Shub-Niggurath

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Shub-Niggurath
Cthulhu Mythos character
Shub-Niggurath.jpg
Artistic portrayal of Shub-Niggurath, along with her "Thousand Young"
First appearance"The Last Test"
Created byH. P. Lovecraft
In-universe information
SpeciesOuter Goddess
GenderFemale
TitleBlack Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young

Shub-Niggurath is a fictional deity created by writer H. P. Lovecraft. She is often associated with the phrase "The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young". The only other name by which Lovecraft referred to her was "Lord of the Wood" in his story The Whisperer in Darkness.[1]

Shub-Niggurath is first mentioned in Lovecraft's revision story "The Last Test" (1928); she is not described by Lovecraft, but is frequently mentioned or called upon in incantations. Most of her development as a literary figure was carried out by other Mythos authors, including August Derleth, Robert Bloch, and Ramsey Campbell.

Lovecraft explicitly defined Shub-Niggurath as a mother goddess in The Mound, where he calls her "Shub-Niggurath, the All-Mother".[2] He describes her as a kind of Astarte in the same story.[3] In Out of the Aeons, she is one of the deities siding with humanity against "hostile gods".[4]

August Derleth classified Shub-Niggurath as a Great Old One, but the Call of Cthulhu role-playing game classifies her as an Outer God. The CthulhuTech role-playing game, in turn, returns to Derleth's classification of Shub-Niggurath as a Great Old One.

Development[edit]

Shub-Niggurath's appearances in Lovecraft's main body of fiction do not provide much detail about his conception of the entity. Her first mention under Lovecraft's byline was in "The Dunwich Horror" (1928), where a quote from the Necronomicon discussing the Old Ones breaks into an exclamation of "Iä! Shub-Niggurath!"[5] The story provides no further information about this peculiar expression.

The next Lovecraft story to mention Shub-Niggurath is scarcely more informative. In The Whisperer in Darkness (1930), a recording of a ceremony involving human and nonhuman worshipers includes the following exchange:

Ever Their praises, and abundance to the Black Goat of the Woods. Iä! Shub-Niggurath!
Iä! Shub-Niggurath! The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young![6]

Similarly unexplained exclamations occur in "The Dreams in the Witch House" (1932) [7] and "The Thing on the Doorstep" (1933).[8]

Revision tales[edit]

H. P. Lovecraft in June 1934, facing left
H. P. Lovecraft, Shub-Niggurath's creator

Lovecraft only provided specific information about Shub-Niggurath in his "revision tales", stories published under the names of clients for whom he ghost-wrote. As Price points out, "For these clients he constructed a parallel myth-cycle to his own, a separate group of Great Old Ones", including Yig, Ghatanothoa, Rhan-Tegoth, "the evil twins Nug and Yeb"—and Shub-Niggurath.

While some of these revision stories just repeat the familiar exclamations,[9] others provide new elements of lore. In "The Last Test" (1927), the first mention of Shub-Niggurath seems to connect her to Nug and Yeb: "I talked in Yemen with an old man who had come back from the Crimson Desert—he had seen Irem, the City of Pillars, and had worshipped at the underground shrines of Nug and Yeb—Iä! Shub-Niggurath!"[10]

The revision story The Mound, which describes the discovery of an underground realm called K'n-yan by a Spanish conquistador, reports that a temple of Tsathoggua there "had been turned into a shrine of Shub-Niggurath, the All-Mother and wife of the Not-to-Be-Named-One. This deity was a kind of sophisticated Astarte, and her worship struck the pious Catholic as supremely obnoxious."[11]

The reference to "Astarte", the consort of Baal in Semitic mythology, ties Shub-Niggurath to the related fertility goddess Cybele, the Magna Mater mentioned in Lovecraft's "The Rats in the Walls", and implies that the "great mother worshipped by the hereditary cult of Exham Priory" in that story "had to be none other than Shub-Niggurath".[12]

The Not-to-Be-Named-One, not being named, is difficult to identify; a similar phrase, translated into Latin as the Magnum Innominandum, appears in a list in The Whisperer in Darkness[13] and was included in a scrap of incantation that Lovecraft wrote for Robert Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars".[14] August Derleth identifies this mysterious entity with Hastur[15] (though Hastur appears in the same Whisperer in Darkness list with the Magnum Innominandum), while Robert M. Price equates him with Yog-Sothoth—though he also suggests that Shub-Niggurath's mate is implicitly the snake god Yig.[16]

