- Mar 27, 2011
10 January 1356 - Tzintzuntzan
The morning air on Lake Patzcuaro is chilly. In the winter months, the weather is rainy and the temperatures often drop below freezing. Today, however, the weather promises to warm up. The waxing light of the sun is cresting over the hills and mountains far to the east, setting the surface of the lake alight and chasing away the fog which shrouds the mountaintops. The water glitters like gems as the sun's rays glance off of the surface, but few in the great city at the lake's southern shore stop to appreciate the sight - Tzintzuntzan, the Place of Hummingbirds, appropriately buzzes with human activity.
The hive of nearly 30,000 P'urhepecha lives is uncharacteristically busy for so early in the morning. At the greatest pyramid in the city center they gathered, a thronging mass, hooting and cheering as the incessant bang of drums came from all sides. Atop the pyramid, two warriors drag forth a strong-looking foreigner - a Mexica warrior, captured at the frontier. For all that he tries to look dignified and fearless in the face of his doom, the youth cannot conceal the animal glint in his eye - an all-consuming fear of his fate, which approaches all too quickly.
The petamiti, or head of the priestly caste, comes forth. Resplendent in his feathered robes and sporting a magnificent headdress, even the excited crowd is forced into a moment of awed reverence. Hands raised to the sky, he brandishes a dagger of volcanic glass, bejeweled with green jade, and begins to speak. With his powerful voice, he shouts and sings praises to Curicaueri, the god of war and of the sun. Held down upon the altar, the captive stares listlessly at the skies, lips moving in some futile prayer to Huitzilopochtli, his city's patron god.
At last, his dreadful wait is over. With a final shout to the heavens, the petamiti brings the ebon blade down. With a twist, the captive's ribcage is opened. There is no screaming, only a stunned stare and the near-numbness of terrible agony, as he watches his own still-beating heart leave his chest cavity and be presented to the skies above. As the steps of the pyramid turn scarlet with blood, the P'urhepecha cry out as one, safe in the knowledge that, nourished with human blood, the sacred round would continue to turn.
All they could hope is that it would continue to turn in their favor...