Summary of Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

The Nacirema culture believed that practices that most people wouldn’t even think about. They were found in North America around the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumara of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. This culture believes that the human body is unappealing and naturally weak. The Nacirema culture believes in several rituals and has many practitioners in their community; medicine men, holy-mouth-men, and listeners. The medicine men are the most important and they have a sacred language that they can only understand.

This culture has almost an obsession with the mouth. They believe that that without all of these rituals they complete; they would not have any friends, they would have abnormally small jaws, and their teeth would fall out. Just a couple of rituals consist of having a shrine or box that is built into their living room wall, where it is filled with magical potions to help a number of things. These potions are created by the medicine men as they tell their clients what ingredients should be in them. Another ritual is where the female clients go into their temple completed stripped of clothing and are subject to manipulation. Even though most of the clients never really get healed, the medicine men have clients that keep coming back year after year.

Reaction Essay

If I had to put my reaction to the Body Ritual among the Nacirema by Horace Miner in one word, it would be unbelievable. I would not have known that there are cultures in North America that still practice unbelievable rituals. 

I understand having a shrine in your home, even if it is built in the wall. The rituals that are being performed are ridiculous but, in some ways, they could relate to our civilization. They have rituals that are supposed to make fat women skinny and skinny women fat. In our civilization, we have medical doctors that do the same but they typically undergo surgical procedures. We also have women who show off their chests for money, although it is illegal in most places. Although this culture is comprised of many absurd rituals, I can see similarities in our civilization.

In this culture, I have noticed a trend between women’s rituals seem to be more intrusive and painful. Rather than men’s rituals, although equally as embarrassing, is not as intrusive. One ritual they discussed in the article was when they enter the temple, both men and women are stripped naked of clothing. Women seem to have to undergo securitization and prodding by the medicine men when their husbands have really never seen their bodies but on the other hand, men have maidens help them perform natural functions into a sacred vessel. With intercourse being pretty much unspoken about, the medicine men seem to take an interest in it for their rituals.

This article has opened my eyes to how grateful I am that we are in the civilization we are in today. Although many cultures have different ceremonies and rituals, I believe the Nacirema culture is a bit overboard in their beliefs, ceremonies, and rituals. 

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