01b_Rdg-Aztec Sacrifice Ritual

Aztec Sacrifice Ritual
 
The Aztec (Mexica) War god, Huitzilopochtli, is responsible for guiding the Aztec people from
their legendary homeland, Aztlan, to the island in the middle of Lake Texcoco. This island later becomes
the great capital of the Aztec empire, Tenochtitlan. 
The Aztecs depended on this god for success in battle. Since the sun is a physical manifestation
of this god, the Aztec people also depended on the god for the sunlight that warmed them and nourished
the crops. 
To ensure that the sun had the energy to traverse the sky in its daily journey from East to West, it
was necessary, according to Aztec religious beliefs, to offer blood as nourishment for Huitzilopochtli. In
addition to sacrifice rituals performed when circumstances warranted it, there was an annual ritual
specifically to honor Huitzilopochtli. 
Each year, a volunteer would offer himself for sacrifice. This person would be provided with the
best food, drink, clothing, and entertainment that the Aztecs could provide. This treatment lasted for one
year. On the appointed day for sacrifice, the volunteer would be paraded to the Templo Mayor (‘Main
Temple’ Pyramid) that was located in an enormous plaza. He would walk towards the base of the temple
and begin to ascend the steps. He would play a short tune on a clay flute as he climbed a segment of the
stairway. He would smash the flute on the stone steps and proceeded to play a tune on another clay flute
he carried in a satchel. He repeated the tune playing and flute smashing sequence three separate times
as he climbed. When he reached the apex of the pyramid he saw two structures, one contained the
statue representing Tlaloc (Rain god) and the other had a statue of Huitzilopochtli. Both statues had their
mouths wide-opened as if in anticipation of receiving food. 
Waiting at the top of the temple were five Aztec priests. The volunteer would be placed, face-up,
on a stone slab/ altar. A priest was assigned to hold each of the volunteer's limbs. The fifth priest was
responsible for performing the sacrifice. 
Using an obsidian knife, the presiding priest would make a small incision between two rib-cage
bones. The priest would insert his fist through the incision and into the chest cavity of the victim. The
heart of the fully conscious victim would be grabbed and extracted. The still-beating heart would be
displayed to the cheering mass observing the ritual from the plaza below. The priest would turn around
and deposit the pulsating heart into the opened mouth of Huitzilopochtli's statue. 
 
Sources:
1. Aztec, by Inga Clendinen  2. Broken Spears, by Fray Sahagun  3. Conquest of New Spain, by Bernal Diaz 
 
Question: What questions would this ritual answer for the people who had conducted it?

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Special offer for students: Only $4.99/month.

Master your semester with Scribd & The New York Times

Cancel anytime.