“Body Ritual among the Nacirema” by Horace Mitchell Miner

Worth listening twice.
-The Voice before the Void

“Body Ritual among the Nacirema”

Horace Mitchell Miner

Most cultures exhibit a particular configuration or style. A single value or pattern of perceiving the world often leaves its stamp on several institutions in the society. Examples are “machismo” in Spanish-influenced cultures, “face” in Japanese culture, and “pollution by females” in some highland New Guinea cultures. Here Horace Miner demonstrates that “attitudes about the body” have a pervasive influence on many institutions in Nacirema society.

The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different people behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs. In fact, if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe. The point has, in fact, been expressed with respect to clan organization by Murdock. In this light, the magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behavior can go. Continue reading

“Krampus” from Wikipedia

Krampusnacht Special:
Winter is the darkest time of year.
⁓The Voice before the Void



In German-speaking Alpine folklore, Krampus is a horned, anthropomorphic figure. According to traditional narratives around the figure, Krampus punishes children during the Christmas season who have misbehaved, in contrast with Saint Nicholas, who rewards well-behaved children with gifts. Regions in the Austrian diaspora feature similar figures and, more widely, Krampus is one of a number of Companions of Saint Nicholas in regions of Europe. The origin of the figure is unclear; some folklorists and anthropologists have postulated a pre-Christian origin for the figure. Continue reading

“Quest of the Golden Fleece” by Hugh Clifford, with Discussion

A lurid story of headhunters in colonial Borneo, yet a story of engaging complexity, with an ending that almost makes the reader complicit in the horror, followed by our breathless analysis.
Read by Brent Woodfill. Brent is an archaeologist who specializes in ancient Maya cave complexes of Guatemala and the Yucatán.
“There’s a lot on the other hand.”
Authors and works referenced in the discussion include: Mark Twain, Clifford Geertz, Gilbert Herdt, Moby-Dick; or, The Whale by Herman Melville, Heart of Darkness by Joseph Conrad, editor Milton Crane, “A Distant Episode” by Paul Bowles (anthologized in The Granta Book of the American Short Story Volume Two edited by Richard Ford), “An Occurence at Owl Creek Bridge” by Ambrose Bierce, Hell’s Angels: The Strange and Terrible Saga of the Outlaw Motorcycle Gangs by Hunter S. Thompson, The Earth (La Terre) by Émile Zola, Nickel and Dimed: On (Not) Getting By in America by Barbara Ehrenreich, Confederates in the Attic by Tony Horwitz, The True History of the Conquest of New Spain (Historia verdadera de la conquista de la Nueva España) by Bernal Díaz del Castillo, Diego de Landa, and Charles Dickens.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Quest of the Golden Fleece”

Hugh Clifford

“Sioux Names and Their Significance” by Charles Eastman

The venerable Eastman provides elucidation.
⁓The Voice before the Void

“Sioux Names and Their Significance”

from Indian Scout Talks

Charles Eastman

We Sioux had three classes of names; first, birth names; second, honor or public names; third, nicknames. The first indicated the order in which children were born into the family; as “Chaskáy,” first-born son, “Wenónah,” first-born daughter, and so on to the fifth child, who was presumed to be the last. There were a few who carried this childhood name through life.

The nickname usually records some humorous act or odd characteristic of the boy or man. It is seldom a flattering one. There is an imaginary Indian personage called “Wink’tah,” who is supposed to be ever on the watch for an excuse to coin a ridiculous name, and such a name will travel like a prairie fire before its owner is aware of it. Continue reading

“Ole and Lena” from Wikipedia

April Fools’ Day Special:
Oh, you know.
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“Ole and Lena”


Ole and Lena (along with Sven and Helga and Lars) are central characters in jokes by Scandinavian Americans, particularly in the Upper Midwest region of the United States, particularly in Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, South Dakota, and North Dakota where Scandinavian immigrant traditions are common. The popularity of the jokes was enhanced by the numerous Ole and Lena joke books authored by Red Stangland.

Ole and Lena jokes can be long and drawn-out stories, or as short as two or three sentences. Ole and Lena are typically Norwegian, and Sven and his wife are Swedish.

One would not find Ole and Lena jokes in Sweden or Norway. Rather, they are an outgrowth of an immigrant experience. Language mistakes are a frequent source of Ole and Lena joke material. The characters of the jokes speak with the marring accent and fractured English of the recently arrived immigrant. Turning misunderstandings and mistakes into jokes enabled people to jest about their American immigrant experience.

The core of this folk humor may lie in the strongly egalitarian code that permeates the culture of the Nordic countries. Maybe.


Ole is on his deathbed. The doctor has told him he has only a few hours to live. Continue reading

“The Union Buries Its Dead” by Henry Lawson

Australia Day Special:
Death. This classic story by the great Australian writer describes—with avowed unsentimentality and blatant sardonicism—a funeral in the bush, with the bushmen’s “disgust for the living and their respect for the dead,” and a dark profundity: “It didn’t matter much—nothing does.”
⁓The Voice before the Void

“The Union Buries Its Dead”

Henry Lawson

While out boating one Sunday afternoon on a billabong across the river, we saw a young man on horseback driving some horses along the bank. He said it was a fine day, and asked if the water was deep there. The joker of our party said it was deep enough to drown him, and he laughed and rode farther up. We didn’t take much notice of him. Next day a funeral gathered at a corner pub and asked each other in to have a drink while waiting for the hearse. They passed away some of the time dancing jigs to a piano in the bar parlour. They passed away the rest of the time skylarking and fighting. Continue reading

“Yule Cat” from Wikipedia

Xmas Special:
Christmas monster. (Iceland has the coolest stuff.)
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“Yule Cat”

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

The Yule Cat (Icelandic: Jólakötturinn or Jólaköttur) is a monster from Icelandic folklore, a huge and vicious cat said to lurk about the snowy countryside during Christmastime and eat people who have not received any new clothes to wear before Christmas Eve. The Yule Cat has become associated with other figures from Icelandic folklore as the house pet of the giantess Grýla and her sons, the Yule Lads.

The threat of being eaten by the Yule Cat was used by farmers as an incentive for their workers to finish processing the autumn wool before Christmas. The ones who took part in the work would be rewarded with new clothes, but otherwise get nothing and thus be preyed upon by the monstrous cat. The cat has alternatively been interpreted as merely eating away the food of ones without new clothes during Christmas feasts. The perception of the Yule Cat as a man-eating beast was partly popularized by the poet Jóhannes úr Kötlum in his poem “Jólakötturinn.”

“Poshlost” from Wikipedia

Key to understanding Russian literature and culture, the term has no English equivalent.
⁓The Voice before the Void


From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

Poshlost or Poshlost’ (Russian: пошлость) is a Russian word that has been defined as “petty evil or self-satisfied vulgarity”; there is no single English translation. Briefly, Svetlana Boym defines it as “obscenity and bad taste,” and at more length, she explains:

Poshlost’ is the Russian version of banality, with a characteristic national flavoring of metaphysics and high morality, and a peculiar conjunction of the sexual and the spiritual. This one word encompasses triviality, vulgarity, sexual promiscuity, Continue reading