Chaos Gods

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[edit] The Chaos Gods in Warhammer

The concept of Chaos Gods has been a more or less integral part of both Warhammer universes ever since they were first conceived. In this idea there is evidently a strong influence from the British fantasy writer Michael Moorcock. Many different Chaos Gods were named in the various early miniature catalogues released by Citadel in the early eighties. But it was never clearly explained how the fictional pantheon looked like. The idea of "Four Great Powers of Chaos" i.e. Chaos Gods, were first introduced in the two Realm of Chaos sourcebooks released 1988 and 1990 respectively. To date these are the most detailed and defining pieces of work published by Games Workshop regarding Chaos. These Chaos Gods were described as being enormously powerful, and were constantly seeking to extend their power into the real world, the realm of mortals. They would do this by attracting followers amongst mortals by promising power, wealth, immortality or whatever else the potential servant desires. The gods are portrayed as capricious, selfish and vain, demanding absolute loyalty from their servants and rewarding deeds when they wish, in whatever ways they deem appropriate.

Current background material for both settings still state that there are many Chaos Gods, but the idea that there are four which are significantly more powerful than the rest is still there. The four great gods are often used as antagonists in their respective settings, frequently sparking great wars against other factions with the aim of gaining total domination over the entire setting. The names and aspects of these four great gods are:

Khorne - god of hate, blood, rage, war and killing

Nurgle - god of decay, despair, destruction, and disease

Slaanesh - god of decadence, excess, sex, pleasure and self-indulgence

Tzeentch - god of change, manipulation, scheming and sorcery

While these selfish gods distrust each other and in-fighting is common, each is also diametrically opposed by one of the other gods. Khorne is an outward acting deity, seeking the death of others; he is opposed by Slaanesh, who acts inwardly, seeking the pleasure of all experiences (including that of killing). Nurgle represents forces of decay, destruction, stagnation and random disease while Tzeentch represents constant building, evolving and planned change. These inimical relationships can have an effect upon the game mechanics regarding the armies that Chaos generals can field in both game settings, since warriors who follow one god will not serve a general who worships another god categorized as one of the first god's enemies; likewise, the general's god would punish him for trying to enlist the aid of his god's enemy.

Especially dedicated worshipers of the gods can be gifted with traits associated with their god; warriors blessed in such a manner are said to bear the "mark" of their god. The effect of this mark varies by game system, army and god, but is generally beneficial to the warrior in question. For example, in Warhammer 40,000, Chaos Marine worshipers of Nurgle become infected with a multitude of terrible diseases, which causes their bodies to rot and become resistant to pain and injury; their counterparts in Warhammer Fantasy are similar, but the rotting effect instead makes them appear frightening to their foes. Another example would be Khorne, whose followers in both settings are nearly uncontrollable, insane warriors who crave nothing more than to tear apart their foes in hand to hand combat. These marks can then lead to further boons from the patron god, known as "gifts"- these gifts can eventually turn the warrior bearing them into a powerful daemon, such as a Daemon Prince.

[edit] Khorne

The Mark of Khorne
The Mark of Khorne

In Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, Khorne is one of the four major Chaos gods. Like his brother gods, Khorne grew from a single survivalist emotion: in his case, the emotion was rage. Khorne is the Chaos god of hate, war, violence and killing; for this reason he bears sobriquets such as Blood God and Lord of Skulls.

Khorne is a spartan god of war who acts outwardly by seeking the death of others, preferring close combat over ranged weaponry; as such, he is completely opposed to the hedonistic Slaanesh, an inwardly acting god who seeks pleasure in every act and experience (and thus, Slaanesh seeks the pleasure of the kill, as apposed Khorne who is interested in the act of killing). He has a strong distrust of wizards and sorcerers, whom he sees as cowards; this means he is also highly suspicious of Tzeentch, although they are not archenemies. In both game settings, these relationships affect the makeup of an army which is dedicated to Khorne.

