Why Was Blood Sacrifice Central To Aztec Culture

Human Sacrifice: Why the Aztecs Practiced This Gory Ritual

A human sacrifice performed by the Atztecs atop the Mesoamerican temple pyramid. Photograph courtesy of the Hulton Archive/Getty Images After arriving at the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlán in 1521, the Spanish conquest Hernán Cortés and his troops recounted seeing a gruesome ceremonial. Aztec priests hacked open the chests of sacrificial victims with razor-sharp obsidian knives and presented their still-beating hearts to the gods, a practice that is still practiced today. They then threw the lifeless bodies of the victims down the steps of the imposing Templo Mayor, which towered above them.

Many historians, hundreds of years after reading these tales, rejected the 16th-century narratives as excessively inflated propaganda intended to explain the assassination of Aztec monarch Moctezuma, the cruel devastation of Tenochtitlán, and the slavery of its inhabitants.

Even though it is unquestionably true that the Spanish exaggerated their figures (for example, Spanish historian Fray Diego de Durán claimed that 80,400 men, women, and children were sacrificed for the inauguration of the Templo Mayor under a previous Aztec emperor), there is mounting evidence that the gruesome scenes depicted in Spanish texts, and preserved in temple murals and stone carvings, were in fact true.

They carried out such gruesome rituals for what reason?

In the words of Verano, “It was a really serious and vital event for them.” He says that large and little human sacrifices would be carried out throughout the year to coincide with major calendar events, such as those for temple dedications, the reversal of drought and hunger, and other purposes.

  • According to Aztec theology, the sun deity Huitzilopochtli was engaged in a never-ending battle against darkness, and if the darkness prevailed, the world would come to an end.
  • The Aztecs had to feed Huitzilopochtli with human hearts and blood in order to maintain the sun moving across the sky and to sustain their very existence, which meant they had to sacrifice themselves.
  • Photograph by Daniel Cardenas for the Anadolu Agency/Getty Images In the rising Aztec empire of the 15th and 16th centuries, human sacrifice had another purpose as well: it worked as a kind of terror.
  • DNA testing on victims discovered from the Templo Mayor site have revealed that the great majority of those sacrificed were foreigners, most likely enemy troops or slaves, according to the findings.
  • It’s a particularly efficient means of frightening competitors while still maintaining control over your own personnel.
  • Furthermore, as difficult as it may be to believe, many captive troops, slaves, and Aztec people voluntarily went to the sacrifice altar.
  • Warfare during the height of Aztec supremacy was likewise distinguished by its distinctive characteristics.

They were the most powerful people on the planet.

During a sacrificial rite, an Aztec priest removes a man’s heart and offers it to the deity Huitzilopochtli, which is the god of sacrifice.

According to Verano, these fights served as a significant platform for young Aztec soldiers to advance in social rank by bringing back a large number of captives, some of whom would be sacrificed later on in the battle.

Upon being stripped of their heads, the remains of the victims were most likely given to noblemen and other prominent members of the community.

The belief that the Aztecs exclusively indulged in ceremonial cannibalism during times of scarcity has long been considered to be incorrect; yet, another theory holds that ingesting the flesh of a person sacrificed to the gods was akin to communing with the gods, themselves.

According to Verano, ceremonial cannibalism was most certainly practiced among the Aztecs and would have been regarded not only natural, but also a tremendous honor in their society.

Aztec Sacrifice

In ancient Mesoamerica (1345-1521 CE), the religion of the Aztec civilisation developed a terrible reputation for ruthless human sacrifice, with gruesome reports of the beating heart being plucked from the victim’s still-conscious body, as well as beheading, skinning, and mutilation. These things did occur, but it is important to remember that for the Aztecs, sacrifice was a strictly ritualized process that was intended to bestow the highest possible honor on the gods while also being regarded as a necessity in order to ensure mankind’s continued prosperity.


The Aztecs were not the first society in Mesoamerica to practice human sacrifice, since it was most likely theOlmec civilisation (c. 1200-300 BCE) that instituted such rites atop their holy pyramids in the first place. Other civilizations, such as the Maya and the Toltecs, carried on the tradition of sacrifice. Aztec sacrifice was carried out on an unparalleled scale, but the extent to which it was performed was definitely inflated by early chroniclers during the Spanish Conquest, perhaps as a means of defending their own violent treatment of the indigenous peoples.

