Sith holocrons were immediately identifiable with respect to Jedi holocrons, as they were usually pyramidal in shape, and etched with strange symbols and ancient hieroglyphs. Inscriptions usually lined the bottom of the device, and various dark incantations were found all over the smooth surface. At the holocron's apex rested a black crystal, used to power the holocron's store of information.
The design of the holocron was not the only way to discern its affiliation: Sith holocrons emitted a dark presence, creating tremors in the Force upon activation. It took a great deal of willpower for a Jedi to access the dark devices, and some of the more inexperienced Jedi often felt sickly or fell ill merely laying their gaze upon one.
Internally, however, Sith holocrons worked in much the same way as a Jedi holocron. The black crystal of the Sith holocron was made up of intricate lattices and vertices, capable of storing massive amounts of information, as well as the holocron's Sith gatekeeper. The holocron was able to capture the appearance and cognitive networks of the holocron's owner, and transform this into a three-dimensional hologram. This gatekeeper acted as a guide through the holocron's store of information, as a search and recovery engine with a more personal touch. These gatekeepers could relate stories from the holocron's archives to events in the life of the one who activated the holocron.
Unlike their Jedi counterparts, the Sith holocron gatekeepers did not always restrict information that might be too advanced and dangerous for a user, allowing them unlimited access to its entire dark side repository. Though this isn't always the case. Darth Bane was once limited by the Holocron of Heresies, who refused to teach him the technique he sought due to Bane's inability to learn a few techniques that came before it. In the end it all depended upon its creator, and how much they would choose to share.
- "The process of creating a holocron cannot be rushed."
- ―Belia Darzu
The process by which holocrons were created was a very difficult one. In the days of the old Sith Empire, holocrons were prevalent among the Dark Lords just as Jedi holocrons were among Jedi Masters. Many rare materials had to be gathered, and much meditating on the will of the dark side was necessary to focus the Sith Lord's power. By the time of the Great Jedi Purge, nearly all records containing information regarding the creation of holocrons was thought to be lost. But in the centuries before, the knowledge was apparently still available, should one happen to find it. Darth Bane was one such individual. Bane had tried unsuccessfully for years to store his own essence within a holocron, but when his apprentice presented him with the possibility of finding the secrets on Tython, he set out immediately for that world. On the planet Tython he acquired the holocron of an ancient Dark Lord of the Sith, the Shi'ido changeling named Belia Darzu. Darzu was very knowledgeable in the construction of holocrons, and recorded within the lattices of her own holocron, Darzu explained in depth the required steps one must take to successfully construct the pyramidal Sith holocron.
As the Shi'ido form of Belia Darzu explained, the process can take months to finally perfect, though sometimes a holocron could be created within the short span of a few weeks. Each was unique to its creator; one who sought to fashion their own Sith holocron could not use another as the blueprint by which they followed to make their own personal holocron. The inner components were composed of intertwined filaments and strands, forming a crystal matrix that must be fine tuned to prevent device failure. Rare crystal was used in the workings and tunings of the intricate network that would store potentially infinite data. Each holocron matrix had to meet stringent specifications, usually requiring thousands of precise alterations and adjustments on a subatomic level. Only through the power of the Force could one ensure that each crystalline strand was properly aligned.
Rituals of Invocation
Once the crystal matrix inside the holocron was successfully constructed, the creator could then focus on the outer designs of their holocron. Ancient Sith symbols were etched onto the device, and then imbued with dark side power in what were known as the Rituals of Invocation. This ceremony was paramount in maintaining the matrix's stability after it was infused with dark side energy. Again, the symbols must be unique to the individual, and simply copying the glyphs from another holocron will only result in failure. The device will fall in on itself into a pile of crystal-dust. These spells were incredibly painstaking, both mentally and physically. But should this be performed before the Rite of Commencement, the power trapped within the symbols will fade, and the network will degrade to the point of being unable to sustain the crystal matrix.
Rite of Commencement
- "You must invoke the Rite of Commencement."
- ―Belia Darzu
To trap one's essence within the capstone, they must invoke the Rite of Commencement. Due to its complexity, only the most powerful Sith Masters were capable of performing the elaborate ritual. When the Sith Lord's cognizance was successfully trapped within, a wealth of dark side knowledge and lore could be stored within the almost limitless lattices and networks of the holocron. The cognitive network then served as the teaching element, and also stabilized the interweavings of the holocron. Without the network in place, the device would disintegrate within days.
- "The capstone is the key to the process."
- ―Belia Darzu
All Sith holocrons had capstones, wherein the creator must capture their own cognitive essence before the fine-tuning stages. This prevented the cognitive network from degrading, and only then could one truly begin to create their own holocron. The capstone was a black crystal, housed within the center of the device. It was a vital part of a Sith holocron's construction. It served the dual purpose of both an energy source for the device as well as a "home" of sorts for the gatekeeper, or the cognitive essence of the holocron's creator.
- "Locked within its recesses, accessible only to a Dark Lord of the Sith, are the forgotten histories and lore, dating back a hundred thousand years or more."
- ―Odan-Urr to Nomi Sunrider
Sith holocrons originated from secrets shared with the Sith King Adas by Rakatan soldiers trying to gain the trust of the Sith ruler. Adas made a holocron based on Rakatan design and presumably the art of holocron making originated among the ancient Sith from this.
