The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-one. Head-Hunting Rites
caption: rituals associated with head taking
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching Tamlu
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: These words are believed to compel the souls of the dead to call their relatives, and thus give the Wakching people the chance of capturing still more heads. Let us hope the magic will not succeed this time, for if the Pangsha men come here, I would be sorry for my Wakching friends; I do not want to cast any aspersions on their courage, but I feel they do not realize whom they conjure!
text: I no longer regret having given up my museum specimens, for the recording of an ancient head-hunting ceremony, so obviously doomed to extinction, is certainly of greater scientific value than a few skulls. The magic formula at the time of feeding the heads has already excited my surprise, for it is with exactly these words that the head-hunters on Taiwan feed the heads of their victims with rice-beer, and thus this Konyak ceremony adds yet another element to the many parallels between the Nagas and the hill-tribes of that distant island.
text: However, this is hardly the time to dig up ethnological culture-links; the men and boys of each morung are already forming processions and heading for the village with solemn chants. An old man with a piece of the head walks ahead, the men beating bronze (169) gongs and the long train of the young warriors and boys follow. I allow the five processions to pass me on the open space of the Balang morung. How different from the villagers of Tamlu! Here, not a man or a boy is missing, and the expression on their faces is deadly earnest. This is no show for the Wakching men, but a religious ceremony that will bring prosperity to the village and fertility to the fields.