  1. In ancient Mesoamerica, human sacrifices were regarded as a kind of restitution for the sacrifices done by the gods themselves in the process of creating the world.
  2. With reference to the tale of the reptilian monster Cipactli, this notion of payback was particularly relevant (orTlaltecuhtli).
  3. The gods promised her human hearts and blood as an act of conciliation in order to soothe the ghost of Cipactli.
  4. According to the story, Ehecatl-Quetzalcóatl stole bones from the Underworld and used them to create the first humans, so sacrifices were deemed necessary as an apology to the gods.
  5. As a result, flesh was burned or blood was spilled over the sculptures of deities in order for the gods to directly consume the food offerings.

XochipilliDennis Jarvis, a.k.a. XochipilliDennis Jarvis (Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike)

Non-Human Sacrifices

Blood-letting and self-harm – for example, by cutting bone or maguey spines from the ears and legs – as well as the burning of blood-soaked paper strips were all frequent forms of sacrifice, as was the burning of tobacco and incense, among other practices. Various sorts of sacrifices included the offering of other live creatures such as deer, butterflies, and snakes, among other animals. Sacred artifacts were freely sacrificed for the benefit of the gods, and sacrifices were made in this way.

One of the most remarkable of these offerings was the dough representations of gods, which were made from flour and water (tzoalli).

It was generally agreed that enemies who had battled heroically or who were visually appealing made the finest candidates for sacrifice.

Preparing the Victims

It was most common for human sacrifices to be performed on captured warriors, with the sacrificial victims chosen from among them. Indeed, battle was frequently carried out solely for the aim of supplying candidates for sacrifice to the cause. When the Aztecs were content with taking only enough prisoners for sacrifice, they engaged in a so-called ‘flowerywar’ (xochiyaoyotl), in which the eastern Tlaxcala state was a favorite hunting field, the battles were known as “indecisive engagements.” Those who had battled the most valiantly or who were believed to be the most attractive were considered to be the greatest candidates for sacrifice and were more likely to be accepted by the gods.

  1. The act of offering a human sacrifice was reserved for the most deserving victims, and it was considered a high honor, a direct channel of communication with the gods.
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  3. Children, in particular, might be sacrificed in order to appease the deity of the rain.
  4. It was believed that the very tears of the young victims would bring about the arrival of rain on their heads.
  5. Temple of the Sun, Tenochtitlan, Mexico Steve Cadman is a successful businessman.
  6. Before the sacrifice, specially selected persons were clothed in the attire of a certain god.
  7. Up until the ultimate, awful moment of his life when he was confronted by his maker, the victim was god’s incarnation on earth, surrounded by women and feted with dances and flowers.

A individual who may have been in even worse shape was the Xipe Totec imposter, who, at the conclusion of the celebration of Tlacaxipehualiztli, was skinned in order to honor the deity who was known as the ‘Flayed One.’


Sacrifices were most typically carried out by extending the victim over a particular stone, cutting into the chest, and extracting the heart with an obsidian or flint knife at specially devoted temples on top of gigantic pyramids like as those atTenochtitlan, Texcoco, and Tlacopan. Once the heart was prepared, it was placed in a stone vessel (cuauhxicalli) or in an achacmool (a stone figure with a recipient cut into their stomach) and then burned as an offering to the god to whom it was offered.

However, photos documented by the Spanish in various Codexes do depict decapitated bodies being tossed down the steps of pyramids, according to M.D.Coe, who believes that this approach was generally reserved for female victims who impersonated gods such as Chalchiuhtlicue, among others.

Aztec Skulls, Templo MayorTravis S., Templo MayorTravis S.

Naturally, the victim had no chance of surviving this ordeal, let alone inflicting any injury on his opponents, because not only was he tied to a stone platform (temalacatl), but his only weapon was a feathered club, whereas his opponents wielded vicious razor-sharp obsidian swords that could slice through flesh (macuauhuitl).

Perhaps the most heinous of all was to repeatedly throw the victim into a fire before having his heart taken.

The flesh of those who were sacrificed was also consumed on occasion by the priests who performed the sacrifices as well as by members of the governing elite or warriors who had captured the victims themselves.

Prior to publication, this paper was checked for correctness, dependability, and conformance to academic standards by two independent reviewers.

Q&A: Why and how did the Aztecs practise human sacrifice?

Is it true that human sacrifice was practiced in the Aztec empire? What was the point of it? And who were the unfortunates? Caroline Dodds Pennock, a historian, discusses how Published: Note: Caroline Dodds Pennock was a guest on the HistoryExtra podcast, where she answered questions about the Aztecs that were submitted by our readers as well as the most often searched for terms on the internet.

A sample of her responses has been transcribed and modified for clarity, and they are included in the following. On the HistoryExtra podcast, you can hear the entire conversation in full.

