Aztec Sacrifice Essay

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Sacrifice: The Aztec Past time Merriam Webster (2014) defines sacrifice as “an act of giving up something that you want to keep especially in order to get or do something else or to help someone” (p. 1). Every Mesoamerican society practiced sacrifice in some way, including the Mayans, Incans, and especially the Aztecs. The question is why was sacrifice so prevalent in these societies? The primary reason for sacrifice in Mesoamerican culture is religion. Of all Mesoamerican cultures the Aztecs were the most war-like. The practice of sacrifice held an effect of inciting fear into the surrounding populace as well. Religion plays an important part of life in almost every culture. In the Aztecs case, religion meant life or death. Religion gave meaning and explained human existence, agriculture, natural biological occurrences, and even the light of day. Religion and the gods surrounded the Aztecs lives in every direction. In order to further understand the reasoning behind why the Aztecs felt they needed to practice sacrifice, one needs to understand the importance religion held within the Aztec race. Sacrifice of any form was considered to be a payment to their gods. According to Michael Graulich (2000), the director of religious studies at a school in Paris, the primary reason for sacrifice was atonement (p. 2). The primary purpose of sacrifice, Graulich (2000) maintains, was "expiation of sins or transgressions in order to deserve a worthy afterlife” (p. 3) The Aztecs believed that if they stood on good ground with the God’s that they would lead successful and worthy lives passing on to The Underworld, the Aztecs equivalent of “Heaven”. Although religion is the surrounding theme in sacrifice, Michael Harner (1977) proposes an altogether different reason as to why the Aztecs participated in such gruesome practices. His theory involves the idea of human cannibalism (p.

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