The "Psychic Awakening", also sometimes referred to as the "Age of Witches," is the term given to a phenomenon that increased the number of psykers and greatly enhanced the psychic abilities of many different individuals and peoples across the Milky Way Galaxy in the wake of the birth of the Great Rift during the Era Indomitus.
This phenomenon was taken advantage of by or affected every faction in the galaxy, hindering or advancing the next steps in their various agendas.
"The Aeldari psyche is a powerful weapon. It can slay a distant foe with a pulse of thought. Like any other, it must be used with skill. Since the coming of the Dathedian its edges grow sharper than ever before, its grip more perilous to grasp.The slightest misstep can see its wielder, and even the reality in which they stand, laid open and bloody."
Towards the end of the 41st Millennium, the galaxy was all but split in half by the Great Rift. To the Aeldari it was known as the Dathedian, and as a highly psychically attuned species, the aetheric phenomena that accompanied it affected them most of all.
The Cicatrix Maledictum, that great tear across the fabric of time and space, has further divided the fractious Aeldari species. After the coming of that celestial cataclysm, the Aeldari craftworlds sent out psychic communiques, reaching out to one another across the void.
Two of the world-ships did not respond, their spiritual traces dwindling with every passing hour. Some amongst the Spiritseers of the Asuryani believe their souls have empowered Ynnead, the god of the dead, and that those craftworlders will never be seen again.
To a stellar empire as large as the Imperium of Man, this would have been considered acceptable losses, for Humanity's realm contains a million worlds and more. For the Asuryani it was a cost so high it wrenched at the heart. Perhaps one day the lost craftworlds would return, just as Altansar was drawn from the gullet of the Warp by the odyssey of the Phoenix Lord Maugan Ra. But for now, they were gone.
Far from uniting the survivors against the tide of Chaos spilling into the galaxy, that great loss fomented discord, and the rift between the factions of the Aeldari grew all the wider.
Simple geography was itself a contributing factor, for the craftworlds were too far scattered across the galaxy to easily unite, and even the Aeldari paths through the Webway -- that maze of metaphysical pathways that spanned the interstice between realspace and the Warp -- were now battered and torn at by the raging fury of the empyrean.
Though the Harlequins continued to walk that strange unrealm at will and do what they could to unite the Asuryani and Commorrite Drukhari in purpose, the resentment and isolationism that had long characterised the fractured Aeldari species only worsened.
In the cultural hearts of the Aeldari peoples, the wound of the Dathedian festered in silence. No civilisation could look upon a sky mauled by the Warp-stuff of Chaos and not feel affected by it. To a people as sensitive to psychic energies as the Aeldari, the scar in reality was a constant dull ache in the mind, a reminder of all they had lost.
Perhaps it would never have existed at all were it not for the formation of the Eye of Terror, born from the sickening cataclysm of Slaanesh's birth. Across the galaxy, nightmares of guilt, doubt and surging aggression wracked Asuryani and Drukhari alike, and they steeped themselves in battle against tides of Chaos-worshippers in the hopes of assuaging these negative emotions.
A new era of war began as the turmoil within was turned into merciless strikes against ancient enemies, emerging foes and former allies. Much of the blame for the disastrous events was put at the door of the rapidly growing Ynnari movement and, by association, upon Biel-Tan.
There, the populace had been divided between fervent support for Yvraine, the leader of the Ynnari, and the outright condemnation that followed her visitation -- coinciding as it did with the subsequent invasion of the craftworld by a ravening Slaaneshi horde and the fracturing of its Infinity Circuit.
Amidst that appalling catastrophe a new strand of fate was revealed, one that some believed would lead the Aeldari race to greatness once more. The being that Yvraine summoned from within Biel- Tan's broken wraithbone skeleton was an Avatar, of a sort, and its very existence was proof of Ynnead having stirred from his slumber. There was a chance that the Whispering God could save their souls from She Who Thirsts once and for all.
Barring only those dark kin of Commorragh whose powers have atrophied, all Aeldari possess some degree of psychic ability. Since the Great Rift split the galaxy, those gifts have burgeoned in a variety of different ways.
It is generally accepted amongst the Farseers of the craftworlds that this is a direct result of the Dathedian introducing a vast bleed of psychic energy into the galaxy. Of all the Aeldari, the craftworlders are most in tune with matters psychic, and without the Asuryani Path system -- that cultural process by which an Asuryani focuses his or her mind upon a single pursuit or skill to avoid the temptation of all others -- they may have found this flare of psychic activity maddening, and possibly even disastrous.
Yet the discipline of the Path was developed precisely to turn the Aeldari mind into a fortress against such unfettered activity. Of all the civilisations in the galaxy, the Asuryani could be said to have ridden out the swell of psychic energy the best, for in many ways they had been ready for it. Their entire culture was built around discipline, guardianship and self-denial, to prevent their worst excesses rising to doom them all.
