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Body Rituals Among the Nacirema

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1 Body Rituals Among the Nacirema
Horace Miner

2 Genre: Satire Satire: makes fun of people’s weaknesses, mistakes, foolishness, and wrong behavior They are written to criticize society and the way that people do things. It hopes to make society better by pointing out the things people do wrong, in a funny way.

3 Who are the Nacirema? “They are a North American group living in the territory between the Canadian Creel the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles.”


5 Characteristics of the Nacirema
Highly developed market economy “Much of the people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors…are spent in ritual activity” “The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern…”

6 How they see the body “..The human body is ugly and that its natural tendency s to debility and disease.” “man’s only hope is to avert these characteristics through the use of the powerful influences of ritual and ceremony…” HOW?

7 Nacirema Shrines Every household has one or more shrines devoted to this purpose.” Shrines= Bathrooms

8 “The more powerful individuals in society have several shrines in their houses… the opulence [wealth] of a house is often referred to in terms of the number of such ritual centers it possesses.”

9 “Most houses are of wattle and daub construction, but the shrine rooms of the more wealthy are walled with stone…” Wattle= A material for making fences, walls, etc., consisting of rods or stakes interlaced with twigs or branches. Daub: Plaster, clay, or another substance used for coating a surface, esp. when mixed with straw and applied to laths or wattles to form a wall.

10 Rituals are private inside the shrine
“…the rituals associated with it are not family ceremonies, but are private and secret…” “..normally only discussed with children, and then only during the period when they are being initiated…” Or when they are being taught how to use the toilet

11 Shrine Box and Shrine Chest
“The focal point of the shrine is a box or chest which is built into the wall...are kept the many charms and magical potions…” Box/Chest= Medicine Cabinet

12 Medicine Men and their ancient secret language
“These preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners… medicine men…they decide what the ingredients should be and then write them down in an ancient and secret language…” Medicine men= Doctors Ancient/secret language= Prescription with handwriting So bad no one can read it…almost like a whole new language

13 Herbalists “This writing is understood only by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, for another gift, provide the required charm.” Herbalist= Pharmacist Gift= money/payment Charm= medicine/drugs

14 “The charm is not dispose of after it has serves its purpose… its usually full to overflowing… so numerous that people forget what their purposes were and fear to use them again.”

15 Font beneath charm box “Beneath the charm-box is a small font. Each day, every member of the family, in succession, enters…bows his head before the charm box, mingles different sorts of holy water in the font….”

16 Community Water Temple
“The holy waters are secured from the Water Temple of the community, where the priests conduct elaborate ceremonies to make the liquid ritually pure.”

17 Water purification ritual

18 Holy-Mouth-Men “…below the medicine men…are specialists…holy-mouth men” Holy-mouth men= Dentists

19 “Were it not for the rituals of the mouth, they believe that
Their teeth would fall out Their gums bleed Their jaws shrink Their friends desert them Their lovers reject them

20 Oral vs. Moral “They also believe that a strong relationship exists between oral and moral characteristics… For example: there is a ritual ablution of the mouth for children which is supposed to improve their moral fiber.”

21 Bundle of hair and toxic potions
“daily body ritual…mouth-rite… inserting a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gesture.” Mouth-rite= Brushing teeth

22 Seek out holy-mouth man
“once or twice a year… have an impressive set of paraphernalia, consisting of a variety of augers, awls, proves, and prods… unbelievable ritual of torture… opens the clients mouth and enlarges any holes which decay may have created in the mouth… magical materials are put into these holes..”

23 Ritual performed only by men
“…involves scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a shard instrument…” Shaving

24 Ritual performed only by women
“..performed only four times during each lunar month… as part of this ceremony, women bake their heads in small ovens for about an hour…”

25 Latipsoh “medicine men have a latipsoh in every community of any size… [where] the more elaborate ceremonies required to treat very sick patients [are] performed” Latipsoh: hospital [backwards]

26 Maidens “these ceremonies involve not only the thaumaturge but a permanent group of vestal distinctive costume and head-dress.” Vestal maidens: nurses

27 “latipso ceremonies are so hard… “that is where you go to die”…despite this fact, sick adults are not only willing but eager to undergo the protracted ritual purification if they can afford to do so…” “no matter how ill..or how grave the emergency, the guardians of many temples will not admit a client if he cannot give a rich gift to the custodian.” Rich gift: payment

28 When you enter the latipsoh
“first stripped of all his or her clothes… in In everyday life the Nacirema avoids exposure of his body and its natural functions. Bathing and excretory acts are performed only in the secrecy of the household shrine…”

29 Looking at your poop! “A man, whose own wife has never seen him in an excretory act, suddenly finds himself naked and assisted by a vestal maiden while he performs his natural functions into a sacred vessel…the excreta are used by a diviner to ascertain the course and nature of the client's sickness. Female clients, on the other hand, find their naked bodies are subjected to the scrutiny, manipulation and prodding of the medicine men.

30 “At other times they insert magic wands in the supplicant's mouth or force him to eat substances which are supposed to be healing. From time to time the medicine men come to their clients and jab magically treated needles into their flesh.”

31 “Listener” “…listener…this witchdoctor has the power to exorcise the devils that loge in the heads of people who have been bewitched…the patient simply tells the “listener” all his troubles and fears, beginning with the earliest difficulties he can remember.”

32 Other rituals “which depend on the pervasive aversion to the natural body and its functions…” ritual fasts to make fat people thin ceremonial feasts to make thin people fat. rites are used to make women's breasts larger if they are small, and smaller if they are large. General dissatisfaction with breast shape is symbolized in the fact that the ideal form is virtually outside the range of human variation. A few women afflicted with almost inhuman hypermammary development are so idolized that they make a handsome living by simply going from village to village and permitting the natives to stare at them for a fee.

33 “Intercourse is taboo as a topic and scheduled as an act.”
“Efforts are made to avoid pregnancy by the use of magical materials or by limiting intercourse to certain phases of the moon. “ “Conception is actually very infrequent. When pregnant, women dress so as to hide their condition.” “Parturition takes place in secret, without friends or relatives to assist.” “The majority of women do not nurse their infants.” limiting intercourse to certain phases of the moon: birth control pills

34 N A C I R E M A A M E R I C A N Who are the Nacirema?
Read the word backward: N A C I R E M A A M E R I C A N

35 Author’s Purpose He used new vocabulary to confuse you so you wouldn’t guess who the Nacirema really are. Make common American behaviors and beliefs seems magical and silly by describing them as if they were tribal behaviors To teach Americans to not look at other cultures as if they were strange and exotic because people can look at our culture [like he did] and think we’re weird

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