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Iä! Iä! Cthulhu fhtagn!
Unnatural knowledge promises power, wealth and knowledge. So it is not surprising that there are always human cults dedicated to the worship of the Great Old Ones in order to share in their power. But non-human creatures also sometimes form cults, and one does not always become a member only voluntarily.
Cults of the Unnatural
The selection of the following cults adheres very closely to the literary guidelines of H. P. Lovecraft and deals with the followers of the Great Old Ones that he so often addressed in his stories. Regardless of whether the game master draws on such existing cults or creates her own, it is still mostly normal people who come together in these groups. And so it can sometimes be very conducive to the atmosphere in a scenario if they are also portrayed in the same way - with entirely human goals and needs, despite the sinister activity they are undoubtedly engaged in.
Worldwide worshippers of the Great Old One
Secretive, sinister cults that worship the Great Old One Cthulhu are widespread throughout the world. They almost always do so in a similar way that has been handed down for eons. Most are small, secluded groups or tribes that have preserved the worship of Cthulhu over millions of years. They can be found in all corners of the world, among the Eskimos of Greenland as well as in the swamps of Louisiana, Southeast Asia or Europe. A certain connection to water or the sea is common to almost all of these cults and often sailors or seafarers belong to them.
Structure of the cult: Even if the individual cults are small and hidden, they are ultimately a worldwide network of very different cultists who are united only by their knowledge of and belief in the Great Cthulhu. Rumour has it that the cult is led by immortal Chinese who reside in a mountainous region in China. The centre or place of origin of the cult is said to be in the Arabian desert, in the city of Irem, after whose visit the famous Arab Abdul Alhazred had also begun to worship Cthulhu. But even in his Necronomicon there are only vague references to the Cthulhu Cult. The small local cults are usually led by a sorcerer (called angekok among the Eskimos) or a high priest.
The beliefs of Cthulhu followers: the followers worship the Great Old Ones, who walked the earth long before mankind and are said to have come from heaven. The Great Old Ones had now disappeared - dead and yet not dead, they lay beneath the earth and beneath the sea. But they had entrusted their secrets to the early humans by means of thought messages, and the cult of those first followers lives on to this day. Cthulhu was the high priest of the Great Old Ones and would one day, if the stars were right, rise again and his mighty city, R'lyeh, would rise again from the floods and the earth would once more be under his rule. One day he would send out his call and his followers would be on hand to escape him - for his elevation needs an outside push, they believe. The followers of Cthulhu are waiting for that day.
Those who delve deeper into the mysteries of the cult learn that although the Great Old Ones have form, they are not flesh and blood, or even matter. The right constellations of stars allow them to jump from one world to another, to invade them. But if the stars are not right, they cannot live, although they do not die after all. And so, eons ago, they lay down in a deathless sleep in their stone city of R'lyeh. But at the same time, the rituals of Cthulhu that keep them alive do not allow them to rise on their own. Only their thoughts were free, perceiving everything that was happening in the universe. When R'lyeh was still above the waves, they made telepathic contact with the early humans. They influenced their dreams and thus laid the foundation for their cult. This spiritual contact ended only when the city sank into the water.
Typical rituals that experienced Cthulhu followers have at their disposal are Aklo Sabaoth (Cthulhu), Call Entities (Star-bred), Vision, and Annihilation.
Worship of Cthulhu: Worship of Cthulhu takes place outdoors, under the stars, mostly in gloomy or at least shunned places, and involves gruesome human sacrifice. Cults often have an Idol of Cthulhu - a statuette made of a mineral unknown on Earth, whose origin is always lost in the darkness of history. During their rituals, the cultists dance naked and ecstatically to the sound of wild drums around a ring of fire, in the center of which stands the abominable statuette. The roar of the dancing mass is only occasionally interrupted by a chorus hoarsely chanting the words "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn." Moreover, human sacrifices are common in these ceremonies, which are performed in the most ghastly manner. On these occasions, the priests sometimes summon a star-bred Cthulhu, a servant of the Great Old One, whom they worship in his stead and offer the human sacrifices to him.
In doing so, the widely scattered cults seem to draw on eons of shared knowledge, for they all use a chant with a central phrase in their worship of the Great Old One:
"Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."
"In his house in R'lyeh, dreaming, waits the dead Cthulhu."
