Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Ancient Cannibals, Modern Skull Bowls

Ancient Cannibals Crafted Cups from Human Skulls
Charles Q. Choi (

Wisdom Quarterly COMMENTARY: It's done all over Tibet with lama skulls, a holdover from the pre-Buddhist Bön religion. Human skulls are dried, carved, and used as ritual bowls. Some Indian yogis salvage such shamanistic accouterments from the charnel ground -- meeting and overcoming the fear of death through their asceticism. We speculate that this might be the token origin of the wearing of the kippah (from the Sanskrit kapala?) or Jewish "skullcap." Original story
Wisdom Quarterly Wikipedia edit
In Hinduism, Kapalika means "Bearer of the Skull-bowl." It signifies a Tantric worshipper of the goddess Kali or Shiva the Destroyer. It is a reference to Lord Bhairava taking the kapala vow.

It is said that when a yogi detaches himself from the physical body at the time of death, this Brahmarandhra bursts open and prana (chi or spirit energy) comes out through this opening, a process called kapala moksha (what we would translate as, "liberation of the spirit through the crown chakra").

In Judaism the same part of the male human skull is kept covered for unclear ceremonial purposes; there is apparently a social injunction to do so without much more explanation than the tribal god wants men to. Then there's the whole ritual CANNIBALISM in Christianity:

Ritual cannibalism of spiritually powerful teachers or opponents just makes "good sense." It is totally unnecessary and misguided but "sensible" by the same strange logic that motivates conquering soldiers to cannibalize their opponents, rape their women (and boys too), kill their children, slaughter their animals, salt their fields...and drink from their skulls.

This is what happens when we humans come under the influence of inimical forces and primitive ideas. Even Buddhists can go wrong in eating (but not as in this gruesome Snopes story).
  • Don't look at me! I'm a vegetarian Buddhist. I did it ritually, too, but I was tricked to in a Christian church then pressured to buy a decorative Tibetan lama skull on Freak Street in Katmandu.
Kapala (Sanskrit for "skull") or skullcup is a cup made from a human skull used as a ritual implement (a bowl a special hand drum) in both Hindu Tantra and Buddhist Tantra (Tibetan Vajrayana Buddhism). Particularly in Tibet, they are often carved and elaborately mounted with precious metals and jewels.
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