Experts have been unable to understand the origin of the practice of routine male circumcision. Most of the literature shows no awareness of phimosis - its frequency - or the sexual and erectile problems which can be cured by circumcision. If routine circumcision had been introduced for this most obvious reason of eliminating difficult foreskins; then the importance of an alternative modern method, suitable to our culture's attitudes in this day and age, would be clear.

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A BLESSING THAT WE ASK

"It is a blessing we ask" are the words of the first song,
and the central concept behind the circumcision ritual
of the Merina of Madagascar.

There is one discussion about if circumcision is a blessing or a mutilation. Many men have personal experiences which witness BOTH as true. Though routine circumcision may be seen as a great ignorance from the viewpoint of modern medicine, the idea that it was introduced for the purpose of mutilating young boys is a ridiculous one.

When the tradition became associated with sacrifice or severe initiations rituals it could easily take on forms which from our cultural perspective are seen as a mutilation. On the other hand when the tradition became mixed with religious attitudes it would get the cultural stamp of approval as a blessing. Among the Jews and Muslims, circumcision is a work which is pleasing to God. The following passages are taken from Maurice Bloch's book "From Blessing to Violence" (1986). It is a book devoted to describing and explaining the circumcision ritual among the Merina of Madagascar.

"The most common answer I received to the question of why people practice circumcision was quite simply that circumcision is a blessing, a tsodrano. At first sight this has nothing to do with the practice itself, and so for a long time I ignored its significance, thinking it little more than a pious generality . . . However, it is clear to me now that this is indeed a very direct and profound explanation and one that should have led me to the central characteristics of the ritual." (p. 49). Then follows his description of the ritual, during which he tells us "the circumcision ritual is . . . a ritual of kinship unity and indivisibility . . ," (p.84).... "if we needed further confirmation, we would have it from the words of the first song : `It is a blessing that we ask.' " (p.50-51).