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Chaos iconography and symbolism on the non-devout


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#1
False_emperor

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Hoping someone on here can help with a mental block I'm having while modelling. I've read a fair few chaos novels and have a decent understanding of the lore but this one particular question keeps bothering me as I model my army.

Why do chaos space marines who aren't particularly religious (and from what I can see this is a great many of them) adorn their armour with chaos iconography such as the eight pointed star?

I frequently read that certain legions, warbands or individuals dislike or mistrust chaos and prefer to use it as a tool. That's understandable but why the adornment of stars and icons in that case? I'd love to get this. I just don't get it.

Night Lords - current lore suggests that they strongly dislike chaos (obviously there are exceptions, Painted Count / Krieg etc) but on the main, why do they appear with chaos iconography on their armour?

Black Legion / Abaddon - use it to fuel their Long War. I've read posts from A-D-B in the past emphasising his opinion that they are, generally, not religious. If you aren't a chaos worshipper but want to use chaos, making deals with daemons, does it help to dress up in their icons?

Alpha Legion (who knows frankly)

The only Legion I can see that would definitely cover their gear in icons would be the Word Bearers who actually love and worship chaos.

Am I missing something deeper here? This is irritating me because I am about to start a Red Corsairs army, I love the latest models but there's a voice in the back of my head saying.."is this how they would look?"

Some reasons I presume may be the answer.

1) The warp changes their armour beyond their control.
2) They wear it as a sort of tribute to chaos. (Still sits oddly with the Night Lords)

I look forward to hearing your thoughts !
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#2
Marshal Loss

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The simple truth is that Games Workshop, when designing models for Chaos Space Marines, tries to sculpt miniatures that best represent the faction. This means that the overwhelming majority of art and models you see for CSM depict what you might consider your "average" Chaos Space Marine. It's the same when it comes to the rules. There's far more granularity in the lore than there is on the tabletop.

 

Legions/Warbands that don't worship the Dark Gods or use the power Chaos offers are firmly in the minority, and that's where you begin to see discrepancies emerge. Even those Legions that largely ignore the warp's influence are going to have subfactions that swing firmly the other way - e.g. despite the Night Lords generally despising Chaos, the largest and most powerful Night Lord warband in the galaxy is...a bunch of Chaos worshippers, led by a Daemon Prince. Iron Warriors have a similar aversion but there are plenty of examples in the lore of them being full-throated followers of the Dark Gods. Abaddon may not worship the Gods but his Legion is made up of innumerable warbands all united only by a common purpose & their oaths to the Warmaster. Their approaches are, accordingly, going to vary dramatically, and for every Black Legion warband who care nothing for the whims of the gods and live only to see the Emperor cast from his throne there's going to be a warband who live only to offer the screams of the living up to their mad deities.

 

There are quite a few reasons why Chaos Space Marines might wear icons, some of which you've hinted at, e.g.

  • They wear armour made by the Dark Mechanicum in a Hell-Forge.
  • They adopt symbols of rebellion (e.g. the Eye of Horus, or the eight-pointed star) as a show of defiance against the Imperium or as a mark of their allegiance.
  • They actively worship the powers that dwell in the warp.
  • The warp says "I don't care about your sense of fashion" and twists the armour. At the end of the day, individual marines don't have any say in what the warp does to them.
  • They think it looks cool (c'mon some of them clearly have a sense of style)

With your own Red Corsairs project, typically in art the Red Corsairs are depicted exactly as the models are:

 

Spoiler

 

In reality, as a group of pirates and renegades drawn from all over the Imperium, many of them might wear armour that is still recognisably Imperial, especially if they have only recently turned from the Emperor's light. You can incorporate parts from loyalist or HH era kits to represent this if you like, but using the new spiky and warped models straight out of the box is still the best general summation of what a Chaos Space Marine looks like, and this applies to pretty much everybody, including the Red Corsairs. Perhaps your warband obtained new sets of armour from the Hell-Forge of Ghalmek within the Maelstrom as part of a deal with the Word Bearers. Perhaps they just really like being baddies. The choice is all yours!


