Welcome to another Hell Notes. Lately it seems every few months a new cult of religion pops up in Abe Sapien or B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth, and it was rapidly approaching the point where I was loosing count of them. In fact, even after finishing this one, I’m still not sure I caught them all. Perhaps a few slipped through the cracks. Nonetheless, here’s what I’ve got so far. These are the religions and cults that seem to be tied up with the end of the world, and they paint a grim picture of the future.
Spoiler warning. You had better be up to date, because I’m going to be delving into practically ever corner of the Mignolaverse.
THE CHURCH OF RASPUTIN
Then the great witch, the Baba Yaga came to him. She explained that the fates had chosen him to be the agent of change, the father of a new millennium. Rasputin gave to her half of his soul, which she hid in the roots of Yggdrasil, the World Tree. In this manner, his spirit would always be safe.
At the time Rasputin believed change would come through political action, so he secured a position of influence in the Russian Royal Family. This didn’t go so well though. In the December of 1916, Rasputin was murdered by Prince Felix Yusupov and his body thrown into the Neva river. There, in the icy waters, he first heard the Serpent calling to him. Rasputin was shown visions of a world transformed by holocaust and fire, which led him to believe it was his destiny to preside over the fall of humankind.
Afterwards Rasputin travelled to a small, secluded town in Italy to rest and regather his power. For over twenty years he lived in isolation, preaching to the few that dared to approach him, telling them of Ragna Rok, and the New Age of the Serpent to follow. But always he was waiting to again hear the voice he had heard in the Neva.
On December 23, 1944, the engine was activated and it summoned into the world the infant Hellboy and his stone Right Hand. The Nazis knew nothing of this though, and believed the project to be a failure. Only Rasputin’s three disciples believed him when he said that a miracle had come to pass.
When Germany began to fall, Rasputin at last heard the voice of the Serpent again. It told him to go North, to the Arctic wastes, to the very top of the world, to the Temple of the Ogdru Jahad, built aeons earlier by the Hyperboreans, the first race of man. There he found what appeared to be a grotesque statue, the slumbering Sadu-Hem, left by the Ogdru Jahad as their foothold in the world. Rasputin felt its waiting mind, and sat at the foot of the living statue and meditated, seeing visions of the Void and the Ogdru Hem in their prisons.
Beneath Cavendish Hall were sunken ruins built by Native Americans where they had worshipped the Serpent, spilling the blood of innocents on its stones. It was there that Sadu-Hem awaited the arrival of Hellboy. But when Hellboy arrived, he wasn’t all that thrilled to be a part of Rasputin’s plans. Rasputin was not as worried by this as he should have been though. He saw the power locked in the soul of Hellboy’s fellow agent, Elizabeth Sherman, and sought to use it in Hellboy’s stead. Though Rasputin failed to see how necessary Hellboy (or at least his right hand) was to the process of unleashing the Ogdru Jahad, he still managed to do something no other had ever done: He stirred the Ogdru Jahad and cracked their prison, and through that crack they could extend their influence.
He didn’t get to enjoy his success for very long though. He was speared by Abe Sapien, burned by Liz, and his bones shattered by Hellboy.
Rasputin was dead. For a while after his death he wandered among the doomed spirits, then on, beyond the limits of the Earthen dimension, to the Pit, the prison hole of the Ogdru Jahad, where he witnessed the clockworks that turn the worlds. He became convinced that the music of the spheres was chaos, and that chaos made flesh was the Dragon, the Seven Who Are One.
Roderick Zinco had been walking along the beach of his own private island in the Caribbean when he saw the ghost of Rasputin. Though Zinco was very wealthy, his life served no purpose, so he had remained poor. Rasputin offered Zinco the gift of a purposeful life, and led him to the Sanctuary and the Nazis waiting there. Zinco offered them all the resources at his disposal.
The remaining pillars of Rasputin’s church were also flawed. Kurtz and Kroenen had set to work building an army of six hundred and sixty-six. This was a symbolic number for the army that would march before plague, famine, and death. They had been told the human race would be depopulated by two thirds, that there would be so much death it stir the Ordu Jahad in their prison, and then they were to make a new body for Rasputin, and on the last day he would return and shatter the prison of the Ogdru Jahad. They would burn the Earth and from its ashes Rasputin would raise a new world.
Or at least, that was the plan.
