This is a followup to an old question of mine here: Would ritual cannibalism of the dead lead to issues with disease? The previous question went a good ways into studying a 'safe' way that a culture could practice ritual cannibalism; I now want to look into the cultural impacts of such views.

Let's assume a culture that is technologically at Medieval to Renaissance level of development, but does not have a comprehensive understanding of germ theory yet. They originally developed cannibalism in an area of scarce food where ritual cannibalism of their dead was partially a cultural adaptation to needing to never waste any food source. Food need not be as scarce in 'modern' times, but the cannibalism has stuck around. Culturally they look at the cannibalism of their dead as the deceased passing on their strength to the next generation (strength being a bit more literal sense of the very energy of their bodies, not as much figurative powers), and eating the deceased is accepting a final gift from those that cared for you, and in particular in case of family it's seen as a final act of giving: your mother offers you nourishment and strength in death as she did through life raising you etc.

Cannibalism of the dead is done as safely as possible as described in the answer to the linked question. Only safe parts of the body, muscle and certain organs etc, are eaten; other parts that are unsafe for humans are offered to domesticated animals that live with the humans to eat. The body is cooked safely and only ritually consumed if done within certain period of death.

I'm looking for suggestions on likely cultural beliefs and biases that may come out of this ritual. I'm thinking things such as:

  • How mourning is done or how one views death?
  • What group of people may be looked on either as superior or 'unclean' based on how safe or healthy cannibalism of them may be?
  • How people may respond to a loved one that can not be eaten because it is no longer safe to do so (most common because the body was discovered too late after death)?

And rather the lack of germ theory may have resulted in subconscious development of a belief system that protects against disease without the culture recognizing the benefit of the belief (for instance someone who shows symptoms associated with a blood born illness may be marked as unclean and unworthy of eating due to some cultural prejudice without anyone realizing that eating them would result in higher chance of contracting a disease etc).


1 Answer 1


A few fun ideas come to mind:

1. Funeral Feasts

A funeral will involve (or may even be entirely replaced by) a familial gathering in which members prepare and cook the remains of their loved one. Meal preparation and feasts have a historically positive and jovial connotation. It’s possible that this kind of tradition might transform a funeral into a more positive, lighthearted affair in which typical mourning is accompanied by fond remembrances of the good times and a lighter atmosphere. This might increase turnout to funerals.

2. Last Will and Testament

Some people might include points in their will or last requests that stipulates who is allowed to eat them or even which parts go to which family members. These restrictions might dampen the mood at the otherwise lighthearted feast.

3. Death by Disease as a Tragedy

Death by disease (think Bubonic Plague) might be seen as a terrible tragedy if the person cannot be safely consumed. It might even take on a religious aspect similar to being unable to achieve salvation in the afterlife. This would make contraction a particularly horrific scenario and cause the diseased to be shunned even more.

4. Royalty Deaths

The deaths of royalty might create a situation in which power can be leveraged further by selectively inviting nobles or figures who can come to the funeral to dine. Some popular royals might stipulate that their body be used to feed the poor and destitute or the egotistical to see how much they can sell themselves for.


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