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Saturday, November 21, 2020

The Terrifying Sounds Made By The Aztec Death Whistle

Aztecs are known not only for their towering pyramids and human sacrifice ceremonies. They are also known for producing strange artifacts that expressed their rich culture and tradition. One of these peculiar artifacts is the Aztec Death Whistle; once blown, this instrument can create one of the terrifying sounds humans can hear. These whistles come shaped like a human skull and were found on a beheaded Aztec skeleton's remains. 

Aztec Death Whistle

Excavations on newly found Aztec sites often lead to groundbreaking discoveries such as recently unearthed temples, opulent halls, and even lost royal tombs. Beneath these macrocosmic discoveries, some trinkets reveal how rich is the Aztec civilization and its other cohorts. The instrument known as the Aztec Death Whistle is said to have different uses. 

The death whistle often comes in many forms and sizes. Aztecs formed most of these death whistles out of carved wood pierced in several chambers to produce the blood-curdling sound similar to a person howling in pain or screaming. Some of the death whistles are thumb-sized and are often carved with the motif of the skull. It is common to see that shrunken heads or real skulls were used to create the death whistles; modern artisans recreated the Aztec death whistles as souvenirs for tourists. 

The Aztecs might have utilized the death whistle in several ways. One of the few scholarly references about the death whistle is this text: The most remarkable festival connected with Tezcatlipoca was the Toxcatl, held in the fifth month. On the day of this festival, a youth was slain who had previously been carefully instructed in the role of victim. He assumed the name, garb, and attributes of Tezcatlipoca himself[as] the earthly representative of the deity... He also carried the whistle symbolical of the deity [as Lord of the Night Wind] and made with it a noise such as the weird wind of night makes when it hurries through the streets. (Lewis Spence, Myths of Mexico and Peru, London, 1913, pp. 69-70). This text says that the death whistles are used in honor of Tezcatlipoca or Lord of the Night.

Aztec Death Whistle, Warfare, Psychological
Image: The Epoch Times

There are also speculations that the Aztecs used the death whistle as a tool of psychological warfare. An invading Aztec army with shock troops might have used this instrument along with war drums to break enemy formations and instill fear of the carnage that awaits the enemy. It is indeed terrifying for the enemy to hear screaming and wailing noises from a distance. 

Another possible use of the death whistle is to be an essential tool for ceremonies or rituals in the Aztec gods' honor. The repeated use of the whistle can induce a trance state in the one participating in the ceremony. Aztecs can also give the death whistle post mortem to the sacrificed person to guide him/her in the afterlife. 

Aztec history is one of the most shrouded in mystery to know more about the Aztecs and their civilization these are the following books that you should read: Fifth Sun: A New History of the Aztecs by Camilla Townsend, Daily Life of the Aztecs on the Eve of the Spanish Conquest by Jacques Soustelle, and Aztec Thought and Culture: A Study of the Ancient Nahuatl Mind by Miguel León-Portilla. 


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