Depiction of the Nacirema Culture

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The Nacirema are are a North American group of whom little is known. Their culture, as well as their origin, is poorly understood. Pursuant to the Nacirema people, their nation was originated by Notgnihsaw, a cultural hero. The Nacirema spend most of their time on economical pursuits but still devote a great amount of their time to ritual practices. The focus of this practice is the human body where they believe that the human body is ugly and weak. Each household contains a shrine that is nicer than the rest of the home. The purpose of these shrines is to help men avert their weaknesses through powerful rituals. These rituals are private for each person and the focal point of the shrine is a chest build into the wall. The natives believe that they cannot live without the contents of these chests: magical potions and charms. Medicine men create the recipes for the curative potions and write it in a secret language only understood by them and the herbalists who prepare the charm.

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        The Nacirema have a fascination with the mouth. They believed that without the rituals of the mouth they would be rejected by lovers, their teeth would fall out, and more. They also thought there was a strong connection between moral and oral aspects. With their daily ritual, they perform a mouth-rite which seems revolting to us. They would insert things such as hog hairs into their mouths and move them in a series of gestures. They also participate in and exorcism of evils of the mouth using augers, awls, probes, and prods that is quite torturous to the client.

        It seems that a certain amount of sadism is involved in the rituals of the Nacirema. Some examples would be gleam in the eyes of the holy-mouth-man as he performs the tortures exorcisms on his people and women baking their heads in the oven for an hour. Each community has a lalipso where very sick patients are treated by the medicine men. The actions that are performed on these people are so harsh that few will recover. The last type of practitioner is the listener who has power to exorcise devils in the heads of cursed people.

Reaction

        As could be expected, I thought that the ways of the Nacirema where rather strange, however, they would probably say the same about our ways. At the end of the story, I thought it was very interesting that they try not to conceive and it is infrequent that they do. In our culture, most people try to have babies and it is not avoided by most people. I also though it was fascinating that they try to hide the fact they are pregnant and give birth in secret. Our culture almost glamorizes pregnancy and families are usually involved in the birthing process.

        The harshness of the rituals of these people is the hardest thing for me to understand. Their customs are very exotic and far from anything that I have been exposed to. The practitioners are given gifts for most of their services. A person must give a rich gift to be admitted to the lalipso, as well as to leave if they survive. We do not give gifts for things like this but it is comparable to everything costing money. It seems that they offer gifts as their source of payment.

        The entire culture was very sadistic, in my opinion. In many of their rituals, pain was inflicted upon the people. This is very different from my culture because we try to avoid pain if we can. The ritual performed by the holy-mouth-man seemed especially painful to me. It is like when we go to the dentist but even if they do not have any cavities or tooth decay, they dig out parts of their teeth to place the magical substances. It also seems that they get pleasure from the pain of others. The author specifically mentions the gleam in the eyes of the holy-mouth-men. The practitioners of the Nacirema people, to me, are more interested in inflicting pain upon the people than anything. However, they believe that they are doing the right thing to be rid of the ugly tendencies of the human body that they are taught.

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Depiction Of The Nacirema Culture. (2019, Aug 02). Retrieved October 5, 2022 , from
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