The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

manuscript notes on the Zemi Nagas by Ursula Graham Bower

caption: Le-hera genna: a sickness genna for removing evil spirits from the village
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: Le-hera.
text: (This is performed if, on taking the omens, the illness is found to be curable by a genna for the fields).
text: The sick man must sit outside the house if he can, but if he is too ill, his cloth is brought out as a substitute. The old man is given fire, rice, ginger, chillies, zao kasang, and a fowl. If the sick man himself is sitting outside, the ceremony is performed in front of him; if not, his cloth is talked of as though it were the man himself. The old man says: "Whether the illness is from something bad in his fields, whether from water, from stone, or from whatever cause, let him go, do not hold him any more. He is offering you this fowl". The sick man puts a little spittle on the fowl, and the old man takes it and the other things out of the village he cuts the fowl's throat, and then cuts off the beak, feet and wings. He cooks the liver and offers it in the usual way with the rice and zu. He also puts the feet, beak and wings on a leaf and offers them to the spirits, that they may eat first. He then takes the fowl back and eats it himself, at home on an ordinary occasion, but during this genna he must cook and eat it outside the dekachang. Another ceremony performed on this day is that called 'Dsum-loak-pu-hera', for recovery from ulcers or slight illness. It can only be performed on this day, and not at other times.
text: Whoever wants to do it goes fasting in the early morning and meets and old man - not necessarily one of the village priests - outside the village on the lower path. Each man brings a chick and a scrap of cloth. The old man brings ntin (the grass used for making brooms) and a creeper called ting-ram, which has very sharp, cutting leaves, and calls the people to come. He puts the bit of cloth on the first man's or woman's head, wishes all evil on the cloth, takes it off, and flicks it into the jungle with a stick. He waves the ntin and ting-ram in front of the man, and invites him to be keen and sharp like the creeper and healthy like the grass. He also kills and offers the chick, throwing it away in the jungle. When he has repeated this procedure for all those present, he throws the ntin and ting-ram away. Then they all go back to the village, but these people may not drink, eat or smoke until the dead are separated from the living.
text: When all these various ceremonies are completed the tingkhupeo and his immediate subordinate, the tingkhu-katsepeo, go up to the top of the village and come down the street, calling out: "Are all the villagers here? We are going to throw away the dead". The villagers are all gathered outside their houses and dekachangs, leaving the street well clear for the two old men and whatever may be accompanying them. The tingkhupeo then calls: "All you dead go your own road, and all the living come here". (The tingkhupeo proclaims this (Asalu group) from the hazoa. Everyone must look east at this moment; babies' heads are turned by mothers. Men with hair uncut in mourning go to village outskirts after this to be trimmed, but eat there, not in village. At times of proclamation all must be in village - not in latrine etc. etc.)
text: The spirits of the dead then leave the village. The tingkhupeo calls out that all those fasting may now eat freely, and the fasters wash their hands and faces and eat the meal which has been got ready for them. The young men go to the hazoa and jump, and afterwards put the stone. This is not done thoroughly, but only enough to carry out the custom. In the evening the young men go to the jungle and fetch hega-zing (a sort of wild ginger) and a stake of kemeo-tsing, a bitter wood of which spirits are afraid, and put them in the dekachang. Either that night or the next morning the hega-zing is distributed among the houses, very household sending to fetch some.