This is part three and the final part in the series of Aztec Blood rituals with blood sacrifice using examples of information sourced from various Mexican Codices and other documents and will include some Aztec creation myths and religious doctrine to hypothesise the true meaning and belief behind the Aztec people’s constant need for ritualistic blood sacrifices.
The Flowery Wars were ritual battles that were usually held monthly by the warriors of the Aztec triple alliance (Acolnahuacatzin 1 September 2006: online; McIntosh & Twist 2003: 221; Waters 1975: 71) for the purpose of gaining military skills and to get as many victims to sacrifice as possible. The sacrificial victim was often dressed as the god for the purpose of symbolically embodying and, therefore becoming the god (Scarre & Fagan 2003: 463) Two of the states in the triple alliance would go to war for the purpose of attaining prisoners to sacrifice to the war god Huitzilopochtli, and ultimately for testing their manhood (Scarre & Fagan 2003: 463). This was in contrast to the usual purpose of Aztec warfare, which was to gain new land and more power through conquest and acquisition (Waters 1975: 71; Acolnahuatzin 1 September 2006: online). Aztec warriors and in fact, most of the previous Mesoamerican cultures, played a sacred ball game in which the losers head was cut off and sacrificed to the gods (Burland 1975: 12-13). Aztec warriors were not alone in their sacrifices to Huitzilopochtli because at the ritual song festival, merchants who had attained higher status were expected to buy at least four slaves and have their hearts ripped out at the top of the Great Temple of Tenochtitlan (Coe & Koontz 2005: 197).
Apparently there is possibly five ways which a warrior could be sacrificed after they had been ritually bathed. The most common technique was to stretch the prone body over a sacrificial stone [the flowery stone] and cut out the victims heart using flint or obsidian knives, which was then placed in a eagle vase carved from stone and offered to the gods; the second was decapitation which was usually conducted only for females impersonating goddess’s (Burland 1975: 66-67); the third, gladiatorial warriors were tied to a round stone and forced to protect themselves from seasoned warriors with a sword-club. However, the attacker used a sword-club encrusted with sharp obsidian blades leaving the captive warrior with no chance of survival. The fourth was that warriors were tied to scaffolds and repeatedly shot with darts, and the fifth form of sacrifice, according to Coe and Koontz (2005: 205), was after the victim had been thrown repeatedly into a fire their heart was ripped out of their chest with a sharp obsidian or flint knife.
Cannibalism was practiced by the Aztecs, however most historians and archaeologists argue about the exact number of victims that were eaten, what members of the Aztec populace actually participated in cannibalism and for what purpose it was practiced (Ortiz De Montellano June 1983: 403-406). However, according to Townsend (2003: 204), the Codex Mendoza depicts warriors feasting on flesh taken from the arms and thighs of their prisoners during special ritual occasions. Some scholars, for example Harner and Harris (cited from Ortiz De Montellano 1983: 403-406), argue that cannibalism was practiced by Aztec nobles to gain protein supplements that were otherwise missing in their diets, though it is probably untrue. One can assume, however, that ritual cannibalism was a symbolic act of becoming one with deity.
In summary this paper has argued the purpose and importance of Aztec blood rituals was to appease the gods in order to ensure the continuation of the Aztec world, the growth of plentiful crops and to ensure the health and happiness of the Aztec people. I have also implied throughout this essay that fear of the gods and fatalistic attitudes towards life were a very strong contributing force behind the ritual importance of blood sacrifice; fear of the fate of the destruction of the world and fear of the repercussions from vengeful destructive gods. Lastly, this paper has argued that blood sacrifice was part of a reciprocal relationship between humankind and deity.
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rish, Donald P, Lundquist, Kathleen F and Jenkins Nelson, Vivian. [Ed]. (1993) Ethnic Variations in Dying, death and Grief: Diversity in Universality. Taylor & Francis. Philadelphia.
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