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The Life and Times of An Aes Sedai


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#1 Luckers

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 07:12 AM

General Ideals and Purpose


Servants of All

The concept of an Aes Sedai is a fairly nice one. An authoritarian figure, highly trained and with access to great resources who is dedicated singularly to the greater good of society--presumably without personal agenda or bias--is a pretty utopian ideal.

In modern times this is supplemented and upheld by the Ajah structure, which also is a pretty neat concept. Subdivisions each focused on serving the world in a specific way, thereby covering the smaller issues, yet still working in collaboration so as to also address the bigger picture.

Consider--the knowledge of the Browns tempered by the cool reason of the Whites, enacted with the dedication and focus of the Blues, or the sternness of the Reds, or the mercy of the Yellows, the passion of the Greens, or the even-handed justness of the Grey's in whatever variety is needed... strength overlapping weakness so as to form the Tower into a single instrument to be wielded for the betterment of all.

Pretty darn nifty. So why are the Aes Sedai by and large such contentious idiots?

Sorry Sister, That's a Fail

The majority of modern Aes Sedai are contentious and self-involved. They attempt to mystefy everything they do even when a simple honest explanation would serve their cause much better. They attempt to assume control of every situation—not because they have a specific plan or knowledge that would be well used, but rather simply because that is what they feel Aes Sedai should do. At best this is simply childish, at worst they take control from someone who does know what they are doing, and cause disaster.

Typically they are close minded as well, never daring to question the status quo, or innovate new methods of dealing with things—which can be utterly disastrous. This attitude nearly saw the Tower die because the sisters would question the recruitment policies, and even as it is its left the Tower vastly under strength in the face of TG.

Perhaps the worst part of it all is that they are no thinking at all. Egwene highlights this point cleanly in tGS when she dresses down Elaida for her idiocy in having Rand shielded and held captive in the Tower—such a plan was obviously doomed for disaster, and had a single sister paused to think about it they should have realized that, but they did not. Some were uneasy with how he was treated, but none looked to the practicalities of the Dragon not being free to fulfill prophecy. Aes Sedai shield men who can channel, so that is what they did. This sort of puppetry is repeated throughout the series. An Aes Sedai encounters a problem, pulls out the stock response—and if that response doesn’t work she typically falls apart.

Consider the Atha’an Miere, for instance. No part of the Bargain involved an agreement to let themselves be bullied or beaten or forced to serve, yet when the Sea Folk simply ignored the stock response of ‘it’s dangerous to anger an Aes Sedai’ the Aes Sedai simply caved in. Having no training in dealing with a channeling organization (an equal, in terms of strength at least) and lacking all ability to innovate, the Aes Sedai simply collapsed.

Sorry Entire Ajah, That’s an Epic Fail

Beyond the personality flaws of the generic Aes Sedai, their entire organizational structure fails consistently in the jobs they’ve chosen for themselves. Consider.

Greens – Claim to be the Battle Ajah, and prepare themselves to fight the Shadow, so why do they maintain no presence along the Blight were the fight with the Shadow goes on daily? Where were they when Shienar was threatened in the Eye of the World? Where were they when Malkier fell? Oh, sisters were sent, they just didn’t get there in time—and that’s what happens, isn’t it, when you bumble around doing your own thing and ignoring your duty until a true emergency develops—you don’t get there in time. They didn’t for Malkier, and they wouldn’t have for Shienar had Rand not intervened.

Yellows – Want to Heal, yet in the entire course of the series the only healing we’ve seen them do has been incidental—someone was injured near where they happened to be, so they deigned to heal them. The only yellow sister we’ve seen go out of her way to do Healing is Nynaeve. And why don’t they have hospices in the major cities? Yes, they lack in numbers—which is the fault of the Tower as a whole, not just the Yellow—but two or three Yellows supported by a team of herbal healers could do a great deal of good. That is the vocation they’ve chosen, after all.

Blues – Seek to right wrongs, and fight for causes, which is such generic mission its hard to judge. But ignoring Moiraine and Siuan what’s the last cause we’ve seen a Blue fight for? There are a great many injustices in the world that the Blue’s seemingly ignore in favor of bumbling around living their lives. What about the decline of the Tower? Why hasn’t the Blue taken that upon themselves as cause?

Browns – Seek to arm the world with knowledge, only I don’t see much of that knowledge being spread around. Rand has done more for the world in terms of the gathering and sharing of knowledge in a year than the Brown has done in three thousand. Where are the new inventions? New studies? Where are efforts being made to implement what was learned from the old knowledge?

Greys – The Grey’s at least actually seem to take their vocation seriously, but what have they achieved. I think the situation with Tylin, Merilille, Elayne and Nynaeve shows this the most clearly—the Grey’s need to reinforce the image of their own importance and the importance of the Tower completely undercuts their attempts to mediate. Elayne and Nynaeve achieve more in Tower/Nation relations by simply talking to Tylin than Merilille does with all her supposed ability as a mediator. Still, at least the Grey’s are trying.

