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: most powerful parts of skull
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf/ C.
date: 1969
refnum: with permission from Holt, Rinehart & Winston, New York97:2
text: At the time of my fieldwork in 1936 and 1937 head-hunting was not permitted in Wakching and the other villages under British administration, but it was still practised in unadministered areas and, through a combination of circumstances described in detail in my book 'The Naked Nagas' (1939), I was able to watch head-hunting ceremonies in several villages. I learned then that not all parts of a head were equally valued. The most powerful forces were believed to adhere to the parts around the eyes and to the jaw, whereas the back of the head was of much less potency. This suggests that the connection between skull and soul substance was thought of in very concrete terms, and that a captured head was by no means regarded merely as a symbol of a victory over an enemy. It was the beneficial power which emanated from a human head that the Konyaks were eager to acquire, and little thought was given to any connection between the head and the slain enemy except, as we shall see presently, in the case of men killed in direct retaliation for the killing of a kinsman or covillager. Yet, the heads carried into the village stood in a sense for the slain victims, and in some phases of the ritual they were addressed as if they were persons and capable of exerting an influence on their kinsmen.