Erlik, the Shrouded God
The Hyrkanian god Erlik was a figure shrouded in mystery and legend. Even though he was the supreme deity of the Hyrkanians and their younger kin, the Turanians, very little was known about Erlik. According to Hyrkanian myth, Erlik was the first man on earth, but he was not given a soul by the Creator. When Erlik tried to create life by himself, he was banished into the depths of the earth, where he claimed the dead (“those that lack breath”) for his own. Erlik is also known under the title “the God of the Yellow Hand of Death.” But despite the fact that Erlik was worshipped by the noble classes of Aghrapur and the other great Turanian cities, virtually nothing is known of him or his cult. One scholar of things Hyborian identified the cult of Erlik worshipped in Conan’s day with a legendary entity of the same name who was known as “the Lord of the Black Throne” (see Hanuman, below). Like Lucifer in the poetry of our own civilization’s famed author John Milton, this version of Erlik rebelled against the Creator god. For his impudence he was cast into darkness. But by way of compensation, he became thereafter in that scholar’s words, “the ruler of of seven demon-haunted underworlds, from which his emissaries went out nightly to hunt down the souls of evil-doers and recruit for his black forces.”
Erlik would have remained a minor god were it not for the human prophet known as the Living Tarim. Tarim brought Erlik’s worship from a remote region in the far northeast of the continent of Hyboria known as Pathenia to a group of Hyrkanian tribes who, with the strength of their religious fervor, later swept down and founded the Turanian empire.
Erlik was a harsh god, who believed in the tempering of the soul through trials and deprivation. His tenets, as revealed by Tarim, forbid fornication, the consumption of alcohol and usury. However, even most of his priests ignored these precepts.
Erlik’s avatar was the Living Tarim. The avatar appeared as a human form whose face and features were cloaked by a hooded robe. It was said that he sits on a throne in the inner sanctum of Erlik’s domed temple in Tarim’s capital city of Aghrapur. Idols of Tarim depicted him as a one-armed male. It was not uncommon for the priesthood of Erlik to sometimes proclaim that the Living Tarim had been reincarnated and then use this poor puppet to reinforce their religious control over the Turanian populace in the name of Erlik. Conan the Cimmerian found himself caught up in one such scheme when Hyrkanians from the city of Makkalet on the eastern shore of the Vilayet Sea snatched the man who was serving as the current Living Tarim from the Turanian capital of Aghrapur, forcing the Turanians to go to war to reclaim their “prophet.”
Priests of Erlik (and the Living Tarim) who followed the strict codes of the Revelations of Tarim were able to master the terrible powers of necromancy. Among their powers was the ability to sink into the earth and command the undead. Priests of Erlik were always male. Like Set, Erlik was a dark god whose worshippers were known to carry out violent acts on his behalf. Some even filed their teeth down to sharp points, the better to draw out the sacrificial blood from nonbelievers.