Mesoamerican Sacrificial Rituals

Over the years, we have studied the Aztec, Mayan, and Inca people from Mesoamerica in our history classes. In these classes topics such as the rise and fall of the regions, the elite, and many other things have been discussed. A major part of Mesoamerica that has been discussed over the past few weeks in class regarding this region, is sacrifice and the rituals behind them. I am most interested in the Aztec people and examining their culture and sacrificial rituals. It has been very intriguing to learn about the reasoning to why these people sacrificed animals and even humans. The reasons were very important.

The Aztecs considered themselves the descendents of the Toltecs, which made them known as great warriors. Being a conquest state, the Aztecs were very powerful and dominant, and had special beliefs that had to be followed in order to survive. These people were huge practitioners of human sacrifice. Looking at their barbarian ways, the majority of people would consider the Aztecs savage and ruthless, but most of the sacrificing was done out of a religious standpoint. In order to survive, the Aztecs believed that they must sacrifice beings to the Sun God. The ideology behind is was that the Sun God, Huitzilopochtli, needed nourishment in order to keep the universe a float. This god’s job was to keep the darkness at bay and the universe running. The only way to nourish Huitzilopochtli was through sacrifice. The universe cycled every 52 years. With everything running on a 52 year clock, sacrifice became wrapped up in this process. There were blood sacrifices done by priests, animal sacrifices and human sacrifices. The human sacrifices were not an act of cruelty, but an act of the world. The majority of the sacrifices were captured prisoners of war. Known as a conquest empire, this explains why the Aztecs took prisoners of war usually for sacrificed. The number of sacrifices that occurred per year in unknown, but it was definitely a large number.

In previous classes, the art of sacrifice has been touched on lightly, but it was interesting to learn how the Aztec performed their sacrifices. There were temples that were that held the chacmool. The chacmool was the rain deity who had a direct connection to sacrifice. The Aztec would make offerings to this deity by cutting out the heart of the sacrifice and be placed before him. Then the body would be kicked down the steps of the temple.

It can be seen that the Aztec people were definitely a fierce and powerful group. Now a days, sacrifice is viewed as savage and cruel, but the Aztec’s religion said that it had to be done in order to survive and this was the norm. I find it very interesting how norms and beliefs change over the years and enjoy learning about them.

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