7 junio, 2024

The 7 Most Outstanding Traditions and Customs of the Aztecs

Between the Traditions and customs of the Aztecs they highlight mandatory education, large families with multiple wives, and the conception of human sacrifice as a necessary action for the world to continue.

The capital of the Aztec empire was Tenochitlan, now the site of Mexico City. The city was built on a series of lakes and was divided into four sections.

The Aztecs were very artistic people and played many sports. Religion was an important aspect of Aztec life; they worshiped many gods and goddesses, each ruling some activity or aspect of nature. The Aztecs often sold their own children into slavery.

The Aztecs had peculiar customs for burying people. Most of the Aztecs were in the habit of burying their ancestors right under and around their houses.

If an Aztec was of great importance, he was usually cremated; they believed that cremation would send his soul straight to heaven.

Most of the traditional foods they ate involved chili peppers, meats, and corn; most of their food is very similar to the modern diet in Mexico: rich and spicy.

Main Aztec traditions and customs

1- Human sacrifice

Human sacrifice was a religious practice of the Aztec civilization. Most historians believe that human sacrifice was a major part of the Aztec cult and that some victims were cannibalized.

Human sacrifice among the Aztecs was part of the long cultural tradition of human sacrifice in Mesoamerica; It was also practiced by the Mayans and the Zapotecs.

According to their culture, all the gods sacrificed themselves so that humanity could live. In this sense, human sacrifice was the highest level of a number of offerings through which the Aztecs sought to pay their debt to the gods; the victim was said to have «rendered her service.»

Self-sacrifice was also common; people often offered objects stained with their own blood from their tongues, ears, or genitals.

Additionally, the sacrifice of animals was also a common practice; the Aztecs bred animals specifically for this purpose. The most common form of human sacrifice was the extraction of the heart.

Often the remains of the victims were treated as relics of the gods; their skulls, bones, and skins were painted and displayed, or used in ritual masks and oracles.

2- Ceremony of the new fire

This ceremony was performed every 52 years —a complete cycle in the Aztec calendar— to avoid the end of the world. The first ceremony was performed in 1090, although there is evidence that it may have been earlier.

The last new fire ceremony was held in 1507; the tradition ended with the Spanish conquest.

During the last five days of the cycle, preparations for the ceremony began. Preparations included abstinence from work, fasting, ritual cleansing, destruction of household objects, silence, and bloodshed.

At sunset on the last day of the year, the priests climbed to the top of a volcano where they sacrificed a man. Then a large bonfire was lit, from which torches were lit to be placed in the temples of the city.

3- Rain festivals

The Aztecs celebrated the first rain festival, at the beginning of the agricultural year, in February. During the festival, the priest or shaman performed a number of rituals to ask the gods to bring rain.

The second rain festival was offered to Tlaloc and other rain gods during March, when the flowers had begun to bloom; this meant the arrival of new forms of life on earth.

The third rain festival, to ask for more rain, was held in autumn. In the third rain festival, the Aztecs make shapes of small mountains and images of Tlaloc, since it was thought that this god lived on a high mountain.

4- Aztec ball game (Ullamaliztli)

This game is believed to have originated from an ancient Olmec civilization. It became a big fixture in the Aztec empire, not just for entertainment but for political and religious reasons.

When the Aztecs started a new settlement, they would build an altar to Huitzilopochtli and build a ball court next to it. The court was in the shape of an “I”, with a center line and six scoreboards along the walls. At the sides of the court there were areas for spectators, nobles and judges.

The ball was made of hard rubber and weighed about 9 pounds; the players had protective equipment. It was played in teams and the object of the game was to pass the ball without touching the ground through a stone ring.

5- The chocolate

The cocoa bean was highly prized in the Aztec empire. In fact, the grain was used as a currency, as well as a drink. The beans were used to make a thick chocolate drink; Since they did not have sugar, the Aztecs added chili peppers, cornmeal, and spices.

The Aztecs believed that the god Quetzalcoatl had brought the cocoa beans from the tree of life to offer them to man. Therefore, the god was banished. When the conquistador Hernán Cortez arrived, the Aztecs believed that he was the returning god.

Even the word chocolate comes from the Aztec word chocolatl.

6- Xilonen Festival

This festival was held in honor of the goddess of corn, Xilonen. Every night during the celebration, the single girls wore their hair long and loose; they carried green corn in offering to the goddess in procession to the temple.

A slave was chosen to represent the goddess and dressed in outfits to resemble her. On the last night, the slave was sacrificed in a ceremony for Xilonen.

7- Songs and poetry

Music and poetry were very important; there were performances and poetry contests at almost every Aztec festival. There were also dramatic presentations that included artists, acrobats and musicians.

There were many genres of songs: the yaocuicatl it was used for war, the Teocuicatl for the gods and myths, and the Xochicuicatl for flowers and poetry. The prose was tlahtolli, also with its different categories and divisions.

A large number of pre-conquest poems still survive to this day.


Aztec. Retrieved from wikipedia.org
Aztec ball game. Recovered from aztec-history.com
New fire ceremony. Retrieved from wikipedia.org

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