Of all of the various factions that inhabit the Warhammer 40,000 Universe, there is one that stands above all as humanity’s number one threat. It is not the Orks, Necrons, Tau, Tyranids, or even the Eldar. The biggest threat to humanity comes from the forces of Chaos. Chaos is not just a threat to humanity, but a threat to all intelligent life in the galaxy. Before we can go further though, we have to understand what Chaos is, and how it relates to the overall Warhammer 40k Universe.
When referring to Chaos in the Warhammer 40k Universe one could be talking about several different things. For one we could be talking about the spiritual force that is represented by typically malevolent entities such as Daemons. Chaos can also refer to the psychic energies that are ever turbulent within the realm of the Immaterium. These psychic energies come to existence from the emotions, desires, and thoughts of sapient beings within the Materium (real space). Chaos itself is what gives the Immaterium its shape and form. For those unfamiliar with the Warhammer 40k Universe, the Immaterium is an extra dimensional realm also usually referred to as “The Warp”. The Warp is home to all manners of Chaotic entities, given form and function by the emotions, desires, and thoughts that drove their creation. The Warp is also the origin of the psychic powers wielded by Psykers, and the magic wielded by Sorcerers. The most powerful of all the entitites in the Immaterium are known as the “Ruinous Powers” or “Gods of Chaos”.
Within the current canon there are four known God’s of Chaos. The Gods are Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh. Each God holds onto their own realm within the warp. Each realm is made up of the emotions, desires, and thoughts which created their respective gods, filled with daemons which represent the ideologies, emotions, and desires of the Gods which rule them. Each God works to influence the material world, in an effort to grow their power and their domain. Many mortals have fallen pray to the powers of Chaos, including some of humanity’s greatest warriors such as the Primarchs and their respective Space Marine legions.
Khorne, also known by the names “Blood God” and “Lord of Skulls” is the god of War, Murder, and Blood. Khorne is powered by, and represents the most savage and brutal of emotions such as; rage, murder, and hate. For every murder that is committed, Khorne grows in power. The more savage the slaughter, the more filled with hate a warrior is, the more destruction which is caused the better. However, despite the savagery which he represents, there is a sense of pride and honor which is embodied by Khorne and his champions as the weak and helpless are safe from their slaughter, but only as they are seen as unworthy foes. While Khorne’s followers lust for murder, they ensure that the death of their foes is quick rather than a slow painful death. The infliction of pain would only serve to power the God Slaanesh for reasons which will be explained later. The embodiment of wrath and domination is said to sit upon a brass throne on top of a mountain of skulls, in the middle of a lake of blood. The mountain of skulls grows with every kill in the name of the blood god, as well as with the death of his defeated champions. All races, species, and factions are represented in his mighty skull throne. It is this throne on which he sits which inspires his war cry “Blood for the Blood God! Skulls for the Skull Throne!”
Khorne’s followers tend to be people such as soldiers, primitive tribal humans from remote feudal worlds, and any others who experience violence on a nearly constant basis. When it comes to battle, Khornates prefer to engage in hand-to-hand combat, although ultimately the blood God cares only that the blood flows. There is one thing that Khorne looks down on though, and that is sorcery, seeing it as nothing more than trickery that is neither honorable or to be proud of.
The lore states that Khorne first came into existence in his current state around the time of Earth’s middle ages. Most likely brought into existence through the constant bloodshed, hatred, and cruelty committed by humanity. It is hinted and implied that humanity has had a strong influence on the Blood God’s power through their rise as a species. So originating from humanity’s violent tendencies, and thriving on the hatred that flows in abundance throughout the galaxy, it is no surprised that Khorne managed to temp the Primarch Angron, and his Space Marine Legion, the World Eaters, into his service. The World Eaters were known for being ferocious in battle, showing little mercy for their enemy. They were know to be harsh even by Space Marine standards, giving rise to one who would become one Khorne’s most successful champions, Kharn the Betrayer. Aside from Chaos Space Marines such as the World Eaters, Khorne also fields various forms of Daemons in his armies such as
- Flesh Hounds
- and other vile creatures.
As Khorne sits atop his brass throne, brooding over his domain, we are no fools to think that his threat is one that we can simply ignore. This being, is a warrior, a minister of destruction, rage incarnate, but only the first of the four Chaos Gods.
