Warhammer’s Slaanesh – chaos god of pleasure and excess

In Warhammer 40k and Age of Sigmar, Slaanesh is the chaos god of pleasure, pain, and excess - here's our guide to Slaanesh daemons, lore, and more

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Slaanesh Daemons artwork from Total war Warhammer 3

Among Games Workshop’s creations, there are few names as cursed and hated as Warhammer’s Slaanesh. Known as the chaos god of pleasure, excess, pain, hedonism, and everything too rude to mention in this guide, Slaanesh is the newest member of the ruinous powers and has already had a huge effect on the universe of Warhammer 40k (not to mention Age of Sigmar).

Appearing often as a mix of human gender characteristics, with colossal horns rising from a head covered in golden hair, Slaanesh is beautiful and appealing to all who view them. Known as the Prince of Excess, Prince of Pleasure, Dark Prince, Lord of Dark Delights, and She Who Thirsts to the Eldar, Slaanesh is many things to many people. Rarely worshipped openly, Slaanesh’s followers devote themselves to hedonistic lifestyles in a pale imitation of their god’s untamed desires, hoping to draw Slaanesh’s attention, and eventually join them in their realm of chaos.

There are many tales of mortals becoming lost in their realm – the Palace of Slaanesh – but, with us as your guide, we’re confident you can make it back out again.

So, let’s go on a little trip – just try not to have too much fun; it can be dangerous.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop artwork showing the Palace of Slaanesh

The origins of Slaanesh

Unlike many chaos gods, we know exactly how and when Slaanesh first became aware and was birthed into the universe. To find the cause we must look to the Eldar and the waning days of their colossal empire.

In stark contrast to the sober, ascetic Aeldari of Warhammer 40k, the earlier Eldar were extreme hedonists who had begun to test the very limits of mortal experience.

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Inevitably this turned cruel beyond all comprehension, with the Eldar inflicting atrocity upon atrocity on themselves and other races in their quest to push into new realms of excess. In a manner, they were successful, as the endless horror that was the Eldar Empire reached into the Warp and caused a new entity to be born: the chaos god Slaanesh.

As Slaanesh was born, they tore a hole in reality, sucking many Eldar planets into the newly formed Eye of Terror, and damning all Eldar souls for all eternity. From this day onwards, a new dark deity ruled alongside Khorne, Nurgle, and Tzeentch, changing the universe forever.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop artwork showing the Slaanesh symbol

Slaanesh symbol

Like all chaos gods, Slaanesh has their own symbol, which acts as a signifier for their followers and incorporates many aspects of their ideology.

Though Slaanesh can be all things at all times, they have a preference for the colour purple with many of their creatures being tinted that shade. The Slaanesh symbol also incorporates the conventional symbols for male and female, showing that they are of all mortal genders and none at the same time.

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Outside of the direct symbol of Slaanesh, they have two further signifiers. The first is the number six which is sacred to them; many of their daemonic hordes are organised in sixes.

They also offer the Mark of Slaanesh to their most dutiful followers, a mark which grants Slaanesh’s devotees a supernatural glamour, as well as a never-ending, ravenous hunger for more pleasure. The most famous bearers of the Mark of Slaanesh are the Noise Marines, of the Emperor’s Children Chaos Space Marines chapter.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop artwork showing a Slaanesh Daemons army led by a Keeper of Secrets

The Keeper of Secrets

Like all Warhammer chaos gods, Slaanesh has followers of all types – from mortals like Chaos Space Marines and Chaos Cultists, to daemonic creatures like the Masque of Slaanesh or The Keeper of Secrets.

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Though many mortals join the ranks of the ‘Slaaneshi’ and aspire to join Slaanesh in the great palace, the journey is hard and paved with evil acts that tarnish the soul. Conversely, Slaanesh has many daemons at their beck and call, each created to be pure avatars of their god’s divine will.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop photo showing the Keeper of Secrets model

The greatest of all daemons created by Slaanesh is the Keeper of Secrets. It is impossible to describe the ‘average’ Greater Daemon of Slaanesh, as they all differ in appearance, changing depending on the whims and moods of Slaanesh at the time of their creation – and the hopes, fears, and desires of those near to them.

Some look humanoid in form – though beautiful beyond measure – while others are more serpentine and bestial, horns and claws peeking through their magenta flesh.

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Despite taking a multitude of appearances, these daemons all share some traits. They are lightning-fast warriors on the battlefield who also excel in manipulating their foes, sending them intoxicating visions to render them unable to wage war.

Keepers of Secrets feed off emotions, delighting in causing pain and spreading fear throughout their enemies’ ranks.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop artwork showing Daemonettes of Slaanesh

Daemonettes of Slaanesh

The most common form of Slaanesh daemon is the Daemonette. Often acting as warriors as much as agents or servants in Slaanesh’s Palace, they can be found anywhere their gods’ will is made manifest.

Despite being armed with huge crab-like claws and unnatural, mirror-black eyes, these humanoid daemons have a beguiling beauty which leads many astray.

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They can haunt dreams and inflict nightmares, causing chaos wherever they tread.

In the great Palace of Slaanesh, they are found as concubines, with their most accomplished being allowed to approach Slaanesh’s throne itself.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop artwork showing a Fiend of Slaanesh

Fiends of Slaanesh

A confusing melange of human, reptile, and insect, Fiends of Slaanesh are terrifying creatures that bound across the battlefield faster than the eye can track.

Often found with four legs and two giant claw-like arms, they can dive into battle and disembowel even the most well-armoured of foes in seconds.

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Even if one should withstand their ferocious assault, the bizarre, anteater-like tongue of a Fiend can cause an instant coma, should it touch bare flesh.

Outside of battle, Fiends can be found roaming the Realm of Slaanesh, hunting friend and foe alike as they play deadly games for fun and pleasure.

Warhammer 40k Slaanesh guide - Games Workshop photo showing the Slaanesh Daemons Contorted Epitome model

Contorted Epitome

Slaanesh is a god of many things, vanity being one of them.

It’s no surprise, then, that mirrors play a part in their deadly arsenal, often coming in the form of the Contorted Epitome. Held aloft by daemons, these twisted looking glasses contain immense psychic powers.

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On the battlefield, they’re most often encountered helping to manifest Slaanesh’s will directly on the ebb and flow of the battle, empowering allies and demoralising foes.

They can also be used to deny psychic powers, keeping enemies off-kilter and allowing Slaanesh’s forces the time and space to strike unopposed.