February 3rd, 2009

  • gwinna

Europe's Medicinal Cannibalism: The Healing Power of Death

Were Europeans once cannibals? Research shows that up until the end of the 18th century, medicine routinely included stomach-churning ingredients like human flesh and blood. According to the recipe, the meat was to be cut into small pieces or slices, sprinkled with "myrrh and at least a little bit of aloe" and then soaked in spirits of wine for a few days. Finally, it was to be hung up "in a very dry and shady place." In the end, the recipe notes, it would be "similar to smoke-cured meat" and would be without "any stench."

Johann Schröder, a German pharmacologist, wrote these words in the 17th century. But the meat to which he was referring was not cured ham or beef tenderloin. The instructions specifically called for the "cadaver of a reddish man ... of around 24 years old," who had been "dead of a violent death but not an illness" and then laid out "exposed to the moon rays for one day and one night" with, he noted, "a clear sky." Original Article or Collapse )