I know this subject of human sacrifice is beaten and tired, but it interests me a great deal. The Aztecs believed that sacrifices to the gods would keep the universe in balance. They had mainly two types of sacrifice: human and animal. Human sacrifices fulfilled both religious purposes and socio-political purposes.
Human sacrifices could either consist of self-sacrifice, such as bloodletting or sacrificing the lives of other people. The latter being the means of justification the Spanish used for their actions of persecution. The Aztecs believed that they were the people whom the gods had chosen to feed them and keep the world in order and considered themselves the chosen people of the sun. After some time, sacrifices also served as political propaganda. The sacrifice of war captives, often obtained through flower wars as well as political warfare, and slaves (although men, women and children were also sacrificed) helped to validate the connections the priests and rulers had with the gods. These rituals also helped to strike fear into external rulers and common subjects negating ideas of intimidation, resistance, and other types of non-cooperation.
The victim, often dressed to represent the god they were being offered to, were led up the temple stairs and stretched over the sacrificial stone by four priests. The fifth priest would then extract the still beating heart. In the case of sacrifices to the god Tlaloc, the heart would then be placed in the hands of his statue. The Templo Mayor of the capital city of Tenochtitlan is a famous example of these type of sacrifices, where the bodies were kicked down the steps after the removal of the heart. The head was then cut off the body and placed in the skull rack. Heart sacrifices were the most common but not the only type of sacrifice.
The Xipe Totec cult also performed ceremonial gladiator and arrow sacrifice. The gladiator ritual consisted of a type of mock battle. The captive was tied to a large stone and given fake weaponry made of feathers. His opponent would be equipped with real weapons and then carry on to ‘defeat’ the captive. The arrow sacrifice involved the victim being tied to a wooden frame with their arms and legs spread. Arrows were then fired at the victim, ensuring that the blood would run into the ground. Some sources say that the Xipe Totec priests would then remove the victims skin so that they could wear it.
These were just some of the forms of sacrifices the Aztecs made. There were many forms, sadly I couldn’t really find anything on animal sacrifices that they made. I have to wonder if the rituals for animal sacrifices were any different or maybe even more brutal than human sacrifices made.