Slaanesh – Lord of Excess
Slaanesh is the Chaos God of pleasure, passion, lust, desire, pride, and excess of sensation. He/She…It, is the youngest of the Chaos Gods, being the last of the four to come into existence. Slaanesh is neither male nor female, instead combining features from both genders to accomplish it’s perceived notion of perfection through the combination of features from both sexes. Despite its genderless nature, Slaanesh can actually manifest in either female or male form, often preferring to take on a male form. Although often referred to as a male by the Imperium of Man, the Eldar know Slaanessh simply as “She Who Thirsts”.
Where Khorne was manifested through the bloodshed of Earth’s middle-ages, Slaanesh came into existence through the sheer lust, depravity, passion, decadence, and corruption of the Eldar Race. All those things, in combination with their extensive psychic powers lead to the creation, and awakening of the Lord of Excess, thus signaling the fall of the Eldar race. Despite being known as a the Lord of Pleasure as well as the Lord of Excess, it is the second title which best describes the God, for his sole domain is that of excess in all forms of sensation.
Slaanesh thrives off of lust, gluttony, masochism, all that which leads to sensation. As mentioned earlier, Knornate cultists and warriors aim to kill their enemies as opposed to inflicting pain. The reason for this is that inflicting pain upon their foes would only serve to empower the God of excess. It is hard though, to avoid sensations which would empower Slaanesh, as her source of power is, in a way, emotion itself. The love felt by young lovers, and their passion for one another is enough to give power to Slaanesh, the love a mother has for her newborn child, the pride a father feels for his son, the mastery of a martial art by a soldier, all of these things empower the Dark Prince. Unfortunately for Khorne, even the pride felt by one of his champions is enough to give power to the Lord of Excess.
Slaaneshi cults thrive in the more civilized worlds where wealth and affluence creates time for leisure, allowing for the exploration of all forms of pleasures. As the cult spreads unchecked, more and more citizens indulge in all forms of sensation until the entire world begins to be torn apart. Societies fall apart not from warfare or destruction, but because their citizens are lost in the pursuit of their own satisfactions. As society collapses around them Slaaneshi cultists have no fear of death, they see it as yet another sensation to experience.
Slaanesh has seduced many mortals into his worship, humans as well as Eldar have fallen prey to the Dark Prince. Slaanesh has even tempted Space Marines into his service, name the traitor legion known as “The Emperor’s Children”. She is often described as elegantly beautiful, being the most beautiful and seductive being in existence. Simply looking upon her is said to be enough to drive a mortal crazy, leaving open to the suggestions of their new God. His realm his is filled with excess riches, sensations, and sustenance.
Aside from the Emperor’s Children, and other mortal cultists, Slaanesh is also served by legions of daemons. These legions include but are not limited to
- Seekers of Slaanesh
- Fiends of Slaanesh
- Lady of the Voids
- Keepers of Secrets
Nurgle – Lord of Decay
The Chaos God most involved in all the decay and pestilence that affects mortals. His birth came around the time of Europe’s Middle-Ages, during which his birth was marked through the spread of the plague. He is the God of decay, disease, and death. As death and decay are merely two parts of an ongoing cycle, it is important to mention that Nurgle is also the God if rebirth. Nurgle is also the God of perseverance and survival. Many mortals unlucky enough to contract one of Papa Nurgle’s plagues, usually turn to him for the strength to persevere through it. He represents humanty’s knowledge of their own mortality, but their persistence in to grow and live a fruitful and fulfilling life despite it. In fact Nurgle, and his followers see his diseases as gifts to be embraced, and their cries of pain as calls of appreciation for receiving the will to endure. If chooses to see the world through the eyes of Nurgle and his followers, one might even conclude that Nurgle is the most generous of the Gods.
Nurgle is constantly brewing new diseases to release onto the mortal realms, testing them on the Eldar God Isha which he has imprisoned in his realm. His body is said to be covered in sores, leaking puss and blood. He is said to be covered in all forms of pestilence, rot, and filth. Despite the putrid state of his existence, Nurgle takes joy in his work, with boundless energy he brews his poxes, taking great joy in his work.
Khornate warriors fight to spill blood for their blood God, Slaaneshi cultists search for ever lasting please, but Nurgle cultists usually with the goal to persevere through suffering, or to find the will to endure. Cultists of Nurgle has come to accept their mortality, with hopes for rebirth. They seek not power, or wealth, or pleasure, but merely the will, the strength, the endurance to survive. Many do not escape their suffering, instead they endure through new plagues, mutations, and woes, with a strengthened will to survive and persevere. However many of those that fall to his worship do not do so on their own. The gifts they receive from Papa Nurgle often lead many of them to be outcast, having no one to turn to, but the Lord of Decay. Those followers with the fortitude to survive one of Nurgle’s gifts will often take to spreading his word, as gratitude for being spared.
