Cannibalism is the eating of human flesh by men. This practice has existed from the most ancient times, and has given rise to descriptive terms, such as, Greek. ἀνθρωποφάγος; Latin, anthropophagus; Anglo-Saxon, man-ceta; English, man-eater. Since the discovery of the New World, the name of the Caribs of the West; India islands, recorded by Columbus under the Latinized; forms Catnibales or Caribales, has come into popular use as a generic term for man-eaters, cannibals.
Although man is by nature carnivorous as well as frugivorous, and although human flesh is not ill itself indigestible, mankind in general have looked with horror on those individuals and tribes who have been addicted to cannibalism. Simple association of thoughts causes the remains of dead kinsmen or friends to be treated with respect and tenderness, as may be. seen from the conduct of some of the rudest races. Moreover, association attaches the horror of death to anything connected with the dead. so that many tribes avoid the mention of a dead man's name, and even abandon his hut and destroy the furniture he has used. Finally, the religious doctrine that the soul outlives the body has evidently led survivors to propitiate the honored and dreaded spirit by respectful disposal of the corpse. "The following causes seem to have led to the disgusting practice of cannibalism under peculiar circumstances:
1. Famine. — The records of shipwrecks and sieges prove that hunger will sometimes overcome the horror of cannibalism among men of the higher nations, and it is not surprising that savages, from their improvident habits, should, in severe climates, be often driven to this extremity or example, the natives of Tierra del Fuego, when starving in winter, would kill and devour the oldest woman of the party, in preference to their dogs, which they alleged were useful in securing game. See Fitzroy, Voyage of Ships Adventure and Beagle, ii, 183; Salvado, Memorie dell Australice, p. 240 Waiti, Anthropologie der Nurvolker, vi, 749; Bancroft, Native Races of the Pacific States, i, 120; Back. Expedition to Great Fish River. p. 227;: Ellis,-Polynesian Researches, i, 359; Martin, Mariner's Toana Islands, i, 116;
2. Fury or Bravado. — Among the North American Indians the eating of the flesh of their slain enemies defended as. satisfying both hunger and revenge. See Schoolcraft, Indian Tribes, iii,. 242 Hennepin, ii, 159; Muller, Amerikanische Usrreligionen, p. 145. The same ,practice, with a similar design, has been prevalent in Polynesia. See Ellis, i, 309; Waitz, vi, 158; Turner, Polynesia, p. 194.'
3. Morbid Action. —Cases of the dead being devoured by relatives and friends (especially children by parents), from a sentiment of affection, are recorded among low savage tribes. See Spix and Martius, Reise in Brasilien, ii, 692; Angas, Savage Jife, in Australia, etc., i, 73; Howitt, Impressions of Australia, p. 134; Herodotus, iv, 26, who describes the funeral feasts of the Issedones of Central Asia, where the relatives ate 'the body of the deceased with other meat, the skull being set in gold and preserved; these were sacred rites performed in honor of the dead.
4. Magic.— There is a wide-spread idea belonging to primitive savage magic that the qualities of any animal eaten pass into the eater. This motive naturally leads to cannibalism, especially in war, where the conqueror eats part of the slain enemy for the purpose of making himself brave. This idea is found among the natives of Australia, and in New Zealand; among the North American Indians, whose warriors would devour the flesh of a brave enemy, and particularly the heart as the seat of courage; also in Ashantee. An English merchant in Shanghai, during the Taeping -siege, met his servant carrying the: heart of a rebel, which he was taking home to eat to make him brave. See Macgillivray, Voyage of Rattlesnake, i, 152; ii, 6; Keating, Long's Expedition, i, 102; Wilson, Western Africa, p. 168; Tylor, Early History of Mankind, p. 133; Eyre, Central Australia, ii, 259, 329.
5. Religion. — Cannibalism is deeply ingrained in savage and barbaric religions, whose gods are so often looked upon as delighting in human flesh and blood. The flesh of sacrificed human victims has even served to provide cannibal feasts. The interpretation of these practices is either that the bodies of the victims are vicariously consumed by the worshippers, or that the gods themselves feed on the spirits of the slain men, while their bodies are left to the priests and people. Thus, in Fiji, " of the great offerings of food, native belief apportions merely the soul thereof to the gods, who are described as being enormous eaters; the substance is consumed by the worshippers. Cannibalism is a part of the Fijian religion, and the gods are represented as delighting in human flesh" (Williams, Fiji and the Fijians, i, 231). In Mexico the cannibalism which prevailed. was distinctly religious in its origin and professed purpose. See Prescott, Conquest of Mexico; Bancroft, vol. ii; Waitz, vol. i.. On the sacrificial character of this practice in Africa see Lander, Records, ii, 250; Hutchinson, Ten Years Among the Ethiopians, p. .62.
6. Habit. — In many instances the practice of cannibalism did not stop with the performance of the religious rite. In some of the above examples the practice must have become acceptable to the people for its own sake. Among conspicuous cannibal races may be mentioned the semi-civilized Battas of Sumatra, whose original instigation to eating their enemies may have been warlike ferocity, but who are described as treating human flesh as a delicacy, and devouring not only war captives, but criminals, slaves, and, according to one story, their aged kinsfolk. See Junghubu, Battaldnder; Marsden, History of Sumatra, p. 390; Wuttke, Geschichte des Heidenthums, i, 172. Cannibalism assumes its- most repulsive form where human flesh is made an ordinary article of food like other meat. This state of things is not only mentioned in descriptions of West Africa, where human flesh was even sold in the market, .but still continues among the Monbuttu of Central Africa, whose wars with neighboring tribes are carried on for the purpose of obtaining human flesh, the bodies of the slain being dried, for transport, while the living prisoners are driven off like cattle. See Schweinfurth, Heart of Africa; Pigafetta, Regnum Congo. For the effect of such cannibalism on the population see Gerland, Aussterben Naturker, p. 61. From the best evidence attainable, it is thought that prehistoric savages were in this respect like those of modern times, neither free from cannibalism nor universally practicing it.-Encyclop. Britannica (9th ed.), s.v.