A casual viewing of Star Wars might make you think that people who wield the Force fall neatly into the category of Sith or Jedi. But, even before the word “Sith” become the dominant way of thinking about “Dark Jedi,” the expanded universe canon of Star Wars has been exploring alternative Force-paths beyond the ways of the Jedi. And, 29 years ago, in the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia, the Star Wars franchise dropped the first appearance of the Nightsisters of Dathomir, a group of Force Witches more formidable than many Jedi put together.
Now, in Ahsoka, the machinations of the Nightsisters — and one Witch in particular, Morgan Elsbeth — are central to the overall plot of the series. Here are the basics of who the Nightsisters are, what they want, and what might be in store for their future in Ahsoka.
A Brief History of the Nightsisters
A lot of the history of the Nightsisters is riddled with retcon, so trying to trace the in-universe origin of them can be tricky and contradictory. In our world, the Nightsisters were created for the novel The Courtship of Princess Leia in 1994, where they were the primary enemies (in that book) of Luke, Leia, and Han in the years right after the Battle of Endor, but before the rise of Thrawn in Heir to the Empire. Later, in The Clone Wars series, the Nightsisters were retconned into the prequel era, and existed apart from the Sith, even though they were adept at controlling the Dark Side of the Force. It was in this series that we learned (retroactively) that Darth Maul was a Dathomirian, and that many of his Dark Side skills came from the Nightsisters way before Palpatine took him on as a Sith apprentice.
Throughout The Clone Wars, the Nightsisters cause trouble for the Republic, Palpatine, and the Jedi all at once. They were not, however, directly aligned with the Sith at all, which is relevant for Ahsoka, because one of Morgan Elsbeth’s servants in this series seems to be an Inquisitor, which would imply loyalty to the Empire, and, in a way, means loyalty to the Sith.
How the Nightsisters Change Ahsoka
The second episode of Ahsoka is called “Toil and Trouble,” a reference to the witches in the Shakespeare play, Macbeth. Notably, when we first met Morgan Elsbeth in The Mandalorian Season 2, she was not then, identified as a Nightsister, which makes her appearance here technically the first time we’ve seen a Nightsister in a live-action Star Wars TV series or film. (However, the witch character of Charal in the movie Ewoks: Battle for Endor, was, in the Expanded Universe canon, retconned to be a Nightsister, too.)
The point is, the way in which the Nightsisters access the Force in Star Wars canon is pretty different than the Jedi and the Sith, mostly because it’s well, witchier. In “Toil and Trouble,” it’s pretty clear that Morgan Elsbeth is drawing upon deeper magic from beyond the knowledge of the Jedi, and even this galaxy. In fact, because the map to the “Pathway to Peridea,” comes from ancient Nightsisters, Star Wars might be getting ready to assert that some Nightsister canon predates Jedi history.
If magical uses of the Force via the Nightsisters are revealed to originate in another galaxy, or in a time when the Jedi weren’t fully formed, Ahsoka might be writing new Star Wars history. Just as Sabine and Ahsoka aren’t your traditional Jedi, this series is presenting Dark Side characters who aren’t monolithic Sith, either. And if the show continues to delve into the lore of the Nightsisters, we could be witnessing a brand new history of the Force entirely.