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#3
Shovellovin

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I think Marshal Loss answered OP's question thoroughly, I would just like to add that I recently started a Night Lords warband and wondered how to reconcile in my head that my Night Lords aren't Chaos worshipers but have the iconography on their armor. I thought back to some of the Gaunt's Ghosts books. In those books, Chaos symbols (even names, such as Khorne) are so powerful that they negatively effect those loyal to the Emperor. The symbols are hard to see clearly, cause nausea and a sense of unease. That made me think that while some Night Lords may not worship Chaos, they would understand the power of the symbols and the fear that those symbols can create. Even though my Night Lords warband doesn't worship Chaos, they use Chaos symbols because they use (and enjoy using) terror tactics to accomplish their goals. Now, you could argue that by using Chaos symbols an individual is worshiping Chaos, or at least giving Chaos power over the individual, but that's a discussion for another topic (, I think John French's description of Chaos in Slaves to Darkness is worth a read if you haven't read it already).


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#4
MegaVolt87

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For my IW, I have a mix. Some are secular, others believe but they are no WB zealots. My "sorcerer" is actually still a librarian, a practitioner of the OG Nulificators in HH. So he is very good with containment wards/ rituals to stop corruption of OG legion stuff + the warship from warping when in the warp for a long time etc. He has the chaotic trappings, but has modified them so they are basically decoration with micro etching. He even makes sanctified symbols that he passes on to others to defile for demonic rituals. To him, the gods are real, but his interest is purely academic and in service to his Warsmith and the legion, not himself. Chaos tempts him, but its hard to get root if the guy has no real ambition or desires- think burned out Forrix in 40k, just going through the motions/ detached etc. 


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#5
Lucerne

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I'd go with "single arrows" or "three arrows" as non-chaotic iconography, and remove any outright chaos stars or "eyes".

 

But yes, default CSM models are awful at representing some types of CSM. For Red Corsairs, the best representation of them is a LOT less baroque and a lot more improvised- I'd mix in loyalist bits and file off some of the trim. Rule of thumb for less "pious ancient traitor": is this something you could see Your Guys adding to their default armor? If not, file it off or replace it. The new CSM kit shoulderpads aren't really the same vibe as "recent renegades", so I'd try and get the old CSM kit's shoulderpads or use bits from LSM. Same for heads. That alone helps change the vibe of the models a lot, as well as backpack swaps.


Edited by Lucerne, 27 April 2021 - 10:42 PM.

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#6
Gederas

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Iirc, Night Lords use the Chaos imagery solely because of the terror it brings, not because of any kind of worship.

 

When it comes to "My Dudes" they abide by "The Imperium that knows about Renegade Marines or Chaos Marines, fears it. So let's go all in" train of thought.


Edited by Gederas, 28 April 2021 - 01:42 AM.


#7
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The chaos iconography featured in Abnett's books seem to cause discomfort and nausea to 'normal' humans. Seems like a pretty useful psychological weapon.

Although the idea of any of the original legions somehow abstaining from the corrupting touch of the Dark Gods seems laughable, worship or not. CSM spend most of their time in a maddening hell dimension, basting in the raw energies of very stuff the gods are made of. Whether these deities are venerated in a religious manner doesn't really seem to matter; the thirsting gods care little for lip service.

 

If your actions please the Four, you are doing their bidding.


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#8
MegaVolt87

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The chaos iconography featured in Abnett's books seem to cause discomfort and nausea to 'normal' humans. Seems like a pretty useful psychological weapon.
Although the idea of any of the original legions somehow abstaining from the corrupting touch of the Dark Gods seems laughable, worship or not. CSM spend most of their time in a maddening hell dimension, basting in the raw energies of very stuff the gods are made of. Whether these deities are venerated in a religious manner doesn't really seem to matter; the thirsting gods care little for lip service.
 
If your actions please the Four, you are doing their bidding.


Hard disagree. Cadia is gone, the legions are in real space now it's basically scouring 2.0 now. There is definitely scope for legion forces to be based in real space now. That means a return to normal for recruitment, production etc for those that work for it. CSM being ratchet because the warp is way less of an issue now they aren't stuck in EoT and the rift gives them a chance also in cutting Imperial response- if they even show up at all.
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#9
techsoldaten

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Symbolically, Chaos iconography represents a rejection of the Imperial Truth. The icon conveys the unmistakable message that the bearer's loyalty lies elsewhere.

 

Each of the Chaos Gods has it's own symbol distinct from the pointed star. Devotees adopt those icons, the meaning of the pointed star is unique to each Legion. 

 

For the Black Legion, the star is an expression of their martial supremacy and is used as a Legion identifier. They are Chaos.

