Re: mutilation and ritual

mike shupp (ms44278@HUEY.CSUN.EDU)
Mon, 1 Jul 1996 22:15:43 -0700

On Mon, 1 Jul 1996 wrote:

> Judaic circumcision, or the bris ceremony is highly ceremonial. In fact, one
> aspect of the ritual had to be outlawed because it was causing a tuberculosis
> epidemic (mohels with TB were infecting babies when they placed their mouths
> over the wound) - there was much outcry about this part of ritual being
> eliminated. Female circumcision (or fgm) is highly ritualized as are most
> circumcision ceremonies which are performed as a puberty rite of passage.
> Money and gifts, food, clothing, dancing, singing, seclusion, parades,
> drinking, etc. all accompany the event. Today, as fgm falls under closer
> scrutiny and the age of the operation declines, I would assume there is much
> less ceremony and more cultural retention for cultural retention's sake.
> However, last year's Dateline segment on fgm clearly showed the ceremonial
> aspect of one type of fgm.

What I was mumbling about though was whether circumcision or
fgm were as bound up in ritual in say 1000 BCE as they were
at present. I was speculating that some cultural traits-- tattooing,
say-- might accumulate ritual embellishment with time.

> I would ask the question, is it piercing (which is a uniquely Western
> practice) that lacks ceremony, symbolism and ritual, or is it Western
> practices which lack ceremony, symbolism and ritual or is it that we as
> Westerners cannot see the ceremony, symbolism and ritual in what we do?
> Remember, Westerners tattoo - and we are not alone, as many cultures tattoo
> the body. However, we are (as far as I know) the only culture that tattoos
> without ceremony, symbolism and ritual.

My vote is for number 3. I think we engage in numerous ceremonies
and rituals which we fail to recognize. No culture which produces
chocolate versions of an egg-laying hare is truly devoid of, of, of,
something anthropologists ought to be looking at.

Mike Shupp
California State University, Northridge