Social Ritual Among the Young Nacirema


Photo via Max Pixel

stumbled across the rituals of an obscure North American group sandwiched between their northern brethren in Canada and the Popoluca of Mexico and was immediately fascinated by the peculiarities and idiosyncrasies of these people. Anthropologist Horace Miner called them the Nacirema in his 1956 paper “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”. Little is known about the behaviors of this tribe outside of Miner’s groundbreaking research, so I delved deep within the ranks of the Young Nacirema to bring back this report:

Young Nacirema society is distinguished by its strict pecking order, much like the ancient system in place among the men of Indoasia, and within each rank there is an unspoken status quo that dictates habit, opinion, dress, and manner of carrying oneself. The methods of conforming themselves to their respective clans seem rather primitive to an analytical eye for they mainly involve the two senses: sight and smell. For example, the kojtrops—which I gathered to be the hunter and warrior faction—utilize pungent pheromones and a cacophony of deep roars, hand slapping, and chest thumps to frighten competition in the hopes of pleasing a desired namow. In return, the namow, who travel in ostentatious, single-toned flocks, like flamingos standing one-legged in their lagoons, employ a variety of subtler skills to ensnare their choice of kojtrops. They emphasize the sensuality of their feminine features using fine hairs from dark-haired minks to frame the eyes, beeswax to brighten the mouth, and cowskin girdles to bound the waist.

Do not make the mistake of assuming that these practices revolve around the necessity to find a mate and procreate. The fundamental goal of this mating style and all other actions of the Young Nacirema is to fulfill their persistent search for pleasure. As a result, the rising and setting of the sun have no more of an impact on them as the passage of time has a meaning to the Lotus Eaters stranded on an island of idleness and forgetfulness. Their days, grouped into meaningless units of minutes and moments that fly by without record, begin with a loud crash, a whistle, a siren, or a song, and their nights are one and the same.

The single greatest source of pleasure for the Young Nacirema are their nightly social gatherings. The setting for these events, or as they call it, seitrap, resemble the cooking and brewing room of a witch’s hut. Along the tables and chairs of the tightly packed seitrap, filled with the vapors from delicate instruments used by the natives to reach a transcendent level where its victims become senseless and babbling, are mixtures of potions and concoctions that give off harsh fumes that sting the nasal passage and irritate the throat. As the night grows older, an observer can only conclude that the devil has taken over the lithe bodies writhing through the haze of flashing lights and deafening tribal music.

At the end of the night, the revelers of the night stumble to their own plaster shelters. Usually the Young Nacirema have a complex nightly ritual in their shrines filled with glass, ceramic tiles, and uniquely-shaped jars; however, on the nights of seitrap the special rituals are forgotten and they collapse upon their large sleeping mats filled with the feathers of other two-legged animals. The next morning—or rather the afternoon for they do not rise from their berths until noon—they kneel over clay basins as if they are in prayer and purge themselves of the devilish mischief from the previous night.

In order to give a complete and accurate overview of the social ritual of the Young Nacirema one must mention their greatest feat of technology: the enohPi. In terms of basic utility and strength, the enohPi with its thin frame and easily-damaged body would not beat Japan’s shuriken or even the stone tools used by those in East Africa. However, the natives continue to be amazed by this seemingly mundane tool and pore over it for an exorbitant amount of time. It’s strange and disturbing to watch these creatures sit or sprawl all over the ground with their faces and bodies completely immobile and only their two thumbs moving and swiping and tapping and twiddling and swirling with an astounding amount of dexterity and skill.

This brief overview of the social ritual of the Young Nacirema leaves us with even more questions at the possibilities of this culture and how they will sustain themselves in the future on this hedonistic lifestyle. It is easy to interpret their culture in the plainest terms possible, drawing the simple conclusion that their lifestyles are uncivilized, unstructured, and fundamentally lacking, but we must not let the thin air from our high vantage point created by great leaps in technology muddle our brains and stroke our egos lest we ourselves fall into the follies of the Young Nacirema.

Hint: Google “Nacirema” 

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