9

Remark: This question was prompted by the answers to this enter link description here. As explained below, the secondary sources like Lexicanum, usually very good and well-linked to primary sources, is ambiguous here, so only official material is accepted as answer to the question. Finally, the question is about 40k, so WarHammer Battle sources (officially a different canon) are not accepted here.

From Wikipedia's article on enter link description here,

Chaos refers to the malevolent entities which live in a different timespace, known as the Warp. (...) The term can refer to these warp entities and their influence, the servants and worshippers of these entities, or even the parallel universe in which these entities are supposed to reside. The most powerful of these warp entities are those known as the Chaos Gods, also sometimes referred to as the Dark Gods, Ruinous Powers, or the Powers of Chaos.

From Lexicanum - Gods of Chaos,

The Chaos Gods, also called the Dark Gods or the Ruinous Powers, are powerful beings of the psychic universe known as the Warp, created and sustained by the emotions and souls of every living being of the material universe.

4 Chaos Gods appears prominently in the W40k universe:

They are often referenced as the "major" Chaos God, but not always. What about minor gods?

Are there more than these 4 Chaos Gods in official 40k material?

The above information come from the Lexicanum, a usually well-documented unofficial source. But I find it quite imprecise on the question of Chaos God. For example, the Khorne entry describes him as "one of the 4 Chaos god" (not major or main god, just god) but the introduction of Chaos god does not give any number, and speaks about "the least of minor gods".

Precisely, the Lexicanum describes the difference between a Chaos god and a demon (with no source):

Gods are able to devote a fraction of their power to create daemons, whose appearance and character reflect the god's own nature. These daemons may be reabsorbed into the god at whim. The least of the minor gods may be so limited in their power that expending their power to create a daemon means their entire power is expended; in effect, the god becomes a daemon.

The fact that the Chaos Gods are created by emotions from the Material Universe doesn't seem to match with the "only 4 gods" theory. For example, Christians know 7 Cardinal Sin, is there a Chaos God of Sloth (who is understandably not very active in the 40k setting)?

One ambiguity arises when considering worshippers of Universal Chaos:

  • some worship the Chaos as a whole, and each individual aspect we can see of it is only a facet of a greater whole. In this sense, there is no Chaos God and no Demon, just a big great force/dimension called Chaos.
  • some worship the infinite and overwhelming diversity of Chaos, and asking unity in Chaos is a nonsense.

The case of Malal (or Malice), the Chaos God destructor of Chaos, is not clear to me, since the sources about it are very old.

To finish, I should precise what I mean by 'official source' or 'canon'. The canon is everything from Codices and Rule Books, including supplementary materials; as well as everybook from the Black Library, and articles in White Dwarf from the game's creators. Games Workshop being prone to retcon anything when they see it fit, a more recent version of a Rules book or Codex is canon in case of contradiction with an older version.

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    The answer is 5, the 5 you have listed. – Daft Jan 3 '17 at 11:07
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    Sloth could fit pretty easily into Nurgle if you think about it. He's the god of disease and pestilence, but also the peace of acceptance and not trying to change things. This is why he's originally cast as the diametric opposite of Tzeentch. – Paul Jan 3 '17 at 11:29
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    @Taladris For the record, This is an interesting question and I wish there was more than 5 Chaos gods. +1 – Daft Jan 3 '17 at 12:00
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    @Taladris In the 40k universe a demon is a part of a Chaos god. You can't have demons without gods. So a demon isn't a god, it's only part of one. – Daft Jan 4 '17 at 14:52
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    @Daft: That is probably my mathematical mind speaking, but a part can be equal to the whole, that is a set is a subset of itself. The sentence "The least of the minor gods may be so limited in their power that expending their power to create a daemon means their entire power is expended; in effect, the god becomes a daemon." means that the least of all gods is technically not different than a demon, except being sentient. – Taladris Jan 5 '17 at 8:18
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The 4 main chaos gods are the most powerful but there have been countless of "gods"

To my knowledge there isn't much known outside of the 4 main chaos gods. And only a small bit of Malal which is quite old already but is still viable. but I'll answer with what I do know and I hope it helps.

As you said within the current canon of 40k there are 4 main chaos gods. being Nurgle, Khorne, Tzeentch and Slaanesh. And a minor god called Malal/Malice.

With this it is important to note what chaos gods actually are and how they are created. On the lexicanum they state that:

In the early history of the galaxy, the powers of the Warp had yet to form into distinct entities. At this time, the emotions of mortals flowed and ebbed as water does in a stream. As the mortal races grew and prospered, so did the strength of their emotions. Eventually, the gods grew to such a point where they could act independently of the general flow of emotions and thus became the Gods of Chaos. They reached into the dreams of mortals and demanded praise and servitude in order to increase their own power, as the of more one emotion is exhibited (in both thought and action) the stronger that god becomes.

