The Runic Language of the Sith

For this post, I wanted to go over the ancient Sith runes that have shown in up a number of visual mediums throughout the last few years of storytelling. I’ve been interested in them for a while and I decided there is finally enough information about them to fill a post.

The first appearance of what would become the Sith script we are familiar with was in concept art by Ralph McQuarrie of the Yavin 4 temples, seen in The Illustrated Star Wars Universe, written by Kevin J. Anderson in 1995. Tales of the Jedi, also written by Anderson around the same time, established a Sith writing but the artwork essentially depicted it was squiggles. I, Jedi, from Michael A. Stackpole in 1998, confirmed that the temples of Yavin 4 were adorned with Sith writing, implying the runes from the artwork were indeed Sith in origin. The Written Word, an online article from 2010 about Star Wars alphabets, said that the writing from McQuarrie’s artwork was a Massassi one, simplified from the High Sith writing.

One of the pieces of McQuarrie art that first used the runes

In 2014, the final episode of The Clone Wars, Sacrifice, depicted the script prominently on the tomb of Darth Bane. Released shortly thereafter, the Rebels episode Path of the Jedi shows the writing inside the Jedi Temple on Lothal. The Rebels Visual Guide: Epic Battles reference book says that the script in the Lothal temple was known to Force users of the past, both dark and light. In Twilight of the Apprentice, the script can be seen in numerous places on Malachor. Ahsoka recognizes it and identifies it as “the old tongue.”

The script seen inside the Lothal Jedi Temple

Battlefront II, released in 2017, contains the first instance of the script actually meaning something when translated (though as of the time of the game’s release, no public resource had actually provided the alphabet to translate it with): a shrine near Maz’s Castle on Takodana has “Robbs Ely” on it, revealing it to be the grave of a character who worked at Maz’s Castle and died in the A Recipe for Death short story. Battlefront II also shows the script on the outside of Yavin temples, true to its original depiction in the McQuarrie art.

The runes on Yavin 4 in Battlefront II

The second instance of the script actually translating to something came in an update to The Old Republic MMORPG: Jedi ruins on Ossus contain the script. When translated using the alphabet that again was not initially available, the letters are actually a version of the Jedi Code.

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The runes in The Old Republic

It wasn’t until 2019 that the alphabet key was in a released product, inside the covers of the Jedi and Sith journals sold at Galaxy’s Edge. The script can also be seen in the Ashas Ree temple in the Resistance episode The Relic Raiders, and throughout Zeffo areas and tombs in Jedi: Fallen Order.

The alphabet given in the Galaxy’s Edge journals

In The Rise of Skywalker something that looks very much like the script (there are at least a couple directly lifted letters) can be seen on Ochi’s dagger and the film affirms that it is Sith writing, banned by the Republic long prior. The film’s Visual Dictionary reveals the runes on the dagger are ur-Kittât, a nod to the Kittât Sith writing system developed for the Book of Sith in 2012. The Visual Dictionary also reveals that the script was used by the Sith Eternal cult. The book identifies it as both Sith runes and Old Tongue, and provides an inscription detailing the Rule of Two with the same font used for the previous shows and games.

Ochi’s dagger as presented in the Visual Dictionary

To be clear, almost every single use of the runes beside the three exceptions is just gibberish, even if there is mostly a consistent font. Though we know now that it is the ur-Kittât of the Sith, it seems clear that it had more widespread use by groups like the Jedi and Zeffo. Maybe we’ll end up learning more about it and its use as we travel deeper into the past in future media.


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Numidian Prime

I like Star Wars. And Marvel too, to a lesser degree.

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