NARRATIVE OF SOME THINGS OF NEW SPAIN

AND OF THE GREAT CITY OF TEMESTITAN

WRITTEN BY

THE ANONYMOUS CONQUEROR

A COMPANION OF HERNAN CORTES


They take him who has to be sacrificed, and first they carry him through the streets and squares, very finely adorned, with great festivities and rejoicing. Many a one recounts to him his needs, saying that since he is going where his God is, he can tell him so that he may remedy them. Then he gives him refreshments and other things. In this manner he receives many gifts, as is the case when someone has killed a wolf, and carries the head through the streets. 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 be sacrificed dances and carries on like the rest. At length the man who offers the sacrifice strips him naked, and leads him at once to the stairway of the tower where is the stone idol. Here they stretch him on his back, tying the hands to the sides and fastening the legs. Then all commence to sing and dance around him, chanting the principal message which he is to bear to the God.

Soon comes the sacrificing priest — and this is no small office among them — armed with a stone knife, which cuts like steel, and is as big as one of our large knives. He plunges the knife into the breast, opens it, and tears out the heart hot and palpitating. And this as quickly as one might cross himself. At this point the chief priest of the temple takes it, and anoints the mouth of the principal idol with the blood; then filling his hand with it he flings it towards the sun, or towards some star, if it be night. Then he anoints the mouths of all the other idols of wood 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 burn the body of the sacrifice, but these ashes are kept apart from those of the heart in a different vase.

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 their paper, and keeping them as valuable relics. But the inhabitants of each province have their own 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 in mosques, and in other provinces, particularly that of Panuco, they adore indecent objects in their mosques, and openly they have them displayed in sculptures in their squares, in reliefs of the most filthy character (representing the different methods of embracement of a woman by a man). In this province of Panuco the men are great sodomites, cowards, and drunkards; it is almost incredible the length to which they carry their passion for intoxicating fluids (when they can 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 those idols, and spoke to them, ordering them to sacrifice, and to give human hearts, because they did 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 things which they did punctually, in conformity with what he told them. These people of all whom God has created are the most devoted to their religion, and observant of it; in so much so that they offered themselves as voluntary sacrifices for the salvation of their souls; also drawing blood from their tongues, their ears, their legs, and their arms to offer it in sacrifice to their idols.

There are in the environs and along the roads many hermitages, or oratories, where travelers go to shed their blood and offer it to their idols. Even on the tops of the highest mountains their oratories existed and were held in peculiar veneration.
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Codex Magliabechiano (mid-16th century)

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Florentine Codex (1540-1585)

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Florentine Codex (1540-1585)

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Tudela Codex (16th century)
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Codex Magliabechiano (mid-16th century)

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Aztec Sacrifice Stone (Anthropological Museum, Mexico)
"The Aztec Civilization of Mexico" from The Memoirs of the Conquistador Bernal Diaz de Castillo (1521)
“...[re: religion and sacrifices] Our commander here said smilingly, to Motecusuma: I cannot imagine that such a powerful and wise monarch as you are should not have yourself discovered by this time that these idols are not divinities but evil spirits, called devils. In order that you may be convinced of this and that your papas may satisfy themselves of this truth, allow me to erect a cross on the summit of this temple; and, in the chapel where stand your Huitzilopochtili and Tetzcatlipuca [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 displeased with Cortes’ offer, and replied in the presence of two papas, whose anger was not less conspicuous, "Malinche [Cortes], could I have conjectured that you would have used such reviling language as you have just done, I would certainly not have shown you my gods. In our eyes these are good divinities: they preserve our lives, give us nourishment, water and good harvests, healthy and growing weather, and victory whenever we pray to them for it. Therefore we offer up our prayers to them and make them sacrifices, I earnestly beg of you not to say another 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 the remaining Aztec priesthood and demanded, under threat of death that they desist from their murderous 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.”
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Aztec Sacrificial Knives

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