An Outer God is a fictional deity in the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. Unlike the Great Old Ones, the Outer Gods are vastly more powerful and function on a cosmic scale. Although the distinction between the two groups has been recognized by some mythos authors, it was the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu that first introduced the term "Outer Gods". Nonetheless, the delineation between the Outer Gods and the Great Old Ones is not always clear, and some scholars do not recognize the distinction at all.
According to H.P. Lovecraft's cosmology, there are two sets of Outer Gods: the Elder Gods and the Other Gods. Though the terms "Outer Gods" and "Other Gods" are often mistakenly used interchageably, the beings decribed below are the Outer Gods. The Outer Gods are "mindless blasphemies" from outside the capacity of humanity to understand. Most of the time, they are asleep and/or insane, and would like to see humanity dead, devoured, or made slaves. They include Azathoth, Nyarlathotep, and Shub-Niggurath. The Elder Gods are presumed to be good, but are distant and unmoved by humanities cries. Periodically, they may be invoked, but they generally neglect humanity, leaving them in the hands of the Outer Gods.
Outer Gods in the mythos
The Outer Gods are ruled by Azathoth, the Daemon Sultan, who holds court at the center of the universe. A group of Outer Gods dance rhythmically around Azathoth, in cadence to the piping of a demonic flute. Among the Outer Gods present at Azathoth's court are Tulzscha, The Green Flame, and possibly Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat of the Woods. Yog-Sothoth, the All-in-One, co-rules with Azathoth and exists at all places and in all times in the cosmos, yet is somehow locked outside the mundane universe. Nyarlathotep, the Crawling Chaos, is the avatar and soul of the Outer Gods, and serves as an intermediary between the deities of the pantheon and their cults. He is the only Outer God to have a true personality, though he possesses a malign intellect and reveals a mocking contempt for his masters.<cite id="ref_Harms-16" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Table of Outer Gods
Also see: Category:Outer Gods
Entries in this table are organized as follows:
- Name. The name of the Outer God appears first.
- Epithets/other names. Epithets or alternate names for the Outer God appear in parenthesis.
- Description. A brief description appears under the Outer God's name.
- References. The right column lists the stories in which the Outer God makes a significant appearance or otherwise receives important mention. For simplicity, a two-letter code is used—the key to the codes is found here. If a code appears in bold, this means that the story introduces the Outer God.
|Name and description||References|
|Abhoth (The Source of Uncleanliness)||GC, MP, SG|
(The Daemon Sultan, Him in the Gulf, Seething Nuclear Chaos)
|AZ, BU, EL, HY, IS, IT, LN, MY, NT, PA, PS, SE|
|Appears as a vast, swirling monstrosity of impossible size.|
|C'thalpa (The Inner One)||?|
|Composed of living magma.|
|Daoloth (The Render of the Veils)||RV|
(The Harbinger, Whom Passeth in Darkness)
|The Hydra (The Thousand-faced Moon)||HY|
|Lesser Outer Gods|
(Guardians of the Outer Hells, The Other Gods)
|Mysterious protectors of the Dreamlands' gods, the weak Great Ones. To disturb them or the Great Ones is foolish and is often disastrous. They are at the sway of Azathoth in his hyperdimensional court, which they rarely leave, forever piping and dancing to incomprehensible tunes.|
|Magnum Innominandum||AS, DU, S4|
|Similar to (and possibly the equivalent of) the Nameless Mist.|
|Magnum Tenebrosum (The Unnamed Darkness)||?|
|Presumably a vast, dark shape.|
|The Nameless Mist (Nyog' Sothep?)||AS, SF, HF, S2, WD|
|A misty, shapeless thing sans form.|
|A misty, incorporeal being with an "eye of flame" at its centre.|
(The Crawling Chaos, Messenger to Azathoth, The Black Man)
|AP, BU, DD, DQ, EB, DW, EL, FG, FY, HD, IK, KD, LT, MK, NY, SD, WU, YG|
|Varies; usually appears as a handsome, dark-skinned, male human.|
(The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, Wife of the Not-to-Be-Named One )
|DK, DR, LA, OE, SJ, SS, TC|
|Appears as a horrifying, black, cloudy mass.|
|Tru'nembra (The Flautist of Azathoth)||?|
|Composed of living sound.|
|Tulzscha (The Green Flame)||FE|
(The Unbegotten Source, The Demiurge)
|BU, HG, LT, SN, UB, US|
|Yidhra (The Dream Witch)||WY|
|Like Nyarlathotep, her form varies, but usually appears as an earthly female; May be form of Shub-Niggurath.|
(The All-in-One, The Beyond One, Opener of the Way)
|CA, DH, GM, HA, HG, IU, JG, LT, OC, PY, TC, TG, WZ|
|Appears as a conglomeration of glowing bubbles.|
(The Feaster from the Stars, That Which Relentlessly Waits Outside)
|A fiery, petalled entity.|
Notable Outer Gods
[H]e described a sort of pool with a margin of mud that was marled with obscene offal; and in the pool a grayish, horrid mass that nearly choked it from rim to rim... Here, it seemed, was the ultimate source of all miscreation and abomination. For the gray mass quobbed and quivered, and swelled perpetually; and from it, in manifold fission, were spawned the anatomies that crept away on every side through the grotto. There were things like bodiless legs or arms that flailed in the slime, or heads that rolled, or floundering bellies with fishes' fins; and all manner of things malformed and monstrous, that grew in size as they departed from the neigbborhood of Abhoth. And those that swam not swiftly ashore when they fell into the pool from Abhoth, were devoured by mouths that gaped in the parent bulk.
