eating people is wrong – but it’s also widespread and sacred

Eating people is wrong – but it’s also widespread and sacred

Ben Thomas

is a journalist telling stories from the frontiers of science, history, culture and geography. He is the author of several books and the editor of The Strange Continent.
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1,500 words

Why was cannibalism so widespread?
50Responses

From ‘Le Livre des merveilles de Marco Polo’. Courtesy Biblioteque Nationale, Paris

Cannibalism is not uncommon. Humans have long enshrined the consumption of human flesh in sacred ritual – not just a few times, but again and again, in almost every corner of the globe. Evidence for cannibalistic practices has been found in South America, on many Pacific Islands, among some ancient Native American tribes, and in many other regions of the world.

Nor is cannibalism a distant historical fact. In the 1980s, Médecins Sans Frontières, the international medical charity, documented ‘ritualised cannibal feasts’ among soldiers in Liberia. Since then, the ritual has become more common. By the early 2000s, sacred cannibalism was a common practice in this near-anarchic country, where violence, rape and drug-abuse are widespread. Cannibalism has also been documented in the Congo, in Sierra Leone and in Uganda, where it was infamously practised among the child soldiers of Joseph Kony’s army.

In such war-torn areas, participants in ritual cannibalism are often happy to make their motivations clear. They draw spiritual and physical power from the consumption of human flesh. The practice serves an obvious propagandistic value as well, striking fear into the hearts of enemies. And in child armies, cannibalism is an initiation ritual, an ordeal that transforms a boy into a man, and makes him feel sanctified, empowered and safe under the hails of bullets.

Cannibalism has no single, ubiquitous meaning. Rather, it is adapted to suit the spiritual framework of each culture in which it’s practised. For ancient Egyptian pharaohs, it guaranteed an eternal afterlife. For Druids, it might have been connected with agriculture and fertility. For others, cannibalism has served as a tool of empowerment, intimidation, and a way to honour the beloved dead. But most of all, cannibalism deals in taboo.

We often think of taboo in terms of proscribed action: it’s taboo to marry your brother; or, in certain cultures, to eat pork. But in a much deeper sense, the word ‘taboo’ denotes the very points where the sacred and profane converge: sexual intercourse, the taking of life, childbirth. Many cultures regard these acts as ‘unclean’ – yet at the same time, as profoundly holy. In fact, anthropologists often define ‘taboo’ as an act deemed too sacred to perform under ordinary circumstances; an act that invites the greatest peril while invoking the most tremendous power. Cannibalism is one of the strongest taboos of all, and that might be the very reason why it’s been considered one of the most holy rituals, around the world and far back into the depths of prehistory.

Cannibalism (or ‘anthropophagy’ – literally ‘man-eating’ – as most modern anthropologists prefer to term it) was practised long before anatomically modern Homo sapiens. In the cave dwellings of Homo antecessor, the common ancestor of modern humans and Neanderthals, anthropologists have discovered ‘de-fleshed’ human bones dating back 600,000 years. The earliest Homo sapiens bones found in Ethiopia also show signs of de-fleshing by other humans.

This far back in prehistory, it’s hard to say exactly why our distant ancestors ate one another. Some anthropologists argue that food shortages must have been a factor, along with the fact that corpses left to rot would attract man-eating predators such as leopards and lions. And yet, by the Upper Palaeolithic period, it’s clear that cannibalism served a deeper purpose. Human remains found in Gough’s Cave in England dating to 15,000 BCE show evidence of cannibalism: many of the skulls appear to have been used as drinking vessels, indicating that the devouring of the human dead served a ritual purpose for the people who visited this cave. This was not mere cannibalism-for-survival; it was cannibalism as a sacred practice.

Ritualised cannibalism not only survived well into historical times, but was also enshrined in some of the earliest literate cultures – particularly ancient Egypt. In 1881, the French archaeologist Gaston Maspero broke into a tomb in the vast Egyptian burial ground of Saqqara, outside of Cairo. At the end of a long underground causeway, he found a gallery of brightly painted reliefs: harvest scenes, temple ceremonies, battles with enemies. There were also ritual inscriptions. These turned out to belong to a set of spells known as the Pyramid Texts, a large and varied corpus of Egyptian magical literature that appears fully formed in some of the very earliest tombs, hinting that these spells and rituals must date back to a time before writing.

