Mictlantecuhtli (Mictlanteculi) (lord of death) In Aztec mythology, death god, lord of the land of the dead, who with his wife, Mictlantecihuatl, cared for the dead who came to their kingdom, Mictlan (Mictlancalco), the place of the dead. Mictlantecuhtli was portrayed as an openmouthed monster ready to devour the souls of the dead. Sometimes he was portrayed as an owl, with skull and bones. He was associated with the north, and his color was red. Mictlantecuhtli is regarded in some texts as an aspect of the god Tezcatlipoca (mirror that smokes), the Aztec creator-trickster god. Mictlantecuhtli was also known as Tzontemoc (he of the falling hair), perhaps indicative of his role as death god.


Encyclopedia of World Mythology and Legend, Third Edition – Written by Anthony S. Mercatante & James R. Dow
Copyright © 2009 by Anthony S. Mercatante


Lord of Death

Also known as:




According to Aztec cosmology, there are thirteen celestial levels and nine Underworld levels. Souls of the dead must pass through each lower level until reaching the very last, Mictlan, during an arduous journey that takes years to accomplish.

Mictlantecuhtli is Lord of Mictlan, the Aztec realm of death. His wife and partner is Mictlancihuatl. Those who die uneventful deaths enter his realm. At the beginning of this world, Quetzalcoatl went to Mictlan to gather old bones in order to create a new race of people. When Mictlantecuhtli wouldn’t give them to him, Quetzalcoatl stole them.

In Javier Hernandez’s comic book El Muerto: The Aztec Zombie, Mictlantecuhtli seeks the return of traditional Aztec religion.


Mictlantecuhtli, a bloodstained skeleton, wears paper clothing, owl feathers, and a collar made of eyeballs. (Paper clothing was a traditional offering to the dead.)




North or south


The eleventh hour


Dog, bat, spider




Once upon a time, the Aztecs buried loved ones with valuable gifts to be presented to Mictlantecuhtli upon arrival in Mictlan.

See Also:

  • Mictlancihuatl
  • Quetzalcoatl
  • Xolotl


Encyclopedia of Spirits: The Ultimate Guide to the Magic of Fairies, Genies, Demons, Ghosts, Gods & Goddesses – Written by : Judika Illes Copyright © 2009 by Judika Illes.

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