A history of human sacrifice cannibalismby Rit Nosotro
Change Over Time essay
Discuss the history of human sacrifice and cannibalism.
Cannibalizing a human sacrifice has existed throughout recorded history and continues today in mystery religions.
Human sacrifice and cannibalism have appeared in many forms throughout the course of history. Asia, Europe, the Americas, Australia.. all have experienced times of cannibalism. Jewish regulations strictly prohibited eating blood and it was for this reason many followers turned from Jesus Christ after he told them they must eat his body and drink his blood. A type of cannibalism is practiced today by Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox through the mystery of Communion (Lord's Supper).
From elaborate rituals to satisfy bloodthirsty gods to simply sealing children into the foundations of buildings to protect the structures from the elements, the various forms of sacrifice share only one common characteristic – death. Human sacrifice was not uncommon in the birthplace of civilization, Mesopotamia. Abraham had no indication of hesitation when God commanded him to sacrifice his son Isaac. The substatutionary sacrifice of an animal was frequently eaten in accordance with Mosaic law, such as the Passover lamb.
Though uncommon today, it is still practiced in some remote parts of Asia. Prior to the twentieth century, cannibalism was fairly common among certain Australian tribes; however, they did not make human sacrifices, but only ate those who died in battle or of old age.
In Asia, human sacrifices are made to the ‘mother’ goddess Kali. She was, according to Hindu mythology, a violent slayer of evil with an unquenchable thirst for blood. In the nineteenth century, a child was killed every day at the Kali temple in Calcutta. The reason for these sacrifices was the idea that Kali would send riches to the poor, children to the childless, and revenge to the oppressed, if they provided her with blood. For instance, if a couple had one child, but wanted many more, they might sacrifice the first child to Kali, and she would send more to replace him. In order to have Kali send as much blessing as she possibly could, it was necessary to have a willing victim who knew what was going to happen and would not hinder it in any way. This practice and others, such as burning a widow in the cremation fires of her dead husband, were put to an end by Christian governors while India was under British rule.
Today, because of laws prohibiting the sacrifice of humans, the number of human sacrifices in Asia is unknown, but is still reported almost monthly. Substitutes, including pumpkins, human images made of flour, and various animals, are sacrificed more frequently. The reasons for these sacrifices, whether human or otherwise, are similar to those two hundred years ago – they are made for the sake of riches, marriages, or power.
Human sacrifice in Europe was mainly performed to protect buildings from weather, war, or the devil. The victims were usually illegitimate children bought from their mother for the purpose. As also practiced by the ancient Canaanite, these children were sealed into compartments in the walls or foundations of buildings. Supposedly, the spirit of the dead child would protect the building. In other places, a virgin was sacrificed annually to a nearby lake so that it would not flood the city. Apparently there was another city where a virgin was interred in the wall each year to keep the lake from swallowing the city.
Cannibalism was the term coined by the Spanish when they encountered the Carib Indians who ate ate human flesh. But it wasn't until Cortes encountered the Aztecs that the Spanish saw cannibalism on an industrial scale. The Aztecs were most infamous for taking human captives for sacrifice to their gods and then eating the corpse. This practice so appalled Cortez and his fellow Christians that they were confident it was God's justice delivered through the small pox that wiped out that civilization.
As the Aztecs migrated into central Mexico, their priests modified their gods into fearful, bloodthirsty beings that could only be appeased with human sacrifices. In this convient religion of conquest, Montezuma and his Aztecs believed the greatest honor that a warrior could have was to die in battle or to volunteer himself as a sacrifice to the gods in a religious ceremony. The primary reason that wars were fought were to expand control and more importantly to acquire prisoners to offer as sacrifices. Although an Aztec's heavy razor-sharp, obsideon-edged clubs could take off the head of a horse with a single blow, the warriors mainly fought to maim and capture alive sacrificial victims. To sacrifice a prisoner involved five priests. Four of whom would each take an arm or leg of the victim and would bend their prisoner over backward on a pyramid shaped rock that stood about waist high in such a way that when the fifth priest thrust an obsidian knife on the prisoner’s chest it would easily split open. A Dominican Friar who once watched a sacrifice described it in his book, Book of the Gods and Rites and Ancient Calendar, that “The chest would split open as easily as a pomegranate.” The priest would then reach into the chest and tear out the heart with his bare hands and hold the “fuming, steaming heart up to the sky” as an offering to their gods. The priest would take the blood of those who had been sacrificed and sprinkle it on lumps of dough, which was then distributed to the people who ate it while claiming that it was the and that they were not worthy of the honor of eating the flesh of the gods. The corpses were thrown down the steps of the temple where they would be cannibalized by warriors in order to increase their strength for the next conquest. The skulls were returned to displayed on a rack at the temple by the priests.
In South America, the Incans are known to have sacrificed healthy young children upon the Andean peaks to their mountain deities. Several of these mummified victims, some with their skulls bashed in, are on display in museums. Archaeologists do not believe the Inca practiced cannibalism.