Perhaps the strangest of the Pyramid Texts are those that concern cannibalism — not only of other humans, but of gods:

Pharaoh is [he]
Who lives on the being of every god,
Who eats their entrails…
Pharaoh is he who eats men and lives on gods.

This ‘Cannibal Hymn’ was the enshrined tradition of an ancient and highly ritualised culture whose roots reached far back into the mists of prehistory to a time before writing or cities, when the warlords of the Nile Delta feasted on the flesh of their conquered enemies, and called it holy. The Greek writer Diodorus Siculus, writing thousands of years later in the first century BCE, recorded an ancient story in which Osiris forbade Egyptian people to eat one another. This story was still recited in the Roman period – a reminder of a time when the eating of human flesh had been a sacred practice.

In fact, sacred cannibalism persisted (or reappeared) in the West all the way up to Roman times. Certain Druid clans seem to have practised human sacrifice and cannibalism in the early centuries CE, and many Greek and Roman writers make references to tribes with cannibal practices. St Jerome mentions a cannibal people called the Attacotti; Herodotus refers to a tribe he calls simply ‘the man-eaters’ (anthropophagi).

In one striking story, Herodotus relates an episode in which the Persian emperor Darius, ruler of a domain that stretches from modern Turkey to Afghanistan, decides to try an experiment in cultural relativism. The emperor summons a group of Greeks and a group of Callatians (an Indic people) to his court. He asks the Callatians what it would take for them to burn the bodies of their dead fathers, as Greeks do. The Callatians gasp in horror and insist they’d never do such a dreadful thing. Darius then asks the Greeks what it would take for them to devour the bodies of their dead fathers, as the Callatians do – and the Greeks, in their turn, gag with revulsion. Though the two cultures hold polar-opposite views on what should be done with the dead bodies of relatives, they agree on one crucial point: ancestors’ corpses are taboo – simultaneously unclean and holy –  because they bridge the worlds of the living and the dead.

In fact, some monks and ascetics practise cannibalism with the aim of transcending precisely this boundary. Take, for example, the Aghoris, a sect of Hindu ascetics in India. A core principle in Aghori doctrine is that all things in the universe are equally sacred – including human remains. By holding and caressing dead bodies, a practice regarded as highly taboo in mainstream Hinduism, and eating human flesh, the Aghoris aim to transcend all dichotomies, see through the illusory nature of all human categories, and attain nirvana by becoming one with ultimate reality.

Perhaps the clearest insight of all comes from certain Tibetan monks who, as recently as the 1500s, ritually consumed ‘pills of flesh’ collected from Brahmin ascetics, and left extensive written documentation of the theory behind this practice. This theory turns out to be extraordinarily multilayered and complex, but it boils down to the idea that these ‘flesh pills’ bridge the boundary between subject and object, serving as ritual tokens that embody the compassion of past Buddhas, while also reminding the eater of the transient nature of his own mortal flesh.

How far back in human history does this concept of cannibalism-for-transcendence reach? We might never know for sure – but at some point in our evolution, cannibalism clearly ceased to be a simple act of survival or dominance, and became a true taboo, a point of convergence between the sacred and the profane. A dead human body, our ancestors recognised, had once contained a mind; a consciousness whose departure somehow transmuted the body from a sentient person into an inanimate object. This realisation could not fail to make a profound impression on the palaeolithic inhabitants of England; on the ancestors of the pharaohs; on Greeks and Druids and Aghoris and Tibetan monks, and on hundreds of other societies around the world, throughout every era of our past and present. Across all these cultures’ justifications for man-eating, one central idea resonates: we eat the dead because we hope never to become as they are.
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Why Cannibalism

In a word, protein. Animals are hard to catch, vegetables are easy to dig up, Fruit can just be plucked from the trees. So it would not be unusual for early man to regularly develop a keen hunger for protein… it’s a requirement for keeping the muscles and integument in fit condition. Other people are relatively easy to catch. So it’s easy for me to picture early man knocking someone on the head and bringing them home. Any religious ritual aspect would be added after the fact, to justify an act that might otherwise make people feel a little weird. “It’s okay, folks. I need to eat his heart so I can add his valiant spirit to my own. And Ma… you do all our thinking, you can have his brain.”

