The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: head hunting
caption: motives for head-hunting; prestige; feud; magical skulls
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York95:1
text: The idea that powerful magical forces adhering to the human skull could be manipulated for the benefit of the living explains not only the care bestowed on the skulls of deceased kinsmen, but, to a large extent, the practice of acquiring heads of strangers, either by capture or by slaughter of human victims procured by purchase. Though we are hardly justified in assuming that the only motivation of so widespread a practice as head-hunting was the desire to acquire the fertility-promoting force of human blood and the power emanating from human skulls, there can be little doubt that, at least among the Naga tribes, this belief was an effective incentive to the hunting of heads. The quest for prestige gained by successful head-hunters and the desire to avenge the losses of one's own clan or village by killing enemies and capturing their heads were certainly additional motives, but they do not explain all of the ritual associated with the bringing in and disposal of a head trophy.