When the ghost of Rasputin saw what had been done, he was enraged. He accused them of sacrilege, bringing the abomination von Klempt into his Holy Church. In fury, he struck Zinco blind, causing Zinco to accidentally blow the Nazi Sanctuary up. Not exactly Rasputin’s finest hour.Continued below
The Angel of Death that spoke to von Klempt was in fact the ghost of Rasputin. He appealed to his destructive nature to use him, but he did not reveal Ragna Rok’s true purpose. But in von Klempt’s granddaughter, Inger, he saw potential. He told her that Ragna Rok was not just an end. It was a new beginning. A new race would rise out of the ashes, just as the human race had raised itself out of the ashes of the pre-human Hyperborean race. He told Inger, who had been transformed into a frog monster by the Conqueror Worm’s breath, that the seed of rebirth was in her.
But again, Rasputin had chosen poorly. The Conqueror Worm was destroyed, von Klempt’s head jar was broken and thrown off a cliff, and Inger was killed when the justice of Lobster Johnson caught up with her.
Afterwards, Rasputin was taunted by the iron maiden he had put Ilsa Haupstein in. The goddess, Hecate, revealed to him how she and Hellboy were bound together in the apocalypse, and how even she was helpless in the face of such events. She was a goddess and she could not shape such events. Yet Rasputin who was so much less thought he could. He had failed on three occasions now, and he would never succeed, because he was only a ghost.
Rasputin insisted that he was the power that would loose the Dragon. It was his destiny. Hecate knew better. The only thing that could loose the Ogdru Jahad was the Right Hand of Doom. Though he had tried to deny it, Rasputin had known all along. He was just a pawn. This last defeat ruined Rasputin’s power and broke him. Only a fragment of his soul remained. The fragment was gathered up by the Baba Yaga and worn in a nutshell around her neck.
Much later, in an attempt to stop Hellboy escaping her, the Baba Yaga tried to use Rasputin’s remaining scrap of his soul, but her servant would not allow such a desperate act and flung the nutshell down beyond the roots of Yggdrasil into the fire beyond (presumably Hell). That should have been the end of Rasputin’s Church, right?
Not yet, I’m afraid.
When B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth began, there were disasters all over the globe. Zinco Industries was involved in major clean-up work, particularly in Indonesia where a familiar symbol was found.
Mr Marsten, the current head of Zinco, reported this finding to a group of employees, telling them that this was the project they’d been talking about for years. But it wasn’t just Zinco employees in attendance. Leopold Kurtz and Karl Kroenen were also there. You know, instead of being dead.
How long they’d been with Zinco I don’t know. I’m guessing it was after Landis Pope, the previous head of Zinco, became the Black Flame though. The summoning of Katha-Hem is the sort of thing they’d want to be involved in. I also don’t know how these guys are alive. (If you guys have theories, throw them into comments. At the moment, my own theory is to stare blankly and shrug.)
However they survived, Leopold and Kroenen got it in their heads that they were in the final days of Ragna Rok and set to work building a new body for Rasputin. And failed.
So Zinco talked the B.P.R.D. out a body they’d recovered from the Oannes Society (I’ll talk about them a little later). This body was to be the host of a spirit they were going to draw out of from the Ogdru Jahad, however Mr. Marsten conveniently decided not to tell the two Nazis that it was not Rasputin they were drawing, but Landis Pope, the modern incarnation of the Black Flame.
The last time we saw Kroenen and Leopold they were shadows of their former selves. In B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: The Reign of the Black Flame Leopold was a particularly pathetic figure. He still thought himself important despite the ever increasing evidence this was not the case. He was captured by a team of B.P.R.D. and S.S.S. agents and proceeded to spill information on Zinco and Marsten. Presumably he’s now a prisoner at Bureau headquarters.
As for Kroenen, he still has some sentiment for the Third Reich, and when things in New York took a turn for the worst, he salvaged the head of Herman von Klempt from Zinco’s collection of Nazi memorabilia and escaped with it. Given Herman von Klempt’s propensity for destroying all life on the planet, this is probably not a good thing.
So the church of Rasputin is in utter disarray, yet it still remains in a twisted form. The three pillars of the church are weak and broken, one a host for a goddess, entombed until the final days, another a traitor and captured by the Bureau, and another tossing in his lot with a mad head in a jar. As for Rasputin himself, what little fragment of him remains is lost to Hell…
THE TEMPLE OF NEW MYSTERIES
The boy believed that he was chosen by the Dragon, and following the death of Rasputin, he took up his work. His service to the Dragon cost him his youth, and by 2004 he was unrecognisable as the boy he had been. He established the Temple of New Mysteries in Crab Point, Michigan and then sent one of the Temple’s members, Professor Irwin Derby, to infiltrate a laboratory in New Jersey.