The pull and allure of the Sith holocron was strong, which the Jedi Historian Atris discovered as she collected holocrons that slowly turned her to the dark side. As of 3996 BBY, only one known Sith holocron existed, having been captured by Odan-Urr during the Great Hyperspace War; half a century later, Atris kept scores of them in the Telosian Jedi Academy. The holocron captured by Odan-Urr was said to contain information dating back to around 100,000 BBY.
By 1000 BBY it was said that the art of making Sith holocrons had been lost several millennia past. That, plus the Jedi active hunting of any source of Sith teachings, had rendered the artifacts extremely rare.
Most of the Sith holocrons were created long before the Clone Wars, and as of the Battle of Geonosis, the Jedi Archives on Coruscant contained most of the only surviving Sith holocrons in the galaxy. These devices were locked away to all but the most senior Jedi—in fact, most of the Jedi in the Temple did not even know Sith holocrons resided in the building. The holocrons were kept in case the Jedi would ever face the threat of the Sith again, whereupon Jedi Masters could consult the holocrons for ideas on how to defeat the Dark Lords. However, the Sith holocrons were not as safe as the Archives Director believed: Jedi student Lorian Nod was able to steal a Sith holocron from the Archives, though the theft ended in the recovery of the holocron and Nod's expulsion from the Jedi Order. Count Dooku stole at least one Sith holocron from the Jedi Temple during the Coruscant Insurrection. The remaining Sith holocrons in the Temple at the end of the Clone Wars were forgeries according to Darth Sidious, but Sidious had his apprentice Darth Vader recover them nonetheless.
Several ancient Sith holocrons were kept by Darth Plagueis and were presumably inherited by Darth Sidious. Another Sith holocron was created by Darth Andeddu, an ancient Sith Lord. This holocron was recovered during a competition between Quinlan Vos and Tol Skorr for Count Dooku during the Clone Wars, while Quinlan was allied with Dooku. It contained much dark side knowledge as well as a red lightsaber crystal embedded in its core, used to power Darth Andeddu's own Sith lightsaber. The holocron itself was kept by Tyranus while the red crystal was used in Quinlan Vos's lightsaber for a brief time.
While on a training mission on Ragoon VI with Anakin Skywalker, Obi-Wan Kenobi found a Sith holocron dropped by Granta Omega. It was first mentioned by a bounty hunter who immediately killed himself afterwards. When Kenobi found the holocron, he activated it, and after seeing several seconds of extreme suffering and destruction, he shut it off. When he mentioned it to his Padawan, Skywalker immediately became nauseous and started sweating from the potency of the dark side. Kenobi later handed the holocron over to Yoda at the Jedi Temple.
In 18 BBY Anakin Skywalker, now Darth Vader, gazed at a Sith holocron in the same hospital in which he had surgery after his duel with Obi-Wan Kenobi. He was overseen by ex-Jedi Ferus Olin, who felt waves of nausea after glimpsing the holocron.
Sometime between 1 BBY and 0 BBY Jabba the Hutt found a holocron. It is unknown how he obtained it, but it is rumored that he gave up half his criminal empire to get it, and sell it to the Galactic Empire for twice his profit. Unfortunately the transaction never occurred because Tyber Zann interfered and took the Holocron from Jabba with the help of his lieutenant, Urai Fen. After Zann was captured and put to work in the Kessel Prisons, the holocron was hidden away.
After escaping, Zann was able to learn (from Fen) that the holocron was in fact of sith creation, and contained information that was only accessible to a wielder of the Dark Side. Zann and Fen traveled to Dathomir and liberated several Nightsister prison camps in order to secure the services of the Nightsister Silri. After Silri informed him that the holocron contained "useless information", Zann later decided to plant a tracking device in the holocron and let it be "stolen" by the bounty hunter Bossk so he could locate the Emperor's personal archives on Coruscant. While Zann and Fen conducted a raid on the archives, Silri, charged with guarding their escape transport, slipped into the archives and stole the holocron. The trio were barely able to escape the archive's defenses and the Dark Side Adepts that guarded the location.
After a battle over Kuat, which was staged between the Zann Consortium and Rebel Alliance against the Empire, and a double-cross by Zann against the Alliance, Zann captured the Emperor's new flagship -the Eclipse- that was still under construction. While gloating over his victory, Silri, who had accompanied Zann and Fenn into battle, used the holocron and the Eclipse's computers to locate an army of Sith soldiers frozen in carbonite within a secret vault.
In 130 ABY, Sith Lord Darth Krayt possessed not only the holocrons of previous Sith Lords Bane, Nihilus, and Andeddu, but was also known to have recorded his own. In this holocron he recorded entries relating how he caused the fall of the Galactic Alliance and restored the Empire as the dominant galactic power. Prior to the formation of the New Sith Order, Krayt, in his previous persona of A'Sharad Hett, discovered the holocron of XoXaan, one of the first Sith Lords.
Behind the scenes
Although not seen in the film, during production of Attack of the Clones, the film's propmakers made three holocrons for its Visual Dictionary: a Jedi holocron, a Sith holocron, and the Great Holocron.
One Sith holocron was known to contain the phrase "In umbris potestas est". It is a Latin phrase meaning "In the shadows, there is power".
Sith and Jedi holocrons were present in the video game version of Star Wars: The Force Unleashed. Jedi holocrons granted the player experience bonuses and unlockable lightsaber crystals and alternate costumes, while Sith holocrons were merely power-ups, granting the player temporary invincibility, limitless Force energy, or a similar bonus.