Anthropology of Food: Medicinal Cannibalism Essay

Anthropology of Food


Cannibalism has been a subject of morbid captivation, disapprobation, and strong topic of academic and moral statement. Medicative cannibalism and corpse medical specialty became a permeant happening in early modern Europe and America. Egyptian mas pulverized into pulverization, human flesh of those late executed and tragically died, fat, blood, skull and moss of the dead adult male ‘s skull were in high demand by doctors and their patients. Paracelsian chemists and doctors ( a ill-famed medical motion in the late 16th and seventeenth century based upon theories and therapies of Paracelsus ) made really careful remotion and usage of the full human cadaver. Thomas Willis, Robert Boyle, Charles II of England and a host of flush aristocracy and blue bloods actively participated in this pattern, along with the moneymaking belowground universe of executioners, merchandisers, and grave robbers. This essay delves into the facts of medicative cannibalism, purposed organic structure parts, and mending patterns.


In order to understand Medicinal Cannibalism, it is of import we foremost understand what cannibalism is ; Cannibalism is the consumption or ingestion of one’s ain species. Medical Cannibalism or the proper term iatric cannibalism is the ritualistic feeding of human flesh for intent of mending the human organic structure. The ingestion of mas and human tissue became a ill-famed pharmaceutical drug used widely all over the Europe, and were still sold at extremely regarded German pharmaceuticss every bit recent as 1908, and continued to be practiced in the Pacific Ocean islands every bit late as the 2nd half of the twentieth century.

Medical Cannibalism was platitude and hit the extremum of popularity during the 16th and 17th centuries. Many European royals, scientists, and clergy normally ingested medical potions incorporating human blood, fat, bodily secernments, and castanetss believed to bring around everything from cuts and contusions to ictuss.

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So Jesus said to them.“ Very genuinely, I tell you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and imbibe his blood, you have no life in you… ”-John 6:53

In order to derive an apprehension about the history of medical cannibalism, we need to research the Christian followings and their ghastly healing patterns. In the Christian religion, the correlativity between the deceased and the godly has been a elemental portion of ceremonial and worship.

Very early on, flocks of faithful believers prayed over the dead martyred saints believing the saint ‘s physical remains provided a religious connexion between adult male and God. Their decaying organic structures and their bodily composing ( such as blood, flesh, variety meats, castanetss, and secernments ) believed to hold holy powers to supply miracles of healing and the flight of religious and mortal decease. These larceny and hooliganism of these organic structures grew so widespread finally, necessitating resettlement of the organic structures to procure resting topographic points.

Narratives of these mending miracles continued to be reported by those who prayed or touched these saints ‘ cadavers: Saint Catherine of Siena ‘s mummified caput displayed at the Church of San Domenico in Siena, Italy and is believed to hold mending powers. Catherine of Siena was believed to hold had performed a mending rite for a nun death from chest malignant neoplastic disease described as “ twice forced herself to get the better of sickness by thrusting her oral cavity into the putrefying breast… and imbibe her Pus. ” ( Sugg, 2012 ) In cardinal Italy, the faithful would pour olive oil over the martyred Saint Felix ‘s through holes in the grave and roll up the oil that had run over his disintegrating organic structure to anoint the sick. ( Sugg, 2012 )

By the Middle Ages, Christian Europe was no longer satisfied ingestion of dead saints, but had grown to besides hunger for human organic structures.


For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the communion table to do expiation for your psyches, for it is the blood that makes atonement byt the expiation by the life.-Leviticus 17:11

Human blood believed to incorporate the kernel of spirit and life and through ingestion ; the blood ‘s life kernel is transferred. Regarded as the greatest scientist of his clip, Saint Albertus Magus ( 1206-1280 ) , prescribed ‘a most cherished H2O ‘ incorporating the distilled blood from a healthy adult male. He declared “ any disease of the organic structure, if it be anointed therewith, is made whole and all inward diseases by the imbibing thereof. A little measure thereof received, restoreth them that have lost all strength: it cureth the paralysis effectuously, and preserveth the organic structure from all illness. ” ( Sugg, 2012 )

In 1483, King Louis XI ailing and fighting to populate, imbibe the blood of little kids: “ Every twenty-four hours he grew worse, and the medical specialties profited him nil, though of a unusual character ; for he vehemently hoped to retrieve by the human blood which he took and swallowed from certain kids. ” ( Himmelman, 1997 ) In 1492, Pope Innocent VIII near decease after a violent shot drank blood drained by his personal doctor of three immature male childs doing their decease every bit good as the unsuccessful healing of the Catholic Pope ensuing in decease.

The scientific attack to medical pattern during the Renaissance triumphed over the faith-based healing of the past making great promotions in chemical science. biological science, and medical specialty. Curiously adequate, medicative cannibalism reached the extremum of popularity and the art of chemistry.

“ Decay is the beginning of all birth-and of all wellness ” -Paracelsus

Alchemic doctrine of cadaver medical specialty was uncomplicated: through decomposition, old affair transformed into natural stuff one time once more. Polish of human organic affair is the base of the ‘essence of life ‘ .

Theophorastus Bombastus von Honenheim ( 1491-1541 )

Early literature is full of disclosures refering to the powerful medicative power in the good healing of an person ‘s complaints. The text and medical surveies of medicative cannibalism and cadaver pharmacological medicine, reveals the platitude pattern of consuming human bodily affair and reveals a civilization preoccupied.

