Cult Illustration #15, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"

This is a work of fiction. Names, characters, businesses, places, events and incidents are either the products of the author’s imagination or used in a fictitious manner. Any resemblance to actual persons, living or dead, or actual events is purely coincidental.



One night she became excited by a TV program about the ancient Aztec civilization. The musical introductory caught her attention and the promise of stone hieroglyphs revealed for the first time perked up her ears. She lost her tiredness. What those pictographs revealed had everything to do with blood, human blood, and sacrifice.

As she watched the show, Ms. X’s stomach began to turn. The re-creations done now for television used Indian people, not darkened whites, and they were costumed authentically. The realistic half shots and suggestive shots, and things unseen, were a powerful trigger for the whole truth, which Ms. X knew, intimately.

Stone is a wonderful preserver of truth, said the narrator, not just in hieroglyphs but in temples. One large, beautiful obsidian blade was found in a compartment beneath the altar at the top of a pyramid. The altar was a stone slab where the captive man or woman was splayed, back arched, facing the sun. Four priests held each limb as the high priest plunged the blade into the chest and in a nanosecond, removed the beating heart which was held to the sky as a gift to the sun god, still pumping blood all over the priest’s hands.

Ms. X felt guilty, ashamed, and ill. She knew the routine so well, the difference was the shape of the body, but the cries were similar. The round soft eyes and feathery lashes, similar. And the struggle, the longing to live, the same. Sacrificing a goat in the name of your god was not a criminal offense, at least not in Florida, but neither did the Aztec priests fear prosecution. The Cult of the Day would never be found lacking in good and pure intention.

The Aztec hieroglyphs revealed that the priests, with beastly lust, literally ate the hot pumping heart. Later, heads were impaled sideways through the ears with poles and placed on racks for display. The experts conjectured that the powerful Aztec elite were using these images to frighten the populace, terrorize them into obedience. The priests were fearful too, that their power would wane should they slacken their scheduled feeding of the gods with bloody throbbing hearts. Or worse, the Universe would not be able to go on without their pre-requisite duties. These two statements, most of all, resonated with Ms. X.

To actively take the life of an animal gave one power, gave one a feeling of control over life. And if things were going so terribly well, then one would feel elation in the next feeding, one would feel themselves in charge of everyone’s well-being. A priest would be needed in the worst way. She could not deny the power of the sacrifice on herself and others. She knew of people with businesses, struggling to pay their bills, but after the ritual they quickly became wealthy. She saw people troubled in relationships, for years, suddenly blossom with a new and perfect love. She witnessed those with a cancer-death-sentence go into remission. She knew that sacrifice worked, but she could not figure out why.  Even the Guru could not explain it adequately, Ms. X decided. She had asked him and she had heard others ask him.

“I don’t know,” he would say, with a kind of shrug that was meant to show that he was a man capable of genuine humility, but if Ms. X or anyone else had an opinion about the matter, he would use his intellectual faculties to prove their thinking flawed.

“You are confusing ideas with reality,”  and then he had such a way of putting words together that by the end of his hypnotic discourse, most people felt their lack of wisdom was what kept things seen through the glass darkly. He was right even if you could not know why he was right. This was the common perception. It kept things simple.

But the nagging questions followed Ms. X and haunted her even after she was bannished. How could bloody sacrifice, a form of ritualized evil, make good things happen? Worse yet, would the practitioner of ritualized evil finally succumb to instability and failure once they left the habit?

The most important part of the Aztec ceremony seemed to be the pumping heart, torn from the living person, given to the sun god, and eaten by the priestsly class who were little gods themselves. Other sundry practices included roasting and eating choice parts of the victims. People kept bones as fetishes. They mixed sacrificial blood with grain and formed ceremonial cakes for consumption.

The Foundation was not concerned with the heart at all, thought Ms. X however, draining as much blood as possible out of the still living, still kicking animal, was crucial. The Foundation bathed in blood. Warm blood was necessary for initiation. It was captured with cupped hands as it spilled from the swooning animal’s lacerated neck and was quickly splashed atop the initiate’s head. The blood that dripped over their faces made patterns that the wife claimed were auspicious maps. She photographed them, holding the camera inches from their faces. Their stunned countenance and glassy eyes were incapable of recognizing that they were now a documented piece, displaying their membership in the "world’s most exclusive club", the Guru intoned.

Blood would feed the priests’ sacred tattoos on their bodies, and all sorts of amulets and stones, metal objects and pots, or whatever the Guru’s wife could come up with. Key chains sporting scorpions frozen in a disk of plastic became treasured objects of veneration when coated with blood. All of these things, even initiation, were sold by the Foundation to eager customers. They were very expensive but they were authentic. To get something of this quality would, naturally, be costly. 

After years of collecting such objects, Ms. X began to let them go. They were stored away until their potency withered and then they were left outdoors, in the woods or at the bottom of a stream. Books authored by the Guru, once considered holy in their perfectness, she passed like hot potatoes into other people’s greedy hands. The bloody photographs documenting all aspect of ritual, even the ripping off of clothes during the shedding ceremony, Ms. X burned so that no one could ever see them again. But the rocks, she kept. And a few beaded amulets she wore around her neck, especially in the classroom. She likened them to the human face masks, worn on the back of the head by certain Bengali villagers, so as to thwart the attack of man-eating tigers.  

