Monday, May 11, 2009

Human sacrifice in Aztec culture

Sacrifices to specific gods

Huitzilopochtli was the tribal deity of the Mexica and, as such, he represented the character of the Mexica people and was often identified with the sun at the zenith, and with warfare.
When the Aztecs sacrificed people to Huitzilopochtli ( the god with war like aspects ) the victim would be placed on a sacrificial stone.[18] Then the priest would cut through the abdomen with an obsidian or flint blade.[19] The heart would be torn out still beating and held towards the sky in honor to the Sun-God; the body would be carried away and either cremated or given to the warrior responsible for the capture of the victim. He would either cut the body in pieces and send them to important people as an offering, or use the pieces for ritual cannibalism. The warrior would thus ascend one step in the hierarchy of the Aztec social classes, a system that rewarded successful warriors .[20]
Tezcatlipoca was generally considered the most powerful god, the god of night, sorcery and destiny (the name tezcatlipoca means "smoking mirror", or "obsidian"). The Aztecs believed that Tezcatlipoca created war to provide food and drink to the gods. Tezcatlipoca was known by several epithets including "the Enemy" and "the Enemy of Both Sides", which stress his affinity for discord. Tezcatlipoca had the power to forgive sins and to relieve disease, or to release a man from the fate assigned to him by his date of birth; however, nothing in Tezcatlipoca's nature compelled him to do so. He was capricious and often brought about reversals of fortune. To the Aztecs, he was an all-knowing, all-seeing nearly all-powerful god. One of his names can be translated as "We Who Are His Slaves".
Some captives were sacrificed to Tezcatlipoca in ritual gladiatorial combat. The victim was tethered in place and given a mock weapon. He died fighting against up to four fully armed jaguar knights and eagle warriors.
During the 20-day month of Toxcatl, a young impersonator of Tezcatlipoca would be sacrificed. Throughout a year, this youth would be dressed as Tezcatlipoca and treated as a living incarnation of the God. The youth would represent Tezcatlipoca on earth; he would get four beautiful women as his companions until he met his destiny, in the meantime he walked through the streets of Tenochtitlan playing a flute. On the day of the sacrifice a feast would be held in Tezcatlipoca's honor. The young man would climb the pyramid, break his flute and surrender his body to the priests. Sahagún compared it to the Christian Easter.[21]

To appease Huehueteotl, the fire god and a senior deity, the Aztecs had a ceremony where they prepared a large feast at the end of which they would burn captives and before they died they would be taken from the fire and their hearts would be cut out. Motolinía and Sahagún reported that the Aztecs believed that if they did not placate Huehueteotl a plague of fire would strike their city. The sacrifice was considered an offering to the deity.[22]
Main article: Child sacrifice in pre-Columbian cultures
Tláloc was the god of rain. The Aztecs believed that if sacrifices weren't supplied for Tláloc, rain wouldn't come and their crops wouldn't flourish. Leprosy and rheumatism, diseases caused by Tláloc, would infest the village. Tláloc required the tears of the young as part of the sacrifice. The priests made the children cry during their way to immolation: a good omen that Tláloc would wet the earth in the raining season. In the Florentine Codex, also known as General History of the Things of New Spain, Sahagún wrote:

They offered them as sacrifices to [Tlaloc and Chalchiuhtlicue] so that they would give them water.[23]

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