 

Word Bearers worship Chaos as a pantheon and the icon evokes the power and possibilities of the Warp. Individual members may devote themselves to some God, but the purpose of the star is to demonstrate the Legion's devotion to Chaos as a whole.

 

Iron Warriors and Night Lords don't worship the Chaos Gods, the icon represents their defiance. The Chaos powers are allies and identifying with them serves their dark purposes.

 

Alpha Legion has their own reasons, I see it as cover for whatever they're actually up to. Probably something to do with infiltrating the Dark Angels.


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#10
Are Verlo

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I consider anything published after RT ( 2nd and on) to be fan-fiction. Do the realm of chaos books contain or any WD from RT any guidelines ?  Or perhaps some index from that era contains the sacred/blasphemous texts you are looking for?. If not feel free to do as you like ;-P


Edited by Are Verlo, 29 April 2021 - 09:23 PM.


#11
Azekai

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The chaos iconography featured in Abnett's books seem to cause discomfort and nausea to 'normal' humans. Seems like a pretty useful psychological weapon.
Although the idea of any of the original legions somehow abstaining from the corrupting touch of the Dark Gods seems laughable, worship or not. CSM spend most of their time in a maddening hell dimension, basting in the raw energies of very stuff the gods are made of. Whether these deities are venerated in a religious manner doesn't really seem to matter; the thirsting gods care little for lip service.

If your actions please the Four, you are doing their bidding.

Hard disagree. Cadia is gone, the legions are in real space now it's basically scouring 2.0 now.

Ok. What about the last 10,000 years?

It is true that not every single splinter chaos faction and warband fled into the Eye, but those that didn’t were the exception not the rule.

Thematically, chaos is about the Faustian bargain, trading the tyranny of the Emperor’s yoke for damnation. Kinda undermines that if the followers of chaos aren’t actually damned and can take or leave the influence of the Four as if it were a side of fries.
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#12
Iron Father Ferrum

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Most of the lore shows us that Chaos will grant gifts even to the unwilling. Just look at First Claw. I don't recall Uzas welcoming Khorne turning him into a drooling, mindless buzzsaw...and Cyrion's ability to detect and feed off fear was definitely given to him by the gods too, not asked for. Aside from Rhuven and the Prince whose name escapes me at the moment, none of the Night Lords we meet seem to be overtly worshiping Chaos.

Edited by Iron Father Ferrum, 02 May 2021 - 10:59 AM.

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#13
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Models aside, I think it's as much a symbol of allegiance as anything else. A bit like how loyalist Marines can wear the aquila but not believe the Emperor is a god. Some of the Legions may have thrown their lot in with Chaos by turning traitor, but that doesn't mean they actively seek the gods out. What the gods do is another matter as said, but as it's Your Dudes that's up to you ;)

 

As mentioned sounds like you want to take the kit bashing route, that's what I have done with my CSM (as they're recently turned, at least in the galactic time frame). It's good fun mixing and matching bits from the ranges, though I do have a strong MkIV flavour for aesthetic reasons :) Chaos is more than spikes and horns, you can take your approach as you will. For example I'm making use of Chaos transfers to less overtly display their loyalty (or, lack thereof?) and it works nicely.

 

Don't forget to let us know what you decide, along with pictures of course :tu:


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#14
MegaVolt87

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Cadia destroyed and the rift have set the galaxy to scouring 2.0. Whole point of taking or destroying Cadia was to get the legions back into real space again. This has been achieved. Sure the CSM made in the warp have the chaotic problems, there is scope for a return to normal for recruitment + production for future legionaries etc. Difference is, smaller warbands were either too small to really take advantage of being in real space to grow or were crushed by the Imperium before they have a chance. Legion forces hundreds/ thousands strong don't have that problem now with gaining a foothold and having a good chance of not being driven out again with the current state of the galaxy. 

 

Now as for belief, non believers can be indirectly manipulated into achieving the goals of the chaos gods. This is because nothing gets the gods more excited than a potential follower who is successful regardless. Also remember, just because you follow chaos, doesn't make you entitled to receive any favour or blessings at all, arguably the greatest punishment is to serve ignored and never validated! Or being devout and hitting chaos spawn instead of demon prince at the end, that's chaos baby. As for the NL, they were stuck in the warp running most of the time on a ship that I argue was possessed/corrupted. So yes, mutations are to be expected. Talos's NL band is actually an example of a weak CSM warband with the only thing going for them is being an OG legion, that's it. All the head case sad boi's are gone from there now, they are building up to be dangerous again, had what 50+ new marines and increasing at the end of the trilogy. Its a good ending, we can imagine their success or failure at that point it could go either way. ADB's NL trilogy isn't representative of EVERY CSM as everyone likes to seem to throw out as an example of how it is for the entire faction. 


