THEOGONY, PART TWO

This post continues the discussion of the origins of the gods and goddesses of Warhammer. The last post discussed the main gods and goddesses of the WFRP1 rulebook. This looks at the deities of Law and Chaos.

LAW

The deities of Law were only briefly described before they disappeared from the Warhammer canon. Bryan Ansell has, though, made this short comment on his intentions for them:

I think that I talked to John [Blanche] about illustrations of four Gods of Law. It’s possible that sketches were done: if so, I have no memory of what they looked like. The Gods of Law were going to be even more ferocious than the Gods of Chaos.

– Bryan Ansell, Realm of Chaos 80s

ALLUMINAS

Alluminas bears a resemblance to the Zoroastrian god Ahura Mazda, who is associated with light. The resemblance is significant as Michael Moorcock has cited Zoroastrianism as a key influence in his ideas on Law and Chaos, and, as is well known, Moorcock was in turn the dominant influence on Warhammer‘s similar ideas. (Incidentally Ahura Mazda was also known as Ormazd, and was clearly  the inspiration for Ken Rolston’s god of that name.) Alluminas’ immobilising beams of light might recall also Zeus’ thunderbolts.

The name Alluminas evidently derives from the English word illuminate (and possibly also the French allumer).

ARIANKA

arianka

Arianka was a creation of John Wagner and Alan Grant for the Kaleb Daark cartoon that began in the Third Citadel Compendium. She was not specified in any detail and had no clear responsibilities or aspects. She was little more than a Sleeping Beauty character.

The name might tentatively be connected to Ariana, the Roman form of the Greek Ariadne, but is most probably simply an invention.

SOLKAN

The idea of a god of vengeance perhaps originates in Moorcock’s god Donblas, the Justice Maker, blended with the vengeful god of the Old Testament.

I have been unable to identify any probable source for the name, so there is a very good chance that it is invented. The Latin sol (“sun”) might be connected, as is perhaps the Moorcockian Law god Arkyn, but I am unconvinced that either is the true origin.

CHAOS

The gods of Chaos were, of course, treated in much greater detail, though their conceptions changed significantly over time.

KHORNE

Khorne.jpg

The first Chaos god to take shape in was Khorne. Khorne appeared in the First Citadel Compendium and in Citadel’s Knights of Chaos boxed set in 1983. He was described only briefly as a Chaos god of war. However, he was accompanied by a divine retinue who were accounted for in a little more detail: Dark Zoonbar, Dim Ponn the Unholy Grimace, The Divine Tuluk, Far-Reaching Alaman, Gorth the Great Obesity, Laughing Jokkle and Wenwoch the Waylayer. Strangely followers of Chaos worshipped not Khorne directly, but one of his retinue, who are described as aspects of Khorne.

The reason for this arrangement is not clear. Moorcock’s Chaos gods had lesser divine vassals, but they were minor characters and typically Moorcock’s heroes interacted with the master deity. Perhaps it was an attempt to reconcile a pantheon of gods created by Rick Priestley (who wrote the Knights of Chaos insert) with the one envisaged by Bryan Ansell (who created Khorne). Perhaps the idea was to combine monotheism and polytheism. (There was even a lawful aspect of Khorne.) Whatever the reason, the idea was short lived and by the time of the Disciples of the Red Redemption, Khorne was a deity worshipped in his own right.

According to Bryan Ansell, the name Khorne was based on the god Crom in Robert E Howard’s Conan stories. The character of Khorne is different from Howard’s Crom. It is closer to that of the Howard’s inspiration, the Celtic god Crom Cruach. Crom Cruach is cognate with words for blood and slaughter and associated with human sacrifice in Christian sources.

Khorne’s appearance was, like the other deities in Realm of Chaos, the creation of John Blanche. His original sketch of Khorne as a dog-faced armoured humanoid may owe a debt to mediaeval images of demons, but I can identify no mythological or literary influences.

NURGLE

Nurgle

Bryan Ansell has explained he created this deity from the Mesopotamian deity Nergal, whose aspects included death and disease. The spelling was modified to resemble the onomatopoeic English word gurgle.

Although Nurgle’s physical depiction might seem obvious for a plague god, I haven’t found any mythological precedents. (It is possible that David Lynch’s depiction of an obese, pustulent Vladimir Harkonnen in the film Dune (1984) might have been an influence, but it seems a distant and improbable connection.)

SLAANESH

Slaanesh

Slaanesh bears some resemblance to the Greek god Dionysus. The elements of intoxication and revelry are common, but are more extreme in Slaanesh’s case.

