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5 thoughts on “Cannibalism From Black Widow Spiders To Hannibal Lecter

  • Neil F. Marshall

    Generally Cannibalism occurs during periods of stress except among cultures that never developed a taboo on the practice. Also, it appears that most cannibalism has occurred in the central and eastern Asia regions. There, “Long Pig” was a long time favorite. It often occurred or was practiced when combat between rival cultures or tribal groups occurred that provided the resource. However, as mentioned, during periods of food stress occurred in human activities cannibalism was a means of sustaining the life of those not consumed.

    I wanted to let you know of an occurrence that you are unlikely unaware. In the early 1800’s (about 1815) an expedition of English explorers to northern Canada led by Sir John Franklin came into “stress” due to lack of resources and being forced to winter over in northern Canada (below the tree line region however). During their long over stay they lived at an encampment site that had been previously used by meat gatherers and they scrounged for frozen deer skins, burned off the hair, boiled the skins and consumed them. They were also able to find and consume a lichen called “tripe de roche”. Later when trying to move further east toward Hudsons Bay more food related stress developed and one of the non-leaders of the expedition began to consume parts of members of the party that had died. As I remember from reading the story (as written by Franklin in the mid 1800’s); Franklin, upon discovering the situation, summarily executed the man.

    It was a long time ago (probably about 50 years) that I read the materials, but I suppose that you can research out the resource for more detail. The original volumes had hand painted images and is a rare documentary.

    I hope this might provide some additional information on the subject !

    Neil Marshall neilmar@cox.net

  • sworrall Post author

    Thanks Neil – fascinating. I am about to do a Book Talk interview about a new book on the Franklin expedition, so will quiz the author. Best wishes, Simon

  • Kathryn Gabriel

    Dear Mr. Worrall,

    I am concerned about the misconceptions towards Catholicism your article seems to promote. I first came across it on Snapchat this morning, and was upset by the assertion that “the idea that this is the actual flesh and blood of Jesus Christ is not taken literally” and has not been since the Middle Ages. It is unclear whether this is your statement or the statement of the interviewee, but nevertheless the concept of transubstantiation is alive and well today. While it is true that some Protestant Christian denominations have rejected the idea of transubstantiation due to its (easy to understand) confusion with cannibalism, it is the Catholic view that not only does transubstantiation take place at every Mass, but also it has nothing to do with cannibalism. The statement from the Uruguayan rugby team tragedy survivor was taken out of context, as his personal views do not represent those of all Christian faiths (or any, for that matter).

    In short, the statements made about transubstantiation are inaccurate, as they describe a core belief of a major modern religion as an idea of the past. Even as this was not the intent of the article, the spreading of this misconception and the misconception that transubstantiation is necessarily related to cannibalism is damaging and possibly offensive. As National Geographic is generally very good about being not just scientifically, but politically correct, this disappointed me as a regular reader.

    From looking at the comment section on the National Geographic article in trying to find a way to contact you, I found a comment from 5 days ago also expressing concern about this issue. It has not been visibly addressed. As you responded to a comment on this article, I have some hope of reaching you in this way. Thank you for your time.

  • sworrall Post author

    Dear Kathyrn – thanks very much for reaching out to me. I understand your concerns, but I am, so to speak, only the messenger.It is the author’s words and ideas that we represent. I am sure you can find a contact point on the author’s website, if you wish. May I also urge you to join the discussion on the website, by putting these thoughts in the Comment section beneath the article. You just have to sign in to do so. Best wishes, Simon