BBC’s A History of the World in 100 Objects is fascinating

“The central ritual of this religion saw chiefs compete to capture the first sooty tern egg of the season. The triumphant chief would then become the birdman. Representing the creator god, he would live for one year in isolation, shaving his hair and growing his nails like talons.”

Making statues of the gods was thought to be dangerous. Sculptors feared they or their families might die as a result, so they fasted and performed prayers and rituals before they began…. Tlazolteotl was the goddess of filth worshipped throughout Mesoamerica. She was a goddess of sexuality and fertility who would devour excrement and sin and transform it into renewed vitality. Sex was highly regulated in Aztec society and sexual transgressions heavily punished. Some sexual misdemeanours were confessed to a priest of Tlazolteotl and were forgiven if the penitent worshipper underwent an appropriate penance. Usually they would shed their own blood as part of this, piercing their tongue, ears or penis with a stingray spine.



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