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Warhammer 40k Psykers Guide

Open your third eye and gaze into the Sea of Souls with our guide to psykers in Warhammer 40k, dangerous mystics who draw power from the Warp.

Warhammer 40k psykers - a Psyker leads a unit of cadian guardsmen. Her eyes flare with blue lightning, and she holds aloft a staff of office

Warhammer 40k Psykers might look at first glance like little more than science fiction wizards, but as with everything in Warhammer 40k there’s a thick coating of grimdark that makes them truly unique.

Powered by terrible and arcane forces, psykers in Warhammer 40k are equal parts threat and boon on the battlefield. We have other guides exploring the mightiest psykers to exist in any of the Warhammer 40k factions, from the daemon primarch Magnus the Red and his Thousand Sons to the Emperor of Mankind himself: but if you want to know what psychic powers truly are in Warhammer 40k, read on.

Here’s what you need to know about Warhammer 40k Psykers:

Warhammer 40k psykers - a psyker struggles with warp forces flowing through their mind

What are Warhammer 40k psykers?

To understand what Warhammer 40k psykers are, you first need to understand how the 40k universe is constructed. There is a dark underside to reality, a tumultuous realm of pure emotion named the Warp. Here thought, emotion, and belief are intermingled into a never-ending, roiling storm of power, one that has birthed dark gods and Daemons.

The dangers of the Warp are many – yet it is the existence of the Warp that has led to the evolution of psykers. These individuals are able to draw power from the Warp; to manipulate reality, communicate between distant star systems, or even navigate starships through the Warp’s perilous tides. Psykers are essential to the existence and survival of most factions.

Warhammer 40k psykers - a Chaos Psyker

The existence of psykers, however, is not only a benefit. An untrained or overloaded psyker can wreak untold devastation as their mind is flooded by the Warp; sometimes this may manifest as a rift between the worlds, causing horrors without number to pour through from the Immaterium. While psykers may wield immense power and influence, in many factions they are watched with suspicion and carefully controlled.

Psykers in different 40k factions

Each race that has access to psykers expresses psychic powers in different ways. While most draw their powers directly from the Warp, there are some exceptions.

Warhammer 40k psykers - the Inquisitor Gregor Eisenhorn, a man with stern face, in a long trench coat, wielding a bolt pistol and staff

Imperial Psykers

Humanity is rapidly becoming one of the most potent psychic races in the Warhammer 40k galaxy. Each passing year sees more psykers born, with the Imperium stretched thin attempting to control the growing psychic tide.

The Inquisition is tasked with rounding up humanity’s psykers, sending them to work as Astropaths, Sanctioned Psykers of the Astra Militarum, or even used up as fuel in the Emperor of Man’s Golden Throne.

Space Marines psykers are trained and inducted into their chapter’s Librarius, becoming Librarians. By use of specialised equipment such as the psychic hood they make potent weapons on the battlefield, combining military prowess with devastating psychic attacks.

Warhammer 40k psykers - a Chaos Space Marine sorcerer clad in power armor

Chaos Psykers

For the forces of Chaos psykers have more direct access to the Warp, able to use its power in far more imaginative ways than the stultified Imperium. Rogue Psykers and Chaos Sorcerers can twist reality about them, lay out blasts of deadly psychic fire, and even summon Daemonic reinforcements. But the risks for these psykers are greatly increased: Daemonic possession is a constant risk for any Chaos-aligned psyker.

Warhammer 40k psykers - an Eldar pskyer in ornate, rune-inscribed armor discharges warp lightning from their hand

Eldar Psykers

Few races embrace psykers as much as the Aeldari. Eldar who follow the Path of the Seer can become gifted Warlocks, Spiritseers, and Farseers, able to manipulate the tides of fate through visions of the future. Unlike many other races, psykers are embraced by the Eldar, and many of their most powerful warriors use psychic abilities freely.

Separated from their Eldar siblings, the Dark Eldar shun the use of psychic powers. Untramelled in their depravity, the Drukhari forever live in fear of drawing the attention of She-Who-Thirsts, the Chaos god Slaanesh that gnaws on all Eldar souls.

