Reasons to like Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep (Crawling Chaos)

Nyarlathotep – Outer God

If you’re a fan of H.P.Lovecraft you may recognise and hopefully enjoy seeing this. If you’re unaware of H.P.Lovecraft, then peel the rime off your eyeballs and get into this world of ultimate, sanity-blasting cosmic horror…

Black Pharaohs cover - a portrait of Piye - image by Gregory Manchess - All Rights Reserved - Used to illustrate the concept of Nyarlathotep as Nephren Ka

Nyarlathotep in human form – image by Gregory Manchess – All Rights Reserved. Click for full size

Image:  Used to illustrate Nyarlathotep in human form: Nephren Ka – The Black Pharaoh. Image  by Gregory Manchess – All Rights Reserved. Read artist’s blog here.

Nyarlathotep.

A name that can conjure a masochistic smile of gleeful horror on the lips of many – a part of the charm of the human aspect of this monstrous shape-shifting denizen; and a word that injects ice cold dread and paralysing terror into the veins of mortal men tainted with the knowledge of what this Thing truly is.

It wields the promise of knowledge that when revealed does nothing but cause fear, terror and apprehension.

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It’s a creation of H.P.Lovecraft that has grown beyond all proportions of its original multifarious definitions.  Part of the pantheon of brutally alien, cosmic entities known as the Cthulhu Mythos, Nyarlathotep has been classed an Outer God.

Also called the Crawling Chaos, it is the Messenger, Deputy and Factotum of the Outer Gods – a thing with a thousand masks.

And as such it has developed many forms to penetrate the minds of men – and monsters – that worship it or succumb to the beguiling charm and barbed “gifts” of wild powers and technology it likes to hand out.

These forms have been given names from across all realms of space and time – and far beyond the protective membrane of the Quantisphere in the spiralling vortices of the Outer Chaos.

Black Man; Black Pharaoh; Black Wind; Bloated Woman; Dweller in Darkness; The Haunter of the Dark; Howler in the Dark are but a few of the names ascribed to these forms; a few of them humanoid in appearance, as there is a relatively rich awareness of Nyarlathotep in human cults, compared  to the rest of the Outer Gods and Great Old Ones, due to its success in weaving itself into the easily corruptible nature of Mankind. And its ability to reach into our Universe and operate within our reality – in human guise – without the need for costly Rendering ceremonies to puncture the Quantisphere When the Stars Are Right and so Call It Through… from Beyond.

There is a pseudo-sexual aspect to the sardonic attraction Nyarlathotep’s human followers experience – and many are drawn into every form of sexual practice and “perversion”,  incidentally fulfilling Nyarlathotep’s commitment to another Outer God: Shub-Niggurath.

This medley of names and profusion of different forms has allowed Nyarlathotep to sink its proverbial fangs deep into the flesh of the body of human existence – throughout Time -  ever since it first encountered the agile minds of the “men” that staggered free of the prehistoric flesh pits of the Elder Things – the erect walking creatures bred from the stock of the Great Magi and then mutated by the Hokan (shadow people) -  the ancestors of the Homo sapiens that eventually came to dominate so much of the Earth.

As a messenger and factotum of the Outer Gods within the restricted dimensional construct of the Quantisphere , Nyarlathotep is profoundly successful and adroit because it has mastered the not-so-easy task of relating directly to these… skin-wrapped creatures with minds and soul-energy, these humans with so many complex interests, desires, yearnings and weaknesses.

SOTA Nightmares Resin Statue Nyarlathotep (Black Variant)

Nyarlathotep – click for full size

Image:  Used to illustrate Nyarlathotep in monstrous form: SOTA Nightmares Resin Statue Nyarlathotep (Black Variant). View product details here.

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Worship of Nyarlathotep – especially in its humanoid forms – can often give followers a potently intimate and private  realization of personal importance.  Much more so than the vastly inflated glee and ego-maniacal glory that comes from rendering a Great Old One or Outer God- such experiences typically being oblique, monstrous and sometimes dangerous to the point of lunacy.  It’s as if the  meaningful communication from Nyarlathotep, such an immense and powerful entity, which has taken a form that almost panders to the human desire to see something that can be related to, creates a sense of acceptance on the deepest psychological level: a god is willing and even enthusiastic about dealing with (me).