Q: Why did human sacrifice take place in the Aztec empire, and how often?

A:quite It’s difficult to discern how much sacrifice was made, which is frustrating. A very high or extremely low figure might be obtained depending on the information obtained from the sources or the set of data employed. It’s reasonable to argue, however, that human sacrifice was a significant and regular feature of the culture. As far as we can determine, the basis of all of this has something to do with a reciprocal interaction between the gods and humanity. The Aztecs thought that you owed a debt to the gods since they had given you so much in the first place.

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It is mentioned in the fabled history of the Aztec people that the gods sacrificed themselves in order to create humans.

She was allegedly cut in two in order to build the land, and then people were forced to feed her with blood in order to keep her alive and pay back the debt that had been incurred.

  • The genuine Aztecs were ruthless, ferocious, and kind at the same time.

Other stories tell of gods traveling to the underworld and taking the bones of a man and a woman from an earlier time period from right under the nose of a ‘Lord of the Land of the Dead.’ A female deity uses a grinding stone to grind up the bones, turning them into a kind of bone flour. He transports the bones to a realm that roughly translates as ‘paradise.’ As a result, the male gods drained blood from their penises into the dough, which was then used to construct miniature human forms out of it.

The purpose of human sacrifice was to pay back the debt that had been created when the gods spilled blood from themselves in order to create the world.

It was a little like offering food to the gods.

In essence, it was a selfless act — a human sacrifice was required for the sake of all humanity.

Listen: Caroline Dodds Pennock responds to listener queries and popular search enquiries about the Mesoamerican civilisation

Assuming that there were some willing victims of human sacrifice, the answer is yes. In truth, it’s really difficult to determine whether or not this was the case. The vast majority of the casualties were persons (mainly males, but also women and children) who had been taken during the war. Some of them were sacrificed as generic victims — if they needed to sacrifice, say, five individuals, they would use one of them as a generic victim. Some were sacrificed as god impersonators, known asixiptla, who took on the mantle of a deity and were slaughtered in the name of the gods they were mimicking.

Theseixiptlaformed a significant component of the regular festivals’ overall programming.

Special sacrifices were made for Tlaloc, the rain god, with children being the most common.

As far as we know, if you were born with a double cowlick — those flicks that cause your hair to grow in the opposite way – you were doomed to be sacrificed as a child.

There has been considerable discussion over whether you could have been able to psychologically detach yourself from a kid like this when they were born, especially if you lived in a society with a high infant death rate. However, we do know that the sacrifice was made as a result of sympathetic magic. The youngsters were expected to grieve, and the whole public was expected to weep at their deaths. The rain would come as a result of these tears. I think it’s particularly noteworthy that the children who were presented to Tlaloc were not slaughtered in the city, but were instead transported to the highlands and sacrificed in a lake there.

  • You have to question if people would have been prepared to see that show in the same manner they did in the first place.
  • It’s important to remember that sacrifice was practiced in other communities in the vicinity of Tenochtitlan.
  • A widely held concept was that dying as a sacrifice or in war was one of the very few methods to obtain a special place in the next world after death.
  • In the hereafter, the great majority of people were headed for a location known as Mictlan, which is not quite hell, but is nevertheless a dark, wet, and unpleasant place where you would have to endure low-grade torment for the rest of eternity.
  • After that, you would transform into a hummingbird or a butterfly, which would dance in the sunlight while sipping nectar.
  • It’s understandable why that could appear to be a desirable alternative.
  • She is a lecturer in international history at the University of Sheffield, as well as the author ofBonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle, and Sacrifice in Aztec Culture (University of Sheffield Press) (Palgrave Macmillan, paperback edition, 2008).
  • In Aztec civilization, rethinking human sacrifice and interpersonal violence is important.


Ellie Cawthorne works as the podcast editor for HistoryExtra.

Also contributing to the BBC History Magazine, she is the editor of the podcast newsletter, and she presents a number of live and virtual BBC History Magazine events.

Aztec Religion

  • Briefly describe the most important aspects of Aztec religious practices and beliefs

Key Points

  • As part of its pantheon, the Aztec religion included deities from a variety of other nations. The Aztecs thought that ritual sacrifice was crucial to their religious practice because it assured that the sun would rise again and that crops would flourish
  • As a result, they sacrificed a great deal. Using a 365-day calendar divided into eighteen months based on agricultural practices and distinct deities, the Aztecs kept track of their time.


The mythological hummingbird deity who mythically created Tenochtitlan was left-handed, and he represented both combat and the sun.


A month in the Aztec solar calendar that signified drought as well as ritual reintroduction.

