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!
This is the Outer God readers are most likely to figure out without needing textual explanation. Goat, woods, many young? Oh she’s a goddess of nature. Fertility and animals and plants and all that. “I speak for the trees” the Lorax said. So we’re mostly talking hippies and environmentalists. If there’s any danger to her, it must be from the sort of eco-terrorists that want to blow up oil rigs.
That’s not wrong. Those people have their place in the cult of the goddess.
But if you’re thinking Shub Niggurath is like a cartoon Gaia, a benevolent grandmother who wants a land of green harmony for everyone, where the lion lays down with the lamb, then you are dangerously misunderstanding Her.
The color of Shub Niggurath is not green. It’s red.
Red is the color of the blood that binds you to family. It’s the color of raw meat. It’s the color of attractive lips or the blush of a lover. Red is the color of the important things.
And suddenly – suddenly you knew that Her dark cloak was upon you. You could walk among these fragile children, and they would see Her wild feral power in your advance and Her glory in your eyes, and be entranced. Human artifice and thought were as cobwebs before the ancient truth of the being that held you, the truth of the perilous woods and the open sky, the truth of sex and death and endless new rebirth.
And so you strode among them as a queen of the wild. They cowered before you, and one by one you lifted them into the rapturous dance of the goddess, in which man remembers that he is kin to the animals and to the monstrous creatures in their wild places, in which all things end and are renewed.
The idea that humans are any different from other animals is just an amusing affectation to Shub Niggurath. We have our buildings, and our politeness, and our lattes and Apple products, and our stubborn insistence that our actions are based off rational consideration and the rules of civilization.
They’re all lies, and not even very convincing ones at that.
It’s not that we want sex and meat and dominance more than any of our more civilized desires, it’s that when we do want them, these lusts grab a hold of limbic system and just don’t let go. We risk our entire careers for a young-looking morsel. We become angry and obsessive when we’ve gone only a few hours without food. And there’s no end of irrational, uncooperative behavior people will engage in just to show their place at the head of the pack.
(Or see how even the most liberal parent reacts when their children are threatened.)
We’re machines for making more copies of ourselves, and for killing other animals in order to take their nutrients. We can put a veneer of enlightened self-interest above it, and disguise our society as genteel and egalitarian as much as we want. Sure, it doesn’t bother a goddess who has seen such civilizations rise and fall a thousand times. She knows what we will come to in the end.
(Even if you disclaim the power of sex or hunger to you, can you deny that when you look into the eyes of a baby entrusted to your care, that you feel anything less than a goddess’s power binding you to her?)
We are biological machines. And those machines are happiest when they are glorying in the pleasures of the flesh, not analyzing them to death.
When I heard the learn’d astronomer;
When the proofs, the figures, were ranged in columns before me;
When I was shown the charts and the diagrams, to add, divide,
and measure them;
When I, sitting, heard the astronomer, where he lectured with
much applause in the lecture-room,
How soon, unaccountable, I became tired and sick;
Till rising and gliding out, I wander’d off by myself,
In the mystical moist night-air, and from time to time,
Look’d up in perfect silence at the stars.
And proper appreciation of these, in their raw form, is very fulfilling indeed.
While in some ways Shub Niggurath is a creature with identity and intelligence, fundamentally She is the very principle of fertility and growth, and Her nature is an essential part of the cosmos. Every blade of grass that yearns toward the sun is in some way an expression of Her power. Every birth and every death is a sacrament to Her, for in love and savagery She propagates the endless cycle of mortal existence. To worship Her is, quite literally, to worship life.
It is not even strictly accurate to refer to Shub-Niggurath as female. Many texts mention “the Black Ram of the Woods with a Thousand Ewes,” or associate Her name with aspects of the forest god Pan.
Natural selection is Her great gift to Her mortal children. In the struggle to survive, to adapt, we became lords of the Earth where once we were single-celled nothings. But now mankind has turned its back on Her ways, and chosen to stagnate in genetic mediocrity rather than letting itself be tempered in the harsh forges of the wild. The frailty in our bodies is mirrored by a frailty in our souls, for we have bound up our passions in all manner of codes and restraints, while it is Her way to give honor to all lusts and urges. And, even as we destroy ourselves, so too do we destroy our planet in blindness and greed. We have fallen far from Her bosom indeed.
We can become perfect in Her.
But not all Her commandments are cruel. She is all our irrational drives, not just lust and vengeance, but mercy and compassion. She is the well-spring of our hearts. She knows a family operates more reliably than any corporation ever could, because of the ties she made in our DNA millions of years ago. The most self-sacrificing, unexpected good things the human animal does come from Her – just don’t call it a rational co-operative strategy.
So who becomes a Shub Niggurath cultist? Like all the egregores, it starts with a little knowledge, which can be a dangerous thing.
Those evolutionary psych nerds explaining all human behavior based on what helped on the plains of the East African savanna? Those MRA PUA bros who try to find out what people really want from a date? They’re paying homage to Shub Niggurath just as much as the organic-only vegan hippies. (The bros are also very wrong about how “human nature” works, just as much as Whole Foods produce isn’t really from the state of nature. But they are caught in Her fascination no less.)
So we have some bio-reductionism, which, fine. But that’s not a personal journey, that’s still thinking your way to Her embrace.
So you get this disavowed duality. Where someone intellectualizes the value of giving in to their animal self in polite circles, and engages in obsessive behavior where they consider it acceptable. Epicurean feasts. Indulgent sexual rituals. Expensive vacations just to go into the forest and “get back to nature” away from all the notifications of real life. Drugs that short-circuit your rationality to get straight to your limbic system, and throw you into paroxysms of dancing ecstasy.
Burning Man, basically.
Iä! Iä! Shub-Niggurath!
After that, is usually a clash with society. You can keep up the dual-life well, our elites love private scandal, but eventually your hungers go too far and there is a reckoning. Many ex-cultists will have an intervention and return to responsible, pro-social behavior. But if you’ve lost enough status with civilization, or if your primal hunger has its teeth in you too deep, it’s easier to just give in fully. All those prudes and censors are just hypocrites after all, judging you for indulging in what they want just as much as you. Their castigation is barely disguised envy, so sayeth the Byrons and Sally Bowles’ of the world.
There’s more debauchery, and delight, and hungover mornings after. And so it goes until rational society shuts you down violently, because it’s stronger and you are unorganized. Thus ends the tragedy of most hedonists.
But that’s where truly devoted cultists begin.
The predator within has been offered red meat, and it’s not content to stay on its leash anymore – the Man wants ease and entertainment, but the Wolf wants to be at the top of the food chain. Right now you live in a world dominated by human technology, where even a wolf with human cunning is overmatched by all sorts of things, and so your feral side has no better option than to go play when you let it and to stay quiet the rest of the time. But in the new world of the Shub Niggurath’s dream, the Wolf could rule. You would be deadlier than any man, and almost any beast. You would run across the blood-spattered snowfields, and howl at the uncaring stars, and gorge yourself on the warm flesh of your prey, as much as you wanted. It’s a possibility that you’d never really bothered to consider, for obvious reasons, but now that it’s lodged in your mind…you find yourself dwelling on it fondly when you’re not careful, and slipping more and more into wolf-thoughts.
True cultists of Shub Niggurath want her help to overthrow all the hypocritical artifice. Not just because it will be a “return to nature” and “heal the scars of pollution” (although that’s nice), but because only in a fully liberated world can they be themselves.
So they gather in their covens, aided by Her Dark Young, and call across the stars to something greater than them. They lie down in worship, and feel Her pass among them. They dream of tearing down the towers, scattering the fascists, and turning the lights off across Her sacred night.