Page:Myth, Ritual, and Religion (Volume 1).djvu/222

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hoods, magnificent temples, an elaborate calendar, great wealth in the precious metals, the art of picture-writing in considerable perfection, and a despotic central government. The higher classes, in a society like this, could not but develop speculative systems, and it is alleged that shortly before the reign of Montezuma attempts had been made to introduce a pure monotheistic religion. But the creed and ritual of the Aztecs remained an example of the utmost barbarity. Never was a more cruel faith, not even in Carthage. Nowhere did temples reek with such pools of human blood; nowhere else, not in Dahomey and Ashanti, were human sacrifice, cannibalism, and torture so essential to the cult that secured the favour of the gods. In these dark fanes,—reeking with gore, peopled by monstrous shapes of idols bird-headed or beast-headed, and adorned with the hideous carvings in which we still see the priest, under the mask of some less ravenous forest beast, tormenting the victim,—in these abominable temples the Castilian conquerors might well believe that they saw the dwellings of devils.

Yet Mexican religion had its moral and beautiful aspect, and the gods or certain of the gods, required from their worshippers not only bloody hands, but clean hearts.

To the gods we return later. The myths of the origin of things may be studied without a knowledge of the whole Aztec Pantheon. Our authorities, though numerous, lack complete originality and are occasionally confused. We have first the Aztec monuments