While attempting to answer this question about the Rebirth of the Emperor, I realised I don't know much about his first-birth.

The Lexicanum page for the Emperor has a section describing his birth and the reasons behind it, but it has no citation...

enter image description here

enter image description here

So what do we actually know about His origin?

Is the Lexicanum correct or is this just someone's best guess as there is no citation to corroborate it?

  • As far as I recall, none of the books ever go into good detail on how he came to be; and many of these things end up getting retconned eventually anyway.
    – Theik
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 12:10
  • 3
    Not sure what you're looking for. The shamans all committed suicide in such a way that their souls would all reincarnate into a single person rather than new individual shamans. A year later, the man who would be Emperor was born. Presumably, his birth and childhood was no different than anyone else's until the point where he stopped aging.
    – Omegacron
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 13:25
  • 1
    @Omegacron where are you getting this information?
    – Daft
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 13:27
  • 1
    @Daft that was way back in 1st Ed, Rogue Trader manual I believe. If it hasn't been retconned since, should still be true.
    – Omegacron
    Commented May 22, 2015 at 14:41
  • 1
    You do realize Lexicanum DOES cite a book for the shaman background, yes? It cites Realm of Chaos: The Lost and The Damned right there in your screenshot. It even gives page 174 for the Emperor's birth. The entire article was just incomplete at the time. It cites Realm of Chaos: The Lost and The Damned and page 174. Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 8:23

2 Answers 2


Here is the original fragment regarding the "birth" of the Emperor first described in the "Realm of Chaos: The Lost and the Damned" in 1990:

The Emperor was born while the rhythm of the warp still flowed strongly through all natural things. The old shamans were guided by the warp and in their turn guided their people. But even then the growing power of humanity was beginning to make itself felt, and the shamans feared that their knowledge and whole way of life would eventually pass away. The energies they depended upon were becoming increasingly difficult to tap. Worst of all, they were losing the ability to reincarnate. For as long as anyone could remember, when a shaman died his soul had flown into the warp and bathed in its energies, awaiting renewal in another body. Now, the souls were being best, chased and consumed by the malignant Chaos Powers. Terrified for the future of their race, all the shamans of Earth gathered in one place and began the longest and most important debate in the history of humanity, lasting centuries and leading to the birth of the New Man.

After hundreds of years of debate and research the Shamans came to the conclusion that they were doomed, and that without them the whole race would soon fall prey to the psychic entities it had created in the warp. At the same time the disruption of the natural rhythm of the warp would result in the inevitable decline of the whole planet. They divined a future when all of creation would be consumed by mankind’s greed and ambition.

Although their own power was still strong the shamans realised that they could survive for only one or two further incarnations. They were not men to accept death easily. Many of them could remember the dawn of their race, when in other bodies they had walked under African skies. Having survived so long, for millions of years, it was not their way to die without hope or purpose. They therefore decided to pool their own energies by reincarnating in a single body. In their thousands they swallowed poison, and in their thousands they died, and their kind was gone from the earth.

Within a year the man later to be known as the Emperor was born. As he grew older his powers began to manifest themselves and he gradually remembered the thousands of lives that lay behind him. He was the New Man. But he was also the past. His powerful mind could still sift the natural energies of the warp, enter the lives of plants and animals, promote harmony, and ease the suffering of others. And he remembered how he was made to live forever, so that he would never have to reincarnate, but would survive unchanged for eternity. At last he remembered everything that had led up to his birth, and he left his own people to begin his endless journey around the world and through human history.

Since then a new story has been described in the "Master of Mankind" by Aaron Dembski-Bowden, that describes Emperor as a human child that has awakened his powers when he finds that his uncle has murdered his father, which could have been the first murder committed by a human with cold blood (the first murder has been described in the book, but it is unclear are those the same murders). Emperor shows this vision to Ra, one of his Custodes, but then the same story can be a metaphor since Emperor doesn't respond to the outright question "Did this truly happen?"

This doesn't negate the shamans' origin story - the "Master of Mankind" version simply says that Emperor was a child at some stage and his father (real or adopted) has been murdered and "the boy who will be king" was able to stop the heart of the murderer.

Both of those origins date his birth to around 8000 BCE and place it in Anatolia (modern day Turkey).

In the afterword to the "Emperor of Mankind" the author says:

I didn’t want to reveal anything about the Emperor as any kind of definitive, objective truth. I don’t think anyone should, either - partly because understanding the Emperor’s nature and origins hasn’t been important for three decades of enjoyment in the supremely popular setting (and it’s never going to be necessary for that), and partly because, well, no answer will ever be satisfying enough or believable enough for everybody. [...]
Could the Emperor have been born from the souls of primitive shamans? Is he a Dark Age construct aping human form, left out to enact his will over the now-ignorant species? Was he a manipulative overlord and tyrant who knew everything of Chaos? Was he just a good man whose intellect strained to work alongside the levels of those beneath him, and was he ultimately failed by lesser beings?
All of them might be true. None of them might be true.

  • The one thing you have got slightly mixed up is that the death of his father by his uncle is different to the first murder in cold blood. I also made this mistake (in fact asked a question about it) but then realized that the first murder, hinted at the killing of Abel by Cain created Drach’nyen the emperors father dying was a different death.
    – Richard C
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 20:21
  • @RichardC I am not so sure: first we have a description of the first murder (brother killing his brother) and then story of the young Emperor who finds that his uncle (so a brother to his father) is a murderer. Are those the same murders? Maybe - if you'd look at the fact that the demon created by this act seems to have some connection with Emperor
    – Yasskier
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 20:35
  • No they are different murders the first murder happens long before the emperor, between 2 feral men. In addition Drach’nyen takes the form of that first murderer when he faces the emperor and it is not identified by RA as being the emperors father.
    – Richard C
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 21:00
  • Aaron Dembski has actually states they are different murders. “Drach'nyen was born of the first human murder, but that would have been millennia before the world developed to the point depicted in the Emperor's memory of killing his uncle in revenge for his father's death (if we choose to assume he was showing Ra the truth).“ I am trying to find the exact reference to his quote but can’t currently pretty sure it was a live reddit Q and A he did
    – Richard C
    Commented Sep 8, 2020 at 21:17

The truth of the Emperors origin has changed over the years. Originally he was the outcome of 50 Shamans sacrificing themselves and combining their essence to form a super being. They did this because they could see that the Emperor would be needed in the future.

Since the release of the Horus Heresy books, that version is looking less and less like canon, with the introduction of a race of beings called perpetuals. In Master of Mankind, we see flashbacks to what the Emperor suggests was his childhood, when he first learnt of his powers. While it is possible this child was the result of the 50 Shaman sacrifice, the emperor does not mention it, instead talking about how his uncle had killed his father.

So until a definitive version is given, you can either assume he is a perpetua, or the creation of a ritual sacrifice. Or he is a perpetual because of the sacrifice.

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service and acknowledge you have read our privacy policy.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.