The Female Adeptus Custodes Controversy in Warhammer 40K Explained

Unless you've been completely out of the loop recently, you're likely aware of the debate surrounding the new addition of female Adeptus Custodes to the Warhammer 40K universe. This development started with the launch of the latest Adeptus Custodes Codex, which seemingly introduces a female custodian, accompanied by a notably lackluster social media announcement from Games Workshop.
Female Adeptus Custodes
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How Did the Controversy Started

In the Warhammer 40K universe, the Adeptus Custodes, an elite cadre of genetically engineered warriors, have long been portrayed as an (hinted) all-male force. However, in the 10th edition codex, Games Workshop (GW) introduced a canonically female member of the Custodes, sparking heated debates among fans.

Female Adeptus Custodes

Here’s the excerpt that started it all:

“Custodian Calladayce Taorvalia Kesh stood upon the bridge of a Cobra-class destroyer. Named Vigilant Flame, the warship belonged to the mighty Battlefleet Solar. She lingered in the shadows at the back of the bridge, positioned at a spot where she could observe the actions of every crew member be they in the instrumentation pits, at the armament shrines or — in the case of Shipmaster Lethwyck — stood ramrod straight before his command throne.”

Games Workshop (GW) introduced a canonically female member of the Custodes,
Games Workshop (GW) introduced a canonically female member of the Custodes in the Adeptus Custodes New Codex.

This is confirmed in a further text from the codex:

“Kesh was warned before anyone else aboard, sensing a sudden empyric energy spike coupled with the surge of overpressure and sharp temperature drop that presaged a teleport strike. Her guardian spear was leveled and armed before the first cry of alarm or howl of a klaxon rang through the bridge.”

Excerpt Mentioning the female Adeptus Custodes Calladayce Taorvalia Kesh in the 10th Edition Adeptus-Custodes Codex

Some fans argue that with this change, GW has “retconned” the lore by suddenly introducing female Custodians. They point to previous codices and statements that seemingly implied an all-male composition.

For instance, the 8th edition codex used the term “sons” when referring to children given up to become Custodes. Additionally, references to them as a “Brotherhood” subtly suggested an all-male group.

It didn’t help that Games Workshop social media person seem to confirm the retcon, choosing to apparently gaslight its own fans and players by claiming that there have always been female Custodes.

“Since the first of the Ten Thousand were created, there have always been female Custodians.” – it’s the official GW reply! 

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The Arguments: For and Against

The debate over introducing female Adeptus Custodes into Warhammer 40K lore has sparked various arguments from both proponents and opponents. Here are some of the key points from each side:

Supporting Female Custodes:

10th Edition Codex Confirmation:

The Adeptus Custodes Codex for the 10th edition now officially  confirms the existence of female Custodians, introducing Custodian Calladayce Taurovalia Kesh and using she/her pronouns. 

Games Workshop’s Own Statement:

Games Workshop affirmed via Twitter that “there have always been female Custodians,” suggesting that the lore has always allowed for their existence.

Additionally, on the 26th of April 2024, Games Workshop released a new Adeptus Custodes lore video where they only refer to the warriors of the faction with they / them.

An Adeptus Custodes and a Sister of Silence as seen in the new Warhammer Video
An Adeptus Custodes and a Sister of Silence as seen in the new Warhammer Video

The video also emphasizes the close relation between the Custodes and the Sisters of Silence hinting at a potential merger between the two factions into one? On the Warhammer shop, you could already find the Sisters of Silence as part of the Custodes category.

As a reminder, the current lore around the Sisters states that the Sisters of Silence, also recognized as the Anathema Psykana or Silent Sisterhood, stand as an ancient militant order fiercely opposed to psychic abilities.

Alongside the Adeptus Custodes, they formed the formidable Talons of the Emperor, with the Sisters serving as the Emperor’s left hand. Following the fragmentation post-Horus Heresy, they were reintegrated into Imperial control by Roboute Guilliman in M42.

In terms of miniatures, the Sisters of Silence had their own models, in the form of the Vigilator Squad, the Witchseeker Squad and the Prosecutor Squad.

Prosecutor Squad
The all-female, Prosecutor Squad Models

You can watch the video below.

Furthermore, a new article on Warhammer Community, now mentions “child” instead of “son” when referring to the process of Custodes selection.

