One of the peculiarities of this culture is the devotion shown to the clan deities, by means of continuous and sustained worship at household shrines and communal temples. Although worship may take place at any time of the day or season, a particular ritual seems to be common amongst family units, and is typically enacted in the latter part of the day. The female of the household begins the ritual with the careful preparation of an appropriate meal. This meal can only be assumed to have religious significance, as it clearly contained no obvious nutritional value, and appears to offer the family little by way of culinary enjoyment. The meal, which has been previously preserved through the application of extremely cold temperatures, is ritually reheated and placed upon a portable alter. The female of the household then transports this meal from the kitchen area to the main shrine, where the rest of the family unit await her, sitting in positions pre-determined by status and age. Once the ritual meal has arrived, it is the role of the oldest male of the household to summon the deities, by means of a magic wand which is pointed at the shrine. The shrine itself consists of a large, square, hollow box, constructed of some tough and yet fragile material, which seems to be an effective transmitter of both light and sound, producing a range of colourful images and noises when activated by the male’s magic wand. A particular peculiarity of the worship of these deities seems to be the licence in the early stage of the ritual which other members of the household have at that point to participate in the selection of a particular deity to pay homage to. While all members of the family unit contribute their opinion about which deity to worship, the ultimate decision most frequently falls to the eldest male, who retains ultimate control by means of his continued manipulation of the magic wand.
When a specific deity has been selected for worship by the family unit, the ritual of worship itself can begin. The family remain seated and divide their efforts between fixed concentration and meditation upon the shrine and its colourful box, and consumption of the ritual meal. This meal is eaten from the seated position, and it appears to be customary for each member of the family to leave a carefully chosen portion of food uneaten, as a sacrifice to the gods of the kitchen.
The end of the ritual is usually signalled by the playing of music, which prompts the eldest male to once again wield the magic wand. At the end of the ritual, the remains of the ritual meal are cleared away by the females of the household, while the rest of the family disperse. Not much is known about the origins of these rituals, but it is widely supposed amongst sociologists that these religious ceremonies centre upon a set of beliefs concerning the success and identity of the family unit. The gods each unit chooses to worship, and the sometimes energetic discussion that can result from the completion of this ritual every day, appear to be fundamental to the self-identity of each family unit, and by extension each clan, allowing individual members to express their ambitions in terms of their aspirations to the qualities of particular deities. More than this is not yet known. It is clear that further study of these rituals and beliefs is needed, in order to help sociologists understand the driving forces behind these peculiar religious customs.
- Adorno, T. W. (2000). Introduction to Sociology. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.
- Miner, H. (1956). “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” American Anthropologist, 58(3), 503-507. Retrieved from http://www.sfu.ca/~palys/Miner-1956-BodyRitualAmongTheNacirema.pdf.
- Scott, J. and Marshall, G. (2009). A Dictionary of Sociology. Oxford: Oxford University Press.