The Cult Imperialis
There are two state religions within the Imperium, the Machine Cult (or Credo Omnissiah) and the far more dominant Cult Imperialis.
The Cult Imperialis is dedicated to one universal truth: That the God-Emperor of Humanity is the one true god and all other Gods are falsehoods.
All humans born on worlds that are in the thrall of the Imperium and do not owe a close relationship to the Adeptus Mechanicus (who follow the Machine Cult) are indoctrinated in some form or another in the tenets of the Cult Imperialis.
The Cult is also known as the Imperial Cult or Imperial Creed. These terms refer to the Religion itself, not the Priesthood. The title of that organisation is the Adeptus Ministorum, sometimes simply referred to as the Ministorum, or the Ecclesiarchy – the Priesthood and other arms of the Temples that administer to the faith are covered here.
The History of the Cult Imperialis
This section represents the “Truth” as taught by the Imperial Cult. Like much of Imperial history, it may be unreliable.
The Imperial Cult rose during the dark times of the Horus Heresy, as the Arch-foe Horus attacked the Imperium, followed by eight daemons. The people were defended by the Emperor and Their Nine Children, the Primarchs. In this time of terror and darkness, the people came to see that their Emperor was in fact much more than the human they had believed Them to be, and the one true God of Humanity.
As of the 41st Millennium the cult has weathered a number of schisms and events that have challenged Imperial belief. Despite these trials it has come to permeate the Imperium, of all elements it is the strongest example of a monolithic ‘Imperial culture’ directing the styles of art, architecture and music common to all citizens of the Imperium – all of these transmitted through religious beliefs and Ecclesiastic declarations to the furthest corners of the galaxy. Even on the most strange and hostile planets in the Galaxy, there is a comforting familiarity to the nature of the Cult there for all Imperial Citizens.
The Core Tenets of the Cult Imperialis
The Imperial Cult experiences variation across sects and Sectors, simply because of unreliability of long-distance communication within the Imperium. Reforms and proclamations made on Terra by the Ecclesiarch might take hundreds of years to reach an outlying sector at the edge of the Galaxy.
What follow are a rough list of the core tenets of the Cult Imperialis, the Imperial Creed that are all-but universal and have stood for millennia.
- The God-Emperor of Mankind once walked among humanity in Their mortal form; but They are and always have been the one, true God of Humanity.
- The God-Emperor of Humanity is the one true God of Humanity, regardless of the previous beliefs held by humanity. To recognise any God but Them is Heresy.*
- It is the duty of all Imperial citizens to stand against Their foes and remain vigilant against all threats to the Imperium, the following three ‘Catechisms of Hate’ are known by all humanity;
- Purge the Heretic
- Beware** the Witch*** and the Mutant
- Abhor the Alien****
- Every human being has a place within the God-Emperor’s divine order. All human souls belong to Them and Them alone, it is the manifest destiny and divine right of the Imperium to rule over all of humanity in Their name.
- It is the duty of the Faithful to unquestionably obey the authority of the Imperial government and their superiors, who speak in the Emperor’s name.
*This is a cause of considerable conflict with Machine Cult who worships the ‘Omnissiah’ or ‘Machine-God’ – especially with those factions of the Machine Cult who view the Emperor as a separate entity to the Omnissiah. Because of the Adeptus Mechanicus’ value to the Imperium, this deviation is largely ignored, despite more fanatical elements of the Ecclesiarchy decrying the Machine Cult.
** In some more fanatical elements of the Imperial cult ‘Beware’ is replaced with ‘Burn’, this tenet is a core factor in the discrimination received by mutants, abhumans and psykers. The Creed is very quiet on the subject of Navigators.
***The definition of ‘Witch’ is a difficult one to pin down, the Adeptus Ministorum tells followers that Sanctioned Psykers and Astropaths are sacred tools of the Imperium confirmed by Holy Terra, and that ‘Witches’ are renegade and xenos psykers who use their foul powers on the Imperium. The average Imperial citizen struggles to tell the difference between the two, and many legally sanctioned Psykers have lost their lives to mobs that couldn’t differentiate them from Witches.
