Star Wars: A Wayward Eye
“The trials are difficult. Many try and fail, so I advise you not to be complacent.”
―Grand Master Satele Shan, to Shigar Konshi
The Jedi Trials, also known as the Trials of Knighthood, Jedi rituals, or Jedi ceremonies, were the challenges by which Jedi Padawans were given as pre-requisites for achieving Knighthood, and were sometimes retaken by Knights to earn the rank of Jedi Master. The trials were administered by the Jedi High Council to any Padawan they deemed worthy of becoming a Jedi. The primary trials were a set of five, and were the Trial of Skill, the Trial of Courage, the Trial of the Flesh, the Trial of Spirit, and the Trial of Insight. In addition, the Council could assign substitute tests or use an exceptionally trying mission in place of the traditional tests. Like the Initiate Trials, these tests were required to be taken in order to proceed to the next rank in the Jedi Order.
The Jedi trials have been a integral tradition within the Jedi Order since its conception on Tython. Before the formation of the High Council and the mainstreaming of the Jedi academy’s teachings, the Trials were highly informal, administered by a Padawan’s master and known to be quite harsh and sometimes impossible. As time passed, the trials became slightly more lax and saw a dramatic drop in standards during the New Sith Wars. To rectify this, the High Council formalized five tests following the Ruusan Reformation that would be given at the Coruscant Jedi Temple, within the Jedi Trials Chamber. Deep in the Temple, the specialized chamber was equipped with a state-of-the-art hologram projector capable of producing tangible simulacrums of ancient Jedi and Sith. In addition to the combat aspect of the Trials, the room was designed to test other skills, many of which were created to replicate the uncertainty a Jedi would face in the field.
Overseen by the High Council and the current battlemaster, the Trials were over once all tests were completed. If the Padawan was successful in completing the series of challenges, the Master would then prepare their apprentice for the Knighting ceremony. As the scheduled ceremony approached, the Padawan would spend an entire day in deep meditation within the preparation room high in the Tranquillity Spire. As the time came to ascend to the Hall of Knighthood, the Padawan would enter the darkened chamber and kneel before the Grand Master of the Order and have their Padawan braid severed. Should the apprentice be unsuccessful in completing the trials, they were permitted to take them again until they passed.
Within the text of The Jedi Path, the long dead Chief Librarian Restelly Quist recorded a story she had heard of where several Trials were accomplished at the same time. Apparently, while in the eighth hour of the Trial of Skill, three Padawans partaking in the Trials simultaneously were faced with another trial each. Fighting an endless horde of holographic warriors, one student completed their Trial of Insight and Skill once they realized that the warriors were illusions. The second defeated foe after foe while she believed her life to be threatened; thus passing the Trials of Courage and Skill. The third student failed to complete the Trials after being overwhelmed by fatigue.
Exceptions were sometime made in the passing of the trials, but they were far and few between. In times of turmoil, the trials could be bypassed at the discretion of the High Council if the Padawan had shown great skill, courage, or dedication to the Order. In such cases the apprentice was considered to have passed the trials through their various accomplishments, negating the need for formal testing. Immediately following the re-centralizing of the academy on Coruscant, Padawan Johun Othone was made a Knight by Master Valenthyne Farfalla for his courageous service during the New Sith Wars and continued dedication to the Order, even after the death of his Master, Jedi Lord Hoth. In the latter days of the Order, both Obi-Wan Kenobi and Anakin Skywalker earned the rank of Jedi Knight without participating in formal trials, but rather passed their trials through their actions: Kenobi, through his duel with the Sith Lord Darth Maul, and Skywalker for his heroism during the Clone Wars.
When the Order was disbanded in 19 BBY by the Galactic Empire, the Trials came to a halt, lost to memory for several decades as the Galactic Civil War tore the galaxy in half. At the war’s end, Yoda, one of the few Jedi to survive the Great Jedi Purge taught Luke Skywalker the ways of the old Order. While no normal trials were performed, Skywalker knighted himself and founded a new Order. Incorporating what little he knew of the old ways with techniques he found helpful, Skywalker’s inaugural class were required to tour in the ruins of the Massassi temples of Yavin IV, demonstrate correct usage of Force powers in order to overcome obstacles, as well as to show off combat techniques with training remotes and Jedi training droids. They were also given missions to complete both with their Master and on their own.
During the vicious Second Galactic Civil War, Knights were known to have become so due to their great achievements during the war, and were able to forgo any formal trials. The survivors of the Mission to Myrkr, who were dubbed Jedi Knights in a formal ceremony, are an example of this. As time passed and the Order was able to build off of recovered holocrons, the New Order was able to once more hold formal trials.
Trials of Knighthood in the Old Jedi Order
Trial of Skill
The Trial of Skill was one of the oldest trials in the battery of tests preferred by the Order. While the test did consist of numerous displays of lightsaber technique, the main thing that the battlemaster looked for when judging a potential Knight was their ability to avoid distraction through self-discipline. Before its formalization, the trial was made up of acrobatic feats, while using the Force to levitate objects in the midst of storms. As the test was incorporated into the more standard academy testing, the High Council required that each participant face off against some form of adversary, though the individual or individuals they faced varied in species or allegiance, and could be made of flesh and blood or a clever simulacrum created from archived data. In some cases, Padawans were forced to compete with the battlemaster in a duel, or even the Grand Master, and outlast their attacks. Other students might face many opponents, some of them attacking with a lightsaber, others manipulating perception or altering the environment in the chamber. Additionally, the Council could opt to use the simulacrum program and send any number of Sith Lords to test the stamina of a young Padawan.
