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Most societies have a characterizing highlight. Anthropologists shouldn't be surprised by strange customs because they are so familiar with the many different ways humans act, even in similar situations. According to George Murdock's proposal, if a custom hasn't been observed, it probably exists in an unknown tribe. Because they are so unusual, the Nacirema's customs show how extreme human behavior can be.

The Nacirema tribe, a North American group that lives in a rich natural habitat between Mexican and Canadian tribes, was the subject of Professor Linton's initial research; however, the identity of the Nacirema people remains a mystery. Legend has it that they originate from the east, though their exact location is unknown. A developed market economy that thrives in the habitat is the focus of the culture. People focus a lot of their time on making money. The remainder of the time is spent in customs connected with the human body.

Ugliness of the body:

The Nacirema's fundamental belief is that the body is ugly and susceptible to weakness. As a result, man uses ceremony and ritual to avoid being vulnerable. For these customs, stone shrines are built into homes, and those with more money may even have many shrines. Only children who are being taught the rituals in the shrines are allowed to discuss the private nature of the rituals. A wall-built potion box is the focal point of the shrine. The medicine men who make the potions write down the ingredients in a secret language in exchange for gifts. The Nacirema provide gifts in exchange for the prescribed charms, and herbalists decipher the writing.

After being used, the charms are saved in the charm box for specific ailments. The natives overlook the intended use of these magical packets, which frequently fill the charm box to capacity. However, it appears that the people are shielded from the charms. There is a font beneath the charm box where people clean themselves each day. The water that comes out is holy because it comes from the community Water Temple, where "elaborate ceremonies" purify it.


Other mysterious professionals rank underneath medication men. " The Nacirema are both fascinated and horrified by the tribe's mouths, which are cared for by holy-mouth-men. They engage in rituals to prevent their teeth from falling out, their gums from bleeding, and their partners and friends from rejecting them. Additionally, they associate the moral character with a clean mouth. Every day, people perform a strange mouth ritual in which they move their mouths in a certain way after inserting hog hairs and magical powder into their mouths. Two times a year, people go to a holy mouth man, who uses probes and prods to fill in holes in teeth in order to perform ritual torture on the victim. In order to apply the magic substance, portions of the teeth are gouged if there are no holes. Despite its continued decay, people continue to visit these practitioners annually, indicating that the ritual is clearly holy.

It is hoped that the personality of holy-mouthed men will be analyzed when the Nacirema are better studied. As they torture their clients, one can see their eyes sparkle as they work. If they truly enjoy this work, it may help establish Professor Linton's pattern of masochism—the pleasure of being abused or dominated. He observed additional rituals that appear to demonstrate the Nacirema's enjoyment of torture. Men scrape their faces every day with a sharp object, while women bake their heads four times a month in small ovens.

A final type of witch doctor, known as a "listener," removes demons from patients' minds. The tribe holds the belief that parents, particularly mothers, teach their own children occult body rituals. Listeners, unlike other practitioners, do not follow any rituals. From their earliest childhood memories, the patient simply shares their anxieties and problems with the person listening. The Nacirema have incredible memories, including memories of rejection at weaning and even trauma at birth.

The Temple

Medicine Men have a temple called a latipso where they give very sick members of the tribe elaborate ceremonies. Maidens who move through the latipso and magicians are known as thaumaturges, who perform miracles, and participate in the ceremonies. Children are afraid to go to the latipso, or "where you go to die," because the ceremonies are so harsh. However, if they can afford it, adults are eager to take part in ritual purification. If they are unable to pay, Latipsos will not accept even the sickest customers.

Strangely, the client is stripped of all clothing in the temple, as Nacirema typically avoid being exposed. The tribe performs secret rituals for body care and bathing. People who have never been exposed to the latipso or performed excretory functions in another person's presence may experience a shock. However, it is required: The illness is diagnosed using excretions. Medicine men manipulate and poke women's bodies. The majority of people who are in the temple do nothing but lie in bed, where they are subjected to painful and sometimes even lethal rituals like being needled.

Other Rituals:

The aversion to the natural body can be seen in other rituals. Feasts are meant to make those who are fat thin, whereas ritual fasts are meant to make those who are fat thin. Women's breasts, a body part whose ideal form is virtually impossible to achieve, can be made larger or smaller by some rituals. Some women can survive by allowing villagers to simply stare at their breasts, despite their nearly inhuman size.

Reproduction, like excretory functions, is secret and ritualized. Sexual encounters are rarely discussed and frequently scheduled. People who use magic potions are able to avoid getting pregnant, which makes pregnancy very rare. When women do become pregnant, they cover their growing stomachs with clothing. The majority of women do not nurse their infants and give birth in secret.

The Nacirema's "magic-ridden" nature makes it difficult to comprehend how they have survived for so long given the demands they place on themselves. Bronislaw Malinowski offers some insight by stating that, despite the fact that magic appears to be insignificant and crude, its power and guidance have assisted man in reaching "higher stages of civilization."


"Body Ritual among the Nacirema" is an account of the fictitious Nacirema (American spelled backward), which turns out to be a satire of mainstream American culture and anthropological methods at the end of the essay. Horace Mitchell Miner mocks Americans' obsession with their bodies and makes a statement about the nature of anthropological work, particularly in relation to ethnocentrism, through tone and diction.

Tone and Diction

Miner adopts a formal tone throughout the text, addressing the reader with vocabulary that is educated and scholarly, similar to that used in anthropological publications. "The anthropologist has become... familiar with the diversity of ways in which... people behave," at the beginning of the essay, establishes Miner as an informed expert on the subject and lends him credibility. Miner's third-person account of this enigmatic tribe presents a culture that the reader eventually understands to be that of Americans. The tone makes Miner appear knowledgeable and authoritative, making the reader feel superior to the tribe. Through formalized language, his diction sets the reader apart from the tribe. For instance, Miner's use of academic language may make it difficult for the reader to comprehend that he is simply describing toothbrushing when he writes that the Nacirema insert "a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth" and then move it "in a highly formalized series of gestures." 

Boby ritual among the nacirema


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