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Theophagy means "god eating", and it refers to the practice of ritually eating what the eater believes to be the flesh of a deity. The practice is believed to have derived from earlier forms of ritual cannibalism, in which the descendants of a deceased person would ritually eat parts of the body of the deceased, so that the "spirit" and qualities of former generations could be passed on to the following ones.
Types of theophagy
Notable theophagic religions:
- Catholic Church - When in the Catholic Mass the priest consecrates ritual bread and wine on the altar of a church, a miracle is considered to take place, called transubstantiation, in which the bread and wine (Eucharist) are mystically transformed into the body and blood of Jesus Christ, which is then consumed. Only Catholics who have confessed all "mortal sins" committed are permitted to partake (though some ignore this). If you go forward to the communion rail to receive, eating the Eucharist is required; you mustn’t simply walk out with the host and not get round to eating it. Desecrating the Eucharist carries the penalty of excommunication. Most Protestant denominations believe the Last Supper was to be taken symbolically. While many moderate Catholics also consider transubstantiation to be symbolic, the Catholic Church insists that it is literal. Of course the Church angrily denies that this sacrament amounts to cannibalism, while at the same time effectively insisting that it does. It seems that Rome also works in mysterious ways.
- Cthulhu - When stars align properly, elder gods eat you. (If you hold your mouth right, you may be among the first to be eaten.) So yes, in
Soviet RussiaCthulhu religion, god eats you!
- Lakota - (Native American plains tribe, one of the Sioux Nation) The Sioux in general believed they eat the spirit of the animal when they eat its flesh, generating many formal and 'daily' or 'casual' rituals and traditions to show respect to the dead ancestor spirit.
- Salish - (a northwestern coastal Native American tribe) The Salish believe the salmon is a god, as is the deer, and they must return the bones to the water to not bring harm to the family for eating the god.
- Mexica (Aztecs) - famous for their ritual sacrifices, they would often kill a man wearing a costume of a particular god. They ate his heart, thus eating the god. They also thought that eating a respected enemy would endow them with the powers of that enemy's god.
- Flying Spaghetti Monster - their god is not technically eaten by the followers; it's just that their god is naturally "edible" without any of that transubstantiation woo. Or whatever.