According to Bryan Ansell, the name “was meant to be a sibilant, erotic, breathy, whispered/murmured sound”. The Mesopotamian god Shamash may also have influenced the name.

Slaanesh’s appearance appears to be an original creation. Its punk fetishism tinged with psychedelia seems characteristic of John Blanche’s style.

Horned is the Hunter

John Blanche, Horned is the Hunter

TZEENTCH

Tzeentch.jpg

Bryan Ansell has commented that Tzeentch was at least partly inspired by Aztec deities. For example, the feathers of the Lords of Change and Tzeentch’s serpentine head resemble the Aztec Quetzalcoatl. Tzeentch’s head may also be an echo of the Greek Medusa.

Quetzalcoatl

Quetzalcoatl

The name is again onomatopoeic. Bryan Ansel indicates it “was meant to be the sound of a spell blasting out, like in a Dr Strange comic”. The tz and ch sounds again have a somewhat Aztec feel.

THE HORNED RAT

Jes Goodwin created the Horned Rat for the Spring 1986 Citadel Journal, as part of the background for the skaven. It was clearly derived from the skaven themselves.

MALAL

Malal.png

Malal was another invention of Wagner and Grant for Kaleb Daark, though the idea of a renegade element of Chaos goes back to the Knights of Chaos boxed set (Dim Ponn, the lawful aspect of Khorne mentioned above).  The god’s appearance appears to have been an invention.

The name seems to come from the English prefix mal- (from the Latin malus), with a reduplicated ending.

As is now well known, Malal disappeared from the Warhammer background because of a dispute over ownership of the intellectual property.

THE ANCIENT ALLIES

In Something Rotten in Kislev Graeme Davis created the minor Chaos gods Zuvassin the Undoer and Necoho the Doubter to replace Malal. I know of no antecedents for these, other than Malal. They seem to be original creations by Graeme Davis.

Their names also seem to be original. Necoho possibly contains the Latin nec (“and not”). Since Zuvassin is the god of snafus, his name could be “snafus” in reverse (s-u-f-a-sn). I am unconvinced by either of these explanations, though.

OVERALL

The deities of Law and Chaos were clearly inspired by those in Michael Moorcock’s fiction. They take the form of powerful beings akin to demons in constant battle over the fate of the universe. They interfere in mortal affairs and make bargains with individual followers.

However, there are some differences. The physical manifestations of Warhammer‘s Chaos gods are more grotesque than Moorcock’s. Frequently Moorcock’s deities appear as beautiful humanoids (eg Arioch or Xiombarg). Even when they are monstrous in appearance (eg Chardros or Pyaray), they are less hideous. The Warhammer deities perhaps owe some of their physical form to HP Lovecraft, mediaeval depictions of demons or even modern horror films.

Moorcock’s deities also frequently manifest in the mortal world, and can even be destroyed. Warhammer‘s gods do occasionally manifest in the WFRP1 era (eg Tzeentch and Malal), but are generally more remote and cannot be destroyed.

The Warhammer gods are associated with specified ideas and phenomena (eg Khorne with violence and Slaanesh with hedonism). Moorcock’s gods have titles (Arioch is Lord of the Seven Darks, Knight of the Swords, etc), but for the most part do not have such associations (Donblas is a rare exception).

The deities of Law are so briefly described in both Warhammer and Moorcock that it is difficult to make many reliable comparisons. It is interesting, though, that Bryan Ansell describes them as “terrifying”. The Law Lords in Moorcock are often portrayed as benevolent (eg Arkyn in the Corum books). Again, though, there are exceptions: lawful realms are depicted as barren wastelands and the gods of Law count Lucifer among them.

I have one further final observation. It was never made clear how the pantheon of Law and Chaos related to the good, evil and neutral gods of the Warhammer setting. The two different metaphysical systems were put together without any reconciliation. Kháine’s subsequent uncertain equation with Khorne seems to be a symptom of this problem.

 

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9 thoughts on “THEOGONY, PART TWO

  1. ‘Solkan’ has an even more obvious antecedent – ‘Solomon Kane’, Howard’s puritanical witch hunter character. Presumably copyright issues were why this God never got much subsequent treatment (and iirc was renamed for his fleeting mention in WFRP2).

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  2. Interesting point about the non-matching pantheons btw. Every post here seems to emphasise how much the much-loved WFRP1 setting was basically cobbled together from wildly different material made by different authors at different times, with very little central guidance.

