It is very difficult as a reader to make any sense of the rituals performed by the Nacirema. The Nacirema are a people who stress the importance of physical wellness and go to great, and to the outsider, horrific lengths to ensure this. Professor Linton was the first to shed light on the particularly bizarre lifestyle lived by the Nacirema. Physical wellness being so heavily stressed is not the bizarre aspect; it is the spiritual sense and seemingly blind faith they put into their beliefs that is bewildering. These people believe the human body is ugly and breeds disease.
The Nacirema pray daily through a private shrine in their house to cleanse and prevent what lurks and breeds in our bodies. It is believed by the people that there are magical forces possessed in a chest in the shrine. These forces or magic are supplied through text by a medicine man who holds very high stature among the Nacirema. One part of the body that is seen to be especially unholy is the mouth. One major part of the cleansing of the mouth is done once or twice a year by the holy mouth men.
This is where the man uses exotic instruments to open holes larger in decaying teeth or even healthy teeth. The teeth, with nerves exposed, are stuffed with magical material to arrest decay. To the outsider, this is torturous. There are many other disturbing body cleansing rituals, like the baking of women’s heads scheduled by the patterns of the moon. This culture is one of many cultures who put their faith in past beliefs and go to seemingly horrific measures to carry them out.
This article was both frightening and uplifting to me. What was frightening was the fact that these disturbing rituals take place in the US. As an outsider, it is difficult to make sense of these customs in terms of my own society, and I realize now that I was being quite ethnocentric. It took me a while to regain my composure and recognize that these people are born into this lifestyle.
These rituals are a part of the religion they hold dear to their heart. So, yes, to the common white Irish Catholic, this may be peculiar. However, after some time, it occurred to me the beauty in such strong religious devotion. The Nacirema go to great lengths to cleanse the unholy body in their minds. Although it may turn your stomach as well as mine, I believe we should be cultural relativists, step back, and respect such deep faith and belief.
I also believe there is a lesson to be learned here. If our society upheld and accepted the teachings of our respected religions, we would live in a safer and better-educated society than we do today. Category: Social Issues