This lab was the home of a strange fungus that had been found at the Cavendish site a decade after the Cavendish Incident. Despite warnings from the Bureau’s Professor O’Donnell, the scientific team had decided to grow the fungus and see what they could learn from it. Six weeks after the fungus specimen was recovered, Professor Derby turned up at the lab to disastrous results. He shot the doctor in charge of the project and managed to break the glass containing the fungus. Security shot Derby, but then the fungus grew into the bullet wounds and soon…
When the Bureau got to the labs they found them infested with frog monsters. There was no sign of Professor Derby, though they did find a hole in the floor of the lab leading to the train tunnels below. This news was particularly upsetting to Professor O’Donnell, who insisted Sadu-Hem had returned, quoting this passage:
“He who was last to sleep shall be the first to wake, and leave all foul things to the earth. Trouble them not in their holes and their prisons. And mostly and firstly, beware of him, for his bowl is forged of coffin nails and made in the shape of a skull and out of it will come forth a plague of frogs.”
―Hans Werner Schlegel, Nuremberg, 1632
Make of that what you will. The Bureau had one lead: Derby had been writing big checks to the Temple of New Mysteries, so they sent a team to Crab Point. When they showed up, the town appeared deserted. They’d barely arrived before Roger was killed (temporarily) by a little girl that turned into a frog monster, and everyone else was dragged off to the Temple’s church where people were being turned into frog monsters by Sadu-Hem and the Miracle Boy, now a much older man.
Sadu-Hem would meet its demise as it had before, burnt by Liz’s flames, but it had begun a plague of frogs. As for the Miracle Boy, he had one last task to do. In Hellboy: Wake the Devil Abe Sapien had seen the ghost of Rasputin and been cursed by him. He was told he would die as Rasputin had died, and though the hands on the spear shaft would not be Rasputin’s, his will would be driving it. This task fell to the Miracle Boy, and when it was done, he walked in the flames consuming Crab Point. He almost certainly died, but we really don’t know for sure.
Abe, though he was at one point technically dead, managed to survive.
THE OLD GODS
Abe wasn’t the only survivor that day. While the Bureau managed to hunt down many frog monsters, most of them escaped and spread. These frogs, without being taught, knew how to write, and knew songs and prayers that hadn’t been heard in a million years. They made offerings, mutilating animals and setting candles in their chest cavities. They even had their own concept of Heaven too, what they called “the Deathless Sky,” which turned out to be very much a reality, and from a human perspective, absolutely terrifying.
The frog monsters, or at least that first batch from Crab Point, were capable of disguising themselves as the humans they had formerly been. The frogs could infiltrate human societies and manipulate them to their own ends. In at least one case, a faith healing group was used as a way to covertly turn people into frog monsters. There were even humans among the frog monsters that knew what was going on, and willingly took part in it. They thought the frog plague was a way to make a better world. In retrospect, it was an ominous foreshadowing of things to come.
Meanwhile, Zinco Industries had managed to acquire frog monster tadpoles, and grew them to adulthood, learning all they could from them. Even though they were raised by human scientists, they still knew the frog language and writing. Even their knowledge of their religion seemed innate. Landis Pope, head of Zinco, was able to use these frogs to perform a ceremony to engulf him in black fire, turning him into the Black Flame. How they were able to summon the black fire and what it means to them remains a mystery.
With the Black Flame, the frogs were able to wake Katha-Hem, an Ogdru Hem that went on a rampage in Nebraska. Mr. Pope initially thought he would command the frogs, but he was told he was only to “light the way.” Never the less, the Black Flame is clearly very important to the frog monsters, and after the Nebraska Incident, the Bureau found images of the frogs apparently worshiping the Black Flame in some manner.
Ultimately the frogs were wiped out in B.P.R.D.: King of Fear, but the old religion they revived outlived them. It spread among human societies, and mutated and splintered into all kinds of apocalypse cults.
The most obvious of these was shown in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Monsters in the Sugar Hill trailer park. It’s likely it was only one of many such cults, but what makes it so notable is the way they created their “altars.” Just like the frogs, the limbs are removed, and the abdominal cavity is filled with candles.Continued below
The members of this cult weren’t even human any more, though what they had become was never explored. Though there is similarity between their eyes and the eyes of Ogdru-possessed Russian soldiers in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Russia.
