Throughout history humanity has worshipped many gods and goddesses. They oversaw various areas of ordinary people’s lives, granted favors, fulfilled their dreams, and punished the guilty. Many of those divine managers required some sacrifices or other tokens of appreciation in return for their services. While many gods were satisfied with prayers or non-living gifts, a few had seriously bloody and sadistic preferences. They required human sacrifice. The more gruesome, the better. Let‘s not waste any time and meet them.
Huitzilopochtli was a war god and one of the most important deities worshipped by the Aztecs. It is said that it was Huitzilopochtli who urged them to leave their homeland and travel to Mexico Valley. He was also the key figure behind the founding of Tenochtitlan, Aztec capital city that will later serve as a base for Mexico.
According to the legend, Huitzilopochtli’s mother was goddess Coatlicue. She was pregnant with Huitzilopochtli when 400 stars, who were her sons and daughters, led by their sister Coyolxauhqui conspired to kill her. When the mob of deities finally approached Coatlicue, Huitzilopochtli emerged from her womb fully armed and killed Coyolxauhqui. He then proceeded to slaughter the rest of his 400 siblings.
Apparently, it was not enough for Huitzilopochtli. Aztecs often offered human sacrifices for him. The unlucky men were usually war prisoners captured during the many fights that Aztecs had with their neighbors. The most common form of sacrifice was to open the chests of victim and rip out their still beating hearts. Such means were required to secure rain, good harvest and success in war.
9. Teutates, Esus, And Taranis
These three gods mostly hung out together and were the most important deities of Celts. They formed a triad of gods, a holy entity that was common amongst various pagan religions. Some of such trios required human sacrifice and as is the case here.
Teutates, especially beloved and worshipped by Gauls, was responsible for fertility, wealth, and war. Victims dedicated to him were drowned by plunging them headfirst into a vessel of unspecified liquid. Some even speculate that the liquid was ale, a favorite drink of the Celtic people. Well, if you are not lucky enough to live, at least you can die bathing in alcohol!
Though little is known about Esus, the second of the godly Celtic triad, he certainly wasn’t very kind and compassionate. Roman poet Lucan described him as “Horrid Esus with his wild altars.” It is speculated that he was a god of marshlands or willows. Those that were sacrificed to Esus were ritually stabbed, hung from trees, and left to bleed to death.
The last one, Taranis, was a sky god and a warlord. His name means “Thundered” and, therefore, he’s often compared with Roman Jupiter. Taranis, like his two godly companions, also did not mind to have humans killed to appease him. His victims were placed in gigantic wickerwork figures and burnt alive inside of them.
Tezcatlipoca, another very important Aztec deity, was a god of night and sorcery, a patron of warriors and Aztec kings, who were considered to be his representatives on earth. In addition, Tezcatlipoca was known to be vengeful and quick to punish those that misbehaved. He also had some feuds with his more peaceful godly sibling, Quetzalcoatl.
One of the most important Aztec celebrations was dedicated to Tezcatlipoca. Each year a priest would select a young and handsome was prisoner who would impersonate the god. The man would live in luxury. Moreover, he would have four beautiful maidens that would be dressed as goddesses and act as his companions.
This may sound very nice, however, nothing in this world is meant to last, especially the lives of Aztec war prisoners. After a year of bathing in luxury, the guy would climb the steps of a small temple. There he would be sacrificed by having his heart ripped out. Then, the next prisoner would be chosen to play godly and deadly role.
Moloch, sometimes called Ba’al of Ba’al Moloch, was a bloodthirsty deity worshipped by some nations that lived in ancient Middle East. Phoenicians, Carthaginians and Israelites are those most often mentioned. Due to the latter, Moloch made his way to the Bible and is mentioned there a few times. Not as an example of merciful, generous and kind god, though.
Moloch had no objections to human sacrifice and accepted such gifts from his worshippers. Moreover, he had a penchant for children. It is not known how exactly the doomed little ones were killed, however, few theories exist.
Some say that pagans firstly ritually killed their own child and placed the body in an altar of fire. Few of them would even collect the bones that were left after the burning and place them under the front doorstep of their home. Such sacrifice should have assured the blessing for the family.
