By Jerry A.G. Ericsson
© Jerry A.G. Ericsson 8/23/2000
Tonight I take my rightful place behind the sacrificial table atop the great pyramid in the center of our city. Tonight I learn from my father, the ways of the priest of our clan. Tonight I learn ways which the captured souls are sacrificed to the gods so our crops are plentiful and our women fruitful. Tonight I become a priest.
Mother has bathed me in warm water, scented with oils brought all the way from the Ansazi of the north. She has braided my long black hair into rows, which begin at the center of the top of my head, and dangle down past my knees. Father has been working for the past three weeks preparing my sacred knife; its blade made of the black iron brought by the white man who visited our city so many years ago. The handle formed of gold and studded with precious stones form the Four Corners of our great nation.
Tonight, I will learn the taste of human flesh. Father has told me that it tastes much like the flesh of the snake, only tougher and sweeter. I look forward to this as when a priest takes the flesh of man, he also takes all the knowledge of that man, and takes the strength of his spirit in also.
It is time now. Time to walk the five hundred steps to the top of the great pyramid. Time for me to become a man.
Father walks in from the east, I walk in from the west and we meet before the steps. All around us are the men of our city. They wait the time of the great sacrifice. They wait in silence as we climb the steps. Higher and higher we climb, I am so proud to be seen walking beside him. Father is the greatest priest in our entire nation, and he has trained me to know all that he knows. When we are done today, I will be a great priest and maybe someday, I will be as great as he. Every day I pray that this is so.
At last we have reached the pinacle, the very top of the great pyramid. Side by side we stand, and raise our hands to the gods. Together we pray for the protection of our city and nation. Together we pray for the crops that sustain our people to be plentiful. Together we pray that the women of our city and nation be fertile and produce many children.
Our prayers finished, the prisoner is brought forth from below and behind us, his hands are tied behind him, and two of our assistants one on each side escort him to the large slab that served as our sacrificial alter. Once on the alter, one assistant tied the enemy soldiers hands to a large iron ring embedded in the stone, while the other tied his feet to a similar ring near his feet.
Silently, father hands me my new knife, and I again bow my head in prayer, and hold the knife high over my head, for the gods to bless it. The prayer takes about two minutes, meanwhile, our prisoner, who by now knows exactly what will happen to him, begins to sob. My prayer finished, I look into the prisoner’s eyes, and whisper to him “be very quiet and still, I will try to make this as painless as I can.”
Very slowly, I raise my golden handled knife high above my head, so all below can see the sun glint off its highly polished blade. I hold it there for a short time, and again repeat a prayer to our gods, to guide my hand in this most important mission. Now, I begin the downward swing, very slowly at first, then picking up speed about mid swing, and bring it down swiftly across the prisoners throat, much like I have practiced so many times in the past few weeks on dogs and chickens provided by the people of our city.
At last the knife strikes the flesh of the prisoner, and blood spurts forth from the two huge veins that are on each side of his throat. Quickly before it all leaks forth, I must bring the knife down again, this time in the center of his chest to expose his still beating heart. My second strike with the knife is true, and the hard black shiny blade opens the chest. I hear a gasp from the prisoner, as air escapes from the pipe that until just seconds ago brought air from his mouth to his lungs. Quickly, I reach inside and withdraw the heart, still attached to his body by the great veins that pulse with blood. A quick swing of the knife and the heart comes away from his body, and he is dead. Now, as I have learned from my father, I bring the quivering heart to my mouth, and bite a large chunk of the tough meat from the very end, and allow the blood to run down my face. The warm meat I quickly chew several times and swallow. Father is right, it is very sweat, and I know I will quickly develop a taste for it.
Below the men or our village cheer, as all has gone well and they have a new priest. I hold my head up high, as today I am not only a priest, today I am a man.