Mesoamerican ballgame

This ceremonial exercise comprised the participants hitting a rubber ball with their elbows, knees, and hips as they attempted to pass it through a tiny hoop on a specially constructed court. The Aztecs possessed at least two manifestations of the supernatural, which were known as ttl and tixiptla, respectively. When the Spaniards and European scholars mistranslated the word ttl to mean “god” or “devil,” they were referring to an impersonal, unfathomable power that pervaded the entire world. Tixiptla, on the other hand, was used to refer to the physical representations (idols, sculptures, and figurines) of the ttl as well as the human cultic activity that took place in the vicinity of the physical representations.

Because of the imperial governmental structure’s ability to adapt, a wide pantheon of gods was absorbed into the greater cultural religious traditions of the time period.

The following were some of the most important deities to whom the Aztecs paid homage:

  • Deity Huitzilopochtli, known as the “left-handed hummingbird,” was a god of war and the sun who was also credited with founding the city of Tenochtitlan. Teotihuacan – the rain and storm god
  • Quetzalcoatl – the “cloud serpent” deity who was adopted into Aztec mythology and symbolized battle
  • And Tlaloc – the god of the morning star, wind, and life. Quetzalcoatl was the god of the morning star, wind, and life. Xipe Totec – The flayed god who was connected with fertility in the Aztec tradition. This deity was likewise borrowed from tribes that were under the aegis of the Aztec Triple Alliance
  • Nonetheless, it was not originally derived from them.

Huitzilopochtli as represented in the Codex Telleriano-Remensis (Codex Telleriano-Remensis). Featuring the battle and sun deity in all of his warrior and ritual trappings, this representation of him is a must-see. It was the veneration of Huitzilopochtli, the personification of the sun and of battle, that was at the heart of the Mexica people’s religious, social, and political activities that made them famous. During the 14th century, Huitzilopochtli rose to a position of prominence with the foundation of Tenochtitlan and the development of the Mexica city-state civilization, which placed him in a key position.

  • Huitzilopochtli is reported to have murdered his nephew Cópil and thrown his heart into the lake.
  • Tlachtli or ollamaliztli, as it is known in Nahuatl, was a version of the Mesoamerican ballgame that the Aztecs played, as did all other Mesoamerican civilizations.
  • The participants had to strike the ball with their hips, knees, and elbows, and they had to send the ball through a stone ring in order to win the game automatically.
  • When the renowned Aztec flower wars with neighboring rivals erupted, players in the game were kidnapped on a number of occasions.
  • A representation of human sacrifice in the Codex Magliabechiano.
  • While human sacrifice was done across Mesoamerica, if the Aztecs’ own tales are to be trusted, they elevated the practice to a degree that was previously unheard of.
  • This figure, on the other hand, is not commonly acknowledged.

According to one tale, the warrior Tlahuicole was liberated by the Aztecs, but he later returned of his own free will to die in a ceremonial sacrifice for the people of Mexico.

Human sacrifice had an impact on everyone, and it should be seen in the context of the Aztec people’s sacred cosmology to understand its significance.

To ensure that the sun would rise again and that crops would continue to flourish, ceremonial blood sacrifices were performed.

Each and every level of Aztec civilization was influenced by their belief in the obligation of humans to pay tribute to the gods, and anybody may be sacrificed in the service of the gods.

In addition to collecting tributes, they were in charge of ensuring that there was adequate food and other supplies for the sacrificial rites.

These priests were well-liked and respected throughout society, and they were also responsible for performing ceremonial bloodletting on themselves on a regular basis as part of their duties.


The architecture of this pyramid is characteristic of Aztec sacred structures.

Priests carried out ceremonies in specific temples and holy homes dedicated to their respective religions.

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These architectural wonders were the locations of huge sacrifice offerings and festivities, and according to Spanish accounts, blood would flow down the stairs of the pyramids.

The solar calendar of the Aztecs.

The Aztecs had a 365-day sacred calendar that was based on the sun and based on the lunar calendar.

For example, the late winter month Altcahualo, which fell between February 14 and March 5, was a season of planting crops and fecundity, and it fell between February 14 and March 5.

These days, the Aztecs celebrate the month of May as a time of regeneration, which includes a big ceremony in which a young man who has been imitating the deity Tezcatlipoca for a full year is offered up as a sacrifice.