****This does not simply refer to the Imperium’s xenophobic hatred of all Xenos life forms but also the universal rejection of any ideas, technology, culture and philosophy brought from ‘without’ – this is a major reason for the conservatism of Imperial society, which treats ‘new’ ideas with immense suspicion.
Beyond these Tenets, the Cult Imperialis begins to deviate. The subject of the Emperors gender for example is not universally accepted. Many elements of the Cult point to writings that suggest that when They walked amongst humanity, the Emperor identified, and was written of, as male and so they identify Him as such. Others argue that They transcend all boundaries of humanity and thus represent all genders at once, and use neutral pronouns – while further more might argue that one’s experience of the true God of Humanity is experienced through the lense of your personal experience, and choose to gender Them as they perceive them. It depends on the individual, and is not a subject of great controversy for an Imperium that largely considers gender identity a personal choice.
There is considerably more debate surrounding the existence of an afterlife. Many teach of the existence of an afterlife where the souls of the Faithful join the God-Emperor in eternal struggle against the Archenemy. There are some who argue that this afterlife is a paradise, an elysian field of rest, but these are often decried as soft, that the TRUE Faithful lend their strength to the God-Emperor in battle. There are detractors, who believe that few receive such a gift, who point to the ‘Living Saints’ of the God-Emperor to show that only the strongest continue after death, and it is the duty of citizens to give their all NOW without questioning what lies beyond.
It is notable that the Imperial Cult strongly believes in the concept that a human’s soul can be damned by failing to give worship to the God-Emperor or led astray by false beliefs, or simply by failing to follow the tenets of the Cult and Imperial Laws. What happens to the damned when they die is a much more unified message, that they are dragged screaming into the depths of the Hells to suffer in damnation.
Almost universally, the Imperial Cult does believe in an event known as the ‘End Times’ when the God-Emperor will arise from the Golden Throne, when great heroes of the Imperium will return to it, and when the final battle against the Archenemy will take place and the God-Emperor will sit in judgement of all souls, and those found unworthy will be consumed by holy flame. The signs of the End Times are a subject of argument, some say that they will only come when the Imperium falters… others see signs around them now, in the 41st Millenium. Whatever the time to their arrival preparing humanity for these times is a core focus of Cult doctrine.
The Imperial creed tells that when the God-Emperor walked amongst humanity They begat Nine Children, each a great warrior, to lead the Legions of the Angels of Death forged by Their hand. Though each of The Nine were beings of flesh and bone, they were everything Humanity should aspire to be, pure of spirit, pure of mind, pure of body, the greatest of the God-Emperors Creations. They were;
- Lion El’Jonson – known as the Lion and Primarch of the Dark Angels, a Great Knight who slew great monsters with a holy blade, whose Legion served to guard humanity in the darkest reaches. As a result of their relation to his cognomen, Lions are often used to represent a Guardian against darkness and is a reccurring theme in places where the Archenemy is feared to be strongest.
- Jaghatai Khan – known as the Great Khan or Warhawk and Primarch of the White Scars, a roaring roving soul who quested far and brought the Imperium to distant worlds, yet returned home to Terra in the hour of the Emperor’s greatest need. Because of their association with the Great Khan, Hawks and other birds of prey, save the Eagle (which is associated with the Emperor), are often favoured symbology by explorers and missionaries.
- Leman Russ – The Wolf King and Primarch of the Space Wolves, the roaring aspect of the fury of the Emperor made manifest, hunting down foes and destroying them utterly. Because of their association with the Wolf King, Wolves are often favoured symbology of Bounty Hunters, Arbites Hunter-Marshalls and even Executioners.
- Rogal Dorn – The Praetorian of Terra, the Primarch of the Imperial Fists, the champion who remained on Terra with the Emperor and led the defence of the Cradle of Humanity in the darkest of hours. Because of Dorn, gauntlets and symbols of clenched fists are often associated with guardianship, favoured talismans by wardens and bodyguards alike.
