WASHINGTON, DC—The eight remaining justices of the Supreme Court met in chambers Monday to feast on the living flesh of retiring Justice Sandra Day O'Connor, enacting an ancient tradition that began when the first chief justice of the Supreme Court retired and was summarily consumed in 1795.
Although the most important cannibalistic ceremony in American jurisprudence is closed to outsiders, some details of the ritual are inscribed within the High Court Scrolls. The scrolls, written in human blood and stored in the Justice Library Reading Room, have been studied by only a handful of legal scholars.
"Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist almost certainly consumed the greater part of O'Connor's brain and heart prior to the ritual feeding, in a rite believed to grant him the knowledge, wisdom, and courage of the devoured," said American University law professor Donald Hewett. "Any portions of O'Connor's brain and heart that Rehnquist refused would have been consumed by the remaining justices within minutes, as they chanted passages from her seminal opinions."
Hewett said the first woman appointed to the Supreme Court was gutted, strung up, and "drained into stone goblets from which her blood was sipped like wine."
"This quaffing of blood is traditionally accompanied by much singing and drumming," Hewett said.
If the ritual was performed in accordance with the court scrolls, O'Connor's body was then laid upon a traditional brass bier and borne up a five-story marble staircase to a consecrated inner sanctum, where clerks skewered the raw meat on wooden spits. Late into the evening, the Supreme Court justices feasted on the renowned federalist by torchlight.
"The ceremony is said to be quite moving," said Zachary Katz, editor of the Yale Law Review. "By consuming O'Connor's mortal body, the other justices seek a communion with her transcendent qualities—her respect for the discretion of the court, her pragmatism, and her refusal to commit to abstract legal principles."
O'Connor has been prepared for the ritual since January 2005, when Chief Justice Rehnquist sprinkled her desk with the ashes of a virgin law clerk and pronounced, "Receptum, receptum, receptum."
Tuesday evening, Rehnquist emerged from the 17-foot-tall, 13-ton bronze sliding doors of the Supreme Court building's west entrance and addressed those who had gathered in the oval pavilion.
"Hear us, Justice," said Rehnquist, wearing a necklace of human bones and an elaborate headdress adorned with yak horns. "In the abiding name of Jurisprudence we consumed her; in the eternal name of Law was she eaten; and as her flesh does become our flesh, so her wisdom shall become our wisdom, yea, through all time everlasting."
According to legal scholars, O'Connor's skin will be tanned and sewn into a ceremonial cloak, to be worn by the youngest justice, Clarence Thomas, as he lights the pyre upon which members of O'Connor's senior staff are burned alive.