When the Nepharites are not Cenobites anymore?

Or… KULT, in a post Clive Barker world.

There is no secret that KULT has drawn a lot of inspiration from Clive Barkers creations. And in KULT: Divinity Lost it is still there. The idea that a puzzle box can open a gateway to another world, that there are something secret and hidden among us, and that demons don’t have horns and pokers.

But. Old Kult relied heavily on old “Clive Barkerism.” In the center of this were the Cenobites (in Kult they are called nepharites, hardly a coincidence). Demons that were tortured creatures that brought pain to others. They were all disfigured. Their leather clothes sewn into flesh, spikes in their heads, lips cut away. It was an aesthetic that in many ways defined the first wave of Clive Barker Horror that was introduced with the movie Hellraiser.

It was also a style that quickly aged. Just like a black coat and sunglasses made the characters in the Matrix movies seem awesome at the time, but now they feel cheesy.


Clive Barker with his prime creation. The Hell Priest. 

Anyway, old KULT threw itself head over heals into the Clive Barker style of things. Every monster felt like it had escaped from a BDSM-club and they became weirder and weirder. They were all about steel, glass, machinery, flesh and torture and everything had some sort of chainsaw appendix. These creatures, the Nepharites and the Razides were the central creatures for the KULT universe (sharing the most iconic creature spot with the lictors) and what most people associated with KULT.

So when I got the PDF:s of new KULT it was refreshing to read how they had updated the monsters. They are not just Cenobites anymore. They have evolved into something different. Even creatures that were portrayed in republished material from the 90s have been tweaked for the new releases. And thank the Demiurge for that because it would just not work today.

For example. In the classic campaign The Black Madonna the players will encounter three Nepharites central to the story. In the swedish 1991 version of the scenario they were depicted as characters that were tortured, wore tight leather, had sunglasses, automatic weapons, high heels, tight dresses etcetera. In the book they were depicted like this:

nepharites bm 1991The three nepharites from the 1991 version of the Black Madonna

In the new version. They have been rewritten (and re-illustrated) when it comes to their appearance. They have gotten a more religious aura and are in many ways more noble and tragic. Their bodies are still broken but in different ways. Instead of having a jaw of plastic the nepharite now lack jaw all together. The hair is long with hooks in the end. There is just something much more menacing about them.

nepharites madonna2018The three nepharites from the 2018 version of the Black Madonna

This was just one of the many good choices when it came to updating the game. To shed the aged Hellrasier aesthetic, increase the religious mystique, dividing the Nepharites into clergies connecting them to the different Death Angels and giving them a new depth.

As a side note, when you look back at Clive Barkers creation and the Hellraiser Movie you realize that these also need to change. That the looks and appearances of those demons are dated. They have become the red skinned, horned, devils of our age. So lets hope the Hellraiser Franchise dare to reinvent its demons just the way KULT: Divinity Lost did.







2 thoughts on “When the Nepharites are not Cenobites anymore?

  1. I fully agree that the art upgrades were dearly necessary, indeed! I’ve never seen those 1991 illustrations before, but, by the Demiurge, are they ridiculously hilarious! 😀 I’m really not sure they “worked” even back then… 😛

    In many ways, I feel that the new style is more of a “back to the roots” move, to the Barker-esque style that originally inspired the Nepharites, than an update, really. The lead cenobite was after all called “The Hell Priest” in the book (and I think in the credits for the movie as well, iirc?). Hence, the new edition’s Infernal Clergies make a lot of sense and seem to directly reconnect to that vibe.

    In hindsight, isn’t it astonishing how fast old Kult lost its own focus on these aspects, soon to go for gore and “ultra-cool splatterpunk” visuals instead? I feel the new edition does a great job at losing a lot of that windowdressing and gets its thumbs back onto the thematic pulse beneath that!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Yes, well I did not think they were AS bad in the 90s but yeah. It was not the best portrayal of them. That is for sure.

      In the original movie I think he is just called Lead Cenobite but in the book, Scarlet Gospels, he was called the Hell Priest. But the word cenobites itself has a religious meaning: https://en.wiktionary.org/wiki/cenobite

      So, yes, it is clear that Helmgast took it back to the roots. I also really like how they were divided into clergies in service of the Death Angels. They have a more mysterious and complex aura to them now.

      The thing is, I am not sure that KULT ever had a different kind of Nepharites than the splatterpunk ones? Until now that is. Of course it escalated but the Black Madonna was quite early and they felt very splatterish at least when it came to their appearance. But! To be said, they had really interesting backstories and personalities.


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