The day when the stars are right: The day Cthulhu's followers have been waiting for seemed to arrive on February 28, 1925. An earthquake lifts R'lyeh from the floodwaters and Cthulhu begins to awaken, whereupon numerous sensitive or unstable individuals worldwide, including many artists, suffer disturbing visions and nightmares. Social unrest, mass panic, cult activity, and increases in suicides occur worldwide. The cultists of the Great Old One rejoice and see the reign of their god come over the earth. But then R'lyeh sinks back into the sea in a storm on April 2, the state of emergency ends abruptly, and Cthulhu returns to his death-like sleep - indefinitely.
Yog-Sothothery: Should the player characters be concerned with Cthulhu or his awakening in the 1920s, the following persons offer themselves as competent contacts.
Prof. George Gamell Angell, professor emeritus of Semitic languages at Brown University in Providence, compiles numerous papers on the Cthulhu Cult in 1925 during the R'lyeh Awakening. Angell dies in the winter of 1926, possibly at the hands of a cultist.
Boston anthropologist Francis Wayland Thurston administers the estate of his late great-uncle Prof. Angell, gaining increasing clarity himself about the world-spanning extent of the Cthulhu Cult, but also fears his murder by cultists in 1927 because he knows too much.
Prof William Channing Webb, professor of anthropology in Princeton, met in 1860 on an excursion to Greenland an Eskimo tribe, which worshipped in bloodthirsty rites Cthulhu in form of a powerful devil named tornasuk.
What, in substance, both the Eskimo wizards and the Louisiana swamp-priests had chanted to their kindred idols was something very like this—the word-divisions being guessed at from traditional breaks in the phrase as chanted aloud: "Ph'nglui mglw'nafh Cthulhu R'lyeh wgah'nagl fhtagn."
– The Call of Cthulhu,
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1926
Esoteric Order of Dagon
Hybrid Collaborators of the Deep Ones
Captain Obed Marsh introduced the worship of Deep Ones in the small coastal town of Innsmouth at the mouth of the Manuxet River in the mid-19th century, which has permanently changed the place.
The origin of the cult: in Tahiti, Captain Marsh had come across islanders who had made a pact with unearthly beings from the sea. They offered human sacrifices to the beings in exchange for strange golden trinkets and good fishing. From the islanders, Marsh received a strangely shaped Artefact made of lead, which, along with the proper rites, was supposed to summon the Deep Ones when thrown into the water.
At Devil's Reef, a mile off the coast of Innsmouth, is a colony of Deep Ones, the undersea city of Y'ha-nthlei. Marsh thus succeeded in making contact with the beings.
Table: The History of the Esoteric Order of Dagon
Ritual place and priest: The headquarters of the Order was established in the former Masonic Temple on New Church Green. From the outside, the portico is run-down and a barely legible black and gold sign reads Esoteric Order of Dagon. Other churches were also later transformed into places of worship for Dagon. The first priests of the order were former sailors loyal to Marsh. Later, mainly hybrids became priests of Dagon. They wear alien robes and a tall bizarrely decorated golden headdress, a tiara from the Deep Ones' gold treasure (see also Tiara of the Deep Ones).
Rites: Marsh lured the inhabitants by arguing that one should worship "gods who bring fish and truly answer prayers." After the Order seized power in Innsmouth, all residents were required to swear silence with an oath to Dagon. Later, other oaths to Dagon were added, the contents of which remain mysterious, but obviously have something to do with mating with Deep Ones and raising hybrid offspring.
The cult's promise to the inhabitants of Innsmouth was, in return, prosperity (in the form of fish and the Deep Ones' strange gold jewelry, which was turned into gold ingots at the Marsh Refinery) and immortality for the hybrid offspring resulting from the mating of humans with Deep Ones.
Ceremonies and rites take place at night and are accompanied by chants, often with Deep Ones present. Great rituals are always held together with numerous Deep Ones and celebrated on April 30 (Walpurgis Night) and October 31 (Halloween). Human sacrifices also take place. Rumor has it that sometimes even Shoggoths are summoned.
Typical rituals of a priest of the order are: Aklo Sabaoth (Cthulhu), Call Entities (Deep Ones), Call Entities (Shoggoth), " Domination".