—Clark Ashton Smith, "The Seven Geases"
Obscene monsters constantly form in Abhoth' gray mass and crawl away from their parent; however, Abhoth's tentacles and limbs grab many of them, pulling them back and devouring them. Abhoth has a twisted and cynical mind, and can communicate telepathically with others near him.<cite id="ref_Harms-1" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Abhoth may be related or even identical to Ubbo-Sathla (see that section for more details).
Abhoth does not have any human worshippers, although an inhuman cult known as the Unclean Ones, led by Yeb, is devoted to him.
References to Abhoth
[Daoloth was not] shapeless, but so complex that the eye could recognize no describable shape. There were hemispheres and shining metal, coupled by long plastic rods. The rods were of a flat gray color, so that he could not make out which were nearer; they merged into a flat mass from which protruded individual cylinders. As he looked at it, he had a curious feeling that eyes gleamed from between these rods; but wherever he glanced at the construction, he saw only the spaces between them.
—Ramsey Campbell, "The Render of the Veils"
Daoloth (The Render of Veils or The Parter of Veils) dwells in dimensions beyond the three we know. His astrologer-priests are said to be able to see the past and the future and even how objects extend into and travel between different dimensions.
Though he is not particularly evil, Daoloth still causes harm to humans. His undescribable shape causes viewers to go mad at the sight of him; thus, he must be summoned in pitch-black darkness. If not held within some kind of magical containment, he continues to expand and expand—perhaps even at an infinite rate. Those enveloped by the god are transported to utterly bizarre and remote worlds, usually perishing as a result. Daoloth's worship is rare on earth.
[A] nineteenth century British cult believed in [a] comet-god who sang to the stars and planets as it passed by them in its orbit. They said it destroyed those worlds it passed, by waking up demons or ancient gods ... who slept on each world.
—Kevin A. Ross, "The Music of the Spheres"
Ghroth (the Harbinger) resembles a small, rust-colored planet or moon with a single, gigantic red eye which it can close to avoid detection. Ghroth drifts throughout the universe singing its siren song, the Music of the Spheres. As it swings by a planet, any Great Old One or Outer God sleeping there is awakened by the song. This usually results in the extinction of all life on the planet or perhaps even the utter destruction of the planet itself.<cite id="ref_Ross-211" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Ghroth is believed to be responsible for the periodic mass extinctions that wiped out 90% of all life on earth, including the extinction of the dinosaurs at the end of the Cretaceous era. It may also have caused the destruction of the planet Shaggai, the homeworld of the intelligent, insect-like Shan.<cite id="ref_Harms-118" class="plainlinksneverexpand"> For this reason, Ghroth is also known as Nemesis, or the Death Star, named after the Nemesis Theory, first proposed by American astronomers David Raup and Jack Sepkoski.
There are innumerable tales of multi-headed monsters, all springing from the actual entity of whose real existence a few have known through the ages. This creature did not originate on earth, but in the gulfs Outside. It was... a vampiric entity, living not on the blood of its victims but on their heads—their brains... Through the eons this being has ravened in the abyss beyond our dimension, sending out its call to claim victims where it could. For this entity, by absorbing the heads and brains of intelligent creatures both of this world and of other planets, emerges with its powers and vitality greatly augmented.
—Henry Kuttner, "Hydra"
The Hydra dwells in an alternate dimension and appears as a vast sea of gray ooze filled with a multitude of living heads. These heads, some human and some alien, sprout from the ooze, sobbing and grimacing as if in great agony.
The Hydra's worshippers trick others into sending the god sacrifices through a pamphlet known as On the Sending Out of the Soul. The last page of this pamphlet contains a magical formula for projecting oneself astrally. If followed, the formula works as expected—the user is harmlessly transported in astral form to whatever destination is desired. However, unbeknownst to the user, the ritual also brings the subject into contact with the Hydra. The Hydra then merges with the subject's astral self, using it as a host. Anyone present at the place where the astral traveler appears is decapitated, the victim's head taken to become part of the Hydra. Afterwards, the astral traveler is returned safely to his or her original body, suffering no ill effects, except perhaps receiving a terrible shock from what he or she has seen.<cite id="ref_Kuttner-50" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Tulzscha, the Green Flame, is one of the dancers in the court of Azathoth. He appears as a pillar of sick, greenish flame; however, there is no warmth in him, perhaps due to the energy absorbed in its summoning. This obscure entity has only a small clique of worshippers. He is described as "[a] belching column of sick greenish flame... spouting volcanically from depths profound and inconceivable, casting no shadows as healthy flame should, and coating the nitrous stone with a nasty, venomous verdigris. For in all that seething combustion no warmth lay, but only the clamminess of death and corruption." (H.P. Lovecraft, "The Festival") As is evidenced in the tale, the cult of Tulzscha may use Byakhee.