In Australia, cannibalism was mostly practiced to gain the powers of the particular person who was being eaten. Some tribes ate their enemies only, some their own people, and some both. When tribes ate their enemies, they only ate certain body parts, such as the brain, heart, legs, sweat, and/or tongue. The brain was eaten for knowledge, the heart for courage and power, the legs were only eaten in the case of swift runners, for speed, and the sweat and tongue were consumed for bravery. When tribes ate their own people, family members would eat small portions of fat from their dead relative as a sign of respect. Only people of worth were eaten. People who died of disease or were very elderly were not eaten in some tribes. In some cases, infants were killed and eaten because of food shortages. A family with two children might kill the younger and feed its muscles to the elder to make him stronger. The reason for nearly all of the cannibalism was similar to this: if a man ate another man, he would gain the virtues which the dead man had had; in particular, those thought to originate in the part eaten. There is no evidence of cannibalism in Australia today, but recent reports claim that some tribes in New Guinea practice cannibalism.
Is the God the Hebrews the author of cannibalism? "And I will cause them to eat the flesh of their sons and the flesh of their daughters, and everyone shall eat the flesh of his friend in the siege and in the desperation with which their enemies and those who seek their lives shall drive them to despair." (Jeremiah 19:9) This punishment fit the crime for the Hebrews who sacrificed their children to their idols were condemned to eat their own children! Cannibalism was never acceptable to the ancient Jewish leadership. 2 Kings 6:24-30 reports the disgust of the King of Israel:
And it happened after this that Ben-Hadad king of Syria gathered all his army, and went up and besieged Samaria. And there was a great famine in Samaria; and indeed they besieged it until a donkey's head was sold for eighty shekels of silver, and one-fourth of a kab of dove droppings for five shekels of silver. Then, as the king of Israel was passing by on the wall, a woman cried out to him, saying, "Help, my lord, O king!"
And he said, "If the LORD does not help you, where can I find help for you? From the threshing floor or from the winepress?"
Then the king said to her, "What is troubling you?"
And she answered, "This woman said to me, "Give your son, that we may eat him today, and we will eat my son tomorrow.' So we boiled my son, and ate him. And I said to her on the next day, "Give your son, that we may eat him'; but she has hidden her son."
Now it happened, when the king heard the words of the woman, that he tore his clothes; and as he passed by on the wall, the people looked, and there underneath he had sackcloth on his body.
Neither human sacrifice nor cannibalism is widely practiced today. (However, see Part II.) In most countries there are laws against human sacrifice, which is, in fact, simply ritual murder and is punished accordingly. Cannibalism is so evidently disgusting that there are rarely laws against it. Because of this oversight, the German high court was faced with trying a man (in 2004) who killed a willing victim through legal euthanasia and consumed him. Did he break a law even though it was not written on man's books?
Part II: Transubstantiation
Jesus shocked his followers as recorded in John 6:51-56:
I am the living bread which came down from heaven. If anyone eats of this bread, he will live forever; and the bread that I shall give is My flesh, which I shall give for the life of the world. "How can his man give us his flesh to eat?". I tell you the truth, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of Man and drink his blood, you have no life in you. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day. For my flesh is real food and my blood is real drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me, and I in him."
Many turned away in disgust thinking Jesus was speaking literally. These Jewish followers of Christ knew that although blood paid the penalty for sin, it was strictly forbidden to drink blood. "Any Israelite or any alien living among them who eats any blood, I will set my face against that person who eats blood and will cut him off from his people. For the life of a creature is in the blood, and I have given it to you to make atonement for yourselves on the altar; it is the blood that makes atonement for one’s life" (Leviticus 17:10-11).Christians agree that sinners are symbolically washed in the blood of the lamb which was the blood price paid by Jesus Christ. Only the perfect blood of Jesus could bring about the forgiveness of sin whereas the sacrificial slaughter of thousands of Old Testament bulls were insufficient. The Lord doesn't’t want blood, but thanksgiving and kept promises: “Will I eat the flesh of bulls, or drink the blood of goats? Offer unto God thanksgiving; and pay thy vows unto the most High” (Psalm 50:13-14). “For it is not possible that the blood of bulls and of goats should take away sins” (Hebrews 10:4, Ezekiel 44:7, Isaiah 66:3).
The Roman Catholic / Orthodox Position on Transubstantiation
Roman Catholicism still teaches Jesus was speaking literally and they hold to the doctrine of "transubstantiation". Is there a literal, physical cannibalism involved in true Christianity? Christianity is a bloody religion as it has its own Passover Lamb that was slain, and consumed.
In the Divine Liturgy of the Eastern Orthodox, the congregation kneels and
the priest lifts up the paten and the cup praying, “Once again we offer
you this spiritual worship without the shedding of blood, and we ask, pray and
entreat You; send down Your Holy Spirit upon us and upon these gifts here offered.
