Blood And Human Sacrifice For Mesoamerican Indians Theology Religion Essay Example
Blood And Human Sacrifice For Mesoamerican Indians Theology Religion Essay Example

Blood And Human Sacrifice For Mesoamerican Indians Theology Religion Essay Example

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  • Pages: 8 (2121 words)
  • Published: October 13, 2017
  • Type: Case Study
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Blood played a significant role in the history of Mesoamerican civilizations, with practically every group engaging in blood or human sacrifice. While beliefs and practices varied, some sacrificing thousands of people while others sacrificing animals or forgoing sacrifice altogether, blood rituals were performed for various purposes such as coming of age ceremonies, coronations, and temple construction. These sacrifices aimed to appease gods and demonstrate devotion and could be conducted by anyone from servants to kings. Despite their differences, the Aztec, Maya, and Kuna civilizations all incorporated blood into their rituals.

The Aztecs, also known as Mexicas, ruled over Central Mexico from Tenochtitlan (now Mexico City) and were a culturally unified group among these civilizations. They had the most frequent blood rituals and human sacrifices. The Aztecs believed that these rituals were essential for appeasing gods and


bringing prosperity to their land. Interestingly enough, scholars have discovered that human sacrifices occurred more frequently than once a month in the Aztec empire. Additionally, many of their myths revolve around human sacrifices.The text discusses the legend "Legend of the Five Suns" which explains the origins of gods and the need for human sacrifices. It describes how four divine beings representing cardinal directions create other Aztec deities and a flawed Sun God, leading to chaos and loss of life. Quetzalcoatl enters the underworld to revive humans by retrieving their bones while creating a new Sun God named Huitzilopochtli. In Tenochtitlan: Capital of the Aztec Empire (pg.16), it is emphasized that Coyolxauhqui, goddess of Moon and stars, battles Huitzilopochtli during darkness. The Aztecs believed human sacrifices empowered Huitzilopochtli to rise each morning as explained in The Aztecs: New Perspectives (pg.188). Thes

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sacrifices were essential in sustaining life on Earth and preserving the universe according to Mesoamerican beliefs.There is a myth regarding the initiation of Tenochtitlan that involves sacrificing a princess. The legend goes that when the Mexica (Aztecs) arrived in Central Mexico, they settled in Chapultepec, an area with limited resources and poor living conditions. They were under the rule of Culhuacan, a city believed to be descended from the Toltecs.

As a gesture of gratitude for their help in defeating an enemy, the King of Culhuacan arranged for his daughter to marry a Mexica leader. However, during the wedding ceremony in Chapultepec, something shocking happened. The main character discovered that a Mexica priest was wearing his daughter's skin as part of a sacrifice demanded by their God, Huitzilopochtli.

Enraged by this act, the King expelled all Mexica from the land. After wandering for weeks, Huitzilopochtli appeared and instructed them to settle down when they witnessed an eagle perched on a cactus killing a serpent. This event took place in the middle of a swamp where they would establish their future capital: Tenochtitlan.

Many Aztec myths emphasize human sacrifice as an essential aspect of their culture. Typically carried out by priests who would make an incision in the victim's abdomen and remove their still-beating heart while pushing the body down temple steps as an offering to the Gods. Observers were expected to participate in their own bloodletting ritual.The Aztecs had various sacrificial rituals for each God, but the most common form of human sacrifice involved extracting the heart, beheading, dismembering, drowning, or piercing with sharp objects. Instruments such as sacrificial rocks (techcatl), containers to hold hearts (cuaubxicalli), and granite

knives (teepatl) were used for these rituals. Through these elaborate methods of killing, the Aztecs demonstrated their devotion and respect towards the Gods.

Among neighboring civilizations, the Aztecs had the highest number of human sacrifices. This has led researchers to speculate about the reasons behind these mass sacrifices: religious, political, and ecological factors seem to be significant. The Aztecs believed that offering humans to specific Gods would grant them various desires like favorable weather, impressive temples, or victories over enemies. If things didn't go according to plan, it was often thought that the particular God was displeased with the sacrifice and more sacrifices would have to be made.

