Worship Rituals Of The Nacirema

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Worship Ritual: A activities performed in a sequestered place according to set sequence. 

Number 66709-341AW summoned the librarian again. Recently he had become interested in a planet nestled inside a galaxy more than 200 million light years away.

Number 66709-341AW: “Librarian, let me view that same primitive culture again, please. This time I want to watch in real time.”

Librarian: “Do you have any particular inhabitants or activities in mind, today, sir?”

Number 66709-341AW: “I think I’ll explore the temples again. There were a lot of strange, huge worship structures scattered across the land. Look! There’s one right there! Eighty thousand? Eighty thousand worshippers! 

Librarian: “Excuse me sir, I don’t believe that is a house of worship.”

Courtesy: Patheos

Number 66709-341AW: “Sure it is, Librarian. Look at all the priests lined up there — half dressed in red and white, the others dressed in blue and gray. Look at those round headpieces they’re wearing!”

Librarian: “I don’t think those are priests, sir.”

Number 66709-341AW: “Of course they are! And the worshippers, do you hear them shouting? But what do those white lines on the green tapestry mean?”

Librarian: “I believe you are looking at a football stadium, sir.”

Number 66709-341AW: “Football? What kind of religion is football? See all those smoking shrines positioned about the outer courtyard. Are they incense? Burnt offerings?”

Librarian: “Sir, they call are called ‘tailgates.” Again, this is not a religious ceremony.”

Number 66709-341AW: “Now look! The worshippers inside the temple are jumping up-and-down raising their hands in worship. First one, group then another. What is that all about, Librarian?”

Librarian: “Sir, it’s called ‘The Wave.’

Number 66709-341AW: “One of the high priests wearing a striped tunic just blew his little trumpet. The whole worship frenzy stopped immediately. How about that!?”

Librarian: “That is a whistle, sir.”

Number 66709-341AW: “Now all those priestess ladies are doing their ritual dance. Do you see?”

Librarian: “Those are cheerleaders. ‘Cheer Leaders,’ sir, not priestesses.”

Courtesy: Etsy

Number 66709-341AW: “And that must be temple food the worshippers are eating. There …. What do they call that little morsel, right there? There are lots of those.”

Librarian: “They are called ‘hot dogs,’ sir.”

Number 66709-341AW: “They eat dogs! How primitive! Sacrificing their stomachs, I suppose. Look, now. The priests are all fighting. That must be a valuable temple implement, that funny-shaped brown pellet. All the priests in red are trying to take it away from that priest in blue. Why don’t they have one pellet for each priest?”

Librarian: “That is a ‘football,’ sir.”

Number 66709-341AW: “You must be mistaken, Librarian. I see thousands of the same worshippers today that you showed me the last time. This time they are just in a larger temple and they seem to be much more excited, don’t you think?”

Librarian: “Ah, yes, sir. I give up. I suppose you are correct.

Football must be a religion. And those must be football worshippers, after all.”

Number 66709-341AW: “Right, Librarian! I know a religion when I see one!”


The title of this article is adapted from Horace Miner’s, “Body Rituals of the Nacirema,” published in The American Anthropologist (1956).


About Samuel H. Johnson

As a student at Miami University (Ohio) I spent a lot of time at the campus radio station WRMU and the FM outlet, WMUB. After graduation, I worked at various radio and TV Stations in Virginia, Maryland, and Washington, DC. I was a DJ, sports reporter, and on-air public affairs host/producer, winning three local Emmy awards. Along the way, I appeared in three major movies: G.I. Jane, CONTACT, and Runaway Bride. Today I live in Phoenix, Arizona with my wife, Laraine, and our two daughters, who live nearby. I enjoy writing about sports–mostly my own off-beat and sometimes humorous observations. I also like to write about history. I’ve written several books, including The Cherokee and the Slave. My favorite athletes (current) are Larry Fitzgerald, Ben Roethlisberger, Kawhi Leonard, and Roger Federer; (future) are Devin Booker, Tyler Ulis, and Paul Watson; and (past) Lenny Moore, Sonny Jurgensen, Bobby Mitchell, Charley Taylor, Steve Nash, Johnny Unitas, Charlie Joiner, Marques Haynes, Elgin Baylor, Dr. “J”. My unsung star is Bob Boyd, Los Angeles Rams wide receiver, 1950-57, and winner of the 100-yard dash at the 1950 NCAA Championships.

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