However, this is just Nyarlathotep doing what Nyarlathotep does best: charming , beguiling, intriguing, enigmatic and seductive (regardless of sexual orientation) when it wants to be.  Leading to manipulations that can be so subtle and covering so much time, that they’re barely perceivable until the denouement; or resulting in swift and brutal twists, dramatic mind-games that bring about a rapid reveal of the Outer God’s ultimate aim.  Not death.  Not destruction (in the first instance) but despair, anxiety, and madness.  Nyarlathotep actually enjoys – in fact revels – in the art of weaving traps that allow a person to bring about their own end, physically or psychologically (through maiming, death or insanity).

Perhaps that’s why it’s a favourite amongst GMs!

The followers of Nyarlathotep ultimately succumb to a sort of mass-neurosis, beginning with a collective state of total brotherhood that binds them obediently and without question to a particular purpose; unlike cultists of Lloigor, for example, who often fight amongst themselves and take actions not in the best interests of the creatures they serve. This state of brotherhood leads sooner, or sometimes much much later to a total inability to perceive the world around them as it really is.  They hunker down in squalid places.  They claw their eyes out to escape the terrible visions overlaying their perceptions.  Or step away from the shattered remains of their sanity – no longer participants of the human race – and find themselves a place to exist, as they are; or are locked away in asylums, or killed by nervous authorities… with the baying,  howling, mocking laughter of Nyarlathotep echoing through the endless darkness.

These are just examples, not definitive statements.

Timescales are fluid.  Groups of sorcerers have had their lives extended many generations only to discover a grinning madness awaits them rather than some lofty pedestal of power and glory.

And sometimes, rarely, Nyarlathotep uses immediate and overwhelming violence to annihilate an individual or entire group.

The provision of unusual and life-altering technology is a favourite ploy of Nyarlathotep’s human guises.  To the point where the inventor Nikola Tesla, with his extraordinary experiments with electrical apparatus and incredible demonstrations, led some Mythos academics to mistakenly suspected him of being such an avatar.

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The kind of “steampunk” technologies as used by the Mi-Go (Fungi from Yuggoth) – who devoutly worship Nyarlathotep – have been handed over to humans as candy / bait towards the process of creating wonder and enslavement: many recipients of such “gifts” find themselves arrested for murder – as they experiment with obscure weapons or the brain-extraction techniques; or wind-up victims of the very technology they’ve been given… a nocturnal visit from a swarm of Mi-Go sent to take back what has, in truth, only been loaned to the foolish human.

Nyarlathotep is responsible for giving to men and woman the machines made of brass components, glass valves, crystal lenses and a crude “Victorian” electricity – that generate frequencies capable of homing in on Demonic entities and ensnaring them,  to drag them into a chamber (bathysphere) to torture with piercing energies, with the aim of forcing the demons into service.  Usually with disastrous consequences for those foolish enough to dabble in the Dark Arts and beings that belong to the furthermost edges of the Quantisphere.

However, above this plethora of mockery and diabolical amusement, Nyarlathotep remains bound to serve those for whom it is messenger – the Outer Gods Yog-Sothoth, Shub-Niggurath and the dominant yet blind and idiot force that is the Daemon Sultan: Azathoth.

Nyarlathotep Diabolus Rex

Nyarlathotep Diabolus Rex

Nyarlathotep is sometimes mistaken for Satan and the Devil. This is especially so during the highly active period of witch covens in England; but there is a cosmos of difference between the Outer God and the comparatively limited powers of “Evil” occult entities associated with Satanism and demonology.

I was first exposed to the full majesty of this manipulative Outer God in the jaw-droppingly good campaign for the RPG Call of Cthulhu, called Masks of Nyarlathotep.  It was spring 1986 and it was love at first sight.

Nyarlathotep as worshiped by the Cult of the Bloody Tongue - Kenya

Nyarlathotep – Cult of the Bloody Tongue

In this epic story, Nyarlathotep has several disparate forms: the three-legged creature worshipped by the Cult of the Bloody Tongue, the Black Wind; the sardonic Black Pharoah; and the seemingly innocuous Chinese girl with a fan that conceals the monstrous figure of the Bloated Woman.   The story demonstrates all of these different forms working together – there is one entity, a single malign intelligence behind the masks.