For instance, during the construction of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan [HTML Tag], over eighty thousand captives were sacrificed by the Aztecs [HTML Tag]. This amounted to about ten per minute throughout [HTML Tag]the four-day building process.[HTML Tag]According to Dirk R. Van Turenhout in "The Aztecs: New Perspectives," modern scholars believe that the frequent sacrifices conducted by the Aztecs also served as propaganda (pg.190). It is believed that the Kings aimed to showcase their strength and influence by offering a large number of people as sacrifices, ensuring obedience from all subjects. This was particularly necessary because the Aztecs controlled a significant amount of land inhabited by non-Aztec descendants, and they needed to keep these populations in line. The thousands of human sacrifices potentially served as an annual tribute that these villages had to pay for protection under the Aztec empire. Consequently, this not only greatly impacted those living within the civilization but also created an intimidating atmosphere for neighboring civilizations.

In his book "City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and

the Role of Violence in Civilization," David Carrasco discusses how these sacrifices instilled fear in surrounding populations through ritual extravaganzas involving theater, fear, and panic (pg.75). The purpose was to astound and intimidate important visitors who would then return to their own lands terrified and convinced that cooperating rather than rebelling was the best approach towards dealing with Aztec imperialism. Some speculate that reports on the number of sacrifices performed by the Aztecs may have been exaggerated specifically to intimidate enemies.Contrasting with the Mayans, who were an advanced civilization in Mesoamerica during the pre-classic period (250-900 AD) and had blood rituals, they did not engage in human sacrifices. The Mayans developed a written language, mathematical systems, and astrological systems. They celebrated religious festivals throughout the year and performed various rituals that included animal sacrifices and bloodletting ceremonies. Bloodletting was carried out by different individuals, including immature male children and servant males, but for larger gatherings, it was typically done by the male monarch or priests. In Lynn Vasco Foster's book "Handbook To Life In The Ancient Maya World," bloodletting is explained as having significant importance in Maya civilization. Despite its painful nature, bloodletting rituals were conducted by the Maya elite for purposes such as establishing cosmic boundaries and connecting with deities and ancestors (pg 191). During these rituals, blood would be collected on parchment using a barbed rod inserted through the tongue, ear or foreskin; this blood-soaked parchment would then be burned as an offering to the Gods. The foreskin or vagina were commonly used extraction points due to their significance within Mayan culture.The Mayans believed that blood possessed fertile qualities and used it in

ceremonies related to plant life and crop growth. One of the main reasons for performing bloodletting and other blood rituals was to connect with the Vision Serpent, a significant symbol in Mayan society and spirituality. These ceremonies were often conducted to communicate with deceased relatives or deities. A successful bloodletting ritual involved witnessing the emergence of the Vision Serpent from its mouth, presenting the head of the specific God or ancestor being communicated with. The Vision Serpent served as a direct link between the physical and religious realms for the Maya people.

In his book "Ancient Maya: The Rise and Fall of a Rainforest Civilization," Arthur Andrew Demarest highlights that archaeological evidence, art depictions, and written texts confirm the importance of bloodletting (pg 188). One famous portrayal of Mayan bloodletting can be seen on Lintel 24, a limestone piece discovered by British archaeologist Alfred Maudslay in Yaxchilan in 1882. This carving shows King Shield Jaguar holding a torch while Lady Xoc pulls shards through her tongue using a rope to summon the vision snake. The hieroglyphs on this carving indicate that it dates back to October 28th, 709, and identify both individuals depicted. Such depictions were commonly found adorning tombs in Maya civilizations, emphasizing the significance of these rituals.According to recorded accounts, human sacrifices during calendar festivals were not common among the Mayans. However, recent excavations have revealed organic remains in various pyramids and significant sites that tell a different story. The Mayans were known for their aggression and frequent engagement in warfare, even within their own people. In these conflicts, captured individuals would often be sacrificed in elaborate ceremonies. Sylvanus Griswold Morley's book The Ancient

