Force Organizations: Witches of Dathomir
By Jason Dietzel
The Witches of Dathomir are a collective of tribes that diverged from the Daughters of Allya. When the wayward Jedi Knight Allya was banished around the year 600 BBY, she was exiled to the planet Dathomir, where she would eventually unite the Force-sensitive population in an attempt to ensure survival in the planet’s unforgiving environment. Under Allya’s guidance, the Daughters of Allya became the primary human civilization on Dathomir.
At the core of Allya’s Force group was the Book of Law, inspired by the Jedi Code. This document became the foundation for her “daughters.” However, upon her death, with no heir, the group divided into tribes and became known as the Witches of Dathomir. These various tribes fanned out across the planet, taking names based off regional landmarks or points of interest.
It is unclear if the practice started under Allya’s guidance or if it stemmed from previous Force groups (Sith) inhabiting the planet in millennia past, but at some point, they became matriarchal, rendering males as slaves for hard menial labor or as mates. The tribes of Witches were ruled by Force-sensitive female warriors, domesticating rancors using the Force to enhance their tribe’s power.
As these tribes continued to evolve, so did their interpretation of the Book of Law. Generations later, different tribes would have distinct versions of the Book of Law, and varying standards for what was acceptable training and use of the Force. Sometimes these differences led to conflicts between the tribes, but most of the time tribes would raid one another in order to steal resources and male slaves.
Each tribe generally centered around a fortified village, with women serving as warriors and the eldest serving as the leader. Given the warrior nature of the Witch tribes, women would train daily, anticipating the need to defend their village or go out on the hunt. Women were encouraged to track wayward males on the run and take them as mates, but they could also buy mates from others. Generally selling mates was a form of divorce, under the assumption the male was refusing to love his owner.
Males could be freed, provided they did some act of defense for their mate or another woman in the tribe. However, they were still treated as second-class citizens in the tribe, and still expected to raise any children with the assumption that they would be subservient to women.
Augmenting their physical training with the Force, the Witches came to call their Force powers “spells” and crafted the tradition of using aural chants to “cast” these “spells.” Likewise, using the dark side became known as using “night spells.” Anyone caught using “night spells,” or relying on anger and other “dark” emotions to utilize permissible “spells,” was exiled from the tribe.
Witches shunned from their clan could go through a lengthy purification ritual – sometimes lasting years – in order to be reaccepted back into the clan. However, some chose to remain in exile. Few chose to remain in exile alone or try to infiltrate another clan, but many ended up banning together to form the Nightsisters. Their continued use of “night spells” kept them at odds with the other Witch clans.
About three centures before the Clone Wars, the Jedi training vessel Chu’unthor crashed on the planet and Master Yoda was sent with a team to recover any survivors. At least fourteen Jedi would be dead before Yoda could broker a peace accord. In exchange for his colleagues’ departure, he gifted one Witch a box of Jedi knowledge to be kept safe and prophecized that one day a Jedi would return to rid them of their Nightsister enemies.
The Witches of Dathomir would make a splash into galactic events a few decades before the Clone Wars. Mostly seen as a wild, undeveloped planet, with little sentient civilization, the Witches and Dathomir would find itself vested in galactic affairs when Darth Sidious visited the planet and a Nightsister offered her child for him to train. That child was Darth Maul.
Around the same time, a ship carrying Zabraks from Iridonia had crashed on Dathomir and the Nightsisters took interest in its cargo. The male Zabraks were taken as mates and the interbreeding between the human females and male Zabraks resulted in the hybrid Dathomirian race.
During the Clone Wars, a splinter group within the Nightsisters would ally with the Confederacy. However, this splinter group, led by Mother Talzin, had other plans and hoped to use Maul as a conduit for the Nightsisters to not only absorb the other Witch clans, but also domination of the galaxy. The allegiance with the Confederacy introduced the Nightsisters to advanced technology and some came to wield lightsabers, one of which even wielded a lightwhip. The Confederacy would eventually turn on the Nightsisters and it was assumed they were eradicated.
Just prior to the destruction of the first Death Star, Emperor Palpatine discovered the Nightsisters were still intact. He had originally planned for a penal colony to be set up on Dathomir, but when he discovered the Nightsisters not only became the dominant group on the planet, driving other Witch clans into hiding, but also were more powerful than during the era of the Clone Wars, he halted construction of the Imperial base and blockaded the planet.
This standoff would come to a head four years later, when the leader of the Nightsisters, Mother Gethzerion, allied with the Imperial warlord Zsinj. New Republic heroes Han Solo and Princess Leia were on the planet, after he somehow won ownership of the planet in a card game. This attracted other prominent figures to the planet, like Luke Skywalker and the prince of the Hapes Consortium.
In exchange for the capture of the crew, Zsinj promised the Nightsisters spacecraft so they could expand their influence throughout the galaxy. The heroes of the New Republic also allied with one tribe of the Witches of Dathomir, and in the end, Zsinj double-crossed the Nightsisters, destroying their spacecraft once they broke atmosphere.
After the conflict between the Imperials and the New Republic, leaving Zsinj dead, ownership of the planet was given to the Witches of Dathomir, making Augwynne Djo of the Singing Mountain Clan de facto queen of the planet. This also allowed the prince of the Hapes Consortium to marry Tenenial Djo, and both the Witches of Dathomir and the Hapes Consortium joined the New Republic.
Though they had access to the advanced technology of the rest of the galaxy, as a member of the New Republic, the Witches chose to live traditionally, as they had for centuries beforehand. Despite Dathomir becoming a member of the New Republic, Imperial special ops continued to try to infiltrate the planet in order to flip their allegiance.
About a decade later, the Second Imperium was able to flip one of the clans of the Witches of Dathomir into Nightsisters, and this new generation of Nightsisters joined the Shadow Academy under the leadership of the Dark Jedi Brakiss. Though this resurgence was also short lived, these Nightsisters did have one profound impact on the Witches’ society: they paved the way for men to be freed from slavery and become equals.
Decades later, many Witch clans would accept male suffrage, while another clan was formed of predominantly men. The Jedi would also establish connections to the Witches, with many joining Luke Skywalker’s New Jedi Order, and after the Yuuzhan Vong war a Jedi training facility being welcomed on the planet.
Many Witches would become prominent figures in the galaxy. Tenenial Djo would become leader of the Hapes Consortium before her death, passing the title onto her daughter, Jedi Knight Tenel Ka Djo. Other Witches, like Kirana Ti and Damaya, joined Luke Skywalker’s inaugural class of new Jedi. Lastly, Tamith Kai would also lead the new generation of Nightsisters, in league with the Second Imperium’s Shadow Academy, before her death.
The Witches of Dathomir – and the Nightsisters – first appeared in Dave Wolverton’s The Courtship of Princess Leia. However, this first appearance was reconned to the witches seen in the Ewok movie series. The Witches of Dathomir also appeared in the Jedi Academy trilogy, Young Jedi Knights, New Jedi Order, Legacy of the Force and Fate of the Jedi series, but became a fan-favorite when they appeared as antagonists in the Clone Wars animated tv series.