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Created: February 2017
| Updated: February 2017
Shub-Niggurath (The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young) is an Outer God in the Cthulhu mythos of H.P. Lovecraft. The being first appeared in Lovecraft's revision story "The Last Test" (1928); however, in Lovecraft's fiction, she is never actually described, but is frequently mentioned or called upon in incantations. Shub-Niggurath also appears in the works of other mythos authors, including August Derleth, Lin Carter, and Brian Lumley.
Shub-Niggurath is an Outer God in the pantheon. She is a perverse fertility deity, said to appear as an enormous cloudy mass which extrudes black tentacles, slime-dripping mouths, and short, writhing goat legs. Small creatures are continually spat forth by the monstrosity, which are either reconsumed into the miasmatic form or escape to some monstrous life elsewhere.
The Dark Young of Shub-Niggurath are horrifying, pitch-black monstrosities, seemingly made of ropy tentacles. They stand as tall as a tree (perhaps between twelve and twenty feet tall) on a pair of stumpy, hoofed legs. A mass of tentacles protrudes from their trunks where a head would normally be, and puckered maws, dripping green goo, cover their flanks. The monsters roughly resemble trees in silhouette — the trunks being the short legs and the tops of the trees represented by the ropy, branching bodies. A congregation of these abominations smells like an open grave. They usually dwell in woodlands wherever Shub-Niggurath's cult is active.
The Dark Young are usually called upon to preside over cult ceremonies. One means for summoning them is found in the Book of Eibon and requires a blood offering. The ritual may only be performed in the deep of the woodlands at the darkest of the moon, and the victim must be sacrificed over a stone altar. Dark young act as proxies for Shub-Niggurath in the accepting of sacrifices and the worship of cultists, in the devouring of non-cultists, and in the spreading of their mother's faith across the world.
The gof'nn hupadgh Shub-Niggurath is the name given to the favored, once-human worshipers of Shub-Niggurath. When the deity deems a worshiper to be most worthy, a special ceremony is held in which the Black Goat of the Woods swallows the initiate and then regurgitates the cultist as a transformed satyr-like being. A changed worshiper is also endowed with immortal life.
Although Shub-Niggurath is often associated with the epithet The Black Goat of the Woods with a Thousand Young, it is possible that the Black Goat is a separate entity. Rodolfo Ferraresi, in his essay "The Question of Shub-Niggurath", says that Lovecraft himself separated the two in his writings, such as in "Out of the Aeons" (1935) in which a distinction is made between Shub-Niggurath and the Black Goat — the goat is the figurehead through which Shub-Niggurath is worshipped. The most persuasive distinction, however, is the depiction of the Black Goat as a male, most notably in the rite performed in "The Whisperer in Darkness" (1931) in which the Black Goat is called the "Lord of the Woods". The Black Goat may be the personification of Pan, since Lovecraft was influenced by Arthur Machen's The Great God Pan (1890), a story that probably inspired Lovecraft's "The Dunwich Horror" (1929). In this incarnation, the Black Goat may represent Satan in the form of the satyr, a half-man, half-goat. In folklore, the satyr symbolized a man with excessive sexual appetites. The Black Goat may otherwise be a male, earthly form of Shub-Niggurath — an incarnation she assumes to copulate with her worshipers.
The current residence of Shub-Niggurath remains a mystery. A popular hypothesis is the planet Yaddith, beneath the surface of which it resides with its dhole servitors. However it is postulated in R. L. Tierney's "The Lords of Pain" that the Black Goat of the Woods came to earth, building the city of Harag-Kolath in a cavern beneath southern Arabia, though its possible the cavern and Harag-Kolath exist co-terminously with Yaddith or are linked to it. It is also possible that Shub-Niggurath remains at the court of Azathoth, or even in another dimension entirely.
Both Stephen King and Terry Pratchett have referenced Shub-Niggurath in their works. Terry Pratchett parodies Lovecraftian gods, referring to them as the things from the "Dungeon Dimensions". For example, in Pratchett's Moving Pictures, the being "Tshup Aklathep, Infernal Star Toad with A Million Young" kills its victims by showing them pictures of its children until their brains implode. Some of the Doctor Who spin-off novels have identified the Nestene Consciousness (the being which animates the Autons) as one of the offspring of Shub-Niggurath. The connection was first drawn in Millennial Rites by Craig Hinton, and has been followed up in other appearances of the Consciousness in the novels.
Additionaly light novel and anime series "Overlord" makes a reference to her when main character cast a a spell that summon Shub-Niggurath offspring to destroy enemy army. He sacrifice 90 thousands enemy troops to summon five Dark Young and use them to slaughter an additional 90 thousands for a total of 180,000. He use this ritual in plain sight, not in the woods during new moon.