You Seek Knowledge: Nightsister Magick, Darth Sidious, and the Missing Force-Sensitive Children
Over the last few years Star Wars has introduced us to the idea that the Force is viewed in different ways across the galaxy. A recent example of this came in an episode of Star Wars: Rebels when we learned about Lasat culture. Throughout the course of the episode we see the Lasat mystic, Chava, refer to the Force using the name Ashla. She admits to Ezra that the Ashla and the Force are the same thing, just viewed in a different way. But this was not our first exposure to the Force being practiced in a way than we are not used to seeing. The first time was during The Clone Wars when we were introduced to the Nightsisters.
When Asajj Ventress returned home to Dathomir we were given a small glimpse into what the Nightsisters refer to as the dark magicks. At first it appears that their powers are limited to healing and deception (becoming translucent to attack Count Dooku for example), but the very next episode we see that their powers can physically and mentally change a person when Talzin turns Savage Opress into a monster. Another example of Mother Talzin using the magicks in a horror movie-esque way is when she reanimates the corpses of previously deceased Nightsister warriors to defend against the Separatist attack of Dathomir. While some of the things we see Mother Talzin do appear to be optical illusions or parlor tricks, changing a man into a hulking beast or bringing the bodies of the dead “back to life” are more that simple magicks. It is the dark side of the Force.
Mother Talzin reveals that many years before the Clone Wars started she was in contact with Darth Sidious and they exchanged teachings in regards to the magicks and the dark side of the Force (more on how Darth Sidious may have taken advantage of his new magick knowledge later). It also isn’t clear how much scientific understanding the Nightsisters had, specifically in regards to the midi-chlorians, but if Mother Talzin had gained that knowledge from Darth Sidious that there is something physical within every living being which allows him/her to connect to the Force/magicks, then she would be very tempted to find out how she could use that to her benefit.
She might play and tinker–more than likely in disgusting ways–to find new methods in which to use her powers. Assuming her magicks tap into the Living Force, she would now be able to connect directly into the midi-chlorians of the people she is manipulating. That is how she can take a strong (but normal) man and change his body into a Star Wars version of Evil Hercules. She can now “turn on” the midi-chlorians in a dead body by manipulating the Living Force and control what is left of the body long after the mind has left it. Her powers are no longer reserved to illusions and cheap tricks; now she can exert her will on a much more unnatural level.
While these examples are disturbing, none of these things seem to take a toll physically or mentally on Mother Talzin until she helps bring Maul (formally Darth) back to his former sane self. Considering how far gone Maul’s body and mind were when Savage Opress found him, the amount of power and energy that she would need to fix him would have been tremendous. Once Talzin had healed Maul, we see her disappear into the green smoke that was common when she was using intense Nightsister magick.
The next time we see Mother Talzin is during one of the final episodes of The Clone Wars when she is revealed to be instructing the Frangawl cult to take the Living Force out of the bodies of the Dagoyan Masters. At first we don’t realize the purpose of this, but Talzin states that she needs the Force essence to be combined with a ritual to give her great power. In the comic series Darth Maul: Son of Dathomir we learn that Mother Talzin sacrificed part of her essence, her place in the Living Force, to save Maul. This act, either out of selfless love for her son or desire to add a new pawn to control in her quest for revenge, cost Talzin full use of her physical form, resulting in her existing between the normal world and the Shadow Realm as she called it. Her manipulations of the Frangawl cult were her attempt to collect enough power to be able to regain her full physical form and become strong enough to confront Darth Sidious.
Unfortunately for Mother Talzin her final attempt to regain her form was successful for about three minutes before, in her weakened state, sacrificing herself to allow Maul time to escape Darth Sidious and his minions. Her storyline provided us with a few unique perspectives and interesting stories, such as her role in bring back Maul (allowing him to become a three-dimensional character) and being a foil to Darth Sidious while he was still working in the shadows during the Clone Wars. But potentially the most important thing we are exposed to is the idea that she had the knowledge and ability to use the essence and Living Force from another being to strengthen her abilities and connection to the Force.
Yes, her plan failed. She was not able to use this knowledge and the Frangawl cult to give her her body back, but there is another person involved in this that we need to consider. We know the bad blood between Talzin and Darth Sidious started when he took a young Maul away from Dathomir. But before taking Maul, Darth Sidious and Talzin were allies who shared wisdom and secrets about the magicks and the Force. While I think it’s safe to assume they did not reveal ALL their secrets, it is likely that many useful things were shared between them, including how to transfer the essence of the Living Force and put it into a new vessel to increase that being’s power in the Force.
Now what would Darth Sidious do with this knowledge? We know that he achieved his level of dictatorship not through an epic war between Jedi versus Sith with years of clashing lightsabers, but through political manipulations. Having extra Force powers would do him little good when it came to taking over different aspects of the government. And as cool as SUPER SITH LIGHTNING may look in theory (if he desired to amp up his voltage), I doubt Darth Sidious would waste such strong Force power on trivial physical tricks. So what exactly would Darth Sidious do with extra power after learning of the ability to steal Living Force essence? The answer, more than likely, is revealed when we examine one of the biggest mysteries from The Clone Wars which has never been outright answered.
The mystery of the Force-sensitive children which Darth Sidious kidnaps, and continues to do so during Rebels.
Some people may believe that the children would grow up to become Inquisitors, and while that may be a possibility for some of them, the implication is that Inquisitors are made up of mostly former Jedi or dark side users. Sadly, the fate of becoming an Inquisitor is preferable to what more than likely befell the children. Using the secrets he learned from Mother Talzin, Darth Sidious could perform a similar ritual as the Frangawl cult, killing the children to take their essence from the Living Force.
What would be the purpose of gaining greater power in the Living Force? Clearly Darth Sidious did not need to gain a body like Talzin, but there is another use for increasing his power. By being stronger in the Living Force he would have the ability to connect deeper into the well of the Force which would allow him not only to be able to have a degree of foresight (as he likes to remind Vader and Luke in Return of the Jedi), but also the ability to cloud the vision of the Jedi by keeping the Force out of balance. We see him actively doing this in the final episode of The Clone Wars when he and Yoda battle within the Force. At the time Yoda is seeking knowledge of the identity of the mystery Sith, but Darth Sidious sees an opportunity to defeat Yoda through the Force when he actively engages the Jedi Master in the vision.
Yoda may have expected this moment to strictly be a way to gain information, but Darth Sidious had been gathering his strength in preparation for a meeting like this. He not only uses his Sith training, but potentially the extra power he had collected in the Living Force to make him strong enough to battle actively within a Force vision. Although he was not strong enough to defeat Yoda at that time (but he does manage to keep his identity secret), once the Jedi are murdered during Order 66 the Force is now out of balance enough that Darth Sidious now longer has the light side fighting against his control over the Force. This would allow him to have greater control over his ability to see the future, or at least as much as it would be possible within an ever changing and fluid Force. But to sustain the level of power he might need to see the future he would need to keep “refilling” his extra force reservoir, hence stealing the children during the Rebels time period.
When Darth Sidious tells Anakin that the dark side of the Force is a pathway to many abilities some consider to be unnatural he REALLY isn’t kidding. Through dark side magicks Talzin and Darth Sidious are able to bring dead bodies to life, turn a man into a monster, steal the Force out of a living being, battle within the Force, and see the future. It is possible that Darth Sidious may have learned these tricks from someone else, but it appears that Mother Talzin taught Darth Sidious the knowledge he needed to increase his strength in the dark side exponentially. Who would have thought that being the mother of Darth Maul wasn’t the worst thing Talzin could have done?