Folk lore and legends
[dropcap]I[/dropcap]n any community, literate or illiterate, superstitions abound. In the context of Naga society in general, almost all have been handed down generation to generation orally. All tribes have their superstitions for whatever they are worth.
To cite one instance, to enumerate the various superstitions of Angamis would fill a book in itself, even interpreting the word superstition in what is perhaps the narrowest sense in which we can use it, that is to say, as designating the detached beliefs regarding natural objects and trivial actions encountered in ordinary life.These do not form an obvious part of any system of belief and have not on the face of them have any reasonable explanation, as designating, for instance, such a practice as that of “touching wood” among ourselves.
The Angamis’ belief that whoever approaches the foot of the rainbow will die is explained by their saying that the spirit of the rainbow will kill the person, but no reason is given for the belief that it is dangerous to plant hedges of the “cactus” (Euphorbia antiquorum) because they cause storms, or for the belief that a man’s stomach aches when someone at a distance is violating his property.
These are typical superstitions. More picturesque is the belief that marriages should not be made in the month when swallows come, for girls married in that month will not stay with their husbands, but will run away back to their parents’ houses.
New superstitions, or old superstitions in new forms, seem easily assimilated. There is a belief in many Angami villages that it is dangerous to be photographed, since if the photograph is taken to the plains the person photographed will gradually decline and die. However, in some villages it was practically impossible to photograph young girls, as they regarded the cameras as some diabolical contrivance for revealing their pudenda. (No wonder even the Muslim women used to avoid getting their pictures taken).
In this connection, photographs are much catered to by young and old alike as of these days. The prints are kept in albums and treasured over the years. That is but one of the numerous benefits of expansion of education and gradual rethink of hitherto rigid ways.
Another interesting belief is in the ‘unluckiness’ of the number seven (although the Bible as also the properties of the number seven in numerology may differ on this aspect). But in days of yore no party would ever leave the village together for any purpose, even to cut jungle, as something unfortunate, such as the death of one of their number, is certain to happen to a party of seven.
If seven men were to go trading together at least one-seventh part of the capital taken would be lost. This belief may perhaps be connected with the Constelation Pleiades, of which the Angami see seven, who are said to have been seven men who went out to dig bamboo rats but got ambushed and killed.
The belief in the power for evil of praise or blame and protection by kethithedi, also known as panjiis or split bamboo pointed at one end and made to face in all directions.
The advent of Christianity notwithstanding, Angami superstitions, however, is legion. And unwittingly traditional superstitions have a way of influencing our decisions even in this modern day. Perhaps because these beliefs were based on experiences and observations and they carry an element of truth. Today we have the advantage of scientific studies which explain some of these superstitions and others not explained can remain our heritage providing a window to the minds of our ancestors and their times.