This Halloween season, discover the mysteries of the Sith Eternal, Nightsister witches, and more.
Occult fans gather, because Star Wars is making its mark on all things creepy, scary, and unexplainable. Over the past couple of years, occultism -- mystical or magical beliefs and phenomena that have no explanation -- has been growing exponentially in the galaxy far, far away. From haunted cities and fanatic cults to ominous creatures, Star Wars can be downright frightening. So to celebrate Halloween season, here’s a look at all things occult in the Star Wars.
Whether intentional or not, Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker seemed to usher in an age of the occult in Star Wars with its Sith Eternal back in 2019. Amassed on Exegol over decades, the Sith Eternal was a wicked cult of dark side worshippers that revered Darth Sidious as their leader -- a huge red flag. In one of the most chilling scenes in Star Wars, Rey comes face to face with the phantom menace, but he’s not alone. As she peers around the throne room, hoards of people look on, chanting for what they hope to come: the sacrifice and the beginning of the end for the galaxy. (Read more about this creepy cult in Star Wars: Shadow of the Sith.)
Misadventures of Doctor Aphra
Notorious archeologist and known trouble-maker Doctor Aphra may be the queen of the occult in the Star Wars galaxy, and has a knack for finding bizarre artifacts littered across the stars. Kicking off Marvel’s 2020 Star Wars: Doctor Aphra series, Aphra finds herself on the hunt for the Rings of Vaale, fabled items that can grant the wearer fortune and eternal life, but not without a cost. Accompanied by grad student Detta Yao, former professor Doctor Eustacia Okka, smuggler/assassin Just Lucky, and bounty hunter Krrsantan, Aphra and the team locate the very real and eerily deserted city of Vaale on the planet Dianth, where the rings were supposedly crafted. Possibly one of the most haunting locations in Star Wars, Vaale’s walls are alive, singing at a frequency that makes people go mad. As the group scours the ruins for the rings, they each experience haunting visions and illusions but unable to find logic in the events, Aphra assumes they’re all hallucinating to explain the unexplainable. (Check out Doctor Aphra: Fortune and Fate for more on these events.)
In another terrifying tale, Doctor Aphra comes across the ancient Ascendent’s “thought dowser,” a device capable of amplifying the user's thoughts, therefore allowing them to compel others to do their bidding. The Ascendant, a dark side cult existing in the distant past, created technology so dreadful even the Sith were wary of it. But Aphra, in her arrogance, believed she could use the device through a loophole, slicing into it with her electro-tattoos. Aphra was successful in using the thought dowser, allowing her to escape her enemies, but there was a price to pay; as a result of its misuse, the thought dowser fried Aphra’s arm, rendering her tattoos useless. This wouldn’t be the last time Aphra ran into the thought dowser and Ascendant technology, though. (Read more in Doctor Aphra: Crimson Reign.)
Shrii Ka Rai
The unexplainable continues in Lucasfilm Publishing’s Star Wars: The High Republic. Centuries before Aphra’s time, during the midst of the High Republic era, the Jedi Order came into issue with a family of Evereni named Ro. The Ro family wielded a weapon -- the “Great Leveler,” as they called it -- against the Jedi, but this wasn’t a blaster nor a laser sword. Rather, it was a creature capable of turning the Jedi into dust. Eventually, the Great Leveler was put to rest in an ice shrine, deemed too dangerous to be wielded. (See Star Wars: The High Republic: Eye of the Storm for more.) With time, the creature became nameless and slipped into legend, even becoming part of an ominous Jedi nursery rhyme that featured the lyrics, “Shrii Ka Rai Ka Rai, they’re coming to take you away.”
It wasn’t until later in the era that these creatures would reemerge to terrorize the Jedi under a new galactic threat -- the Nihil. The Nihil was an organization of marauders that sought to keep the Republic and Jedi out of their territory, by any means. These raiders were vicious, often using poisonous gasses against their enemies.
The group was led by Marchion Ro, descendent of the aforementioned Ro family, and the leader or “Eye of the Nihil.” As the Eye, Marchion retrieved his ancestor's pet and wielded it against the Jedi once again, inexplicably calcifying their bodies before deteriorating into dust. Ro controlled these beasts with a scepter that featured a gem at the center of a crescent moon-shaped piece. How the mystifying scepter worked has yet to be determined, and the Jedi are desperate to discover if the creatures have any weakness. (Read more in Star Wars: The High Republic: Trail of Shadows.)
Mystics and Magicks
While recent stories continue to explore the occult, there’s precedent from prior storytelling that paved the way. The mystical Nightsisters of Dathomir are the epitome of the occult, dabbling in witchcraft and mysticism. These women had a profound connection to their world and its dark energies, using it to channel their magic to cast spells, perform rituals, and even brew potions. In the Star Wars: The Clone Wars episode “Massacre,” the Nightsister elder, Old Daka, uses her magic to resurrect her coven’s dead sisters. These sisters rise up to defend their living kin, delivering frantic attacks and frightening shrieks against General Grievous and his droid army -- a sure shock to their circuits.
Meanwhile, Mother Talzin with a lock of Count Dooku’s hair, conjures a figurine of the Sith Lord that allows her to inflict harm on him from afar. Dooku suffers on Serenno as Mother Talzin prods the doll parsecs away on Dathomir. These witches are not to be messed with.
It’s in the Name
Although they have little screen time in Star Wars, the Frangawl Cult might be one of the scarier threats to the galaxy. Seen in The Clone Wars two-part episode “The Disappeared,” this cult on Bardotta worshiped a demonic deity called Malmourral, the Bardottan demon of war. Like most deities, a physical manifestation of this demon didn’t exist, but that didn’t stop the Frangawl cult from praising a shrine of it in a subterranean temple.
If worshiping a demon of war wasn’t enough, what makes this cult even more terrifying is its sacrificial tendencies. In “The Disappeared,” the Frangawl cult begins kidnapping and sacrificing members of the Bardotta Council (the ruling body of Bardotta) to Malmourral. These sacrifices were part of a ritual where the victims were sent to their deaths down a slide into the mouth of the demon’s shrine. The maw would electrocute them, and somehow transfer their Living Force to the cult’s “living orb,” which could then be used to restore other Force-users' powers. How it all works is a mystery, but it’s safe to say that this cult was capable of supernatural phenomena.
Across stories and eras, the occult is alive and well in Star Wars…