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The Korowai tribe kills people possessed by demons and then consumes their bodies

The Korowai tribe resides in dense jungles in the southeastern Indonesian province of Papua on the island of New Guinea. Until the 1970s, they were unaware of the existence of other people besides themselves.

The Korowai are often referred to as “the last cannibals on Earth” because they still practice cannibalism to this day. And it’s not due to hunger, but purely for ritualistic reasons.

Despite nearly 50 years of contact with advanced civilization, the lifestyle of the Korowai remains almost primitive. They still hunt with bows and arrows and wear little to no clothing. Their customs continue to shock and confound the global community.

From time to time, curious enthusiasts dare to visit the Papuan tribes, who are not particularly welcoming to strangers, and some even manage to live among them for a while, observing their way of life.

Last year, one such adventurer named Drew Binski lived among the Momuna tribe, neighbors of the Korowai. They revealed something interesting to him about the Korowai’s practice of cannibalism.

“I learned that the Korowai eat people not for pleasure or nutritional value. It’s simply a form of punishment. For example, if you steal something, they’ll burn you at the stake and eat you.”

The Korowai build their homes in trees, partly for protection from evil spirits.

The Korowai also believe that evil demons, called hakua, can inhabit human bodies, “eating” the person from the inside out and turning them into witches.

“The Korowai believe that mysterious sudden deaths, such as deaths from illnesses, are the work of hakua. They say that hakua can disguise themselves as friends or family members in an attempt to gain the tribe’s trust, only to later kill them. The Korowai tradition involves eating anyone they consider to be a hakua. This is done to protect the tribe members. For them, it’s part of a revenge-based justice system.”

Here’s how it happens: After someone dies unnaturally, the tribe’s shaman or witch doctor examines the body of the deceased, and then through special rituals identifies the person possessed by the demon hakua. To prevent further unnatural deaths in the tribe, this possessed individual must be killed. The tribe collectively kills him and then eats his body.

In this case, the tribesmen kill the possessed person not to punish him. The ritualistic killing is seen as an act of mercy, freeing the possessed from the influence of the internal demon.

“By consuming the hakua, the tribe believes they destroy the evil spirit and prevent it from causing further harm. Killing the hakua is considered a solemn and necessary act, performed for the protection and well-being of the community.”

The body is consumed almost entirely, with only hair, nails, and genitals left uneaten. Children under the age of 13 are prohibited from eating the meat of the possessed hakua, as it is believed they are still too weak and there is a risk of becoming possessed themselves.

It is unknown whether the Korowai face any unpleasant consequences of cannibalism, such as kuru, a prion disease, which affected another Papuan tribe, the Fore.

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