The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

typescript 'Village Organization Among the Central Nzemi Nagas', M.A. thesis by Ursula Betts

caption: Chapter seven: village rituals
caption: analysis of the Hga-ngi ritual
medium: theses
ethnicgroup: Nzemi
person: Betts/ U.V.
date: 1950
refnum: M.A. thesis, University College, London
note: footnotes indicated by boxes within square brackets
text: Hga-ngi looks both ways. It ends the old year; it cleanses the village of the ghosts of the dead, it casts off sickness and evil influences, it sweeps out the spirits which have entered the settlement in the course of the past twelvemonth, and the new year then opens with the most important ritual performed by the Central Nzemi, the spearing of the mpe, or wooden effigies. The most sacred period, the fetching, painting and spearing of the mpe, is covered by a period of segregation of the sexes. It may be noted that there is no cattle or pig sacrifice during Hga-ngi, its place being taken by the spearing of the mpe in its character of a human victim. Although the kienga is utilized in the organization of the various rituals, there is here no kienga rivalry, and if the mpe of one kienga is accidentally defiled before painting and another must be fetched at once, it is brought in by the co-operative labour of both kienga. Hga-ngi seeks to know the future by taking the omens for the coming year, and it endeavours to ensure success for the village in war and hunting. Finally it propitiates the major spirits by the ceremony of heramui, when they (150) are asked to leave the village healthy and free of illness, and that the villagers may travel safely when they move abroad.