Name(s) of the Cult: rakes, rake-hells, hell-raisers, Crimson Monks, scarred monks, The Broken, The Brotherhood of the Broken, cenobites, hierophants, Monks of the Gash, surgeon
First Appearance: the rake cult is inspired by a variety of sources ranging from the Hellraiser (1987 franchise), to urban legends and internet memes
"At first, I thought it was a large hairless dog of some sort, then perhaps a thin, naked man, but it was something in between... it was covered in loose, rubbery skin, with long, thin fingers or claws. Its lower jaw was hanging slack and its whole outline and form seemed crooked and unnatural, as if it had been hit by a car or broken on a rack, and badly healed...."
- Anonymous Eyewitness
"They stood him before a mirror. He was emaciated and covered with wounds, his back was bent, his hair was gone. There was not a single deprivation he had not known."
- The Nefilim, "Pazuzu"
A typical member of the cult of the rakes is a sort of Ghoul bound in service to the Shadowman as an avatar of the "Bogeyman"... the rake is a former human, broken and deformed into ghastly, immortal sub-humanity through centuries of meditation, indoctrination, self-mutilation, Mythos magic, and exposure to the unearthly environment of whatever outer realm the Shadowman has bound the initiates of the cult into, a place described by some scholars as a damp, cavernous, mold-infested, grotto monastery/library located somewhere deep in an alien Astral Realm, the shelves of the library filled with scrolls of skin peeled from the monks' backs and inked in uncounted black secrets to the transformation of flesh and spirit.
The rakes themselves look much like other Ghouls, but are grotesquely and artistically twisted, broken, scarred, deformed, and mutilated in a bewildering variety of nauseating ways. It seems that many rakes begin their lives as human investigators, but exceptional investigators deemed by the cult to have the right temperament for the transformation are dragged screaming into the world of Dream by the rakes, to be turned into Ghouls themselves and indoctrinated into the rakes' ghastly cult of cannibalism, masochism and mutilation, in time becoming rakes themselves.
History and Scope
The origins of the rakes are a mystery to all but the students and adepts of their own cult.
Hints taken from Cultes des Goules perhaps hint that the cult was evolved at the dawn of Ghoul history for the soul purpose of perfecting the corruption of innocent human flesh, which the Comte d'Erlette suggests to be a target of monstrous jealousy for Ghouls.
Other speculation found in rarer tomes still suggests that the cult formed at the dawn of Ghoulish history for the purpose of preventing the Ghouls' usual deterioration into feral animals: the torments and disciplines of the Monks help them to maintain some degree of self-awareness and sentience, even if the final result of the adepts and masters of the Crimson Monks is even more alien from humanity than the feral degradation of animalistic Ghouls.
Identification, Psychology and Behavior
The cult of the rakes seeks enlightenment through corruption and transformation of their flesh and minds through extreme self-mutilation.
The rakes serve the Shadowman loyally, unquestioningly, and to the death; in exchange, the Shadowman brings victims and candidates for initiation into the cult of the rakes, and allows them to copy hellish passages from tomes on magic and science of transformation and blueprints for instruments relating to the torment and mutilation and reshaping of flesh and the soul from the Shadowman's vast collection of Mythos tomes and artifacts for the rakes to use in their monstrous sadomasochistic rituals.
The rake usually appears in the form of a ritually-scarred, twisted, and mutilated Ghoul, with a Ghoul's hairless body, loose and rubbery face and skin, mouldering corpse-like stink, vaguely dog-like appearance, festering claws, ragged teeth, feral behavior, and unsavory habits and diet; in addition, the body of the rake may be marked with a peculiarly stooped and twisted posture, and covered in elaborate scars, brands, tattoos, piercings, mutilations, modifications, and other such alterations of apparently occult and symbolic significance, typically including some form of the mark of the Shadowman upon their foreheads or hands.
The rake in a former life may well have been a stalwart, brave, selfless, and decent investigator, but the slow spiral of madness associated with investigations into the Mythos has driven the humanity from the beings, leaving only a mindless, broken shell for the Shadowman to cast into the abyss for conversion into a Ghoulish form, and reprogramming into the deranged service of the Shadowman.