More horrifying version tells that the children were thrown into fire alive. Some sources even mention hollow bronze statues, similar to infamous brazen bull. The unfortunate children would be placed into the statues which would later be heated from below. The vicious pounding of drums would muffle the cries of dying youngsters.
While human sacrifice was an ordinary business for Aztecs, one god was particularly sadistic even by their standards. It’s Huehueteotl. He was a god of death, warmth, and cold. In addition, it was Huehueteotl that handled the light during the times of darkness and food during famines.
Sacrificing a person to this god involved drugging the victim, roasting him alive, tearing his heart out and burning the remains. The order varies depending on source. Some say that victims were thrown into a fire and dragged out of it with hooks before dying. Then their hearts would be ripped out and their bodies thrown back to the flames.
Others claim that the unfortunate were first drugged and then dragged with the hooks to the special platforms. There their hearts would be cut out and thrown into fire. The bodies of victims would join them soon after.
Those Aztecs certainly had a penchant for human sacrifice. Tlaloc is another in a long list of Aztec deities that did not mind an occasional bloodshed. Moreover, Tlaloc was a capricious fellow. A benevolent god of rain, fertility, and lightning, he had a limited patience. Angered Tlaloc would send storms, hurricanes, floods, and droughts. Diseases and famine were not beyond his control either.
While his godly colleagues were not very fussy about offerings made to them, Tlaloc had some particular tastes. He wanted children. Crying children appeased him even more. Sometimes priests would offer the tears of victims as an additional sacrifice. What did the parents of those children think about the practice? Well, having your offspring sacrificed to Tlaloc was seen as an honor.
Let’s take a break from Aztecs and have a cup of coffee with a cruel deity from the other side of the world. Meet Kali, a vicious goddess of destruction from India.
She’s also a persistent one. While other bloody deities in this list lost their worshippers long time ago, Kali still receives some sacrifices from time to time. The fact that human sacrifice is banned in India does not deter Kali’s fans from trying to appease their goddess, especially in remote, rural provinces.
The means of killing the victims vary. They are beheaded, hacked to death, strangled, or dismembered. Pick your favorite and watch out if you ever find yourself in some random secluded Indian village.
Back to the Aztecs and their sadistic antics. Toci, the goddess of healing and a patron of midwives and healers also accepted dead humans as gifts. Although we would surely expect the opposite from the one that is supposed to grant a good health.
Women were sacrificed to Toci. The chosen girl was dressed to resemble the goddess. The fact that she was about to die was kept from her. The Aztecs were afraid of the victim getting upset. It was seen as a bad omen.
Therefore, the woman would be deceived that she was going to see the ruler. After climbing to the temple, she would be quickly beheaded and flayed. Other sources claim that the sacrifice involved ripping out the lady’s heart and then flaying her. Her skin would be later worn by a priest.
Aztecs weren’t the only pre-Columbian Americans that sacrificed people. Mayans did that too.
Chac was the Mayan god of rain, lightning, and water. He was often described having some reptilian features and engaged in a pleasant activity of fishing. However, fishing did not calm Chac’s thirst for blood. He demanded human sacrifice.
The victims were thrown into deep wells. It was believed that Chac lived at the bottom of the sinkhole. It was common to throw down young boys and girls to ensure the rain and harvest. Two of such wells can still be found at Chichen Itza, which once was one of the most important cities of Maya.
1. Inti And Viracocha
As Aztecs and Maya sacrificed people for their gods, so did the Incas. Their most important deities, the creator Viracocha and his son, the sun god Inti, accepted many gifts: treasures, plants, animals, and also people. It was believed that denying Inti the human victims would cause him to take away the light from the people and which would bring bad luck to the Incas.
Those mostly offered were children. Incans would sacrifice their children in an elaborate ceremony called capacocha. They would select the best possible child: healthy, strong, beautiful, and pure. The more perfect the child was, the more chances to appease the deities.
Then the unlucky child would be nurtured and glorified, sometimes for years before the eventual murder. Finally, a grand feast would take place where the victim would be intoxicated with drinks. Afterwards, the child, accompanied by the priests, his parents and chieftains, would be led to the summit of the mountain and killed there. The common methods of killing were blow to the head, strangulation or burying the victim alive.