NAGA EFFIGY DOLL
In the language of India, the word "naga" means "snake." The Naga or Snake
people are a remote tribe
of hunters and gatherers who live on the far border of Eastern India, almost in Burma.
They were once head-hunters, but not any longer. The region where they live is
called Nagaland by English-speaking Indians.
The Naga people are not Hindus or Moslems or Jains,
like most of the rest of the people in India;
rather they practice their own ages-old animist religion which centers around cultural
interests in the natural flow of life and the plenitude of game. I don't know
how true it is, but one Nepalese trader who brings Naga goods to the west told me, "They
are like your Navajo, like the Navajo of India. They live in the wild and make
beautiful things and are very spiritual."
What we have here are a couple of Naga effigy dolls. They are made of deer antler
that has been bound and wrapped with black sewing thread which was hand-plied until it is twice the thickness of pearl cotton. Each doll has a heavy sand-cast brass head and
two dark red cotton ear-tassels. Each hangs from a 20 inch string of beads, the colours of which
vary from doll to doll.
In keeping with their former status as head-hunters, the Naga people are not loathe
to perform hostile magic against enemies or to use effigies of the type usually
called "Voodoo dolls" in America. These Naga dolls, with their rigidly composed
faces and their spooky black-wrapped antler bodies, are quite suitable for use by
anyone wishing to perform doll-baby or "Voodoo doll" magic. The cast-brass heads
are hollow behind, just big enough for you to work into place a ball of soft
beeswax into which you have embedded some hairs or
other personal concerns (such as dried
body fluids or nail clippings) of the person you wish to ensorcel.
The fact that the dolls can be hung from their string of beads makes them
appear relatively helpless and weak. The implications -- and how to use the dolls
should be obvious to those familiar with effigy work.
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