Nacirema Essay

Essay on the Nacirema Practices and Their Way of Life

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It seems strange that in this day and age there are still groups of people scattered about the earth that we have learned very little about. One of them is the Nicarema, a small tribe North American Tribe that is believed to have originated in the East but has since settled in the territory that sits between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui, the Tarahumara of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. While we still don’t know much about their origin, we find that there are a lot of interesting things to learn about their unique lifestyle.

What has sparked most people’s interest however is not so much the region from where they came from but the highly ritualistic beliefs and customs that govern their society. The core of their belief stems from the idea that the human body is innately ugly and naturally susceptible to illnesses. Based on this concept, the Nacirema’s spiritualistic practices often involve defacing the body in order to enhance its beauty and make it more desirable. Each family is expected to maintain a shrine in their household containing a host of powders that can be used to cure certain illnesses when they attack the human body.(1) These powders along with several magical practices are expected to help each individual to overcome their natural ugliness and give them better health.

The Holy-Mouth-Men

With so much attention given to the human body, the mouth is considered to be the most sacred body member. Many of their practices involve keeping it neat and clean at all times. At least once or twice each year, the Nacirema people will visit a Holy-Mouth-Man to get their mouths inspected. He will inspect the teeth, gums, and lips and repair any damage they may have. This is not like a visit to your local dentist where you can get a teeth cleaning and your cavities filled, but instead is a ritual involving magical powders. The people believe in this practice so much that even if there is no improvement and the decay in their mouth continues to worsen they will still faithfully make their visit to the Holy-Mouth-Man for help.

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