Cannibalism a West Indies tribe well known for their practice of cannibalism), also called anthropophagy, is the act or practice of humans eating the flesh of other human beings.Cannibalism has recently been both practiced and fiercely condemned in several wars, especially in Liberia and Congo. Today, the Korowai are one of very few tribes still believed to eat human flesh. It is also still known to be practiced as a ritual and in war in various Melanesian tribes.
Reasons for cannibalism
The reasons for cannibalism include the following:
- As sanctioned by a cultural norm
- By necessity in extreme situations of famine
- Caused by insanity or social deviancy
There are fundamentally two kinds of cannibalistic social behavior; endocannibalism (eating humans from the same community) and exocannibalism (eating humans from other communities).
A separate ethical distinction can be made to delineate between the practice of killing a human for food (homicidal cannibalism) versus eating the flesh of a person who was already dead (necro-cannibalism).
There are many forms of spiritual and ritualistic cannibalism worldwide.
Exocannibalism is defined as a culture, group or tribe's consumption of another culture, group or tribe. This form of cannibalism has been associated with tribal power, murder and aggression and has been used in an effort to scare off possible invading enemies, to get rid of captured enemies of war and slaves. Many cannibalistic tribes believed that consuming one's enemy would allow them to obtain and absorb the spirit and skills of the victim.
Conversely, the consumption of members within one's own culture, group or tribe is called Endocannibalism, which is often associated with ritual burial ceremonies and has been controversially referred to on occasion as "compassionate cannibalism." Mortuary cannibalism has been considered to be the most widely practiced form of endocannibalism, often excluding murder and focusing on already deceased corpses.
The ancient Aztecs in Mexico were believed to have sacrificed and cannibalized thousands of humans on an annual basis. The Aztecs were believed to have practiced exocannibalism, as well as endocannibalism and survival cannibalism. Human sacrifice and cannibalism was practiced in an effort to create a universal balance between of the world and the cosmos.
Other cultures participated in endo- and exo-cannibalism for similar reasons, such as The North American Indians, known as the Iroquoian. They believed that sacrificing and consuming the bodies of their enemies would satisfy their war god and lead to their spirit being transferred and absorbed into their own bodies. The absorbed spirit was believed to empower the cannibal with the attributes of the dead person. Moira Martingale, author of Cannibal Killers, claims that this form of ritualistic cannibalism was practice by the Iroquoian culture as recently as 1838.