Review of Endokannibalismus

Endokannibalismus. By DR. RUDOLF S. STEINMETZ. Reprinted from Mittheilungen der anthropolagischen Gesellschaftin Dien. Band xxvi   

 A COMPARATIVE description of cannibalism as it occurs within the tribe is accompanied with a tabular exhibit of the tribes practicing endocannibalism, the motives assigned for the practice, and the reliability of the information in each case. Lack of food, longing for meat, special relish for human flesh, and animistic belief, are the particular motives to cannibalism ; and women, children, invalids, the aged, and criminals are, in the main, its objects. To cannibalism the following negative conditions are necessary; (a) lack of meat, (l) absence of aesthetic horror of the corpse, (e) absence of fear of resentment of the disturbed spirit of the corpse, (d) absence of fanciful sympathy with the corpse, (e) absence of feeling that the act will defile the person eaten or his memory. All these conditions are present among the lower races. Primitive man must have been omnivorous, especially ill the first steps of his development he was obliged to refuse no suitable food. All motives which deter civilized men from eating human flesh were wanting, and only our prejudices prevent our recognition, of the fact that some form of cannibalism has characterized lower stadia of human development as universally as have animism, ancestor-warship,

( 611) blood-vengeance, etc. The custom was probably universal to eat enemies, and also friends who died by violence or were not too much wasted by disease. The necessity of self-preservation would prevent extensive murder for cannibalism within the tribe, except in case of the aged, invalid, criminals, and the deformed. It is impossible that superstition should have led man to cannibalism, if periodic hunger had not led him to it long before.

This paper is valuable even more from the methodological stand-point than as a contribution to folk-psychology. The data of ethnology are singularly difficult of management, because of the unreliability of sources and the vastness of the material ; and many writers who, like Herbert Spencer, have attempted to handle these materials comparatively, have, like him, exhibited, in the main, only the facts corroborative of their awn opinions,- in this respect falling into a worse error than those editors of the last generation who, when they found a manuscript, changed it to the best of their knowledge and ability before giving it to the public. It may be that Dr. Steinmetz' conclusions are not all valid, but he has presented practically all the facts involved, and the article is unsurpassed as a model for ethnological research.



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