Magistrate Morgan Elsbeth’s introduction on The Mandalorian established her as a relevant character, but not an especially interesting one. The series revealed she’d been a close ally of Grand Admiral Thrawn and possibly knew how to find him. Only, the galaxy is full of Imperial loyalists who matter only because of their proximity to important figures. Now Ahsoka has turned an unremarkable, evil bureaucrat into one of the franchise’s most fascinating and intriguing villains. Morgan Elsbeth is not just any Empire sympathizer; she is a witch from a magical race that played an important role in the franchise’s past, one thought all but extinct years ago. Morgan Elsbeth is one of Star Wars‘ few remaining Nightsisters of Dathomir.
That makes her a powerful enemy of both the New Republic and the Jedi Order she blames for her coven’s demise. But who are Star Wars‘ Nightsisters of Dathomir, and how exactly does Morgan Elsbeth connect to them? Here’s everything we knew about that infamous clan before Ahsoka and everything new the show has revealed about those Force-using magic wielders.
Who Are the Nightsisters of Dathomir in the Star Wars Universe?
Dathomir is a remote, strange planet in the Outer Rims. Its nearby star covers the misty world in an unsettling dark red light. The world also features many swamps and weird vegetation, including forests of twisted, bent trees. Dathomir is also the native planet to lots of large, terrifying insects and creatures, like rancors. It’s also the home of a legendary Sith Lord, Darth Maul.
Maul was a member of the Nightbrothers, Zabrak warriors subservient to their female counterparts, the Nightsisters of Dathomir. That powerful, ancient matriarchal ruling coven of Force-using witches—capable of incredible spells, curses, possessing others, and more—controlled the planet and their brothers with dark magic. The Nightsisters’ magic manifests in swirling green light, as seen in Ahsoka‘s second episode when Morgan Elsbeth elevated the star map.
Where Did the Nightsisters of Dathomir Learn How to Use Magic?
Dathomir itself has a strong dark side presence in the Star Wars universe, which the Nightsisters used as the source of their magic. The planet also produced many dark side users. But the Nightsisters kept their world neutral from outside politics and galactic matters. The Jedi let the Nightsisters govern themselves and generally stayed out of Dathomir’s business. That worked both ways, as denizens of the planet rarely left their strange world and rarely allowed anyone to visit.
Before Ahsoka it seemed as though the Nightsisters possibly owed their existence to the Jedi. Roughly six centuries before Star Wars: Episode IV – A New Hope, an exiled Jedi warrior trained the Nightsisters in the ways of the Force. Legend says those who studied with her were the very first Nightsisters of Dathomir. Ahsoka has raised questions about this story. Was it a tall tale? Or did that Jedi Knight help them rediscover their lost magic? We don’t know, but in the end it was a former Jedi who destroyed them in the galaxy far, far away.
Why Happened to the Nightsisters During the Clone Wars?
The Nightsisters stayed neutral during the Clone Wars, even though they had a recent history with Darth Sidious. The Sith Lord had traded dark side secrets with the Nightsisters, though they themselves were not Sith. Their leader, Mother Talzin, let Sidious take her son Maul on as an apprentice in exchange.
The coven still remained neutral when one of their own, Asajj Ventress, became Count Dooku’s apprentice. But when Sidious, fearful of Ventress’ growing power, ordered Dooku to kill her, she returned to her home world. The Nightsisters accepted her back and swore vengeance on Dooku. To get close to the covert Sith Lord, they sent him a new apprentice secretly loyal to them. That double agent was Maul’s fellow Nightbrother, Savage Opress.
Become Like Shadows
In the end, though, it was Dooku who killed the Nightsisters. After their assassination attempts against him failed, Dooku ordered General Grievous to wipe the witches out. They held off the attack initially with the help of their resurrected zombie army of the dead, in a truly creepy display of their dark powers. But only a handful of witches survived the massacre.
The clan—including Mother Talzin, who had helped restore Darth Maul’s body and mind, turned Savage into a powerful killing machine, and died in a later encounter with Dooku—nearly returned from beyond the grave via their dark magic during the Clone Wars. However, despite their incredible abilities even in death, ultimately the Star Wars‘ Nightsisters all but disappeared from the galaxy far, far away.
At least one Nightsister did serve as an Inquisitor. Her fate after the Empire’s collapse is unknown. (That’s worth keeping in mind since we have yet to learn the real identity of Ahsoka‘s Inquisitor who served Morgan Elsbeth, herself one of the few surviving Nightsisters.)
What Did Ahsoka Reveal About Morgan Elsbeth’s Work for the Empire?
