A Teth B'omarr monastery. How's that for hokey, Han?
Despite Vader’s “sad devotion to that ancient Jedi religion,” casual Star Wars fans might think that the Evil Empire crushed all religions from existence throughout that galaxy far, far away. But we find your lack of faith disturbing. There are many races, many worlds and many orders, cults and ways found throughout the official Star Wars cannon. Here’s an intro to a handful of those who follow the Ways-of-the-Not-Jedi.
The B'omarr Order: Remember the Mechanical Spiders that roamed the halls of Jabba’s Palace in Return of the Jedi? Those weren’t just any old android arachnids—they actually housed the enlightened brains of the B’omarr Monks, who felt that to achieve true knowledge of the mysteries of the universe one must be unencumbered by physical sensations of a regular body.
Arriving on Tatooine a long, long time before Uncle Owen and Aunt Beru had even heard of blue milk, the monks chose the uninhabited desert planet to better isolate themselves from all emotion and feeling. They felt such a solitary existence was all the better to not only understand the galaxy but enhance the power of their minds.
After building what would hundreds of years later become Jabba’s Palace, the monks devoted themselves to shedding personal comforts, then speech and eventually their bodies. Highly trained surgeons would carefully remove an enlightened monk’s brain, place it and isolate it in a nutrient-rich jar. The bodiless monk was now free to spend eternity navel gaze sans navel.
Jabba’s lackey Bib Fortuna (the easily manipulated alien Luke uses the Jedi Mind Trick on in Episode VI) had his brain forcibly removed before he’d reached enlightenment, whereby his brain mentally screamed for several days, without pausing for breath. He deserved it, we say.
Ancient Order of Pessimists: This gloomy religious group of hermits most definitely see life as a glass half empty. They spend their days on the volcanic planet of Maryx Minor foretelling the worst, expecting the worst, and inevitably, experiencing the worst.
One morning the High Hermit of the hopeless gathers his brethren and declares, "Brothers of the Ancient Order of Pessimists hear me! I cast the bones this morning and the portents were grave!" Indeed. They shortly find themselves caught in the middle of a battle between Boba Fett and Darth Vader himself. The ensuing carnage saw the death of six members of the brotherhood, who were given a proper burial by being dumped into a pool of lava.
However, shortly after the battle the High Hermit had an epiphany, reasoning that such a small loss of life for such a fierce battle was a sign to look on the brighter side of things. Shortly after preaching such an outlook of optimism, Vader had the entire order vaporized with his Star Destroyer’s turbolasers.
Xi Char: Much like today’s Apple devotees, the followers of Xi Char feel that paradise can be glimpsed through technology. The hive-minded Xi Charrians believe that all life is merely a shadow of the glorious afterlife, but their devotion to, believe it or not, high-precision machinery, allows them to see the paradise to come.
Working tirelessly to create experimental starships and engine technologies, most Xi Charrian factories double as high holy places of worship. So important is industriousness (“the deity is in the details”), that if a Xi Charrian were injured and unable to work, he voluntarily exiles himself so that others may not see his sinful state.
Dim-U or Cult of Bantha: Ever wonder why Banthas, the preferred transport of Tatooine’s Sand People, are found on planets throughout the Star Wars galaxy? Members of the Dum-U sect felt that such a far-reaching presence was a message from a higher power, a message whose deciphering would usher in an “Age of Bounty.” Dim-U monks held the “Revered Bantha” as holy and would neither eat them nor wear their hides.
While based in Mos Eisley, Dim-U monks preached their message of the “Horned Ones” on hundreds of planets. When not extolling the virtues of the “Enduring Bantha” they were skilled at hacking various computer systems, mainframes and installing illegal upgrades to ships. Apparently the monks felt the divine message they were trying to decipher did not frown on altering ship transponder codes.
Cult of the Power Droids: First making an appearance in the original Star Wars Episode IV: A New Hope, this slow-moving trashcan with feet wandered inside the Jawa’s Sandcrawler endlessly uttering “Gonk” repeatedly. This particular power droid spawned an early Internet movement of “Gonkites” back when people were still using dial-up to access the exciting text-only world of Usenet.
When they weren’t fervently praying for George Lucas to please, please make a fourth Star Wars movie, the Gonkites argued the ultimate divinity of the Gonk power droid (or the preferred “G*nk” to avoid blasphemy), the divine puppetmaster whose powers transcended both time and space.
This divine manipulator of all the events that occurred in the original trilogy became enough of a phenom that it received an official nod in Star Wars cannon. Legend has it that two power droids travel the galaxy soliciting donations for this particular religious organization, like a couple of automaton prosletyzers.
Temple of the Beatific Razor: Already known throughout the galaxy as merciless gangsters, whose tendency toward violence was surpassed only by their desire for personal prestige, the Swoke Swokes' ire was fully provoked by corporate oppression on their home planet of Makem Te.
Responding to environmental and cultural changes forced upon them by the Evil Empire, the Swoke Swokes responded with the Temple of the Beatific Razor, a violent religious sect that targeted local businesses, offworlders and even their own government.
The First Glorious Assassin of the Temple of the Beatific Razor and his Razor Penitents would occasionally show their devotion to the order by stripping large swaths of flesh from their bodies during battle. This tactic was very useful in intimidating the enemy on the battlefield while being relatively harmless, as the Swoke Swokes could regenerate lost body parts—handy, when your religion involves mandatory mortification.
Shane Mooney is a Northern California writer who was a nerd long before being a nerd was cool. Though he still gets beat up by the same high school bullies at every class reunion.