Sacred Anthropophagy

Last month, the Wall Street Journal ran a review of Bill Schutt’s book Cannibalism. The reviewer, Felipe Fernandez-Armesto, starts his review by pointing out two little known facts about the practice: that it has, in fact, been commonplace throughout human history, and often actually revered; in some cultures it’s been part of solemn religious observance.  Fernandez-Armesto notes, regarding many partakers in anthropophagy:

“They hope to improve themselves, morally, by edible magic.

“For the Orokaiva people of Papua, for instance, consuming the deceased was formerly a way of “capturing spirits,” as they said, in compensation for lost warriors. The Hua of New Guinea ate their dead to conserve nu – the vital fluid they believe to be non- renewable in nature. The Gimi women of the same highlands swallowed their dead menfolk to guarantee fertility, encompass masculinity and bear male babies. “We would not leave a man to rot!” is their traditional cry. ”

The reviewer goes on to note that Mr. Schutt’s book ignores these aspects of cannibalism and instead focuses on pop culture’s takes on the practice — in a fairly frivol0us manner to boot.  It lists such ephemera as the fact that chocolate syrup was used to portray oozing blood in the shower scene in the Alfred Hitchcock’s film Psycho!

Geez! Considering the wide-ranging and thoughtful contextualization Fernandez-Armesto brings to his review, I’d love to see HIM write a book on this subject!

Read the entire review here:

Frater Lux Ad Mundi

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