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Aztec Sacrifice by the Anonymous Conqueror
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Aztec Sacrifice by the Anonymous Conqueror

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  • 1. NARRATIVE OF SOME THINGS OF NEW SPAIN AND OF THE GREAT CITY OF TEMESTITAN MEXICO WRITTEN BY THE ANONYMOUS CONQUEROR A COMPANION OF HERNÁN CORTES (1519–1521)They take him who has to be sacrificed, and first they carry him through the streets andsquares, very finely adorned, with great festivities and rejoicing. Many a one recounts to himhis needs, saying that since he is going where his God is, he can tell him so that he mayremedy them. Then he gives him refreshments and other things. In this manner he receivesmany gifts, as is the case when someone has killed a wolf, and carries the head through thestreets. And all the gifts go to those who offer the sacrifice.They lead him to the temple, where they dance and carry on joyously, and the man about to besacrificed dances and carries on like the rest. At length the man who offers the sacrifice stripshim naked, and leads him at once to the stairway of the tower where is the stone idol. Herethey stretch him on his back, tying the hands to the sides and fastening the legs. Then allcommence to sing and dance around him, chanting the principal message which he is to bearto the God.Soon comes the sacrificing priest — and this is no small office among them — armed with astone knife, which cuts like steel, and is as big as one of our large knives. He plunges the knifeinto the breast, opens it, and tears out the heart hot and palpitating. And this as quickly asone might cross himself. At this point the chief priest of the temple takes it, and anoints themouth of the principal idol with the blood; then filling his hand with it he flings it towards thesun, or towards some star, if it be night. Then he anoints the mouths of all the other idols ofwood and stone, and sprinkles blood on the cornice of the chapel of the principal idol.Afterwards they burn the heart, preserving the ashes as a great relic, and likewise they burnthe body of the sacrifice, but these ashes are kept apart from those of the heart in a differentvase.At other times they sacrifice human beings according to some slow ritual lasting hours,roasting the heart, and wrapping the bones of the legs or of the arms in many folds of theirpaper, and keeping them as valuable relics. But the inhabitants of each province have theirown method of sacrifice and idolatry according to their particular deities, the Sun, the Moon,the Stars, Serpents, Lions, or other wild animals. They have figures and statues of these inmosques, and in other provinces, particularly that of Panuco, they adore indecent objects intheir mosques, and openly they have them displayed in sculptures in their squares, in reliefs ofthe most filthy character (representing the different methods of embracement of a woman by aman). In this province of Panuco the men are great sodomites, cowards, and drunkards; it isalmost incredible the length to which they carry their passion for intoxicating fluids (when theycan no longer stand and drink, they lie down and have it injected by a squirt into their breech).It is notorious that in the figures of their idols they had in view the devil who enters into thoseidols, and spoke to them, ordering them to sacrifice, and to give human hearts, because theydid not eat other things. From this cause came their earnest desire to sacrifice men to them,and to offer them hearts and blood. And also the demon ordered them to do many other thingswhich they did punctually, in conformity with what he told them. These people of all whom Godhas created are the most devoted to their religion, and observant of it; in so much so that theyoffered themselves as voluntary sacrifices for the salvation of their souls; also drawing bloodfrom their tongues, their ears, their legs, and their arms to offer it in sacrifice to their idols.
  • 2. There are in the environs and along the roads many hermitages, or oratories, where travelersgo to shed their blood and offer it to their idols. Even on the tops of the highest mountainstheir oratories existed and were held in peculiar veneration.--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Codex Magliabechiano (mid-16th century) Florentine Codex (1540-1585)
  • 3. Florentine Codex (1540-1585)Tudela Codex (16th century)
  • 4. Codex Magliabechiano (mid-16th century)Aztec Sacrifice Stone (Anthropological Museum, Mexico)
  • 5. "The Aztec Civilization of Mexico" from The Memoirs of the ConquistadorBernal Diaz de Castillo (1521)“...[re: religion and sacrifices] Our commander here said smilingly, to Motecusuma: I cannotimagine that such a powerful and wise monarch as you are should not have yourself discoveredby this time that these idols are not divinities but evil spirits, called devils. In order that you maybe convinced of this and that your papas may satisfy themselves of this truth, allow me to erect across on the summit of this temple; and, in the chapel where stand your Huitzilopochtili andTetzcatlipuca [gods], give us a small space that I may place there the image of the holy Virgin;then you will see that terror will seize these idols by which you have been so long deluded"Motecusuma knew what the image of the Virgin Mary was, yet he was very much displeasedwith Cortes’ offer, and replied in the presence of two papas, whose anger was not lessconspicuous, "Malinche [Cortes], could I have conjectured that you would have used suchreviling language as you have just done, I would certainly not have shown you my gods. In oureyes these are good divinities: they preserve our lives, give us nourishment, water and goodharvests, healthy and growing weather, and victory whenever we pray to them for it. Thereforewe offer up our prayers to them and make them sacrifices, I earnestly beg of you not to sayanother word to insult the profound veneration in which we hold these gods.”---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------Some years after the Spanish conquest of Mexico, a body of Franciscans confronted theremaining Aztec priesthood and demanded, under threat of death that they desist from theirmurderous practice. The Aztec priests defended themselves as follows: “Life is because of the gods; with their sacrifice they gave us life [...]. They produce our sustenance [...] which nourishes life.”--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- Aztec Sacrificial Knives---------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------