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
keywords: mpe
person: Graham Bower/ Ursula
date: 1939-1946
refnum: Betts papers, ring binder 1
person: Centre for South Asian Studies, Cambridge
text: 4th Day: Hega-zao-kaile ('Feast-zu-preparing')
text: The village is not closed. In a small village the bucks go and fetch wood for the mpe figures on this day, as the wood must be most carefully selected and two or three pieces will have to be discarded before a perfect pair is obtained. Several kinds of wood are permissible, but that chosen must be soft, or the darts will not stick. It may not be taken from a tree which anyone has chipped or marked with a dao, not one on which the first branch has died. if when the tree is felled it falls straight to the ground, it may be taken, but if it catches in other trees and does not touch the ground, it must be left and another found. If the tree should have knots or holes going deep, the bucks will have sores, and it must be discarded. When eventually a pair are found, they are carried up to the village with much ho-hoing and placed carefully outside the village, the lower dekachang's below, the upper dekachang's above. The wood is carefully packed in grass and leaves and fenced in to protect it from mithan, pigs, dogs, or fouling by birds. If by any mischance it should be fouled, or if rain falls - even a few drops - and the wood gets wet, new ones will have to be found and fetched.
text: From this day onwards the sexes must sleep separately and remain strictly chaste, and brinjals (which figure in an obscene story and so are connected with sex) and dried fish, for no ascertainable reason, may not be eaten till the prohibitions on intercourse are lifted.
text: (From the day the Mpe is brought in, the men and women must drink from new chungas, or if they own metal cups, they must be very thoroughly washed. The old chungas, from which they drank when they had intercourse with the opposite sex and ate prohibited things like brinjals and dried fish, are put aside until after the days of segregation. Brass or enamelware dishes must be thoroughly washed, but the old-fashioned wooden dishes cannot be used, and their owners must eat from leaves.)