Finally, in "Out of the Aeons", a revision tale set in part on the lost continent of Mu, Lovecraft describes the character T'yog as the "High Priest of Shub-Niggurath and guardian of the copper temple of the Goat with a Thousand Young". In the story, T'yog surprisingly maintains that "the gods friendly to man could be arrayed against the hostile gods, and ... that Shub-Niggurath, Nug, and Yeb, as well as Yig the Serpent-god, were ready to take sides with man" against the more malevolent Ghatanothoa. Shub-Niggurath is called "the Mother Goddess", and reference is made to "her sons", presumably Nug and Yeb.[17]

Other references[edit]

Other evidence of Lovecraft's conception of Shub-Niggurath can be found in his letters. For example, in a letter to Willis Conover, Lovecraft described her as an "evil cloud-like entity".[18] "Yog-Sothoth's wife is the hellish cloud-like entity Shub-Niggurath, in whose honor nameless cults hold the rite of the Goat with a Thousand Young. By her he has two monstrous offspring—the evil twins Nug and Yeb. He has also begotten hellish hybrids upon the females of various organic species throughout the universes of space-time."

The Black Goat[edit]

Although Shub-Niggurath is often associated with the epithet "The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young", it is possible that this Black Goat is a separate entity. Rodolfo Ferraresi, in his essay "The Question of Shub-Niggurath", says that Lovecraft himself separated the two in his writings, such as in "Out of the Aeons" (1935) in which a distinction is made between Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat—the goat is the figurehead through which Shub-Niggurath is worshipped. In apparent contrast to Shub-Niggurath, the Black Goat is sometimes depicted as a male, most notably in the rite performed in The Whisperer in Darkness (1931) in which the Black Goat is called the "Lord of the Woods". However, Lovecraft clearly associates Shub-Niggurath with The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young in two of his stories—"The Dreams in the Witch House" and "The Thing on the Doorstep".

The Black Goat may be the personification of Pan, since Lovecraft was influenced by Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan (1890), a story that inspired Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). In this incarnation, the Black Goat may represent Satan in the form of the satyr, a half-man, half-goat. In folklore, the satyr symbolized a man with excessive sexual appetites. The Black Goat may otherwise be a male, earthly form of Shub-Niggurath—an incarnation she assumes to copulate with her worshipers.[19]

Robert M. Price's interpretation[edit]

Robert M. Price points to a passage from "Idle Days on the Yann", by Lord Dunsany, one of Lovecraft's favorite writers, as the source for the name Shub-Niggurath:

And I too felt that I would pray. Yet I liked not to pray to a jealous God there where the frail affectionate gods whom the heathen love were being humbly invoked; so I bethought me, instead, of Sheol Nugganoth, whom the men of the jungle have long since deserted, who is now unworshipped and alone; and to him I prayed.[20]

Notes Price: "The name already carried a whiff of sulfur: Sheol was the name for the Netherworld mentioned in the Bible and the Gilgamesh Epic."[21]

As for Shub-Niggurath's association with the symbol of the goat, Price writes,

we may believe that here Lovecraft was inspired by the traditional Christian depiction of the Baphomet Goat, an image of Satan harking back to the pre-Christian woodland deity Pan, he of the goatish horns and shanks. The Satanic goat is a device of much spectral fiction, as when in Dennis Wheatley's The Devil Rides Out the Archfiend's epiphany takes goat-headed form.[22]

See also[edit]

Citations[edit]