Yog-Sothothery: No doubt hybrids escaped the raid on Innsmouth, and Deep Ones don't seem to have abandoned Devil's Reef either. And who knows in which unsuspecting descendant of a Deep One the "Call of the Deep" will one day awaken?
Hasturs Herdsmen (Cult of the Yellow Sign)
Opponents of the Mi-Go in the name of the Yellow Sign
This secret and worldwide spread cult worships Hastur, sows madness in his name. In addition, for reasons unknown, the cult is also dedicated to mercilessly persecuting and fighting the alien Mi-Go. The cultists are mostly completely insane minions of Hastur, who have been given telepathic and manipulative abilities by the Great Old One and who certainly have various rituals at their disposal. As a sign of recognition, the cultists use the mysterious Yellow Sign. They always strive to find and wipe out hidden Mi-Go colonies on Earth - no matter what the cost.
The Cultists have access to extensive resources and logistics worldwide, and typically possess the ability of telepathy as well as three other rituals of their choice from the following: Aklo Sabaoth (Hastur), Dho Hna Formula, Call Entities (of choice), Do harm, Domination, Voorish Sign.
Yog-Sothothery: Why Hastur's followers hunt the Mi-Go is unknown. Perhaps there is a profound rivalry between the deities Nyarlathotep and Shub-Niggurath, who are primarily worshipped by the Mi-Go, and Hastur? Or did the Mi-Go once withdraw their homage from Hastur, thereby arousing the Great Old One's wrath?
Possibly it is the task of the cultists, as shepherds in Hastur's name, to protect mankind like lambs, in order to lead them once to the slaughter for their god. Or Hastur has another interest in the earth.
The Yellow Sign cultists may be behind the FHTAGN Network and use the player characters to follow their own incomprehensible plans.
There is a whole secret cult of evil men (a man of your mystical erudition will understand me when I link them with Hastur and the Yellow Sign) devoted to the purpose of tracking them down and injuring them on behalf of monstrous powers from other dimensions. It is against these aggressors—not against normal humanity—that the drastic precautions of the Outer Ones are directed.
– The Whisperer in Darkness,
Howard Phillip Lovecraft, 1931
Keepers of ancient knowledge
Witches are often organized in secret covens or circles that arrange to meet at night in particularly mystical or even unnatural places. In Arkham, for example, the dark valley with the white stone beyond Meadow Hill and the uninhabited island in the middle of the Miskatonic are considered places of nocturnal activity. And in the deep woods around Chesuncook in Maine, there are said to be catacombs deep underground with dark altars and bottomless pits in the ground.
It is not uncommon for witches to preserve the knowledge of eons past, which they pass on orally. The size of a witch coven is usually manageable, but can include several hundred members.
Witches' rituals: Witches often worship the Black Man (an avatar of Nyarlathotep), who provides them with rituals and secret knowledge in return for their oath of allegiance. To do this, the witch must write her name in blood in the Book of Azathoth and adopt a new secret name. However, it is equally conceivable that they pay homage to Shub-Niggurath in perverted fertility rites or worship the Lord of Dimensions, Yog-Sothoth.
In addition, it is not uncommon for witches to have a familiar or a witch-animal with special properties and skills, such as the Rat being Brown Jenkin, who served Keziah Mason. The origin and true nature of these creatures remain mysterious.
Cult of the Crawlers
Primordial Fertility Cult in Kingsport
In the fishing village of Kingsport there is a cult that is ancient, much older than the town and even older than mankind. The members of the cult are no longer living people, but crawlers. After their death, their bodies were buried and decomposed by maggots and worms. But their spirits did not die, but filled the maggots with their malignant consciousness, and the worms now grant them unholy, everlasting life. Mostly the members are ritual casters and sorceresses and their relatives.
The maggots can fill clothes and form a head. Thus, they enable the spirits of the spellcasters to assume a human form, but the living dead cannot speak, nor can the maggots replicate a face. Thus, the cultists are always mute and use well-crafted wax masks to conceal the lack of a real face. They usually wear the worn clothing of their bygone era under wide cloaks.
The members of the cult are descended from an ancient, stealthy people who once came from "southern gardens full of orchids" and now live in seclusion scattered around the world, continuing to strictly observe only the mysteries and rituals of their ancestors. The forbidden celebrations are held in secret and the main holiday of the cult is celebrated at least once every century. The cult possesses numerous occult books and tomes of unnatural knowledge, including Remigius' Daemonolatreia and the Necronomicon in Olaus Wormius' Latin translation.
