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: decision to tour other villages to see head-hunting ceremonies
medium: books
person: Shankok
ethnicgroup: Konyak
location: Wakching
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: The feasts in Wakching are not the only head-hunting ceremonies I witness. Messengers from the other Konyak villages in administered territory have besieged my bungalow for days with petitions for pieces of the precious heads, but I do not want to hand over their shares at once, for I know that they will all hurry home to their villages and all hold their ceremonies at the same time. (175) A tour of the villages in the east appeals to me much more. Then I can bring the trophies personally, and learn to know the differences between the various celebrations. This is not at all to the taste of the heroes, and they sulk on the veranda of my bungalow. In their own minds they see themselves already running home with the heads, when the whole village would welcome them as heroes, and now no amount of persuasion or explanations as to why they must have the head at once can change the Sahib's mind. That I want to keep one of the trophies is incomprehensible to Shankok. He has always heard that white men don't hunt heads.
text: "Why don't you give us this head too? It would be so useful to us here in Wakching, and you don't need it."
text: "Look Shankok, I want to take this head home myself; I have divided all the others up, but this one I want."
text: "What will you do with the head at home? You don't celebrate any feasts with heads."
text: "For ceremonies such as yours, of course I don't need it. But think, what would the girls of my village say if I returned after a whole year in a foreign land without a head? They would not believe I had ever marched against Pangsha, and they would not consider me a real man."
text: This explanation Shankok understands. "Well, if you need the head for that reason, then I won't take it away from you." And laughingly he added, "Perhaps you will even find a wife -- when you go home with a Pangsha head." He never understood why I was not married.