Atlantis Online
September 20, 2019, 09:41:48 pm
Welcome, Guest. Please login or register.

Login with username, password and session length
News: Ruins of 7,000-year-old city found in Egypt oasis
http://news.yahoo.com/s/afp/20080129/wl_mideast_afp/egyptarchaeology
 
  Home Help Arcade Gallery Links Staff List Calendar Login Register  

The purpose of Aztec blood rituals

Pages: [1] 2   Go Down
  Print  
Author Topic: The purpose of Aztec blood rituals  (Read 2380 times)
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« on: November 20, 2010, 01:11:40 am »

The purpose of Aztec blood rituals part 1
By Jasmyne Pendragon 16/11/2010 10:31:00
Font size: Decrease font Enlarge font




Figure 1 Courtesy of BBC Learning; online Figure 1 Courtesy of BBC Learning; online

This essay will provide evidence for the ritual purpose of 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 Aztec's reigned during 1376 to 1521 CE from their capital at Tenochtitlan  which was situated in the heart of Lake Texcoco in the Basin of Mexico (Renfrew & Bahn 2004: 76; Scarre 2005: 634-635)).  Constructed on an island in Lake Texcoco, Tenochtitlan had three causeways that connected the capital to the mainland (McIntosh & Twist 2003: 222; Renfrew & Bahn 2004: 76) that were easily defendable from enemy attack until the Spaniards arrived.

 A walled in ceremonial centre was positioned in the heart of Tenochtitlan that housed the Great Temple that was jointly dedicated to the sun and the rain gods (McIntosh & Twist 203: 222).  The ceremonial centre also housed a great ball court where a fatalistic game was played using a rubber ball (McIntosh & Twist 2003: 222);  the loser having his head chopped off supports the notion of the Aztecs showing fatalistic behaviour, however the ball game has had a long history in many Mesoamerican societies.

 Inside the ceremonial centre there were priestly residences, other temples and a huge skull rack that housed the heads of sacrificial victims in varying stages of decomposition (Coe & Koontz 2005: 194; Burland 1975: 70-71; Townsend 2003: 107; McIntosh & Twist 2003: 222).  Just outside of the walls of the ceremonial centre were several royal palaces that housed the Aztec rulers and their subordinates (McIntosh & Twist 2008: 222).  Adjacent to the royal palaces was the Great Plaza that held markets that supplied the needs of the Aztec people from nobility to peasant classes (McIntosh & Twist 2003: 223).

The city surrounding the ceremonial centre was situated on a patchwork of small islands that provided the rest of the Tenochtitlan populace with houses made of wood and stone (McIntosh & Twist 2003: 223; Scarre 2005: 635), the rooves of the houses were generally thatched and flat in form.  According to McIntosh and Twist (2003: 223; Scarre 2005: 635), Tenochtitlan's population was estimated to have been at least 200,000 people which provides the evidence for Tenochtitlan being larger than any other contemporary European city of the time.
Report Spam   Logged

Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #1 on: November 20, 2010, 01:15:51 am »



The Aztecs built their empire from tribute, conquest, acquisition, warfare and blood sacrifices (**** 1996: online), although they did create three worthy allies and form a triple alliance with their neighbouring cities Texcoco and Tlacopan (McIntosh & Twist 2003: 221; Tompkins 1990: 106).  However, not all of their conquered neighbours or landholders were happy with the Aztec's thirst for blood sacrifice or the constant requests for tribute that the Aztecs demanded of them (McIntosh & Twist 2003: 221).   