"Initiates": Fresh recruits into the cult students of the first agonizing mysteries of the cult, there is often little to distinguish the Initiates from ordinary Ghouls or even humans, except the carefully and artistically-placed wounds of their deepening initiations. The initiates are recruited from the ranks of human victims dragged into the nightmarish astral realm where the Monastery is located, treated to cannibal feasts and slowly transformed into Ghouls, and then twisted further into Crimson Monks, if the initiates can endure their hellish "transformations", "perfections", or "purifications". Initiates into this cult are rarely encountered outside of the theaters and altars of torment in the cult's monastery.
"The Broken" or "rakes": The most frequently-encountered and dangerously degenerate members of the cult are broken, little more than a mindless beasts driven mad by the extremities of their indoctrination, who now delight only in inflicting in terror, agony, and mutilation; these low-level initiates have reached a dead end in their advancement in the cult, and are perhaps now only suited for serving as the claws of the Shadowman, acting as the Shadowman's bodyguards, foot-soldiers, and shock troops should the Shadowman ever be forced to use direct violence against investigators or victims. As such, the Broken, or "rakes" are the most commonly-encountered members of this cult in the waking world. Witnesses of attacks from the Broken might describe them as resembling monstrously scarred naked animals with poorly-healed bodies shaped by numerous broken bones.
"The Adepts" or "Crimson Monks": Higher-ranking rakes are those who have the discipline and endurance to survive indescribable deprivations and mutilations with their sanity intact in their quest for self-perfection; these adepts of the cult spend lifetimes perfecting their mastery over torments and transformations of their flesh and spirit, until the last of their former humanity and Ghoulishness are stripped from them forever, leaving only the "godly" perfection and purity of torture and endurance in the ashes of the cremation and reconstruction of the remains of their bodies and souls. The modifications that these adepts have subjected themselves to are so extreme that the results no longer resemble living things, but instead strange living mechanical nightmares for the stretching and twisting and shredding of undead flesh. These monks are rarely seen outside of the monastery, preferring instead to dedicate their centuries to their ghastly alterations; most adept Crimson Monks seen outside of their monastery are on extremely rare, strange, and mysterious quests and errands for purposes that ordinary humans would find difficult to comprehend.
Tomes, Artifacts, Sites
- location: "Hell", the Monastery of the Crimson Monks; the monastery contains a vast library ("The Library of Transformation") and numerous public laboratories and torture chambers full of alien artifacts of torture and surgery and body and spirit modification for the performance of the cult's monstrous rites
- location: The Library of Transformation
- tomes: the scrolls of transformation of Flesh and Spirit, made of flayed Ghoul skin and containing the secrets of many monstrous alterations of the body, soul, and mind, including some scrolls describing spells for the mending and repair of otherwise permanent damages to flesh and spirit
The monastery of the rakes, dedicated to the perfection of the rakes self-mutilation and torment, is located in a forlorn region of the Dreamlands, is a cavernous place of bizarre ritual torture and mutilation which houses a vast library of mythos texts inked on scrolls of skin flayed from the backs of its monks and librarians, inked in torment and horror, and containing the hellish secrets to "twisted transformations of flesh and spirit" looted from hundreds or thousands of worlds.
Allies, Creatures and Deities
- cult members:
- deity: The Shadowman, or "bogeyman", sometimes treated as a minor deity of the cult
- the cult seems to have worked out an arrangement with the Shadowman, serving him loyally, while he supplies the cult with new recruits, victims for cannibal feasts and sadistic rites, and tomes and artifacts for use in cult rituals and initiations
- cult: Men in Black
- Men in Black have been known to cooperate with the rakes under the guidance of the Shadowman
- deity: The Drowners
- The rakes might venerate Bugg-Shash and the other "Drowners" as representations the "bogeyman" and perfections of transformation
Heresies and Controversies
(Stories and other works the cult appeared in.)