Prior to Ahsoka, we knew Morgan Elsbeth had been a major Imperial official who helped build the Empire’s fleet. Her mysterious past also hinted at lasting anger and resentment over the destruction of her planet.
Now we know she controlled a major Imperial port on Corellia, homeworld of Han Solo. The New Republic converted the operation to serve its needs, but Elsbeth’s former employees who’d been kept on to keep the port functioning were secretly loyal Imperialists, some out of sincere belief, others out of greed.
On Coredllia, those Imperialists also amassed gigantic hyperdrive cores for Elsbeth to use in her massive Eye of Scion, an enormous a hyperspace transport ring. Those machines allows X-Wings to travel through hyperspace. She needed all that firepower to travel deep across the universe on the Pathway to Peridea, an ancient planet in a spiral-shaped galaxy far, far away. It’s where she believed Thrawn was. Morgan Elsbeth seemed to know that because of an ancient map the Nightsisters created long ago. But Ahsoka revealed she also had help from her own sisters.
What Was the Map Morgan Elsbeth Used to Locate Thrawn, and How Did It Relate to the Nightsisters?
When Ahsoka Tano captured Morgan Elsbeth she used non-Jedi methods to get information out of her prisoner, who otherwise would not have betrayed Thrawn. That led Ahsoka to an ancient temple on Arcana built by the Nightsisters of Dathomir. (Which we later learned was adorned with images of the Nightsisters’ Great Mothers.) There Ahsoka found an encoded star map that Sabine Wren ultimately unlocked.
Morgan Elsbeth didn’t actually know where Thrawn was when Ahsoka captured her in The Mandalorian. She didn’t even know how to find that map among the ruins on Arcana. What Nightsister Morgan Elsbeth did know, thanks to her magical connection with the Force and her far away brethren, is that it would point the way to Thrawn, who had called out to her from across space and time.
Morgan Elsbeth explained what the map meant to her Force-user mercenaries, Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati. They’d met at the reflex point on the planet Seatos where the map showed them a path created by “an ancient people from a distant galaxy.”
Baylan called it the “Pathway to Peridea,” a seemingly mythological place. But Peridea was more than just a story told by the Children of the Jedi Temple. As Morgan Elsbeth had said, it was a tale “based on truth,” and she used the Eye of Scion to go there and find Thrawn.
That’s also where Morgan Elsbeth also found the original home of Star Wars‘ Nightsisters.
Who Are the Great Mothers on Ahsoka?
Ahsoka revealed the Nightsisters’ history goes back much farther in the Star Wars timeline than we ever knew—as does their importance. Tens of thousands of years before they called Dathomir home, the Nightsisters resided on Peridea, their native planet in a distant galaxy. They had traveled to Star Wars’ galaxy thanks to “the travelers,” their term for Purrgil. This timeline seems to place their arrival around the same time as the Jedi founding.
Not all made the move, though. Morgan Elsbeth met three Great Mothers on Peridea in Ahsoka‘s sixth episode. They had come to serve Thrawn, a man with nary the power they have. The Great Mothers had helped Thrawn call out to Lady Morgan. And their visions of the future had also helped both Elsbeth and Thrawn plan his Star Wars return. The trio also knew Ahsoka Tano was on her way. However, they did not foresee every “strand” of fate, as the Great Mothers did not anticipate Sabine Wren’s arrival on the Eye of Sion. As powerful as they are, the Great Mothers have blind spots. They also know fear.
Why Are the Great Mothers Fleeing Peridea with Their Dead in Ahsoka?
Baylan Skoll says there is a power on Peridea so incredible the Great Mothers themselves fear it. They’re certainly acting that way. Whatever it is that calls out to the former Jedi in this Star Wars series, the Great Mothers aren’t answering. Instead, they are working for Thrawn to not only get him off the planet, they are going with him and taking all their dead Nightsisters with them.
Why do the Great Mothers want to leave their ancient home on Ahsoka? Why are witches powerful enough to resurrect the dead so worried about taking their deceased with them? And what does this mean for the clan’s future in Star Wars? What about Morgan Elsbeth’s potential role in the coming First Order? She thinks fate and Thrawn guarantee a resurrection of the Empire she never gave up on.
If she were any other Imperial loyalist, we might doubt her. But The Clone Wars fans know to never underestimate a powerful, angry Nightsisters with a purpose, which is especially true for Morgan Elsbeth and the Great Mothers who still prowl the universe. They are more than Thrawn’s trusted allies. They are witches who hate the Jedi. Thanks to Ahsoka, the Nightsisters are once again among Star Wars‘ most dangerous—and most interesting—groups.
This post originally published on August 22, 2023.