There, in the grey beginning of Earth, the formless mass that was Ubbo-Sathla reposed amid the slime and the vapors. Headless, without organs or members, it sloughed from its oozy sides, in a slow, ceaseless wave, the amoebic forms that were the archetypes of earthly life. Horrible it was, if there had been aught to apprehend the horror; and loathsome, if there had been any to feel loathing. About it, prone or tilted in the mire, there lay the mighty tablets of star-quarried stone that were writ with the inconceivable wisdom of the pre-mundane gods.
—Clark Ashton Smith, "Ubbo-Sathla"
Ubbo-Sathla (The Unbegotten Source, The Demiurge) is described as a huge protoplasmic mass resting in a grotto deep beneath the frozen earth. The being is of a monstrous fecundity, spontaneously generating primordial single-celled organisms that pour unceasingly from its shapeless form. It guards a set of stone tablets believed to contain the knowledge of the Elder Gods.<cite id="ref_Smith-39" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Ubbo-Sathla is said to have spawned the prototypes of all forms of life on Earth; though whatever its pseudopods touch is forever devoid of life. Ubbo-Sathla is destined to someday reabsorb all living things on Earth.
Ubbo-Sathla possibly dwells in gray-litten Y'qaa. The being may also dwell in Mount Voormithadreth. The tablets that Ubbo-Sathla guards have been oft sought by sorcerers, though no sorcerer has yet succeeded in acquiring them.<cite id="ref_Harms-308" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Several legends purport to give Ubbo-Sathla's origin. One legend claims that Ubbo-Sathla was procreated from Azathoth by binary fission and so is regarded as Azathoth's equal, albeit a crippled one. Another legend claims that Azathoth and Ubbo-Sathla were created in another universe by the Elder Gods to serve as slaves; but Ubbo-Sathla rebelled and brought the earth to our universe, using knowledge stolen from its masters. It is also possible that Ubbo-Sathla was created by the Elder Things for use in spawning their shoggoths.<cite id="ref_Harms-307" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
Ubbo-Sathla and Abhoth
Ubbo-Sathla may have spawned the being Abhoth, who dwells underneath Mount Voormithadreth and whose form and nature is very similar. This similarity has led some writers to speculate that Ubbo-Sathla and Abhoth are the same entity viewed at different epochs under different names<cite id="ref_Myers-Snout" class="plainlinksneverexpand"><cite id="ref_Tierney-Gods" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
There are some differences between the two, though: Ubbo-Sathla is described as "idiotic"<cite id="ref_Smith-39" class="plainlinksneverexpand">, while Abhoth is clearly intelligent and can communicate with humans.<cite id="ref_Smith-Geases" class="plainlinksneverexpand">
- Harms, Daniel. The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.), Oakland, CA: Chaosium, 1998. ISBN 1-56882-119-0.
- Kuttner, Henry. "Hydra" in The Azathoth Cycle, Robert M. Price (ed.), Chaosium, Inc., 1995. ISBN 0-56882-040-2.
- Ross, Kevin A. "The Music Of The Spheres" (1995). Made In Goatswood, Scott David Aniolowski (ed). Chaosium, 1995. ISBN 1-56882-046-1.
- Smith, Clark Ashton.
- <cite id="endnote_Harms-233" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Daniel Harms, "Outer Gods", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, pp. 233.
- <cite id="endnote_Harms-16" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Harms. The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, "Azathoth", pp. 16; "Nyarlathotep", pp. 218; "Shub-Niggurath", pp. 275; "Tulzscha", pp. 304; Yog-Sothoth, pp. 346.
- <cite id="endnote_Harms-1" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Harms, Daniel, "Abhoth", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, pp. 1-2.
- <cite id="endnote_Ross-211" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Kevin A. Ross, "The Music Of The Spheres", Made In Goatswood, pp. 211–222.
- <cite id="endnote_Harms-118" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Daniel Harms, "Ghroth", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, pp. 118–9.
- <cite id="endnote_Kuttner-50" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Henry Kuttner, "Hydra", The Azathoth Cycle, pp. 50–63.
- <cite id="endnote_Smith-39" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Clark Ashton Smith, "Ubbo-Sathla", Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos, pp. 39–45.
- <cite id="endnote_Smith-Geases" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Clark Ashton Smith, "The Seven Geases".
- <cite id="endnote_Harms-308" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Daniel Harms, "Ubbo-Sathla", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, pp. 308.
- <cite id="endnote_Harms-307" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Ibid, pp. 307.
- <cite id="endnote_Myers-Snout" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Gary Myers, "The Snout in the Alcove", The Nyarlathotep Cycle, p. 230.
- <cite id="endnote_Tierney-Gods" style="font-style: normal;">^</cite> Richard L. Tierney, "The Unresponding Gods", The Book of Eibon, p. 282.
- Servants of Tulzscha, a mythos site devoted to the Green Flame (of dubious seriousness)
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