- "Never concede to evil."
The Witches of Dathomir (also referred to as either Dathomirians or Dathomiri) were a group of Human Force-sensitives native to the planet Dathomir. They were also known as the Daughters of Allya in honor of the wayward Jedi Knight Allya, who was banished to the planet around 600 BBY, and who they regarded as their ancestress. By the time of the Galactic Empire, Allya's descendants had divided into female-dominated clans that were named after regional landmarks. Each clan had a unique set of rules regarding Force usage, but all the clans held one rule above all others: "Never concede to evil".
- "While rancors dined on others, the daughters of Allya prospered from generation to generation, teaching their own daughters the spells. We divided into clans, and for a long time the clans vied for men in friendly competition, stealing mates. We governed ourselves, punished anyone caught using the night spells. In my grandmother's day, we pushed the wild rancors from these mountains. My grandmothers hunted the last of them. We hoped for peace at last."
- ―Teneniel Djo to Luke Skywalker.
Around 600 BBY, a Jedi Knight named Allya arrived on the wilderness planet Dathomir, apparently a rogue exiled by the Jedi Council to meditate on the Force in enforced solitude. On her arrival, however, she encountered other Human exiles. Linguistic evidence suggests that elements of the planet's Human population had been largely isolated from the wider Galaxy since the days of the Paecian Empire, in 3000 BBY or earlier, while later Dathomiri tradition claimed that the inhabitants Allya found had been exiled for producing illegal battle droids; what is not clear from available evidence is whether the earlier settlers had arrived in a single group long before Allya's time, or if in fact Dathomir had been used more continuously as a penal colony over the millennia. However, it is known that a few Humans shamans already inhabited Dathomir by the fortieth century before the Galactic Civil War, some of which boarded a Tho Yor ship in 36,453 BBY and joined the founders of the Je'daii Order.
One other factor in Dathomir's past that may be relevant, but seems to have been forgotten to future generations, is the existence of a Sith academy on the planet in the final years of the New Sith Wars, shortly before 1000 BBY. This was one of the more prestigious training establishments of the Brotherhood of Darkness, ranked with the Iridonia Academy second only to the newly-founded center on the ancient capital of Korriban, and trained the Sith equivalent of Jedi Knights: but it is not known how long it lasted for, or if it left any permanent legacy on the planet.
What is clear is that by the time of Allya's arrival, the Human population had become prey for the dominant sentients at the apex of Dathomir's native food-chain: the rancors. But when Allya assumed leadership of the population, events were set in motion that would lead to the development of a unique Human culture on Dathomir, founded on the enslavement of the male population to Force-sensitive female warriors, the transformation of the rancors from predators to allies, and the authorship of the Book of Law.
Native accounts sometimes attributed the shaping of Dathomiri society entirely to Allya, presenting her as a lone woman among a rabble of helpless men, mere snacks for herds of hungry rancors until they became her willing slaves. These traditions insinuated that Allya reduced the population to willing subjugation in a single lifetime, with the few who did not follow her becoming food for the rancors; among her followers, favored slaves were offered the chance to become mates, in the knowledge that if they fathered sons, they would be fed to the rancors. The boys were raised by other slaves to become slaves themselves, whereas the daughters of Allya were raised by her and trained in the ways of the Force.
This account claims that Dathomiri society was forged in a single generation, and traces the ancestry of every Human on the planet to a single mother and her daughters—the eldest of whom was said to have been just sixteen local years old (about twenty standard years) when her Jedi mother died. But while this version was largely accepted as accurate by the New Republic, it is likely to be at least partially legendary. The linguistic influence of Paecian in the Dathomiri language shows that the Human population had been established for rather more than two millennia when Allya arrived, indicating the existence of a viable breeding population; and even under the New Republic, the Singing Mountain Clan remembered others who had not been "daughters of Allya", and who had gradually faded as distinct groups over subsequent generations.
Nevertheless, it is likely that the key event in the forging of Dathomiri society was Allya's discovery that she could tame the rancors using the Force, with the resulting symbiosis between female rider and mount dictating subsequent social patterns. The attribution of the Book of Law to Allya is probably also correct: a codification of the moral and ethical laws that she wished for her daughters to follow, written down shortly before her death. The final entry of the Book of Law was the same as Allya's last words to her daughters: "Never concede to evil".