 The Aztec's were a violent people whom practised human sacrifice and cannibalism (Tompkins 1990: 190).  They were also highly ritualistic people who appeared to have had a fatalistic behaviour or view towards life (Tompkins 1990: 130).  The Aztecs lifestyles were governed by a need to supply fresh-blooded sacrificial victims to the sun god who required the sacrificial hearts of men to give life to the world and assist the souls of dead warriors to the Aztecs version of heaven (Tompkins 1990: 130; Townsend 2003: 117- 129; McIntosh & Twist 2003: 222).
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #2 on: November 20, 2010, 01:16:20 am »



Residing in a large city it is very hard to imagine death or dying and the decomposition of flesh while nature takes its course, furthermore, it sounds vile and sickening to the ears because modern city dwellers generally have their deceased taken straight to the mortuary where they are beautified for an open casket or prepared for cremation or burial.  Modern city dwellers do not, generally speaking, bare witness to sacrificed people or see dogs or monkeys lying dead in the street whilst in a state of decay.  Therefore, due to the later, the concept of Aztec behavioural practices of death, dying and blood sacrifice seem repugnant and cruel to modern people. however, for the Aztec's the concept of dualism was obvious and beautiful because from the moment of conception, death was a dual counterpart of their life (Kastenbaum no date: online).

In the Aztecs society, death was visual and commonly displayed for the public to see; therefore, it is likely that behaving in a cruel barbaric or atrocious manner was probably not what the Aztecs were thinking (Kastenbaum no date: online).  However, blood rituals were considered part of a reciprocal relationship between humankind and god; the ultimate gift is blood sacrifice and is amongst the highest honour one can pay to the gods.  Aztec blood rituals were an act of reciprocity for the blood the gods sacrificed of themselves in order to create the sun and the cosmos (Kastenbaum no date: online).   

Blood sacrifices ensured the gods would remain helpful and they ensured the sun would continue to shine, the fields would grow abundant crops and the wheels of life would continue to turn.  According to Kastenbaum (no date: online) sacrifice is a form of communication with deity or God (Hultkrantz 1981: 51-54) that allows one to gain forgiveness, blessings, fertility, victories and protection from prevailing negative or dark forces (Hultkrantz 1981: 51-54).  Sacrifice can also facilitate offerings of praise to the gods, however, it is blood sacrifices that are the ultimate gift which historians accord the most powerful measure in regard to appeasing the gods (Kastenbaum no date: online).

According to Irish et al (1993: 72), the Aztecs were very familiar with the concept of death, and they greeted it with dramatics and visual violence.  For example, most people in modern cultures would pale at the site of a living mans heart being ripped out whilst it is still beating.  In contrast, the Aztecs faced sacrifice with qualities of extreme tolerance to pain and violence, and with an acceptance that if they did not perform the ritual blood sacrifice the gods would reap vengeance more destructive and more violent than any man could ever do (Brinton 1976: 310-311).  The latter is also an indication of the Aztecs fatalistic world view. 
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #3 on: November 20, 2010, 01:17:01 am »




The true history regarding where the Aztec's originated from has long been debated, however, the Aztec's made strong claims that they were the descendents of the Toltec's whom they believed reigned from Teotihuacan around 700 CE (Renfrew & Bahn 2006: 22; Tompkins 1990: 66-67).  The claim to come from royal descent would have furthered the power and influence of the Aztec emperors, just as so many other Mesoamerican leaders had done before them (Tompkins 1990: 66-67).  However, it is more likely that the Aztec's wondered through the ruins of Teotihuacan around the year 1100 CE in response to the decimation of the Toltec empire at Tula.  The later was possible because new lands had opened up allowing the nomadic Aztecs to hire themselves out as mercenaries and eventually overthrow their overlords (Tompkins 1990: 66).

 The Aztec's believed the Toltec's were great warrior heroes who were brilliant conquerors, righteous, wise and expert astronomers and artist, and the Toltec's were the inventors of all things that were wondrous, marvellous and magnificent (Scarre & Fagan 2003: 456-458; Coe & Koontz 2005: 190).   

 ritualBecause the Aztecs were fascinated and held accolades for all things Toltec, they incorporated everything that was believed to be of Toltec origin into their own creation myths, artistic practices, warfare, religion and human sacrifice.  However, archaeological (Scarre & Fagan 2003: 456-458) and historical evidence provides evidence for a more aggressive and a higher demand for sacrificial victims, for example the human skull rack discovered at Tenochtitlan (Diaz & Rogers 1993: 68-77).

