Re: mutilation and ritual

Dwight W. Read (dread@ANTHRO.UCLA.EDU)
Wed, 3 Jul 1996 12:11:04 -0700

Snower replying to Shupp replying to ....
>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.

Or, to put it another way, if we think of surface versus deep level, this
suggests that what is called "ceremony, symbolism and ritual" arises out of
deep structure, which implies that merely copying the surface level (the
immediately accessible aspect of the ritual such as tattooing) ignores the
deep structure from which the "ceremoney, symbolism and ritual" derives.
While it is reasonable to argue that deep structure precedes and leads to
the form of surface structure, the converse is not true; imitating surface
structure does not, by itself, lead to introduction of deep structure.
Viewed this way, the lack of "ceremony, symbolism and ritual" in Western
tattooing is not unexpected when the tattooing is arising largely via
imitative behavior. This also implies that trying to introduce the
"ceremony, symbolism and ritual" by beginning with the surface structure is
not very likely to succeed. And it would suggest that movements such as
"new age shamanism" should suffer from a lack of significant content if/when
it is introduced at the surface level of imitation of shamanistic acts.

D. Read