We’ve yet to learn more about this particular cult, though we may not be done with it just yet. In the first part of Abe Sapien: Sacred Places this month, if you look carefully at the graffiti, the symbol of this cult can be seen. Perhaps we shall catch up with them again in future.
Getting back to the Russians, their issues with Special Sciences Services personnel being possessed by Ogdru spirits became a problem on an international scale when one managed to escape their clean-up teams. Dr. Lazar escaped to Scotland and quickly established a group of followers around himself that thought he was some kind of messiah. He fortified himself in the mountains, but what his aims were there is still a mystery. All I know is that it suited his purpose to have his followers die in his name. It strengthened him. However, he was killed during the earthquakes that followed the return of the Black Flame, leaving behind a number of unanswered questions. All I really know is before he got it into his head to start a cult around himself, he was serving the demon Varvara, and then he got possessed by and Ogdru spirit and started to serve something else.
And then there was a church in Grayrock, San Juan County that Abe Sapien encountered shortly after he escaped from Bureau headquarters. This wasn’t an Ogdru cult, but its priest, Henry, was certainly leaning that way. He said some things his congregation didn’t like, and they turned on him and tried to lynch him. His final words as a man were, “Do you hear? Sunken bells are tolling for thee. Out of the caverns of Num-Yabisc, dark and terrible deep. The ocean is calling her children home.” These words had been said to Abe Sapien once before, over a decade earlier, just after the ghost of Rasputin appeared before Abe Sapien and cursed him. They had been spoken by the decapitated head of Father Nicholas Budenz, and their full meaning still remains a mystery.
As for the priest, Henry, he began to transform into Ghennu-Hem and kill everything in sight. Fortunately the B.P.R.D. was tracking Abe and weren’t far off, so Ghennu-Hem was taken care of quickly before its transformation was complete. It’s final words before it died were “Num-Yabisc.”
THE CHURCH OF THE LIVING EARTH
Like the cults above, the Church of the Living Earth worshiped the Ogdru Hem as gods, but their worship was focused on one in particular.
Following the disasters first struck the world following the events of King of Fear, the first Ogdru Hem to appear was the Salton Sea monster. These disasters were heralded as the end of days or God’s retribution. Reverend Paul Nedin of Atlanta was particularly vocal on the subject. It didn’t take long for him to change his tune though. No longer were the horrific events unfolding around the world about condemnation, but rather salvation instead. He abandoned the Christian god and took up another altogether: the Salton Sea monster, and began the first Church of the Living Earth.
Later when Fenix came to the Salton Sea and returned to her family home, she found the cult around the one remaining egg had grown. Pilgrims had come from all over the country. These people spoke a lot about love and understanding, but they also had no problem with violently looting people if they had something they wanted either. They had latched onto the idea that these gods were their future. So when Fenix destroyed the last egg, they were kind of upset.Continued below
I don’t know what happened to them after that. Perhaps they went to find more eggs in San Diego? But some of them had found something they found a little more interesting…
THE ABE SAPIEN CULT
Abe had come looking for answers at the Salton Sea. He didn’t find any, but by telling Gene this, he had got it into his head that Abe was connected to the new world order. Later when Barry killed himself, Gene tried to use his death as a way to convince people that unbelievers would be punished (something which likely evolved into the looting Fenix came across during her Salton Sea visit). And from that, Gene transformed himself into some kind of Abe Cult apostle, spreading the word, telling people distorted versions of what Abe had told him, telling them how he had broken bread with them that night over the campfire.
This cult really has legs too. Since its first appearance in Abe Sapien: The New Race of Man it has quickly spread.
Most worrying of all, it seems to have spread even into the Bureau itself…
That’s Agent Enos. He made his first appearance in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Wasteland and was the lead in the recent arc The Broken Equation. He’s seems like an OK guy, but mark my words he’s gonna be a problem, so keep a wary eye on him.
Meanwhile in the latest Abe Sapien, Abe and Grace arrived in Rosario to where Abe was first shot by Fenix in B.P.R.D. Hell on Earth: Gods. Again the Abe Cult has preceded them and right at the centre of it is Gene, convincing people to hang around a community pool that spews gas that turns people into monsters. Obviously Abe isn’t exactly happy to see him again, and the reckless devotion these people have to Abe is really unsettling.
