Monks of Yahlgan
Name(s): Monks of Yahlgan, AKA "Devotees of Erlik", "Cult of Erlik", "Muvian Cult of Erlik", "Om-Yati Monks"
First Appearance: Robert E. Howard stories including "The Black Hound of Death", "The Daughter of Erlik Khan"
Short Description: A violent and brutal cult of shape-shifting monks based today in Mongolia, Turkey, and Afghanistan, but originating in ancient Mu; its most visible members are dedicated to seeking out occult libraries and book collectors to try to recover the Ghorl Nigral, a truly ancient and monstrous prehuman tome reputed to be the oldest surviving book on earth.
History and Scope
The cult appears to have originated in the antique and shadowed lost continent of Mu, where, according to legend, their first priest was Zakuba, an inhuman ("pig-snouted and clawed") entity said to have served Nyarlathotep on a world called Yaddith of the Five Moons as the hand to write the terrible Ghorl Nigral from Nyarlathotep's dictation for the enlightenment of the Dholes. Zakuba appears to have stolen the tome upon its completion, fleeing to Earth, and teaching its secrets instead to the proto-human Muvian cult of Erlik. The cult as instructed by Zakuba seems to have persisted in Mu for millions of years until the continent was lost to volcanic destruction and swallowed beneath the waves, with the cult fleeing to or branching out to and surviving in the young Asian continent, in what would become Mongolia; the cult has survived secretly in Mongolia to this very day, with a relatively mild branch of the cult, largely made up of human cultists, springing up in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Turkey, where they have sometimes been confused with the Yezidi cult of Melek-Taus.
The cult would have operated in relative obscurity, except that Herrmann Muller, by occult means, discovered the cult in Afghanistan where Muller, armed with a working knowledge of the occult, a fluent command of the Turkish language, and an unusually persuasive charisma, introduced himself to and then insinuated himself into the cult as its first European member, learning many of the cult's secrets, the pre-human Naacal language, and at last the location of their hidden library in the cult's secret mountain stronghold of Yian-Ho in the blackest hills of Mongolia, into which Muller stole by night, taking from it the cult's sacred holy book, the Ghorl Nigral, fleeing with the tome across Asia and back to Germany, with members of the cult pursuing, until the pursuing party's sudden and unexpected destruction, apparently the result of Muller's performance of a human sacrifice and casting of a terrible spell. Additional search parties from Yian-Ho would eventually track Muller back to Germany, prompting him to flee again, this time to Arkham.
The the original, immortal cultists and their stone-age monastery-citadel in Yahlgan seem to have existed, unchanged, to this day in the mountains of blackest Mongolia. Their extension in Afghanistan was destroyed and sent into hiding in the 1980s under first Soviet and then Taliban persecution; the surviving members, in atonement for their role in recruiting the treacherous Muller, wander the world as gurus, fakirs, mystic wise-men, and occult teachers, still following the trails that lead to copies of their holy tome in an effort to retrieve at last the original and return it to its rightful place in the forbidden shrine of the deathless cult's secret monastery library.