Aztec Culture and Human Sacrifice

Codex Telleriano-Remensis illustration of Huitzilopochtli’s head. Featuring the battle and sun god in all of his warrior and ritual trappings, this representation of him is a work of art. Mexica people placed a high value on the veneration of Huitzilopochtli (the sun god and battle god), who was revered as a prominent figure in their religious, social, and political traditions. During the 14th century, Huitzilopochtli rose to a position of prominence with the building of Tenochtitlan and the establishment of the Mexica city-state civilization.

  • Huitzilopochtli is reported to have murdered his nephew Cópil and then thrown his heart into the lake.) He showed his gratitude to Cópil by ordering a cactus to grow over Cópil’s heart as a symbol of his respect for him.
  • Aztecs played a form of the Mesoamerican ballgame that was known as “tlachtli” or “ollamaliztli” in Nahuatl, as did all other Mesoamerican civilizations at the time.
  • The participants used their hips, knees, and elbows to smash the ball, and they had to pass the ball through a stone ring in order to win.
  • When the renowned Aztec flower wars with neighboring rivals erupted, participants of the game were frequently kidnapped.
  • A representation of human sacrifice from the Codex Magliabechiano.
  • The Aztecs, if their own reports are to be accepted, took human sacrifice to an unparalleled degree, a practice that was common across Mesoamerica at the time.
  • Although widely acknowledged, this figure is not universally regarded as reliable.

As told in a popular mythology, the Aztec warrior Tlahuicole was liberated by the civilization, but he later returned on his own initiative to be sacrificed in a ceremonial sacrifice.

Because human sacrifice had a profound impact on all of society, it is important to analyze it within the framework of Aztec religion and mythology.

To ensure that the sun would rise again and that crops would continue to flourish, ceremonial blood sacrifices were offered.

Because of the conviction in the human obligation to pay tribute to the gods, every level of Aztec society was influenced, and anybody may be sacrificed to the gods.

In addition to collecting tributes, they were in charge of making sure there was adequate food and other supplies for the sacrificial rituals.

It was the priests’ responsibility to practice ceremonial bloodletting on themselves on a regular basis, and they were held in high regard by all of society at the time.

The St.

Typical Aztec religious architecture, such as this pyramid, may be seen everywhere.

Priests carried out rites in separate temples and holy homes dedicated to their own faiths.

These architectural wonders were the settings of massive sacrifice offerings and festivities, and according to Spanish sources, blood would flow down the stairs of the pyramids.

Calender of the sun according to the Aztecs (see below).

The Aztecs had a 365-day liturgical calendar and based their calendar on the movement of the sun.

In the late winter month of Altcahualo, which fell between February 14 and March 5, the time of sowing crops and fertility was associated with this period.

When Toxcatl erupted in May, the central valley was under severe drought conditions. As a time of regeneration for the Aztecs, this month was marked by a huge event in which a young man who had been pretending to be the deity Tezcatlipoca for a full year would be slaughtered.

Cite This Article

“Aztec Culture and Human Sacrifice,” Salem Media’s History on the Net from 2000 to 2022. The date is January 12, 2022. Information about how to cite.

Aztec human sacrifice was a bloody, fascinating mess

The general consensus, at least outside of academic circles, is that the Aztec empire, like most indigenous American nations, was destroyed by a combination of colonial subjugation and European diseases brought into the country from the West. In addition, while these factors undoubtedly played significant roles in the Spanish conquest of Mexico, another theory takes a closer look at a fascinating aspect of Aztec society: the practice of sacrifice of humans. There are few things that anthropologists and archaeologists, both amateur and professional, are more fascinated by than ritualistic slaughter.

  1. It’s the same morbid appeal that true-crime documentaries on HLN have tapped into in the past.
  2. For decades, historians were skeptical of Spanish accounts of Aztec human sacrifice rituals that were documented in the 1500s.
  3. It is worth remembering that this was a common justification used throughout the roughly 500 years of European colonialism in various parts of the world.
  4. Moreover, the zeal with which it was practiced can be traced back to the political reforms of a single individual: the Aztec imperial vizier Tlacaelel.
  5. It all started with a reorganization of the Aztec pantheon, according to legend.
  6. According to Aztec beliefs, Huitzilopochtli required regular nourishment (tlaxcaltiliztli), which was provided in the form of freshly harvested human hearts on a regular basis.

Although it was a form of cultural exceptionalism, it not only provided the Aztecs with a sense of inherent ethnic superiority, but also caused them to be victimized by their neighbors, particularly the Tlaxcala people, who provided the lion’s share of sacrifice-able bodies for Aztec sun-god worship.