Reds – Take upon themselves the responsibility for stopping another breaking of the world. They do seek out men who can channel quite assiduously, which is in a way fulfilling that purpose, but where were the efforts to cleanse saidin? They’ve claimed this responsibility, but all they’ve done is attempted to treat the symptom, and done nothing about the illness itself. They, in effect, let their personal feelings get in the way of serving the job they’ve taken upon themselves, and that is more than a failure—it’s distasteful.

Whites – Have possibly failed the most out of all the Ajah. They claim upon themselves the subject of logic. It is for them to consider all issues for their merits and flaws with no reguard for their own feelings. Yes, perhaps the failings of the other Ajahs are more tangible, but it was up to the Whites to safeguard the ideological integrity of the Tower—up to them to ask the hard questions of the other Ajahs, the questions which should have stopped the Tower’s free-fall into failure—that they did not do this makes them not only responsible for their own failure at the job they claimed for themselves, but for the failures of all the other Ajah’s as well.

How Can So Many Women Be So Damn Stupid?


The Aes Sedai are highly educated, highly intelligent, strong willed women with a great deal of training under the belts, so how on earth could they all be such idiots? Well, firstly, the fact is that not all Aes Sedai are idiots. What’s sad is that those who tend to be capable are the women who, for one reason or another, have been forced to take a step away from the other Aes Sedai.

Indeed, these women are usually doing something that an Aes Sedai should not be—Moiraine and Siuan seeking a man who can channel, not to gentle him but to help him. Verin as a Black sister, Cadsuane setting out to learn from a filthy wilder (and what a disgusting action that was for an Aes Sedai to take). Even Pevara and Saerin have reason to not fully identify with their natures as Aes Sedai—Pevara being a Red with a Green’s temperament, and Saerin originally coming from the Daughters of Silence.

In all these cases these women have broken with what an Aes Sedai would do, and as a result have become capable of doing things no Aes Sedai should be contemplating, thereby allowing them to achieve or deal with things no Aes Sedai should be able to deal with.

There is something tragic in that. To be Aes Sedai is to be weak and contentious, and the only ones who are capable are those who are, for whatever reason, betraying the ideal of what it is to be Aes Sedai. But how could such idiocy have come to be? And why do the Aes Sedai cling to the current style with such blind tenacity?

Aes Sedai Recruitment

Their problems begin with the methods they use to recruit and train new girls. They restrict their training to young girls who have sought them out (with the exception of the odd wilder). They do this because the younger a novice the easier they are molded, and because those that seek them out have a stronger will, and thus are more likely to be effective Aes Sedai.

Excluding the blindness in that--the girls who never considered that they could channel, like Egwene and Nynaeve, yet nevertheless have made very strong, very capable Aes Sedai--there is a more insidious threat. That is that they were too successful.

By waiting on young, impressionable girls who are already ‘wow-ed’ by the idea of Aes Sedai, and then proceeding to seclude them from the world for upwards of twenty years they result in Aes Sedai that are more concerned with trying to be what they think Aes Sedai should be, rather than simply being Aes Sedai. The title has come to mean more than the women that wear it, which means ultimately that said women are not worthy of the title, or, put another way, they have forgotten that it should be the woman that brings honour to the title, not the title that brings honour to the woman.

This training methodology is highly effective as a form of indoctrination. By the time the women gain the shawl they are simple facsimilies of the concept of what it is to be Aes Sedai. They are so overawed by their own image that they simply cannot act—any action which is not a reflex built into them during their training would be to question the perfection of their image of being an Aes Sedai—which in turn would be questioning their very sense of identity.

This is why there is no innovation amongst the average Aes Sedai, and no attempts to go against the status quo no matter how pressing the need. To do so would be to question a sense of self that has been so heavily drilled into them that it permeates every part of their personality. Some few, like Verin or Cadsuane, are strong enough in themselves that when they’ve encountered a situation that requires action not trained into them have broken through their indoctrination and adapted—more often though the Aes Sedai simply breaks, like Merilille with the atha’an miere.

This (combined with the point i will raise next) is the source of most of the modern Aes Sedai's childish behaviour. Comments such as 'there is truth that would burn any mind but an Aes Sedai's' and 'Thrones have fallen messing in the plans of the tower' are thrown around so often not as simple methods of persuasion, but because the Aes Sedai themselves are overawed by their own image. Their constant attempts to control every situation they are in stems not because they think themselves capable, but because they feel that as Aes Sedai they should be.

They are, for lack of a better phrase, victims of their own PR regiment.

Criminal Negligence and Recruitment

Aes Sedai actively avoid recruiting, maintaining fairly strict policies against it. They also actively stop other groups from recruiting. Women die from lack of training. Tell me that isn’t criminal negligence.