Identification, Psychology and Behavior
The wandering "Afghan" branch of the cult are mostly descended from a few heretical exiles of the original cult who have attempted to increase their numbers by blending with the local human populations, and today appear to outsiders to be little different from human populations, especially with the help of shape-shifting spells, disguises, and other trickery. These long-lived and hardy cultists are, almost exclusively, the "monks" most commonly seen by the outside world, who meet them in the disguise of wandering spiritual gurus, ascetic fakirs, mystic yogis, and occult teachers, as they insinuate themselves into various mystic movements in the outside world in order to seek out rumors of their lost holy book so that they may at last track it down and return it to its library-shrine in Yahlgan. Until the cult's persecution in the 1980s and beyond following the events of the Afghan war, this branch had maintained a pale imitation of the original carved into in the living rock of the hills of modern Turkey and Afghanistan which they called "Yolgan", where they practiced a much milder and more palatable variety of the rites of Yahlgan, which instruct the monks in the discipline of monstrous forms of shape-shifting through hypnotic trance, sorcery, biochemistry, and surgery. The sacred, secret language of this offshoot is Naacal, thought cultist more commonly speak more modern and human languages - such as Turkman, Uzbek, Pashtun, and Tajik - among themselves, as well as those other languages they necessarily learn as part of their wandering missions among ordinary men. These monks are capable of amazing feats of fakiry and asceticism, including withstanding astonishing self-inflicted tortures such as piercings with nails and hooks as well as beatings and contortions; a few know even deeper secrets of shape-shifting into the forms of savage animals and other monstrous shape (favoring those of wolves, black tigers, and large snakes), and adepts of their cult can frequently cast spells inflicting monstrous transformations on others, such as withering and such. It is said that adepts of the cult can collapse their bones and squeeze into tight passages and air ducts, through bars and out of manacles and ropes, or even through gaps under doors or holes in walls as small as a few centimeters wide.
A lesser branch of the cult, styling itself as the "Monks of Om-Yati", has established itself in a lavish monastery-library in Arkham, where it serves as a source of income through donations made by occultists seeking access to the library's rare books, as well as a source of information for the monks in their globe-spanning quest for the Ghorl Nigral.
The more isolated and rarely-encountered original cult of Monks of Yahlgan in Mongolia are described as an unnaturally tall (8'-9', or an average of about 2.5 meters), deathly-thin, shaven-headed, aged men of "sinister Mongolian cast" (a disguise from their actual Muvian stock). The primary language used within the original cult is Naacal, though a few speak local dialects of Mongolian and other languages for the purposes of dealing with the occasional intrusions of officials and investigators from the outside world. These monks are immortal and not quite human at all, being of almost unchanged late Lemurian/proto-human stock; they have mastered all of the secrets of transformations of the flesh, as well as all the secrets of dreaming: in fact, many of these monks spend much of their lives now voluntarily locked in empty cells and oubliettes of the monastery, laying in trances for weeks at a time, dreaming their way into far secret corners of the Seven Planes, their bodies twisted and stretched into ghastly forms. These original Monks of Yahlgan rarely physically emerge from their monastery, which is perhaps fortunate, as their practice of the rites of Yahlgan is far more fanatical, dark, and monstrous than that of their more commonly-encountered brethren.
Tomes, Artifacts, Sites
- language: Naacal
- tome: Ghorl Nigral
- location: Yahlgan in Mongolia
- location: Yolgan in the Afghan region of the Ottoman Empire, or what would become Afghanistan
- location: Library of the Monks of Om-Yati in Arkham, Massachusetts
- The lavish Arkham Library is home to a variety of rare and unusual Mythos books obtained by the monks.
Allies, Creatures and Deities
- creatures: may be encountered in company with....
Heresies and Controversies
- Much of what is known about the cult is heretical and controversial, with most of the scholarly information originating from the lost "Two Gun Raconteur" website (link), drawn largely from the stories of Robert E. Howard, with other details supplied by fan theory.
- The Om-Yati Monks were drawn from the film Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993 film), and deliberately conflated with the Monks of Yahlgan via fan theory.
- The entity Zakuba, driven mad by the dictation of the Ghorl Nigral by Nyarlathotep, stole the tome from its author and fled to earth, founding the cult, sharing the tome's secrets with the first cult in Mu, and in time becoming a mad, mummified deity of the cult enshrined in a tomb deep within the cult's Mongolian monastery at Yahlgan. (fan theory, derived from Robert E. Howard and Lin Carter)
- The lavish Arkham Library maintained by the "Om-Yati Monks" is home to a variety of rare and unusual Mythos books obtained by the monks in their quest to retrieve the cult's holy book; novice monks work to catalogue, copy and preserve the contents of these lesser tomes, with their enhanced, updated copies returned by occasional missions back to the the cult's masters and their secret library at Yahlgan. (Necronomicon: Book of the Dead (1993 film), embellished and conflated via fan theory)