 Virtually all-Aztec artefacts bare witness to the Aztec's constant desire and purpose of human sacrificial victims (Sahagun no date: online; Del Campo no date: online).  The many Mexican codices, for example the Codex Borgia (Diaz & Rodgers 1993: 68-77) displayed  on page one of the tonalpohualli, [otherwise known as the 260-day ritual calendar] the need for sacrifice and blood in varying forms is evident and in graphic detail. 
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #4 on: November 20, 2010, 01:18:30 am »




According to Burland (1975: 23), the main purpose of Aztec religion and blood sacrifice was to keep Aztec people in good health, secure plentiful crops and other foods, and to have total pleasure that were gained through the benefits in life.  The latter were given if there was a constant supply of sacrificial victims to keep the hierarchy of Aztec gods placated.

Three of the chief Aztec gods were; Huitzilopochtli [the hummingbird wizard] was native to Tenochtitlan and was the god of the sun and war; Tezcatlipoca [smoking mirror] was the chief god to the general public of the Aztecs and; Quetzalcoatl [sovereign plumed serpent]  was the god of civilization, the priesthood, education and was worshipped all over Mesoamerica (**** 1996: online).  Although there were copious amounts of lesser Aztec gods a few of them were most important to the Aztecs; Tlaloc the rain god; Coatlicue the earth mother goddess; and Xipe [the flayed one] the god of spring (Forman 1980: 39-58; **** 1996: online).  Duality was common in Aztec religions.

 

Their gods generally catered to dual purposes.  For example, they could be both male and female and although the Aztecs believed their gods to be good and kind they also saw a dual aspect in their gods because they saw them as harsh, cruel, vengeful and completely destructive (Berdan 1982: 111-118; **** 1996: online).  The latter was probably due to the constant need and purpose of sacrifice that is implied from the belief that if they did not sacrifice themselves and their blood, the sun would cease to shine and the fifth world (Berdan 1982: 111) would come to an end,therefore destroying all life as the Aztecs knew it.

 
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #5 on: November 20, 2010, 01:19:01 am »

The author Jasmyne Pendragon has bachelor of archaeology (ABATR) and is working on her Archaeology Honours (AHAR) in the Latrobe University in Australia. She has participated in the Bamburgh Castle Research Project in 2009 and the Bellarine Bayside Archaeological Program in 2010 as well as participated in the Glenrowan Siege Project and the Willoughby Bean Project.   Research interests are rituals and death in human history.

 

You can contact her at:

 E-mail: jlpendragon@students.latrobe.edu.au
elvinblood1@hotmail.com

 
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #6 on: November 20, 2010, 01:19:26 am »

References

Berdan, Frances F. (1982) Human Sacrifice. in 'The Aztecs of Central Mexico: an imperial society.'  Holt, Rinehart & Winston. New York.     

Brinton, Daniel G, M.D. (1976) Myths of the New World: The Symbolism and Mythology of the Indians of the Americas. Multimedia Publishing Corp.  New York. 

Burland, C.A and Forman, Werner. (1975) Feathered Serpent and Smoking Mirror. G.P. Putnam's & Sons.  New York.   

Coe, Michael D and Koontz, Rex.  (2005) Mexico from the Olmecs to the Aztecs. Thames & Hudson. London. 

Diaz, Gisele and Rodgers, Alan. (1993) the Codex Borgia: A Full-Color Restoration of the Ancient Manuscript. Dover Publications. New York.   

Forman, Werner. [Ed]. (1998) The Aztecs: Gods and fate in Ancient Mexico.  Orbis Publishing. London.

 Hultkrantz, Ake. (1981) Belief and Worship in Native North America. Syracuse University Press. New York. 

