Cannibalism, the act of eating the flesh of your own species, is considered taboo in most cultures. As such, it's long been a focus of fascination, woven into myths and stories in a variety of ways. Creepy mythological cannibals come in many guises, hail from all parts of the world, and appear in all different belief systems.
Cannibals in mythology, unrestrained by reality, are often more disturbing than those in real life. Sometimes, they take the form of humans, and other times, they walk the line between human and creature. No matter what form they come in, they share a hunger for human flesh, or the desire to feed someone else human flesh. Sometimes, these cannibal myths can even lead to real-life cannibalism.
Cronus, Who Ate (And Regurgitated) His Own Children
Cronus, the god of time in ancient Greek mythology, was the father of Olympians Hestia, Demeter, Hera, Hades, Poseidon, and Zeus. Fearing that his children would ruin him like he did his father, he decided to devour them as soon as they were born. By the time Zeus (the youngest) finally arrived, the children’s mother, Rhea, was fed up and fed her husband a stone instead. Her trick was successful. Zeus grew up and later convinced his father to regurgitate the other children back to life.
Greek mythology has served as inspiration for many artists, such as Spanish painter Francisco de Goya, who created this painting of Saturn (the Roman name for Cronus) titled "Saturn Devouring His Son."332194Does this freak you out?
Khakhua-Kumu, Male Witches Who Are Consumed As Their Punishment
The Kombai people of Papua New Guinea have a myth about the Khakhua-Kumu (sometimes called Suangi), but it's a myth with some very real-world consequences. "Khakhua-Kumu" is the name given to men who practice witchcraft. It's believed that they consume both the body and the soul of their targets.
Because Khakhua-Kumu are both the stuff of legend and believed to exist in the real world, if a person is able to name the Khakhua-Kumu that went after them, then the person’s family must slay and consume certain organs of the accused Khakhua-Kumu in order to free the deceased's spirit. The Kombai believe that the soul lies in the brain and the stomach of a person. As such, these organs of an alleged Khakhua-Kumu are consumed so that the witch is wiped out. This modern-day cannibalism still exists as living Kombai tribe members attest to having eaten Khakhua-Kumu.233127Does this freak you out?
Erysichthon, Who Got So Hungry He Ate Himself
Erysichthon is a unique sort of cannibal, famous for devouring the most shocking of target - himself. In Greek mythology, Erysichthon, also sometimes called Aethon, cut down trees in a sacred forest belonging to the goddess Demeter in order to build himself a feast hall. As punishment, Demeter placed the spirit of insatiable hunger, Limos, in his stomach, which meant that the more he ate, the hungrier he got. Driven by intense hunger, Erysichthon sold all of his possessions, including his own daughter, to acquire food.
Eventually, poor, homeless, and driven mad by his hunger, he began to gnaw on his own limbs and ended up eating himself.216115Does this freak you out?
Baba Yaga, Who Decorates With The Bones Of Her Targets
Commonly depicted as either an old ugly woman or a trio of sisters, Baba Yaga, is a cannibal from Slavic folklore. A shapeshifter normally in the guise of a wicked old woman, she travels by flying around in an iron kettle or in a mortar, using a pestle to steer. It's believed she lives in the woods in a hut made of chicken legs, surrounded by a fence made of the human bones of her targets.
Legend has it that she nabs, cooks, and eats those who fail to complete her tasks and riddles, oftentimes children.17791Does this freak you out?