Body Ritual Among the Nacirema- Anthropology

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Sandra Bullard
November 27, 2011
Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
Dr. Chan
Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
The Nacirema are a North American group living in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. According to the Nacirema mythology, their nation was originated by a culture hero, Notgnihsaw, who otherwise known for two great fears of strength- the throwing of a piece of wampum across the river Pa-To-Mac and the choppin down of a cherry tree in which the Spirit of Truth resided. The focus of the Nacirema culture is the activity of the human body, appearance and the health of which loom as a dominant concern in the culture of the people. The belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease. In the hierarchy of magical practitioners in the Nacirema culture, second in the lineup are the holy-mouth-men. The Nacirema have a pathological horror of and fascination with the mouth, the condition of which is believed dto have a supernatural influence on all social relationships. If it weren’t for the rituals of the mouth, they believe that their teeth would fall out, their gums bleed, their jaws shrink, their friends desert them, and their lovers would reject them. People seek out a holy-mouth-man once or twice a year. Holy-mouth-men have an impressive set of paraphernalia, consisting of a variety of augers, awls, probes, and prods. The use of these objects are for the exorcism of the evils of the mouth. The holy-mouth-man opens the client’s mouth and, using the above tools, enlarges any holes which decay may have created in the teeth. If there are no naturally occurring holes in the teeth, large sections of one or more teeth are gouged out so that the supernatural substance can be applied. In the client’s view, the purpose of these ministrations is to arrest decay and to draw friends. The natives return to...
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