He is described as an extremely well-muscled, beast-headed monster sitting on a brass throne atop a mountain of skulls in the middle of a sea of blood. The skulls are described as belonging to both his victims and his worshippers alike, as Khorne cares not from whence the blood flows. Due to the immense amount of violence and killing occurring throughout the universe, Khorne is the strongest of the Chaos gods. The colours associated with him are red, brass and black, and these colours feature prominently in his demonic hordes and are usually adopted by his followers. The correct adjective to indicate individuals and events related to this God is "Khornate".

Relation to the Chaos Dwarfs

In older background, Chaos Dwarfs were shown as followers of Khorne. Although this has since been changed, the influence can still be seen. For example, the typical Chaos Dwarf colours match those of Khorne, and a symbol often cited as being the mark of Hashut bears a strong resemblance to the mark of Khorne.

[edit] Tzeentch

 Mark of Tzeentch
Mark of Tzeentch

In Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, Tzeentch is one of the four major Chaos gods. Like his brother gods, Tzeentch grew from a single survivalist emotion: in his case, the emotion was hope. Tzeentch is the Chaos god of change, sorcery, Machiavellian scheming and subtle manipulation; his nicknames thus include the Changer of Ways, the Grand Schemer, and the Lord of Sorcery. As a being representing change, he has no single form, but in Warhammer Fantasy he is described normally appearing as a cloud of light which constantly changes color, although his greater daemons are distinctly birdlike in appearance.

As Tzeentch represents hope, change, optimism, and adaptation, this makes him the antithesis of his brother Nurgle, god of despair, stagnation, pessimism, and destruction. This relationship has an effect on the nature of the armies that follow Tzeentch, in both game settings. The Chaos god Khorne also has a deep distrust of Tzeentch, due to the heavy use of psykers and sorcerers. However, Tzeentch's description in Warhammer 40,000: Codex Chaos Space Marines states that it is he who wields the most influence over his brethren. When the armies of Chaos march together for war, it is usually Tzeentch who instigates these brief alliances, for whatever unfathomable goal he happens to have planned. The correct adjective to indicate individuals and events related to this God is "Tzeentchian".

[edit] Nurgle

 The Mark of Nurgle
The Mark of Nurgle

In Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, Nurgle is one of the four major Chaos gods. Like his brother gods, Nurgle grew from a single survivalist emotion: in his case, the emotion was despair. Nurgle is the Chaos god of disease, decay, despair and destruction. Despite the nature of his influence, he takes a keen interest in his victims, caring for them in a jovial manner similar to a loving grandfather; for this reason he is frequently referred to as Grandfather Nurgle or Papa Nurgle, as well as the Lord of Decay. He is depicted as a huge, bloated humanoid, covered with boils and sores, his body completely rotten from disease. He is typically accompanied by an enveloping cloud of buzzing flies.

Like all of the four major Chaos gods, Nurgle is opposed by one of his fellows. In Nurgle's case, his anthithesis is Tzeentch, the god of change and sorcery. Where Nurgle is the deified embodiment of mortal despair; Tzeentch is the deified embodiement of mortal hope. This antagonistic relationship affects the armies dedicated to each god. The correct adjective to indicate individuals and events related to this God is "Nurglesque".

[edit] Slaanesh

The Mark of Slaanesh
The Mark of Slaanesh

In Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy, Slaanesh is one of the four major Chaos gods. Slaanesh is depicted, in both Warhammer 40,000 and Warhammer Fantasy as the youngest of the four major gods. Like his brother gods, Slaanesh grew from a single survivalist emotion: in his case, the emotion was pleasure. He is the god of excess, hedonism, pride, aestheticism and self indulgence; he is also known as the Dark Prince or the Prince of Excess.

