A Genestealer Cult is a community of Genestealers, genestealer hybrids, as well as the completely human convert-hosts, infected victims and genetic relatives known as Brood Brothers, existing within another society.
Such a cult forms if a Genestealer infects members of another species with its genotype. The resultant changes in the genome of the host cause a fanatical loyalty to the Genestealers as well as a drastic change to their reproductive system; their firstborn children will be Hybrids, a grotesque mixture of the host's race and Genestealers. These hybrids infect further victims, and the infection spreads exponentially. Fourth generation hybrids produce Purestrain Genestealers, and the cycle starts once again.[Needs Citation]
This brood of Purestrains, hybrids and Brood Brothers is held together by strong psychic and genetic bonds, and assembles around the original Genestealer which becomes the Patriarch. Because this community is often hidden behind the facade of a religion or political movement, it is called a Genestealer Cult by the Imperium.
At the top of a Genestealer Cult stands the Patriarch - he determines every action of the cult as its progenitor - he is beloved and seen as a kind of father-figure or, in the case of the Brood Brothers, as a god. Besides him in the hierarchy stands the Magus and Primus, hybrids of the fourth generation, who operates as a public leadership figure. Patriarch, Magus, and Primus form, together with the other hybrids and Genestealers, an inner circle which is responsible for leading the cult. Beneath them are the Genestealer Hybrids, Genestealer Aberrants, and Genestealer Familiars.
Brood Brothers may exist outside the cult but are still ultimately part of the clan. Even further outside stand the uninfected allies of the cult, mostly members of suppressed minorities, social fringe groups as well as mutants. These groups are not considered ideal hosts as they cannot contribute to the cult's political power. They are mostly seen as unessential elements, of use only when the cult actively rebels, and are exploited ruthlessly.[Needs Citation]
The Patriarch and the Magus hold the highest level of leadership within the cult. The death of either, or worse, both figures causes at first confusion among the cult members. The order structure, however, can adapt and recover rather fast, and even the deaths of both figures will not shatter or destroy a cult. In the case of the Patriarch's death, the Magus assumes the sole leadership over the cult, until the next oldest Purestrain Genestealer becomes the new Patriarch.
Genestealer Cults and Tyranids
Genestealers are effectively the heralds of Tyranid invasions, because the psychic power of the Patriarch shines like a beacon in the Warp and is perceived by the Hive Fleets of the Tyranids. As the cult's power grows over the world, the beacon becomes stronger, signaling to the Tyranids the location of a biologically rich world. By the time the Hive Fleets arrive, the world may already be completely in the hands of the genestealer cult, or torn apart by civil war between the cult and the remaining free society, or at least weakened and rife with traitors. However, after the planet comes to the Hive Fleet's notice, the destiny of the cult is sealed, because all surviving members are absorbed like the rest of the planet. After the opposition is defeated, the Genestealer Patriarch and its Brood of Purestrain Genestealers will massacre its own without hesitation. The Cults biomass is harvested and consumed by the Tyranid Hive Fleet.
To a Genestealer Cult, the Tyranid is worshiped as a deity. The Cult views the coming Hive Fleet as a long-awaited prophecy, its arrival heralding their lifting into the light forever. Acting in concert with the Hive Mind, a Genestealer Cult will fanatically fight for the Tyranids once it has arrived over their world.
Genestealer Cults in the Imperium
Even before Genestealers were revealed as being a part of the Tyranid race, their infiltration of human worlds was a dire threat. A single Genestealer or infected human on a planet can easily lead to the corruption of the planet's entire human population. Once a cult achieves numerical advantage, the planet becomes doomed. At a certain point the only sensible option would be to sterilize the planet through exterminatus. The first known Genestealer Cult encountered by the Imperium was discovered in 680.M41 on Ghosar Quintus.
At first Genestealers and their methods of reproduction were poorly understood, and the menace they presented terribly underestimated. With the investigation of the reproductive cycle and the aggressive propagation resulting from it, this changed. As deeper knowledge of Genestealer cults was gained by the Imperium and the Inquisition, subtle hints could uncover the existence of Genestealer cults within human societies. Infiltrated planets could be recognized and cleansed of Genestealers and infected humans by Space Marine troops or even by Exterminatus.[Needs Citation]
A cult is often not recognized as a threat to the planet - its activity in achieving power at first being purely through subvert, non-violent means. A Cult will bide its times for generations, slowly gaining power behind the scenes and propagating its numbers. However if the threat is recognized for what it is, the cult takes overt military action to survive. Genestealer Cults will also violently respond to outside threats that threaten their hold over a world, be it a Warp breach, Ork Waaagh!, or Hrud migration.