The Ritual Place: In Kingsport, members of the cult meet deep in the bowels of the earth of Central Hill. The ritual place is reached through a tomb in the crypt beneath the church there. A rough-hewn staircase of stone leads into fungus-covered caverns full of giant poisonous mushrooms and verdigris-covered stones, illuminated by the light of a sickly green flame and traversed by an oily, fetid river.
The Jul Rite: The main holiday of the cult falls at the time of the Christian Christmas or the pre-Christian Norse Yule and the winter solstice, when Aldebaran, Orion and Sirius are in the sky. It is an extremely primal, unnatural fertility festival.
The ritual takes place at midnight. The members form a semicircle around their high priest and the green flame, while an amorphous, unseen flute player in the shadows punctuates the silent, gestural ritual with dissonant sounds. The cultists pay their groveling respects to the green flame, and the Necronomicon seems to play a significant role in the ritual. Afterwards, hybrid winged creatures, presumably Night-Gaunts, appear and carry the cultists along the oily river into the darkness.
The crawlers mostly have the following rituals: Aklo Sabaoth (Shub-Niggurath), Call Entities (Night-Gaunt), Open dimensional rift, Do harm / Harm.
Yog-Sothothery: Which deity the cultists worship remains unclear, but since these are highly perverted fertility rites, it is quite possible that the crawlers worship Shub-Niggurath.
It is unclear where the cultists fly on the Night-Gaunt. But it is reasonable to assume that they physically translate to the Dreamlands, which is supported not only by the Night-Gaunts but also by the ominous origins of their ancestors, as well as the fact that the Crawlers seem to live in an ancient version of the little town, unnoticed by modern Kingsport. The main cult site, then, is likely to be searched for in the Dreamlands.
The green flame in the cavern under Kingsport, which seems to have a certain reverence, also seems to speak for this. Is it connected to the flame pillar in the cavern of the bearded priests Nasht and Kaman-Thah?
It seems that descendants of these people are magically drawn to Kingsport once in a century when the celebration of the Rite of Jul is due. Invariably, they instinctively head for the House of the High Priest, the seventh house on Green Lane in Kingsport. And certainly Kingsport is not the only place where the ancient rites are upheld.
It was the Yule-rite, older than man and fated to survive him; the primal rite of the solstice and of spring‘s promise beyond the snows; the rite of fire and evergreen, light and music. And in the Stygian grotto I saw them do the rite, and adore the sick pillar of flame, and throw into the water handfuls gouged out of the viscous vegetation which glittered green in the chlorotic glare.
– The Festival,
Howard Phillips Lovecraft, 1925
Corpse-eating Cult of Leng
Cult of undead ghouls and humans
This cult, which uses the Jade Soul-Symbol as an identifying mark, was once reserved for particularly vile undead ghouls from the terrible Plateau of Leng, the so-called Bloodhounds. But over the centuries, jade followers of the cult also fell into the hands of humans - be they sorceresses, grave robbers, ghouls or archaeologists, which usually ended with the appearance of a Bloodhound and the annihilation of the unfortunate. But not quite - because a person torn apart by a Bloodhound turns into a relentless undead hunter himself after his death. Thus, today the cult consists of undead former humans and undead Ghouls. Each member of the cult possesses a jade amulet with the soul symbol of the cult and will mercilessly persecute whoever dares to take it.
The undead corpse-eaters do not shy away from eating dead fellow creatures (be they ghouls or humans), nor from killing living beings, which they gruesomely tear apart and mutilate in the process. The center of the cult is said to be in secluded Leng, but since in Leng the veils between worlds are known to be very thin, it is unclear whether the plateau of Leng is now in Central Asia or in the Dreamlands.
Yog-Sothothery: The goals of the Cult of the Corpse Eaters are unknown. Are they the stealth leaders or the priesthood of the Ghouls? Does the cult serve the Creeping Chaos, Nyarlathotep?
What is the cult's relationship to that prehistoric stone monastery in Leng and the high priest-that-must-not-be-described there? Is he himself a Bloodhound and secret leader of the cult?