Warhammer 40k psykers - an Ork weirdboy, a greenskinned brute with crackling lights orbitting their head

Ork Psykers

Unlike other races, Orks psykers do not derive their powers from the Warp. Instead, it is the power of the Waaagh! which empowers them. When a group of Orks gather, a psychic field is generated which can be used by their Weirdboy psykers to cast spells – often with utterly unpredictable effects.

Warhammer 40k psykers - Tyranid neurotyrant, a floating armored brain with a multiitude of tentacular appendages

Tyranid Psykers

The hive-mind of the Tyranids is a psychic construct that links Tyranids through the Warp itself, communicating constantly across the galaxy. As a result, Tyranids are one of the most potent psychic powers in the universe, with their Zoanthropes, Neurothropes, and Neurotyrants able to unleash devastating powers on the battlefield.

The gestalt psychic presence of the hive mind, called the Shadow in the Warp, is an oppressive psychic cloud that drives normal mortals to despair, and psykers to madness.

Offshoots of the Tyranids, the Genestealer Cults, have developed their own variant on the psyker. The Genestealer Magus intermingles the genetic information of a human psyker with their xenos DNA to create a cunning psychic master for the cults.

Warhammer 40k psykers - Leagues of Votann Grimnyr, a cowelled, bearded dwarf walks on floating rocks, flanked by hovering robots with dangling guns

Leagues of Votann Psykers

The Leagues of Votann have few psykers, restricted to specific clone lines developed for specific purposes, like the Grimnyr. Their technological innovations have allowed them to harness the power of the Warp, using advanced Barrier-Tech to manifest psychic powers.

Tau Psykers

The T’au have yet to evolve any psykers themselves. This young race has little knowledge of the Warp or of the forces of Chaos, and the expansion of their empire has been hobbled by their inability to perceive and therefore navigate long distances through the Warp.

Still, the forces of the T’au do have access to psykers through the auxiliary races in their empire. The Nicassar and Kroot both demonstrate some limited psychic ability.

Warhammer 40k psykers - a robotic Necron Cryptek

Necron Psykers

Necrons have shunned the Immaterium since the dawn of the galaxy, when they waged war as the mortal Necrontyr. The Necrons loathe psykers with a deadly fervour, seeking them out and purging them from existence wherever they are located.

Though they have no psykers amongst their ranks, Crypteks use technological and scientific powers to harness the universe’s fundamental forces, in many ways mimicking the Warp-afflicted psykers of other species.

Warhammer 40k psykers - a primaris battle psyker, with a large psychic hood and a staff

Primaris Psykers

The term Primaris Psyker can apply to two distinct forces in the Imperium. The older use of the term refers to a powerful battle psyker attached to the Astra Militarum. These psykers are usually attached to high ranking officers who direct them on the battlefield, watching for any sign of Daemonic possession.

The other use of this term applies to psykers from among the newer Primaris Space Marines. These Primaris Space Marine Librarians follow the same command structure as their Firstborn counterparts, utilising their psychic powers to turn the tide of battle in specialised units, separate from the rest of their Chapters.

Warhammer 40k psykers - the Psykinetic Pskyer from Darktide

Warhammer 40k: Darktide Psyker

In the multiplayer co-op FPS Warhammer 40k: Darktide, the Psyker Psykinetic is one of the four classes available to players. Players must play cautiously when choosing to use the Darktide Psyker, as using too many psychic powers too rapidly can cause the Psyker to explode – not good for them.

The Psyker Psykinetic lays down supporting fire for melee characters and deals heavy damage to Elite enemies, and is one of the more challenging classes to play in Darktide. By managing their Peril levels through use of Psykinetic Wrath, they can avoid exploding while continuing to lay out truly colossal amounts of damage to their foes.

To get a better idea how psykers are actually perceived within the Warhammer 40k universe, we recommend checking out some Warhammer 40k books – Mike Brooks Rites of Passage is all about the powerful ruler of a Navigator bloodline, gifted with a warp eye that allows her to navigate the sea of souls, tasked with navigating the deadly dynastic politics of the nobility and the prejudices of baseline humans.