Human sacrifices were widely famous amongst the ancient Mesoamerican cultures. So for the Aztec Empire the ritual of sacrificing humans was nothing new to them. For the Aztec people, the ritual of sacrificing humans held great religious significance as well as an intimidation tactic employed against their enemies to instill fear amongst them. The Aztecs believed that the difficult times and natural disasters faced by them were the wrath of gods and to please the gods and to drive them to protect and bestow blessings upon the people, human sacrifices were to be rendered.
Huitzilopochtli was worshipped at the famous Aztec Templo Mayor that dominated the capital city of Tenochtitlan. To please Huitzilopochtli, the sacrifices were laid upon a stone atop Templo Mayor. The victim would then be cut open from the abdomen upwards with his heart pulled out and raised in the sky. The body would then be thrown down the temple, cremated or handed to the warrior who captured the victim as a souvenir.
To please the god of fire; Xiuhtecuhtli, sacrifices would be burned soon after the feast. The victims however would be later pulled from the fire and cut to extract the heart which would then be offered as a sacrifice.
To please the most powerful of gods Tezcatlipoca; the god of night, and the god who sees and knows all, the sacrifices would be allowed to impersonate Tezcatlipoca on Earth and awarded with 4 women until the day of sacrifice. Until then, the sacrifice would roam free and play flute. However, on the day of sacrifice, the victim would break his flute and offer himself to the priests to be cut and sacrificed to Tezcatlipoca. Similarly, different methods of sacrificing were employed depending upon the deity the victim was being sacrificed to.
The Aztec people believed that after every 52 years, the universe was bound to end if the gods weren’t strong enough and to strengthen the gods, sacrifices must be rendered throughout. Upon the ending of each cycle, a ceremony took place in which a human sacrifice would be rendered and if on the next day the sun rose up, it was a sign that the sacrifice had been accepted and that the world had been granted another 52 years. This would go on cycle after cycle.
The Aztecs were a civilization obsessed with blood and sacrificing humans. So much so, that during the re-opening of Templo Mayor in 1487, the event was celebrated with a number of humans being sacrificed. How many to be precise? Some scholars suggest more than 20,000 individuals while others suggest that sacrifices were made in a number of low thousands, sacrificed over the course of just four days. Which is still a lot!