Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Naming Ceremony

Last week I was invited by my friend Heibormi Sungoh to observe a traditional Jaintia naming ceremony in Shangpung, a town not too far from Jowai. This was the third and final part of the naming ceremony, and as things went along they explained bits and pieces to me.

The first thing that happened was the family arriving at the home where the event was taking place. The wife's family brought gifts of alcohol and food, and each person bringing items gave a greeting/invocation which the family responded to in kind. After some time, all the men of the family gathered outside the home, drank rice beer, and discussed the event. Once the event had been deliberated over, the gathering moved inside where all the women of the family were sitting and discussing. Then the invocation was given by the priest for 45 minutes or so.

The invocation is a sort of chant that apparently tells the story of the first birth and how the Pnar people got help from the plants and animals, in particular a certain kind of grass who helped them to deal with birth and began the naming process. During the chanting, the priest continued rubbing mustard seed oil on three blades of grass which he held between his fingers. Once the chanting had completed, he put one piece of grass above the door and cast the other two on the ground when recommended names were given. If the grass fell a certain way three times, the name was given to the child.


P5050006Following this part of the ceremony, food was served, and the men once again convened after eating to continue their discussion of what had taken place. After some rice beer, the men reached some sort of agreement. The recordings I made still need to be analysed, but according to some of my friends they contain a lot of 'ktein kynnoh', which are idioms that are difficult to translate into English.

In the evening a local dance troupe came to present the traditional plate dance, and following the dance Heibormi and some other friends joined them with traditional music and song. I was able to film the whole thing, and here are a couple pictures of me with the group.

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