Thursday, May 10, 2012
The Cannibal Cure
You gotta love Smithsonian.com. Where else can you find a scholarly article entitled, "The Gruesome History of Eating Corpses as Medicine?"
Actually, it's a review of my new favorite book (which I've yet to read), Medicinal Cannibalism in Early Modern English Literature and Culture, by my new best friend Louise Noble. (Give me a ring, Louise! You and I have sooo much to talk about. Over dinner, of course.)
The premise of Ms. Noble's book? Many Europeans (particularly the rich) practiced a form of cannibalism well into modern times. They didn't eat human flesh because they savored the taste. That would have been absolutely barbaric. No, they consumed human blood, fat, and body parts because they wanted to feel good.
Mummies were stolen from Egyptian tombs, pulverized and used to treat internal bleeding. For centuries, powdered skull was a common cure for headaches. And drinking fresh blood (especially that of a young man) was thought to restore vitality. In Germanic countries, executioners would lop off a head--and then sell small cups of warm blood to the poor.
Not disgusting enough for you? There's more here.