Shub-Niggurath, often associated with the phrase “The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young”, is a deity in the Cthulhu Mythos of H. P. Lovecraft. The only other name by which H. P. Lovecraft referred to her was "Lord of the Wood" in his story "The Whisperer in Darkness".
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.
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. Sicily was a stronghold of Shub-Niggurath's cult during the ninth century, and the secret rites performed to it in its guide of Artemis of Ephesus are matters of legend.
- 1 Development
- 2 The Black Goat
- 3 Robert M. Price's interpretation
- 4 Other writers
- 5 See also
- 6 Notes
- 7 References
- 8 External links
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!" 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!
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, 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!"
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."
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."
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" and was included in a scrap of incantation that Lovecraft wrote for Robert Bloch's "The Shambler from the Stars". August Derleth identifies this mysterious entity with Hastur  (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.
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.
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".
The Black Goat
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.
Robert M. Price's interpretation
- 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.
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.
In Ramsey Campbell's story "The Moon Lens", the English town of Goatswood is inhabited by once-human worshippers of Shub-Niggurath. When the deity deems a worshiper to be most worthy, a special ceremony is held in which the "Black Goat of the Woods" swallows the initiate, and then regurgitates the cultist as a transformed satyr-like being. A changed worshiper is also endowed with immortal life.
In the short story "Crouch End", a woman loses her husband to, and then is chased by minions of "the Goat with a Thousand Young" and then by the Goat itself. In the novel Revival a maddening entity known as "Great Mother" is introduced and shares many similarities with Shub-Niggurath, though the latter is never mentioned.
In his Edge Chronicles novel The Curse of the Gloamglozer, one of the antagonists, the Rogue Glister, is obviously modelled after Shub-Niggurath, with long, stretching tentacles and its main body being a pulsating mass of muscle just like the Black Goat.
The Scarifyers: The Devil of Denge Marsh, by Paul Morris, is a light-hearted radio play (on CD as a Cosmic Hobo publication, 2007) in The Scarifyers series whose heroes (played by Nicholas Courtney and Terry Molloy) are engaged in foiling the return of this watery timeless horror and thwarting the intentions of its mysterious (and sometimes bizarre) human acolytes.
Gary Myers's story, "What Rough Beast," casts Shub-Niggurath as the mother of all the gods, and her children as the chapters of her ongoing revelation.
In Turn Coat, the eleventh book in The Dresden Files by Jim Butcher, the narrator mentions that there are in his universe "terrors that the Black-Goat-with-a-Thousand-Young wouldn't dare use for its kids' bedtime stories".
Edward M. Erdelac
In The Outlaw Gods, a novella from The Mensch With No Name, second book in the Merkabah Rider weird western series, Shub-Niggurath dwells beneath the ruins of Red House, a K'n-yan citadel in the mountains of Arizona, surrounded by dark trees which tear apart trespassers.
The Dark Young or Thousand Young appear in the short film Black Goat by writer/director Joseph Nanni. The Dark Young first appear as root/tentacles assessing their prey. Later in the film a young trapper surrounds one of the Young with fire only to find himself surrounded when the creature calls its siblings.
Shub-Niggurath (under the variant "Shub-Niggarauth") is mentioned in the Joe Hill graphic novel series Locke & Key. Another dimension is barred from our own by a black door in a deep cave, and any who step through become possessed by a "Child of Leng" (implying that this other world behind the Black Door is, indeed, Lovecraft's Leng) - writhing creatures made of dark liquid-like material and golden eyes. In Clockworks, volume five of the series, three possessed characters (two humans and a goat) all exclaim "Iä! Iä Shub-Niggarauth!", implying that the Children of Leng are either the creature's "Thousand Young" or the creature itself. It is noteworthy to mention that the series itself is set on the fictional island of Lovecraft, Massachusetts.
In his book A Big Boy Did It and Ran Away, Brookmyre includes various first-person shooter references (as the plot involves an ex-videogame-salesman fighting terrorists single-handed). Among these references, the terrorists' financier is named Shaloub "Shub" N'gurath, a reference to Shub-Niggurath as it appears as a boss in the first-person shooter Quake.
In "The Furies From Borås" Anders Fager includes references to Shub-Niggurath. The "Young of the Goat" is a cult of teenage girls. They lure teenage boys into the woods and sacrifice them to a monstrous messenger. The story has given rise to the "Borås Black Goats", a fictional sports club from the Furies' home town.
Shub-Nillurath, or the "Black God of the Forest with a thousand Young", features in the "Long War" series of fantasy novels.
Charles Gilman (pen name of Jason Rekulak)
Shub-Niggurath is mentioned in "Professor Gargoyle: Tales from Lovecraft Middle School #1".
Shub-Niggurath, calling herself "The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young", is one of the main protagonists of the slice-of-life manga The Demon Who Became My Sister - The Sister of the Woods with a Thousand Young (Japanese: 姉なるもの Hepburn: Ane Naru Mono).
- Cthulhu Mythos in popular culture
- Pan and Echidna, similar deities in Ancient Greece.
- Shuma-Gorath, a cosmic antagonist mentioned in Conan the Barbarian and Marvel Comics stories
- Quake, a first-person shooter video game in which the player has to defeat Shub-Niggurath as the final boss
- H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dunwich Horror", The Dunwich Horror and Others, p. 170.
- H. P. Lovecraft, "The Whisperer in Darkness", The Dunwich Horror and Others, p. 226.
- H. P. Lovecraft, "The Dreams in the Witch House", At the Mountains of Madness, p. 293.
- H. P. Lovecraft, "The Thing on the Doorstep", The Dunwich Horror and Others, pp. 287, 296.
- 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.
- H. P. Lovecraft writing as Adolphe de Castro, "The Last Test", The Horror in the Museum, p. 47.
- H. P. Lovecraft writing as Zealia Bishop, "The Mound", The Horror in the Museum, pp. 144–145.
- Price, Shub-Niggurath Cycle, p. xiv.
- Lovecraft, "The Whisperer in Darkness", p. 223.
- Robert Bloch, "The Shambler from the Stars", Mysteries of the Worm, p. 31.
- August Derleth, "The Return of Hastur", The Hastur Cycle, pp. 255-256.
- Price, p. xiii.
- H. P. Lovecraft writing as Hazel Heald, "Out of the Aeons," The Horror in the Museum, pp. 273–274; Price, p. xiii.
- Cited in Price, p. xv.
- Ferraresi, "The Question of Shub-Niggurath", Crypt of Cthulhu #35, pp. 17–8, 22.
- Lord Dunsany, "Idle Days on the Yann" Archived August 29, 2006, at the Wayback Machine., A Dreamer's Tales.
- Robert M. Price, Shub-Niggurath Cycle, p. xii.
- Price, p. x.
- Campbell, "The Moon-Lens", Shub-Niggurath Cycle.
- Stephen King, "Crouch End", New Tales of the Cthulhu Mythos
- Stephen King, "Revival" (2014).
- Martinsson, "At One With Nature", An Ecocritical Study of the Nature Motif in Three Swedish Horror Writers https://gupea.ub.gu.se/bitstream/2077/34207/1/gupea_2077_34207_1.pdf
- Charles Stross, "Equoid", The Laundry Files
- Campbell, Ramsey (1987) . "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. 42–3. 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). "The Question of Shub-Niggurath". Crypt of Cthulhu. 5 (1). Check date values in:
|date=(help) Robert M. Price (ed.), Mount Olive, NC: Cryptic Publications.
- Lovecraft, Howard P. (1985) . "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) . "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) . "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) . Moving Pictures. New York, NY: HarperTorch. ISBN 0-06-102063-X.
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