This article uses material from the Deity article on the Lovecraft wiki at Fandom and is licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike License.
Created: February 2017
| Updated: February 2017
For the Cthulhu Mythos concept of deity and deity classification is particularly confusing and contentious, even among those with a large knowledge of the Cthulhu Mythos. However, a deity within the Mythos can be generally defined as any being, entity, or intelligence that wields power and influence beyond what humans can perceive or comprehend.
In general, Cthulhu Mythos deities differ substantially from notions of deity in Out of Universe religious and spiritual traditions.
As with the rest of the Mythos, the deities are generally based in a materialist philosophy. This is to say, that the "gods" of the Mythos are not essentially supernatural. Rather, they are physical beings that hold to the natural laws of the entirety of the Mythos, what Lovecraft called the "cosmos-at-large". However, these many of these laws are strange and unknown to humankind. These laws, as they apply to the gods of the Mythos, include psychic communication, inter-dimensional travel, the existence of parallel universes, pocket universes, extra-universal realms, and transcendent realities.
All of these aspects of the nature of the Mythos, and the presence of the deities themselves, add to the over-all concept of cosmic horror. To the deities of the Mythos humanity is an insignificant, ignorant of the true nature of reality, and barely worthy of notice. Humans are often used as proxies to impact global events, undermine the plans of competing deities, or as playthings to torment for their own amusement.
From story to story, there is a great deal of inconsistency in terms of the classification of the various entities termed "gods" of the Mythos.
However, over the course of Lovecraft's writings and the subsequent additions to the Mythos by August Derleth, a certain order has been asserted.
see main article: Outer Gods
Within the Mythos, the Outer Gods are seemingly older, perhaps predating the universe or the creators of the universe itself. They are often referred to as "ruling gods", and seem to transcend the boundaries of time and space. They are vastly more powerful and have influence on a much larger cosmic scale.
The Outer Gods are generally portrayed as being without real personality or intelligence, called "mindless blasphemies," with the exception of Nyarlathotep. Nyarlathotep is portrayed as acting as an intermediary between the Outer Gods while apparently despising them, and descends to direct his malign intellect to serve the will of the Great Old Ones and actively meddle in the lives of mortals.
The Outer Gods bear a striking resemblance to the Out of Universe, Christian Gnostic "Demiurge", a malignant creator being acting in an unconscious and corrupted parody of the "Divine Will". It is sometimes referred to as "Yaldabaoth", a name which would not seem out of place in the Mythos, and may have influenced the name of Yog-Sothoth.
While the terms "Other Gods" and "Outer Gods" are sometimes mistakenly used interchangeably, the Other Gods are radically less powerful and limited in their scope, (see below)
see main article: Elder Gods
Lovecraft named only one "Elder God", Nodens, and does not portray Nodens as differing significantly in nature from the Great Old Ones. However, August Derleth expanded on the role and nature of the Elder Gods.
Derleth places the Elder Gods in opposition to the Outer Gods, acting against their interests in the cosmos. Derleth portrays them as forces of good, which is some ways belies Lovecraft's original vision of the Mythos. The Elder Gods have given mortals the Elder Sign, a symbol that can repel and thwart the Outer Gods and Great Old Ones.
The Elder Gods are otherwise portrayed as being relatively distant and (in general) uninterested in the affairs of humans.
see main article: Great Old Ones
In the Cthulhu Mythos, the Great Old Ones have seemed to take the greatest interest and action on Earth. While their natures and abilities vary widely, they are generally depicted as vastly powerful and unconcerned or disdainful of humanity, merely using them as pawns or fodder.
The Great Old Ones are differentiated from the Old Gods and Elder Gods by being native to the universe. While there is much made of their Old God parentage, it seems clear that they were brought forth as limited entities in the material universe and to a greater or lesser extent are limited by the laws therein.
It is also of note that Lovecraft makes the distinction not to call them "Gods". This implies that while vastly powerful and unknowable by human minds, their power is likely limited and their nature does not transcend our universe. They are creatures, created or evolved, that appear only as gods to the mortals of Earth.
The number of deities in the Cthulhu Mythos has exploded over the course of time, and information regarding the entire "pantheon" can be found in following lists.