Meet the witches of Dathomir.
Note: Dave Wolverton, creator of the Nightsisters and Dathomir in his novel The Courtship of Princess Leia (1994), passed away on the day this article was originally published. Dave’s contributions to Star Wars, including the Nightsisters and beyond, have had great impacts on the galaxy far, far away and will continue to do so for years to come.
Star Wars Inside Intel is a StarWars.com feature where Lucasfilm Story Group member Emily Shkoukani, whose job is to know as much about a galaxy far, far away as possible, explores obscure facts about Star Wars lore and continuity. In this installment, Emily analyzes the peculiar coven of Nightsisters….
Making their canon debut in the Star Wars: The Clone Wars animated television series (after being originally featured in Legends’ The Courtship of Princess Leia, by Dave Wolverton, in 1994), the Nightsisters were eccentric witches residing on the distant, rocky world of Dathomir. The Clone Wars' starring antagonist, Asajj Ventress, hailed from this coven although her upbringing largely differed from that of her sisters. In the show’s episode aptly titled “Nightsisters,” fans first encountered the mystifying culture of these witches.
Dathomir is located in the Outer Rim; not many outsiders visit the planet and, conversely, not many natives leave. The Nightsisters and Dathomir were said to have a significant connection to one another, where the witches drew on the dark energies of the planet to fuel their magick. The world features sprawling rockscapes that created canyons, caves, and cliffs across the surface. However, it’s not all rocky – there’s an abundance of flora on Dathomir, albeit, ominous and unusual, such as the seemingly impervious fire lichen that latch onto rock faces and an abundance of fungi. The creatures of the planet are similarly threatening, most notably the rancors, for which Dathomir is known, and the chirodactyl, a giant, carnivorous, bat-like creature. Despite the hostility of the flora and fauna, the Nightsisters were resilient and their connection to the planet extended to just about everything that occupied it, as well.
The Nightsisters' magick was dark in nature, and Jedi that found themselves on their world often described feeling the presence of the dark side. Although their understanding of it was unique to their world and culture, the magick the sisters wielded was seemingly connected to the Force -- just used in a vastly different way than the Jedi or the Sith. Where those groups followed strict dogmas and used the Force in (arguably) more simple ways such as pushing and pulling, the Nightsisters used their magick to cast spells, perform rituals, and brew potions. When Asajj Ventress returned to her home world seeking guidance, her sisters bathed her in the glowing-green Water of Life in a ritual inducting her into their clan. Later, Mother Talzin, the leader of the clan, brewed a potion that allowed Asajj and a few of her sisters to become transparent -- almost invisible -- in order to perform a stealth mission.
The Nightsisters also used another form of their magick in rituals conducted following the death of one of their own. When a Nightsister passed, her clan took great care of the body, wrapping it in cloth soaked in the planet's magickal waters and reciting a spell of protection for their fallen sister. They were then placed in a burial pod that would be hung from a Grave Thorn, a warped and twisted, barbed tree native to the planet.
Sometimes called the Witches of Dathomir, the Nightsisters were the dominant race on their red planet. Their brethren, the Nightbrothers, could also be found on Dathomir and were subservient to the witches. The two sects of natives lived and operated in separate areas of the planet, the Nightsisters calling on the brothers when needed. When Asajj’s original assassination plan failed with the use of the invisibility potion, Mother Talzin organized a competition amongst a selection of Nightbrothers. They fought in gladiatorial-style trials before one, Savage Opress, edged out the competition. He was then tasked to aid Asajj in her quest to exact revenge on her former teacher, Count Dooku. Whereas the Nightsisters wielded magick, the Nightbrothers were warriors. After Savage was selected to assist Asajj, Mother Talzin and the Nightsisters used their magicks to enhance Savage’s physical strength, putting him under a spell that forced him to obey their directions.
Mother Talzin was among the strongest witches in her clan, and served as their leader. She was a master at her arcane abilities, with the Nightsisters seeking her guidance. She was also responsible for handling any relations with the galaxy, such as when the malevolent Darth Sidious, an ally of Talzin’s, came to Dathomir and saw the potential in one of the young Nightbrothers. Talzin released the child to Sidious, who raised him as his Sith apprentice, and became known as Darth Maul.
After the many attempts Asajj made to have her former master, Count Dooku, executed to get revenge against him for abandoning her, Dooku turned his attention to the Nightsisters. With the Separatist army at his disposal, Dooku ordered General Grievous and his battle droids to the twisted planet of Dathomir to eradicate the galaxy of Nightsisters. But the Nightsisters would not go down without a fight.
With the guidance of Mother Talzin and the power of their dark magicks, the Nightsisters retaliated against the Separatist droids. Talzin went so far as to raise the dead, awakening deceased Nightsisters from their long slumber to aid the living in their attempt to avoid extinction. But despite their power and abilities, Talzin's Nightsister clan met its demise. All but a few were slain, but their legacy carried on in those that remained.
Merrin, possibly the last Nightsister of her coven, was a survivor of the Separatists’ wicked attack. Young at the time of the attack, Merrin grew up during the Dark Times and was mostly isolated save for her brethren, the Nightbrothers. As one of the remaining inheritors of the witches’ culture, Merrin carries with her the Nightsisters’ unique philosophies, arcane traditions, and esoteric history.
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