The shine and glory of a heroic figurehead rubs off to some degree on his inferiors, spreading out like rings on the water with a twist of collective egotism: It is their Captain, after all, and pride in their leader ultimately reflects a pride in themselves, for in their unspoken thoughts they own their adored ruler. They possess him, as long as he continues to seem good and fit for his office, for them. By supporting such a respected figure, they somehow support and respect themselves that bit more. People need high and worthy examples to follow, for more subtle reasons of the spirit than may at first seem obvious, for it is not just inspiration, but self-respect won by proxy. It all makes up a knotty mental image beyond the conveyance of words, yet such are the meandering paths of the human heart.

Aside from seemingly rational reasons for playing up his own deeds and words in order to reinvigorate the flagging spirits of the
Debt Collector's disorderly inhabitants, the Mascadolce potentate also seem to harbour a familial grudge, true to the petty nature of man since time immemorial. As such Captain Zedek has sought to truly stamp his mark on his inherited voidborne domain. Prints and handwritten copies of his wise tome Zedequette takes up an entire cargo hold onboard the Debt Collector, and its insightful writings have grazed many a world and voidholm through frenetic export activities. Malevolent officer rumours onboard the Debt Collector claims that Zedek Mascadolce's fervent building of a personality cult is driven by a need to overshadow his hated father, and outdo the deceased pater familias in pretended splendour. On a budget, of course. Indeed, whispered accusations even say that the current owner of the starship has demolished or hidden away what artistic images remain of his father in order to damn the dead old man's memory. Others claim that a statue of Captain Zedek, with a suspiciously small head, is in fact a recarved visage of his late father.

Such cults of personality of a leader all amounts to a giant confidence trick, upheld for decades or even centuries on end. Some personality cults meet a dismal end while the leader is still in charge, and often the collapse of public confidence in the ruler may see him toppled from power. Other cults of personality run strong during the whole life of the leaders they adored and venerated, yet may find their boosted legacies torn to shreds by hostile successors willing to drag forth choice skeletons from their predecessors' closets and damage their historical image for the ages. Some later rulers may even perform a damnatio memoriae over earlier leaders in order to purge a defeated rival from common memory, and thus deface their foe's monuments or replace their predecessors' images and inscriptions with their own august visages and majestic names.

A ruler's cult of personality can blossom into an illusion of sheer godlike splendour if an early accession of power, lengthy survival of assassination attempts and rejuvenat treatments allow him or her to reign supreme for centuries on end over many shortlived generations of filthy plebs, who all are born and depart their lives under the benevolent guidance of their dear leader. Such ruler longevity usually enhances the secular apotheosis of a cult of personality, although some unfortunate overlords lived too long and found their standing and legacy utterly ruined by dire events outside their control, or else the personality cult was destroyed by disastrous decisions of the potentate's own making.

Any cult of personality in the Imperium of Man is dependant on creating an aura of magnificence and divine appointment. It is well to huff up the basileus with inflated imagery of the chief in charge. It is best to keep up a facade of popular love, spotless character and brilliant steering of the reins of power. It is necessary to hide the rotten hollow at the core of the regime, where self-serving oligarchs, inbred psychopaths and stressed warlords every day or lightson prove their human failings in a cavalcade of mediocrity, corruption, incompetence and petty-minded lack of vision, punctuated by bloody purges and hectic periods of paranoia, terror and plotting.

This is how to cultivate an overly gilt and rosy image of the one who is in power, until they have undergone a deification in the common psyche of simple folks. Such divinization of capricious dictators are as genuine as a synthetic plastid smile, yet the leader reverence among large sections of the population may still be heartfelt. Indeed, the death of a beloved ruler will inevitably see hordes of commoners flock to the displayed regal corpse in order to pay their last respects and honour the last rites carried out over a great leader that guided their world with much renown. On such occasions it is common for the pressure of earnest crowds to be so suffocating as to trample and kill great numbers of Imperial subjects, which is all too often a fitting farewell for a bloodsoaked oppressor in lit de parade. Give praise to lordly charlatans and mass murderers!

Personality cults are especially common under the reign of philosopher kings. This historical tendency for cults of personality springing up more commonly under the auspice of pondering men and women in power holds true even for those thinking sages on the throne who tend toward a self-sacrificing and self-denying image where they strive to be seen as dour servants of the common weal, for their vanity can ultimately be seen through the holes in their cloth. All is vanity.

Behold this ancient phenomenon replay itself again and again throughout human history, wherever mankind spreads its seed across the stars! Behold the cult of personality emerge: Watch it spring forth from the well of human hypocrisy, emerge from the pool of perjury and ascend from the depth of lies. Go forth, good cult, and seduce the minds of the masses. Rejoice, serf, in this timeless celebration of man's aspiration for total power over others, and know that our kin is in good hands under the stern and just rule of the sacred Imperium of Man. And all is well.

Such is the deception of man, in the darkest of futures.

Such is the delusion of our species, at the end of days.

Such is the depravity that awaits us all.

It is the fortyfirst millennium, and there is only falsehood.

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Tribute to Captain Zedek on WarHams, played by HulkyKrow. I had a 4x9cm rectangle left over in the corner of an A4 sheet of paper, so I drew a classical shrine. At first I pondered what statue to place in it. Maybe a martyred saint? I spent the better part of an evening collecting heaps of reference images of the Emperor of Mankind for shrine duty, until inspiration struck and a blasphemous change of plans occurred.