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Mictlantecuhtli: Mictlantecuhtli, God of Death in Aztec Religion, Mythology


Mictlantecuhtli: God of Death in Aztec Religion, Mythology

Mictlantecuhtli: God of Death in Aztec Religion, Mythology

Image Source: Jupiter Images

Name and Etymology:

Lord of Mictlan

Religion and Culture of Mictlantecuhtli:

Aztec, Mesoamerica

Symbols, Iconography, and Attributes of Mictlantecuhtli:

Aztec associated owls with death, so Mictlantecuhtli is often depicted wearing owl feathers in his headdress. He is also depicted with a skeletal shape with knives in his headdress to represent the wind of knives which souls encounter on their way to the underworld. Sometimes Mictlantecuhtli may also be depicted as a skeleton covered with blood wearing a necklace of eyeballs or wearing clothes of paper, a common offering to the dead. Human bones are used as his ear plugs, too.

Mictlantecuhtli is God of:

Dogs (because Aztecs believed that dogs accompanied souls to the underworld)

Equivalents in Other Cultures:

Ah Puch, Mayan god of death
Coqui Bezelao, Zapotec god of death

Story and Origin of Mictlantecuhtli:

Mictlantecuhtli is ruler of Mictlan, the Aztec underworld, with his wife Mictecacihuatl. Aztec hoped to have a death good enough for one of the many paradises they believed in. Those who failed to gain admission to a paradise were forced to endure a four-year journey through the nine hells of Mictlan. After all the trials, they reached the abode of Mictlantecuhtli where they suffered in his Underworld.

Family Tree and Relationships of Mictlantecuhtli:

Husband of Mictecacihuatl

Worship and Rituals of Mictlantecuhtli:

To honor Mictlantecuhtli, Aztec sacrificed an impersonator of Mictlantecuhtli at night and at a temple named Tlalxicco, which means "navel of the world." When Hernan Cortes landed, Aztec ruler Moctezuma II thought that it was the arrival of Quetzalcoatl, signalling the end of the world, so he stepped up human sacrifices to offer the skins of victims to Mictlantecuhtli in order to placate him and avoid suffering in Mictlan, the underworld and abode of the dead.

Art and Temples of Mictlantecuhtli:

unknown — please email me if you have any information to add about this.

Mythology and Legends of Mictlantecuhtli:

As the god of death and the underworld, Mictlantecuhtli was naturally feared and myths portray him in a negative manner. He often takes pleasure at the suffering and death of people; in one myth, he tries to trick Quetzalcoatl into staying in Mictlan forever. At the same time, he had a positive side and could grant life as well.

In one myth, the bones of previous generations of gods were stolen from Mictlantecuhtli by Quetzalcoatl and Xolotl. Mictlantecuhtli chased them and they escaped, but first they dropped all the bones which shattered and became the current race of humans.

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