- Sanguinius – The Great Angel and the Brightest One and the Primarch of the Blood Angels, Sanguinius was the favoured child of the God-Emperor made in the form of a winged human, who gave his life against the Arch-Traitor Horus. Because of him, Angels are considered to represent the radiant glory of the God-Emperor made manifest, the highest form of the faithful, from associations with him much of the iconography displaying Saints and other holy servants of the Imperium with angelic wings comes.
- Ferrus Manus – The Gorgon was the Primarch of the Iron Hands, little is spoken of this Primarch other than to recognise him as a mighty smith who created many wonders. He is known to have been slain by the foul Daemon Fulgrim in the early battles of the Heresy, though his feature in the Imperial mythos does little to explain much about him.
- Roboute Guilliman – The Avenging Son, the Lord-Commander of the Imperium and the Primarch of the Ultramarines, if Sanguinius is celebrated as a tragic lost light of the Imperium, Roboute Guilliman is celebrated as a great living icon. The statesman who, after the Emperor retreated to the Golden Throne, rebuilt the Imperium into the form it is in today, organising humanity so it may govern, he is the author of multiple treatises on war, governance and administration that the Imperium relies upon today he is a symbol of ‘civilisation’ to the Imperium
- Vulkan – Unique amongst all the Primarchs, Vulkan had no cognomen, Primarch of the Salamanders Legion, he was a champion of humanity and a protector of the weak, stories talk about him liberating whole worlds with cleansing flame. He is commonly associated with Fire and the Forge and is attributed to the Imperial Creeds symbolic reliance on fire as a symbol of purification.
- Corvus Corax – Known also as the Liberator, the Deliverer and the Shadowed Lord , Corax was the Primarch of the Raven Guard Legion, a dark and shrouded figure who famously liberated many worlds during the Heresy. Because of Corax, Raven’s are often seen as symbols of hidden protection, and vigilance, featuring commonly in the iconography of covert bodies within the Imperium.
Though the Imperial mythos recognises the mortality of the Primarchs in the deaths of Ferrus Manus and Sanguinius, it only ever speaks of them being killed by great monsters, Sanguinius at the hand of the Arch-Traitor Horus, and Ferrus Manus at the hands one of the Nine Daemons.. Of the remainder, all are considered to have left the Imperium at various points in time, promising to return when they were needed by the Imperium most, or when the End Times come.
There are apocryphal accounts that state that the Horus and the eight remaining members of the nine daemons were once Primarchs who turned upon the God-Emperor, their progenitor. Most Ecclesiastical literature dismisses this as falsehood, for the idea of the God-Emperor ever creating something ‘flawed’ is highly unsettling to most followers of the Cult. But it is noted by supporters of this version of the tale, that there are twenty plinths around the Imperial palace, nine are occupied by the statues of the nine Primarchs…the remaining eleven remain empty to this day.
To the Imperium, the Primarchs occupy a position in cosmology equivalent to forms of Demi-God, their names are invoked in rite and ritual dependent on their associations.
To most Imperial Citizens, Primarchs are as mythic and legendary of the God-Emperor himself, on some worlds they may be recognised in other shapes and roles, their names may be spoken or pronounced differently.
The concept of Sainthood within the Imperium is built from the tenet of belief that all humans have a place in the Emperor’s universe. Sainthood is a status awarded by the Ecclesiarchy to those individuals who carry out great works that it believes demonstrate that the God-Emperor acted through them and as such they represent divine manifestations of the God-Emperor’s will.
All manner of Imperial citizens have been uplifted though it should come as no surprise to an Imperium beset by foes and conflict that a great number of the uplifted are military heroes, warriors who have lead Crusades and defeated great enemy incursions are more often than not awarded Sainthood. Sainthood comes to others too; people who have changed the Imperium with words, texts and actions are often equally recognised where the Ecclesiarchy believes that their role has improved the God-Emperor’s realm for the better.