Once in a great while, for posterity’s sake, the Association would find a priest laborer willing to skin and quarter one of the dead goats so that they could have a BBQ. The Guru talked of this ancient divine right, ingesting the food of the gods. It was a thing that would unite the eater with god, a holy union. Oh, what a thing to have! The divinization of man, merely through the act of eating. Of course, this was not the usual fate of said corpses.

In the beginning, a great number of dead animals were bagged and stuffed in barrels and left out at the end of the driveway to be collected as garbage until a bag ripped in the hands of a local collector, exposing a corpse. After that, the disposal crew refused to pick up the Concealment’s trash. To lighten the debris, hens, roosters, pheasants, and guinea fowl were thrown into a nearby lake until the alligators became a problem, nearing the initiates and priests, begging for food. So a number of deep pits were dug with heavy machinery on the Concealment’s land and slowly, one after another, they were filled with dead animals. After each ceremony the wife asked the priests, who were strong, to lift the lifeless bodies and carry them to one of the pits where they would be buried at the end of the day. Ms. X having toiled this way for a few days found an old wheel barrel with a flat tire in one of the storage sheds. She fixed the flat on her day off, making herself a Death Cart to lighten up her work.

The wife asked her priest laborers to cover the mound of bodies with at least a foot of sand but the pit in question was so wide and the animals strewn about so indiscriminately, that only enough energy to shovel a few inches could be mustered. Consequently a veritable stench surrounded the task.

Ms. X was quite astute at justifying animal sacrifice from the perspective that “everything is eating everything” so she could never really accept the burying of the goats. This she felt was a sacrilege that defeated the whole purpose. Draining the blood was necessary when butchering an animal for food and through careful study she concluded that our ancient forebears either drank the nutritious blood, made sausages from it, or simply let it drain on the ground. The excess that fell to the earth was honored as an offering to God. After the death and butchering were complete, some pieces were found unusable and indeed, these were buried with prayers and respect.

Since one of her chief duties was to bury goats, she was constantly reminded of this dereliction of religious protocol. She assumed that this was also a problem, although unconscious, for her rotating group of helpers who took two legs opposite of Ms. X and swinging back and forth counted three before letting the dead beast fly through the air and into the pit. The helpers, invariably, cringed when the animal landed with an offensive thud. She herself had shuddered at first but after some time she got used to it and used to burying the dead without a tepid thank you. Amid the heat of a blistering sun and frenzied insects high on the stench of death and decay, it was easier not to care.

Most people cannot fathom cannibalism, thought Ms. X, as she contemplated the images on TV showing costumed Aztecs gnawing on human leg bones. One might be able to muster a bit of sympathy for the practice, if one were stranded and starving, she conjectured. The ancient Aztecs mixed the blood of their victims with grain and a bit of honey, then shaped the dough into figurines to be ingested by the populace. Then, with a sudden chill, she understood why the common folk would accept this practice. They wanted to be privileged like the priests and the elite, manipulating the physical medium, and owning a part of the magic. Little did these commoners know, they were partaking in their own ritual enslavement, body, mind, and soul.

Ms. X lay awake that night, contemplating how such a practice as human sacrifice could ever, ever, be accepted and institutionalized in Mexico or any other place in the world. Where did bloody sacrifice originate? Why were there no television shows that explained these things? She yearned for the answers and eventually they would come.

Spanish, highschool. Ms. X found a slim volume on the teacher's bookshelf. It was a scholarly study, based on the ancient Mayan texts. On the cover, a feathered serpent was drawn in a beguiling dance pose. Intrigued, Ms. X settled into the little book and learned that it had to do with the rise of bloody sacrifice and the supreme civilizing deity, Quetzalcoatl. In deep antiquity, there was no concept of sacrifice, it did not exist. It was never contemplated by the supreme civilizing deity, nor was it ever a part of the original scheme. Yet, there came a time when Quetzalcoatl was pressured by a group of sorcerers, to adopt the institution, but the winged deity refused. The sorcerers mounted a palace coup and drove Quetzalcoatl away so that they could be the priests, or ruling class, who would eat the hearts and rule the minds of men. The author maintained that at the core of all bloody sacrifice, the world over, there is a certain priesthood whose justification for the practice lay in an appeal to the idea that a debt is owed to God, or the gods. A debt that must be paid with the ritual killing of a human or an animal. In gangster fashion, it tells mankind, "You owe the higher powers a debt, and therefore, you are property of the gods!". To seal this pact, the priests and the common folk agreed to eat, together, the blood and body of the sacrifice.

Ms. X had a sudden epiphany. Isn't that what Christians say about Jesus?



  Cult Illustration #14, ball point pen on paper, 11" x 8.5"


© 2017 Lea Atiq, all rights reserved