The cult of human sacrifice is a pervasive theme in this study. It is a concept that permeated Aztec mythology and was the central preoccupation of the aggressive Aztec state. Another particularly interesting belief explored here is the "mask pool," whereby gods could exchange regalia and, thus, identities.
This vivid and eminently readable study also covers the use of hallucinogens; cannibalism; the calendars of ancient Mexico; tlachtli, the life-and-death ball game; the flower wars; divine transfiguration; and the evolution of the war god of the Mexica. A splendid introduction to Aztec religion, The Fifth Sun also contains insights for specialists in ethnohistory, mythology, and religion.
A Rain of Darts is the first one-volume history of the Mexica, historically the most important of the Aztec peoples. The focus of the narrative is on the political state produced by the Mexica during their stormy history. The eleven Mexica reigns that preceded the Spanish Conquest are investigated, their triumphs and errors explained, and the lives of their great leaders illuminated where the sources allow.
The narrative opens with the first appearance of the Mexica out of the arid north; it details their aimless wandering, the founding of the city of Mexico in the waters of Lake Tezcoco, their desperate struggle for independence (successfully achieved in 1428), and the flourishing of the new state and its curiously structured empire. This history concludes with an analysis of the character of Moteuczoma II, and investigates the final sickness of the Mexican state. Cortez and his small army of Spaniards are seen here for the first time in historical literature through the eyes of the people they conquered. The Mexica Aztecs remain at the center of the narrative.
The Mexica were unable to build a tightly knit empire because of the elitist, international warrior class and its peculiar cult of war and sacrifice. To the Mexica, warfare and bloodshed were sacraments; the teuctli or knightly warrior was the priest of this cult. to which he was as loyal as to the state. In this lay the uniqueness of the Mexican state and the seeds of its tragic end in 1521.