What Activities Do We Know Priests Carried Out In Aztec Culture

Aztec Rituals and Religious Ceremonies

Loading. Aztec rituals and religious symbols filled the civilization’s existence with religious meaning throughout the year, and this was true throughout the Aztec culture. Every month had at least one significant religious celebration commemorating a deity or gods, and some months featured many such ceremonies. The majority of these rites were associated with the agricultural season, such as the sowing of maize or the harvest of fruits and vegetables. Almost all significant events included the selection of a person to mimic the deity, who would then dress in the god’s attire.

It didn’t matter if the festivities honored or invoked fertility or holy mountains, or planting or rejuvenation, or trade or hunting; people fasted and feasted in the huge public plazas of Aztec towns, dressed in their finest, and danced to the beat of the music.

The Aztecs considered human sacrifice to be valuable, if not essential.

In order to respect the sacrifice of the gods, man was also required to give his blood and his life.

  • An in-depth discussion of this topic will be covered in another post.
  • Aztec priests and laypeople would cut themselves and offer their blood to the gods as part of certain rites.
  • Despite this, several Aztec rites necessitated the use of human victims.
  • This fertility ceremony necessitated the sacrifice of kidnapped soldiers to ensure its success.
  • The god Tezcatlipoca, sometimes known as the god of fate or destiny, was selected to represent him at a ritual held in May called Toxcatl.
  • During this 17-day celebration, people feasted and danced, and little birds were slaughtered together with the “Tezcatlipoca,” the event’s main sacrificial object.
  • Everyone stayed in their homes, eating little or fasting, and waited for the five days to pass until the bad luck had passed.

The New Fire Rites, also known as Toxiuhmolpilia, were held once every 52 years when the two Aztec calendars aligned and the two calendars were in sync.

Priests sacrificed a guy on Uixachtlan Hill and extracted his heart as part of their ritual.

Aztecs would stand in the darkness of the night and watch as the world’s flames were rekindled by the one sacrifice.

People bought new clothing and updated the tools and utensils they used on a daily basis.

Aztec ceremonies may look strange to a modern spectator, but the symbols expressed their cosmic understanding of the cosmos in a true representation of their culture.

This page is a part of a broader resource on Aztec civilisation that can be found here. For a thorough description of the Aztec Empire, including its military, religion, and agriculture, please see the link provided below.

Cite This Article

“Aztec Rituals and Religious Ceremonies” is a book on Aztec rituals and religious ceremonies. Salem Media’s “History on the Internet” will run from 2000 until 2022. The 14th of January in the year 2022 Information about how to cite.

Aztec Religion

  • Briefly describe the most important aspects of Aztec religious activities 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.

  1. Huitzilopochtli is reported to have murdered his nephew Cópil and thrown his heart into the lake.
  2. 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.
  3. 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.
  4. When the renowned Aztec flower wars with neighboring rivals erupted, players in the game were kidnapped on a number of occasions.
  5. A representation of human sacrifice in the Codex Magliabechiano.
  6. 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.
  7. 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.

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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.

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 Empire for Kids: Religion, Gods, and Mythology

History for Kids: The Aztecs, Mayas, and Incas The Aztecs had a large number of gods that they worshipped. When they conquered a new tribe or civilization, they frequently assimilated the gods of the conquered tribe or culture into the Aztec religion. The Sun’s rays The sun was considered to be one of the most essential parts of Aztec religion. In their own language, the Aztecs referred to themselves as “People of the Sun.” For them, it was necessary to undertake rituals and sacrifices in order to ensure that the sun rose each day and that the sun would have strength to shine brightly.

Huitzilopochtli was considered to be the most significant god by the Aztecs.

The god Huitzilopochtliby is a mystery.