Those Asuryani who trod the Witch Path found their prophetic glimpses escalating into full and potent visions, magnifying their ability to parse the skeins of fate and react accordingly. On every craftworld their Runes of Warding burned out at a daunting rate, the protective symbols being used up almost as fast as they could be regrown from psycho-reactive material. But for now at least, the inner psychic threat posed by their daemonic nemeses was held at bay.
With this influx of psychic energy came other new abilities for the Asuryani. Even those warlike souls who honed their physical skills over the mental found their talents blossoming when they brought the two into perfect balance. Aspect Warriors channelled the echoes of the Aeldari war god Khaine and focused the resultant energies through the lenses of their glorious Exarch leaders.
When Howling Banshees charged en masse, the wind itself screamed its fury alongside them; when Striking Scorpions gathered in the shadowed recesses of the battlefield, they became all but invisible to the naked eye until they leapt from cover and fell upon the foe.
Always the Asuryani had possessed such powers and employed them in battle, yet now they manifested in a heightened and doubly lethal form. Everywhere potential turned to talent, talent to mastery, mastery to supernatural prowess. The stage was set for the sacred phoenix of the Aeldari people to rise once more.
"Ten thousand blessed saints rest eternal amidst the silent halls of Benediction. It is a world steeped in the blood of the faithful."
The birth of the Great Rift during the Era Indomitus found the Imperium of Man reeling, assailed on a million fronts by the surging forces of Chaos. It was only the return of the Primarch Roboute Guilliman and the fury of the Primaris Space Marines that held back the tide. But at this dark hour, the power of faith would offer Humanity the faintest glimmer of hope.
The Indomitus Crusade swept forth from Terra with furious purpose, driving the forces of Chaos before them and bringing hope to hundreds of besieged worlds. None but the primarch of the Ultramarines could have overseen such a decisive counterattack.
To those whom he commanded, it seemed that Roboute Guilliman did not rest for a moment. No sooner had one victory been achieved than he began to lay the foundations of the next. The crusade's momentum could not slow, for that might allow the heretical forces an opportunity to regroup.
So it was that the crusade's various fleets ventured deeper and deeper into occupied territory, pushing into regions ravaged by daemonic hordes and migrating xenos fleets, those territories in their wake were left to manage as best they could. The threats they faced were many. In the aftermath of the Great Rift's birth the entire galaxy was stricken by nightmarish phenomena, temporal disruption and terrible Warp Storms.
It was the Imperium Nihilus -- those regions of the Imperium that lay beyond the line of the Great Rift -- that suffered the worst of these occurrences, but nowhere in the Imperium of Man was left unscarred. Even across the gleaming sanctuary worlds of the Segmentum Solar at the heart of the Imperium Sanctus, horror struck.
Isolated Warp Storms tore through unprepared star systems, swallowing battlefleets and spilling daemonic entities across the surface of worlds. Such was the anarchic disruption of reality that Chaos armadas, Ork raiding fleets and other deadly xenos forces were carried vast distances across the tides of the Warp and vomited back into realspace on the far side of the galaxy.
Worse still, the predations of the Archenemy intensified. Like slavering wolves, the Heretic Astartes and their mortal allies struck at the underbelly of the Imperium, emerging from the roiling stars to raid and pillage across the Segmentum Solar. Many of these incursions were directionless and savage, little more than the servants of Chaos indulging their base desires for blood and slaughter.
Yet they masked a greater plan, overseen by those who served the will of the Dark Gods with a far more insidious agenda. The Word Bearers Traitor Legion sought to spread their heretic faith into the very heart of Humanity's domain. The sons of Lorgar had foreseen a struggle not only for the territory of the Imperium, but its very spirit. The souls of mortals were the currency over which this war of faith would be fought.
Allying with fellow Traitor Legions who served Chaos Undivided, such as the piratical reavers of the Night Lords and the relentless Iron Warriors, the Word Bearers sought to spread fear and hopelessness far and wide. Through dark ritual, system-wide sacrifice and terror tactics, they intensified the power of Chaos, hoping to break the will of the Imperium's mortal populace. Those who accepted the primacy of the Dark Gods were spared -- their collective damnation empowering the spread of corruption.
Blind to the subtle, hexagrammatic patterns of the Word Bearers’ rituals, Imperial forces failed to recognise either the disaster building behind their lines, or the rampant spread of panic and heresy. Planet by planet, the shadow of Chaos spread.
Only the Sisters of Battle, the zealous warrior-champions of the Imperial Creed, foresaw this deadly threat. Many a Canoness of the Adepta Sororitas witnessed the same apocalyptic visions: maws of utter blackness stretching wide to devour the light of the faithful, twin-headed aquilas torn apart by hungering shadows, and stars drowned in the blood of innocents.
The holy orders of the Sisterhood could not spread word of the horror they had uncovered, for across the galaxy astropathic communications were drowned out by warp-screams and the howling static of daemonic entities. Word would have to be delivered in person.
Even as the Sisters of Battle brought hope and fierce defiance to scores of war-ravaged worlds, it seemed certain that the Word Bearers' plans would come to fruition. Yet the sons of Lorgar had not counted upon the new and dramatic phenomenon that began to manifest across those contested planets.
