Cannibalism is the act of consuming the flesh of one's own species and has been observed in many thousands of species where it is seen to be fairly natural, as opposed to an act of desperation due to starvation or similar. In a specific, anthopological case, it refers only to humans eating other humans, which is frowned upon in certain societies.
The stereotype of human cannibalism is of fat, angry natives on a desert island boiling missionaries and other western explorers in a large pot. Although culinary and ritual cannibalism is indisputable among the 15th century Mexica (Aztecs), controversy surrounds the historical descriptions of cannibalism in the South Pacific. Some scholars, like Gananth Obeyesekere argue that the evidence for cannibalism in the South Pacific is poor and that the accounts of European explorers and missionaries may indicate nothing more than a form of "talking trash" or mutual misunderstanding in First Contact situations.
 Present day
Contemporary cannibalism is rare or nonexistant in the South Pacific. The one tribe in Papua New Guinea who are believed to still practice cannibalism may, in fact, be doing it just for the tourists. The other famous case is of the Fore tribe, who suffered an epidemic of the Kuru disease possibly due to it being passed on by ritual cannibalism. That cannibalism was the method of transmission isn't as certain as most people seem to think.
 Religious cannibalism
The Christian practice of consuming communion wafers could be interpreted as ritual symbolic cannibalism. The practice known today as the Eucharist, was more than likely borrowed from Mithraic ritual practice. Part of the Mithraic communion liturgy included the words, "He who will not eat of my body and drink of my blood, so that he will be made one with me and I with him, the same shall not know salvation."
- ↑ According to Willy Wonka/Johnny Depp
- ↑ Gananth Obeyesekere. 2005. Cannibal Talk: The Man-Eating Myth and Human Sacrifice in the South Seas. Berkeley: University of California Press.
- ↑ Sydney Morning Herald - Cannibals may be feeding the lies
- ↑ Mithraism - The sacred meal and the ascent to heaven
- ↑ BBC - Neanderthals were cannibals
- ↑ LiveScience - Neanderthal 'Family' Possibly Victim of Cannibal Attack
- ↑ Elizabeth Culotta 'Neanderthals Were Cannibals, Bones Show' in Human Nature, 1 October 1999, Volume 286, Number 5437, pp. 18 - 19
- ↑ Did Neandertals die off because of cannibalism and transmissible spongiform encephalopathies?