A human head that has been severed and prepared is called in Voodoo practices, a shrunken head. It is used for trading, trophy or ritual.
The practice of head hunting happened in many areas of the world, but actual head shrinking has only happened in the northwestern Amazon rain forest. The Shuar, Aguaruna, Achuar and Huambia are the tribes best known for shrinking heads, with the Shuar leading the field. This group is known as the Jivaroan people of Peru and Ecuador. Within the Shuar the shrunken head is called a tsantsa.
Following World War II, they found shrunken heads at Buchenwald Concentration Camps believed to be some of the prisoners being held there. One of these shrunken heads was presented as evidence at the Nuremburg Trials, but none of those on trial was ever charged with this crime.
Believed to keep the soul from getting revenge after death, the practice of shrinking heads had some religious basis. This also was a warning to potential enemies. Later the shrunken heads were used in their religious ceremonies to celebrate victories of a tribe. No on knows what they did with them after the ceremonies. At the beginning, deaths from conflict were few, so not very many shrunken heads, however, supply and demand kicked in through trading and tourists, so the number of shrunken heads increased considerably. In the 1930’s a shrunken head cost about $25 and they were exchanged freely.
Importing shrunken heads into the United States has been against the law since the 1940’s.