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: 6th Day: Mpe-kap-pe-ngi ('Wood-striking-genna')
text: In the morning the young men go ho-hoing to colour the mpe. It is laid on sticks, so as not to rest on the ground. Once it has been coloured neither dogs, pigs nor men, nor anything else, may step or jump over it, and the bucks must keep a sharp look-out. One of the village dogs once ran over a mpe in Asalu, and the unfortunate dekachang had to hurry off at the last minute; the rival dekachang came to their help, and some sort of an mpe in Asalu, and the unfortunate dekachang had to hurry off at the last minute; the rival dekachang came to their help, and some sort of an mpe was found and put up, but on a very small scale.
text: The wood is white, and is coloured with soot and what appears to be some sort of turmeric. The usual length is about 14 to 18 feet, width 12 to 18 inches, and in shape like a very elongated cricket-bat with a small handle. They are undoubtedly human, however little they may look like it. (SKETCH drawn 19/1/1941 Going from top to bottom the patterns are: 1. Teeth 2. Eyes 3. Heart 4. Cloth border pattern 5. Weaving-sword 6. Cloth border pattern. The teeth are stencilled in by cutting a leaf in a zig- zag pattern and rubbing colour in the gaps.)
text: When both the mpe are coloured they are put up on a scaffolding and the cross-bars which support them are decorated with bunches of poinsettias or feathery grass.
text: Darts of a tall, stiff grass called ndeo-pum have already been prepared. The grass has a dry, papery sheath above each joint, and the stem inside this is cut away, a small portion below the joint being left and cut to a point. The sheath acts as a feather. They are thrown with the sheath foremost, the point being held in the fingers, and they turn over in the air and land point-first.
text: About the middle of the morning all the bucks go and ho-ho in front of the upper mpe, and then before the lower. They return to the upper one, the small boys scudding before them with handfuls of darts, the men and bucks following suit. The whole procedure is then repeated at the lower mpe. Plenty of hits on the mpe and bright sunshine are good omens, and misses and a cloudy day bad ones. The party then returns to the hazoa and jump and put the stone.
text: In the evening an old man in each house takes rice cooked over the clean fire and two bits of the flesh of a comparatively unblemished pig, toasts the meat at the fire and puts it with salt in a leaf. He calls all the households together, goes outside the door, and says something to this effect: "Let there be no illness after this genna. If others make war with us, let my house be victorious". He then throws the food and leaf away and gives a loud yell. If his dreams that night are bad, he repeats the ceremony the following day.