Blood Rituals; Religion or Realism Part VI
While the Aztec working class no doubt believed that the gods required bloody offerings; the emperors and nobles who were responsible for organizing labor, supervising crop storage, and redistributing surpluses (Pohl 2003), may very well have realized the benefits of using sacrificial blood and bones as crop fertilizer.
For instance, bones and blood have been used as crop fertilizer in other areas of the world and the Mesoamericans were known to have built a substantial canal system, similar to the canals of the ancient Greeks (800bc-200bc). Ancient Greek writings describe the use of these canals for delivering sewage to the “vegetable crops and olive groves” (Beaton n.d.). “Among the Ancient Greeks, nothing of any importance could occur, no decisions made, no journeys, or wars could take place, without the accompanying flow of the sacrificial blood” (Ehrenreich,1997. p. 27).
An Islamic agricultural publication from the 11th century showed that “farm practices of the period changed little from those of the Greeks and Romans” (Beaton n.d.). This ancient publication contained a poem, written by “Omar Khayyam, the astronomer-poet from Persia” that expresses the “effect that dead bodies and the blood of animals had on crop growth” (Beaton n.d.). This poem clearly illustrates the probable use of flowery wars for purposes other than propitiation:
“I sometimes think that never blows red
The rose as were some buried Caesar bled;
That every hyacinth the garden wears
Dropt in her lap, from some once lovely head”(Beaton).
Although the Jewish were forbidden to consume blood, it was “permitted for other uses and the Mishnah (Yoma 5:6) states that the sacrificial blood that flowed into the Kidron was collected and sold to gardeners as fertilizer”(Encyclopedia Judaica). And according to another source, there was a drainage system with two holes at the base of the altar in King Herod’s temple where the blood of sacrifices was poured and sold as fertilizer (Rodriguez, 2001).
In the early 1800’s, England had such a high demand for human and animal bones to be used for manufacturing phosphate fertilizer, that the country imported 30,000 tons of bones annually; “Justus von Liebig criticized the English for collecting bones from old battlefields and burial sites such as the catacombs of Italy” (Beaton n.d.).
As you can see, while the Aztecs are well-known to have strung hundreds of skulls across the temple walls, the remaining skeletons may very well have been mixed with the victim’s blood and sent down the canals to be used as crop fertilizer.
To be continued…..
Beaton, J. Dr. (n.d.) The history of fertilizer, Retrieved from http://www.back-to- basics.net/efu/pdfs/History_of_Fertilizers.pdf
Ehrenreich, B. (1997). Blood rites: Origins and history of the passions of war . New York, NY: Henry Holt & Company LLC
Encyclopedia Judaica. (2010). Jewish virtual library. Retrieved from jewishvirtuallibrary.org (Encyclopedia Judaica, 2010)
Pohl, J. M.D. (2003). John Pohl’s Mesoamerica. Retrieved from http://www.famsi.org/research/pohl/index.html(Pohl, 2003)
Rodriguez, A.(2001) What happened to the blood? Retrieved from http://biblicalresearch.gc.adventist.org/Biblequestions/whathappenedtotheblood.htm
Posted on February 21, 2013, in Anthropology, Anthropology of Religion, Blood Sacrifice, Religion, Uncategorized and tagged ancient, anthropology, blood, history, judaism, olmec, religion, rituals, sacrifice. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.