Protein deficiency hunger is a real thing. People go crazy with wanting meat, really bad. Run low on things like B12, or zinc, and you can develop a bad attitude. Best not to live with headhunters unless you have a talent for getting yourself out of tight spots. Also, pack tins of Spam… lots of them. Said to taste like people.
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4 April 2017Corrie Verbaan

Pal my view is that people going crazy from meat-lust must be half-crazy to begin with since flesh, even if refrigerated, begins putrefying once life has departed no matter how we grill it. The smell rising from the raw flesh section in the supermarket bears this out. And then there’s the blood! Imagine a steak done ‘rare’ without blood. It would be sent back as anaemic.

There are recorded cases of people eating other people to survive. There was the soccer team that crashed in the Andes, ate each other. Also folk drifting at sea in an ill equipped boat for days if not weeks on end (drinking rainwater or blood of fishes and unwary birds) and drawing straws for the main course.

There is a very funny short story by the inimitable Mark Twain called “Cannibalism in the Cars” (ref. Mark Twain’s Sketches). This train had broken down in the middle of the proverbial nowhere and …….. well you have to read it!

As in the essay, various primitive peoples would consume the ‘victim/prey’ in the belief that their qualities would be absorbed in so doing e.g. the San bushmen. There is a belief among a certain community of ‘civilized’ people that they will imbue the characteristics of their leader by ritually consuming his flesh and drinking his blood, by proxy of course.
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4 April 2017paleologue

There is a belief among a certain community of ‘civilized’ people that they will imbue the characteristics of their leader by ritually consuming his flesh and drinking his blood, by proxy of course.

Yes, that would be the Christians.

Some years back, a pop anthropologist whose name I don’t recall wrote up a marvelous instance of proxy cannibalism in New Guinea’s High Valley. These local tribes had no decent game animals but raised pigs and dogs. They loved their pigs as pets– the women even suckling the young piglets– and would never ever eat one of them. So years would go by, with no intake of animal protein other than the occasional bug or grub. And the people would get very anxiety-ridden. In time they’d start circulating nasty stories about their neighbors, and the animosity would grow. Finally it was decided that war was inevitable. But in their weakened state they knew they weren’t fit to fight a decent war.

So reluctantly it was decided they would have to sacrifice their pigs for the good of the cause. They’d hold a huge combination feast-blowout-war dance in which everyone would gorge themselves on pork, dance around wildly with their newfound energy and get fighting mad. Then they’d charge down the hill the following day to the local war-grounds. The neighbors, having been up to precisely the same game, would then charge down to meet them. And they’d engage in epic battle.

It wasn’t really serious warfare, more like what the Iroquois or the Mohicans would indulge in when they played lacrosse with the neighbors. More like a war game– complete with playing-field in neutral territory. After a couple of days, honor satisfied, there would be a dead body or two lying around– so both sides would pick up their dead and go home, blood-lust satisfied for another decade.

In fact the war cycle closely resembled the cycle of another generation of pigs propagating and coming to good eating size. It was a civilized approach, IMO, as no children or women were ever harmed and no villages ever got burned down. Much more refined than people-eating.
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LM

4 April 2017LINDA MAKRIS

This reminds me vaguely of a conversation by an ancient Greek cook and his slave reported by Athenaeus’ DEIPNOSOPHISTAE [Sophists at Dinner; he was a 3rd c. Greek from Egypt who reported a lot of interesting if often trivial information on the customs of ancient Greeks before him]:

Cook: Do you know that cokery has brought more to civilization than anything else?

Slave: What?

Cook: Yes, you barbarian, it freed us from a beast-like faithless life, and hateful cannibalism, and introduced us to order, and enclosed us in the world where we now live.

Slave: How is that?

Cook: When cannibalism and other crimes were rife, a certain man, who was no fool, slaughtered an animal and then roasted it. So, when they found its flesh nicer than man’s, they no longer ate each other but sacrificed their beasts and roasted them. And when they once had tasted of this pleasure, a beginning had been made and they carried to greater heights the art of cookery…

There is more “boasting” by the cook but he ends up saying that “Through the pleasures I’m now explaining, each man was far removed from ever wishing to eat of a human corpse; They all agreed to live with one another, a populace collected, towns were built, All through the art of cooking, as I have shown!”