  • In addition to being the god of battle and sacrifice, Huitzilopochtli was also the deity of the sun and sacrifice, making him one of the most terrible and powerful of all the Aztec gods. He was also the patron deity of the Aztec capital city of Tenochtitlan, which he was also known as Tenochtitlan. Dedicated to Huitzilopochtli and Tlaloc, the Great Temple, located in the heart of the city, was created in their honor. His given name is supposed to be an abbreviation for “left-handed hummingbird.” Tlaloc- Tlaloc was the deity of rain and water, and he was frequently shown with feathers and wielding a scepter fashioned of a serpent
  • Tlaloc- Tlaloc was the god of rain and water. While Tlaloc aided the Aztecs for the most part by delivering rain and helping vegetation to thrive, he had the ability to become enraged and unleash thunder storms and hail in response. Tlaloc was worshipped at the Great Temple in the city of Tenochtitlan, as well as at the summit of Mount Tlaloc, which is a tall peak in the area. Quetzalcoatl- Quetzalcoatl was the deity of life and the wind, and he was frequently shown with fangs and large goggle-like eyes. His name literally translates as “feathered serpent,” and he was typically shown as a snake that could fly, much like a dragon. At the time of Cortez’s arrival, many believed that he was the deity Quetzalcoatl manifested in human flesh
  • Tezcatlipoca- Tezcatlipoca was a strong god who was linked with many things, including sorcery, the night, and the ground. He was a rival deity to Quetzalcoatl, and he was worshipped as such. The sun and the world were created by him, according to Aztec legend, but he was killed by Quetzalcoatl and transformed into a jaguar as a result of the attack. In the city of Tenochtitlan, just south of the Great Temple, a great temple dedicated to him had been constructed. Chicomecoatl- Chicomecoatl was the Aztec goddess of agriculture, nutrition, and maize, and her name literally translates as “burning mirror.” She was frequently shown as a little girl clutching flowers or as an adult shielding herself from the sun. Her given name was “seven snakes,” which means “seven serpents.”

In addition to being the god of battle and sacrifice, Huitzilopochtli was also the deity of the sun and sacrifice, making him one of the most feared and powerful of all the Aztec gods. Additionally, he was the patron god of Tenochtitlan, the Aztec capital city. Tlaloc and Huitzilopochtli are commemorated at the Great Temple, which stands in the heart of town. According to popular belief, his name is an abbreviation for “left-handed hummingbird.” Tlaloc- Tlaloc was the deity of rain and water, and he was frequently shown with feathers and wielding a scepter fashioned from a serpent; Even while Tlaloc mostly aided the Aztecs by providing rain and helping vegetation to thrive, he had the ability to become enraged and unleash thunder storms and hail when necessary.

  1. At the Great Temple in the city of Tenochtitlan, as well as at the summit of a large peak dubbed Mount Tlaloc, Tlaloc was revered and worshipped.
  2. His name literally translates as “feathered serpent,” and he was frequently shown as a snake that could fly, much like a dragon, in art and literature.
  3. The sun and the world were created by him, according to Aztec legend, but he was killed by Quetzalcoatl and transformed into a jaguar as a result of the battle.
  4. ; Chicomecoatl- Chicomecoatl was the Aztec goddess of agriculture and nutrition, as well as of maize, and her name literally translates as “burning mirror.” A young girl with flowers, or as a lady shielded by the sun, were some of the depictions of her.

Seven snakes were the meaning of her given name, and she was born with it.

  • People were sometimes chosen to represent the gods in their own right. In their religion, they would dress up as gods and then act out scenes from Aztec mythology
  • The Aztec calendar played a significant role in their religious practices. They celebrated a number of religious events and festivals throughout the year
  • The Xiuhmolpilli festival, which literally translates as “new fire,” was the grandest of these celebrations. There were 52 of them held every 52 years in order to keep the world from ending
  • The Aztecs frequently went to war in order to capture captives who could then be sacrificed
  • The Aztecs believed they were living under the fifth and final sun
  • And the Aztecs believed they were living under the fifth and final sun. When the fifth sun died, they feared the end of the world as they knew it.
  • Activities This page is the subject of a ten-question quiz
  • Listen to an audio recording of this page being read: The audio element cannot be played because your browser does not support it. The following works are cited:HistoryAztecs, Mayans, and Incas for Kids
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The Templo Mayor: A place for human sacrifices

The Templo Mayor was a location where human sacrifices were performed. The peak of Aztec architecture was a massive sacred structure with a bloody past that stood at the center of the city. Jonathan Glancey explores the situation. T The opening ceremony for the sixth Great Temple of Tenochtitlan, which took place on December 19, 1487, was unlike any other celebration that a modern head of state or religious leader would expect to attend. Warriors in the form of eagles guarded the path leading to an arrogant tiered pyramid in the distance.

