Hastur (The Unspeakable One, Him Who Is Not to be Named, Assatur, Xastur, or Kaiwan) is a being usually referred to as part of the Cthulhu Mythos. Hastur first appeared in Ambrose Bierce's short story "Haïta the Shepherd" (1893) as a benign god of shepherds. Robert W. Chambers later used Hastur in his own stories to represent both a person and a place (Carcosa) relating to the Hyades and the star of Aldebaran.
Hastur is perhaps one of the most confusing Mythos entities, which is fitting for a being associated with chaos and decadence. Some writers say that it is a tentacled being trapped on a planet near the star Aldebaran. Others associate it with the King in Yellow, and the mystical backdrop of that infamous play. Still others go so far as to claim that it is the cosmic force of entropy, slowly grinding away all shred of order from the universe. It is impossible to tell from a human perspective which of these are true.
In Bierce's "Haïta the Shepherd", which appeared in the collection Can Such Things Be?, Hastur is more benevolent than he would later appear in August Derleth's mythos stories. Another story in the same collection ("An Inhabitant of Carcosa") referred to the place Carcosa and a person, Hali; names which later authors were to associate with Hastur.
In Chambers' The King In Yellow (1895), a collection of horror stories, Hastur is the name of a potentially supernatural servant (in "The Demoiselle D'Ys"), a place (in "The Repairer of Reputations"), and mentioned without explanation in "The Yellow Sign". The latter two stories also mentioned Carcosa and Hali, along with The Yellow Sign and a play called "The King In Yellow".
Howard Phillips Lovecraft read Chambers' book in early 1927 and was so enchanted by it that he added elements of it to his own creations. There is only one place in Lovecraft's own writings that mentions Hastur (italics added for emphasis):
I found myself faced by names and terms that I had heard elsewhere in the most hideous of connections - Yuggoth, Great Cthulhu, Tsathoggua, Yog-Sothoth, R'lyeh, Nyarlathotep, Azathoth, Hastur, Yian, Leng, the Lake of Hali, Bethmoora, the Yellow Sign, L’mur-Kathulos, Bran Mak Morn, and the Magnum Innominandum - and was drawn back through nameless aeons and inconceivable dimensions to worlds of elder, outer entity at which the crazed author of the Necronomicon had only guessed in the vaguest way.
There is a whole secret cult of evil men (a man of your mystical erudition will understand me when I link them with Hastur and the Yellow Sign) devoted to the purpose of tracking them down and injuring them on behalf of the monstrous powers from other dimensions.
— H. P. Lovecraft, "The Whisperer in Darkness"
It is unclear from this quote if Lovecraft's Hastur is a person, a place, an object (such as the Yellow Sign), or a deity. Derleth, however, developed Hastur into a Great Old One, spawn of Yog-Sothoth, the half-brother of Cthulhu, and possibly the Magnum Innominandum. In this incarnation, Hastur's form is amorphous, but he is said to appear as a vast, vaguely octopoid being, similar to his half-niece Cthylla.
Hastur has several more avatars:
- The Feaster from Afar, a black, shriveled, flying monstrosity with tentacles tipped with razor-sharp talons that can pierce a victim's skull and siphon out the brain. This is in Joseph Payne Brennan, "The Feaster from Afar" (1976).
- The character of the King in Yellow.
- The High Priest Not to Be Described, an entity that wears a yellow silken mask, in Lovecraft's The Dream Quest of Unknown Kadath (1926). This character may be identified with Nyarlathotep.
In Delta Green
In John Tynes's interpretation, published in Delta Green: Countdown, Hastur is not a sentient being, but rather a cosmic force similar to entropy, consuming civilizations of intelligent beings by infecting their minds with ideas. A campaign based on this motif is outlined. The official scenario Night Floors, also in Countdown, uses Tynes' version of Hastur extensively. Tynes has also written fiction using these ideas (Sosostris, Ambrose and Broadalbin).
Delta Green: Targets of Opportunity describes a Hastur connection to an M-EPIC agent.
In contrast to cosmic horror
The creatures of the Cthulhu Mythos are natural, in the sense that they are external to and independent of humanity. This is what makes the Cthulhu Mythos conducive to cosmic horror; the threats are alien, but share our cosmos, which we understand relatively poorly. The Hastur mythos, as interpreted in Delta Green, is quite different. As Detwiller puts it, Hastur monsters (in Impossible Landscapes) “seem to be products of the mind”, i.e. they are unnatural and dependent upon humanity, not external or alien to us. This is highly significant because the difference runs so deep, to the most basic features of the fictional universe and the role of humanity within it. This can make a Hastur scenario difficult to combine with a Lovecraftian scenario. Hastur is closer to mainstream, anthropocentric horror.
Tynes' outline in Countdown interweaves Hastur-related elements with normal Delta Green operas, setting only the finale in Carcosa. A campaign taking place entirely in Carcosa has problems due to the total lack of conflict in that surreal city. The Man in Black at one point claimed to be writing one featuring "Characters like the Pumpers who, equipped with skull-plumbed cranial spigots, use elaborate chemical apparatus to interface with the plumbing of Carcosa by pumping all manner of occult fluids into their heads. Kinda like netrunners in Cyberpunk, only with hallucinations and high weirdness. Secret Societies like the Saffron Order, dedicated to defacing all the Yellow Signs in the city. Clockwork characters, surreal steampunk cybernetics, and occasional glimpses of undulant tentacle armed folk surrounding a mysterious figure in Yellow."
Dennis Detwiller has attempted to write a campaign for Delta Green called Impossible Landscapes, focused on the mythos of the King in Yellow.1 Detwiller characterizes the work as “psychological and surreal horror” similar to the films The Shining, Jacob's Ladder, Lost Highway and The Ninth Configuration.
The fan-created Night Mall has made for good scenarios.
List of pages tagged with hastur:
|Material relevant to this article has been archived by the Fairfield Project at Hastur discussion.|