There are of course many examples of cannibalism in Greek mythology – remember Tantalus who cooked his son Pelops and served him up to the Olympian gods at a banquet? He was duly punished by being eternally “tantalized” by being tied up just out of reach of water and luscious ripe fruits. The ancient Greeks abhored cannibalism.

This was an interesting piece, a good presentation of a subject-taboo.
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4 April 2017Ken Neubecker

Ritual cannabalism is practised today in the most civilized countries of the world. We refer to it as the Christian Holy Sacrament, the symbolic eating and drinking of the body and blood of Christ. That too was adopted from ritual more ancient than Christianity.

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4 April 2017Anthony Sudbery

Anthropophagy does not mean “man-eating”. It means “person-eating”.

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EO

4 April 2017E.I.E.I. Owen

I think the eucharist rite is a kind of symbolic cannibalism.

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4 April 2017paleologue

Would you think it was a holdover from some earlier rite– say, Orphism– involving human sacrifice and the ritual consumption of the victim’s body and blood by the celebrants?

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EO

4 April 2017E.I.E.I. Owen

I don’t know enough about ancient religions to just go ahead and answer yes… But there are so many christian rituals that were adapted from more ancient sources that I wouldn’t be surprised if that was the case.

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RJ

4 April 2017Robert Johnson

I hope cannibalism is taken up by the religious freedom people! Also, Jesus promoted a form of cannibalism at the last supper when he told his apostles that they were eating his body and drinking his blood, which Christians today practice as communion. I’m glad I gave all of that nonsense up for reason and Deism!

Progress! Bob Johnson

http://www.deism.com

4 April 2017paleologue OFollow

Lord help us when we get to the point cannibalism is a protected form of speech.

“Oh no, Ossifer, we was just havin some fun with him.”

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RJ

4 April 2017Robert JohnsonFollow

I meant to write “is NOT taken up” (I wrote it in a hurrgy, my error). Since they believe religious people should have exemptions to laws, it wouldn’t surprise me if they did.

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4 April 2017paleologue OFollow

That would make a difference, Robert. Next time, don’t be in such a hurrgy. 🙂

I used to belong to the Eat The Rich party. Our slogan was “It’s time the rich contributed something of value to society… nutritional value.” But we were ahead of our time. Reagan got elected instead.

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JT

5 April 2017Jonathan TangFollow

The last sentence of the article: “Across all these cultures’ justifications for man-eating, one central idea resonates: we eat the dead because we hope never to become as they are.” There’s a notable exception here in the case of the Catholics and the Orthodox, who eat the flesh of God so as to become like God 🙂

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BM

4 April 2017Billy MillsFollow

What actual evidence, other than Roman propaganda, do we have for Druicical cannibalism?

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EO

4 April 2017E.I.E.I. OwenFollow

British archeologists have found bones that seem to have marks suggesting cannibalistic practices. See here, for instance.

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BM

4 April 2017Billy MillsFollow

So that’s a maybe for iron Age Britain, but not necessarily Druids.

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EO

4 April 2017E.I.E.I. OwenFollow

The British Iron Age lasted from the first significant use of iron for tools and weapons in Britain to the Romanisation of the southern half of the island.

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/British_Iron_Age

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JL

4 April 2017jacques lcvlFollow

in postmodern terms, ‘cannibalism’ is very similar to today’s massification and extreme popularization of the concept of ‘zombies’, as well as some of the tenets of vampirism. By zombies, we should also include zombie-companies-organizations-structures, etc. This is, they are dead but still don’t know it. Perhaps it’s true, ‘we hope never to become as they are’, though it is too late now and thus we are forced to realize how much we still need to eat the Other, in any possible form, by exploting them, torturing them and extracting the highest possible value under purely utilitarian terms, while ignoring or neglecting the uniqueness of every individual, who otherwise ‘ceased to be’ under the gaze of the priviledge, brutalizing and cannibalizing whatever moves out there.

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4 April 2017Sean SouthFollow

Lot of good responses already, but I had a slightly different take on the question. The question, I thought, was not rooted in why there IS cannibilism, or WHAT cannibilism encompasses, rather it is asking why it was so widespread. Widespread, looking at the historical and archaeological record, would mean it is a practice that exists in different/separate cultures and at different times. It is also “practiced” by most other organisms under certain circumstances or situations. The act performed by an actor outside and free floating from the constraint of being a defining trait or characteristic of one species or just a family of closely related species. In short, protein is protein when it comes to survival. Already noted are the biological roots of the subconscious motivations for cannibilism and added to that the dominance behaviours associated with it and then the more complex psychology added as the final layer on the act.