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#15
Sception

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Space marines are monstrous super-humans.  Not just physically, but mentally.  Their appetites, emotions, ambitions, and bloodlust are all super human as well.  Far beyond anything the underlying vestiges of their humanity was ever meant to handle.  Only the focus and subservience imprinted by dedication to the imperial creed (ie imperial brainwashing) keeps their super-humanity in check and insulates them from the powers of chaos that would otherwise take hold of a marine by their vices and pilot them around as they wish, regardless of what that particular chaos marine might want or choose or believe.  Chaos is /real/ in 40k's universe.  It's part of physical reality.  Rejecting it, choosing not to believe in it, doesn't free you from it any more than rejecting gravity will stop you from falling through the event horizon of a black hole.

 

Renegade marines become chaos marines like water flows downhill, and those who resist only succeed in tearing themselves apart.  That's the entire point of the last book of the Night Lords trilogy.  In his pride Talos has spent two books rejecting and running from the power offered by chaos, and in the end that prideful refusal costs him his own life and all but entirely wipes out the warband that relied on him for guidance.  In the last moments of the book his heir commits to doing what Talos refused to do - embrace the powers of chaos, use their gifts to claim leadership of the scattered 8th legion, and unite them in service to Abaddon's vision.  Because the only path out of damnation available to renegade space marines is the Crimson Path charted by Abaddon straight through the heart of Chaos and out the other side.


Edited by Sception, 03 May 2021 - 03:09 PM.

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#16
Lucerne

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"All renegades become chaos" is Thorpe's brand of nonsense and actively contradicted by more modern writing. Tryng to pigeonhole all renegades into being MAXIMUM WARP, MUST GET CHAOS GIFTS NO MATTER WHAT, ABBY IS THE ONLY TRUE WAY is a gross oversimplification. (More accurate to say that if you start using Chaos or spend time in places like the Eye, you're unlikely to emerge unscathed.)

 

It's more accurate to say renegades tend to turn to Chaos one way or the other to survive in a hostile universe.

 

One might even say Chaos claims the unwary or incomplete. tongue.png

 

...Also the idea that Talos failed rather than doing exactly what he set out to- extract the Broken Aquila from one of Abaddon's wars, reclaim a Legion warship, and strike a blow against the Imperium and then Eldar is...certainly one way to look at events in which an understrength Company punches above its weight class repeatedly without help from Chaos, as is the idea that Decimus embraced the gifts of the gods.


Edited by Lucerne, 03 May 2021 - 03:28 PM.

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#17
Sception

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Not all renegade marines eventually turn to Chaos, sure.

 

Some; despite finding themselves divorced from the Imperial power structure, without access to their seed worlds, lacking a reliable sources of food, fuel, and munitions, cut off from the machine cult that maintainstheir ships, armor, and weaponry; still reject the alternative infrastructure provided by the powers of Chaos, much as Talos did.  And, much like Talos, they die.  Even then, they are rarely untouched by chaos in that death spiral.

 

 

That said, there's a whole faction in game for players who want to play a non-chaos version of Chaos Space Marines, complete with their own rules and models and subforums on these boards.  They are called 'Space Marines'.  ;-p


Edited by Sception, 03 May 2021 - 03:39 PM.

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#18
Lucerne

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Not all renegade marines eventually turn to Chaos, sure.

 

Some; despite finding themselves divorced from the Imperial power structure, without access to their seed worlds, lacking a reliable sources of food, fuel, and munitions, cut off from the machine cult that maintainstheir ships, armor, and weaponry; still reject the alternative infrastructure provided by the powers of Chaos, much as Talos did.  And, much like Talos, they die.  Even then, they are rarely untouched by chaos in that death spiral.

 

 

That said, there's a whole faction in game for players who want to play a non-chaos version of Chaos Space Marines, complete with their own rules and models and subforums on these boards.  They are called 'Space Marines'.  ;-p

But Talos didn't die because of lack of infrastructure. He died pursuing a military objective and succeeding at it.

 

Also, not really?


