The human body is an amazing and never-ending source of interesting facts and entertainment. A person farts an average of 14 times a day. When you are placed in a particularly dangerous situation, you can actually lift a car if enough adrenaline is produced. Sadly, however, of all the lovely things that the human body could have been used for, mankind managed to find it fitting for human sacrifice.

Like many historic and shocking traditions, human sacrifice and human harvesting has evolved with the times to become a contemporary taboo.

 We have all heard the gory stories of  human sacrifice and the harvesting of bodies for numerous reasons. Unless you are a sadist of the worst kind, then human sacrifice really isn’t something to applaud. It was (and still is) seen as one of the most sinister and gruesome things that could be done to an individual. It is, however, a very fascinating subject to look at, as it is something that has great historical relevance and gives great insight into how and why heinous things were done to people back in the Dark Ages, and why some people still feel the need to chop people into pieces in contemporary society.

This gruesome phenomenon is particularly relevant and very close to home. For example, muti-murders, where body parts are incorporated into potions for “medicinal” purposes used in witchcraft. One infamous story is of Helen Madide fromThohoyandou, who was forced to assist a witchdoctor to kill her son for muti purposes back in 2007. Madide said that after the witchdoctor slit her son’s throat, he proceeded to cut off his hands, his legs and even his genitals. Limbs from children, particularly the genitals, are said to be the most potent. These are sometimes taken from live victims because it is believed that the screams from the victims will enhance the power of the medicine. According to an investigation by BBC News carried out inUgandain 2010 on ritual killings, one man said that he had clients who had captured children and taken their blood and body parts to his shrine, while another confessed to killing at least 70 people including his own son. According to Ugandan officials trying to tackle this problem, these crimes are directly linked to rising levels of development and prosperity, and an increasing belief that witchcraft can help people get rich quickly.

“They go and capture other people’s children. They bring the heart and the blood directly here to take to the spirits,” said the Ugandan witchdoctor. “They bring them in small tins and they place these objects under the tree from which the voices of the spirits are coming”. All of this for the price of around £160 per consultation.

The typology of human sacrifice draws close similarities to the various practices of ritual slaughter of animals, and in some cultures, had previously completely replaced the ritual of animal sacrifice.

In order to appease the gods or ancestors, victims were ritually killed as offerings. Another popular reason for these acts was for kings and pharoahs to have their slaves continue their duties and serve their masters even in the after-life.

This type of thing is not exclusive toAfrica, however. Sacrifice of this manner was apparently intended to bring good fortune to the individuals or societies who carried it out and keep the gods happy, similar to the dedication of a completed building like a temple or bridge. There is one Chinese legend that states that there are thousands of people entombed in theGreat Wall of China, which suggests the reason why the wall has stood for an impressive number of centuries.

Ritual killings have also found their way onto our TV screens and into entertainment arenas. In the movie 300, deformed children are thrown into a mass grave,  and in the series The Borgias there is a display of a king’s collection of his enemies’ decapitated heads on the walls of his kingdom.

Though human sacrifices and the like were were practised a long time ago, similar “sacrifices” still occur in some cultures today. You never know when you might bump into someone that may see you fit for body-harvest for a bit of good luck. If such a misfortune ever does befall you, this piece may come in handy, but Perdeby hopes you never come across such danger.

Illustration: Gustav Reyneke

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