The Nagas

Hill Peoples of Northeast India

Project Introduction The Naga Database

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

caption: Chapter Twenty-four. The World Beyond
caption: attitudes to supernatural
medium: books
ethnicgroup: Konyak
person: Furer-Haimendorf
date: 6.1936-6.1937
text: What is the Konyak's idea of the natural phenomena that sometimes threaten his life and his property? Is he the 'primitive man' who lives in constant and vague fear of unknown and hostile forces, so often depicted by some philosophers? He certainly is not. His conception of the world is clear and simple, and his ideas on Nature are mainly the result of logical deduction. Mysticism and speculation do not appeal to the Konyak. When lightning flashes over the sky and thunder resounds behind the mountains, he knows they are produced by Gawang, the lord of the sky. How this happens, he cares little, but whoever digs near a tree struck by lightning finds one of Gawang's thunderbolts -- is this not proof enough? For much money I have acquired some of these magic stones, but there would be little point in trying to explain to my friends that they are the polished stone celts of an older population or perhaps even of their own ancestors. Gawang is thought of as a definitely personal being, but no Konyak can say exactly how he looks. "Like a tall Naga with spear and dao," some men suppose, but so that my feelings shall not be hurt, they admit that he might look like a Sahib. "But who can tell?"