THE PREHISTORIC ROCK MONASTERY IN LENG
In the icy wasteland of Leng stands a prehistoric rock monastery, in which resides entirely alone the High Priest-who-must-not-be-described, who serves the Other Gods - Yog-Sothoth, Azathoth, Shub-Niggurath and Nyarlathotep.
The monastery is a windowless and lightless place whose interior is decorated with horrific bas-reliefs depicting the history of the people of Leng, their struggle with the purple Spiders of Leng, and their subjugation by the Moonbeasts. In a crypt, in the dark and foul-smelling depths of the monastery, the high priest resides on a golden throne raised on a stone pedestal. In front of it, six stone altars surround a round, bottomless pit rumored to reach down into the vaults of Zin. The high priest is dressed in yellow silk robes and wears a yellow silk mask. The being does not speak, but communicates by producing terrible sounds on a carved ivory flute.
It is unknown what kind of being is hidden under the mask. It could be a Moonbeast, the high priest of the Cult of Corpse Eaters, or even an avatar of Nyarlathotep or the King in Yellow.
Cult of the Sages
Supporters of the Great Race of Yith
At all times there have been people to whom knowledge, even dangerous or forbidden knowledge, was more important than anything else. Such people are receptive, even greedy, for chunks of the vast knowledge acquired by the Great Race during its time travels. This cult is already mentioned in the Necronomicon, and so there have obviously been compliant helpers for the Yithians for centuries, if not millennia. However, it is more a loose association of individuals than a large, strictly hierarchically organized society. The members support the time travelers in their respective epochs financially or logistically, and it may also happen that one of the knowers voluntarily puts his body at the disposal of a traveler of the Great Race - with all unspeakable consequences for his spirit.
And even if the human mind fixed in the past is cleansed of its newly acquired knowledge by a special form of Hypnos before its return - and in this respect cheated of the price for its assistance - fragmentary knowledge from the immense knowledge collections of the Great Race sometimes remains in this mind and allows many a blurred glimpse into times long past or into the distant future.
Yog-Sothothery: The knowing ones usually do not master rituals themselves, but they may have extraordinary knowledge of the planet's past or future through members of the Great Race or even their own projection journey into the body of a Yithian. They are also able to operate Projection Machines (of the Great Race) or know where such a machine is located.
The prophecies of a Nostradamus or in modern times mysterious knowledge about forthcoming financial crises may easily be attributed to the Knowers.
Starry Wisdom Sect
Knowledge from the Stars in Exchange for Human Sacrifice - The Worshippers of the Hunter from Darkness
The archaeologist and occultist Professor Enoch Bowen found an Artefact, the Shining Trapezohedron, during an excavation in Egypt in 1844, which he brought with him to Providence/USA. There he founded a cult, the Starry Wisdom Sect. By 1845, the cult had nearly 100 members and invoked the thing bound in the trapezohedron, the Hunter from Darkness.
The Church on Federal Hill: Between 1844 and 1877, the cult performed its rites in the old, gloomy church on Federal Hill in Providence. An ancient Egyptian ankh or handle cross hangs above the altar, while the window paintings depict disturbing saints and a blackness from which spirals of a strange light pour.
The cult had numerous books of unnatural knowledge such as a Latin version of the Necronomicon and other writings even more unknown such as the Pnakotic Manuscripts or the Book of Dzyan.
The rites of the cult took place in the darkened bell tower, where the trapezohedron rested on a stone pedestal surrounded by seven high chairs for the most important members of the sect. The hunter from the darkness mostly stayed in the windowless, lightless attic of the tower.
Table: History of the Starry Wisdom Sect
The rites of the cult: The trapezohedron enabled the cultists to see into distant worlds. In 1848, with the help of several human sacrifices and bizarre ancient Egyptian rites, Bowen summoned the hunter from the dark, who since then has imparted secrets and knowledge from beyond the stars to the cultists - in exchange for further human sacrifices. And so people kept disappearing in the streets around Federal Hill. The cultists used the alien Aklo as a secret language and for their own records, which they additionally encrypted.
Yog-Sothothery: It remains unclear what happened to the books and the cult's records.
There is no question that sooner or later the Trapezohedron will reappear and once again cast its spell over people.
It is rumored that the hunter from the dark is an avatar of Nyarlathotep.