I guess, really what the essence of my replied question is – why is cannibilism not MORE common and widespread? What exactly are the reasons behind the “sacred/profane” taboo? Is it a quirk of history, a contingent “morality”? Or is it sort of a common milestone among cultures which place the mark of taboo on it? Is it the violence associated with killing and then eating of human flesh? Is it the monotheistic religious view of the body saved for the resurrection being robbed by becoming lunch?

There is the version of it with the “flesh pills” from the Tibetan monks mentioned in the article. Let’s say you went to a new restaurant where they served these “flesh pills”. Make the name a bit more attractive for the marketing aspect and combine with the fact that the sources of these morsels were and still are alive and paid well per ounce of meat harvested (in other words willingly harvesting their own flesh for consumption and for their own profit). Let an expert chef prepare the human meat and then serve it up on a plate in front of you.

Assuming you are not a vegan or vegetarian (though the source of this meat was more willing than the cow or chicken usually is and not part of the agroindustry), would you take a bite of human flesh served up? Seriously, for all the “foodies” out there, if you could eat human flesh that came from a willing participant provider, and it was prepared by a favorite cook in a favored style of preparation – what would stop you from eating a delicious plate of “human”?

Substitute a steak from a cow with the leg muscle of an amputee who sold their leg (which they would have lost anyway) to a restaurant. You get a Tuesday night coupon and go, sit down, and served up to you is a nice juicy tender “steak” made from the leg of an amputee who sold their flesh to the establishment.

In this case, what keeps you (if anything) from eating it?
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EO

4 April 2017E.I.E.I. OwenFollow

Call the flesh pills “soylent Green”! Yum!

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4 April 2017paleologue OFollow

I think what keeps everyone from being a cannibal would be fear and disgust.

Forensic anthropologists have noted that quite a lot of really ancient hominid remains– proto-humans– have had the long bones cracked by what appear to be rock marks, to suck the marrow. So they infer that at a certain stage of prehistory, cannibalism was in fact very widespread. And one could imagine conditions back then were such that a human not related to your clan would be worth more as a source of protein than as a fellow human.

Survivors from that era might well have turned out to be all cannibals… except for the fact that it would have been so self-destructive to the species we never would have come to cover the earth. We would have just been some disgusting, very sparsely populated species. So instead the cannibals were steadily killed off by the non-cannibals… as objects of fear and revulsion.

To this day, the most universal cultural traits, observed in nearly all the 6-7,000 human cultures still in existence during anthropology’s heyday, 1880-1950, would be the stigmas surrounding incest and cannibalism.
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4 April 2017Sean SouthFollow

Notwithstanding slight differences in the take-away information available on hominid cannibalism to laypeople Paleo, my line of thinking would like to drill down further on your initial response of “fear and disgust”. That was the psychological layer I was making a situation out of with the amputee scenario that skirts the usual instances in order to explore what the roots were of fear and disgust.

Start with “disgust” – as you mentioned in your first reply to the question, human meat in terms of nutritional value is, in a word, protein. Animal protein. While we could drill down in detail on the exact genetic makeup, or presence or lack of certain biochemical markers, all in all, our muscle is not much different than that of a domesticated source of meat. So where does the “disgust” get triggered? (Assuming you have no initial issue with eating pork chops or a steak or even lobster for that matter). Start with 2 plates – one with human meat and another with pork. Blind taste test. The eater prefers plate A – better taste. It is the human meat comprising plate A. When told of the source of protein – disgust and revulsion. Why? Not because of taste or physical effects, but psychological affect. Leading us to what is the psychological source of that disgust? I say it is cultural.

Cannabilism is not required to be self destructive (killing others – exocannibalism as violence) but just means eating the flesh of the same species. If one ate an already dead human, that is not “self destructive” in the sense you bring up. Religious rites, and the the contingent evolution of them, bring us to modern cultures that do not practice “funerary cannibalism” – endocannibalism.

