Category A #2 – The Aztec people practiced the ritual of sacrifice to their Gods. It was part of their everyday religion, and they firmly believed that it was absolutely necessary. Many different animals were sacrificed along with humans, but the human sacrifice seemed to be the staple of their society. The Aztecs believed, in the ancient times before man, the gods would take turns being the sun for the people, until eventually they realized they had to decide on one true sun god. This god ended up being Nanauatl, who was a humble and weaker god.
Due to his weakness, he wouldn’t move as the sun. It was then that the other gods decided to sacrifice themselves for the humans to live. Due to this action, the Aztecs believed they owed the gods who created them, a blood-debt. The main focus of the sacrifice was to spill blood for the gods. It was their belief that without the gods receiving their pay in blood, disaster would befall them. So it was also a common to hold ritual blood-lettings, where people would cut themselves and offer the blood to the gods, without killing themselves.
They also felt that they needed to repay their thanks to the gods for creating them, and then sacrificing themselves for the humans. It was understood throughout their community as a normal practice, and was openly accepted. The actual sacrifice would take place on the top of a temple or pyramid. The person to be sacrificed would be painted in a ceremonial part of the ritual, and then placed on a stone slab on their back. He would then be stabbed in the chest and cut open in order to find his heart.
The executioner would then pull the heart out of the body and hold it up to the gods, signifying the offering. The body would then be tossed down the stairs of the temple to make way for the next sacrifice. The bodies would be either fed to the animals, or their heads be put on display. Other, not as popular, ways that sacrifices took place were shot with arrows, drowned, burned, and killing in an arena type fight (like the Roman gladiators). The Aztecs would typically sacrifice their own people in these rituals, but their were others besides the Aztecs who also ended up being part of their ritual.
During war times there was a special ritual war called a xochiyaoyotl, or flower war. In these battles the only goal was to capture enemy soldiers in order to “feed” them to the gods. The point was not to gain territory or to kill the enemy, they had to be captured or the battle was pointless. In the end it is debated that approximately 20,000 people were killed in the names of the gods every year. This incredible loss of life most likely was a key reason that the mighty Aztec nation was weakened and eventually collapsed.