Insect from Shaggai
An Insect from Shaggai is a member of a fictional alien race (also known as the Shan) in the Cthulhu Mythos. The being was created by British author Ramsey Campbell, who was inspired by a similar creature in H. P. Lovecraft's commonplace book. The Shan first appeared in Campbell's short story "The Insects From Shaggai" (1964).
At last a shape appeared, flapping above the ground on leathery wings. The thing which flew whirring toward me was followed by a train of others, wings slapping the air at incredible speed... I could ... make out many more details... Those huge lidless eyes which stared in hate at me, the jointed tendrils which seemed to twist from the head in cosmic rhythms, the ten legs, covered with black shining tentacles and folded into the pallid underbody, and the semi-circular ridged wings covered with triangular scales... I saw the three mouths of the thing move moistly, and then it was upon me.
—Ramsey Campbell, "The Insects from Shaggai"
The Insects from Shaggai, or Shan, are a race of pigeon-sized interstellar refugees who arrived on Earth centuries ago. The Shan hail from the planet Shaggai, a world that orbits twin emerald suns. In its heyday, the technologically advanced Shan lived in globular dwellings within huge cities. As devout worshippers of the Outer God Azathoth, they erected pyramidal temples containing "multidimensional gates" whereby "that from Outside" (an aspect of Azathoth called Xada-Hgla) could enter.
One day, a mysterious object appeared in the sky. Day by day, this object drew closer to Shaggai, until the third day when the strange celestial visitor emitted a red glow which destroyed the planet. Only those Shan in their teleporting temples of Azathoth survived the catastrophe. The survivors teleported to their colony on the planet Xiclotl, where their brethren had enslaved the native inhabitants.
The Shan remained on Xiclotl for some time, but upon discovering the frightening nature of their slaves' singular religious practice, they teleported to the planet Thuggon. A horrific find on this world prompted the Shan to flee once more, this time to the planet L'gy'hx, aka Uranus. When this world proved unsuitable, a small band of the Shan teleported to Earth—in a curious cone-shaped temple—arriving in the Severn Valley region of England sometime in the Middle Ages.
The brains of the Shan have six lobes, giving them the ability to follow three trains of thought simultaneously. Most Shan have an aversion to sunlight because the electromagnetic frequency of the Sun's rays poisons their metabolism.
As a result of contact with Azathoth—the head of the mythos pantheon—the Shan developed the ability of Kirlian Phasing, allowing them to pass into the skulls and brains of organic life. On Earth, they usually meld with their new favorite hosts, humanity. Once ensconced within the cranium of a human victim, they use cruel alien telepathy to gradually dominate and control their puppet.
The psychology of the Insects from Shaggai is completely alien, lacking any recognizable human ethics. Other than a few heretics, the Shan are divided into two factions: Fanatical worshippers of Azathoth's avatar Xada Hgla that wish to eliminate all other sects and consider other deities to be inferior or false, and a faction of amoral hedonists whose main purpose is to discover new experiences, most of which involve cruelty or depravity. Their sadistic fancy is often implemented through a host, preferably a sentient one, from which they feed off the electromagnetic impulses in the brain. The relationship is completely parasitic. As long as it inhabits a human host, the Shan has some control over the host's actions, and the longer it is there, the more control it gains. It can, however, be driven out by trepanation.
Massa di Requiem per Shuggay
This article describes a work or element of fiction in a primarily in-universe style. (November 2009)
In 1768, the enigmatic composer Benevento Chieti Bordighera, wrote an opera about the Shan's trek, the frightful but brilliant Massa di Requiem per Shuggay ("Requiem for Shaggai"). The final act of the opera chronicles the arrival of the Shan on Earth in the 17th century and the plight of the monstrous and godlike insect-beast Baoht Z'uqqa-Mogg, another former inhabitant from the dead world of Shaggai. In 1769, Pope Clement XIII banned the piece, and one year later his successor imprisoned Bordighera, branding him a heretic. A year later, Bordighera was put to death. All copies of the morose libretto were ordered destroyed, although one or two survived.
The disaster that destroyed Shaggai was likely caused by the passing of the Outer God Ghroth the Harbinger. The Mi-go, with their untoward influence over the planet-shattering path of Ghroth, may have instigated the obliteration of Shaggai for some inscrutable purpose. One theory even purports that Ghroth awakened the local Great Old One, The Worm that Gnaws in the Night, destroying the planet.
One of the more terrible inhabitants of Shaggai was the titanic insect-demon Baoht Z'uqqa-Mogg, Bringer of Pestilence. This Great Old One appears similar to a colossal scorpion, but far more unpleasant. It has huge compound eyes interspersed with antennae, an ant-like, venom-dripping maw, and gigantic wings. It is often accompanied by a swarm of stinging insects. This being is worshipped by small conclaves of ghouls, although it has no known human worshippers.
- Campbell, "Introduction to Cold Print: Chasing the Unknown", Cold Print, p. 5.
- Campbell, "The Insects from Shaggai", Cold Print, pp. 79–106.
- Aniolowski, "Mysterious Manuscripts".
- Harms, "Shaggai", The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana, pp. 269–70.
- Carter, "Shaggai", pp. 206–10.
- Aniolowski, "Mysterious Manuscripts".
- Aniolowski, Scott D., et al. "Mysterious Manuscripts" in The Unspeakable Oath #3, John Tynes (ed.), Seattle, WA: Pagan Publishing, August 1991. Periodical (role-playing game material). Online.
- Campbell, Ramsey. Cold Print (1st ed.), New York, NY: Tom Doherty Associates, Inc., 1987. ISBN 0-8125-1660-5.
- Carter, Lin. "Shaggai" (1971) in The Book of Eibon (1st ed.), Robert M. Price (ed.), Chaosium, Inc., 2002. ISBN 1-56882-129-8.
- Harms, Daniel. The Encyclopedia Cthulhiana (2nd ed.), Chaosium, Inc., 1998. ISBN 1-56882-119-0.