Scary For Kids

Aztec Masks

These ancient Aztec masks look very scary and were probably used in religious rituals, particularly in human sacrifice.

Aztec Masks

1. The Mask of Xiuhtecuhtli

Aztec Masks

This Aztec mask represents Xiuhtecuhtli who was the god of fire. It was made with turquoise stones glued onto a wooden backing. The mask was worn by sacrifical victims during the Aztec New Fire ceremony. The person would be led up to a temple platform on an extinct volcano overlooking the city. He would be dressed up in fine robes and the mask of Xiuhtecuhtli would be placed over his face. Then, he would be sacrificed as a tribute to the god by cutting out his heart. Afterwards, a fire would be started in the hole in his chest and a bonfire would be built around his body. This fire was then used to light the fires of every household in the city.

2. The Mask of Tlaloc

Aztec Masks

This Aztec mask is meant to be Tlaloc, the rain god. The turquoise mosaic face is made out of two serpents, one green and one blue. They circle around the eyes and meet across the nose. The mask was probably worn by a priest that served Tlaloc in the Great Temple. It may also have been worn during the sacrifice of children in the temple. Their hearts were torn out and placed in a bowl as offerings to the rain god. If the children cried on the way to being sacrificed, it was believed to be a good sign that a lot of rain would come.

3. The Mask of Tezcatlipoca

Aztec Masks

This is an Aztec mask representing the god Tezcatlipoca. He is usually depicted with a black and a yellow stripe painted across his face. The mask is made from turquoise mosaic stones glued onto a human skull. The eyes are made from white conch shell and polished iron pyrite stones. The skull is cut away at the back and lined with deer skin on which the movable jaw is hinged. Long deerskin straps allowed the skull to be worn.

Every year, the Aztec priests would choose a young man to impersonate Tezcatlipoca. For the next year he would live like a god, wearing expensive jewellery and being worshipped. He would marry four young women, and spent his last week singing, feasting and dancing. Then, he climbed the stairs to the top of the temple and the priests would lay hom across a sacrificial stone. They would cut open his chest and remove his heart. Then, they would chop off his head and place it on a rack. Later, they flayed the skin off his body and distributed his flesh around the city to be eaten.

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