The majority of Saints are recognised after their deaths, and become mythological figures of veneration and worship to the people of the Imperium. There are a small number of saints recognised across the Imperium; near-mythological figures of veneration whose acts shaped the Imperium as a whole. But for many thousands of recognised Saints worship and veneration of them only occurs on the worlds and in the regions they touched, and as such a figure that might be dominant in the cosmology of one planet’s Cult Imperialis, may not even be known on another.
Rare is the Saint who is declared as such while they still draw breath, and to be declared a ‘Living Saint’ is a very complicated proposition. Believed by the Cult Imperialis to be DIRECT manifestations of the God-Emperor’s will, a Living Saint is usually gifted with some aspect of the Emperor be it prophecy, healing light, or superhuman combat abilities. Because of fear of charlatans, psykers and sorcerers masquerading as these holy figures (and indeed the Imperium has been led astray before) the Ecclesiarchy and the Inquisition have made it very difficult for a Living Saint to be recognised officially until they have passed a complicated series of tests under direct observation. The last of these is martyrdom: a true Living Saint will be reborn when the Imperium needs them most. The majority of candidates fail this final test and the Ecclesiarchy may recognise them as blessed Faithful or Saints for their actions.
Within the Prosperitas Sector the following Saints are greatly venerated being a mix of ancient Imperial heroes and locally recognised Saints;
- Saint Keeler – Known as the First Saint and the Emperor’s Prophet, Euphrati Keeler was a Remembrancer responsible for recording the Great Crusade during its final years. She is venerated as the Prophet responsible for the revelation of the godhood of the God-Emperor who set humanity on its path to veneration. She is an essential figure in the Imperial cult, and it is not uncommon to give worship to the Prophet on a par with the Primarchs, much of her story is unknown and many priests have dedicated years to understanding the Prophet’s history.
- Saint Malcador – Also known as the Sigilite and Malcador the Hero is a mysterious figure in the history of the Imperium, the Emperor’s right hand throughout the Great Crusade and the Heresy, Malcador founded many of the institutions of mankind, including the Holy Ordos. It is known he was Martyred during the Battle of Terra when he sat upon the Golden Throne and kept the Astronomicon ablaze while the Emperor confronted the Arch-Traitor Horus and for this reason the Emperor Themself declared him a Saint as they ascended the Golden Throne.
- Saint Thor – Sebastian Thor rose to prominence when the Tyrant Goge Vandire attempted to seize control of the Imperium. Thor was blessed of the Emperor and led a Crusade of Holy Forces including the Angels of Death against the tyrant, and ending the so-called Reign of Blood. A humble man who initially refused the position, Thor became the 292nd Ecclesiarch of the Ecclesiarchy and would reform it immensely, including the issue of the Decree Passive which disbanded all Ecclesiarchy armed forces, save for the foundation of the Adepta Sororitas – for many followers of the Imperial Cult his rise marks the beginning of the Temple as it is today, though to some more militant figures his prominence is controversial given he eroded much of the power of the Ecclesiarchy.
- Saint Dominicia and the Five Companions – Saint Dominicia and her five companions, Arabella, Katherine, Lucia, Mina, and Silvana are considered to be the original Soror’s, although it was Thor who led a Crusade to Terra, it was Dominicia who slew the Tyrant Vandire by her hand. She had been tricked into many years of service to him but, according to legend, was visited by the Emperor which led to her casting him down personally. After the conflict, she and the five companions led the formation of the elite fighting cadres of the Adepta Sororitas.
Local Saints of the Prosperitas Sector.
- Saint Khan-Hattilik – The figure of Khan-Hattilik is a mysterious one, unique to the history of Korimesta, the legends surrounding them are clear, their identity is not so much. The most common version of the tale of the Saint speaks of a time when the Imperium came to the planet that one of the Houses that refused to surrender to the Imperium dispatched the Asassin, Khan-Hattilik, to murder the head of the Imperial Delegation. Legends are that the head of the delegation, a Priest, found the Assassin in her bedchambers, and rather than fight them or cry out for her guards, spent many hours speaking with them. Whatever passed between them is unknown, but the next day the throats of each and every House which had opposed the Imperium, were found cut. To this day the role of the Assassin in unifiying Korimesta with the Imperium is honoured by a festival where identities are masked, in reverence to them.
