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    Witch Doctor is a forthcoming medical horror comic from writer Brandon Seifert and artist Lukas Ketner. Witch Doctor combines horror archetypes and really sick shit from the real world. This is the book's workblog. For more information, read the first entry.

    Last night I turned off the lights and lay down for a little before-bed reading about cannibalism.

    New Guinea is really rather fascinating. It's the second-largest island on earth (after Greenland), and it's home to more than 800 distinct languages -- around half the total languages in existence. And of course, there used to be cannibals there.

    When people think of cannibal societies, they're thinking of what's called exocannibalism -- eating people who aren't part of your social group, often as part of warfare. But the Fore people of Papua New Guinea were endocannibals -- them ate their own dead as part of the funerary rite.

    The North Fore would just cook the entire body whole in a steam pit with vegetables. The South Fore liked to cut the body up instead, and cook the pieces inside bamboo tubes along with vegetables, ginger and salt. They ate the entire body, everything but the gall bladder. Even the bones, which they'd char to soften them up and then crumble them up in the cooking tubes. Even the feces. They'd cook that with vegetables.

    It was something you'd do for your loved ones. A sign of respect. (Fore women would also carry the severed heads of their dead husbands in a bag on their backs for months, showing how much they mourned by putting up with the worsening stink.) One of the Fore's greetings translates as, "I eat you."

    It was actually a pretty new custom when white folks showed up on the island. The Fore told an anthropologist their first reaction after eating person:

    "This is sweet! What is the matter with us, are we mad? Here is good food and we have neglected to eat it. In the future we shall always eat the dead, men, women, and children. Why should we throw away good meat? It is not right!"

    Mortuary cannibalism was something women and children did; the men got to eat pork instead. And that's why the women and children were the ones who got kuru -- a condition that started with tremors and weird emotional responses, laughing and frowning at random, and ended with paralysis and death. The Fore thought kuru was a curse put on the women and children by male sorcerers.

    But no. Kuru was a prion disease, like Mad Cow. And the women and children got it from eating the brains of dead kuru victims. They didn't eat people who died of other diseases -- but since they thought kuru was caused by a curse, and because kuru gave body fat the nummy texture of pork, kuru dead were fair game.

    Did you know raw human brains have the consistency of soft scrambled eggs?

    (The book was Richard Rhodes' Deadly Feasts.)

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    I've been doing some research on Kuru and it's kin-diseases for my own project, got a few links up if you haven't already found 'em.' There's supposedly a euphoric, almost orgasmic experience noted among those who have tasted flesh, possibly due to vitamin poisoning (I believe it was vitamin A, but I'm not sure off hand).

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    Thanks for the link! That vitamin A thing is perfect too, I'll have to look into that.

    You should definitely check out Deadly Feasts. It was released just before the late '90s Mad Cow scare and it's really fascinating, very well written. I've also got Mad Cow U.S.A. but I haven't started it yet. The best online reference I've found is a paper about kuru. It's got some really fascinating stuff.

    The problem you're having with finding profile views of prion-infected brains may be that they don't look that different from a normal brain on a macro-level. The photos I've seen have all been pretty close-up.
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    I have several images of the brains at various resolutions and from different angles, for sources of art- found the images I wanted and needed, thanks to a savvy friend.
    There are visible changes in the outer vascular structure, as well, but you are right about the minor differences to the naked eye, overall.

    It's a rather intriguing subject.
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    Nice! I'd love to see those images. You're right -- it's absolutely fascinating. The parts that really got me in that medical paper were the ones talking about the ritual sorcerers would use to "give" someone kuru, shaking the effigy to induce the kuru tremor in the victim...
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    Just wanted to say your blog posts have been solid entercation.
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    @ BradleySusumu: Thank you! We do what we can. I hope you'll find the comic entercating too -- but with more sword fights.