What is Anthropophagy?

Meaning of Anthropophagia

Anthropophagy is a ritual, usually religious or magical, where the act of eating human flesh is practiced , motivated by the belief that the individual’s strength and abilities are transferred to those who eat it.

In a cannibalistic tribe , the native chooses to feed on a strong warrior and never on a weak warrior, since he did not want to assimilate the bad characteristics.

The word anthropophagy comes from the Greek “ anthropos ”, which means “ man ” and “ fagéin ”, which means “to eat ”.

Cannibalism and Anthropophagy

Cannibalism is not anthropophagy . In cannibalism it is the act practiced by animals, which eat other animals of their own species, as a food habit.

Cannibalism is also a way of eliminating less capable animals , for example when pups are born defective they are eaten by others.


In some cases, cannibalism occurs after copulation. When the female eats the male , which according to some scholars, she has the nutritional objective of having strong offspring, by ingesting the male’s proteins.

Although anthropophagy is the term used only for human beings, within the context of rituals, and not as a means of feeding. There are cases where individuals ate dead people in life or death situations, where there was no other type of food for them to survive.

The anthropophagic ritual was known in Brazil by the Tupinambá indigenous people, around the 16th century. The different Tupinambá tribes were at war with each other and the prisoners were devoured.

Cultural Anthropophagy

Oswald de Andrade (1890-1954) was a Brazilian writer and playwright, with an irreverent temperament and considered one of the great names of Brazilian literary modernism.

In 1928, his literary manifesto titled “ Anthropophagous Manifesto ” was published. Where he explicitly attacked the Portuguese heritage in excerpts such as “ before the Portuguese discovered Brazil, Brazil had discovered happiness ”.

This anthropophagic manifesto has a metaphorical meaning, since it establishes that we could eat European culture and digest only what is good. And not to do the same as in indigenous cannibalism , where the Indian absorbs all the foreign culture and made it part of his culture.

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