Slaanesh is described as taking many forms, be they female or male, even hermaphroditic or androgynous. In any case, he is always unnaturally beautiful, and irresistible to mortals who view him. Slaanesh is regarded by humans as being male, with the notable exception that the Eldar race of Warhammer 40,000 refers to Slaanesh as a female, normally referring to "her" as She Who Thirsts or the Great Enemy. The correct adjective to indicate individuals and events related to this God is "Slaaneshi".


In the original Realm of Chaos tome Slaves to Darkness which remains the best and most comprehensive body of reference on the cult of Slaanesh the God in its original form is said to be a statuesque hermaphrodite with the right side of the body being female and the left one male. Slaanesh is depicted as being endowed with a large mane of hair from which protrude a double set of bull-like horns (one larger and a smaller one inside the first pair). The God is also said to wield at all time an arcane golden wand which serves as receptacle of much of its awesome power and to be its greatest treasure.

Slaanesh is opposed by the Chaos God Khorne. Slaaneshi act inwardly by enjoying every experience and every act; whereas Khornites act outwardly through rage-fuelled violence. Khorne detests Slaanesh's decadence, where Slaanesh detests Khorne as crude and deeply unsophisticated. In both game settings, this relationship affects the armies dedicated to either god.

[edit] Other Chaos Gods

Besides the currently four major gods, there exists and has existed other gods, both major and lesser. The other Chaos gods who have been mentioned in the Warhammer Fantasy and Warhammer 40,000 settings include:

Malal - A renegade Chaos God, representing the paradox of Chaos fighting against itself. He is no longer mentioned in current background material.

Be'lakor - also known as The Dark Master, Be'lakor was once a mighty champion of the Dark Gods and the first mortal to gain immortality in Warhammer Fantasy[citation needed], but he fell from grace and was stripped of his power. He is now considered a Daemon Prince, but has attempted to attain godhood. His power is such that he can grant his followers (called "Dark Emissaries") magic spells similar to other gods.

Hashut - in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, Hashut is the god of the Chaos Dwarfs. He represents aspects of industry, fire, volcanoes, darkness, hammers and lightning, and shares some aspects of ancient Babylonian gods. It is not entirely clear if he is a Chaos God in his own right, an aspect of one or several gods, or another kind of god.

Kweethul - in the Realms of Chaos: Lost and the Damned book (an early sourcebook), a Skaven who was a minor chaos god in his own right.

Horned Rat - in the Warhammer Fantasy setting, the Horned Rat is the god of the Skaven. He represents aspects of disease, magic, the power of Chaos itself, rats, and other characteristics of the Skaven race.

Necoho - in Warhammer Fantasy, a renegade minor god known as the "Doubter", representing aspects of agnosticism and atheism.

Zuvassin - in Warhammer Fantasy, a renegade minor god known as the "Great Undoer", representing a desire to foil the efforts of others.

Screaming God Child - A god in Warhammer Fantasy which looks like an eyeless child. Not much is known about him except that he has been sealed in another dimension known as Othernesse since the beginning of time. If reached he will answer any question but will never allow anyone to leave his nursery/cage. Malus Darkblade tricked the Screaming God Child and left Othernesse but the Screaming God Child captured him and imprisoned a chaos daemon known as Tz'arkan within him.

Others - there are a multitude of other unnamed gods and cults. In the Warhammer 40,000 setting, for example, the Chaos Space Marines called Raptors and Obliterators each have their own cults, the natures of which are virtually unknown. Also in the Warhammer 40,000 setting, the fallen Dark Angel known as Cypher is protected by an unknown entity of great power, although it is unclear if this entity is a Chaos God. Background material for Warhammer Fantasy mentions many other minor gods with very little background beyond their names and aspects, such as Khakkekk (goblin god of blood), Atagro (god of beasts), Meneloth (elven god of pleasure), Obscuras (god of shadows and hidden things) and Mermedus (god of the sea). It has been hinted that these lesser deities are deceptive alias' of the four major Chaos Gods. For example, Khakkekk draws parallels with Khorne, both in name and aspect.

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