Images: (Top) Early Print of a Carib Family.
(Middle) Maligned heritage: 1992 photograph by Michael Auld of an Island-Carib girl from the Carib Reserve in the Eastern Caribbean
(Bottom Left) Imaginary cannibalism: Early European illustration of an imaginary scene of Carib “cannibalism”. (Bottom Right) Real cannibalism: Pot polished and beveled human bones. Human bones from
cannibal, /kánnib’l/ n. From Mid 16th century Spanish canibales. 1. Somebody who eats human flesh, whether for food or as part of a religious ritual. 2. An animal that eats the flesh of other animals of the same specie.
Cannibalism is historically one of the most feared and reviled human practice. Yet the glorification of one of the forms of cannibalism, human blood drinking, is now a popular HBO Television series called “True Blood”. Cannibalism is deeply embedded in our psyche. For example, Christians perform a form of ritual cannibalism by drinking wine or grape juice that symbolizes the “blood of Christ” and eating bread that represents his body. Cannibalism occurred in all areas of the planet and is still an isolated phenomenon within some contemporary “Developed World” societies. In many of these countries there are no laws against cannibalism. It is as ancient as the Neanderthal and as recent as
The gruesome European illustration above shows brown skinned “natives” dismembering white victims while their women cook body parts in pots and on a spit. Three heads are placed on spikes in the custom of a 16th century European practice. This early propaganda illustration depicted the unfounded Euro-centric fear that was pervasive in Europe after
Disney added to this dilemma when it made the most recent sequel of Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man’s Chest by portraying
Dr. Basil A. Reid a Jamaican anthropologist who teaches at the University of the West Indies in
Cannibals: Natives who refused to submit to the Spanish were called cannibals. They were characterized as idolaters and consumers of human flesh who could not be converted into Christianity and were therefore suitable for enslaving.
Caribes: The Spanish understood Caribes [pronounced ka-rib-hes] to be real people when in fact they were creatures who existed only in Taíno mythology.
Greek mythology also had Cyclops and cannibals. It should be remembered that until his death
“At the same time that Europeans were condemning various native peoples as cannibals, however, they were practicing a form of cannibalism themselves. Use of medicines made from blood and other human body parts was widespread in
Were the people of
If my child wanted to get a precise meaning of the word “cannibal”, the explanations below would probably engender lifelong misconceptions. In various dictionaries the origin of the English word cannibal is noted as follows:
- [Mid-16thC. From Canibales, a variant (used by the explorer Columbus) of Caribes, the name of the cannibalistic people of
Cubaand (see Carib).], Encarta World English Dictionary Haiti
- [Spanish Canibal “Carib”, of American Indian origin], Webster’s New Encyclopedic Dictionary
cannibal, variant of caríbal, equivalent to canib-, carib- (Arawak) + -al –QAL; from their belief that the Caribs of the West Indies ate human flesh]. Webster’s Encyclopedic Unabridged Dictionary of the English Language
In 1492, the indigenous people of
Recommended reading: Myths and Realities of Caribbean History, by Basil A. Reid, the
Chapters in this publication refute the following myths:
2. The Arawaks and Caribs Were the Two Major Groups in the Precolonial
4. The Natives Encountered by Christopher Columbus in the Northern Caribbean Migrated from
5. The Arawak Were the First Potters and Farmers to Have Settled in the
6. The Ciboneys Lived in
7. The Island-Caribs were Cannibals
8. All Amerindians Migrating from South America to the Caribbean Island-Hopped from Continent to the Lesser and
9. The Spanish Introduced Syphilis into the Caribbean and the
10. Christopher Columbus Wrote His Diario (Diary) That We Use Today
11. The Spanish Colonists Brought “Civilization” to Native Societies in the
Click for a page on Dominica's "Carib" the Kalinago: http://www.avirtualdominica.com/caribs.htm
Click for a page an interview with a Carib chief of Dominica: http://powhatanmuseum.com/Carib.html