- Saint Nafisa – Saint Nafisa of the Order of His Sanguine Tears is a great champion of the Prosperitas Crusade, a Soror who led many successful incursions against Archenemy held world brought many worlds in Subsector Tertius into the Imperium. Nafisa was amongst those Imperials who discovered the Cadian passage that makes the Sector vital to Imperial supply lines in Cadia. Nafisa left the Sector via that passage with much of the Order of His Sanguine Tears, who would not return until the arrival of Cardinal-Emissarius Grulge, and would never see her home again, killed in battle against Heretics in the Cadia Subsector. Her bones are preserved now in a Shrine on Nivalis, the Order of His Sanguine Tears believe in a prophecy that when the Sector needs her most, the Saint will arise again, and strike back at the Archenemy, and ascend to being a Living Saint.
- Saint Ignace of the Officio Cochlea Lucidae – Saint Ignace is a unusual figure in the history of the Prosperitas Sector, in that they are noted for their devotion to the Administratum, a Scribe by training, Ignace famously matyred themselves shouldering the workload of the lost scribes and functionaries of the Administratum consumed by the Lash of the Eye in 328.M41. This might seem like a strange task to be granted Sainthood for, but through their actions many displaced refugees from Subsector Tenebris were safely and swiftly resettled and found aid and supplies to survive, and so they are the patron saint of many of the refugees of that lost sector.
- Saint Leonidas of Persephon – The patron Saint of the Persephon System, Marshall Leonidas was one of the companions of Warmaster Durovera, he is credited with fighting a bloody battle to rip the system from the hands of the Archenemy, and died upon the field of battle leading the final bloody liberation of Persephon IV. He is not entirely popular with the Sector Ecclesiarchy, who see his appointment a political recognition done as a political favour to Warmaster Durovera to try and buy her support by the Ecclesiarchy. Many of the shrines to Saint Leonidas have been desecrated by the Ork occupation of Persephon IV and he is considered highly sacred by Persephonian Regiments.
- Saint Nongentae of Ferraeus – Perhaps one of the most controversial of the Saints of the Prosperitas Sector, Saint Nongentae was not born a follower of the Imperial cult. She was a Tech Priest of Ferraeus, an initiate of the Collegia Architecton of the Machine Cult, but in life she became deeply involved with overseeing the construction of the Grand Temple of Nivalis. Her embrace of the Emperor-as-Omnissiah is somewhat controversial amongst some of the Adeptus Mechanicus, and the decision to enshrine her remains on Nivalis is of considerable controversy with Ferraeus. In death, Nongentae is the Patron-Saint who guards the souls of those who the Ecclesiarchy believes risk their faith my joining the Machine Cult in the service of the Imperium – many believe her beatification is simultaneously a convenient legal fiction to guard those Imperials who join the Machine Cult to learn from it, and a spit in the Eye from the Ecclesiarchy to the Cult Mechanicus.
It is a subject of some controversy that Warmaster Durovera I was never recognised by the Ecclesiarchy as an Imperial Saint where many other Warmasters have historically been recognised by the Imperium for beatification, especially given the immense success she had in her campaign to retake the Prosperitas Sector.
Some rumours suggest this is because she was, in life, not the most reverent of members of the Imperial Creed, a woman who did what she wanted and had very little time for ceremony, or Priests, indeed it is rumoured that she either struck, or duelled and killed, the first Cardinal appointed to the Prosperitas Sector, when they raised her ire, a factor that did not make her popular at all with the Ecclesiarch. Some rumours belief that it is simply because the Ecclesiarchy did not want to give the legitimacy of relations to a Saint to her disappointing line of heirs who squandered much of what she won for her House.
For whatever reasons, she goes unrecognised, simply a Hero of the Imperium, rather than a Saint.