  • “The goal was to consolidate Aztec or Mexicatl grandeur,” he writes.
  • “It was clear that these communities were dissatisfied with the practice.” Hernán Cortés, according to Serrato-Combe, took full advantage of this resentment to his advantage.
  • In a short period of time, Tlaxcala leaders converted to Christianity and contributed 250,000 warriors to the siege of Tenochtitlan.
  • A common practice was the practice of self-sacrifice, with people cutting their ears, tongues, and genitals open so that their blood could be used to nourish the temple floors.
  • Some say as few as 4,000 were sacrificed during what was actually are -consecration of the Templo Mayor in 1487.
  • And perhaps there is some merit to the idea that, in obsessing over death and an imminent apocalypse, the Aztecs sealed their own fate.
  • When speaking of Aztec sacrifice culture, many anthropologists are quick to resort to culturally relativistic justifications.

This line of reasoning ultimatelydepicts Aztec customs as untouchableand requiring massive context.

There’s no use denying it: Aztec sacrifice was a bloody, messy, brutal affair.

And this means the Aztecs weren’t all that different from any other regionally dominant culture.

They engaged in what we, in the modern West, think to be crude or morbid practices—largely because they were—but which, outside of culturally specific contexts, differ little from the brutalities of Christian crusaders or Hunnish hordes.

You could say the Aztecs,with their vividly violent codices, were just more honest and upfront about it.

At one end of the spectrum, you have the fetishists: those who intensely scrutinize a single aspect of a given culture—usually its most obviously distinctive—and inflate it to the point of definitiveness.

At the other end, you have the militant cultural relativists who, no matter how demonstrably unusual or violent a practice may be, conflate critical thinking with moralistic judgment, becoming rote collectors of archaeological information, if not unintentional perpetuators of the “noble savagery” stereotype.

Understanding them as a “death-obsessed” culture, as Mr.

But framing sacrifice as nothing more than “delayed casualties of war” is similarly overly simplistic—politically correct to a fault.

There’s a lot to learn from the Aztecs and neighboring cultures. It would be a shame to let those lessons go to waste—all because we’re too blinded by morbid curiosities, or overkill of academic methodologies. Instead, let’s allow ourselves to be truly, rightly fascinated.

Bound for life: The Aztec blood link to the gods begins at birth

Newborns’ eyes are pierced by the gods to ensure that they have clear vision. (Source: Markus Eberl) “data-medium-file=” data-large-file=” data-small-file=” loading=”lazy” title=”Eberl-piercing” the image’s src=” alt=”God’s piercing eyes”” width=”585″ height=”128″ width=”585″ height=”128″ The gods pierce the eyes of infants to ensure that they have clean vision. srcset=” 585w,250w,685w” sizes=”(max-width: 585px) 100vw, 585px”> (Source: Markus Eberl) It is possible that the ancient Aztecs are most known for not just their practice of human sacrifice, but also the show that surrounded it.

It is thought that the codices, also known as “day books,” belonged to the Aztec peoples that lived in the Mixteca-Puebla-Tlaxcala area of central Mexico, according to Eberl’s book ” Nourishing Gods: Birth and Personhood in Highland Mexican Codices.” Codex aztecas are paintings on screenfolded pieces of hide that include stories about the gods and Aztec doctrine, as well as numerous almanacs that acted as divinatory guides for the Aztec soothsayers.

When an Aztec infant was born, the soothsayers would consult the birth almanacs recorded in these codices to identify the most auspicious date to initiate the kid into the Aztec community.

Bathing and naming the kid, passing the infant over a fire, reading the child’s horoscope, giving the newborn to the gods, and, in some societies, extracting a little amount of the child’s blood were all part of the birth rites.

(Source: Codex Mendoza) “loading=”lazy” data-medium-file=” data-large-file=” data-small-file=” title=”Codex Mendoza 57r; drawing from Berdan and Anawalt 1997, volume 4:119″ description=”Codex Mendoza 57r; drawing from Berdan and Anawalt 1997, volume 4:119 illustration of the birth ritual” src=” alt=”illustration of the birth ritual”” a width of 585 pixels and a height of 298 pixels An illustration of the bathing ritual for a baby.

  1. srcset=” 585w,250w,215w,685w” sizes=”(max-width: 585px) 100vw, 585px”> An illustration of the bathing ritual for a newborn.
  2. Eberl claims that the codices are responsible for providing this crucial information.
  3. It was the divine information contained inside the codices that allowed an Aztec newborn to develop from simple flesh and bones into a fully formed human.
  4. Furthermore, each version was separated into groups of four days per group, with each group being connected with a different symbol or quality.

A child’s fate was symbolized by four jobs done by the deities in the codices: piercing, raising, manipulating the umbilical cord, and nursing. The four chores indicated the four ways in which the gods had an impact on that destiny.

