‘The Acolyte’ Witches Explained: A History of Witchcraft in the ‘Star Wars’ Universe

To the lore-uninitiated, the fact that witches exist in the Star Wars universe might come as a shock, but they actually have a long history on screen in the franchise.

“The Acolyte” Episode 3 dives deep into Osha (Amandla Stenberg) and Mae’s (Amandla Stenberg) backstory and their childhood growing up on the planet Brendok. The episode reveals they were raised among a coven of witches, led by Mother Aniseya (Jodie Turner-Smith), who revere the twins as a miracle in the Force.

During the High Republic era in which “The Acolyte” is set, Force use and Force users were heavily regulated by the Jedi. If you were Force-sensitive at this time, the Jedi wanted you in the Order. Mother Aniseya and her coven clearly are at odds with that ideal, which she calls out blatantly.

“This isn’t about good or bad,” she says. “This is about power, and who is allowed to use it.”

With “The Acolyte” taking place 100 years before the beginning of the rest of Star Wars canon, it certainly seems like this coven is laying the groundwork for many of the ideals that future witches in the “franchise” seem to follow.

Here’s what we know about the history of witches in Star Wars.

Do witches have different powers than Jedi and Sith?

In “Star Wars” media, the Force has primarily been viewed through the way the Jedi and Sith use it – and “use” is the operative word. The two primary Force sensitive factions see the Force as something to wield either to uphold the peace or sow chaos. Witches tend to have a broader view of the Force. They view their connection as something to be studied and see it as a living entity.

Many witches throughout the long history of “Star Wars” have tapped into aspects of the Force that Jedi and Sith haven’t, which led to abilities like telepathy, invisibility, raising the undead and teleportation.

The Witches of Dathomir

The Witches of Dathomir have given fans the closest look at the culture of witches in “Star Wars.” They first debuted in “The Clone Wars” and reside on the planet Dathomir, which is culturally rich with witches. Like many witches, the Dathomirian sect leans toward the dark side while never specifically siding entirely with Jedi or Sith.

There are many different witch clans spread throughout the planet but the Nightsisters get the lion share of the focus. Led by Mother Talzin (note the titling, perhaps a carryover from Aniseya’s time), the Nightsisters aided Count Dooku throughout the Clone Wars. Talzin is also Darth Maul and Savage Opress’ mother.

Another prominent Nightsister – and the first on-screen witch to appear in “Star Wars” – is Asajj Ventress, who showed up in the animated series “The Clone Wars.” She studied as an apprentice under Count Dooku during the first half of the Clone Wars before being pushed out. Rather than die, she continued to conduct her business and wield the Force using her darkside training from Count Dooku in conjunction with her Nightsister training from Mother Talzin.

Witches in Grand Admiral Thrawn’s employ

While a lot of the witchy corners of “Star Wars” lore are unpacked in the animated shows, the Nightsisters have also been seen in live-action in 2023’s “Ahsoka” working for Grand Admiral Thrawn.

The “Great Mothers,” as Thrawn calls them, were Dathmiri witches who hailed from the far planet Perdia and – according to the Admiral – were among the first to harness the power of the hyperspace-traveling Purgill. The trio seemed particularly focused on resurrection since much of Thrawn’s compliment had been killed and brought back as zombified soldiers in the years they were stranded.

Morgan Elsbeth, who first appeared in Season 2 of “The Mandalorian,” was revealed to be a trained Nightsister as well in “Ahsoka.” Her training was further expanded on in the first season of Disney+’s animated anthology series “Tales of the Empire.” Elsbeth and the Great Mothers of Perdia were so gifted in the Force they were able to communicate across entire galaxies – which hints at a connection that even the most powerful Jedi and Sith haven’t mustered.

Are “Star Wars” witches good or bad?

Like all great characters and factions in fiction, asking if the witches in “Star Wars” are good or bad is nuanced. The majority shown in various TV shows have leaned toward villainy – but only so far as those “bad” choices progress them.

Characters like Asajj distanced themselves from both the Nightsisters and the Sith over time and Asajj has been known to help Jedi like Obi-Wan and Ahsoka in the past. Most recently, she was seen helping to train Omega in her Force sensitivity in the final season of “The Bad Batch.”

When it comes to the coven led by Mother Aniseya, it’s hard to argue with their frustration of the Jedi essentially stockpiling people with a strong connection to the Force. Their obsession with what Osha and Mae did or didn’t represent for their future might not have altruistic ends, but being told how much power you’re allowed to have is enough to push anyone to dark deeds.

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