Thursday, September 15, 2016

Foreward* (for Foreword* or Forward*)

With a typo like Foreward* today, I was tempted to write something about Ward Cleaver, America's favorite dad on the late great Eisenhower-era sitcom Leave It to Beaver. Ward is the strong, silent, somewhat suave, and slightly sardonic sort (suburbane, in a word, if I may coin a new one, which I guess I just did!) He's played by the late actor Hugh Beaumont, whose surname means "Beautiful Mountain" in French. "Ward has few interests at home," according to Wikipedia, "other than monitoring his sons and spending evenings after dinner sitting next to his wife on the couch in the living room reading Mayfield's daily newspaper, the 'Mayfield Press' ... Ward plays golf at a local country club, and attends church." Alas, as I now recall, I've already blogged about Mr. Cleaver here, so I decided to skip it this time and move on to something different. And this story that I found (from around the same time in history) really could not be more different. So with that little foreword dispensed with, let's begin in the lushly forested, but sadly struggling, country of Papua New Guinea. The Fore People, a traditionally peace-loving aboriginal society, also had the seemingly unsavory habit of ingesting their dead. They're certainly not the only people on earth to have ever engaged in this practice, and their reasons for it, in fact, may have even made a bit of sense. In any case, it was a commonly engaged in ritual there well into the twentieth century. The government banned "mortuary" or "funerary" cannibalism in the 1950s, after a neurological disorder known as kuru—transmitted through contact with or the consumption of infected human flesh—had reached epidemic proportions. Fortunately, though superstitions linger, over fifty years later, forward-thinking reformers have led to a happier, healthier Fore people. We got 2,179 hits on Foreward* in OhioLINK, and "too many records found for your search" in WorldCat.

("The uncivilized races of men in all countries of the world; being a comprehensive account of their manners and customs, and of their physical, social, mental, moral and religious characteristics," by Rev. J. G. Wood, with new designs by Angas, Danby, Wolf, Zwecker, 1871, from Wikimedia Commons.)

Carol Reid

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