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"The Alpha Legion has- in spirit if not in body- remained much the same since its creation."

 

"Agents of stealth and misrule they may be, but when the Alpha Legion unleash their martial might, worlds shake at their tread."


#19
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Yes, really. That's why so many "Alpha Legion players" are actually Raven Guard players.
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#20
MegaVolt87

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Talos hated his legion, his "brothers", he destroyed his force by punching up past his effective military strength on purpose, rejection of chaos had nothing to do with what he did and how it played out. Again, he is representative of a weak force getting weaker as it succeeds while not taking time to re-build. A different representation of 40k CSM is Anthony Reynolds Word Bearers trilogy. That's a real legion force that can and does succeed, beaten at great cost. Using the most diminished legion (NL) with its legion culture as a yardstick for EVERYONE ELSE is pure whitewashing away the facts that there is now more than ever a change for the better for CSM power resurgence in real space, away from the warp in the new lore. CSM are more than tentacles and huffing warp dust, I don't get why so many are opposed to strong CSM forces they can definitely exist in the new 40k setting- they also did exist in the old 40k setting. I guess those against are too used to the trash tier rules we are handed, and we will be punished for eternity for our good 3.5 era codex, eternal reparations paid to the rest of the community. rolleyesclean.gif


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#21
MaliGn

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Going back to the original question about why many Chaos Marines adorn their armour with the iconography of chaos (even if they are not overtly dogmatic in the manner of the Word Bearers) briefly. We have to remember that whether or not the individuals or their leaders are devout worshippers of chaos almost all are fully aware of the reality of chaos, they have all spent unshielded time in the warp (possibly to a greater or lesser extent depending on legion and warband style), the reality of this means they need to interact with chaos entities in order to simply survive within that infernally hostile environment.

The imperium relies on its Gellar fields to travel via the warp chaos marines do not, instead making pacts and bargains to secure their (relative) safety. They may not worship chaos but all are aware of the power and potential held within it. Compounding this is the corrupting nature of chaos, the persistent assault on the senses, the lure of power. The knowledge that when that bolter clicks to empty that invoking the correct power will allow you to keep firing and the exigent need for that *right now* being worth the eventual cost down the line. The ability to perceive that by daubing a chaos star on your armour you are more likely to come out of the other end of the voyage/battle/long war not only alive but also victorious (whether this is in fact the case or not) it becomes a ritual or superstition - like a sportsman's lucky underwear.

Build this on the way space marines are indoctrinated from a young age with endless rites and rituals for the maintenance of their gear, their training, their combat doctrines. Then strip away the imperial creed from all of that and their is a void that needs to be filled. They are predicated to anointing their weapons in oils and unguents, so if the nature of those and the patterns are changed and it provides the familiarity of routine then they will.

It's not the faith per se that drives the iconography it is the practicality, utility and familiarity of these practices that leads to it. Multiplied by its potential for additional rewards and it is easy to see why even the most secular of warbands might still follow this practice.
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#22
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#23
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...But Chaos Marines often do spend shielded time in the Warp. 40k Word Bearers are odd ducks in that sense.


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"The Alpha Legion has- in spirit if not in body- remained much the same since its creation."

 

"Agents of stealth and misrule they may be, but when the Alpha Legion unleash their martial might, worlds shake at their tread."


#24
MaliGn

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As I said to a greater or lesser extent, many warbands are recorded as making planetfall and occupying worlds within the eye, that would be an example of unshielded time. Medrengard of the iron warriors is described as featuring physics-defying skyscrapers for example.

#25
Lucerne

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As I said to a greater or lesser extent, many warbands are recorded as making planetfall and occupying worlds within the eye, that would be an example of unshielded time. Medrengard of the iron warriors is described as featuring physics-defying skyscrapers for example.

..Yes, the big name Legion warbands may well have warp storm strongholds, but to talk about the Iron Warriors- they have realspace bastions as well with their only interactions with Medrengard being the tithes they send back.

 

There are plenty of renegade warbands that may well never reach the Eye, or even lesser warpstorms:

 

"It is known that some renegades have established bases upon worlds hostile to human life, worlds on which only a Space Marine, with his enhanced physiology, could hope to survive."


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"The Alpha Legion has- in spirit if not in body- remained much the same since its creation."

 

"Agents of stealth and misrule they may be, but when the Alpha Legion unleash their martial might, worlds shake at their tread."





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