Irish, Donald P, Lundquist, Kathleen F and Jenkins Nelson, Vivian. [Ed].  (1993) Ethnic Variations in Dying, death and Grief: Diversity in Universality. Taylor & Francis. Philadelphia. 

McIntosh, Jane and Twist, Clint. (2003) Civilizations: Ten Thousand Years of Ancient History. BBC Worldwide Limited. London.

Ortiz De Montellano, Bernard R. (June 1983) Counting Skulls: Comment on the Aztec Cannibalism theory of Harner-Harris.  in 'American Anthropologist.'  Vol. 85. No.  2. 

Portillo, José López. (1977) Quetzalcoatl: A Myth. James Clark & Co Ltd. Cambridge.   

Renfrew, Colin and Bahn, Paul. (2006)Archaeology: Theories, Methods and Practice. Thames & Hudson. London.   

Scarre, Chris. (2005) The Human Past: World Prehistory & the Development of Human Societies. Thames & Hudson. London.   

Scarre, Christopher and Fagan, Brain M. (2003) Ancient Civilizations. Second [ed]. Prentice Hall. New Jersey. 

Séjourné, Laurette.  (1976) Burning Water Thought and Religion in Ancient Mexico.  Shambhala Publications.  Berkeley.

Tompkins, Ptolemy. (1990) This Tree Grows Out of Hell: Mesoamerica and the search for the Magical Body. Harper & Collins.  New York.

Townsend, Richard F. (2003) The Aztecs. Thames & Hudson. London.

Waters, Frank. (1975) Mexico Mystique: The Coming Sixth World of Consciousness. Swallow Press Incorporated. Chicago.

Nuttall, Zelia.  (December 1904) A Penitential Rite of the ancient Mexicans.  Museum Cambridge. Mass.   

 

                                                                 Web Sources

Acolnahuacatzin, Shield Jaguar. (1 September 2006) The Aztec War of the Flowers: the role of ritualized warfare in Aztec society. [Online] http://www.ancientworlds.net/aw/Artical/733369 [accessed] 28 May 2008.

Del Campo, Edgar Martin, Ph.D (no date) Edgar's Mesoamerican Art Page: Back from Mexico with major news. [Online] http://members.aol.com/emdelcamp/edgar2.htm [accessed] 28 May 2008.

Harris, Marvin. (1978) Cannibals and Kings: The Origins of Cultures. In 'Here Be Cannibals: Cannibalism in Middle America.' The Heretical Press [online] http://www.heretical.com/cannibal/mamerica.html [accessed] 28 May 2008.

****, Richard. (1996) Civilizations in America: The Mexica / Aztecs. [Online] http://www.wsu.edu/~dee/CIVAMRCA/AZTECS.HTM [accessed] 28 May 2008. 

Kastenbaum, Robert. (No date) Sacrifice. in 'Encyclopedia of Death and Dying∷ Py=Se.' [Online] http://www.deathreference.com/Py-Se/Sacrifice.html    [accessed] 28 May 2008.

Raggio, Nora. (Spring 2000) Pre-Columbian Sacrifice. [Online] http://gallery.sjsu.edu/sacrifice/precolumbian.html [accessed] 28 May 2008. 

Sahagun, Bernardino. (No date) Florentine Codex. [Online] http://www.finns-books.com/florpic1.htm [accessed] 28 May 2008.

 

Images courtesy of BBC Learning, Raggio, McIntohs & Twist, Del Campo

 http://www.archnews.co.uk/featured/3722-the-purpose-of-aztec-blood-rituals.html
Report Spam   Logged
Boreas
Hero Member
*****
Posts: 441



WWW
« Reply #7 on: November 20, 2010, 06:46:27 pm »

So, - what do the Aztec themselves (elders?) say about all this...?!
Report Spam   Logged

Gens Una Sumus
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #8 on: December 14, 2010, 07:12:08 pm »

They say that there is a purpose for the blood rituals that others do not understand.
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #9 on: December 14, 2010, 07:14:11 pm »

The purpose of Aztec blood rituals part 2
By Jasmyne Pendragon 13/12/2010 14:15:00


This is part two of three articles which provides evidence for the ritual purpose of blood sacrifice using examples of information sourced from various Mexican Codices and other documents. It includes 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.

