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In the article, “Body Ritual among the Nacirema,” Horace Miner details several rituals of titled tribe that are rooted in a fundamental belief that the human body has a natural tendency is to ineffectiveness and disease. Some rituals that are described in the article include women baking their heads four times a year as well as a daily mouth-rite to help fight against tooth decay and to attract friends. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20) However, the one ritual of the Nacirema tribe that most resonated with me was that of the ritual of every citizen keeping shrines devoted to adverting the above-mentioned belief.
Within every household, one or more shrines are prepared to ward off the human bodies tendency to weakness and disease. (Harvey, 2009, p. 19) Rich families within the Nacirema society have several shrines within their homes. According to this tribe, the richness of a house is referred to in terms of the number of ritual centers or shrines it possesses. (Harvey, 2009, p. 19) Most citizens have homes made of wattle and daub construction. However, the shrines rooms within these houses the wealthy are walled with stone. Poorer families on the other hand imitate the rich by applying an imitation plaque to their shrine walls. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20)
The focal point of the shrine is a box, which is built into the wall. In these boxes are kept the many charms without which no one of the tribe believes he/ she could survive without. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20) A charm is not disposed of after it has served its purpose, but is placed in the charm-box of the house shrine. The charm box is commonly full to overflowing as charms are specific for certain ills. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20) The quantity of charms in these boxes is so numerous that the people forget what their purpose was. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20) During times of worship, people use holy water, to sprinkle it in front of the shrine before proceeding with a brief ritual of ceremony. (Harvey, 2009)
The preparations are secured from a variety of specialized practitioners, however, the most influential of these is the medicine men. In order for a family to ask for his assistance there must substantial gifts in exchange for his service. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20) The medicine man decides what the ingredients for a particular ritual should be and then writes them down in an ancient and secret language. This is only understood by the medicine men and by the herbalists who, also requires gifts in exchange for providing the necessary charm. (Harvey, 2009, p. 20)
Charms are used during the ritual and then placed in a charm box to be part of the daily worship. There are so many charms in the shrine box that the people forget what their purpose was and fear to use them again. Certain charms are specific to certain ills which explain why people are unwilling to reuse charms and also explain why the charm-box is usually full or over flowing. (Harvey, 2009)
The special roles of each participants from the citizens to the medicine man are uniquely their own. The citizens are to build or have built the shrine room within their residence. While each family has at least one shrine, the rituals associated with it are not family ceremonies but are private. (Harvey, 2009) The details of the rituals are normally only discusses with children, and then only during the period when they are being introduced. (Harvey, 2009) The preparations are secured by the medicine men, whose assistance must be rewarded. (Harvey, 2009) The medicine man does not provide the curative potions for their clients. His duty is to decide what the ingredients should be and then writes them down in a secret language. The herbalist, for another gift provides the required charm. (Harvey, 2009) Before families are to conduct their worship before the shrine box, they must secure holy waters from the priest from the community Water Temple. (Harvey, 2009) Here the priests conduct elegant ceremonies to make the liquid ritually pure. (Harvey, 2009) Only then are members of the family ready to partake in their daily worship ceremonies. Each day every member of the family, in succession, enters the shrine room, bows their head before the charm-box, blends different sorts of holy waters in front of the shrine box and proceeds with a brief ritual of ceremony. (Harvey, 2009)
It is my belief that these people are no different than any other culture that prey to a specific higher being. They’re called rituals in this context because civilized communities don’t recognize their beliefs or warship in the same manner. The Nacirema tribe conducts several rituals in order to ward of the human bodies tendency to weaken and catch diseases. Within citizen’s homes, they have a shrine charm box or two devoted to this specific purpose. In each residence, members of the family in succession warship in private daily to this shrine charm box. Although, the Nacirema tribe may partake in rituals that may seem barbaric to outsider, their customs and traditions are deeply rooted mysteries that are passed on from generation to generation.


Harvey, C. a. (2009). Understanding and Managing Diversity. Upper Saddle River: Prentice Hall.

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