What's the term for eating creatures in order to absorb their powers?
August 29, 2010 6:12 PM   Subscribe

Is there a technical term for "eating an animal in order to gain its power?"

Perhaps it ends in -phagia..
posted by reverend cuttle to Writing & Language (14 answers total) 7 users marked this as a favorite
TV Tropes calls it "Mega Manning":

... * The nudibranch, a type of mollusk sometimes called the "sea slug," feeds on jellyfish and other stinging sea creatures. It is capable of taking the "stinging" cells from the creatures it eats and incorporating them into its own body, sometimes becoming more deadly than the animals it preys on.
* Photuris fireflies First learn and mimic the blinking pattern of a different genus' females, then devour the attracted males. They can then absorb the devoured male's defensive toxins and use them for themselves.
* It was believed by some cannibalistic tribes that eating a dead person's brain allowed you to learn their life's experiences. This unfortunately meant you could also gain the exact same disease they probably died from - Kuru. ...

(Nope, I don't know the technical term for it, but thought you might find this list useful.)
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:27 PM on August 29, 2010

Some possibly related terms: totemism, animism, shamanism.
posted by MrFish at 6:30 PM on August 29, 2010

Endocannibalism and exocannibalism may cover some of what you're asking about (photo of graphically descriptive statue here, peasant with heart of would-be conquerer warning).
posted by MonkeyToes at 6:40 PM on August 29, 2010

Seems like it might be covered by "necromancy", magic that derives its power from living sacrifices.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 7:15 PM on August 29, 2010

Yes. Yes, there is a technical term. Sadly, I do not know what it is.

In my anthropology class in high school, we each did reports on a famous ethnography of a famous group (each choosing a different one) and the tribe a classmate of mine picked did this. And I remember there was a word for it.

Sorry I can't be more help, but don't give up the search! I'm 94% sure the word exists!
posted by phunniemee at 7:51 PM on August 29, 2010

I personally would call it "dynamiphagia" (from the Greek "dynami", "power" and "phagia", "to eat"). If it exists it will probably be a "-phagia" or "-phagy". "Omophagia" is the closest thing I could find, but that's just the eating of raw flesh and not for any specific reason.
posted by turgid dahlia at 9:49 PM on August 29, 2010

You may find the term, or clues leading to the term, in the entry on "Animals" in the Encyclopedia of Religion & Ethics (Google Books link). I thought "totemism" might offer a hint or two but didn't spot it.
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:01 PM on August 29, 2010

(Note that "totemism" generally strictly forbids eating the totem animal - like I said, I was just after a hint.)
posted by turgid dahlia at 10:03 PM on August 29, 2010

It's a pretty common form of sympathetic or imitative magic, but as for a specific term related to eating, I don't know.
posted by Ahab at 10:28 PM on August 29, 2010

For certain broad meanings of "animal" and "power", you could call it transubstantiation. Or maybe you could ask this person.

I think I've heard it referred to as a form of "sympathetic magic" or an example of the "law of contact", as Ahab says.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:31 AM on August 30, 2010

Sorry, that doesn't make sense. I meant to say: I think I've heard it referred to as a form of "sympathetic magic", as Ahab says, or an example of the "law of contact".

I know what I'm having for dinner tomorrow: proofreaders.

posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 5:35 AM on August 30, 2010 [1 favorite]

Similar to ATBH's comment on 'sympathetic magic', Fraser in The Golden Bough described this as a type of 'homoeopathic magic' but that's also a broader term I think.
posted by Abiezer at 3:10 PM on August 30, 2010

Response by poster: a friend just emailed me this possibility, but it doesn't seem to reflect the whole sympathetic magic aspect:

The practice of eating a theanthropos (a godlike person or something representing a god).

1. The eating of God (in the mass or communion rite).
2. In anthropology, the eating of meals at which the participants believe that they ingest a deity with the consecrated food.

The practice of ingesting a god.
It probably stemmed from the ancient habit of eating the sacred animal to secure a blessing, a grace, and an identity with the deity.
posted by reverend cuttle at 4:17 PM on August 30, 2010

Jumping back in. I just tried googling the term "animaphage", didn't really get anything except links to D&D groups, and couldn't find anything at all for "animaphagy".

But, neologism that it is, it seems that animaphagy might cover your needs. Animus or anima meaning mind/soul/spirit and -phagy meaning to eat.

I also had the notion that most major religions have some kind of stance on consuming the spirits of animals or people.

Transubstantiation was been mentioned above by A Thousand Baited Hooks.

But also, in the Abrahamic religions, the consumption of blood is prohibited (at least in part) because blood is seen as carrying the soul of an animal.

(Who had to abide by this probiition was a major point of theological and legal debate in the first century CE - checkout the wiki entry for Council of Jerusalem).

In Hinduism, one fairly common reason for not eating meat is that the eater takes on some of the characteristics associated with the last distressed moments of the animals life. Citation at reason three here.

Although this isn't directly helpful, I would be stunned if there weren't specific words in Hebrew, Greek, Latin, and/or Hindi for these prohibitions, and also for the concept of transference of life force associated with those prohibitions.

Maybe you need to ask a rabbi, a priest, an imam, and a swami?
posted by Ahab at 1:25 AM on August 31, 2010

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