Historians believe that the Mayans were first introduced to human sacrifice by the Toltecs. Human sacrifice had long been a part of the Toltec religion. The sacrifices were performed by a priest called a nacom. The nacom was in charge of cutting out the hearts of the victims. He did this while he was entirely dressed in black. The nacom's assistants were elderly subordinates called chacs. Chacs were named after the god of rain. It was their job to hold the victims down during the sacrifice.
It is believed that commoners had little or no access to the main temples. The general population only participated in harvest, fertility, and hunting rites that were performed on specific calendar days. At these times the ceremonial centers were packed with people who were bloodletting, drinking an intoxicating beverage called balche, and probably using hallucinogenic mushrooms or peyote.
Ritual sacrifices played a vital role in the Mayan realm. They sacrificed both animals and humans. Animals that were sacrificed in great numbers included crocodiles, iguanas, dogs, peccaries, jaguars, and turkeys. The supreme sacrifice was the human life. This took place during elaborate ceremonies. Sacrificial scenes have been depicted in ancient Mayan ceramics, sculptures and murals. Like the Aztecs, this was all done in an attempt to appease the gods. Slaves, criminals, bastards, orphans and children made up the bulk of the sacrificial victims. Children were desired because of their innocence, and they would sometimes be abducted or purchased from neighboring cities. The purchase price was paid in red beans.
Diego de Landa witnessed human sacrifices. He tells us that the sacrificial victim was painted blue. Next, the victim was led to the summit of the pyramid and laid over a stone alter. Then with his arms and legs firmly held by the chacs, the nacom cut open the chest and tore out his heart. This was usually done with an obsidian or flint knife. Next, the heart was handed to the high priest, and the body was thrown down the temple stairs.
Other methods of sacrifice included drowning, beating, mutilation, and arrow sacrifices. In the arrow sacrifice the victim was painted blue, and tied to a stake while dancers took turns trying to pierce the victims heart.
During the Toltec-Itza rule of Chichen Itza pilgrims would travel great distances in order to perform human sacrifices. The victims who were sometimes laden in gold, silver and precious stones were hurled into the Sacred Cenote, a deep pool of water where the god Chac was said to live.