The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : 'Konyak Nagas' by Christoph von Furer-Haimendorf, (1969)

caption: Chapter Four. Religious Beliefs and Practices
caption: a multitude of invisible forces an integral part of the social order
caption: the soul, the land of the dead and shamans
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York93:1
refnum: 93:2
text: In the mind of the Konyak the world was made up not only of all the visible objects and creatures of which he had direct sensory experience but also of the multitude of invisible and intangible beings and forces. These entities were imagined as an integral part of the natural order, and Konyak's attitude to invisible beings was basically pragmatic. He gave offerings regularly to the supreme deity credited with beneficient power over men , but as long as life ran smoothly he paid little attention to the numerous spirits of forest and hill. Only when illness or other misfortune struck would he suspect the malevolence of one of the countless spirits and search for a means of propitiation.
text: Invisible forces were not conceived as belonging to a world altogether different from the human sphere, and according to Konyak ideology, man himself split at death into several distinct invisible entities. Immediately after the funeral the "soul" ( 'yaha' ), to which a large portion of the individual's personality was attached, set out on a lengthy journey to Yimbu, the land of the dead. The gate to Yimbu was guarded by Doloba, the powerful guardian of the nether world, who questioned the 'yaha' before allowing it entrance. Shamans were believed to enter the land of the dead in dreams and trance, and they were credited with the ability to recover and lead back to earth a 'yaha' which, straying from a sleeping body, had been kidnapped by some spirit. The absence of a 'yaha' from the earthly body, though frequently a cause of serious illness, did not immediately result in death, but its separation from the body could not last longer than a few days if death was not to occur.