40K Lore: The Blood Angels

Loremasters! With the impending Blood Angels Codex on the way, it’s time to look at the Sons of Sanguinius!

The Blood Angels were the IX Legion of the original Space Marine Legions under their Primarch Sanguinius. They are particularly well known for their bloodthirsty nature in battle. They are also one of the most long-lived Chapters, and have a refined aesthetic sense.

Baal – The Homeworld of the Blood Angels

The Homeworld of the Blood Angels is the planet Baal and its two moons are, Baal Primus and Baal Secundus – from which the Blood Angels take their new recruits. The Blood Angels’ Primarch Sanguinius fell upon Baal Secundus after he and his brother Primarchs were scattered across the galaxy. In ancient days Baal and its moons had Terra-like atmospheres. Baal itself was always a world of red rust deserts, but its moons were close to paradises. As the Dark Age of Technology ended in the Age of Strife, civil war erupted between the world and its colonised moons, leading to the nuclear devastation of the planets. Baal Secundus has since been a nuclear-blasted desert world with deadly levels of radiation. This forced the world’s human tribes to build cumbersome radiation suits in order to survive. Mutants were once rife upon the world, frequently at war with the remaining pure humans for dominance of the planet.

Blood Angels – The Formation

The Blood Angels were created from the genetic material of their Primarch Sanguinius. As with all of the Primarchs, Sanguinius was genetically engineered to be a supreme super-soldier but was cast into the warp during his infancy along with his brothers, and found on the nuclear-blasted moon of Baal Secundus. Sanguinius was affected by the warp, and when he was found by one of the few unmutated human tribes on Baal, he had a pair of angelic wings growing from his back. As he matured quickly, he was able to use his superhuman powers and abilities to unite the humans of Baal against the mutants and become their leader.

When the Emperor found Baal in his search for the twenty Primarchs, Sanguinius immediately recognized him for who he was and bent down on his knee, pledging his service. In this, Sanguinius was one of the few Primarchs who did not challenge the Emperor upon their reunion. The Emperor then took Sanguinius and a number of his best warriors and placed him in command of the Blood Angels Space Marine Legion.

The Death of Sanguinius

During the Horus Heresy, the Blood Angels were one of the few Legions who fought alongside the Emperor during the Battle of Terra. When Horus lowered the shields of his battlebarge and the Emperor teleported aboard the ship, Sanguinius was with him.

The noble Primarch became separated from the Emperor and came across Horus alone. The Warmaster tried to sway Sanguinius and turn him to Chaos, but the Angel-winged warrior refused, and attacked Horus. The Daemonically strengthened Horus slew Sanguinius, as the Primarch knew he would. He had foreseen his death, and yet still engaged the Arch-Heretic, knowing he would die. This has endowed many of the Blood Angel’s beliefs with a deeply mystical streak. Sanguinius’ violent death left a strong psychic imprint on his Legion, since they partially share his DNA. However, this was a willing sacrifice that was made in order to buy the Emperor time and to give Him a weakness in Horus’s armour, which was key in bringing about the traitor’s defeat.

The Flaw

The gene-seed of the Blood Angels (and its successors) is still capable of producing all nineteen organ implants that facilitate the transformation of a normal man into a Space Marine. It also has the unique quirk of vastly extending the lifespan of the Space Marines of the gene-line, and it is not unknown for a Blood Angel to live more than a millennium. The gene-line, however, is also affected by a dreadful flaw, which makes its brethren susceptible to the Black Rage and the Red Thirst.

The Black Rage

All of the Chapters derived from the Blood Angels still suffer from the psychic imprint left by Sanguinius’s death. This can cause them to go insane prior to or during a battle, and they believe that they are Sanguinius himself during the Battle of Terra. The condition is irrevocable (except for one case, Chaplain Lemartes, who is largely able to control it), and victims are locked away in the “Tower of the Lost” on the Blood Angels’ homeworld until they finally die. This insanity is known as the Black Rage.

When a Space Marine is overcome by the Black Rage he is reborn in a world of anger, hatred, fury and nothing else. As well as Sanguinius’s memories, the Blood Angel is touched with a small portion of his unearthly power, boosting his strength and vitality to superhuman levels.

Rather than face a slow, insane death, Blood Angels will form those who have newly succumbed to the Black Rage into a special unit known as the Death Company. They paint their armour black, daubed with red crosses, signifying the wounds of Sanguinius, and are usually led by the few Chapter officers, notably Death Company Chaplains, who are able to communicate orders to these lost warriors. They are then sent out to perform the most dangerous assaults, hoping for a quick and honourable death in combat.

The other name of Black Rage – the Flaw of Sanguinius.

The Red Thirst

The Red Thirst is one of the two genetic flaws in the gene-seed of the Blood Angels and their successor Chapters. This causes warriors to suffer an unusual bloodlust, instilling them with a thirst for the blood of their enemies. Those who succumb to the Red Thirst or Black Rage are either formed into the Death Company or locked away in the Tower of the Lost on Baal, until they change completely, going insane. These traits have also been passed on to their successor chapters, such as the Flesh Tearers, Blood Drinkers, and Angels Sanguine. One successor chapter, the Lamenters, was until recently thought to have managed by unknown means to eliminate the flaws from Sanguinius’ gene-seed, but has been stricken by extraordinary bad luck in battle and as such has been nearly annihilated.

The Red Thirst is so overwhelming that the Blood Angels forget their noble heritage and completely lose control over themselves. It is not unheard of that Blood Angels squads abandon advantageous positions to engage the enemy in hand-to-hand combat. More often than not, these assaults turn out to be so devastating that unprepared enemy forces are simply swept away.

