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40K Lore: The Chaos Gods

7 Minute Read
Aug 05

With Codex: Chaos Space Marines on the way we thought it was time for a refresher on the Gods of Chaos!

The Chaos Gods, also called the Dark Gods or the Ruinous Powers, are powerful beings of the psychic universe known as the Warp, created and sustained by the emotions and souls of every living being of the material universe. Although they are god-like beings, they are by their nature monomaniacal and completely single-minded (formed completely of a single emotion or concept) as well as being completely dependent on the emotions of mortal creatures for their power and continued existence.

Gods are able to devote a fraction of their power to create daemons, whose appearance and character reflect the god’s own nature. These daemons may be reabsorbed into the god at whim. The least of the minor gods may be so limited in their power that expending their power to create a daemon means their entire power is expended; in effect, the god becomes a daemon.


In the early history of the galaxy, the powers of the Warp had yet to form into distinct entities. At this time, the emotions of mortals flowed and ebbed as water does in a stream. As the mortal races grew and prospered, so did the strength of their emotions. Eventually, the gods grew to such a point where they could act independently of the general flow of emotions and thus became the Gods of Chaos. They reached into the dreams of mortals and demanded praise and servitude in order to increase their own power, as the of more one emotion is exhibited (in both thought and action) the stronger that god becomes.

The Four Main Gods of Chaos

Khorne – The Blood God

Khorne is the Chaos god of anger, violence, and hate. Khorne is the mightiest and the second to emerge of the four Gods of Chaos, fully coming into existence during Terra‘s Middle Ages. Every act of violence gives Khorne power, whether committed by his followers or by their enemies.

The name “Khorne” derives from his Dark Tongue name, “Kharneth”, meaning “Lord of Rage” or “Lord of Blood”. Although Khorne despises the use of magic and accordingly hates Tzeentch, Slaanesh is his opposite. Khorne and Slaanesh personify two entirely opposing aspects of Chaos, and Khorne considers Slaanesh a weakling without martial pride or honour. Images of Khorne show it to be a mighty being, sitting upon a great throne of brass atop a mountainous pile of bleached skulls centered in a lake of blood. The skulls are of all those slain by Khorne’s Champions, and of all his slain Champions. The mountain slowly grows ever higher.


Khorne is said to have inherited a martial nobility and honour, and considers the weak and helpless to be unworthy of his wrath. His associated number is eight, reflected in the organisation of his armies, and in smaller matters such as the number of syllables in a daemonic follower’s name.

Tzeentch – The Changer of the Ways

Tzeentch is a God of Chaos who represents the vitality and volatility of change. Tzeentch is closely associated with sorcery and magic, as well as dynamic mutation, and grand, convoluted scheming. The domains of history, destiny, intrigue and plots are his chief interests, and in pursuit of these aspects he listens to the dreams and hopes of all and watches their plans take form. He is not content to merely observe, however, and chooses to interfere in the skeins of fate in order to fulfill his own, unknowably complex schemes. Tzeentch is known by an endless multitude of names, but the chief titles he bears are the Changer of the Ways, the Master of Fortune, the Great Conspirator and the Architect of Fate.

Tzeentch was created and sustained by the desire for change that is an essential part of nearly all mortal life; almost all species are aware of the concept of a better tomorrow, and any form of dreaming, imagining or resolution for change empowers the Chaos God. Like the other Chaos Gods, Tzeentch is strongly interested in humanity due to the power and drive of the human spirit and how that uniquely ties into his interests; no creature is more volatile or more ambitious. The spark of wishing for a different existence can turn into a fire that can change a country, a world, and perhaps ultimately an inferno that can alter the fate of galaxy itself; this is Tzeentch.

Magic is essentially an expression of change driven by will, and as such is the domain of the Changer of the Ways; Tzeentch is the greatest magician in all of the Warp. Many of those drawn to his auspices are sorcerers, while many others will be gifted with sorcerous powers as a reward for their actions. Tzeentch’s daemonic aspects are essentially creatures of magic rather than any sort of conventionally understandable physicality.

Nurgle – The Great Lord of Decay

Nurgle is one of the four major Ruinous Powers. He is the the oldest of the four, most probably because he is the God of Death and Decay and those two have been part of the galaxy since the beginning. His titles include the Plague Father, Fly Lord, Great Corruptor, Plague Lord, Master of Pestilence, Lord of Decay (the translation of his Dark Tongue name, Nurgh-leth) and represents morbidity, disease and physical corruption.


Of the four Gods of Chaos, Nurgle is said to be the most involved with the plight of mortals. Those afflicted by his contagions often turn to him in order to escape their suffering. The physical likeness of Nurgle is described as gigantic and bloated with corruption, with foul-coloured, leathery and necrotic skin.

All the Chaos gods are embodiments of the hopes, fears and other strong emotions and concepts generated by the mortal races. In Nurgle’s case, the source of power is the living’s fear of inevitable death and disease, and their unconscious response to that fear, which is the “power of life”, the motivating power of mankind and other races.

Slaanesh – The Prince of Excess

Pictured: Possible early followers of Slaanesh. (Photo by Michael Ochs Archives/Getty Images)

Slaanesh is the Chaos God of lust, greed, excess, pain, pleasure, perfection and hedonism. Slaanesh was the last of the major Chaos Gods to be born—coming into existence with the collapse of the Eldar civilisation.

The name Slaanesh derives from Slaaneth – the god’s name in the language of Chaos, (Slaa meaning “ecstasy”, “pleasure”, etc, Neth meaning “lord of”, “master of”, or “prince of”; hence, the Prince of Pleasure). The correct adjective of things associated with Slaanesh (such as its worshipers) is “Slaaneshi”.

Slaanesh typically appears in a form which is female on the right side and male on the left, with two sets of horns rising from its flowing golden hair. It can, however, assume any form—male, female, hermaphrodite or asexual—but prefers male bodies. Its sacred number is six. The symbol of Slaanesh combines the conventional symbols for male and female. It is also known by a multitude of titles, such as Prince of Chaos, Prince of Excess, Prince of Pleasure and Lord of Dark Delights. To the Eldar, who do not name the god, it is referred to only by the Lovecraftian titles of She Who Thirsts, She Who Is Not Named, The Great Enemy, The Great Serpent, etc.

The Fifth Chaos God

Malice – The Lost God

Malice is a minor Chaos God, representing anarchy incarnate. Other known names include The Renegade God, The Outcast, Hierarch of Anarchy and Terror, and The Lost. His symbol is a black and white skull.

Malice represents the Warp‘s Chaotic tendencies, and is notable for his hatred of the major Gods of Chaos: Khorne, Tzeentch, Nurgle, and Slaanesh. Followers of Malice are prone to acts of anarchy, waging war upon not only the servants of the Imperium but also those of the other Gods of Chaos.


Unlike the primary Chaos Gods, Malice can be summoned directly to the Materium provided enough mortal sacrifices are given and he is given a body to Daemonically possess.

Other Chaos Gods

The warp has created many nameless chaos gods, only to die with the passing of aeons.


If you’d like to learn more check out our sister site Lexicanum for more on the Gods of Chaos


Protect yourself from the temptations of the chaos gods or you may become their next sacrifice!

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