  1. Men who were nearly nude clasped their hands and sung.
  2. It’s also menacing.
  3. Held down, the victims’ abdomens were cut open by high priests brandishing ceremonial knives.
  4. As the lifeless bodies of the sacrificial were being kicked down the steps, blood began to pour from their bodies, which contrasted brightly against the white of the temple walls as they fell one after another.

David R Frazier Photolibrary Inc/Alamy image shows the outside of the recently found Templo Mayor in Mexico City Approximately five years before Christopher Columbus and his voyage set sail from Spain for what they thought would be India but turned out to be a “new world” on the other side of the Atlantic Ocean, something similar occurred in what is now Mexico City soon before Christmas 1487.

  • The Aztecs were unknown to Europeans at the time of their conquest, and the origins of their famous seven tribes are still a mystery to this day.
  • What we do know is that they made their way to the Valley of Mexico, where they constructed the city of Tenochtitlan on a swampy island in 1325, which is still standing today.
  • It was erected on wooden pilings dug deep below the surface of the sea, much like Venice, and it grew into a city of canals, magnificent architecture, complex festivals, imperial ambition and mystery in the same way that Venice had done.
  • The Aztecs lavished lavishly on their holy structures.
  • Almost immediately after the founding of Tenochtitlan, construction of the main temple – known as Huei Teocalli in the Aztec language of Nahuatl, or Templo Mayor in Spanish – commenced.
  • Each time it was rebuilt, the structure expanded in size.
  • This main edifice was flanked by a lesser circular temple dedicated to the feathered serpent god Quetzalcoatl, who lived thousands of years before the Aztecs.

In the eyes of many, the Aztecs with their world of logical urban planning, advanced sanitation, flowing water, daily baths, dominating temples, and ravenous human sacrifice appeared to be destined to continue for eternity.

What Cortés witnessed was definitely stunning.

Bernardino de Sahagun, a Franciscan friar who worked at one of the shrines, caught a sight of the idol of Huitzilopochtli, which was hidden behind a curtain.

Every year, the idol, which was adorned in beautiful garments and topped with a gold crown, was presented to the people during a festival that culminated with their devouring this representation of their god of the sun and battle.

These kinds of encounters, as well as the sheer size of Tenochtitlan – with a population of around 250,000 people, it was considerably larger than any current European metropolis – and the abundance of gold in the city, captivated Cortés’s imagination.

Following his first reception as Quetzalcoatl himself, Cortés scythed a remarkable easy and unrelenting path through the Aztecs’ ranks.

Cortés, the assassin And with it, the Aztec Empire, Moctezuma, Tenochtitlan, and the Templo Mayor were all brought to an end.

The Templo Mayor and its holy zone were demolished and a Catholic cathedral was constructed on top of the ruins.

Tenochtitlan and the Templo Mayor, as well as the gods and civilization of the Aztecs, were all but forgotten.

The public’s fascination in the site, as well as methodical excavation of the site, only truly began in the last part of the twentieth century.

(Miguelao/Wikipedia/CC BY-SA 2.0)In 1978, workmen discovered an eight-tonne sculpted stone disk depicting the scattered limbs of the Aztec moon goddess Coyolxauhqui.

This necessitated the controversial demolition of colonial homes, but thousands of Aztec artifacts were discovered, prompting the construction of the Templo Mayor Museum, designed by the Mexican architect Pedro Ramrez Vázquez, a modernist who incorporated pre-Columbian forms into his acclaimed works of art.

Much has been discovered, including sections of the temple and its several layers, which date back to the early 14th Century, palace rooms with built-in baths, the House of the Eagle Warriors, a priests’ training school, and wonderful writhing sculptures of sacred snakes and serpents, which are still on display.

