The category of anthropophagy called learned or customary cannibalism is virtually the opposite of survival cannibalism. It’s the consumption of human flesh, most often in a ritualized manner under some socially sanctioned and even prescribed method. Learned cannibalism is behavior passed down from generation to generation (hence, learned behavior).
It can be further subdivided into two main categories: endocannibalism and exocannibalism. (What Armin Meiwes and others like him committed is referred to as pathological anthropophagy, the consumption of human flesh as a course of insanity. It’s generally considered outside the scope of anthropology.) Endocannibalism is the consumption of the flesh of a person who is a member of the consumer’s kin group. This membership can be based on family, society, culture, tribe — any type of in-group. Endocannibalism is most often an expression of veneration of the dead, or the pursuit of consuming some esoteric aspect of the person, like the deceased’s wisdom. In some cases, the body of a dead person was ritually eaten by his relatives, a form called endocannibalism. Some Aboriginal Australians performed such practices as acts of respect. In other cases, ritual cannibalism occurred as a part of the drama of secret societies.
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