    Very anarchic, very old-school, though it’s hard not to wonder what a more ‘designed’ project would have looked like.

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    1. Some of that might be down to my own reductionist tendencies! I think WFRP1’s “cobbled together” nature is part of its charm, though. The elements are familiar, but the blend is distinctive. It’s accessible and feels realistic, but is unlike other settings. I would also guess that many of us take pleasure in blending the various disparate elements in our own ways.

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  3. When I’ve run campaigns with a cosmology inspired by WFRP/Moorcock, I have had the Gods of Law just as destructive to humanity as the Gods of Chaos. In particular, as well as being the Gods of fascists and other totalitarian regimes, I have them as the patrons of necromancers and the undead, the idea being that undeath involves resisting the disordering principles of death and decay. As does magical healing…

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  4. Alluminas was the only god of Law in the Priestley-Halliwell-Ansell draft of WFRP that came to me. I don’t know anything about his origins, but his abstract nature (a perfect sphere of light) and name (probably derived from the Latin “lumen”) makes me think he was Rick’s creation, working from a very vague brief from Bryan and not feeling terribly inspired. As you say about Moorcock’s law gods, it’s hard to make them as interesting as Chaos gods.

    I put in Arianka along with Malal, trying to be complete, but of course she fell prey to the same ownership issues and was never mentioned again. In any case I never found her interesting – she was set up in the comic as a quest objective rather than a goddess with a personality and sphere of interest. My guess is that the name is a corruption of Ariadne – the mistress of the labyrinth in Greek myth – with the faux-Slavic “-ka” name ending because she was imprisoned in the city of Praag. The glass coffin makes me think of Snow White, although something similar appears in some versions of the Merlin myths.

    Solkan was indeed derived from Solomon Kane. I guess I was feeling obvious that day. I was frustrated by the abstract (and, quite frankly, boring) nature of Alluminas and wanted to add at least one Law god who was more relateable, and a patron of witch hunters was an obvious antagonist for the Chaos gods. Of course, in later editions Sigmar became the patron of witch hunters and Solkan withered on the vine. At this early stage, though, Sigmar was no more than a tutelary deity of the Empire.

    I have nothing to add about the four Chaos gods – in fact, some of the information you have dug up, attributed to Bryan in the text, is new to me. Well done!

    The Horned Rat was Jes, as you say. There was some thought given to making him an aspect of one of the four main Chaos gods – the Khaine/Khorne thing was a half-hearted attempt at something similar – but it never amounted to anything.

    The Ancient Allies were cobbled together to replace Malal in Ken’s original manuscript. Necoho and Zuvassin were just made-up names, with no conscious derivation: though Necoho may unconsciously have been inspired by the Latin “nescio” – “I don’t know” – on account of his skepticism. I remember at the time I thought that a patron deity of atheists was the funniest thing ever – not sure whether it stood the test of time. Anyway, new Chaos gods were never welcomed by the higher-ups.

    “Cobbled together” pretty much describes it. Too many authors, too many approaches, too little time, and very little dialogue between those working on the various drafts, with well-meaning but greenish me trying to assemble everything and fill in the gaps without throwing out anyone else’s work.

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  5. The John Blanche pictures shown above of the chaos gods aren’t the original images passed on to me for further development. They were much more like small developed sketches, but definitely not as finished as those shown. The Lovecraftian influence came from me. John did some sketches of some of the lesser demons. Again it was up to me to develop those ideas but in this case the final decisions to their appearance was taken during meetings held solely for that purpose.

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  6. On the subject of the gods occasionally manifesting in the world, it seems odd that the gods of Law appear more likely to do so. Arianka appears to have physical form in the Old WOrld and, whilst not strictly WFRP, but contemporaneous with WFRP 1, there was a reference to Solkan directly intervening in the Advanced Heroquest game, as I recall too. I seem to remember that the set up for the adventures was that a Skaven demon had been imprisoned after being defeated by the god Solkan in combat when Solkan’s temple was threatened. I’m not sure it was a great idea and doesn’t appear to have ever been followed up on.

    WHilst its right to say that the gods of Law were generally ignored, they have continued to have something of a half life, particularly in GW’s fiction. Sometimes their appearance has been disguised but Brian Craig (Stableford) made use of them as background on a couple of occasions, CL Werner used Solkanites as antagonists, amongst others.

    Good to see Tony Ackland joining Graeme Davis as a poster commentator here – both in their own ways made contributions that defined WFRP for me.

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