We know that the four chaos gods where created by the flow of certain energies in the warp, which is linked to the emotions portrayed by mortals. a good example is the Birth of Slaanesh during the Fall of the Eldar. In which the sudden influx of a certain type of emotion awakened slaanesh.

In the Core rule book in the licensed RPG Black Crusade (2011) which was made by Fantasy Flight Games is this passage on page 11:

The raw, unfocused energy of the Realm of Chaos forms a parallel dimension to the material universe, a place of infinite possibilities where emotion and symbolism hold sway. The Realm changes constantly, ebbing and flowing in different locales as it does so. The flows, swirls, and eddies that it creates can form patterns and designs, drawing similar energies into themselves until they achieve a level of consciousness and purpose. When they find the courage to acknowledge the existence of such powers men call them the Chaos gods. Many nameless gods have been cast up by the warp only to be swept away again by the slow beat of aeons, but four great powers of Chaos seem eternal; Khorne the Blood God, Slaanesh the Prince of Pleasures, Nurgle the Lord of Decay, and Tzeentch the Changer of the Ways.

Which states that when a warp entity has enough power to become self conscious and have it's own will and plans. It can declare itself a god, however most off the times it is very weak and due to a lack of following and other things they got to slumber again or go away at least.

There recently has been hints towards the birth of a new chaos god This new warp entity is set to be a "Twisted reflection" of the greater good from the T'au. whilst the T'au themselves are quite insensitive to the warp their rapid expansion and taking in other races (among them humans).

When the Fourth sphere of expansion attempted FTL travel through the warp, it was almost entirely destroyed if it was not save by a warp entity set to have many arms set to be a new chaos god.

From War of Secrets (Emphasis mine)

‘We were becalmed,’ said the tutor. ‘No chance of escape.’ He drew a finger around the palm of his hand, making the swirling gesture of the whirlpool inescapable. ‘We had been sucked into the dark heart of that sub-realm, where even the currents themselves are devoured. Then, as the decs slid by, we began to hear a scraping noise.’

‘On the outside of the hulls.’
‘Yes. It was interminable. The bridges of each of our ships showed the same thing – no forward movement. No momentum of any kind. The things out there were laughing.’ Twiceblade shuddered at the memory. ‘The swirling faces, the creatures scrabbling at the hull… they were laughing at us. Of that I am sure.’
‘Taunting you, as a poorly disciplined hunter does his cornered prey.’ ‘Yes.’ ‘And in doing so, they allowed you to escape.’ ‘To this day I am not sure how.’ ‘Describe it.’ Kais’ eyes were narrow once more, hungry for data. The tutor had seen that same expression the very first day the Monat’s tutelage had begun. ‘It is almost impossible to describe it,’ said Twiceblade carefully. ‘There was something out there amongst the swirling nebulae, something vast. More of an impression of a sentience than an actual creature.’ ‘Larger than these beasts attacking the craft.’ ‘Immeasurably so. It had… many arms, I think. Some of those were made to nurture, or to provide, others to destroy. In physique it was familiar to us, for it was built much like a member of the aun.’ He paused, lost in the memory, and his shio’he wrinkled. ‘Though in retrospect it was bulkier, and many of its hands had five digits. As if the notion of human beauty had mingled with the optimal form of the t’au.’

And later they said that they think the origin of this being is from the non T'au that believed the idiology of the greater good into a new god.

‘I have studied the works of Commander Farsight in the past. As his original mentor, it has always pleased me to see where his conclusions lead him. There are hints, in those writings, and messages between the lines. Hints as to another type of creature abroad in the galaxy that is not flesh and blood.’ ‘Ghosts,’ said Kais. ‘Kauyon-Shas, the one you know as Shadowsun, was always over-fond of them.’ ‘No,’ said Twiceblade. ‘Not the spirits of the dead. Something else. Some kind of echo animus given life, given form.’ ‘You believe that such a thing is possible then,’ said Kais. ‘You believe that this entity is… an echo of t’au souls.’ ’Not as such.’ There was a sharp intake of breath audible through the communion relay. ‘Then you think that entity to be a coalescence of t’au belief.’ Twiceblade shook his head. ‘No, master, I do not. That entity was not the culmination of the wholesome beliefs of our kind, as strong as that force may be. Neither is it the avatar of the T’au’va, as some have suggested. I believe that it is instead a corruption of the Greater Good. A twisted reflection.’ ‘How can that be?’ ‘The other races that were with us,’ said Twiceblade. ‘They were preyed upon by the creatures in the sub-realm far earlier than us. They must have been seen as more desirable prey.’ ‘Because their souls were louder, brasher. Because they could not pass by unseen.’ ‘That was my conclusion, too,’ said Twiceblade. ‘They are of that realm, or connected to it, somehow. The echoes in the sub-realm… they are the reflections of those races that possess mind-science. That which exists in two dimensions at once. This is what Commander Farsight speaks of in his reminiscences, infers between the lines of those texts forbidden by the aun.’ ‘The entity you witnessed. It was a human god.’