  • Piercing the child: Though only a few Aztecs were chosen to give their lives, all Aztecs were called upon to give their blood. Pain and suffering were regarded as being transformational in nature. The god or goddess is sometimes depicted piercing an eyeball, symbolizing the child’s transition into a being who could see clearly—both physically and symbolically. The capacity to understand and perceive truth was indicated by having clear eyesight. Others portray piercings of the lips or other parts of the body.
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Tlaloc, the rain deity, gifts a kid to the people. (Source: Markus Eberl) “data-medium-file=” data-large-file=” data-small-file=” loading=”lazy” title=”TlalocWithChild” image src=” alt=”Tlaloc with kid” src=”” width: 250px; height: 222px; It is the rain deity Tlaloc who offers a kid to us. srcset=” 250w, 585w, 685v” sizes=”(max-width: 250px) 100vw, 250px”> The rain god Tlaloc presents a child to us. (Source: Markus Eberl)

  • When presenting the infant, it was important for the gods to view the child, as well as for the child to be seen by the gods in order for the child to be accepted as a creature under divine protection. Symbolically, the god or goddess lifts up the infant to represent that acknowledgement
  • God or goddess manipulating the umbilical chord: The god or goddess handles the umbilical cord in order to establish a relationship between the infant and God or Goddess. In the same way that the unborn child was related to its mother, the baby is linked to the deity or goddess who serves as its patron. In addition to sacrificing to their deities, the Aztec people may expect to be fed by their gods as well. Panels depicting female goddesses breastfeeding infants represent the reciprocal nature of their connection.

It was calledtlatlatlaqualiliztli, which translates as “the nourishing of the gods with the blood of sacrifice,” to describe this reciprocal connection or covenant. In its most severe interpretation, the covenant resulted in the sacrifice of human beings. “Those adults who were chosen to imitate the gods died of their own free will,” Eberl explained. “By nourishing the gods with their blood, they were able to repay the gift of life that the gods had bestowed upon them when they were born.” Codex Borgia folio 15; drawing by M.

â€The temples of the sky and the temples of darkness.

Libro explicativo del llamado C3dice Borgia (Museo Borgia Messicano 1; Biblioteca Apostolica Vaticana).â (C3dices Mexicanus V) Libro explicativo del llamado C3dice Borgia Spain’s Sociedad Estatal Quinto Centenario, Austria’s Akademische Druck- und Verlagsanstalt, and Mexico’s Fondo de Cultura Econ3mica are among the publishers included.” data-image-caption=data-image-caption= “a birth almanac depicting the gods pinning the infant, presenting it, and removing the umbilical cord from the baby (Source: Markus Eberl)” loading=”lazy” data-medium-file=” data-large-file=” data-small-file=” “Eberl-birth almanac” is the title of this work.

Image size: 565 x 585 pixels, alt=”Birth almanac illustration” width=”565″ height=”585″” In this Aztec birth calendar, the gods pierce the baby, present it, and handle its umbilical chord.

(Source: Markus Eberl)

Human Sacrifice in Aztec Culture

People living in the modern world are compelled to deal with human violence that is both repeated and systematic in nature. People are becoming increasingly interested in learning more about the reasons and sources of this sort of human hostility toward other people, which is growing in popularity. When you take a close look at the question, you are obliged to use a comparison approach. You are compelled to look at other historical examples for inspiration. Spaniards arrived in Mesoamerica in 1517 and came face to face with the Maya and Aztecs’ violent ritual customs, which they found to be a source of great concern.

One reason to examine into Aztec sacrifices is to see whether there are any clues about the human tendency for ritual violence, recurring battles, violence against people of color, and the way women are frequently treated violently that may be gleaned from their history.

These are extremely worrying common behaviors, and it is critical not to dismiss them as having occurred in the distant past. For this reason, we are interested in learning more about the Aztecs and seeing whether they might help us better understand ourselves.

Sources of knowledge about human sacrifice in Aztec culture

We know about human sacrifice in Aztec society through an assortment evidence. Prehispanic codices have been preserved, which is a significant achievement. There are several scenarios of sacrifice shown in those pictorial scrolls, including both human sacrifice and the sacrifice of gods. We also have recordings of conversations that took place between Spanish priests and indigenous Aztecs during the conquest of Mexico, during which we may learn about many different types of sacrifice rites. According to “The Florentine Codex,” which is presently housed at the Laurentian library in Florence, it is this manuscript that provides the most remarkable empirical evidence.

