It’s Monday and what better way to start the workweek than to remind you how much worse things could be. If you lived in Mexico in the fifteenth century, you had about a 1 in 5 chance of winding up as a human sacrifice. Your horrible job may be killing you, but at least it will do it slowly over twenty or thirty years.
So you’ve got that going for you.
The Aztecs were a fun loving group who enjoyed a good human sacrifice a little more than was strictly polite. In fact, they enjoyed it so much that they had at least 18 such holidays on the calendar. February is child sacrifice month; March is watch-the-priest-dance-wearing-the-skin-of-victim month, April is extract the heart month (one of several); July brings sacrifice by starvation; August is a real crowd pleaser with sacrifice by burning—and on and on.
Itzcoliuhqui and Itzpapalotl—the Aztec god and goddess of sacrifice
Many cultures divide their deities into different aspects. It’s a little like the Holy Trinity with several representations of one God. An explanation that makes sense to me is to think of these aspects like the facets in a cut diamond; each one twinkles with its own light, but they are all part of one stone.
In today’s case, the stone is obsidian.
The Aztecs represented their proclivity for sacrifice with Itzcoliuhqui and Itzpapalotl (among others, but these are the ones whose names begin with I.)
Itzcoliuhqui is called the Twisted Obsidian One or Curved Obsidian Blade—referring to a ritual tool used for sacrifices. He’s the Aztec god of darkness and destruction who strikes blindly. A faceless god with an obsidian blade sticking out of his head, he chooses his victims at random.
Itzpapalotl is the female aspect—She is beautiful and often appears as a jaguar. She is sometimes called the Obsidian Butterfly. A goddess of agriculture, she appears as a vulture in times of famine and death. Since sacrifices were supposed to ensure good crops, she is sort of a horrible reminder of what will happen if you don’t appease her. Her butterfly wings (or bat wings in some depictions) are tipped with obsidian knives and when in jaguar form, her claws are obsidian blades.
Some estimates put the number of sacrifices in Central Mexico in the fifteenth century at over 250,000 per year though others support a more modest 20,000 per year and still others suggest a figure as low as 300 to 600 per year.
No matter the number, the procedure is gruesome to contemplate.
It took two to four priests to hold the victim down on a stone slab at the top of a temple. Another priest sliced the victim’s abdomen and diaphragm open with the obsidian knife, tore out the still-beating heart, and placed the heart in a bowl. The body was tossed down the temple stairs.
If you were a spectator, you definitely would NOT want to be in the first few rows.
If you are enjoying these little glimpses into various cultures or if you have more to say–please Like/Comment.
Thanks for reading.
Tomorrow: The Jersey Devil