It is said that those who have come into good favor with the Lord of Decay are capable of sustaining vast amounts of damage, feeling almost none of it in battle. This is terrifying prospect, specially when considering that Nurgle has his own Chaos Space Marine legion, in the form of the traitor legion known as “The Death Guard”. Space Marines are already incredibly durable, but Plague Marines are monstrously resilient, despite their decaying pestilent appearance. These corrupted traitors fight alongside Nurgle’s own demon legions including, but not limited to
- Plague Drones
- Great Unclean Ones
Tzeentch – Changer of Ways
Tzeentch is the God of change, intrigue, and sorcery. He is constantly plotting and planning. He is ever involved in the lives of mortals, manipulating the events within the galaxy to meet an ultimate goal that only he seems to be aware of. In fact, Tzeentch may not even have an ultimate goal, as it is speculated that he schemes simply for the sake of scheming and plotting.
Tzeentch is the embodiment of mortal’s desires for change, improvement, and innovation. However his approach to influencing the materium is less direct that his counterparts. Where Khorne influences through direct violence, and Nurgle through the spread of pestilence, Tweentch prefers to speak softly. He influences through flattering words, through subtle manipulation, through minor temptations, he is patient and no stranger to the long con.
Tzeentch’s appearance is said to be ever changing. He is said to be lanky, with skin covered in thousands of faces. The faces that adorn his body constantly slide, and shift, they phase in and out of existence as they whisper their secrets. It is said that the faces on his skin echo the words spoken by the God, except each different pair of lips speaks these words with their own unique twist ever so slightly altering the meaning of his words. However as Tzeentch is also know as a deceiver, it is possible that his appearance is not his real form, but merely a ruse it has put forth. It is also possible, that his ever shifting appearance is due to mutation, as he is the Lord of Change, and Changer of Ways, it makes sense that his physical form would mutate and transform on a constant basis. In fact, it is know that many who fall to worship of this God suffer from usually uncontrolled mutation, as was the case for the Thousand Sons Space Marine Legion which fell to his corruption.
Just like the God that inhabits it, Tzeentch’s domain is an ever changing maze known simply as “The Crystal Labyrinth”. This domain, shifts and changes on a constant basis. It adapts and alters based on the whim of it’s lord. It is nearly impossible for all mortal beings, and even daemons, to full understand the nature of Tweentch’s ever changing realm.
As mentioned, The Thousand Sons traitor legion of Space Marines is but one of the many forces which fight for Tzeentch. One thing that was notable about this chapter of Space Marines is the high amount of psykers and sorcerers which composed this legion. Magnus the Red, the primarch of the legion was known to be the most powerful psyker in the galaxy, as well as a gifted sorcerer. After being attacked by his own brother, and his brother’s legion, Magnus turned to the Lord of Change to escape the annihilation at the hands of his own former allies. Other forces of Tweentch include, but are not limited to;
- Lord of Change
- The Changeling
- Blue Scribes of Tzeentch
The Great Game
These four entities can be worshiped individually, and often are, or they can be worshiped as a pantheon under the name of “Chaos undivided. Despite the possibility for combined worship, this should not be taken to mean that these beings are in anyway allies, as they serve their own purposes first. Although the forces of Chaos will come together in their attempt to expand their incursions into the materium, they ultimate continue to wage eternal war on each other. Always at odds, the four gods fight one another to gain territory, to gain influence, to try achieve the goal of being the only and only force to exists. The game extends past the Gods, as it is played by their daemonic forces, and mortal followers alike. Despite the great game, no one force can ever truly win. Despite their everlasting bickering, the forces do occasionally come together to achieve a mutually beneficial goal, or to fight together against a common foe.
Each of the God’s constantly forces their influence within the mortal realms. They seek to gain worshipers, they seek to grow their domain, and they seek to serve their purposes. Khorne seeks to spill blood, Slaanesh to dwell in the excess of all sensation, Tweetch wishes to plot and manipulate, and Nurgle to spread pestilence. There is however, one more God, the Outcast God, a God who’s sole purpose is to watch the forces of Chaos work. This God was said to represent the TRUE chaotic forces of the warp, he is said to represent chaos itself, but unfortunately he is not as well known as the other four. The evidence of his existence is there, so please come back next week when we cover the history of the 5th Chaos God.