Historical Ambiguity:

Older Horus Heresy black books maintained a gender-neutral approach when discussing Custodes, which some fans interpret as an allowance for female Custodes.

Author Insights:

Aaron Dembski-Bowden, a Warhammer author, revealed that he wanted to write female Custodians years ago but was discouraged due to the all-male models being released at the time.

Here are his comments, in a Reddit post, 6 years Ago: 

“There is no lore saying Custodians are X, Y, or Z, because until very recently, there was no Custodian lore at all,” he explains. “That’s why I’d be fine with female Custodians (and the models would look badass). Anyone saying it breaks the lore is lying and/or wrong, because we were actually in the meetings and sending the emails discussing the invention of said lore, and there was literally nothing in the old lore that weighed comprehensively (or at all) either way. I can think of reasons it would make sense. I can think of reasons it wouldn’t. But it’s a very minor point.”


In another Reddit response, Dembski-Bowden clarified why, despite it being canonically feasible, his book and the broader Custodes lore have not included any women until now.

“Some of us had this discussion behind the scenes since, lore-wise, there was no reason why it wouldn’t be possible. It came down to a former IP overlord saying ‘No, because the minis are finished and they’re all male.’”

Fans Themselves:

Last but not least, the recent change seem to have found a lot of support in the Warhammer40K community with users finding examples of past mentions of female Space Marines, which technically are also not part of the current canon.

The “Everything is canon, not everything is true” philosophy

In the Warhammer 40K universe, there’s a prevailing notion supported by multiple sources that Games Workshop embraces a philosophy of “everything is canon, not everything is true.”

This approach seemingly serves to validate the unpredictability of the tabletop game and provides players the liberty to craft their own distinctive armies and narratives.

Notably, statements from Gav Thorpe, Games Workshop’s Lead Creator, made in 2010 on his personal blog, along with comments from other designers at the company, frequently bolster this perspective.

Here’s a few more:

“With Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000, the notion of canon is a fallacy. […] Warhammer and Warhammer 40,000 exist as tens of thousands of overlapping realities in the imaginations of games developers, writers, readers and gamers. None of those interpretations is wrong.”

Gav Thorpe, Lead Designer GW

“It all stems from the assumption that there’s a binding contract between author and reader to adhere to some nonexisting subjective construct or ‘true’ representation of the setting. There is no such contract, and no such objective truth.”

Andy Hoare, Game Designer GW

“There is no canon. There are several hundred creators all adding to the melting pot of the IP!”

Aaron Dembski-Bowden, co-author Horus Heresy series

“Here’s our standard line: Yes it’s all official, but remember that we’re reporting back from a time where stories aren’t always true, or at least 100% accurate. If it has the 40K logo on it, it exists in the 40K universe. Or it was a legend that may well have happened. Or a rumour that may or may not have any truth behind it.”

Marc Gascoigne, chief editor Black Library
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Against Female Custodes:

Lore Purists

Some fans argue that the 8th edition codex referred to the children given up to become Custodes as “sons” and used terms like “Brotherhood,” implying an all-male force.

Some of the fans used GW own texts as an supportive of their arguments against. Here’s an excerpt from the 9th Edition Codex referring to Custodes as “Sons”  

The excerpt from the 9th Edition Adeptus Custode Codex

Although the text states, “it is a great honour to submit a son,” this phrase doesn’t definitively exclude the possibility that daughters were also submitted. The language used does not explicitly confirm that no daughters were ever included – which is what the GW arguments are built upon.

Others went as far as analyzing the 1987 Rogue Trader Rules that stated:

“The Adeptus Custodes is the Emperor’s inner guard, the members of which are privileged in being permitted to serve upon the Emperor, attending to his needs, receiving and recording his directions. These men never leave Earth and only rarely leave the Imperial Palace – an endless, black hive of forbidden technology and subterranean passages delving deep within the bowels of the planet.”


The Critical Drinker covered the latest news in a video where he qualified the recent update as “the sacrifice of artistic freedom on the altar of identity politics.”

You can watch the video below.

The Battle For Warhammer Has Begun – The Critical Thinker on YouTube

ChatGPT 🙂

We’ve asked ChatGPT the question “are there any female adeptus custodes?” and, well, you can see on who’s side the AI is taking.

