Writing Assignment 1
October 23, 2009
In the report “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” we get an inside look at the culture and rituals of the Nacirema people. This article explains the way of the people such as the rituals and way of life of these people. The question is can they really be that different from ours?
To start they are a tribe from North America in between Canada and Mexico. Their houses were made of sticks and mud. They all had a shrine with a chest built into the wall and a receptacle where they used holy water for daily washings. The rich decorated theirs with stone and had numerous shrines in one household, whereas the poor had only one and copied the rich and use “pottery plaques” (Miner, 503) to decorate theirs. All ceremonies in these shrines were holy and private.
As “the fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease” (Miner,503) their rituals seem unreasonable. It all begins with a visit to the shrine. They open the chest to use the potions needed to help any maladies they may have. These secret potions can only be acquired from the medicine men. They are believed to be magical, and the people of the tribe believe that the only reason they are able to live is due to the potions.
One of the magic potions is used along with a bundle of hog’s hair in the mouth along with formalized gestures. They believe that this cleanses the mouth, which they believe their oral hygiene is a reflection of their moral fiber, and characteristics. They even visit a “holy mouth man” once to twice a year, and believe that he performs exorcisms of the mouth. They holy mouth man would use their tools to fix and holes or decay hat developed since their last visit. The rite of visiting him is so sacred that they continue year after year regardless that their teeth still decay. Some of the tribe believe the holy mouth man my enjoy torturing them. The men and women go through different rites. The men have a daily rite which a sharp tool is used to scrape and cut the face. Woman although’ only have to perform their rite 4 time a month it is more cruel than men’s. They have to “bake their heads in small ovens” (Miner, 505) for an hour. The theoretically interesting point is that what seem to be a preponderantly masochistic people have developed sadistic specialists” (Miner, 505).
The medicine men, who have their own latipso, is where the members of the tribe go if they are really sick or were in an accident. For those tribe members, more elaborate ceremonies that need to be done can only be done at the latipso. They medicine men are assisted by virtuous maidens in special cost uses and dead dresses. Theses elaborate ceremonies are so grim that the Nacerima think it amazing that a good portion recover. Children are scared of the latipso because they think that is where people go to die. It is very pricey to gain entrance and before they leave that have to give yet another gift. Once one has gained emission to the latispo, they are stripped naked and everything that was once private such as excretory acts are now not. Some excretions are collected in a sacred vessel and the medicine men use it to define the course of the client’s illness. The medicine mend use “magically treated needles” and “magic wands inserted in to the mouth of healing. Although it is not certain that these ceremonies will cure, faith is not lessened in the people of the Nacirema. One other specialist is