- Darvon VI
- Ichar IV
- Ghosar Quintus
Known Imperial Genestealer Cults
Though only six Genestealer cults have been formally documented by the Ordo Xenos, based on information provided on Ghosar Quintus it appears that there could be hundreds if not thousands of cults in Ultima Segmentum alone.[11a]
- Cult of the Innerwyrm
- Cult of the Rusted Claw
- Cult of the Hive Cult
- Cult of the Pauper Princes
- Cult of the Twisted Helix
- Cult of the Bladed Cog
- Cult of the Children
- Cult of the Four-Armed Emperor
- Cult Veridian
- Cult of the Star Saviours
- Cult Tendricul
- Cult of the Voidbrood
- Cult Tenebrous
- Cult of the Starchosen
- Cult of the Star Kindred
- Cult of the Blessed Wormlings
- Cult Hydraic
- Behemoid Undercult
- Brotherhood of Distant Stars
- Sons of Jormungandr
Genestealer Cults in alien societies
Genestealers are not limited to infecting humans; virtually any race or species can be infested, including Orks. However, broods within a society such as Orks are seldom big or long-lasting on account of the special life cycle and the extremely intolerant structure of society of the Orkoid species. In fact, Orks seem to be rather unpopular hosts, and serve mostly only as a kind of interim solution, until more worthwhile victims are available. Genestealer infections can only thrive in large, and relatively open societies such as those of humanity. However Genestealer Cults can cause catastrophic damage when they spread through Ork communities, most notably during the Xenos War.
Genestealers were introduced in the First Edition of Warhammer 40,000. At the time, though Genestealers could infect and reproduce with any type of creature, purestrain Genestealers could originate only from the infection of a creature known as a Csith. There was no Genestealer cult, as a host died with the "birth" of the hybrid-genestealer.
With the appearance of the board game Space Hulk and extensive articles in White Dwarf issues 114, 115 and 116, the Genestealers and their offspring were newly conceived as cult-like communities of Genestealers, hybrids and fully human Brood Brothers, with a strict hierarchy, and a complicated and unique generation cycle. They represented a terribly insidious threat to the Imperium, infecting it from within and spreading like a virus. These Genestealer Clans could also become "Genestealer Cults" by worshipping Chaos. Such Chaos cults included Beastmen, mutants and daemons in the army.
With the board game Advanced Space Crusade, the Genestealers were associated with the Tyranids and now their infiltration served as a preparation for the invasion by a Hive Fleet. This version has remained the same to this day and led to a certain decrease of the importance of Genestealer cult armies in Warhammer 40,000. While in the Second Edition they were still a separate army, and an additional force list in Codex: Tyranids (2nd Edition), in the Third Edition the Genestealer cult army appeared only as a semi-official Chapter Approved army list in the Citadel Journal (40 and 41), written by Tim Huckelbery.
- 1: Warhammer 40.000 Compilation, [Needs Citation]
- 2: Freebooterz: Space Ork Army List, [Needs Citation]
- 3: Space Hulk (Game) (first edition)
- 4: Codex: Tyranids (2nd Edition), [Needs Citation]
- 5: The Alien Beast Within (Short Story) by Ian Watson
- 6: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, [Needs Citation]
- 7: White Dwarf 124, [Needs Citation]
- 8: Freebooterz: Space Ork Army Lists, [Needs Citation]
- 9: White Dwarf 109 - The Ghosar Quintus Broodkin
- 10: Deathwatch: Overkill
- 11: Codex: Genestealer Cults (7th Edition) - The Cult of War
- 11a: Genestealer Cults of the Imperium
|Lieutenants||Magus • Primus|
|Troops||Acolyte Hybrid • Neophyte Hybrid • Metamorph Hybrid • Purestrain Genestealer • Aberrant • Familiar|
|Vehicles||Goliath Truck • Goliath Rockgrinder • Chimera • Sentinel • Leman Russ (Eradicator • Exterminator • Vanquisher)|