The H.P. Lovecraft Wiki

This subject contains information from the "Lovecraft Circle" Myth Cycles, and while guided by HPL are not based on his work alone. This subject contains information from the Expanded Cthulhu Mythos, and not based on H.P. Lovecraft's works directly. This subject contains information from the Mythos Adjacent Works, and while share similar themes and features of the Mythos are not based on his work, or generally considered a part of the Mythos proper. The Outer Gods are a category of fictional entities of cosmic significance used in certain systemisations of the Cthulhu Mythos. They may be distinguished from the Great Old Ones, although the distinction isn't universally acknowledged.

Generally speaking, they are located beyond the confines of Earth and the Solar System, exerting their influence from deep space or from beyond our dimension. However, some Outer Gods have taken up residence on Earth.

The term "Outer Gods" does not appear in H. P. Lovecraft's works, but was popularized by the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu, where it refers to Chaosium's interpretation of the entities that Lovecraft referred to as the Other Gods from Outside, or simply the Other Gods.

In Lovecraft's fiction, these dwell in the outer voids (HPL: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath) outside of thought and existence (HPL: "Hypnos") in a "graveside" beyond Time. (HPL: "Nyarlathotep") This Last Void transcending matter and universes is accessed by the Ultimate Gate, itself beyond time and space. (HPL: "Through the Gates of the Silver Key")

Evolution of the concept[]

The idea of Outer Gods, although not referred to by that name, can be traced back to Lovecraft's short story "Nyarlathotep", based on one of the author's dreams. The titular entity is identified as the soul of "the gigantic, tenebrous ultimate gods—the blind, voiceless, mindless gargoyles", which dwell in a nightmarish realm and dance to the sounds of pipes and drums originating "from inconceivable, unlighted chambers beyond Time".

In Lovecraft's Dunsanian fantasy "The Other Gods", the eponymous deities arrive to punish a sage named Barzai for the crime of trying to spy the Gods of Earth. These "other gods" are identified as "the gods of the outer hells that guard the feeble gods of earth".

The ultimate gods from "Nyarlathotep" and the beings that unleashed their wrath on Barzai in "The Other Gods" are explicitly identified as being one and the same in Lovecraft's posthumously published novel The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath, which features the return of characters from both tales, and refers to the events of the latter.

Identified as "the Other Gods from Outside", these creatures dwell in the central void outside the ordered universe, beyond time and beyond the Dreamlands. They are again described as "gigantic", "tenebrous", "blind", "voiceless", and "mindless", dancing to the sounds of pipes and drums at the court of their sultan Azathoth. Their larvae drift through cosmic space in the Dreamlands. The Gods of Earth, a.k.a. the Great Ones, are protected by them. Their "soul and messenger" is Nyarlathotep, who negotiates with their many "agents", human and otherwise. Species that serve them include the Moon-beasts and the Shantaks, and formerly the Gugs. (HPL: The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath)

Despite being identified as "the ultimate gods", there are hints in the novel that the Other Gods might not necessarily hold the highest position in cosmic hierarchy, or at least might not rule unchallenged. Entities such as the extradimensional S'ngac and the primal god Nodens are known to oppose them, and Nyarlathotep's minions are terrified of the latter's.

After Lovecraft's death, the concept of the Other Gods was largely replaced with August Derleth's interpretation of the Great Old Ones, among the ranks of which Derleth included Azathoth and Nyarlathotep, as well as the likes of Cthulhu, Yog-Sothoth, Hastur, Shub-Niggurath, Ithaqua, and many others. Derleth gave them an inimical pantheon in the form of the Elder Gods--noted as including Nodens in the story "The Gable Window"--who defeated and imprisoned them. In Derleth's interpretation, Azathoth and its kin were created by the Elder Gods as servants and slaves, but grew mighty and rebellious, swaying other Great Old Ones to their side and warring with their former masters. Authors influenced by Derleth, such as Ramsey Campbell, Lin Carter and Brian Lumley, expanded this system through the creation of many other Great Old Ones.

It was only with the role-playing game Call of Cthulhu that Lovecraft's Other Gods were revived, in the form of the Outer Gods, which are aligned with but distinct from the Great Old Ones. Although the essence of Derleth's lore remains unchanged, the RPG makes a distinction between deities such as Azathoth and Nyarlathotep (Outer Gods), and others like Hastur and Cthulhu (Great Old Ones), with the former being much more powerful. Sourcebooks such as H. P. Lovecraft's Dreamlands incorporate the original lore from Lovecraft, clarifying that "Other Gods" is another name for the Outer Gods (although it can also be used specifically for those dwelling in the court of Azathoth, as opposed to the whole pantheon), and acknowledging the Outer Gods' protective behaviour towards the Gods of Earth, as well as featuring their cosmic larvae from The Dream-Quest of Unknown Kadath.

In addition to Azathoth and Nyarlathotep, other beings recognized as Outer Gods by Chaosium notably include Lovecraft's Yog-Sothoth and Shub-Niggurath, and Clark Ashton Smith's Ubbo-Sathla.

Behind the Mythos[]

The Outer Gods bear a striking similarity to the real-world Gnostic concept of the "Demiurge", a malignant creator being acting in an unconscious and corrupted parody of the "Divine Will", sometimes referred to as "Yaldabaoth",[1] a name which would not seem out of place in the Mythos, and may have influenced the name of Yog-Sothoth.

List of Outer Gods[]

The Lovecraft Circle Mythos[]

The Expanded and Adjacent Mythos[]

In popular culture[]

  • In Marvel Comics, the Outer Gods are confused with the Great Old Ones often enough to be categorized the same. Only two gods have been confirmed as Outer Gods: Yog-Sothoth and Azotharoth.[2] Cthulhu Mythos' Outer Gods mentioned in the Marvel Universe but not confirmed as Outer Gods includes Azathoth (hypothesized to be Azotharoth),[3][4] Nyarlathotep (an Other God instead), Shub-Niggurath (confirmed to be either a Great Old One or Lesser Old One),[2] Lilith (used in her mythological incarnation instead, though involved in eldritch horror stories), the Magnum Innominandum, and Ubbo-Sathla (unclassified so far).
  • In the Doctor Who universe, the Mythos entities are depicted similarly to how Derleth portrayed them, in that there are no Outer Gods or equivalent, and entities such as Yog-Sothoth and Nyarlathotep figure among the Great Old Ones.


Main article: Outer God/Gallery


Other Reading[]