The Terror of Mictlantecuhtli, Ruler of the Aztec Underworld

In Aztec mythology, there is a god whose name strikes fear into the hearts of all who hear it—Mictlantecuhtli. He is the skeletal figure who rules over Mictlan, the underworld, with his wife Mictlancihuatl. But what makes this deity so terrifying?

Let’s take a look at his dark and mysterious origins.

Legends tell us that Mictlantecuhtli was once an Aztec warrior who rose up to become a powerful god. He was said to have been born from an egg laid by Itzpapalotl, the Obsidian Butterfly Goddess of Death. After his birth, he quickly gained power and soon became ruler of the underworld.

The Aztecs believed that upon death their souls traveled to Mictlan, where they would face final judgment before moving on to their next life or resting place in eternity. It was said that after arriving in Mictlan, mortals were judged by nine levels of gods in order to determine their ultimate fate.

At the very top was Mictlantecuhtli himself, whose skeletal arms would reach out from his throne and grab those souls deemed unworthy for eternal rest. Those unlucky individuals were then cast down into oblivion forever more.

It didn’t end there though; even those deemed worthy were not safe from Mictlantecuhtli’s wrath as he had a reputation for being quick-tempered and unpredictable in his judgments. He also had powers over life and death itself –– it was believed that if someone died prematurely due to natural causes or illness then it must have been because they had angered him in some way or another.

For this reason, many people offered him sacrifices in order to stay on his good side and avoid becoming one of his eternal prisoners—or worse!


While modern interpretations of mythology often soften its subject matter to be more palatable for our sensibilities today, there is no denying that tales like these still contain elements of horror and dread which cause us to shudder at what might lie beyond our realm of understanding. No matter how you interpret them, however, one thing remains clear—Mictlantecuhtli will always live on as an embodiment of terror in Aztec culture and beyond!