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: a piece of skull for Oukheang morung
medium: books
person: Oukheang morung/ WakchingYongem/ of Wakching
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: After so many nights in different camps, it is good to be back in my comfortable bungalow. I revel in the thought that I will not be woken at the crack of dawn by the sound of bugles and that I will not have to shave and eat a scanty breakfast in a windy shelter before the rising of the sun. Here I breakfast at my leisure, waiting till the sun has graciously warmed the veranda of my bungalow. The Konyaks themselves rise late, and so breakfast is the only meal when I am seldom disturbed by visitors; and to it generally belongs the comfort of reading, for which otherwise I find little time.
text: But the enjoyment of my first peaceful breakfast is disturbed. Yongem, my faithful water-carrier, appears with something apparently lying heavily on his heart. He comes with a woe begone face and explains that unfortunately there has been some mistake in the distribution of the heads, and it is just his morung that has come to grief. When I divided up the heads yesterday morning in Tamlu among the boys of the other morung I did not notice that there was no representative of the Oukheang morung and, packing the heads in a basket, had sent them ahead of me to Wakching. Thus it was that meeting Yongem on the path, I had no piece of the heads with me, and it had been impossible to hand over the Oukheang morung's share before we came into the village. The piece Yongem then received was not nearly so valuable as if he had received it on the path and brought it in triumphantly himself, because it does not lend sufficient support to the fiction that he himself is the hero. And there were further complications, for since he had received it in the village, it is difficult to decide whether he might wear the full dress of a head-hunter, and in particular if he might decorate his basket with a monkey's skull.
text: As consolation he wanted a second piece that he could use at the rebuilding of his morung next year, and since he thinks nothing of any objection that the head will be too old by then, I cut him off a small section more -- anything to have a little peace.