Harmonizing to early literature ( 980-1037 ) , the consumption of mas was the readying that could bring around epilepsy, sickness, colds, and the counterpoison of toxicant. By the late 16th century, the consumption of mas became a celebrated pharmaceutical drug used widely all over the Europe, and were still sold at reputable German pharmaceuticss every bit recent as 1908. [ one ] Further, consumption of human organic structures was practiced in many of the islands in the Pacific Ocean until the 2nd half of the 20th century. The inquiry needfully occurs: what’s good about it? Ingestion of human organic structures is non needfully an appealing impression even to the people in the 16th century. When one is prescribed ahalf a lb of ma dustby a physician as a redress for a cold, it sounds like the hazard isn’t worth taking, for one could inquire many inquiries such as, ‘For how long do I need to take it? ’ or more evidently, ‘Does that work? ’ and so on. Brooding deeper, can one devour another being of the same species? What would its moral deduction be? Apparently, these are types of inquiries that were asked and have been asked by those who promoted medicative consumption of flesh every bit good as the deliberate act of cannibalism. In this paper, I will analyze the types of cannibalisms every bit good as ways to fix human flesh, discourse the theoretical and practical deductions of cannibalism and briefly touch upon the alleged relationship between cannibalism and witchery in early modern Europe.

If you have n’t read much about ancient Egyptian mas, you may be shocked to larn that in centuries past, they were ground up into a all right pulverization dispensed by druggists to be locally applied or orally ingested as a intervention for complaints every bit diverse as disquieted tummy, urarthritis, and epilepsy. Mumia ( or mummia ) was 1st prepared in the 12th c. , was in common usage by the 15th c. , and reached great popularity by the 17th c. “Mummy is become ware,Mizraimremedies lesions, and Pharaoh is sold for balsams, ” wrote Sir Thomas Browne in 1841. Mummy pulverization was in such demand that the supply of ancient Egyptians slowed and modern-day cadavers were substituted. Mumia was still available every bit late as the early twentieth c. Fast forward to 2012, when scientists are once more looking to mummy as a remedy. They fear that our ( over ) usage of antibiotics has ravaged our enteric vegetation, which in bend has changed our metamorphosis, damaging our immune system and lending to fleshiness. Cecil Lewis of the University of Oklahoma is comparing the bacterium in the crap of ancient mas – who lived before the age of antibiotics – to our ain intestine bacteriums so they can calculate out what has changed. “My first hypothesis would be that chlorinated H2O and antibiotics basically changed humanmicrobiomes, ” says Dr. Lewis, who adds, “It ‘s excessively early to state if it ‘s a good thought to repopulate our backbones with bacteriums. But it ‘s surely an of import thought that requires probe. ” And presumptively a more sophisticated method than consuming mumia… 1st image) An apothecary vas inscribed “MUMI?“ one time contained powdered ma and is now a specimen in the pharmaceutics aggregation of theMuseums fur Hamburgische Geschichte,2nd image) Alisa Eagleston and Elizabeth Cornu, curators from theSan Francisco Fine Arts Museum, cover the 2,500-year-old ma of an Egyptian adult male named “ Irethorrou ” after being scanned at theStanford Medical Center.

These are some of the many stations I have written about ancient Egypt, if you care to read on: Ancient Egyptian aroma, Rediscovery of ancient Egypt, Raiding antediluvian Egypt, Ancient Egyptian finds, The nurse and the sphinx, Mummy toes, Ramesses ‘ repatriation, Mummies guarded, The mas in inquiry, and Egyptian obelisks elsewhere.

Noble’s new book,Medicative Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, and another by Richard Sugg of England’s University of Durham,Mas, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine from the Renaissance to the Victorians, reveal that for several hundred old ages, top outing in the 16th and 17th centuries, many Europeans, including royalty, priests and scientists, routinely ingested redresss incorporating human castanetss, blood and fat as medical specialty for everything from concerns to epilepsy. There were few vocal oppositions of the pattern, even though cannibalism in the freshly explored Americas was reviled as a grade of savageness. Mas were stolen from Egyptian grave, and skulls were taken from Irish entombment sites. Gravediggers robbed and sold organic structure parts.



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Dolan, M. ( 2012 ) .The Gruesome History of Earing Corpses as Medicine History.Retrieved from hypertext transfer protocol: //

Gordon-Grube, K. ( 1993 ) . Evidence of Medicinal Callnibalism in Puritan New England: ‘Mummy ‘ and Related Remidies.Early American Literature, 28, p. 185.

Himmelman, P. ( 1997 ) . The Medicative Body: An Analysis of Medicinal Cannibalism in Europe, 1300-1700.Dialectical Anthropology, 22, p. 183.

Baronial, L. ( 2011 ) .Medicative Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture.New York: Palgrave Macmillian.

Peters, H. ( 1899 ) .Pictorial History of Ancient Pharmacy: With Sketches of Early Medical Practice.Chicago: G.T. Engelhart & A ; Company.

Sugg, R. ( 2012 ) .Mas, Cannibals and Vampires: The History of Corpse Medicine From the Renaissance to the Victorians.Hoboken: Taylor & A ; Francis.

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Medicative Cannibalism | Melissa Fritz Fuller

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