Nyarlathotep is conscious of all events across all times and all places – but it cannot control the future in any particular time-stream.  It can only attempt to shape it.

Also, Nyarlathotep is not omnipresent; it cannot act simultaneously in more than one place (and time).

Was Hastur  the uncontrollable creation of Nyarlathotep?

It has been suggested by some scholars of the dreaded Necronomicon, the book of maddening insights compiled by Abdul Alhazred, that Hastur is a construct of the Outer God: Nyarlathotep. In an act of malignant mockery, it created this thing that would entice, engage and drive men (and women) mad.  As Hastur encountered Humankind, it was able to ‘latch onto’ the fabric of space-time, feeding, warping and growing beyond all control.  Such a view would be considered appalling by agents of the Yellow Sign – a particularly loathsome set of worshippers of Hastur – who detest certain forms of Nyarlathotep and the crustaceous-insectoid devotees known as Mi-Go.

The legacy of Robert Bloch

No discussion of Nyarlathotep is complete without mentioning Robert Bloch, best known for writing the novel Psycho, later used by Alfred Hitchcock in the film of the same name.  Bloch is also the author quoted as bridging the gap between H.P Lovecraft and Stephen King.  Bloch’s early writing career was heavily influenced by H.P.Lovecraft, indeed the two men corresponded with each other before HPL’s early demise in March 1937.  One of Lovecraft’s best short stories (in my view) – the Haunter of the Dark, which features an aspect of Nyarlathotep, was dedicated to Bloch; the central character Robert Blake was a thinly disguised version of Bloch. So think about that next time you watch Hitchcock’s Psycho – that Norman Bates may have had more going on than sexual jealousy of his mother taking a lover; there may have been a book of forbidden lore and the subtle yet malign influence of a Great Old One somewhere in the mix. I’m being flippant but it’s an intriguing possibility.

Benjamin Szumskyj has put together a book on essays about Robert Bloch, “The Man Who Collected Psychos: Critical Essays on Robert Bloch” – which includes many references to Nyarlathotep.

You can review these particular references from the book via google, here (click).

Cthulhu Mythos Wallpaper - Reasons to like Lovecraft Nyarlathotep Crawling Chaos - Shadow Out Of Time poster Illustration by Darrell Screamin Polyp Tutchton - All Rights Reserved

Illustration by Darrell Screamin’ Polyp Tutchton ©2008 – All Rights Reserved – click for full size

Image: The Shadow Out of Time – you can buy this image from Cthulhulives.org

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Nyarlathotep in the Sci-Fi Cyberpunk Dark Fantasy fiction of David J Rodger

I’ve used the Outer God in a couple bits of work.  In the novel God Seed, Nyarlathotep’s human form is walking the near-future world in the guise of billionaire  businessman Rahmun Sada – racing towards an endgame that intends to see the humans who worship it bring about the end of all life in the universe.  This human form returns, nearly two decades later, and after the dust has settled on the apocalyptic event known as Yellow Dawn (where agents of Hastur deliver a hellish blow against humanity)- to appear in the vast RPG investigation campaign – Shadows of the Quantinex.

I’m also in the process of planning a new novel – called Oakfield – which will be a prequel to God Seed and will see Nyarlathotep appear as Rahmun Sada again, along with a group of Mi-go camped out in the hills of a remote village in Cornwall, England – terrorising a family who’ve come to take ownership of house there.

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British sci-fi author David J Rodger combines fast action and technology in God Seed - a stunning cyberpunk and cthulhu mythos novel

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6 thoughts on “Reasons to like Lovecraft: Nyarlathotep (Crawling Chaos)

  1. nice article! Nyarlathotep is easily lovecrafts most devious entity…and really expresses lovecrafts genius and knowledge about humankind, as well as his uncaring nature towards it. I love running into beginners into lovecrafts world who only know cthulhu, only to tell them “you think that dude is badass? check out nyarlathotep…”

    • Couldn’t agree more with you. He provides infinite potential for rewarding and tormenting characters. Typically one followed by the other. Did you ever play / run Masks of Nyarlathotep?

      • No, but I’m most likely gonna order the book soon, after this and a few other great reviews…..I just gotta haha…

      • You’re in for a treat! Hopefully it hasn’t dated. I ran it back in 1986, and several times since (with a near future cyberpunk flavour rather than 1920s period Cthulhu).

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