Evil comes in different shades, after all.
There was a time in Star Wars lore where there was no such thing as Sith. If you used the dark side and used a red lightsaber, you were considered a dark Jedi and that was that. But things got a little more complicated when Vader gained the moniker “Dark Lord of the Sith.” Then, the term gained widespread use with the release of the Tales of the Jedi comic and before anyone knew it the Sith were the antagonists of not just the prequel trilogy… but the entire saga.
So… what happened to the Dark Jedi then? And how are they different from the Sith? Well, if you’ve been asking those questions then today’s your lucky day. We’re here to answer them.
So, what’s the deal with Dark Jedi?
Originally, there were no Sith at all. More than 20,000 years before the films, there was a schism in the beginnings of the Jedi Order over the use of the Force. Many of its members were using the dark side, which led to the light users opposing them. The Dark Jedi that survived the war eventually conquered the Sith species native to Korriban and created their own order.
Over the years, however, there have been plenty of Force users that have not been officially affiliated with the Jedi or Sith, but still used the dark side. Asajj Ventress, who may have trained under the Sith Lord Darth Tyranus, was never officially inducted into the Sith Order. Therefore, she was technically a Dark Jedi.
Many other Dark Jedi popped up over the years. Even during the Clone Wars, Jedi Knight Quinlan Vos fell from the order and delved into the dark side when he went undercover on a mission, thus becoming a Dark Jedi. During the Galactic Civil War, the Emperor employed many Dark Jedi such as the Inquisitors and his agent Mara Jade as covert operatives.
In the years after the Empire’s destruction, groups of Dark Jedi tried to grab power for themselves. The ex-Inquisitor Jerec banded together seven Dark Jedi in his search for the fabled Valley of the Jedi, though his efforts were thwarted by Kyle Katarn. In addition, some of the students of Luke Skywalker’s Jedi Academy on Yavin IV fell to the dark side, becoming Dark Jedi. Luke, however, confronted most of them. By the time of the Yuuzhan Vong war barely any Dark Jedi remained.
But, despite the history there is a quote from Leland Chee, the official keeper of Star Wars continuity, that define what a Dark Jedi is:
“A dark Jedi is anyone who practices the dark side of the Force whether or not they were a former Jedi.”
And what’s the deal with the Sith?
Remember the original Dark Jedi who settled on Korriban (also known as Moraband) and created their own order? Those guys were the original Sith.
The Sith created their own powerful teachings and ways to use the Force, which they passed down generation to generation. The highest ranked Sith were referred to as “Sith Lords” and often were bestowed titled that started with the name “Darth.” Every few hundred years, the Sith would gain enough strength and numbers to attack the Republic and the Jedi Order, though they were almost always defeated after a time.
Given their fundamental lust for power that comes with using the Dark Side, the Sith were prone to heavy infighting which contributed to their inability to dominate the galaxy for extended periods of time.
Eventually, the Sith Lord Darth Bane was all that was left. He implemented the “Rule of Two,” which stated there could only be a master and an apprentice that would eventually replace them. For generations, the Sith adhered to that rule. Ultimately, it was Darth Sidious who was able to conquer the Republic from the inside out using his political acumen and expert manipulations.
So, the big difference between Dark Jedi and Sith is…
Basically, anyone uses the dark side on a regular basis, but who isn’t a formal member of the Sith Order (thus using all their teachings and probably sporting a name that starts with “Darth”) is considered a Dark Jedi.