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Media Coverage 

The media coverage presents a spectrum of opinions, from supportive to critical, reflecting the divided reactions within the Warhammer 40k community.

While some view the inclusion of female Custodes as a welcome change, others see it as a departure from tradition and a move that aims to allow the introduction of female custodians in the new Warhammer 40K series on Amazon.

Who Stands Behind the Change: 


  • Belloflostsouls reported on the introduction of female Adeptus Custodes in the new Codex, highlighting it as a significant change by Games Workshop (GW) and a move towards better representation in the Warhammer 40k universe. They emphasized that GW themselves confirmed the existence of female Custodians, marking a progressive step for the franchise.
  • Another article from Belloflostsouls took a more critical stance towards those opposing the introduction of female Custodes. The piece labeled detractors as “bigots” and underscored GW’s long-standing promise to improve representation across its settings, arguing that the Warhammer 40,000 universe has been male-dominated for too long.


  • TheGamer covered the fan controversy surrounding the confirmation of female Custodes. The article discussed the civil war within the fanbase, and characterizes the opposition as “loud, right-wing voices” that accuse Games Workshop of breaking its own lore and pandering. The article seems to take a stance against those who are against the change, suggesting that they believe the hobby is being destroyed by inclusivity efforts. 

Who’s not Taking any Sides?


  • An article from GameRant only goes to discuss the mixed reactions from fans over the introduction of female Adeptus Custodes in Warhammer 40K. The article provides a balanced view but it does end with an argument that most of the fans also used – that the change was too arbitrary, and that several other neglected factions such as the Adepta Sororitas and the Sisters of Silence would have provided better material for an expansion.


  • Wargamer provided an overview of the situation, noting that GW’s official lore text and subsequent Twitter responses confirmed the existence of female Custodes. The article mentioned the predictable fan controversy that ensued and touched upon the broader implications for the Warhammer 40k lore.
  • In a follow-up article, Wargamer went to highlight what they call bigger retcons “than female Adeptus Custodes” by listing several significant retcons in Warhammer 40k’s history, suggesting that the introduction of female Custodes is not unprecedented in the game’s lore. It argues that there have been other, more substantial changes to the lore over the years, and the existence of female Custodes should be seen within this broader context of the evolving narrative.

Publishers on the Fans Side


Fans Reactions:

The move has sparked both outrage and support among players. Some fans appreciate the better representation, while others feel it disrupts established lore.

There are those who see it as pandering and condescending, while others welcome the inclusion.

Here’s some of the comments:

Some went as far as posting screengrabs of them closing their Warhammer+ accounts!

So, what’s next? 

In summary, the introduction of female Custodians has ignited passionate discussions within the Warhammer 40K communities.

Whether you view it as a retcon or a necessary evolution, it’s clear that the galaxy-spanning conflict continues to evolve, even within its most revered ranks. 

What’s your take on the recent revelation that women are (and always were) part of the ranks of the Adeptus Custodes? Let us know in the comments below!


Are the Sisters of Silence part of the Adeptus Custodes?

No, the Sisters of Silence are not part of the Adeptus Custodes, but they often work alongside them as part of the Talons of the Emperor.

What is the primary purpose of the Sisters of Silence?

The primary purpose of the Sisters of Silence is to combat psychic abilities and entities in service to the Imperium.

Who leads the Sisters of Silence?

The Sisters of Silence are led by their own command structure, although they ultimately answer to the Emperor and the Lord Commander of the Imperium.

What is the primary role of the Adeptus Custodes within the Imperium?

The primary role of the Adeptus Custodes is to serve as the guardians of the Emperor of Mankind and the sanctity of Terra.

How do the Adeptus Custodes differ from Space Marines?

Unlike Space Marines, who serve various roles throughout the Imperium, the Adeptus Custodes are solely dedicated to the protection of the Emperor and the security of Terra.

One Response

  1. I take issue with the complete misuse of the term gaslighting. Gaslighting is done by an abusive individual to explicitly cause psychological harm to someone else using a close personal relationship. The attacker intends to make the individual depressed, anxious, question themselves on a deeper level, or otherwise demoralize or emotionally hurt them. Poorly executed marketing is not gaslighting.
    If anyone is doing gaslighting, its the people actually trying to define the marketing post as gaslighting in order to inspire anger and outrage. They have the intent to make others upset via misinformation.

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