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It was practiced in many ancient cultures. The practice was different in different cultures. Some like the Mayans and Aztecs are notorious for their ritual killings, others have looked down on the practice as primitive.
Victims were ritually killed in a manner that was supposed to please or appease gods or spirits. Victims ranged from prisoners to infants to Vestal Virgins whose stomach's were cut open, with a dull,stone knife and their hearts were burned.
Over time human sacrifice has become less common around the world, and sacrifices are now very rare. Most religions condemn the practice and present-day laws generally treat it as a criminal matter. Nonetheless it is still occasionally seen today, especially in the least developed areas of the world where traditional beliefs persist.
AztecThe Aztecs were particularly noted for practicing human sacrifice on a large scale; an offering to Huitzilopochtli would be made to restore the blood he lost, as the sun was engaged in a daily battle. Human sacrifices would prevent the end of the world that could happen on each cycle of 52 years. In the 1487 re-consecration of the Great Pyramid of Tenochtitlan many prisoners were sacrificed.
- “Indian cult kills children for goddess: Holy men blamed for inciting dozens of deaths”, The Observer (United Kingdom newspaper) Dan McDougall in Khurja, India, Sunday March 5, 2006
- Heinsohn, Gunnar: “The Rise of Blood Sacrifice and Priest Kingship in Mesopotamia: A Cosmic Decree?” (also published in Religion, Vol. 22, 1992)
- Dying for the Gods, Miranda Aldhouse Green; Trafalgar Square; 2001, ISBN 0-7524-1940-4
- Cenote of Sacrifices, Clemency Coggins and Orrin C. Shane III ; 1984 The university of Texas Press; ISBN 0-292-71097-6
- Violence and the Sacred, Rene Girard, translated by P. Gregory; Johns Hopkins University Press, 1979, ISBN 0826477186
- I See Satan Fall Like Lightning, René Girard, Translated by James G. Williams; Orbis Books; 2001, ISBN 1-57075-319-9
- The Pagan Religions of the Ancient British Isles: Their Nature and Legacy Ronald Hutton, 1991, ISBN 0-631-18946-7
- City of Sacrifice: The Aztec Empire and the Role of Violence in Civilization, David Carrasco, Moughton Mifflin, 2000, ISBN 0-807-04643-4