The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

published - 'Notes on the Wild Tribes Inhabiting the So-Called Naga Hills, on our North-East Frontier of India', by Col. R.G. Woodthorpe, 1881

caption: conveying hostile messages
medium: notes
person: Butler
person: Woodthorpe/ R.G.
date: 1881
refnum: given at a meeting of the Anthropological Institute, 1881
text: Captain Butler mentions the following instances of their expressive manner of emphasizing messages. I quote his words: " I remember (60) a challenge being conveyed by means of a piece of charred wood, a chilli, and a bullet tied together. This declaration of war was handed on from village to village, until it reached the one for which it was intended, where it was no sooner read than it was at once despatched to me by special messenger, who in turn brought with him a spear, a cloth, a fowl, and some eggs, the latter articles signifying their subordination and friendship to me, at whose hands they now begged for protection. It is, perhaps, scarcely necessary for me to explain that the piece of burnt wood signified the nature of the punishment threatened (i.e,. a village consigned to flames), the bullet descriptive of the kind of weapon with which the foe was coming armed, and the chilli the smarting, stinging, and general painful nature of the punishment. And one day a piece of wood, with a twisted bark collar at one end and a rope at the other, used for tying up dogs on the line of march, was brought to me with another prayer for protection. The explanation in this case is of course obvious, viz.: that a dog's treatment was in store for the unfortunate recipients of this truculent message. Two sticks, crosswise, a fresh cut bough, or a handful of grass across a path, declares it to be closed."
text: I may add that these customs are not confined to the Angamis or, indeed, to the Nagas generally, but are common among all the tribes on the north-east frontier, of whom I have long experience.
text: So far, except where I have especially stated that all Nagas were included in the remarks, I have been dealing with the so-called Angamis or kilted Nagas only. The non-kilted Nagas I must deal with in the second part of the paper.