Bringing us to “fear”. Why would one fear a “steak” dinner? Do you fear clams at a clam bake? What is the source(s) of fear?

I would submit, as my thinking goes, that the “disgust” is a socially learned response and is contingent upon the situation. In prehistory, if hominids ate their deceased as a form of “funeral rights”, there would be no disgust on the part of the diners. It would be sacred.

Fear, however, the source may be different. If it is a case of meat/flesh not taken or harvested after natural death, but rather taken forcefully and against the will, in other words harvested with violence, that is the main source of “fear”. It is the fear of a social being viewing another of its species as more than a potential enemy – which brings connotations of its own social rules and dynamics that are able to be processed in socio-cgonitive ways of like-minded beings – to the primal state of “predator and prey”.

Any one of us, I assume, would hold fear of a potential enemy that is looking to harm or kill us; an enemy soldier or even a serial killer. Is that, however, the same level or cognitive pathway of fear when that relationship goes from “enemy” to “predator”? I submit that it is not the same. Think about getting into an aquarium with a serial killer and you may be afraid of him or her, but get in the same tank with a hungry great white and tell me if that level of fear is the same? I think perhaps that there is a difference in the neurological pathway between the reason(s) that motivates the danger to oneself, at least in the “perceived” reasons.

The main difference being that the source and intensity of fear in a “socially motivated death” (aka serial killer or enemy soldier) is not as elemental as the fear of being “prey”. The first can, at least in theory, be bargained with or found to be or is surmised to be the result of some problem in cognition and behavior or cultural assimilation. The second type, being the literal prey for nutritional value, is beyond normal “social logic”, beyond a social understanding or calculation and rests solely on responses wired by evolution even in conceptualized thinking. Hence, we feel a deep fear in thinking of eating others as well as being eaten by others of the same species. It subverts even the negative aspects of being socially similar and moves that relationship to a much more basic level while at the same time removing the normal markers of intra-species danger. One can read the body language of an enemy of the same species, but if that similarity is removed while form remains, then one can imagine your own relations feastingon your flesh for food. Other members of our own species become predators to the individuals intra-species relational position as prey. We, being super socials, can’t handle that well. It errs in the logic of the supersocial biological mind, until the right situation occurs and older evolutionary paths come to operate.

In a social mode of thinking, usual use of language and so forth, the victim of serial killers could be considered “prey”, but that use of the term hijacks the biological connotations I am pitifully trying to conjure. Hannibal Lechter was a serial killer, but he was so much more diabolical for being the cannibal-by-choice, viewing victims as “tasty” (actual prey) rather than the victims being the source of a “normal” serial killers mental, social and/or emotional fracturing being acted out in killing.

Anyway, in my “amputee scenario” derived from the Tibetan “flesh pills”, I tried to remove that “fear” source, leaving us with the irrational disgust response (assuming one is not a vegetarian or vegan), since it is irrational in the sense of finding “disgust” at the thought of meat from a buffalo when one will eat the meat from a Holstein cow without a second thought.

So, would you eat an amputees leg? If the person who was the amputee even said, at the table, “Go ahead, try it, it is specially prepared and I am alive, fine, even thriving with the profit gained and you can truly and with reason believe that I am a willing participant. The rest of the profit from your meal is even going to be donated to charity. Go ahead, enjoy.”

What reasons would your meal choice rest upon?

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4 April 2017venze chernFollow

If widespread takes the meaning of extensiveness and pervasiveness, one would reckon cannibalism was never that widespread as insinuated (religious rituals aside). There might still be isolated cases, but no exaggeration required.

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ZD

4 April 2017Z DJFollow

What I don’t get is why people are so disguised and opposed to cannibalism (if meat is properly cooked)?

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5 April 2017paleologue OFollow

I suppose there might be some danger in tropical countries, of eating undercooked people. Bilharzia infections, ringworm, schistosomiasis and so forth.

You may be old enough to get this joke. What did Jeffrey Dahmer say to Lorena Bobbitt?

“You gonna eat that?”

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5 April 2017Elin Ivarsson

I personally don’t think it comes down to being a problem about the quality of the meat. For me it is the horrid idea of eating a body of someone that could have been a friend, a relative, a lover or basically just a fellow human being (even though one could argue it is just the material body and not the actual dead person one would relate to).

