The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

book : Return to the Naked Nagas (1939;1976)

caption: Chapter One. The Naga Hills
caption: privileges and powers of founder's kin or tevo
medium: books
keywords: thevo
ethnicgroup: Angami
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: Today it is difficult to see how in the old days an Angami village was run. With independent khel and rivalling clans one would almost suppose that except for the common village site there is hardly any bond uniting all the inhabitants of a settlement. Yet, enquiry into their ritual organization reveals that there is an institution which for certain purposes does link the whole village. To understand it you must go back to the time when the Angamis invaded the country, took possession of the land, and founded their villages. The formal founder of a village was always a man of note, whose wealth and prowess in war revealed his "virtue." lt was his duty to perform the sacred rites necessary for the prosperity of the village and its protection against supernatural dangers. The office of the founder was inherited by his descendants. Even today the Tevo, a direct descendant of the village founder, is the mediator between the community as a whole and the supernatural world, the personification of the village in its relations with the magical forces pervading nature and human life, and, more concretely, the vessel of the "virtue" of the village.
text: The privileges of a Tevo are neither numerous nor important. He works in his fields as any ordinary villager and in the council his voice has no more weight than that of any other man of equal wealth and moral influence. His office, in fact, is in no way an enviable one. It is true that he receives special shares of all animals (14) sacrificed in the village, but many burdensome obligations more than outweigh this privilege. During the first three and a half years of his office he may not visit any other village, and even later on he may never partake of a meal in a strange village but must always carry his food with him. Still more irksome is the regulation that forbids him to indulge in sexual intercourse during those first years.