- "But the ritual was not confined to the doomed Sith Lords. They were but the eye of the storm; the center of a vortex that spread across the entire planet. Every man, woman, and child on Nathema died that day. Every beast, bird, and fish; all the insects and plants; every living being touched by the Force was consumed. When the ritual ended, Nathema was no longer a world. It was a husk sucked dry. Lord Vitiate sacrificed millions, stealing their life force to make himself immortal. Their deaths also made him stronger than any Sith who had come before, and he ceased to be known as Lord Vitiate. On that day, the Emperor was truly born."
- ―Darth Nyriss
During the time of the Great Hyperspace War, the Sith Lord Vitiate developed a ritual of Sith magic that granted him immortality and immense strength in the Force by ensaring the souls of the dead. Using the strength of eight thousand Sith Lords to power the Sith magic, Vitiate was able to strip the Force itself from the planet Nathema at the expense of every living thing on the world, and as the Sith Emperor of the reconstituted Sith Empire, he later developed an artificial version of the ritual by combining it with Sith alchemy and cybernetics. With the Sith magic, the Emperor was able to grant immortality to his favored servants, and he intended to use the ritual on a galactic scale in order to consume all life in the galaxy and thereby ensure that he would never be defeated. However, the Jedi Knight known as the Hero of Tython prevented the Emperor's agents from bringing about the sacrifice of thousands of lives that was necessary to start the ritual—but only for a time. With his plans exposed to the Empire, a now dethroned Vitiate turned on the Imperial world Ziost and used the strength of the entire world's population to carry out the ritual once more and consume all life on Ziost.
- "He dominated their minds, crushed their resistance. He turned them into slaves to his will, forcing them to participate in the most complex ritual of Sith sorcery ever attempted. Calling on the dark side, Lord Vitiate devoured them. He fed on their power, absorbing it into himself, utterly obliterating all traces of his victims."
- ―Darth Nyriss
The ritual developed by the Sith Lord Vitiate was a complex piece of Sith magic that required an immense amount of strength and power in the dark side of the Force to complete. It required a sacrifice—death on a massive scale—to begin, and the ritual allowed the user to devour the Force essence of the dead, empowering themselves at the cost of their victims' lives. Upon the ritual's completion, the Sith magic expanded across the target world as a wave of energy and literally stripped the Force from the targeted planet in less than a minute, killing all remaining living beings instantly and transferring their life force and power into the ritual's user.
When he first orchestrated the rite on the planet Nathema, Vitiate drew upon the strength of eight thousand other Sith Lords to power his Sith magic, and it took ten days to complete in its entirety. Centuries later, Vitiate—now as the Sith Emperor— was able to accomplish the ritual on the planet Ziost using only his own immense strength in the Force. On Nathema, Vitiate used the ancient superweapon known as Zildrog to achieve the necessary death toll, and on Ziost, he possessed the cosmopolitan planet's population and set them upon each other.
Living matter, whether it was the bodies of people or plants, was turned to ash at the moment it was touched by the Sith magic, though some prone bodies retained their shape like ash sculptures of the ritual's victims. The trunks of trees were left standing as solid ash, and the Sith magic even destroyed a number of stone statues on Ziost. Only a handful of creatures were capable of surviving the ritual besides Vitiate—Sithspawn known as Monoliths, which had been created from dark side energy rather than by mutating a living creature like typical Sithspawn. The act also destroyed almost all technology on the planet, overloading the circuits of droids and wiping out their memory cores. The rite leeched color, sound, and heat from reality itself, leaving the targeted planet a brown, barren, and lifeless world upon which the absence of the Force could cause anything alive on its surface—especially Force-sensitives—to die if they stayed there long enough.
The Emperor later developed an artificial form of the ritual by merging it with Sith alchemy and biomechanical enhancements, forgoing the need for a sacrifice. The artificial process involved the insertion of dozens of wires and IV tubes into the subject's body, which connected the individual to a series of generators and vats filled with bubbling green liquid. As the subject opened themselves to the dark side, the Emperor and his machines stripped away their mortality over the course of a few minutes, leaving the recipient in constant pain for the rest of their existence. Both the original and artificial versions of the Sith magic left the subjects unable to appreciate their physical senses to the degree that others did, as they sacrificed their ability to feel emotions in return for immortality.
- "The darkness will consume all it touches. Stars will burn black, ashes raining on lifeless worlds. Everything ends."
- ―The ghost of Meetra Surik
As a result of the ritual of Sith magic, Vitiate became immortal and gained immense strength in the Force. After centuries of further study into the dark side, the Sith Emperor developed the strength to repeat the ritual on his own, and he intended to magnify its effects on a galactic scale. If successful, the ritual would have allowed him to consume the life of every living thing in the galaxy, and the Emperor would have absorbed it to become like a god. The Emperor utilized the artificial ritual to grant immortality to a few select servants, including the twelve Servants, or members, of the secretive organization known as the Emperor's Hand. Another who received immortality through the ritual was the Sith Lord Scourge, who was appointed the Emperor's Wrath—the Sith ruler's personal enforcer—for his loyalty.