Our understanding of the Aztecs will remain frustratingly inadequate for many years to come, despite the fact that new archaeological methods and creativity will undoubtedly aid future research.

If you have any comments or questions about this story or anything else you have seen on BBC Culture, please post them on our Facebook page or send us a message on Twitter.

Tenochtitlán: History of Aztec Capital

The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City is home to a model of Tenochtitlán that has been recreated from the ground up. (Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Anthropology.) Tenochtitlán was an Aztec metropolis that existed between A.D. 1325 and 1521 and was the capital of the Aztec empire. It was built on an island in Lake Texcoco and was connected to the mainland by a network of canals and causeways that provided food and water to the hundreds of thousands of residents. A siege by the Spanish invader Hernán Cortés in 1521 resulted in the majority of the city’s ruins being destroyed, and modern-day Mexico City currently sits on top of most of them.

  • Its wealth was emphasized by the fact that the city had a big marketplace where “sixty thousand people came each day to buy and sell,” according to him.
  • Both structures were likely in use from A.D.
  • Archaeologists unearthed the neck bones of 30 babies and children on the ball court, not far from where the game was being played.
  • The Aztec capital is located at .

Origins of Tenochtitlán

The National Museum of Anthropology in Mexico City has a replica of Tenochtitlán that has been recreated. National Museum of Anthropology image used with permission. From 1325 through 1521 A.D., the city of Tenochtitlán prospered as an Aztec capital. A system of canals and causeways connected the island’s hundreds of thousands of residents, who were served by a network of canals and causeways. A siege by the Spanish conquest Hernán Cortés in 1521 resulted in the majority of the city’s remnants being destroyed, and modern-day Mexico City currently sits on top of most of the ruins.

In “An Age of Voyages: 1350-1600,” by Mary Wiesner-Hanks, published by Oxford University Press in 2005, she writes: Its wealth was emphasized by the fact that the city had a huge marketplace where “sixty thousand people came each day to buy and sell,” he explained.

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1481 until 1519 in Tenochtitlan, which is now part of modern-day Mexico City, were discovered in June 2017 by officials with Mexico’s National Institute of Anthropology and History (INAH).

They were discovered as part of the Urban Archaeology Program, which involves archaeologists excavating the remnants of buildings that have been demolished in the city. capital city of the Aztecs .

Trade and currency

Tenochtitlán’s empire expanded, and with it, the city’s trade. It was in 1474 that the city captured the neighbouring city of Tlatelolco, which, according to historian Aguilar-Moreno, was a watershed point in the city’s economic history. He points out that Tlatelolco was a “trading city” and that the “union of these two towns became the location of Tenochtitlan-Tlatelolco the economic and political heart of the Valley of Mexico.” He concludes by stating that Researchers Carroll Riley writes in her book “Rio del Norte: People of the Upper Rio Grande From Earliest Time to the Pueblo Revolt” that instead of using minted currency, people bartered for goods using “cacao beans for small transactions, cotton blankets for mid-range transactions, and quills filled with gold dust for large business operations” instead of using minted currency (University of Utah Press, 1995).

She points out that metallurgy had a significant part in the economics and society of Tenochtitlán.

Aztec writing

The writing style employed by the inhabitants of Tenochtitlán, as well as by other Aztec cultures, is referred to as “pictorial.” As Elizabeth Boone explains in her book “Stories in Red and Black: Pictorial Histories of the Aztecs and Mixtecs,” “it is constructed mostly of figural representations that have some resemblance to, or visual relationship with, the ideas, things, or acts that they represent” (University of Texas Press, 2000).

She does, however, point out that this system of writing “contains abstractions and other markings that were arbitrarily assigned particular meanings, meanings that were unconnected to their similarity,” as well as “other marks that were arbitrarily allocated certain meanings.” The Aztecs utilized this writing technique to construct “codices,” which were pieces of fig tree bark that were used to record information.

“During the period of the Aztecs, there were hundreds of manuscripts.” With the coming of the Europeans, all but eleven of the indigenous peoples vanished.