- "It's often easier to see the barbarism in alien cultures than it is to see it in your own. The witches have built a hierarchy based on power, as do most cultures."
- ―Luke Skywalker to Prince Isolder.
Over time, the Dathomiri divided into a number of distinct clans, a process sometimes framed in retrospect as a power struggle between Allya's elder daughters. These clans were named after regional landmarks, and although they shared a common tradition, each clan eventually developed their own set of laws about Force usage around the common core of inherited teachings, with the text of the Book of Law diverging into several distinct clan versions. The clans raided each other for mates, with low-level conflict being entered into cheerfully by the warrior women.
The number of clans fluctuated somewhat over time: in 8 ABY there were more than a dozen clans, but by 12 ABY, the number had been reduced to nine. Perhaps the most prominent of these groups was the Singing Mountain Clan, due to the contacts it established with the New Republic and Hapes Consortium, while others were located at the Frenzied River, Misty Falls, Red Hills, Dreaming River and Great Canyon.
Each Dathomiri clan was based in a fortified village at or near its eponymous landmark. Women served as warriors and leaders, with leadership typically held by the eldest in a clan. Matriarchs aged a century or more were not uncommon, and in exceptional circumstances (as with Rell) they could be to close to 300 local years old (four centuries standard). Men were used only for breeding and slave labor, clad in nothing more than leather aprons or scanty tunics, and neither they nor the women seem to have realized that they retained latent Force potential. Typically, warriors were expected to find mates by capturing runaways or slaves from other clans, but the leading clan sisters could purchase men from each other, and if a mate could not be persuaded to love his owner, the equivalent of an amicable divorce could be enacted by selling him to another woman. The only way a man could go free was if he saved the life of a woman in his clan.
As a warrior society, the Dathomiri Witches trained daily in the art of war, and used both their muscles and the Force to aid them in combat. They wore their hair in elaborate braids (sometimes with a helmet decorated with mementos) and lizard skin armor. Over time, the Force powers of the Witches came to be largely defined in the form of "spells", where they chanted a specific set of words and the desired effect was produced.
Crimes were punished by exile, particularly the use of the dark side; this was often thought of in terms of "night spells", but punishment was also applied when a sister used anger to fuel an otherwise permissible Force power. If a warrior wished to return to the clan, she had to undergo a period of exile for purification purposes before she would be allowed back, often extending to several years; but some, known as Nightsisters, remained in exile, and these exiles sometimes banded together to form a clan of their own, or occasionally took over an existing clan, although no more than one Nightsister clan is known at any one time, and they were always opposed by the rest of Dathomir.
The Witches lacked space technology but off-worlders would visit Dathomir in order to select suitable individuals as assassins or enforcers. Even during the planet's membership in the New Republic, the Witches still prefered to maintain their natural lifestyle
In 340 BBY, the Jedi training vessel Chu'unthor crashed on the surface of Dathomir. The now-numerous warrior-women attacked the vessel, and three Jedi Masters, Gra'aton, Yoda and Vulatan, were dispatched to rescue the stranded passengers. The Jedi's attempts to rescue their comrades and recover the ship were repelled with the death of fourteen of their number, but Yoda made a return visit to negotiate a settlement with a young Witch named Rell. In exchange for releasing the stranded passengers, Yoda gave Rell a box full of information on Jedi teaching methods, and told her to safeguard it until a Jedi Knight and his apprentice arrive to save Dathomir from the dark side using Witch clan calling themselves the Nightsisters.
In 54 BBY, the Sith Lord Darth Sidious came to Dathomir and was approached by a Nightsister named Kycina, who begged him to take her newborn child Maul away from the life of a Nightbrother. After sensing how powerful the child was, Sidious agreed and took him in as a tool to be used by both him and his master, Darth Plagueis. Thus, the infamous Darth Maul became the first known Sith Lord of Dathomirian heritage. However, Mother Talzin had plans for the young Zabrak in the future Clone Wars.