  • For the 18 rituals in which human sacrifice was performed, we have full accounts of the ceremonial sequences that took place during the ceremonies.
  • The Biblioteca Medicea Laurenziana is a historical library in Laurenziana, Italy (wikipedia.org) Thirdly, we have eyewitnesses’ testimonies of the Spaniards who observed the sacrifices going place, occasionally sacrifices of Spaniards by Aztecs.
  • There are remnants of people who were sacrificed in the archaeological record, and we have evidence that they were sacrificed – the markings on their skeletons – to prove that they were.
  • As a result, there are four major sources to consider: graphic manuscripts, eyewitness narratives, interviews, and genuine Aztec archeological evidence.

The history of human sacrifice in Aztec culture

The Aztecs, as we know them today, existed only from 1325 and 1525. That was the time period in which the Aztecs offered sacrifices. Human sacrifices were performed in rituals long before the arrival of the Aztecs in the valley of Mexico in the first half of the 14th century. In the second millennium BCE, there are clear signs that people and animals were sacrificed in a ceremonial manner. One characteristic of sacrifices during the Aztec period that set them apart was an increase in the number of ritual human sacrifices.

  • A long time passed during his rule, which saw the empire grow in size and influence.
  • This is an intriguing connection to draw.
  • We do not know who first practiced human sacrifice, although the Toltecs appear in Mesoamerican records prior to the Aztecs, suggesting that they were responsible.
  • They also practiced human sacrifice.
  • Consequently, human sacrifice was common in Mesoamerica from the very beginning of the establishment of urban civilization.
  • Some sacrifices may have taken performed after the Spaniards arrived, but the state-sponsored ritual sacrifices were discontinued within the first 10 years following the arrival of the Spaniards, according to historical documents.

The Spaniards then replaced it with a new brand of brutality of their own. According to one historian, the contrast between Aztec and Spanish aggression is as follows: The Aztecs established a sacrificial society, but the Spaniards established a civilization based on mass sacrifice.

The purpose of human sacrifice

The following are the phrases used by Aztec religion to justify ceremonial human sacrifice: ” Human bodies were composed of two distinct halves: a shell and a divine spark, which was implanted into the body by the divinities at the time of conception. The gods and the cosmos they created required periodic regeneration, which could only be accomplished by the sacrifice and release of divine sparks contained inside the bodies of humans, plants, insects, and animals, among other things. Death, whether by natural or ceremonial methods, freed the divine spark, which fell into the ground, the underworld, and gathered a new shell or substance.

  1. Blood is one of the vehicles for the transmission of this heavenly spark.
  2. Blood was ‘let’ from lips, ears, and thighs with the most dedicated priests releasing blood from tongues and even genitals.
  3. As seen in the Codex Magliabechiano, human sacrifice was practiced (wikipeadia.org) The sacrifice also served a political function, which was the second goal.
  4. It was possible that the rulers of ally or enemy cities would be summoned to the capital in order to witness the sacrifice of their own captive troops in a few instances.

Selection of the victim

The 5th month of the Aztec ritual calendar, which was dedicated to both fertility and masculine beauty, provides an amazing illustration of how the Aztecs picked a person for sacrifice. They selected a man who they believed to be the most attractive male in the world. The process by which this individual was selected is described in detail. This month, they had a formula for what the male sacrificial victim would look like, and they used it. So what they did – they caught fighters and they held them in a specific place and they sought for the best-looking one.

His features were as follows: “He was not curly-haired, he was not rough of forehead, he was not long-headed, he did not have swollen eyelids, he did not have enlarged eyelids, he was not flat-nosed, he did not have a nose with wide nostrils, he was not concave-nosed, he was not thick-lipped, he was not gross-lipped, he was not Every element of his physique is described in this way: «He was not long-handed, he was not one-handed, he was not handless, he was not fat-fingered, and it goes on to discuss his stomach.» With no flaws or marks, he had been given the best possible care.

He would be trained to blow the flute and play the whistle, and he would be ready to join in the festivities.

Tudela’s Codex (wikipedia.org) According to their standards, they were seeking for a man who was extremely attractive.

For one year, he pretended to be a deity in the Aztec capital.

It has been said by one reputable source that he was given four divinized ladies for companionship and sexual activity in order to aid in rejuvenating the universe.

In some of the other monthly rites, children and women were sacrificed to the gods.

What all of this informs us is that a sacrifice was seen as a high honor in ancient times.

Harvard University’s Neil L. Rudenstine Professor for the Study of Latin America at the Faculty of Divinity and the Faculty of Arts and Sciences is an expert in the region’s history and culture. More information may be found here.

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