Star Wars has always featured a hodgepodge of mythic and religious archetypes from around the world.
Now, however, there’s a new addition to the formula that has some parents and media personalities crying foul.
Critics argue that the new series “Star Wars: Ahsoka” has introduced a whole host of barely veiled pagan influences to the Star Wars canon.
Has paganism come to a galaxy far, far away?
If you’ve only seen the original Star Wars trilogy, you might be surprised to learn that the scope of the Star Wars lore has greatly expanded during Disney’s tenure as the franchise’s shepherds. First, there was just the Force and Jedis. Then, the Sith. Now… magick and witches are in the mix.
Episode six of “Star Wars: Ahsoka” introduced a trio of witches, dark magick practitioners, named after the Greek fates. They are masters of dark magick, which offers them powerful supernatural powers derived from the natural world. “Magick is a living thing,” one character tells another. “It arises from the blood and trees and mist.”
Pagan influences dot the landscape of Ahsoka like hairs on Watto’s chin (any prequel fans out there?):
- The new show features characters with names derived straight out of Norse mythology, like Lord Baylan Skoll and Shin Hati.
- The Inquisitor Marrok’s name comes from Arthurian myth, itself inspired by pagan legends. Their symbol is the triquetra, or trinity knot, used by the ancient Celts to represent the triple goddess.
- There is what appears to be a pagan baptism late in the series, as Morgan Elsbeth pledges herself to the sisterhood and their magickal and ancient way of life.
- You can also throw a little New Orleans voodoo in there too. Characters engage in necromancy, conjurings, and voodoo throughout the series; For the first time ever, there is an entire army of zombie stormtroopers.
Some fans are loving the inclusion of pagan symbols and beliefs in the Star Wars universe:
Join the Dark Side?
However, some critics – particularly people of Christian faith – are arguing that Star Wars has gone to the dark side.
Ahsoka is full of “some of the most spiritually-dark, anti-god, demonic and downright heretical scenes in media history” argues Charisma Media, a Christian-oriented news website.
Ben Christenson of The Federalist lambasts the pagan elements as “especially bizarre considering the rest of the show feels like it’s made for kids,” calling the rituals performed by the witches “genuinely creepy” and the pagan baptism at the end a “Satanic distortion.”
One America News host Kara McKinney also had harsh words for the show, describing it as an attempt to replace Christianity wholesale in the minds of children. "Once again, it sounds like a fun family theme of some nondescript 'Force' is now being retrofitted for adults with a penchant for darker themes," she argued. "It really is sad."
More Religious Representation?
It would seem that Pagan influence is, indeed, all over Ahsoka. But is that a bad thing?
Some fans say it's a natural progression for a world that has always embraced a wide variety of religious themes. Over the years, Star Wars has consistently incorporated earthly religions, myths, and mysticism from around the globe to build its own universe.
The Arthurian hero, a yin and yang of light and dark straight out of Taoism, the contemplative and meditative Buddhist-like Jedis – these are themes that come up over and over throughout Star Wars storylines.
Heck, there's even a messianic “chosen one,” borne of a virgin birth, plucked straight from Christianity.
"There was no father," says Anakin's mother Shmi Skywalker in "Star Wars Episode One: The Phantom Menace," when asked by Jedi master Qui-Gon Jinn on her son's parentage. "I carried him, I gave birth, I raised him," she says. "I can't explain what happened."
(To further drive home the connection between Christianity and the Skywalker clan, both Jesus Christ and Luke Skywalker are depicted with really, really great hair).
The point being: fans of the series can argue that world religions have been a part of Star Wars from the beginning. Is this any different?
Does including pagan messages pose a threat to audiences, as critics claim? Or is it only natural to add another faith to the mix?