But they’re not the only ones interested in Abe…
THE OANNES SOCIETYANDTHE OSIRIS CLUB
I’ve had more requests for a Hell Notes column on these guys than I have for anything else. Sorry to disappoint, but this is not that article. Some day. However, it’s impossible to talk about the end of the world and all the cults tied up with it without at least mentioning them.
The Oannes Society in particular had an interest in Abe. In fact, before Abe was Abe, Abe was Langdon Everett Caul, and Caul was a member of the Oannes Society. When Caul was transformed into Abe, the Society believed he was the embodiment of the spirit of Oannes.1
It wasn’t just Oannes either. They were interested in any sort of water spirit. They met Panya while she was a guest among the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra in the nineteenth century. The became so convinced that she was the water spirit Naunet2 that they kidnapped her and kept her prisoner for over something like a hundred and fifty years, kept as another specimen for their collection.
In B.P.R.D.: Garden of Souls the Oannes Society’s remaining four members tried to create an earthquake along the Pacific Rim so they could harvest the souls of the dead, creating a spiritual reservoir which would survive into the new world. Fortunately they informed Abe of their plans, thinking that he was still just as they remembered him when he was Caul. However, Abe being a very different sort of person, he put an end to their plans, killing the members of the Oannes Society in the process.Continued below
Except one. McWhirter survived and escaped in a submarine, and is still out there…
The Oannes Society is only one of many splinters originating from the Heliopic Brotherhood of Ra. Over time it split into various secret organisations such as the Oannes Society, the Knights of the Silver Star, the Knights of Abydos, and the Osiris Club.
The Osiris Club you’d know most notably from Duncan Fegredo’s run on Hellboy. They had been watching Hellboy for a long time, and at times nudging him towards his destiny. The seven members of the Osiris Club had been told by the spirit Larzod that they would live to see the last days of man, and that they should watch for the coming of a king. The king would refuse his crown, but his soldiers would know him and he would lead them into the last battle. There the king would be killed.
The goal of the Osiris Club is simple: when the king is slain in battle, they want to be there to cut off his right hand so they can elevate themselves over all of creation. They were certain this king was Hellboy, and that his crown was the crown of the rightful King of England, and that the final battle would be on Vigrid Field, but it did not play out as they had expected. Hellboy did not lead an army, and when he was slain in battle, he took the Right Hand of Doom with him into Hell. Afterwards they believed that Hellboy was not the king from the prophecy at all.
They are forgetting a few things though. There is still another crown waiting for Hellboy in Pandemonium, and his father’s sword waiting there for him to take up, and the Great Army of Hell awaiting his orders. Vigird Field was the last battle of England, but the last battle for the world is still ahead…
OTHERS TO COME
There are other cults that are yet to happen. In King of Fear the Black Flame spoke of people worshiping the fly and the spider. He could have been speaking literally, of course, but I’ve taken this to mean the House of the Fly and the House of the Spider in Pandemonium. However, Pandemonium is a tomb, with all its lords scattered, many killed and eaten by their own servants. So if people pray to the House of the Fly, who will answer them? As we’ve seen with Gustav Strobl in Abe Sapien, there is no power in Hell any more. But perhaps the servants of Hell shall become the new masters some day, and with them a new power shall emerge.Continued below
I got to the end of this one with way more questions than answers, I’m afraid. But it’s a start.
Before I leave you, I’d like to share some concept work for Dayana in Abe Sapien. Her design is particularly striking, and I thought you’d enjoy a closer look at it.
We’ll learn a little more about her next week in the concluding part of Abe Sapien: Sacred Places and in the upcoming five-issue arc, Abe Sapien: A Darkness so Great. And now for some footnotes…
1Oannes: A figure from Babylonian mythology that taught humankind wisdom. He is often depicted as a man with fishtail from the waist down. The Semetic god Dagon is considered to be equivalent to Oannes. Both gods have associations with Abe Sapien. On more than one occasion Abe has even been referred to as “Child of Dagon.”
2Naunet: The female aspect of the Egyptian god of the primordial watery abyss, Nu.
3Martin Gilfryd: Once the Head of Egyptology at the Historical Society in London, Martin was committed to Bedlam Asylum after he killed Gustav Strobl and burned his body in his own fireplace. Though perhaps you know him better by another name, Memnan Saa, the mysterious figure that played such a huge part in the Plague of Frogs cycle of B.P.R.D.