‘In a way,’ said Twiceblade. ‘That entity was the gue’vesa’s conception of our faith, given strength by the other psychic races that believe in the same tenets.’ ‘We have no god!’ spat Kais, his lips curling back. ‘We do not, and rightly so,’ said Twiceblade. He was shaking, but he had come too far to go back now. ‘But to them, even a philosophy can be worshipped. To them, the line between faith in concept and faith in a divine being is thin. Perhaps even non-existent.’ ‘They have created a false god,’ said Kais. His eyes were wide, his veins standing out as if he were trapped in hard vacuum. ‘The mind-science races have created a god in the image of the T’au’va.’

TL;DR There are 5 named gods within the current canon, but there probably have been countless of nameless minor gods. With possibly a new one forming in the image of the greater good.

  • This is an excellent answer, though I do slightly wonder how canonical lore from third-party material is generally held to be. It is licensed, though. – Harris Apr 3 '18 at 15:27
  • @HarrisWeinstein GW is known for giving their IP to everyone and their dog, however in my experience they do hold a fairly tight grip on what you are allowed to do with the IP lore and design wise, especially written stuff. – Nino Memelink Apr 3 '18 at 17:04
  • One fan theory in fact is that the Emperor has essentially become a Chaos god. Similar to how the birth of Slaanesh was caused by the degradation of the Eldar empire, the faith of the Empire could potentially have an impact in the warp. It also explains some of the more 'faith' based things such as 'Living Saints' essentially being Greater demons of the Emperor. All of this is heresy though and so not canonical in any official GW texts that I know of. – Servitor May 2 '18 at 13:59
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In canon, there are four Chaos gods: Nurgle, Khorne, She Who Thirsts/Slaanesh and Tzeentch.

Malal has been absent from the lore for quite some time now, and due to some IP-related shenanigans, is one of the few things that can safely be considered truly "gone" from the setting.

There are additionally a large and deliberately amorphous number of Daemons that one might understandably think of as gods, and are essentially un-aligned Daemons. Examples of this include:

  • Drach'nyen, currently Abaddon the Despoiler's sword, and before that a demon who played a major role in the Horus Heresy
  • Ouroboros, which is clearly some sort of gestalt Chaos entity responsible for the corruption (or enlightenment?) of the Dark Angels garrisoning Caliban.
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Short answer: besides those 5 gods, the GW canon sources mention only three minor deities (mentioned in the Codex: Chaos Space Marine 3rd edition): Ans'l, Mo'rcck and Phraz-Etar. Those names are puns on the last names of Bryan Ansell, Michael Moorcock, and Frank Frazetta and Chaos Space Marine honour those gods by putting spikes on their armour.

From 1d4chan:

Puns on the last names of sci-fi and fantasy author Michael Moorcock (from whom the idea of Chaos as a fundamental force in the world was blatantly stolen/took inspiration from, and don't anyone ever say "borrow for a while" since even the author and Games Workshop have admitted it), artist Frank Frazetta (who drew a lot of movie and comic book posters, especially in sci-fi and fantasy), and Citadel Miniatures founder Bryan Ansell (who wrote several of the First Edition rulebooks). These guys helped set the tone of the early Warhammer 40,000 universe (purposefully or not), including the propensity of putting spikes on Chaos things. Games Workshop decided to pay homage in the (initial) Third Edition Codex: Chaos Space Marines, which mentioned that Chaos Space Marines often put "spiky bits" on their armour in praise of these three gods. They were never mentioned anywhere else, and probably shouldn't be considered "canonical"... not that canonicity counts for much in 40k anyway.

The long answer would first had us to define the nature of gods in WH40k in general: Lets first define them as beings that are worshipped and are able to take the power from that worship and give something in return.

Because the Warp is a parallel dimension that responds to human (or alien) thoughts and will, if a huge number of people would suddenly start worshipping a rock, such rock could become empowered with their prayers and turn into some sort of minor deity. On exactly the same rule work all cult leaders and Imperial Saints - lots of people worship them as some sort of conduit to the "higher gods" (Chaos or Emperor) empowering them and allowing them to ascend to daemonhood (or sainthood). And since many of those ascended daemons (like primarch Perturabo) follow Chaos Undivided instead of any specific god, they could be treated as some sort of gods. Even the "true" gods were created exactly this way: many beings were following same idea : "I wish my dearest was feeling better" - creating goddess of healing Isha or "killing is fun!" - hence creating Khorne.

So using those definitions, we could say that we have thousands of gods - from the Ruinous Powers and Emperor to the equivalent of Statue of Liberty. How many of those we could call "chaos" is matter for another debate.

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