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practice of taking and preserving the head of a slain enemy. It has occurred throughout the world from ancient times into the 20th cent. In Europe, it flourished in the Balkans until the early 20th cent. The practice often has magico-religious motives. Head-hunting tribes usually believe that there is soul matter concentrated in the head; taking the head of an enemy not only adds to the totality of soul matter in one's community, it also weakens the power of the enemy. As a particularly gruesome symbol of victory, such trophies may also intimidate enemies and potential enemies. In addition, heads are secured as tokens of courage and manhood. In many societies, young men are allowed to marry only after they have taken their first head, and for each trophy they may wear a distinctive feather or special tattoo. In some parts of the world, notably among the natives of North America, the scalp alone was taken (see scalpingscalping,
taking the scalp of an enemy. The custom, comparable to head-hunting, was formerly practiced in Europe and Asia (Herodotus describes its practice by the Scythians, for example), but it is generally associated with North American natives, although many such groups did
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), and the hair was often used in the making of amulets (see amuletamulet
, object or formula that credulity and superstition have endowed with the power of warding off harmful influences. The use of the amulet to avert danger and to dispel evil has been known in different religions and among diverse peoples.
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). Heads may be mummified in various ways, as in New Guinea, where both skull and skin are preserved, or among the Jívaro of South America, where the skin alone is preserved to produce a so-called shrunken head. An increase in head-hunting and concomitant warfare is often associated with the penetration of Westerners who like to buy and collect these trophies. See also cannibalismcannibalism
[Span. caníbal, referring to the Carib], eating of human flesh by other humans. The charge of cannibalism is a common insult, and it is likely that some alleged cannibal groups have merely been victims of popular fear and misrepresentation.
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See M. Harner, The Jivaro (1972).


1. the practice among certain peoples of removing the heads of slain enemies and preserving them as trophies
2. US slang the destruction or neutralization of political opponents
References in periodicals archive ?
It is this shift, in which news became politically opaque and commercially profitable at the same time, that allowed the mass media to play a key role in establishing the verisimilitude, plausible and doubtful at the same time, of the organ-stealing head-hunter.
En el caso del subsecretario de Seguridad de Nuevo Leon, Roberto Martinez Iglesias, seleccionado por un despacho de head-hunters para ocupar el cargo, se repite la historia de quien al inicio de la gestion del presidente Ernesto Zedillo ocupaba la cartera de Educacion Publica, Fausto Alzati, mejor conocido, y actualmente integrado al equipo de Vicente Fox como Fausto Falzati.
He has been there a long time and I suspect if he did not get the job he would leave, which means by solving one problem you would cause another,' one head-hunter commented.
El propio presidente Vicente Fox reconocio una vez mas sus errores al acabar con el mito de los head-hunters y pedir, a los integrantes de su gabinete, que se encarguen de hacer una seleccion dentro de los mas distinguidos miembros del sector publico, para reforzar las distintas dependencias de su administracion.
Prior to this, he worked as a technical head-hunter in the recruitment industry, sourcing staff for plastics and tool-making firms.
The Football Association of Ireland have said they will start interviewing for the position next week, having received a list of candidates from their head-hunter, former Northern Ireland coach Bryan Hamilton.
A head-hunter service to help lonely business folk find their ideal partner has been launched in Birmingham.
TEENAGE TREK IN BORNEO Adventure Company (0845 450 5311) offers 14-day adventure from Aug 12 incl drinks with Iban head-hunter, orangutans and other wildlife in Bako National Park, ascent of Mount Kinabalu, and turtles of Turtle Island.
The Football Association of Ireland are set to start interviewing for the position next week after receiving a list of potential candidates from their head-hunter, former Northern Ireland coach Bryan Hamilton.
Eriksson is happy the FA are appointing a head-hunter to recruit their new top man, either from inside or out of football, with director of international strategy David Davies and company secretary Nic Coward in temporary charge.
A head-hunter responsible for drawing up a list of contenders said there was no reason why councillors should not opt for a non-British chief executive, although it is believed that no other UK local authority has ever done so.