs are roped and it is thrown and secured. 'Ngai' (thatching grass) and the grasses called 'nka' and 'nsuk' are laid on the beast and it is stabbed with a spear by the tingkhupeo, who says something to this effect: "Let everybody who eats of this meat be well, and free from ill-luck and illness". The grass is put there so that 'people may be as numerous as grass'.
text: The animal is then turned on the other side and the tingkhupeo stabs it again, killing it. As it dies a piece of wood is skewered through the tongue to prevent it bellowing loudly. If it bellows too much the spirits will hear,which is regarded as a bad thing, but whether because of their displeasure or not is not clear; if it does not bellow at all, that also is bad. The skin of the stomach is slit so that a little of the intestine protrudes and the tip of the tail is cut off and put with some cotton in the forked post to which the animal was tethered.
text: A boy is selected and sent to sit in the morung while the carcase is being cut up. He may neither smoke, drink nor eat until the cutting up is finished, and as soon as it is done a little meat is given to him. He takes it home and toasts it at the fire and eats it, and is then free to do as he likes. When the carcase has been roughly cut up, the malik of the morung must give drink to the workers. The meat is then divided up as follows:-
text: The section below the neck, including the lungs, etc. is given to the girls of the corresponding dekichang. Half the stomach and the lower part of the right hand leg go to the malik of the morung. if the tingkhupeo is of that morung he gets the lower part of the left hind leg; if not, it goes to the oldest man. The same applies to the tingkhupeo's assistant, the tingkhusimpeo, who gets the right shin, and failing him it goes to the next senior member. The left shin goes to the kapaiza, the town crier, and failing him to the third elder of the morung. The head is hung up intact till next day. The rest of the carcass, after the remaining half of the stomach and some other meat have been put aside for the morung, is cut up small, strung on strings, and divided among all the members of the morung, boys, bucks and old men. No one may be left out, and some must be given to members who are ill and unable to come, and even to tiny babies 'put down' for that morung. The meat reserved for the morung is cooked there and eaten from three common dishes, one for the old men, one for the bucks and one for the boys. Rice is generally provided by the malik, but he is only obliged to feed the two cooks and those who cut up the carcase. Nowadays he supplies zu after the meal for the whole morung, but this is a fairly recent innovation. The oldest members must be served first, and if any young man is so ill-mannered as to drink before the old men, the spirits will take it that he is older than the old men and will die first. This is an invariable rule when eating or drinking. If the malik does not provide rice for the whole morung - there is no obligation to do so - the members arrange with various houses in the village and bring the ready-cooked rice from them. In the evening the remaining meat is cooked and there is another feast in the morung.
text: The same day, generally in the evening, a cow or a big pig is caught and tied up, and the village is closed to strangers.