A psyker is a being who exhibits the ability to use psychic powers. Many races have these individuals, whereas other races are innately non-psychic and never produce psykers, like the C'tan and Necrons, which despise psykers so far as to engineer warriors that actively seek out and destroy them. Some races, like the Eldar, are inherently psychic.
Psychic powers can take many forms, from predicting enemy movements to projecting bolts of devastating psychic energy. Some can even aid troops towards more devastating attacks.
Although the powers of Psykers are many and varied, they usually fall into one of several disciplines. The five most common are[5c]:
- Biomancy: Manipulation of biological energy and processes.
- Divination: Predicting the future.
- Pyromancy: Manipulation of fire.
- Telekinesis: Converting psychic energy into physical force.
- Telepathy: Contacting and controlling the minds of others.
Psykers by Race
The earliest human psykers were powerful beings known as Shamans, but after their end and the creation of the Emperor, psykers would no longer remain known among humanity for millennia. First appearing in large numbers by the end of M22[5b], Psykers represent humanity's future: the ideal creature into which mankind will evolve, a more powerful, intelligent and capable life form. Psyker mutation is becoming increasingly common among humanity, presaging the emergence of a new, psychic race. This new race is still weak, its members lacking the mental strength needed to resist the dangers of the Warp. They are both a threat and a boon to the Imperium.[Needs Citation]
Left unchecked, psykers present a potential danger to entire worlds, and much of the Inquisition's role is focused on hunting them down. The Imperium ensures psykers are suppressed, tracked down and controlled; those strong enough will be recruited into Imperial service, fulfilling vital roles in the Imperium as Astropaths and Sanctioned Psykers. The weakest are doomed to serve humanity through service in the Adeptus Astronomica, or as nourishment for the Emperor of Mankind. The Imperium classifies its own Psykers based upon their level of psychic ability. Known as The Assignment, the levels given indicate the power of the Psyker. An Omnicron level Psyker may only have mild subconsciously activated psionic abilities while an Alpha-Plus level Psyker is capable of snapping a Titan in two.
The Imperial Guard's psychic units are the Primaris Psyker and the weaker Sanctioned Psyker. They are trained at the Adeptus Astra Telepathica's Scholastia Psykana for service on the battlefield.[Needs Citation]
Space Marines also shun those with psychic powers, but they too make use of one unit, the Librarian. He is similarly trained, but also benefits from advanced equipment, such as the psychic hood. These advantages, coupled with his improved Space Marine physique, make the Librarian more useful than the average Sanctioned Psyker.[Needs Citation]
Chaos Space Marines
The Lost and the Damned
The Eldar are a psychic race, and some of their most powerful units have strong psychic powers. Eldar who tread the Path of the Seer are Warlocks. Spiritseers are specialised Warlocks. Farseers are Eldar lost on the Path of the Seer.
Their powers are usually subtle, ranging from having visions of the future, detecting enemy movements, to fighting mental battles. However, a Farseer may be capable of using telekinetic power to hurl a battle tank into the air. One particular Craftworld, Ulthwé, may also group together its most powerful psychic units, making an expensive, but devastating unit.[Needs Citation]
The Dark Eldar are similar in nature to the Eldar, but have given up the use of psychic powers. They do use psychic objects, but any psyker found on Commorragh is usually treated with great caution and fear. Because of the nature of their city, the use of psychic powers is one of the few things forbidden in the city of Commorragh. Shadowseers are a notable exception to this rule.
Ork psykers are unique in that they draw their psychic power from other Orks instead of directly from the warp. A large mob of Orks tends to generate what has become known as a Waaagh! field, which is then absorbed by the Ork psykers known as Weirdboys. They have little control over this and too much of a build-up will likely explode the Ork's head and devastate the surrounding area. A Weirdboy avoids combat, like most other fragile psykers, but can cast green flames capable of melting armour and killing the warriors inside. The powers of the Weirdboys are unpredictable and may have catastrophic results, but the gains from these units are often seen by the Warboss.[Needs Citation]
The Tau have not developed psychic abilities, possibly due to a chemical mixture in their brains that prevents access to the warp. Why they developed this is unknown, but it prevents the Tau Empire from being easily corrupted by the forces of Chaos. None of their units have psychic abilities.
At least two of the Tau's allied races, the Kroot and the Nicassar, however, possess psychic powers. The Nicassar mainly use their psychic powers for the purpose of navigating their Dhows through the vast reaches of space, and also provide escort vessels for the Tau Space Fleet.[Needs Citation]
Kroot who have fed upon creatures with psychic power may develop powers of their own. These Kroot are referred to as Shamans by their kindreds, and are responsible for leading their fellow Kroot in their ancestor worshipping practises. The Kroot are also capable of Warp travel, although they only seem to be able to travel to planets with functioning ecosystems.[Needs Citation]
The C'tan feared the Warp, for they could not sense it or control it in any manner, and so they battled against it in many ways. They created the Pariah, a psychic abomination, making life for psykers difficult by disrupting their link to the Warp. They also destroyed or removed the ancient weapons known as Blackstone Fortress, which had been constructed by the Old Ones to release an immense psychic blast capable of destroying a C'tan utterly if they should ever rise again. Their most ambitious project is a ward designed to completely seal off the material universe from the Warp, which they were unable to complete before they went into stasis sixty million years past.[Needs Citation]
The Tyranid forces are highly interconnected and linked to each other using psychic powers. The Hive Tyrant acts as a node for the other forces on the ground. The Dominatrixes act as relays between the Norn-Queens and the other ground forces, helping to co-ordinate attacks from orbit.[Needs Citation]
They use the Warp to communicate and travel, spending a good deal of their time in the Warp, travelling between planets to find sustenance. Tyranids tend not to use their psychic powers offensively, except for the Zoanthropes and Neurothropes, whose psychic abilities are devastating.
Psychic-Foci are techniques[8b] or devices used by Psykers to help them focus and enhance their powers. They could be sacred bones, carved wytch staves, blessed icons, crystals[8a], sophisticated devices crafted by the Adeptus Mechanicus or by completing simple tricks. The most famous used by Psykers in the Imperium is doubtless the Emperor's Tarot, which helps act as a powerful divinatory tool in the hands of a trained Psyker.[8b]
- 1: Warhammer 40,000: Rogue Trader, [Needs Citation]
- 2: Warhammer 40,000 4th Edition Rulebook, pg. 125
- 3: Imperial Armour Volume Seven - The Siege of Vraks - Part Three, pg. 179
- 5: Warhammer 40,000 6th Edition Rulebook
- 6: Codex: Dark Eldar (5th Edition) pg. 5
- 7: Codex: Dark Eldar (7th Edition) pg. 41
- 8: Dark Heresy Core Rulebook