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The Aztecs were an ethnic group of people who supposedly originated from a mythical place called Aztlan. The main source of our knowledge about the history and culture of the Aztecs, is through the written descriptions which date back to the 16th and 17th century, from eyewitness accounts by Spanish conquistadors, archeological discoveries, and paper codices. The Aztecs had elaborate mythical traditions and rituals, and their knowledge about architecture and the arts was astounding. The Aztec mythology and Aztec Gods are vast and fascinating topics and there is a lot of written material on them.

Facts about Aztec Rituals
  • As a ritual, the Aztec priests painted themselves black, to let the other people know that they were, true priests.
  • Another unusual ritual was that, whenever the Aztecs captured a new city, they added all the Gods of the city to their religion. Their religion kept getting new members frequently.
  • The Aztecs followed a strange ritual of burying their dead family members inside their houses!
  • Another strange ritual included specially elected people dressing up as, and impersonating a particular deity, and then being killed as a sacrifice to that god.
  • They believed that the Gods wanted sacrifices in return for favors that would be granted to them. So the scale of the sacrifice often depended on the favor required, and for really important favors they usually cut off their own ears, tongues, and sometimes even their genitals!
  • If a girl was born, she was adorned with a pot, spindle and a washing stone, with the priest chanting, "Your role will be to be the wife and mother of future warriors", to her, and the midwife who helped her to be born would summon the goddess Yoalticitl to bless her.
  • If a boy was born, he was adorned with a bow, arrows and a miniature chest shield, with the priest chanting, "You have come into this world to give the sun, the blood of his enemies to drink, and to feed the soil with their bodies", and then the midwife would raise him to the sun 4 times.
  • The horrifying ritual of sacrificing humans stemmed from the fact that the Aztecs believed that their Gods would abandon them if they didn't get "precious water", i.e. blood, from their people.
  • This further stemmed from the belief that the three main Aztec Gods - Huitzilopochtli, Quetzalcoatl, and Tezcatlipoca- sacrificed themselves and offered their hearts to the sun. So the Aztecs believed that if they didn't continue with the sacrifices, the sun would not come up the next day.
  • Women were allowed to become priests as long as they didn't get married, and they could leave the church whenever they wished.
  • If a poor person dressed like the rich and affluent, he was punished by having his house demolished. If he was found guilty again, he was executed.
Facts about Aztec Sacrifices
  • The Aztecs believed that people who were sacrificed to the Gods, women who died during labor, and the men who were killed in battle/ war, became companions of the sun for 5 long years, after which they were reborn as hummingbirds or butterflies.
  • The priests had to choose suitable people for being sacrificed, after which they would eat the flesh, and also drink some of the blood of the sacrificed humans!
  • The sacrifice took place in the following manner - the victim was chosen, taken to the altar in the temple or pyramid, where the priest would cut his flesh (while he was still alive), and remove his heart and burn it. Then the dead body would be thrown off the pyramid. If the victim was brave, he was shown respect by having his body carried down the stairs, instead of having it thrown.
  • The only exception to the above rule was when the sacrifice was being carried out for Huehueteotl - their god of food, cold, warmth and death - where the victim was first thrown into the fire, and pulled out just before he died, had his heart removed and thrown into the fire.
  • The Aztecs believed that Tlaloc, their God of Rain, loved to have children sacrificed to him in spring, and that he used the tears shed by their family and friends, to give them rain for harvesting.
  • In a unique ceremony, virgins were sacrificed to the goddess Xochipilli, where their legs were crossed before cutting their hearts out.
  • In another bizarre ritual, a woman representing Xochiquetzal was killed, after which a priest wore her skin and sat in the temple, while craftsmen dressed as animals danced around him.
  • Whenever the Aztecs ran out of food, they would eat the meat from the dead bodies of the enemies that they had killed in battle, but never their dead comrades.
  • Another strange ritual took place in the 5th month, where the most handsome man in the land, could have his way with 4 girls for 1 night, and the next morning the girls would dance to the sacrificial stone and they and the man would then be sacrificed to the god Tezcatlipoca.
Quite bizarre, huh? A few of these strange rituals are still prevalent in some parts of Mexico! If you have more to share, then put them in the comments box below. I'll sign off here...