During the history of the Order, there have been many notable tests given, displaying ingenuity on several levels. One of the earliest noted attempts at the test was by young Rouggle during the Golden Age of the Old Republic. A contemporary of Thame Cerulian, Rouggle did not pass the test as the manipulation of the tiles beneath his feet caused him to fall, ending the test. One of the most interesting cases was the testing of Kazdan Paratus, who was able to defeat his opponent by creating a series of droids in a short period of time. The last recorded test was given during the days of the Empire, when Sith Lord Darth Vader sent his secret Apprentice Starkiller to the Temple to face the simulacrum of Darth Desolus. Using his advanced skills to wear down the projection, the assassin used the Force to pull a statue down on the holographic foe, completing the test.
Trial of Courage
Because courage was a vital quality in a Jedi, the Trial of Courage was seen as appropriate to give even to those who didn’t specialize in combat. Because it was important to remain in the dark about what one would face during the test, most Jedi did not divulge details on individual tests. Before the test was mainstreamed, battlefield heroics or facing down a Sith Lord qualified as passing. But due to the nature of the Republic’s Golden Age, the Council required a different sort of challenge in order to stay relevant. The Council could simulate a dangerous mission in the Trials Chamber, or send a student on an actual mission out of the Temple. These tests had the potential to be deadly and extremely challenging, illustrating why the Council did not just let anyone take the Trials.
Notable tests included the assignment of Darsha Assant to recover the Black Sun intelligence agent Oolth from the bowels of the Coruscant Underworld. While she managed to grab him initially, Oolth wound up dying. Assant was later intercepted by Sith Lord Darth Maul and killed; failing her Trials. Later, Padawan Obi-Wan Kenobi would face Maul after the Zabrak Sith had killed Kenobi’s master, the venerable Qui-Gon Jinn. Kenobi killed Maul on Naboo, passing the Trials in the eyes of the Council. Kenobi’s Padawan would also forgo formal Trials; the Council deemed Anakin Skywalker’s bravery throughout the Clone Wars as sufficient.
Trial of the Flesh
The Trial of the Flesh was the most trying test given at the Temple. Involving the apprentice overcoming great physical pain, hardship, or loss, the test sometimes resulted in death or dismemberment. Throughout history, the Trial was known to involve bloodshed of some form. At the height of the Pius Dea Era, the Order subjected its apprentices to burst of energy applied directly to the skin, known as The Burning. While this type of torture was abandoned by the Order, battle scars were accepted as passage during the New Sith Wars. It wasn’t that uncommon for Padawans who defeated a Lord of the Sith on the battlefield to pass the Trials of the Flesh, Skill and Courage at the same time. During the Arkanian Revolution, Squire Kinning lost an arm in order to pass the tests. During the Golden Age, the Council saw the separation of Master and Padawan at the end of their journey together as a significant trial, as the relationship was usually very close.
During the Clone Wars, Padawan Anakin Skywalker lost his right forearm during a duel with Count Dooku on Geonosis. While this was out of recklessness, Master Kenobi convinced the Council to accept this as the Trial of the Flesh.10 During the Dark Times, Sith assassin Starkiller faced and defeated the simulacrum representation of his father in the High Council Chambers of the Coruscant Temple. In the reformed Order during the New Republic era, Apprentice Tenel Ka was able to overcome the loss of her left arm and refused to have a mechanical replacement, thus passing her test.
Trial of the Spirit
To pass the Trial of the Spirit, apprentices had to look deep within their souls, on a quest of self-discovery. This test was designed to pit a potential Knight against their most dangerous enemy: the darkness within themselves. Often times, apprentices did not like what they saw, and it could be a highly traumatic experience. Because of this grueling self-examination, this Trials was often known as Facing the Mirror. While bearing similarities to the Trial of Skill, this test did not involve moving at all in most cases; instead a Padawan delved deep into a meditative trance to combat their inner fears and demons. Because of the ultra-personal details of the test, it is not one that even the High Council dare dictate, a Padawan must write the script for what will transpire on the journey. Because of the dangers of such deep meditation, a Master was always present to help guide a student back; after they pushed them past where they least desired to go in their thoughts. The worst that could happen following a failed trial is awakening from meditation screaming and mentally broken.
Throughout the final days of the Order, the test was taken by several thousand Jedi. Whether facing visions of nexu or dangerous foes, the test always proved extremely emotionally trying. While not quite orthodox, the High Council acknowledged that Anakin Skywalker had indeed passed the Trial while on Nelvaan in 19 BBY. There on a mission, Skywalker fell into deep meditation and saw himself as Darth Vader, his future incarnation as Dark Lord of the Sith. Several decades later, Skywalker’s own son, Luke, would be urged to take on the same trial on the swamp world of Dagobah. As per tradition, the exiled Grand Master Yoda observed the test from nearby, as young Skywalker entered the mysterious cave that cropped out of the muck. Inside, Skywalker dueled briefly with his father, Darth Vader, before removing his head from his armored body. As the helmeted head of Vader rolled past Skywalker’s feet, the mask blew apart revealing Luke’s own face staring back at him.
Another notable test was held at the Temple on Coruscant; granted the ancient edifice was in ruins and the Jedi Trials Chamber inaccessible. The Sith assassin known as Starkiller once again had infiltrated the Temple and headed straight for the Holocron Chamber within the Tower of First Knowledge. After opening a holocron of his father, Kento Marek, the assassin fell into a trance and envisioned dueling a pure dark side version of his self. Turning his back on Darth Vader and the dark side so as not to wind up as the shadow figure he had dueled, Starkiller left the Temple for the final time.