The immense eruption of psychic energy unleashed by the Cicatrix Maledictum gave rise not only to Warp-spawned nightmares, but acts of faith and wondrous miracles on a scale unheard of. Humble, mortal worshippers of the God-Emperor bore witness to manifestations of the Emperor Angelic, flocks of golden eagles and columns of scintillating flame that seared daemonic and Heretic flesh alike.
These miracles galvanised those who bore witness to them, firming their resolve and filling their hearts with defiance even in the face of the horrors unleashed against them. So began a great War of Faith that set the dark prophets of the Heretic Astartes against the acts of hope and belief inspired by the Sisters of Battle and their allies.
While the rest of the Imperium was beset by ever-growing threats following the opening of the Great Rift, the sanctified Talledus System was considered a safe zone under the protection of the Ecclesiarchy, and by extension, the Emperor Himself. The Shrine World of Benediction in particular stood as a gleaming, golden monument to the Emperor's might.
Perhaps this semblance of peace is ultimately what attracted the Ruinous Powers to it. The psychic trauma wrought by the birth of the Cicatrix Maledictum gave rise to increasingly bizarre and terrifying phenomena.
Just as fringe cults began to reveal themselves as servants of the Dark Gods, an armada of six Traitor Legions of the Heretic Astartes, directed by the Dark Apostle Kor Phaeron of the Word Bearers Legion, arrived to destroy the Talledus System once and for all, and deny the notion that anywhere might be safe from the predations of Chaos.
The Sisters of Battle and the Astra Militarum -- bolstered by a massive strike force of Adeptus Astartes led by the Black Templars of the Rutherian Crusade -- stood firm in their creed to defend Humanity, no matter the cost, in the Talledus War.
As this War of Faith grew ever-more bloody and brutal, the psychic trauma generated by the Cicatrix Maledictum gave rise to miracles and psychic manifestations of unrivalled scale and power.
To some, these bizarre and terrifying occurrences were yet further proof that the galaxy is approaching its inevitable final hour of doom. To others, these events were proof of the God-Emperor's divine will, actualised through His loyal servants.
War Zone Baal
The Blood Angels and their Successor Chapters were already fighting a bitter war for survival during the Battle of Baal when the Great Rift tore the galaxy in half. The Tyranid host of Hive Fleet Leviathan had the upper hand in a war of attrition when the Cicatrix Maledictum yawned wide and instantly swallowed masses of encircling hive ships -- but the war was far from over.
The empyric disturbance of the Great Rift weakened the defenders against the suffocating psychic voice of the Hive Mind, just as the rates of emergence of unsanctioned psykers surged without Black Ships to collect them.
In these dark and desperate times, far from the guiding light of the Astronomican, only heroes such as Commander Dante, Mephiston and Gabriel Seth of the Flesh Tearers were able to hold the defenders together.
Reinforced with Primaris Space Marines, the Angelic Host of the Blood Angels and their successors are just beginning to claw their way back from the brink of death to scour the xenos threat from the Imperium Nihilus, planet by planet in what has become known as War Zone Baal.
Ritual of the Damned
Empowered, and delighted, by the malefic energies pouring through the Great Rift, the Daemon Primarch Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons Legion have been weaving an elaborate plan to bring vengeance and ruin to their ancient enemies. Savaging Fenris -- the home of the Space Wolves -- during the Siege of the Fenris System in 999.M41 was just the beginning.
Yet, in the wake of the siege, the Daemon Primarch's next step was to summon his daemonic homeworld, the Planet of the Sorcerers, into realspace above his ancient capital of Prospero. Magnus then restored Prospero itself, ruined millennia ago during the opening events of the Horus Heresy.
With the two planets now united, the Crimson King can begin the next phase of his grand plan. Firstly, he recalled all of the warbands of Thousand Sons Chaos Space Marines that were scattered throughout the galaxy. Next, he now seeks new mortal followers for his Legion.
Across the galaxy, untold numbers of Humans are feeling their latent psychic powers activating. Usually, such outcasts would be hunted down as mutants and witches, but now there is talk of a new, one-eyed champion offering salvation.
In fact, Magnus has called these lost souls to his newly conquered region of the galaxy called the Prosperan Rift, offering them protection from the anti-psyker prejudice of the Imperium. Here he will try to succeed where his father the Emperor failed and usher in the next stage of Humanity's evolution as a truly psychic species.
For their part, the Dark Angels have been reinforced with half-trusted Primaris Space Marines, whilst the ranks of the Grey Knights swell from the surge in psychically-sensitive recruits brought on by the influence of the Great Rift.
These Space Marines Chapters, both among the most secretive organisations in the Imperium, have formed an uneasy alliance, but only by working together can they hope to defeat Magnus and end his fell ritual.
- Psychic Awakening: Phoenix Rising (8th Edition), pp. 4-5
- Psychic Awakening: Faith & Fury (8th Edition), pp. 4-5
- Warhammer 40,000: Core Book (9th Edition), pp. 72-73
- Warhammer Community - Psychic Awakening
- Warhammer Community - Psychic Awakening - Sorcerous Schemes