The world is full of cultures, traditions, and religions, with some being colorful and vibrant yet others being totally bizarre and dangerous. Some are so peculiar that they might seem unacceptable for a modern man but for the people of such culture, it is absolutely normal. Be it the thalaikoothal custom in India or penis festival in Japan, the diversity of the world never fails to complement the authentic audacity of various human customs.
One such custom is the funeral rituals of the Yanomami tribe of Brazil. A form of unintended Cannablism inculcated with the belief that that’s how the soul of the deceased finds rest. Let’s check out the man-eating tribe of Brazil
The Man-Eating myth?
In 1759 the world first came to know about the Yanomami tribe under an expedition by Apolinar Diez de la Fuente on the Padamo River. The tribe consists of approximately 35,000 indigenous people who make up about 200 to 250 villages in the Amazon rainforest. They live in an oval-shaped hut that houses around 50 to 400 people and believe in unity and equality. The practice of equality is so important for them that there are no village chiefs within their community. The decisions are made upon the collective opinions of all the people.
Both men and women are engaged in hunting and fishing, while men are not allowed to eat the fish they caught instead they can only serve on food caught by other hunters. Women of villages are responsible mostly for agriculture and gardening.
Coming to their death perspective, the Yanomami tribe believes that death isn’t something that happens naturally over time, instead they believe that it is caused by evil spirits or ghosts. Thus as a remedy of providing salvation to the soul of the deceased, they perform a funeral ritual that includes eating the remains of the deceased. They believe that the spirit can only rest after the family eats their remains.
As a process, when a person dies a special cremation ritual takes place where the body of the dead is wrapped in leaves and taken into the forest. The body is buried and left to decompose for 30 to 40 days. When the body is decayed according to their needs, they retrieve it and burn it. The bones and the ashes are then ground into a powder and cooked with a banana as a soup. The soup is then served to the whole family for consumption. This happens repeatedly until all the ashes are consumed by the family.
As an exception, if a Yanomami man is killed by an enemy then its ashes won’t be consumed by everyone but only the women of the tribe drink the soup. And it must happen on the night the tribe’s revenge raid is successfully commissioned. This way, the funeral process can sometimes take years to complete. Through this bizarre ritual, the people of the Yanomami tribe confirm that the soul of the deceased will live forever and it will also give the tribe unbeatable strength.
But the Yanomami tribe isn’t the only one to have ‘eating the dead’ rituals!
Cannibalism is not uncommon and nor a distant historical fact. Humans since centuries have enshrined the consumption of human flesh through sacred rituals and continue to do so to date. Cultures that engage in endocannibalism included the Melanesians of Papua New Guinea and the Wari people of Brazil. And endocannibalism does not have a ubiquitous meaning!
The people of an isolated tribe from Papua New Guinea have their own unique tradition of mortuary feasts. After a person dies, the relative feasts on their body in a hope that it will make the soul of the dead immortal. Men consumed the flesh of their deceased relatives, while women and children ate the brain. Though the ritual is extremely crude for a normal man, for the Fore people it is an expression of respect.
Many Amazonian, African, and Native American societies have traditionally practiced peaceful, cannibalistic mortuary rituals. Thus, Endocannibalism is a practice of cannibalism in one’s own locality or community performed out of love and respect. In the past, the Amahuaca Indians of Peru would often take bones out of the ashes of a cremation fire, grind them with corn, and drink as a kind of soup. Along with them the Wari people in western Brazil, the remains of the deceased were roasted and consumed within the community. Even so, rejecting the soup was offensive to the direct family members.
Hence, explaining cannibalism could have different meanings for different people and not just a few times but again and again over the course of time when reasons and emotions varied. Yet for Endocannibalism, it is adapted to suit the spiritual framework of each community in which it’s practiced. For years, cannibalism has served as a tool of empowerment and honor for people belonging to traditional tribes that do not appreciate change.