Maya explains that these sacrifices were crucial for important rites such as the enthronement of a new ruler or the dedication of a new building (pg.543). These rituals served to empower a new king or demonstrate the power and success of an existing ruler. When a king died, his son would often have to present captives from an enemy tribe and sacrifice them before being allowed to ascend to the throne. If he died in this endeavor, it was considered his destiny and the next heir would have to fulfill what he failed to achieve. While both Aztecs and Mayans practiced intricate blood rituals, there were notable differences between them. The Mayans primarily used human sacrifice as evidence of a king's suitability for ruling but generally avoided it otherwise.The Aztecs and the Mayan people had different approaches to sacrifice: the Aztecs sacrificed thousands of people for their grand pyramid, while the Mayans preferred offering animals. Among civilizations of similar size, the Mayans had relatively mild blood rituals. However, the Kuna people continue to practice blood rites that resemble their pre-Spanish invasion traditions. Currently residing in small towns in modern-day Panama and on the San Blas Islands, the Kuna people highly value women within their society. With a matriarchal structure, women are revered as ultimate symbols and have significant roles in tribal decisions and gatherings typically dominated by men in other cultures. Numerous ceremonies also revolve around women and hold significance regarding blood.One notable ceremony is called inna tunsikkalet, which is the second largest event focused on Kuna women. This two-day puberty ritual is part of a series of coming-of-age customs and resembles the inna suid

rite (also known as hair-cutting ritual) that signifies readiness for marriage among girls.Unlike other Kuna rites, the inna tunsikkalet is considered a "household and family event" (280, The Art of Being Kuna). During this ceremony, young girls are kept separate from the community and are not allowed to touch the ground with their feet; they must be carried if they need to leave their room.The Kuna believe that this blood ritual helps cleanse negativity from girls' bodies and expel evil spirits.After a few months, the girls undergo their first menstruation and their families arrange a "corporate drinking turn" where they isolate them once again. This time, they are confined in a wooden enclosure called a surba and adorned with black dye made from genipa fruit. According to Alexander Moore, this ritual transforms pubescent girls into the ultimate symbol of community life. In contrast to the Maya and Aztecs who practiced animal sacrifices and believed in human offerings to appease gods, the Kuna people merely symbolize blood in their ceremonies without forcibly extracting it from anyone's body. The Kuna people of Mesoamerica distinguish themselves by not experiencing pain or exhibiting remorse during their blood rituals, making them an advanced and civilized group for their era. These distinctions can be attributed to their small non-warring communities that have never encountered violent conflicts or bloodshed, establishing them primarily as a peaceful society (Source: 276-280 The Art of Being Kuna). Thus, while the blood ceremonies and rituals of civilizations like the Aztecs and Mayans may not reach such extreme levels, blood remains an essential part of their lives, especially in puberty rites. Throughout history and across various cultures, blood

has consistently held significant importance in rituals.Throughout history, blood has held significant meaning in various cultures and religions. For instance, the gladiatorial fights in the Roman Empire's Coliseum and the consumption of Christ's blood in Christian divinity are notable examples. Although human sacrifices are no longer practiced, certain religions like Santeria still involve animal sacrifices for healing purposes. The enduring significance of blood can be attributed to its universality. Regardless of one's social status or position, their blood flows in the same way. This accessibility of blood rites allowed individuals to demonstrate devotion to their Gods, whether through public ceremonies or not. As it courses through the veins of every individual who has ever lived on Earth, blood is universally present and holds a sense of mystery around it since it determines life or death and can even be worshipped. Therefore, the importance of blood in our lives cannot be underestimated - it is as essential as air, water, and food for survival, serving religious, cultural, and medical purposes alike.

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