In the years before the Spanish conquest in the early 1500's, the Aztecs of Mexico ritually sacrificed at least 20,000 people per year. The Aztec Indians of Mexico practice human sacrifice and cannibalistic acts to pay the highest respects to the gods of their polytheistic lifestyle. The act of sacrifice involved a hierarchy: the gods offered to, the performers of sacrifice, and the victims of sacrifice.
Whatever symbolic meaning the god represented would bring gifts such as rain, a good crop season, etc. If the rain god Tlaloc was pleased with his offering, rain would bring an end to drought. The Tlaloque, Tlaloc's offspring, controlled all rivers, wells, snow and hailstorms. Xipe Totec, known as "Our Lord the Flayed One", was one of the creator gods of the Aztecs. Xipe was the god of both goldsmiths and a prosperous spring growth. His victims or offerings would be striped, the breaking of the skin being symbolic to the splitting of the seeds in the earth when the seeds germinate.
The performers of sacrifice were dedicated priest who wore distinctive clothing and had a definitive style. The priests wore unwashed black robes and their bodies" were painted with a mixture of rubber tree sap, spiders and scorpions. The black hair and the nails of a sacrificial priest were never washed or cut, making the hair occasionally come to the length of the ankles and the nails being long, curved and claw like.
The Aztecs used war and crime as a way to find captives for sacrifice and cannibalism. Almost all of the Aztec sacrificed victims were members of guilty classes including prisoners of war, slaves, and criminals. Public debtors, persons of extreme poverty and children were subject to human sacrifice when needed.
In order to please the Aztecs" insistent gods, the Aztecs would follow their sacrificial rituals to accommodate each need of the god that was being offered to. The dedicated priests who performed sacrifices followed the code of dress required by wearing certain black robes and not cutting or washing neither their hair nor nails.