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The term cannibalism means the eating of human flesh by human beings andor eating of animals by members of their own species Cannibalism was derived from the Carib Indians discovered by Christopher Columbus of the West Indies The Caribs were man-eaters and the Spanish name for the tribe was Canibales meaning bloodthirsty and cruel The practice of cannibalism reaches back into antiquity and has been found in many areas of the world Evidence indicates that it may have been practiced as early as the Neolithic Period The Greek historian Herodotus and other ancient writers gave accounts of various ancient people as being cannibals Marco Polo reported tribes ranging from Tibet to Sumatra who practiced cannibalism North American Indian tribes of the western coast of the Gulf of Mexico practiced cannibalism Until recently the practice prevailed throughout much of central and western Africa Australia New Zealand Melanesia Sumatra New Guinea Polynesia and remote portions of South America Cannibalism at times has had religious significance This stems from the belief that the person who eats of the deceased person acquires the desired qualities or characteristics of that person which resemble the theory of sympathetic magic examples of this are seen in Attraction of Blood Rituals were performed for many reasons including purification pacification of gods and ancestor worship In a few instances cannibalism has been practiced for just revenge In other cases it was believed that the ghost of the enemy would be utterly destroyed when his body was eaten thus leaving nothing in which his spirit could exist Some examples of religious cannibalism are these The Binderwurs of central India ate their sick and aged in the belief that the act was pleasing to their goddess Kali In Mexico the Aztecs to their deities sacrificed thousands of human victims annually Following the sacrifices the Aztec priest and people ate the bodies of the victims believing the acts brought them closer to their gods Cannibalism is nearly
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