General Aztecs Maya Tocuaro Kids Contact 20 Sep 2017/9 Jaguar
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Professor Cecilia Rossell

Question for August 2005

How did the hearts actually get to the gods? Asked by Fleetville Junior School. Chosen and answered by Professor Cecilia Rossell.

Hearts flow in streams of life-giving blood between earth and the Sun, from the Codex Laud
Hearts flow in streams of life-giving blood between earth and the Sun, from the Codex Laud (Click on image to enlarge)

English: For the Aztecs the human body held several important spiritual centres or ‘souls’: one of these was located in the heart (‘yollotl’), home to the ‘teyollia’, the principle of life itself, and to a person’s feelings, intelligence and spirit. Life dwelt in the heart and in the blood that flowed in and out of it: so the most important gift they could offer to their gods was their own life, their heart and their blood. The Aztecs believed that their gods had created everything that existed in their world, such as earth and water, maize and animals, and had given them the gift of life. But in order for all this to exist, the gods had had to give up part of their divine force and place it in all the things of nature; this is why there were gods of maize, rain and so on. In order that these living beings should not lose their strength, and that the world should continue on its course, the Aztecs had constantly to renew this divine energy – by making offerings of the life(blood) of animals, plants and human beings. As the ultimate symbol of a person’s life, they took the heart, raising it up to the Sun god and then burning it; in the smoke it could reach up to the sky and to the sun, which would take on new strength and go on giving light and heat, so allowing life to continue on earth.

Español: Para los Aztecas, en el cuerpo humano existían varios centros principales o “almas”, una de ellas se ubicaba en el corazón o “yollotl”, donde estaba el “teyollia” que representaba el principio vital, y donde se localizaban los sentimientos, la inteligencia y el espíritu de una persona, se pensaba que la vida estaba en este órgano y en la sangre que entra y sale de él, por eso el regalo más importante que podáan hacer a sus dioses era su vida misma, su sangre y su corazón. Los Aztecas creían que sus dioses habían creado todas las cosas del mundo, como la tierra y el agua, así como el maíz y los animales, y que les habían dado la vida. Pero para que existiera todo esto, los dioses sacrificaban parte de su fuerza divina, la que ponían en estas cosas y seres, por ello había dioses del maíz, de la lluvia, etc. Y que para que no perdieran su energía y que el mundo siguiera su curso, había que renovarla de tiempo en tiempo, por ello se les hacían ofrendas con el principio vital de las plantas, animales y seres humanos. Y como un símbolo de la vida de una persona, se tomaba su corazón, elevándolo hacia el dios del Sol, y luego se quemaba para que a través del humo pudiera subir al cielo y alcanzarlo, de donde tomaría su fuerza y así podría seguir dando luz y calor, lo que permitía la vida en la tierra.

Professor Cecilia Rossell has answered 7 questions altogether:

Which was the most precious colour for the Aztecs and why?

Why were cocoa beans so valuable?

Did the Aztecs use make-up?

How did the hearts actually get to the gods?

Did they take feathers equally from male and female quetzal birds?

Have traces of real blood been found on the sacrifice knife blades?

How old was the oldest codex?

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