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AT

4 April 2017aakash tripathi

As the author has stated that dead beings were considered as a bridge between life and afterlife so this act was totally justified in the eyes of people who were looking for Nirvana. All civilisations were highly religious and had considered human life as prime most form of life so while facing the natural calamities and cataclysms the best way to cajole the supreme power (god) was to sacrifice your best asset (humans). And so called people of gods (monks,priests,oracles) promoted this practice in hope to lessen the widespread losses due to disasters. Another reason can be to intimidate enemies to make them fear you. And this best can be achieved by eating their comrades i.e. cannibalism

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5 April 2017Sam Cel RomanFollow

If you map where people practiced cannibalism and compared it to a map where there are humans but no herd animals, there’d be a significant overlap. Of course there are sacred/ceremonial cultural aspects overlayed on top, but cannibalism is, at its root, a practice that takes place on the basis of nutrition.

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DB

5 April 2017David Baron

Sensational? Actually, is not so widespread.

One pharaoh (term means “wild!”) may have anthropopaged. I doubt many did.

Ancient south/central native Americans had religious rituals with human sacrifice. Not a popular item at their local golden arches, however.

The buga-bugas boiling the missionaries is racist folklore. The white would-be masters likely deserved it.

Are there real examples of practicing cannibals now or in recent history? Stranded crashed crews that out of necessity ate are not practicing cannibals. Sadly, survival.

The Asimov novel puts a nice light on this topic. The civilization portrayed falls upon the dying elders and in this manner, acquires their cumulative knowledge. The “Messiah” is called upon to practice his own ideal of acceptance. In the end (spoiler), he also partakes, gains knowledge for developing instant interstellar communication. This becomes a mere toy and he goes into volunary exile.
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5 April 2017paleologue O

You bring up an interesting issue, David. We have little if any direct evidence that pre-Columbian native American cultures engaged in cannibalism, ritual or otherwise (although there were a number of very primitive tribes, like the Karankawa along the Texas coast, or the Carib in the Guianas, who ate people just as readily as any other food source). Yet the Aztecs, a people who maintained an empire of millions of people, had no good protein source to sustain them. They didn’t eat seafood, of which there was plenty, because of the occasional red tides that made it poisonous. And there were only small numbers of deer in the woods. So what did they eat for a main course? Just the beans, squash and corn?

At the same time we see thousands of prisoners from the Flower Wars (whose main motivation was to take and sacrifice prisoners) having their hearts torn out on the altars of the pyramids, and their bodies thrown down to the crowd gathered at the base. These festivals would go on for days.

So what happened to the bodies after that? That’s something we just don’t know.

As they say, food for thought.
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CP

11 April 2017Canmore Pike

“The white would-be masters likely deserved [racist folklore].”

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11 April 2017Canmore Pike

I’ve seen the Herodotus story before. Missing from this version was his alleged conclusion, that
customs ruled men.

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CP

11 April 2017Canmore PikeFollow

“Across all these cultures’ justifications for man-eating, one central idea resonates: we eat the dead because we hope never to become as they are.”

But it never works.

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12 April 2017star buzz

Cannibalism is still disgusting.

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EO

13 April 2017E.I.E.I. Owen

Don’t knock it ‘till you’ve tried it!

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SS

14 April 2017Samantha Schwartz

Necessity is the mother of invention. I would imagine the men in the Andes plane crash of 1972 didn’t love what they did – but they understood the need for it. People are at the top of the food chain, so by nature, we carry a lot of nutrition. Meanwhile hunting animals takes a lot of time and work. If we are not strong enough or able to do this, survival behaviors kick in.

The whole religious aspect of it I’m not so sure about. I see it as a power thing. If we can be predator over the biggest predator there is – man- then we are closer to God (in theory).

landscaping Lake Mary

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About homelessholocaust

Tijuana Hobo , Hebrew Hobo Railroad Rabbi, The Truth Teller Tell True Truth Truthfully. If the Truth is Repugnant to you, You are a Reagan Cultist. Ronald Reagan was Taught by L. Ron Hubbard, Reagan & Hubbard FOUNDED THE SCIENCE FICTION MIND FUCKING GAME- SCIENTOLOGY- then REAGAN USED NERO LINGUIST PROGRAMMING as PRESIDENT to MURDER THE MINDS of AMERICANS!
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