And make this bread the precious Body of Your Christ. And that which is in this
Cup the precious blood of Your Christ. Changing them by Your Holy Spirit. Amen,
Amen. Amen.” The Orthodox position is that “Our Lord Jesus Christ
is present in this Mystery with all His being. He is present totally even in
the smallest particle. All who receive the Holy Communion receive the entire
Christ. And even though there are many liturgies it is the same Christ in each
one. After the transformation takes place the Body and Blood do not return to
their former nature.”
This is the Mystery where the bread and wine are changed by the Holy Spirit into the true Blood and Body of our Lord Jesus Christ. This gift is distributed to all Orthodox Christians who choose to partake for the most intimate union with our Lord. This is seen as the greatest of all the Mysteries. It is the climax of our main worship service the Divine Liturgy. This was promised by the Christ on the occasion of the feeding of the five thousand.
According to the Catholic Catechism, Article 3, paragraphs 1411-1413, only validly ordained priests can preside at the Eucharist and consecrate the bread and the wine so that they become the Body and Blood of the Lord. If priests indeed have the exclusive power to change finite bread and wine into the body and blood of the infinite Christ, and, if indeed, consuming His body and blood is necessary for salvation, then the whole world must become Catholic to escape the wrath of God. By the consecration the transubstantiation of the bread and wine into the Body and Blood of Christ is brought about. Under the consecrated species of bread and wine Christ himself, living and glorious, is present in a true, real, and substantial manner: his Body and his Blood, with his soul and his divinity (cf. Council of Trent: DS 1640; 1651).
The Protestant Position on Transubstantiation
Many theologians that protested against Roman Catholic doctrines, saw the declarations of Jesus in John 6 were just as figurative as the seven other statements Jesus made of Himself in the Gospel of John: "the bread of life" (6:48), "the light of the world" (8:12), "the door" (10:9), "the good shepherd" (10:11), "the resurrection and the life" (11:25), "the way, the truth and the life" (14:6), and "the true vine" (15:1). He also referred to His body as the temple (2:19).
Jesus' words in John 6 were not about the Lord's Supper, i.e., communion. It is belief in Jesus that brings eternal life, not eating a wafer and drinking wine. Jesus explained his words were spiritual, that the flesh counted for nothing, for obviously physical hunger and thirst are still with the followers of Jesus even though he said, Jesus declared in verses 35-36, "I am the bread of life. He who comes to me will never go hungry, and he who believes in me will never be thirsty...Whoever believes in the Son has eternal life, but whoever rejects the Son will not see life. . . . "
Jesus Christ is speaking in spiritual and not literal terms. Jesus gave his blood on the cross to pay the penalty of death required by the law. Those who accept that gift of grace in faith are saved from eternal damnation. "This is the will of him that sent me, that every one which seeth the Son, and believeth on him, may have everlasting life: and I will raise him up at the last day" (John 6:40).
Symbolically, that act is remembered in repeating the last supper where, "as they were eating, Jesus took bread, and blessed it, and brake it, and gave it to the disciples, and said, Take, eat; this is my body. And he took the cup, and gave thanks, and gave it to them, saying, Drink ye all of it; For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins. But I say unto you, I will not drink henceforth of this fruit of the vine until that day when I drink it new with you in my Father's kingdom" (Matthew 26:26-29). Jesus calls it what it is, "this fruit of the vine", not blood. Likewise, Jesus was obviously speaking symbolically when he held the bread and called it his body. This was the occasion of the Passover seder, full of symbolism, that Jesus instituting the New Covenant through what he would do on the cross as foretold by prophets Jeremiah, Ezekiel, and Isaiah. Jesus Christ is our Passover (1 Corinthians 5:7) was sacrificed for us to bring peace with God, and "If we walk in the light as He is in the light, we have fellowship with one another, and the blood of Jesus Christ His Son cleanses us from all sin" (1 John 1:7).
After the priest performs his super natural act of transubstantiation, the wafer and wine look, taste, smell and feel the same. Since no noticeable change occurs, protestants claim that it is counterfeit miracle unlike all the other miracles in the Bible were obvious changes happened, such as when Jesus changed water into into the actual elements of wine. Furthermore, if the blood and body of Christ were literally consumed, then they would need to be changed back again into bread and wine lest it decompose in the digestive cycle, thereby violating God’s promise to never let His Holy Son see decay (Acts 2:27). Protestants can not be charged with cannibalism.
Ashliman, D. L. ‘Human Sacrifice in Mythology and Legends.’ October
TIMEasia.com October 24, 2003
The Heretical Press. October 25, 2003
Cannibalism in the Bible. January 5, 2004
Eucharist - Holy Communion. February 14, 2008
Transubstantiation: Does the Eucharist Become the "Real Presence"
- the Body and Blood of Jesus Christ? February 14, 2008
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