The Red Thirst was a genetic flaw deeply embedded into the Blood Angels Gene-Seed. When Sanguinius became aware of it, he felt responsible for the suffering of his sons and desperately sought out a cure while keeping it secret from the rest of the Imperium, including the Emperor himself. While isolated instances of Battle-Brothers succumbing to the Red Thirst occurred throughout the Great Crusade, it was not until the Battle of Signus Prime that the entire Legion suffered from it.

Would you like to learn more? Visit the Blood Angel’s page on the Lexicanum for a closer look at the Sons of Sanguinius!

  • James Regan

    i’m wondering, if the primaris are free of mutation, are they free of the entire flaw (just not a problem for new super duper marines), just free of the red thirst (the black rage is psychic and probably not a genetic defect), free of the black rage (they aren’t as connected to sanguinius, either in terms of those he psychically connected to, or in terms of how they were made, without sanguinary priests during induction rituals) but not the red thirst (it’s a flaw in the emperor’s original coding, not the result of geneseed mutation/degeneration), or free of neither (one’s psychic, the put in by the emperor himself, cawl’s not able to remove them). fluff wise, what would people think made sense, before the codex comes out and states one for gameplay reasons?

    • SilentPony

      In Devastation of Baal, Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers says they’re abominations because they’re free of both problems. That fighting against the Rage and Thirst has made the Blood Angels what they are, and without them, the Primaris are just Ultramarines in Red.
      He said as far as he’s concerned the Primaris assigned to him are Flesh Tearers in color only, and that Guilliman means to replace all the other Primarch lines with basically more Ultramarines.

      • Jonathon Runge

        So they are lacking in the most interesting aspects of space marines. Unless Cawl made some horrible deal that will start to backfire soon 40k is going to start looking its appeal. The grimdark is what attracted me in the first place and differentiated the setting from the more light hearted scifi series. As much as GW tells us that it is a dark time they have done little to show it. Part of the appeal of 40k is how on the edge the Imperium is. Every victory and advantage comes at a terrible cost. It is the fact that the greatest warriors have terrible flaws that brings out their character and makes the setting feel alive. Reading biographies makes historical figures so much more impressive as you realize what they acheaved in spite of their flaws. I hope the next primarch denounces the primaris and exiles them from their chapters as cannon fodder.

        • Orblivion

          I’m actually really hoping the next primarch denounces Guillliman himself, regardless of their feelings on the Primaris Marines. I haven’t read all of the new fluff, but AFAIK nobody has called Guilliman out on his hypocrisy yet and I don’t understand that. I’m hoping a primarch will.

          • Jonathon Runge

            Because GW has hinted that a returning primarch will switch sides I have been hoping it would be Lorgar. Since Guilliman is promoting the Imperial Truth again Lorgar coming out for faith would be an unexpected counter balance. The easy rational is that since the Eldar have a technique to create a god then mankind should too. Alternatively the ritual that resulted in the Emperor might have first made the Star Child and the Emperor is just its physical intermediary who went astray. And for yet another possibility the Emperor’s mind has been splintering off into the warp where the pieces could be altered by the psychic imprint of humans and become the god they believe in while the corpse on the throne continues to decay. The light of the Astronomicon might not just dissipate but pool together into the saints and similar phenomenon.

    • Damistar

      I believe Cawl is using the Primarch DNA from each Legion (he has even experimented with 2 and 11 before Guilliman stopped him). Therefore I would think that eventually the Flaw will manifest with the Primaris as well.

    • arkhanist

      In Dark Imperium, Cawl says he left alone the ‘flaws’ the Emperor put in as he didn’t want to change the original design; just fix the replication errors that had built up over 10k years. The idea being that he started with geneseed back as it was at the time of the Legions, then added 3 more organs to improve resilience, height and strength.

      The canis helix and red thirst are part of the original geneseed design; and implied at various times that the Emperor did it intentionally for the different roles he envisioned for the Legions.

      So logically, primaris marines from the 9th will develop the red thirst, as Blood Angels did in the Heresy. The black rage is the psychic imprint of Sanguinius’ death amplifying the thirst to 11. One theory is that the seed of it comes from drinking the blood of Sanguinius himself (recycled through the bodies of the Sanguinary Priests) as part of the final initiation ritual for recruits.

      The initial primaris were vat-grown by Cawl, so won’t have gone through the same rituals etc as normal Blood Angels, so won’t suffer from the black rage. However, the chapters themselves take over the making of new primaris marines and integrate it into their existing setup (such as BA sticking them in a coffin for a year to grow the organs etc) Thus when new Primaris go through the BA initiation rites and culture, then they will too start to suffer the Rage, and we’ll eventually see Death Company Primaris.

      The problem for the Angels and their successors has been the red thirst getting stronger and stronger with each generation, with the black rage taking ever more marines – and just the thirst alone is making some successors a danger to anybody nearby in combat. Dante himself in Devastation of Baal laments how many more fall to the rage in his lifetime, from one or two a battle to dozens at a time, and we see the impact the near irrestible thirst has on the Knights of Blood and the Flesh Tearers.

      A primaris reset to ‘managable’ levels of the thirst should ultimately save the chapters. But since the 1st generation of primaris weren’t raised as part of the Blood, and probably don’t even know about the thirst, they will definitely be seen as just red ultramarines initially. Seth says as much on DoB.

  • Orblivion

    How could you mention Lemartes but not Mephiston when calling the Black Rage irrevocable?

    • Luciferiel

      Mephiston was once Calistarius, he didn’t so much as overcome the Black Rage, but became something else.

      • Orblivion

        Describe it however you want, he deserves the nod more than Lemartes. Lemartes holds it at bay but he is still very much in the grip of the Black Rage, Mephiston is not.