According to Bernardino de Sahagún (cited from Townsend 2003: 128); the Aztecs believed there were many suns that had existed before the present sun which was the fifth one (Tompkins 1990: 130). Each of the previous suns had died, thus destroyed and ended the world.  The creation of the fifth sun is described in the world myth. When the end of the fourth world had passed, all that existed was in darkness.

There was no sun or dawn, therefore the gods gathered together at Teotihuacan and decided who would sacrifice themself to the fire and through this ritual become the fifth sun and bring down the light of dawn (Townsend 2003: 128; Tompkins 1990: 130).  Two of the Aztec gods came forward to sacrifice themselves into the fire and ensure the creation and birth of the fifth sun (Waters 1975: 98-271; Townsend 2003: 128).

The first was Tecuciztecatl  (Townsend 2003: 128) who laid out before him a sacrificial kit containing fir branches made of quetzal feathers, luxury incense, gold grass balls, greenstone maguey spines and bloodied red coral spines in preparation for the ritual sacrifice.  The second god to come fourth to the sacrificial fire was Nanauatzin (Townsend 2003: 128; Berdan 1982: 111).

However, in contrast to Tecuciztecatl, Nanauatzin was impoverished, scabby and diseased; therefore, he could only afford green rushes, actual maguey spines with his own blood, pine needles and the scabs off his sores for his incense (Townsend 2003: 128; Berdan 1982: 111).  After four nights of pennants the two gods cloaked in ceremonial regalia and stood before the fire, though when the time came to make the sacrifice Tecuciztecatl hesitated in fear of the fiery blaze before him. However Nanauatzin did not hesitate and leapt in to the fire with courage (Séjourné 1976: 156-160; Townsend 2003: 129).
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #10 on: December 14, 2010, 07:14:29 pm »



Xipe - the flayed one
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #11 on: December 14, 2010, 07:14:48 pm »

Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #12 on: December 14, 2010, 07:15:15 pm »

The mythic ritual sacrifice enacted by the Aztec gods to create the fifth sun (Séjourné 1976: 156-160) helps one to understand the ritual purpose of blood. The myths gives details of ritualistic behaviour and the courage needed. The ultimate sacrifice whilst in the face of extreme pain and fear implies that in the end the myths were guidelines of how to behave and live in Aztec society.

The myth helps to describe the foundations and purpose of all sacrifices made to the Aztec gods (Townsend 2003: 124); therefore, the creation myth of the fifth sun is a dialogue of the belief structure of how the Aztecs should live their lives (Tompkins 1990: 130-131; Townsend 2003: 124; Scarre & Fagan 2003: 463).   

Due to the nature and abundance of dialogue and pictorials regarding Aztec blood sacrifices, one may assume the importance for the Aztecs to provide the gods with enough sacrificial blood and hearts must have been tremendous and terrifying to the Aztec people.  Fear of pain and suffering inflicted by the gods in retribution for any lack of blood sacrifice would have been an overwhelming incentive to constantly sacrifice and appease the vengeful gods.

 Another creation myth depicts Quetzalcoatl descending in to the underworld (Waters 1975: 218-275; Townsend 2003: 129).  Once in the region of the dead, Quetzalcoatl (Portillo 1977: 137-157) gathered a pile of bones from past generations of ancestors and sprinkled them with his own blood, earth and mashed them together, and from the concoction, he created humanity (Townsend 2003: 129; Séjourné 1976: 53-79).

