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Pagan Christs, by John M. Robertson, [1911], at

p. 388 p. 389



On page 136 I have suggested that the cannibalism of the Bataks of Sumatra would seem to be a survival of an anthropophagous sacrament; and on p. 132 I have put the original eating of the "crucified" human sacrifice as an inference supported by other cases of sacramental cannibalism, by the abundant evidence from Africa, and by the special case of the Dravidian Gonds in India. I had overlooked a decisive testimony, preserved by Pickering, 1 which exhibits the Bataks as practising human sacrifice under the aspect of crucifixion, in the way of the Khonds, and as eating the fragments of the victim, as late as 1814. The testimony is that of Major Canning, 2 who in his residence among the Bataks at Tappanooly in that year "omitted no opportunity of making the most minute inquiries" on the subject of their cannibalism. It was previously known that they ate criminals, prisoners of war, and aged relatives, "not so much to gratify their appetite as to perform a pious ceremony." Major Canning further elicited a native account of the manner of the ritual sacrifice:—

"Three posts are fixed in the ground: to the middle one the body of the prisoner or criminal is made fast, while his arms and legs are extended to the two others. (The narrator and other chiefs present here simultaneously made with their arms and legs the figure of St. Andrew's cross.) On a signal being given everyone entitled to a share in the feast rushes on him with hatchets and knives, and many with no other instruments than their teeth and nails. He is thus in a few minutes entirely cut or torn to pieces, and I have seen the guests so severely to wound each other's hands and fingers. A mixture of lime-juice, salt, and chillies, prepared in the shell of a cocoanut, is always at hand on these occasions, in which many dip the flesh previous to eating it." Questioned further as to the mode of killing, the native witness answers: "The first wounds he receives are from the hatchets, knives, and teeth of his assailants, but these are so numerous and simultaneous as to cause almost immediate death."

Major Canning's testimony is open to no doubt, for he here describes a procedure closely similar to that of the Khonds, which when he wrote had not been reduced to published narrative. His witness, a native chief, he tells us, was frequently corroborated

p. 390

by others present. We are left to speculate as to whether the beverage "always at hand on these occasions" had ever had any analogy to the stupefying potion of the Khonds, or was simply a thirst-quencher for the victim before the hour of his slaying. It may be noted, however, that the St. Andrew's cross seems a deviation from the Khond practice, and is an approximation to that of Benin, and to the method observed in the sacrifice of crucified victims of the Mexican God Xipe. (See figure in Encyc. Brit. new ed. art. America, Pl. ii, p. 809.)


389:1 The Races of Man, by Charles Pickering, M.D., Bohn ed. 1863, pp. 303-4.

389:2 Published in the Malacca Observer, 1827, and cited thence in Moore's Papers on the Indian Archipelago, cited in turn by Pickering.

Next: Appendix B. Dramatic and Ritual Survivals