A Glimpse Inside Aztec Sacrifices and Aztec Rituals
The Aztec religion is composed of an incredibly complicated, yet interesting, set of beliefs. Filled with stories of human sacrifices and demanding Aztec gods and goddesses, the Aztecs have left behind a legacy that will be studied and marveled for years to come.
The Hierarchy of Aztec Gods
A part of the religious Aztec legends is the belief in a hierarchy of gods. According to Aztec mythology, the top three gods were Huitzilopochtili (or “hummingbird wizard), Tezcatlipoca (“smoking mirror”) and Quetzalcoatl (“sovereign plumed serpent”). Below these three gods, those who practiced the Aztec religion believed there were four sub-gods and an infinite number of gods were below these four. Among them were the god of rain and the god of growth.
Aztec sacrifices were an important aspect of the Aztec religion. At the root of these Aztec rituals was the belief that the gods needed to be nourished by human beings. This was accomplished through human blood. A part of the Aztec religion, therefore, was to participate in bloodletting, which is intentionally harming and drawing blood from the body. Those who were higher in status within the Aztec religion were expected to give the most blood during these Aztec rituals.
The Aztec gods and goddesses also required the living hearts of humans for nourishment. All hearts were good, but the bravest captives were considered to be particularly nourishing to the Aztec gods. As a result, widespread warring took place as the Aztec people sought to bring captives back to the Aztec temples for sacrifice.
Sometimes, those practicing the Aztec religion sacrificed just one person. At other times, hundreds or even thousands of captives were sacrificed at a time. Each Aztec sacrifice, however, took place the same way. The captive or captives were taken to a pyramid or temple and placed on an altar. The Aztec priest then made an incision in the ribcage of the captive and removed the living heart. The heart was then burned and the corpse was pushed down the steps of the Aztec pyramid or temple. If the captive was particularly noble or brave, however, he was carried down instead.
In the case of an Aztec human sacrifice being performed for the god Huehueteotl, the ritual was slightly changed. Huehueteotl was the Aztec god of warmth, death, and cold. He was responsible for light in the darkness and for food during times of famine. As a part of the Aztec religion, special sacrifices were held for Huehueteotl. The victim was first thrown into a fire, and then pulled back out with hooks before being dying. The living heart was then removed and thrown back to the fire. Aztec human sacrifices and bloodletting were important aspects of the Aztec religion, as they believed it brought balance and peace to the world around them.
The After Life
Warriors were highly regarded in the Aztec culture. They were responsible for going out and finding and capturing the majority of the sacrifices used to appease their gods. As a result, a special god was included in the Aztec religion to honor the warriors. This god, Camaxtli, was the god of war, hunting, fire, and fate. He was thought to have invented fire and to have made the Earth. The Aztecs believed that Camaxtli lead both warriors slain in battle and human sacrifices to the eastern sky. According to the Aztec religion, they then became stars in the sky.