Keeping the Sun Rising and the Rains Pouring: The Endless Varieties and Victims of Aztec Sacrifice
Going from Bizarre to disturbing, you can move from the palace zoo and aquarium across a wide bridge to the central temple complex, marveling at the wide, stout bridge and all the traffic flowing through and under it. Here we would stumble upon some of the many ritual sacrifices the Aztecs performed. To set the scope of Aztec sacrifices, the Spanish Inquisition from the 15
To set the scope of Aztec sacrifices, the Spanish Inquisition from the 15th to the 19th centuries claimed the lives of 5,000 people; in a four-day ceremony of re-consecration for the rebuilt Templo Mayor, the Aztecs sacrificed as many as 40,000 people. an average year would see anything from 50,000 to 200,000 sacrifices, though scholars still argue over the most likely number.
Heading into the temple complex your eyes would be drawn to the steep double staircase on the Grand Templo Mayor. A trail of blood leads to the impressive top of the temple, a flat working area where the captives or the occasional volunteers were brought to be sacrificed where most of the city could see. Most of the temple-top sacrifices involved cutting through the abdomen and diaphragm to rip out a still-beating heart.
As you move closer to the base of the temple you might see several warriors battling a lone combatant. This was a form of sacrifice for Tezcatlipoca, God of night and magic. Tezcatlipoca loved conflict and so his sacrificial victims were given weapons and tied to a post and set to fight four of the elite Aztec Jaguar or Eagle warriors.
You might walk by a small temple with a line of people. you watch as they each slice open their tongue or ear to donate blood. The Aztecs believed that the gods needed to be placated by blood and fire. Sacrificing a whole life aside, blood offerings were quite common as temples would receive offerings of blood-covered thorns. Even Emperors cut their own bodies to give blood donations to the gods.
The thought was that the gods’ vengeance would hit hard if they weren’t satisfied. Anything from plagues or crop failure to the sun not rising could be the result of angry gods. Full sacrifices were the most powerful, but self-cutting was an almost daily occurrence as well.
At the base of the temple, you would see things so cruel and inhuman you might wonder if the Aztecs were even humans at all. Children being led past you have tears streaming down their face as their role is to be sacrificed for Tlaloc, the god of rain; His victims needed to be crying children. For the rains to come, they also needed to be burned alive. These sacrifices were especially important as Tlaloc could bring a plague of leprosy if he wasn’t pleased.
Finally, at the base of the pyramid, you see the aftermath of the dozens of sacrifices already finished today as piles of bodies litter the ground. Many are decapitated and others have been skinned. The skin of a powerful enemy warrior might be worn by the man who captured him for days, and ritual cannibalism was common, unwanted organs might go to the zoo for animal feed.