THE ACOLYTE Introduces a New Coven of Force Witches

Spoiler Alert

In episodes three and seven of The Acolyte, we get extended flashbacks to the childhoods of Osha and Mae (Leah and Lauren Brady) on the planet Brendock. We see they were the only children raised by a coven of female witches, led by Mother Aniseya (Jodi Turner-Smith), who seemingly “created” them via supernatural means. It seems Aniseya’s partner, Mother Koril, carried the twins for her, but the how and why remains a mystery. These witches, whose sigil is a white, dotted circle painted on their heads, view the Force differently, referring to it as something no one can wield. Instead, they view it as “a thread that can be pulled.” Although they never name this coven, they are certainly not the first Force users, primarily women, who use the term “witch” to describe themselves in Star Wars.

Mother Aniseya (Jodi Turner-Smith) on the Acolyte, with her coven of witches.

The First Force Witches in Star Wars Canon

The notion of Force witches began decades ago in non-canon Star Wars lore. “Mind witches” bedeviled Luke Skywalker in Star Wars comics in the early ’80s. However, the most famous Force witches first appeared nearly thirty years ago, in the Legends novel The Courtship of Princess Leia. That 1994 book by Dave Wolverton dealt with Han Solo and Leia’s marriage after Return of the Jedi, and was the first introduction to the Nightsisters of Dathomir, not to mention, the planet Dathomir itself.

Cover art for the 1994 novel The Courtship of Princess Leia, and an illustration of the Nighsisters of Dathomir from Legends.

In Legends lore, the Nightsisters were founded by an exiled Jedi, some 600 years before A New Hope. When this female ex-Jedi was exiled to Dathomir, she trained Force-sensitive women on the planet into a coven of witches, neither Sith nor Jedi. A handful of Expanded Universe merchandise even showed what the Nightsisters looked like. Some of this later informed their in-canon looks later on. However, by the time of Star Wars: The Clone Wars, George Lucas decided to canonize the concept of witches innately powerful in the Force. He largely tossed out the backstory of the Nightsisters in the novels and made his own.

The Nightsisters in The Clone Wars and The Mandalorian

In the Clone Wars, they eventually reveal Count Dooku’s dark side apprentice, Asajj Ventress, a primary villain in the series, was a Nightsister from the planet Dathomir. During this prequel era, the Nightsisters channeled the dark side of the Force into something akin to magic. They felt their power most strongly on their homeworld. So they rarely, if ever, left Dathomir. That changed when the coven came under the sway of Mother Talzin, who collaborated with Darth Sidious during his climb to power. In fact, Talzin gave her son to Sidious to train as a Sith. That child grew up to become Darth Maul.

A hoode Asajj Ventress stands in front of Mother Talzin on the red lighted Dathomir

In the Clone Wars episode “Massacre,” we witness the genocide of the Nightsisters, orchestrated by Count Dooku and General Grievous. Almost all of the Nightsisters die in this brutal attack. Even when the Nightsisters cast spells to resurrect their dead as warriors, they all fall in battle. We later discover that at least two girls survived the genocide. One was Asajj Ventress, and the other would grow up to become Morgan Elsbeth. Elsbeth (Diana Lee Inosanto) would first appear in season two of The Mandalorian, as a warlord steward of the planet in the New Republic era. She’d later play a central role in Star Wars: Ahsoka, where they further explored her ties to the Nightsisters.

The Great Mothers of Peridea

The Great Mothers summoning the blade of talzin for Morgan Elsbeth in Ahsoka

In season one of Ahsoka, Elsbeth returned, as we learn that the witches of Dathomir actually originated in another galaxy, on the planet Peridea. Members of their sect traveled to the main Star Wars galaxy, presumably via Purgill, thousands of years prior. There, they established an offshoot clan of Nightsisters on Dathomir. Although they massacre the clan on Dathomir, the descendents of the original witches still live on that planet. Morgan is attempting to jump to another galaxy to find her master, Grand Admiral Thrawn. When she finds him, he’s not alone. He’s accompanied by several Great Mothers on the planet. The Great Mothers attempt to help Grand Admiral Thrawn return to his proper galaxy.

The Witches in The Acolyte Are a New Breed of Force Witches

Mother Aniseya (Jodi Turner-Smith) leads her coven on The Acolyte.

So does the coven in The Acolyte have a connection to the Nightsisters? They don’t seem particularly dark-sided so far. Mother Aniseya mentions that the coven was exiled to the planet Brendock. But exiled by whom? This is pre-Empire after all. The Nightsisters on Dathomir seem to more or less co-exist with the other clans, as we saw in Tales of the Empire. Perhaps they singled out Mother Aniseya’s clan for unknown reasons, forcing them to leave Dathomir. It’s possible they fought the Nightsisters with light-side magic, and lost, leaving them no choice but to flee.

The Acolyte showrunner Leslye Headland explained several key differences between the coven on Brendock and the Nightsisters, telling Nerdist that these witches “basically want to stay out of everyone’s way and aren’t grasping for any sort of power. They’re not getting involved in any kind of political skirmish or any war movement. That would be the last thing they would want to do.” In short, they just wanted their own little piece of the sky on Brendock, hoping no one from the Republic would discover them.

Similar to the Nightsisters, there seems to be a visual component to the use of their powers. When the Jedi or Sith use the Force, it’s invisible. When the Nighsisters and the coven from Brendock invoke their powers, there’s a visual element to it. We see it as a green mist for the Nightsisters. And for the coven on Brendock, it’s more like vibrations in the air, like ripples in the water. According to Headland, “The Nightsisters utilize magic exclusively. With my witches, it’s a bit of a hybrid. They’re definitely dabbling in the Force and calling the Force by a different name. They’re trying to cultivate their sensitivity to it without having to be trained by the Jedi.”

Mother Koril in her purple robes On The Acolyte

Having more than one coven of witches in the Star Wars galaxy makes sense, however. Other cultures would perceive the Force differently, and wield it in different ways. The galaxy is a big place after all. Although we see this coven destroyed, we have a feeling they are not the only coven of similar witches in the galaxy. Or maybe even on Brendock. We are sure to learn more in the remaining episodes of The Acolyte.

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