Aztec Society Belief System

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Throughout the history of mankind civilizations have trusted in the existence of a higher power. Although the existence of a higher power doesn’t bear as large of an impact on societies like the United States today, it was the focal point of life in many civilizations of the past. A great example of a civilization that was extremely reliant on the connection between humans and higher powers was the Aztecs. The Aztecs believed that they were connected to the universe by a sacred energy. They believed this energy was the source of all natural events and if it were unbalanced, they would suffer. In order to maintain the balance, the Aztecs performed ceremonial sacrifices, bloodletting, and other forms of violent cultural behavior.

The connection between the Aztecs and the universe is evident among their myths about how humans were created. One creation myth is the story of the goddess Tlaltecutli. In the story Tlaltecutli was ripped apart by the gods Quetzalcoatl and Tezcatlipoca and her body parts were used to create the earth and the other gods. This event caused Tlaltecutli to desire human hearts and she would not be quiet until they were brought to her. Nor would she bear fruit until she had been drenched in human blood. (AD1, p. 2) Another creation myth, and the most common legend amongst the Aztecs, was that the god Quetzalcoatl descended into the underworld and retrieved the bones and ashes of previous human beings in order to recreate humanity because the universe had been destroyed after the fourth Sun went out. Quetzalcoatl ground the bones into powder and used his blood to fertilize it and create humans. (AD1, p. 4) The Aztecs also had a myth that explained how the Sun and moon were created. According to legend, the gods Nanautzin and Tecuziztecatl sacrificed themselves by jumping into a fire, which turned them into the Sun and moon. The other gods also sacrificed themselves to provide nourishment for the Sun. However the Sun and the Earth still had an insatiable craving for human blood, therefore war was created to satisfy the Sun’s needs. (AD1 p. 5) What’s interesting about these creation myths is that they all included some form of death, sacrifice, or blood shed in order to create something. The creation myths shaped the foundation for why Aztecs placed so much emphasis on violent cultural behavior.

In the Aztec society, human sacrifice was extremely common. This is because sacrifices were the main method of creating cosmic order between humans and the universe. Pubic sacrifices took place at the beginning of each of the 18 twenty-day months. The sacrifices consisted of mostly captured warriors, but in rare cases included children and young women. The purpose of public sacrifice was to acquire the divine forces embedded in the physiology of human beings in order to nourish the Sun, Earth, and rain. (AD1, p. 5) Aztec ceremonies consisted of days of ritual preparation, ceremonial sacrifice, and acts of nourishing the gods and the community. Priests carried out the sacrifices, which included many forms such as decapitation, burning, hurling from great heights, strangulation, and arrow sacrifice. The most common was the removal of the heart. The heart and the head were the two most important body parts to the Aztecs. Tonalli was a type of energy that came from the head and determined the shape of one’s temperament and destiny. Tonalli was first acquired as an embryo in a female uterus. The Sun was the most powerful way to increase tonalli. It was believed that hair prevented tonalli from leaving the body. Therefore hair was a major prize in warfare. When heads were decapitated during ceremonies, the city as a whole gained tonalli. Teyolia, or “diving fire”, was the energy that came from the heart and determined a person’s sensibilities and thinking patterns. When a person died his or her tayolia traveled to the world of the dead, or “sky of the Sun”. Tayolia gives energy to the Sun, which is why heart...
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