Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle and Sacrifice in Aztec by Caroline Dodds Pennock

By Caroline Dodds Pennock

The historical past of the Aztecs has been haunted through the spectre of human sacrifice. Reinvesting the Aztecs with a humanity usually denied to them, and exploring their marvelous spiritual violence as a understandable portion of existence, this publication integrates a clean interpretation of gender with an leading edge research of the standard lifetime of the Aztecs.

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Extra resources for Bonds of Blood: Gender, Lifecycle and Sacrifice in Aztec Culture

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There are alternative sources for the sacrificial calendar, but the use of this single source provides a coherent model and reduces the possibility of confusing duplications. 26 In some of these ambiguous cases, such as the striping, it is clear that male captives were sacrificed, providing for an appropriately vigorous contest, but in the majority of these vague victims, the gender appears immaterial. Inevitably, due to the military manner in which the bulk of these captives were taken, the greater preponderance are likely to have been male, and this is confirmed by the sources, but in philosophical terms, the sex seems rarely to be relevant.

But although for most men, as priests and warriors, this painful duty was a compulsion, women appear to have been given the choice whether or not to participate in this aspect of religious observance. Among ‘ordinary people’, both men and women used cactus spines to pierce their ears, arms and the tip of their tongues, suffering the sharp pain as the drops of blood were squeezed from their flesh. 48 By adding the painful process of autosacrifice to their devotions, ordinary people could share the suffering of their victims and sustain their culture and their world.

The relationship between captor and captive was extremely intimate and one which was promoted by a system of sacrifice in which the prestige of a warrior was located in the valour of his captive. After being seized in battle, a captive retained a close relationship with his captor. On the day of the captive’s death, the warrior would accompany him to the sacrificial stone, delivering the prisoner to the place of his death. Having witnessed the sacrifice, the warrior then returned home with the body following the ceremony, a portion of which was sent to the emperor and the remainder consumed in ceremonial cannibalism by the captor’s family and friends.

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