Crime Library: Criminal Minds and Methods

Cannibalism: The Ancient Taboo in Modern Times

Ritualistic & Epicurean Cannibalism

Modern forms of spiritual and ritualistic cannibalism are very similar to that seen in tribal groups. However, the modern criminal version of this kind of cannibalism is more associated with satanic or cult group rituals, instead of tribes in remote locations of the world.

In Helsinki, Finland in 1999, two men and a teenaged girl were sent to prison for the torture, murder and cannibalism of a twenty-three-year-old man. The three individuals claimed to be Satanists performing a ritualistic killing. In Karen Jones Satanism and Ritual Abuse Archive, she states that the murderers received a little more than two and a half years each for the brutal slaying.

Jones also mentions another case where a young girl succumbed to a similar Satanic ritual. In 1999, a man named Dmitry Dyomin and two other accomplices abducted a fifteen-year-old girl in Kiev. The girl was eventually murdered and her tongue was removed and eaten by Dyomin. He and the other two accomplices decapitated the girl and kept the skull as a trophy.

Spiritual and ritualistic cannibalism is not necessarily limited to groups. Many cases of individual cannibalism incorporate spiritual and ritualistic aspects into their practice. Cannibals such as Dahmer and Kemper claimed that when they consumed their victims, they believed that they spiritually became a part of them. They also believed that their cannibalism allowed them to absorb some of their attributes, such as power.

Epicurean and nutritional cannibalism refers to the consumption of human flesh, which is primarily motivated by the taste of the flesh or for the nutritional value. This form of cannibalism is believed to be rarer and is usually considered to be a sub-motivation of other forms of cannibalism, such as survival and sexual cannibalism. However rare, there are several cases that fall into this category which have had significant media attention.

Issei Sagawa
Issei Sagawa
In 1981, Japanese student Issei Sagawa was arrested in France for indulging his fantasies of cannibalism. One day he propositioned a Dutch friend only to have his advances rejected. Sagawa shot and killed her and then sexually assaulted her corpse. Sagawa then carved away pieces of his victims body, including her breasts and buttocks and consumed them. Martingale quotes Sagawa in her book, where he exclaimed that, nothing was so delicious! Sagawa was determined to be mentally incompetent to stand trial in a French court. He was held in a mental institution for a little over a year before being returned to Japan, where he has been released for a number of years and enjoys a kind of celebrity status. 

Nicolas Claux
Nicolas Claux
Also in France, Nicolas Claux was convicted of the 1994 murder of 34-year-old Thierry Bissonier. However, murder was not his only vice. Claux, who at one time worked at a childrens hospital morgue in Paris, admitted to stealing flesh from the dead children and taking it home to eat. In a Crime Library article on Claux written by David Lohr, Claux claimed to have eaten the human flesh for its taste, stating that he preferred to eat it raw. He likened the taste of humans to steak tartare. Claux is also believed to be a Satanist, which could be another motivation behind his cannibalistic practices.

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