Body Ritual among the Nacirema

It is worrying that some people still engaged in traditional inhumane customs past the civilization era. From the article, “The body ritual among the Nacirema” by Horace Miner, tries to pass a lesson that, feelings about our body still contain a high influence on many societies. He bases his point on a tribe that had survived for a long time practicing magical customs. These customs would be considered unbelievable, crude and irrelevant to a civilized person. They are a complete torture to the human body. Despite this, the Nacirema people keep performing these rituals regardless of the fact that they kept failing repeatedly. From the Nacirema review, Miner acknowledges that although these magical rituals seem crude and irrelevant, without them man could not have mastered his practical ability nor could he have risen to civilization.

The Nacirema are a group of people who still believe in traditional customs. Their traditions are unusual because they carry out body rituals to treat any kind of disease or issue that may arise. For example, the Nacirema conduct mouth-rituals on a daily basis. The mouth is believed to have a supernatural impact on all social relations. “They believe that were it not for the mouth rituals, their teeth would fall out, their jaws shrink, their gums fall out, their friends desert them, and their lovers reject them.” (Miner, 1956,) The ritual is done by inserting a bunch of hog hairs into the mouth accompanied by magical powders and then moving them in a formalized sequence of gestures. Every homestead has a shrine for performing the rituals. The shrine is sacred, and the rituals remain private and secret. They are only passed on to children during their initiation stage to these mysteries. The Nacirema have a strong faith in magic- they never give up on it even though it fails to cure their ills and a lot of people die from the torturous rituals. In fact, a family’s wealth is measured against the number of shrines it possesses.

The Nacirema have medicine men who decide the ingredients of the charms, herbalists who make and prescribe the charms and listeners who apparently drive out curses and evil spirits.

The listeners of Miner’s article are the civilized people. These are people who do not engage in traditional body rituals or other rituals. Milner (1956) notes, “Looking from far and above, from our high places of safety in the developed civilization it is easy to see all the crudity and irrelevance of magic…” This tells us who his listeners are.



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