A few years before the outbreak of the Clone Wars, a Nightsister clan which had gained access to some off-world technology attempted to activate the ancient Kwa construct known as the Infinity Gate, but this was foiled by Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos, and Dathomir subsequently remained dissociated from wider civilization until the Galactic Empire discovered the planet in the course of their war against the Drackmarians. In 0 ABY, Palpatine ordered a new penal colony to be constructed on Dathomir, but when he discovered the power of the new Nightsisters leader Gethzerion, he ordered all the prison's starships destroyed, stranding the Imperial garrison and the convicts. The Nightsisters took the stranded Imperials as slaves and plotted ways to leave the planet, although a pair of Star Destroyers prevented the arrival or departure of any spaceships.
After the Battle of Endor, the Dathomir system was seized by Warlord Zsinj, who established shipyards around its moon, Koratas. In 8 ABY, however, Luke Skywalker, Han Solo, Chewbacca, Leia Organa, and Prince Isolder of Hapes arrived on the planet and helped to liberate the clans of the tyranny of the Nightsisters and the Warlord. Augwynne Djo of the Singing Mountain Clan was given legal title to the planet as nominal Queen by Han Solo, who won a deed to the planet, enabling her granddaughter Teneniel Djo to marry Isolder as an equal. Luke Skywalker also received from Rell the discs Yoda had left with her years earlier, and several Dathomiri later joined Skywalker's Jedi Praxeum to learn the ways of the Jedi.
Although Dathomir joined the New Republic, Imperial interests in the planet remained active. In 12 ABY an expedition under General Vit and Sigit Ranth was dispatched by the Imperial Remnant to investigate the Infinity Gate, and forged an alliance with a new Nightsister group, although they were foiled by the Jedi academy. In around 19 ABY, the Great Canyon Clan was infiltrated by an Imperial Intelligence operation led by Brakiss, designed to transform the clan into a recruiting pool for the Shadow Academy; under Brakiss' manipulation, the women of the Great Canyon Clan declared themselves Nightsisters and—more radically—accepted their men as equals.
This latest threat was eventually ended with the defeat of the Second Imperium, but soon after, Dathomir was attacked by the invading Yuuzhan Vong, although the planet resisted the attackers, and after the Battle of Yuuzhan'tar a permanent Jedi enclave was established under the leadership of Kirana Ti, Damaya, and Streen. Jacen Solo studied under the witches of Dathomir after the Yuuzhan Vong War, and the Solos and Skywalkers had adventures among the Witches after tracking Sith apprentice Vestara Khai to Dathomir after the Second Galactic Civil War.
- Singing Mountain Clan
- Frenzied River Clan
- Misty Falls Clan
- Red Hills Clan
- Dreaming River Clan
- Great Canyon Clan
- Raining Leaves Clan
- Broken Columns Clan
- Bright Sun Clan
- Red Mud Potters Clan
- Blue Coral Divers Clan
- Scissorfists Clan
- Howling Crag Clan
- The Illustrated Star Wars Universe
- Star Wars: The Roleplaying Game, Second Edition, Revised and Expanded
- Cracken's Threat Dossier
- The Essential Guide to Planets and Moons
- Star Wars Encyclopedia
- "Who's Who in the New Jedi Order"—Star Wars Insider 57
- The New Jedi Order Sourcebook
- The New Essential Chronology
- Star Wars: The Ultimate Visual Guide
- Star Wars Roleplaying Game Saga Edition Core Rulebook
- Jedi vs. Sith: The Essential Guide to the Force
- Threats of the Galaxy
- "The Toughest Ever Creatures"—Star Wars Insider 102
- The Complete Star Wars Encyclopedia
- The Essential Atlas
- The Jedi Path: A Manual for Students of the Force
- "Everything You Always Wanted to Know about the Nightsisters but Were Afraid to Ask"—Star Wars Insider 122
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars The Complete Season Three
- Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side
- Star Wars: The Card Game – Assault on Echo Base (Card: Daughters of Allya)
Notes and references
- The Courtship of Princess Leia
- Star Wars: Empire at War: Forces of Corruption
- Young Jedi Knights: Shadow Academy
- Book of Sith: Secrets from the Dark Side
- Darth Maul (2000) 4
- Star Wars: The Clone Wars: Jedi Alliance
- The Essential Atlas
- The New Essential Chronology
- Dawn of the Jedi: Force Storm 1
- Darth Bane: Path of Destruction