- "A thousand years ago, the Emperor tricked an entire Sith world into aiding a dark ritual. He promised great power. Only for himself, of course. The ritual consumed every living thing on the planet. He absorbed those life essences through the Force."
- ―Lord Scourge
The only known user of the immortality rite was the Sith Emperor, a Sith Lord originally known as Vitiate. In 4999 BBY, a year after the Sith Empire's defeat in the Great Hyperspace War against the Galactic Republic, Vitiate summoned the remaining Sith Lords of the Empire to his homeworld of Nathema. There, he dominated the minds of the eight thousand Sith who answered his call and forced them to participate in the Sith magic, and turned the Zildrog superweapon against his subjects. The resultant death toll, filtered through the ritual, conferred immense power and immortality upon himself at the expense of every living thing on the world.
The newly-empowered Sith Emperor blamed the effects of the event—known to history as the Ritual of Nathema—on the Jedi who had destroyed the Empire in the Great Hyperspace War, and he gathered the survivors of the Empire before leading them on a twenty-year exodus from the Sith Worlds. Not long after he reconstituted the Empire on the world Dromund Kaas in 4980 BBY, the Emperor gathered twelve Sith purebloods and performed the artificial version of the rite upon them, granting them immortality and appointing them as the Servants of the Emperor's Hand, though during the ritual he bound their life forces to his own so that he could draw on their strength to sustain him.
In 3950 BBY, almost a thousand years later, the Emperor decided to reward the Sith Lord Scourge with immortality after he betrayed the Jedi Masters Revan and Meetra Surik by killing Surik during the Jedi's attempt to slay the Emperor. The Emperor performed the artificial rite in the depths of the Imperial Citadel on Dromund Kaas, and made it clear to his new Wrath that the pain caused by the ritual would never pass. As a result of Revan and Surik's attack, the Emperor became determined to ensure his survival at the expense of the entire galaxy, and he made the necessary preparations for repeating the ritual on a galactic scale. Three centuries later, during the Galactic War between the Republic and his Empire, the Emperor ordered his agents to cause the necessary sacrifice of thousands of deaths, though their efforts were foiled by the Jedi Knight known as the Hero of Tython.
The Sith Emperor was grievously wounded in battle with the Hero, and was forced into hibernation on the moon Yavin 4 until a now-mad Revan tried to restore the Emperor to strength in order to permanently destroy the Emperor. Revan's plans failed, but the Emperor fed off of the deaths caused by battle against Revan's followers, thus restoring his strength. Disowned by the Empire he once ruled, Vitiate—now a Force entity without a body—began exerting influence over the population of the planet Ziost. His reach soon extended across the world, allowing him to possess virtually the entire population and set them against each other in a frenzy of death.
Despite attempts by the Galactic Republic and the Empire to break Vitiate's control over Ziost, he continued to consolidate his strength and created monstrous Sithspawn known as Monoliths. Using Sith magic as he did on Nathema, Vitiate fed off the dead and unleashed a wave of energy across the globe, turning all living beings to ash and warping reality—Ziost's tundra became a gray wasteland where colors seemed muted. Thousands of years later, the Sith Lord Darth Bane discovered a transcription about the ritual and its effects within the Sith Holocron of Revan, and used it to develop the technique known as the thought bomb.
Behind the scenes
The Sith Emperor's ritual was first introduced in Drew Karpyshyn's 2011 novel The Old Republic: Revan, and it is a major plot point in Act III of the Jedi Knight class storyline in the video game Star Wars: The Old Republic. The storyline for the planet Ziost introduced in Game Update 3.2 concludes with Vitiate using the ritual to consume all life on Ziost, and represents the first visual depiction of the ritual and its aftermath. Game Update 5.9: "The Nathema Conspiracy" retconned the origins of the Ritual of Nathema, adding the involvement of the Zildrog superweapon, although the game's head writer, Charles Boyd, clarified that Zildrog was used to instigate the death toll necessary for the ritual, just as the Emperor's agents attempted in the Jedi Knight storyline.
- The Old Republic: Revan (First appearance, simultaneous with The Old Republic: Revan audiobook)
- The Old Republic: Revan audiobook
- Star Wars: The Old Republic (Mentioned only)
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Shadow of Revan (First pictured)
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Eternal Throne (Codex entry)
- The Journal of Master Gnost-Dural (Indirect mention only)
- The Essential Reader's Companion
- Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia
- Star Wars: Force and Destiny Core Rulebook
Notes and references
- The Old Republic: Revan
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Jedi Knight Mission: "An Unthinkable Alliance" on Sith Emperor's Fortress
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Shadow of Revan—Mission: "The End of It All" on Ziost
- Star Wars: The Old Republic Encyclopedia
- Star Wars: The Old Republic: Knights of the Eternal Throne—Codex: "Zildrog"
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Codex: "Monolith"
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Conversation with Lord Scourge: "Eternal Emptiness"
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Codex: "Galactic History 30: Rise of the Sith Emperor"
- Star Wars: The Old Republic—Jedi Knight Mission: "Doomsday" on Dromund Kaas
- Star Wars: Force and Destiny Core Rulebook