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The anthropologist has become so familiar Body Ritual among with the diversity of ways in which different peoples behave in similar situations that he is the Nacirema not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically Horace Miner possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he isapt to suspect that they must be present in some From Ameticon Anthropole yet undescribed tribe. This point has, in fact, gut, Vol. 58, No. 3,1956, been expressed with respect to clan or- pp.93-97. By permission of ganization by Murdock. In this light, the magi- the author and the publisher. cal bellefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavlor cango. Professor Linton first brought the ritual of the Naclrema to the attention of anthropdo- gists twenty years ago, but the culture of thls people Is still very poorly understood. They are a North Amerlcan group living in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Ya- qul and Tarahumare of Mexlco, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. Little Is known of thelr orlgln, although tradltlon states that they came from the east. . . . Naclrema culture Is characterized by a hlghly developed market economy which has evolved In a rich natural habitat. While much of the people's time Is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent In ritual activity. The focus of thls activity b the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern In the ethos of the people. While such a concern Is certainly not unusual. Its ceremonial aspects and associated philoso- phy are unique. The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that Its natural tendency Is to debility and disease. incarcerated in such a body, man's only hope is to avert these char- acteristics through the use of the powerful influences of ritual and ceremony. Every household has one or more shrines devoted to thls purpose. The more powerful lndhrldu- als In the society have several shrines In their houses and, In fact, the opulence of a house Is often referred to In terms of the number of
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Body Ritual among the Nacirema such ritual centers it possesses. Most houses sorts of holy water in the font, and proceeds are of wattle and daub construction, but the with a brief rite of ablution. The holy waters shrine rooms of the more wealthy are walled are secured from the Water Temple of the with stone. Poorer families imitate the rich by community, where the priests conduct elabo- applying pottery plaques to their shrine walls. rate ceremonies to make the liquid ritually
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