episode 16

Divine fluid

Mexico, 1486

published the 27 februar 2017


Conquistadors = softies

The Spanish conquistadors were hardly wilting flowers. They earned themselves quite a rep as drunken torturers, pillagers, and murderers, conquering their vast new territories by blade and bullet. Yet even they were agog at the cruel treatments meted out by the Aztecs, including human sacrifices, cannibalism, and torture. Hernan Cortés estimated that they carried out over three thousand sacrifices a year.

What about the Mayas ?

While the Aztecs seem to have raised violent human sacrifice to something of an art form, similar practices seem to have been widespread among pre-Columbian societies across South America. The Mayas, who lived in the same region a thousand or so years earlier, also carried out ritual sacrifices and believed that blood was necessary to keep the gods alive. Self-mutilation was a common practice. Men sliced into their penises and women pierced their tongues to collect and burn the blood. Prisoners and slaves were sacrificed. In fact it was something of an honour in their belief system, as death was a form of rebirth.



  1. wikipedia (Human sacrifices in Aztec culture)


  1. Jacques Soustelle, La vie quotidienne des Aztèques à la veille de la conquête espagnole, Hachette, 1955
  2. Serge Gruzinski, Le destin brisé de l’empire Aztèque, Découverte Gallimard, 1987.