[About the early 18th century] Jesuit missionaries witnessed a similar ritual [to the Brazilian Tupinamba] among the Hurons of Canada. The victim was an Iroquois man who had been captured along with several other companions while they were fishing on Lake Ontario. The Huron chief in charge of the ritual explained that the Sun and the God of War would be pleased by what they were about to do. It was important not to kill the victim before daybreak, so at first they should only burn his legs. Also, they ought not to have sexual intercourse during the night. The prisoner, his hands bound, alternately shrieking with pain and singing a song of defiance learned as a child for just this occasion, was brought indoors, where he was set upon by a crowd armed with brands of burning bark. As he reeled from one end of the room to the other, some people seized his hands, ‘breaking the bones thereof by sheer force; others pierced his ears with sticks they left in them.’ Whenever he seemed ready to expire, the chief intervened ‘and ordered them to cease tormenting him, saying it was important that he should see daylight.’ At dawn he was taken outside and forced to climb on to a platform built on a wooden scaffold so that the entire village could watch what was happening to him – the scaffold making do as a sacrificial platform in the absence of flat-topped pyramids reared for such purposes by the Mesoamerican states. Four men now took over the task of tormenting the captive. They burned his eyes, applied red-hot hatchets to his shoulders, and thrust burning brands down his throat and into his rectum. When it was apparent that he was about to die, one of the executioners ‘cut off a foot, another a hand, and almost at the same time a third severed the head from the shoulders, throwing it into the crowd where someone caught it’ to carry to the chief, who later made ‘a feast therewith.’ The same day a feast was also made of the victim’s trunk, and on their way home the missionaries encountered a man ‘who was carrying upon a skewer one of his half-roasted hands.’

Marvin Harris, Cannibals and Kings: The Origin of Cultures, Glasgow, 1978, p. 115.

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