  1. ^ Joshi, S.T.; Schultz, David E. (2004). An H.P. Lovecraft Encyclopedia. Hippocampus Press. pp. 296–298. ISBN 978-0974878911.
  2. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Zealia Bishop, "The Mound", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 144–145.
  3. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Zealia Bishop, "The Mound", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 144–145.
  4. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Hazel Heald, "Out of the Aeons", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 273–274; Price, p. xiii.
  5. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror", The Dunwich Horror and Others, p. 170.
  6. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, "The Whisperer in Darkness", The Dunwich Horror and Others, p. 226.
  7. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dreams in the Witch House", At the Mountains of Madness, p. 293.
  8. ^ H. P. Lovecraft, "The Thing on the Doorstep", The Dunwich Horror and Others, pp. 287, 296.
  9. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Zealia Bisop, "Medusa's Coil", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 189–190; H. P. Lovecraft writing as Hazel Heald, "The Man of Stone", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 225, 232; H. P. Lovecraft writing as Hazel Heald, "The Horror in the Museum", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 225, 232; H. P. Lovecraft writing as William Lumley, "The Diary of Alonzo Typer", The Horror in the Museum, p. 321.
  10. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Adolphe de Castro, "The Last Test", The Horror in the Museum, p. 47.
  11. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Zealia Bishop, "The Mound", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 144–145.
  12. ^ Price, Shub-Niggurath Cycle, p. xiv.
  13. ^ Lovecraft, "The Whisperer in Darkness", p. 223.
  14. ^ Robert Bloch, "The Shambler from the Stars", Mysteries of the Worm, p. 31.
  15. ^ August Derleth, "The Return of Hastur", The Hastur Cycle, pp. 255–256.
  16. ^ Price, p. xiii.
  17. ^ H. P. Lovecraft writing as Hazel Heald, "Out of the Aeons", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 273–274; Price, p. xiii.
  18. ^ Cited in Price, p. xv.
  19. ^ Ferraresi, "The Question of Shub-Niggurath", Crypt of Cthulhu #35, pp. 17–8, 22.
  20. ^ Lord Dunsany, "Idle Days on the Yann" Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine, A Dreamer's Tales.
  21. ^ Robert M. Price, Shub-Niggurath Cycle, p. xii.
  22. ^ Price, p. x.

General references[edit]

  • Campbell, Ramsey (1987) [1964]. "The Moon-Lens". Cold Print (1st ed.). New York: Tom Doherty Associates. ISBN 0-8125-1660-5.
  • Harms, Daniel (1998). "Byatis". The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.). Oakland, CA: Chaosium. pp. 42–43. ISBN 1-56882-119-0. [Suggests Byatis is the son of Yig]
    • "Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath", pp. 75, ibid.
    • "gof'nn hupadgh Shub-Niggurath", pp. 124, ibid.
    • "Shub-Niggurath", pp. 275–7, ibid.
  • Ferraresi, Rodolfo A. (Hallowmas 1985). Robert M. Price (ed.). "The Question of Shub-Niggurath". Crypt of Cthulhu. 5 (1). Check date values in: |date= (help), Mount Olive, NC: Cryptic Publications.
  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1985) [1933]. "The Dreams in the Witch House". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). At the Mountains of Madness, and Other Novels (7th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-038-6. Definitive version.
  • Lovecraft, Howard P. (1984) [1931]. "The Whisperer in Darkness". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). The Dunwich Horror and Others (9th corrected printing ed.). Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-037-8. Definitive version.
  • Lovecraft, Howard P.; Zealia Bishop (1989) [1940]. "The Mound". In S. T. Joshi (ed.). The Horror in the Museum and Other Revisions. Sauk City, WI: Arkham House. ISBN 0-87054-040-8.
    • and Adolphe de Castro (1928). "The Last Test", ibid.
    • and Hazel Heald (1932). "The Man of Stone", ibid.
  • Myers, Gary (2007). Dark Wisdom. Poplar Bluff, MO: Mythos Books. ISBN 0-9789911-3-3.
  • Pratchett, Terry (2002) [1990]. Moving Pictures. New York: HarperTorch. ISBN 0-06-102063-X.
  • I forget which one, but in a book in the series "The Dresden Files" by Jim Butcher, the main character, Harry Dresden mentions that he's seen things that (and I'm paraphrasing, since I don't have the best memory, feel free to fix this later) "The Black Goat of a Thousand Young wouldn't tell as a bedtime story to her children." Please feel free to do your own research and fix this, as I'm sure I'm wrong about something here. I just wanted to make sure that it's acknowledged that The Dresden Files references Shub-Niggurath (and the Old Ones, and I'm reasonably sure they reference the Mi-Go as well.)
  • Ane Naru Mono, a manga illustrated by Iida Pochi. English title is The Sister of the Woods with a Thousand Young. In it, a young boy named Yuu (shortened from Yuugure, meaning "twilight") finds a particular chest in his uncle's cabin that lead to an unknown location, enters and finds himself face to face with the half-human half-goat Shub-Niggurath's avatar. She asks what his wish is and he replies with "a sister", and thus Shub-Niggurath applies herself as an older sister, begins living with Yuu and learns about humans and their customs. The manga link: https://mangaclash.com/manga/ane-naru-mono/

External links[edit]