He points out that the theological content of the Aztec codices was a source of contention for the Spanish priests.

(Photo courtesy of the National Museum of Anthropology.)

Templo Mayor

Sacred grounds were located in the centre of the city, which was encircled by a wall. More than seventy houses were within the enclosure, which was encircled by a wall adorned with pictures of serpents, known as acoatepantli, according to de Rojas. “Within the enclosure stood more than seventy structures,” he says. Scholars are still attempting to figure out precisely what this hallowed space looked like and how it evolved over time, but they do know that the most important building was a spot known as the “Templo Mayor,” which was built by the Spaniards (main temple).

In all, the majestic building rose to around ninety feet in height and was comprised of two stepped pyramids that were placed side by side on a massive platform.

The pinnacle of the structure, where two temples stood, was reached by two long, broad stairs.

As University of Utah professor Antonio Serrato-Combe explains in his book “The Aztec Templo Mayor: A Visualization,” “We know of human sacrifice at the top of the Templo Mayor, but it was also a site of athletes and dancers flowing gracefully in and around platforms and braziers” (The University of Utah Press, 2001).

Serrato-Combe reminds out that there were two Tzompantli (skull racks) in the vicinity of the Templo Mayor, one to the west and one to the north, with the larger one being to the west and the smaller one being to the north.

“He raised his hands in the air as a tribute to the sun.” (Source: “The Aztec Templo Mayor: A Visualization,” by Fray Toribio de Benavente Motolinia, from the book “The Aztec Templo Mayor: A Visualization”

The fall of Tenochtitlán

As noted by Michael Smith, a professor at the State University of New York at Albany, the first time Cortés set foot in Mexico was in 1519 and was received with gifts of gold by Tenochtitlán’s king Motecuhzoma (or Montezuma) II. The monarch may have hoped that the presents would pacify the Spaniards and convince them to leave, but the gifts had the exact opposite impact on them. “Of course, the gold piqued the interest of the Spaniards, who were more eager than ever to explore the metropolis.

  • Cortés continued his journey to Tenochtitlán, where Motecuhzoma II greeted the conqueror with open arms once more.
  • After a few months, rebel organizations began designating Cuitlahuac, the king’s brother, as the man who would succeed Motecuhzoma, who was about to be assassinated.
  • He did it within a few months.
  • “A great deal of the Spanish triumph may be attributed to the political astuteness of Hernando Cortés, who was able to predict the widespread anti-Mexica sentiment that existed throughout the eastern empire.” Located in the heart of Mexico City, the Tenochtitlán ruins are worth a visit.
  • This army lay siege to Tenochtitlán, demolishing the aqueduct and attempting to cut off food supplies to the hundreds of thousands of inhabitants who had gathered in the city to resist the siege.
  • This made matters worse.
  • The sheer magnitude of Cortés’ army, as well as their artillery, combined with the sickness that was devouring Tenochtitlán, made success for the Spaniards a foregone conclusion.

It is noted by Smith that the Tlaxcallan troops who served in the Cortés army “went on to slaughter a large number of the surviving people of Tenochtitlan.” Smith points out that the city was subsequently the subject of an elegy, which reads: “Broken spears lay in the pathways; we have ripped our hair in mourning.” The dwellings are now without roofs, and the blood stains on their walls are visible.

We have beaten our hands against the adobe walls in desperation, for our inheritance, our city, has been lost and is no longer alive.

Miguel León-Portilla provided the translation from the Nahuatl language.

Author and LiveScience Contributor Owen Jarus says: In Xochimilco, on the ruins of Tenochtitlan, travelers may hire vividly colored boats for parties and excursions on the canals, which are lined with colorful houses.

) Editor’s Note: This reference article was first published on May 23, 2013, and has been updated.

Owen Jarus is a writer for Live Science who specializes in archaeology and all topics relating to the history of mankind.

A bachelor of arts degree from the University of Toronto and a journalism degree from Ryerson University are among Owen’s qualifications. He loves learning about fresh research and is always on the lookout for an interesting historical story.

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