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Genestealer Cult

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Genestealer Cult forces battle Space Marines[11d]

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.


Genestealer cults form if a Genestealer infects members of another species with its genetic code. 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. This brood of purestrains, hybrids, and neophytes 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[4].

As the cult's numbers grow, more specialized types of hybrids are created to serve the patriarch, which is now worshiped as a god. These include magi, primuses, loci, etc.. The cult will often grow and plot below the surface of their host world, using this base of operations to gradually infiltrate into the above society. Later generations are less monstrous than their forbears and can freely walk among Imperial society without much notice. Often a genestealer cult will recruit from the downtrodden underbelly of society, characterizing themselves as liberators from the brutal yoke of Imperial rule. A fully mature cult can be huge, numbering in the billions and covering several worlds.[18a]

The Cult's primary concern is their propagation, but overtime this transitions to preparing their host world for the coming of a Tyranid Hive Fleet. Cultists often see this as an anointed holy day of salvation, and they will work fanatically to see a victim population is ready for consumption. At the chosen hour the Geneestealer Cult rises up, unleashing a devastating and well-planned assault that can devastate entire Systems.[18a]

Hierarchy and Organization

Genestealer Cult hierarchy
Brood Coven

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. Using the Broodmind to maintain control over his forces, besides him in the hierarchy stands the Magus and Primus. These hybrids are 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 known as the Broodcoven[11e], which is responsible for leading the cult.[9]

The Patriarch and the Magus hold the highest level of leadership within the cult. The death of either figure, or worse, both figures causes, at first, confusion among the cult members. The cult's hierarchy, however, can adapt and recover quickly, 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.[1]

Specialized Hybrids

A wide variety of specialist Hybrids have also been observed, such as the Clamavus, Biophagus, Nexos, Sanctus, Reductus, Kelermorph, and Locus.[18e]. Beneath these are the standard Genestealer Hybrids, Genestealer Aberrants, Abominants, and Genestealer Familiars.[9]


All the cultists of a given world are known as an infestation, and each population area can propagate several full brood cycles. All the cultists in a given population center are known as a gene-sect. Some populations are only numerous enough to support one gene-sect, but on those worlds that are heavily populated, several can coexist. Though each gene-sect may further differentiate itself with markings and subtleties of coloration, ultimately they all hail from the same Patriarch, and usually work together seamlessly. Each gene-sect has its own specialist organisms and leaders. These usually hail from the fourth generation, and hence can pass for human. So close are they in thought and deed that they and their peers in other gene-sects may even band together to fight in the same place at the same time. These gene-sects, usually at least several hundred members strong, are further subdivided into claws. Claws typically number between fifty and a hundred warriors, formed for specific duties, these are assembled and disbanded according to the cult’s needs. Claws will have at least one leader figure that guides them in their mission, and each Magus and Primus will have several claws at their disposal, ranging from Neophyte groups that can pass for human to monstrous broods of Aberrants that are unmistakably alien. Once the cult reaches a point of maturity where it feels secure enough that it can spare the resources to spread, it sends out a Genestealer – or even an entire brood – to find new prey. These will either come from the original brood to have made planetfall, known as the First Curse, or the Purestrain Genestealers of a brood cycle’s fifth generation. These vectors of infection will start a new gene-sect should they find another suitable population center on the same world, or an entirely new infestation if they reach a planet that can support a splinter of the parent cult.[18b]

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]

Genestealer Cults, their fate, and the Tyranids

The cycle of reproduction of a Genestealer Cult

To a Genestealer Cult, the Tyranid is worshipped as a deity.[11b] Often the cults call the Tyranids Star Children[14] or describe them with similarly grandiose-religious titles like Father's Fathers[26] or Emperor's angels.[28a] The Cult views the coming Hive Fleet as a long-awaited prophecy, its arrival heralding their lifting into the light forever.[11b][28a]

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.[4] Acting in concert with the Hive Mind, a Genestealer Cult will fanatically fight for the Tyranids once it has arrived over their world.[11b]

However, a Hive Fleet's arrival usually seals the destiny of a cult. Either their host society destroys them and their Xenos allies or the Tyranid invasion succeeds, resulting in all surviving cult members being absorbed like the rest of the planet.[4] After the opposition is defeated, the Genestealer Patriarch and its Brood of Purestrain Genestealers will massacre its own without hesitation. The cult's biomass is harvested and consumed by the Tyranid Hive Fleet.[11b] Genestealer Cults differ greatly in their reaction to this fate. Some cultists are aware of their ultimate destiny long before the Hive Fleet's arrival and welcome the idea to be absorbed into a greater whole;[27][28b] many will weep in joy or sing praises even as they are torn apart by their former allies.[26][28b] However, other cults or even individual cultists are surprised and horrified when the truth is revealed to them, sometimes embracing their human nature just before their demise.[11f][26] In rare cases, cultists may even rebel against the Tyranids after understanding what is happening to them.[26]

Genestealer Cults in the Imperium

A mass of a Genestealer Cult's forces

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.[10]

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.[11b]

Genestealer Cults thrive among the downtrodden and oppressed classes of Imperial society, often seeming as nothing more than a typical planetary insurgent sect.[18d] The Cultists eagerly await the day of liberation from the Imperium, which the Cult leadership insists will come with the arrival of the Star Children.[14] The Cult itself fosters such a belief, inspiring generations of sedition and revolution in preparation for their inevitable uprising.[18d]

Known Infestations

Genestealer Cults Infestations

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]

Officially Documented Cults

A Genestealer Cult Shrine[18c]

Other Cults

Genestealer Cults in xenos societies

An Ork/Genestealer Brood[8]

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. Orks are also able to sense a wrongness about those infected that disturbs them.[18f] 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.[2] 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.[11b]

Genestealer activity has also been observed on the Tau Empire Sept of Ksi'm'yen,[11c] though the Tau's connection to their Ethereal Caste makes infection by Genestealers difficult.[18f] The Kroot are known to have been affected as well, though they are generally able to avoid those infected thanks to their ability to taste pheromones, and the wisdom of the Shapers guiding their evolution.[18f] Kroot who have consumed genestealer hybrids can smell other infected individuals, which helps detect infestations in other auxiliary races like the Vespid.[23]

Genestealers are known to have started colonies among the Eldar too, such as in the lost Craftworld Zaisuthra,[12] but the Eldar's very long gestation times prevent them from being truly viable hosts.[18f]

The Greet and Tarellians are also known to have had Genestealer colonies, though these species have not been as successful hosts as humans either.[18f]


Background information

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.[6]

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.

In February 2016, Games Workshop re-released Genestealer Cults in the board game Deathwatch: Overkill. They were introduced into Warhammer 40,000 proper with the release of Codex: Genestealer Cults.

A Genestealer Cult with Chaos allies (Rogue Trader era)[7]

See also


Genestealer Cult Forces
Leadership PatriarchMagusPrimusAbominantJackal Alphus
Specialists BiophagusClamavusKelermorphLocusNexosReductus SaboteurSanctus
Troops Acolyte HybridNeophyte HybridMetamorph HybridBrood BrotherPurestrain GenestealerAberrantFamiliarMindwyrm FamiliarAtalan Jackal
Vehicles DirtcycleWolfquadGoliath TruckGoliath RockgrinderAchilles RidgerunnerChimeraSentinelLeman Russ (EradicatorExterminatorVanquisher)
Other Tectonic Fragdrill