I am going to temporarily divert the discussion away from “The Ralls in the Walls” to spend some time discussing Shub-Niggurath. One of the reasons for this is that the Lovecraftian entity of the month on the Lovecraft Eternal Facebook page is Shub-Niggurath .
Shub-Niggurath by Muzski (www.deivantart.com)
As the great Robert M. Price identifies in his introductory comments in The Shub-Niggurath Cycle: Tales of the Black Goat with a Thousand Young (Chaosium, 1994), Shub-Niggurath is one of HPL’s most interesting trans-dimensional entities. She (more on that later) first appears in “The Last Test,” co-written with Adolphe de Castro, which is one of HPL’s revision mythos stories. However, unlike some of the other revision mythos entities Shub-Niggurath freely crossed over into HPL’s main mythos stories. While she does not make an actual appearance in any of his stories, she is frequently referred to in a number of HPL’s stories such as “The Dunwich Horror” and “The Whisperer in Darkness” and “The Dreams in the Witch-House.”
So what is Shub-Niggurath? Based on a letter to Willis Conover dated 1 September 1936 HPL states that she was a “hellish cloud-like entity” (“On the Natures of Nug and Yeb by Robert M. Price, in Dissecting Cthulhu: Essays on the Cthulhu Mythos, edited by S.T. Joshi, 2011). Shub-Niggurath is frequently referred to as the Black Goat of the Wood with a Thousand Young. As with any of the Old One entities, we are limited by our human senses on how to interpret the appearance and motives (if any) of these entities. For example, Cthulhu is perceived by humans to be a combination of an anthropomorphic octopus with large bat-like wings; as we have previously discussed we can not “see” Cthulhu’s true nature or appearance due to our limited five senses since its a being from another dimension. In the case of Shub-Niggurath, she is frequently seen as a cloud-like being with the horns and/or hooves of a goat (for examples see below).
Shub-Niggurath by Verreaux (www.deviantart.com)
As with Cthulhu, actual encounters with Shub-Niggurath (or her “dark young” – more on that later) are perceived through the limited perceptions of the human senses. In this case, the prevailing themes with Shub-Niggurath are having a cloud-like body (similar to Cthulhu who was described as being plasma-like in nature) and having horns and/or hooves. However, while Shub-Niggurath is not as well described as Cthulhu may appear, her worship by human, pre-human, extraterrestrial and extra-dimensional species appears to be far more common. Reasons for this may be two-fold. First, Shub-Niggurath is associated with fecundity and birth something that all entities, particularly those species who reproduce sexually (Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos by Bobby Derie, 2014) are concerned with. Second, Shub-Niggurath or her avatars / progeny may have had more direct interactions with the species of our existing space-time and beyond.
I believe the key to understanding Shub-Niggurath can be found in the “Genealogy of the Elder Races” found in Leslie S. Klinger’s The New Annotated H.P. Lovecraft (2014), Appendix 4. This was originally drawn from a letter to James F. Morton dated 1933. I have cited this chart in pervious articles but for convenience it is provided below:
Looking at the chart above it is interesting to note that Azathoth gave rise to Nyarlathotep, The Nameless Mist and Darkness. This may be the origin of the hypothesis that Azathoth is and was essentially the Big Bang of our universe. As one moves down the chart the majority of the creation of new entities appears to be largely asexual in nature, either as a biological process (fragmentation, budding or spore development) or as a transfer of consciousness from one physical body to another. As described in Bobby Derie’s Sex and the Cthulhu Mythos (2014), such asexual means of reproduction are quite common in HPL’s tales. Thus, it is not surprising to see that the majority of the alien, inter-dimensional modes of reproduction / creation are largely asexual.
However, it should be noted that there are two instances in which some type of sexual reproduction may be identified. Specifically, the fact that Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath “joined” or mated and gave rise to Nug and Yeb, which in turn gave rise to Cthulhu and Tsathoggua, respectively.
Shub-Niggurath by Mr. Zarono (www.deviantart.com)
From an evolutionary standpoint sex is basically referring to the production of new genomes by the recombination of preexisting genomes (Evolution: The First Four Billion Years, edited by Michael Ruse and Joseph Travis, 2009). Think of it as having two separate decks of 52 cards, shuffling them together as one large deck and then separating them out as two separate decks (each with a new combination of 52 cards). This biological invention provides an increased amount of variation within a species that provides the raw materials for natural selection (mutations are obviously another source of potential variation). While bacteria and some viruses can conduct a limited amount of sexual reproduction, this evolutionary strategy is largely a function of eukaryotic organisms (animals, plants, fungi, protists). Thus, is sexual reproduction a natural but unintentional outcome of the creation of more complex cells through endosymbiosis or was sexual reproduction “engineered” into Earth life by the Elder Things? Another future topic for discussion.
Getting back Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath, this sexual union may have generated offspring, such as Cthulhu and Tsathoggua that are more conducive to living in our space-time. Evidence of this is provided simply by the general appearance of Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath in comparison to Cthulhu and Tsathoggua. The general physical descriptions of Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath are frequently somewhat nebulous (e.g. cloud-like entity; iridescent collection of spheres or bubbles) when compared to Cthulhu and Tsathoggua (large, sloth-like, bat creature). In addition, this sexual union between Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath and their birth from Azathoth itself may provide valuable information into the structure of our space-time and beyond, which will be the next topic of discussion in the next article. Thank you – Fred.