Re: mutilation and ritual

Robert Snower (rs219@IDIR.NET)
Tue, 2 Jul 1996 16:18:17 -0500

At 10:15 PM 7/1/96 -0700, mike shupp wrote:
>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.

Mike Shupp says:

> 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 say:

It is just the other way. The farther away you get from the original, the
less ritual and ceremony is involved, the more condensed, simplified, and
indecipherable, the original becomes. That evolution is illustrated by the
baseball rituals, which are condensed and simplified beyond recognition, and
that is why Western rituals are both simple, quick, and without ritual,
Westerners being further away, not in time, but in degrees of
sophistication, as compared to others, so that Adrienne Dearmas is able to say:
>> 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.

R. Snower