Why Did the Aztecs of Mexico Practice Human Sacrifice?

If you read about the early history of the Americas when the Europeans came, the Spanish record that the Aztec tribe of Indians of Mexico practiced human sacrifice, and it is true.  We all wonder how it could have happened that people were killing people in the name of religion. Well, think about the Muslims. They are still doing it.  However, the Aztecs who were sacrificed were more willing.  Can you imagine being willing to let someone kill you?  They did it to try to make the sun move.  They were sun worshipers.

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When I went to Mexico in high school, I walked on the pyramid of the sun, and when I began thinking about Amaterasu of Japan being the goddess of the sun, I realized that the Aztecs had a god of the sun.  I looked up the god of the sun of the Aztecs.  They not only had one god of the sun, but they had several gods of the sun.  It seems that the gods took turns being the god of the sun, and when they were deposed, they were unwilling, and a disaster incurred when each was deposed.  Perhaps these were early emperors of the Aztecs and there was friction over who should rule. Or perhaps, the stories were just ways the Aztecs explained early natural disasters. The Aztec history is divided into five ages, and each age has a different sun god. Look out for their names because they are something to try to figure out!

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  1.  The first Aztec god of the sun was Tezcatilpoca (smoking mirror). Originally, he was the god of the night.  Quetzakoatl knocked him out of the sky.  For revenge, Tezcatilpoca became a jaguar and destroyed the world.  You can see how this could all be taken in a symbolic way.  If a man is knocked off his throne, he isn’t happy and he might try to destroy everything and may seem like a terrible beast. However, they may also be trying to explain a natural disaster with through human personalities because that is what they understood.

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  2. The second Aztec god of the sun was Quetzakoatl (feathered serpent). “Feathered serpent” makes him sound like a dinosaur. Did you know that recently Scientists have said that dinosaurs may have been giant birds? Well, Tezacatilpoca, in the form of a jaguar, knocked Quetzakoatl out of the sky. Wind destroyed the earth.  This could be people doing this, or it could be trying to explain natural disasters.

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  3. After that, Tlaloc (god of the rain) became the sun god.  Quetzakoatl made the rain into fire and caused destruction and the end of the age.  It does sound like they are trying to explain natural disasters with jealous personalities of human beings or perhaps the other way around.  When I was a little girl and didn’t know anything about God. My parents didn’t take me to church, but I had heard of him, and I actually thought that God was moving when the clouds moved, so perhaps they were explaining natural disasters.
  4. Next, Chalchiuhtlicue (the goddess of water), Tlaloc’s sister who was in charge of lakes and streams became in charge of the sun, so the goddess of the sun.  The gods began a big fight, and the world was destroyed by floods.  Could this be the great flood that is recounted in many other ancient records including the Bible, Egyptian records, and Babylonian records?  Perhaps.  Either that, or people were still fighting over who was in charge.
  5. Finally, they said for the people to survive, they needed the gods to stop acting crazy, and all the fighting had to stop.  (It is about time!)  They decided that one god had to give their life for the people to keep the sun up in the sky.  There were two candidates chosen: Tecciztecatl and Nanuiti.  One of them had to jump into the fire of the sun, to sacrifice himself so that people could live.  Nanuiti was humble and let Tecciztectl have the honor of jumping and becoming the hero.  However, Teccizetctl was too scared to jump.  Nanuiti knew that it had to be done, so he jumped in to save the people.  It embarrassed Teccizetctl, so he jumped in too.  The gods thought that two sun gods at once just wouldn’t work.  They threw a rabbit at Teccizetctl, and it made his light dimmer.  Teccizetctl became the moon.  He was doomed forever to be chasing Nanuiti, but never to catch him, never to shine as brightly as Nanuiti Nanuiti became Tonatuih, the face on the Aztec calendar stone.

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  6. They even had another sun god later. A great warrior was so admired that he became known as the sun god. His name was Huitzilopochtli, but in the end, the sun god was Nanuiti or his other name, Tonatuih.

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This is the reason for human sacrifice among the Aztecs.  They decided that the sun could not move on its own.  They had to help the sun.  They decided that if the gods could sacrifice themselves to help the sun, they could too.  They began sacrificing themselves to help the sun move.  There were temples all over the place, in every town when the Spaniards showed up in Mexico where they were practicing human sacrifice.

In the end, Ehectai (god of the wind), a part of Quetzalcoatl, the second sun god, sacrificed all the other gods to make the sun move, so all the Aztec gods are dead except Ehectai, the god of the wind.  When the wind blows, they feel him.

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The name of their religion is Huitzilopochtli.  Another rendition of the name Aztec is Mexica.  There is another story as to why the name changed.  Nahuatl, the god of war, the sun, and human sacrifice, is the patron god of Tenochtitlan, the place where Mexico City is built. However, he is now dead because Ehectai, the god of the wind, sacrificed him.  The story of how Mexico City originated is on the flag of Mexico, and I had to learn it when I was in school in California.  I will tell you that story tomorrow.  Today, though, now you understand why the Aztecs went so far as sacrificing themselves. They were trying to help the sun keep rotating around the earth.  They weren’t ready for any more natural disasters or fights among the gods.

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