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Anthropophagy is an academic term for cannibalism. Most often, anthrophagy is done in a ritualistic setting as one person or group of people attempt to take the "spirit" or "life force" of another person through symbolically or physically eating the flesh of that other person.

Cannibalism is taboo in most all cultures, except where it fulfills this sacred role. In non scientific or medical definitions, cannibalism is also associated with generalized insanity, both as a "cause" for the mentally insane, and as a way to determine if someone is insane. Cannibalism can cause an actual mental disease, known as Kuru. Kuru (sometimes known as laughing sickness) is transmitted by the eating of the brains of other humans and the ingestion of the diseased prions in those brains. There were incidences of Kuru in New Guinea in the 1950s and 1960s.[1]

Anthrophagy can be compared to a similar concept, Theophagy, or "eating of the god"; a ritual in most all pre-modern religions where some symbol of the god (for example, corn for the goddess Demeter or tobacco in ancient Native American religions) is eaten in the same understanding of trying to "bring the spirit of the god" into the body of the person "consuming" the god.


  1. [1] NIH page on Kuru