The latter myth depicts Quetzalcoatl sacrificing his own blood to create humanity (Waters 1975: 218-225; Séjourné 1976: 136) and in the same ideology the gods of the fifth sun creation myth sacrificed themselves to create the sun and the moon.  Both provide evidence for where the Aztec belief and purpose of sacrifice were created as well as evidence for how blood sacrifices were actually practiced. Furthermore, the later myths provide evidence of the reciprocal relationship between the Aztecs and their gods.     
 
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #13 on: December 14, 2010, 07:15:30 pm »

All Aztec people were expected to participate in performing ritual blood sacrifices (Nuttall 1904: 25-26), from the young to the old and from the rich to the poor.  At certain Aztec festivals, for example at the Nenacaztequiztli [ear cutting festival], little babies and children had their ears and lips ritually pierced (Nuttall 1904: 11).

During the third movable festival; the joint festival of Chicome Xochitl [Seven Flower], the patron of painters, embroiderers and weavers, and of Xochiquetzal, the inventor of weaving; married couples were expected to provide the principle offering of blood drawn from their fingers or eyes (Nuttall 1904: 12-13).  According to Nuttall (1904: 13), during the sixth movable festival, the patrons of Quetzalcoatl was sent to the temple alters with small saltcellars containing roughly eight to ten drops of their own blood, which were absorbed with strips of paper and burnt with copal gum.

The Aztecs often drew blood from the ears and the tongue using agave leaf points according to Nuttall (1904: 13). The reason was because the creation myth, recorded in chapter vii of the Codex Fuenleal, records the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tlalocantecuhtli fasting and drawing blood from their ears before they created the sun and the moon.  Hence, the Aztecs made it customary to draw blood from the same whenever any petition to the gods was made (Nuttall 1904: 13).

According to McIntosh and Twist (2003: 221), the Aztecs believed that by sacrificing themselves to the gods would ensure the continuation of their world. However, warriors who died in battle and women who died in child birth were assured to go to heaven under the escort of the sun whilst everyone else was unfortunately destined for the underworld.
Report Spam   Logged
Montezuma
Full Member
***
Posts: 33



« Reply #14 on: December 14, 2010, 07:16:10 pm »



The Aztecs took blood from a range of different areas on the body and they used a variety of different sacrificial tools to extract their blood, for example, sharp points made of the agave leaf was used to pierce the outer cartilage of the ear (Nuttall 1904: 6-7). The Aztec eagle warriors, had their own ritual blades that were often carved from precious green obsidian (Del Campo no date: online).

According to Sahagun (cited from Nuttall 1904: 5), Aztec priests blood rituals were offered everyday of the year to the sun during both sunrise and noon.  Another rite, named Tlazcaltiliztle was apparently an act of homage to the sun or the fire elements. It consisted of drawing a drop of blood from the ear using agave leaf points and catching it on the first fingers nail, then hurling it at the sun or into a fire (Nuttall 1904: 7).

According to Friar Duran, cited from (Nuttall 1904: 9), all priests and dignitaries during certain festivals took `small obsidian sacrificial lancets and made incisions in their tongues, ears, breasts, arms and legs.'  According to Duran, cited from (Nuttall 1904: 9), most body parts were ritually offered to the gods, including the heart, though it was the bleeding of the ears that was most common to the majority of Aztec people.

At another ritual, priests stuck twigs and sticks through their calves, ears and lips. Many other people, both male and female, took long pieces of straw that were soaked in blood from being run through their ears, and piled them in front of their idol (Nuttall 1904: 9-14).   The next day the priests of the temple would collect all the straw and ritually burn it (Nuttall 1904: 9-14) which signified sending the sacrificial blood to the elements of fire.

 

This was part two of the article: "The purpose of Aztec Blood Rituals"
Report Spam   Logged
Pages: [1] 2   Go Up
  Print  
 
Jump to:  

Powered by EzPortal
Bookmark this site! | Upgrade This Forum
SMF For Free - Create your own Forum
Powered by SMF | SMF © 2016, Simple Machines
Privacy Policy