The Three Oaths


The Three Oaths represent the single most foolish thing the Aes Sedai have ever done—binding themselves. Even aside from the age-limiting effects of being bound, the Oath’s themselves are counter-productive and dangerous. Consider;-

Implementation

They were instigated initially to placate the fear of the general populace, but they do not even achieve that. Binding ones ability to act does not stop others fearing or hating you, it just places limitations on how far that fear and hate can get. Perhaps that was necessary at the time—we don’t know enough about the political situation that was in play when the Oaths were sworn—but necessary or not the Aes Sedai should never have stopped there.

Consider, if you had a brain tumour you might take pain killers to help with the headaches, but you don’t just settle with that and take pain killers for the rest of your life, you treat the illness itself, in the hopes that you can stop taking the pain killers. That is what the Aes Sedai should have done—figured out how to stop the general public hating them, not simply treated that hate by binding themselves.

Aes Sedai should have been looking for ways to end the need for the binding, not turning the binding into a badge of pride. Oh, it’s a very Aes Sedai thing to do, to have to cut off a leg because it was caught in a trap and then proclaim to the world about how amazing you are for having no leg. But it was stupid of them to forget themselves the real nature of the Oaths—which is to say, a mark of their greatest failure. The failure to serve the people.

Practicality

The Oaths themselves are dangerous in a purely practical sense. Consider the Oath against using the power as a weapon, for instance. It makes sense when dealing with non-channelers. For all that non-channelers might take out an individual Aes Sedai, any major attack could easily be held off by purely defensive methods, or at the worse, by the opening of the oaths to protect ones life (I’m speaking on the large scale by the way, with many Aes Sedai involved).

However, that does not continue through into dealing with enemies that have their own channelers. Such an oath only makes sense when you are the stronger force, not when you must deal with peers. And as we have seen with the emergence of the Asha'men, not to mention the Wise Ones, Windfinders and damane, the Aes Sedai are not the stronger force.

The Aes Sedai were like adults in a world of children. When a child attacks them they can afford to simply hold them until they grow tired and then send them to bed without dinner. Now however other adults have walked onto the field, and the Aes Sedai cannot do anything until those adults have walked up an punched them in the face. And, when your dealing with channelers, a punch in the face is likely to kill. So here we are, with Aes Sedai unable to fight back until their lives are in danger, yet by the time they perceive the danger they’re likely dead.

The same applies to the oath against the making of weapons for one man to kill another. They put that oath in at the memory of the terrible damage done during the Age of Legends--yet did not pause to consider that that damage was done in fighting a terrible enemy. Had the Light not equipped itself then something far worse would have come from it. It was pure luck that none of the Forsaken had expertise in making weapons. If they had the Light would have been doomed at Tarmon Gai'don, completely unable to respond in time because of the Aes Sedai’s arrogance.

Subtle Dangers

What of the less obvious effects? Let's start with the original intentions of the Oaths--that they placate the fear of the masses. Certainly they have done so to a degree. Aes Sedai are trusted in a sense, and when they speak openly their words are taken as fact. But to go along with that are the constant iterance of phrases such as 'the truth an Aes Sedai speaks is not the truth you hear."

It seems counter-productive to me to make people know you can't hurt them by swearing oaths not to... it presents the image that without such oaths Aes Sedai would be lying, murdering, weapon-mongers. Yes they are stopped from doing such things, but it is still their nature.

And what of the effects on themselves. How long can a person who can't lie say something without coming to believe it to be true? Even when they know that they've manipulated the truth into a lie. Consider all the things Aes Sedai simply accepted as fact; should such intelligent, well-educated women such as they have been so simply accepting of the idea that the kin numbered a few dozen, that they gave up after a time and wandered off and stopped channeling?

This combines with the fact that all Aes Sedai are ‘wowed’ by their own image in order that even they fall victim to the perception that since they can't tell a lie, what they’ve said must obviously be the truth. Oh, they are intellectually aware of the holes in that, but after a time what began as opinion becomes fact simply by the woman opining must be speaking the truth. Its an epidemic of their entire culture. ‘Woman above a certain age will fail in the training’, ‘novices and accepted put out of the tower give up channeling’. On and on opinion becomes fact because its spoken by women who cannot lie.

And one final point on the oaths before i move on. What of the ethical implications? The three oaths address negative aspects of human nature. Lying, violence and creating instruments to do violence. Noble things to want to avoid doing; yet nonetheless at times these things are necessary. As such how does one decide when to employ them?

The answer is simple--employ them when they are necessary. The Aes Sedai however, do not reguard it so—for them it is not a case of ‘I do this when it’s necessary’, but rather, due to the fact that they are power-bound against such things, ‘I do this when it is allowed’. Look at them. Look how easily they lie by omission, or misrepresentation. There is absolutely no understanding of the concept and value of truth in them, and that is contemptible.

Worse, the Accepted actually practice lying as a part of the skills necessary to attain the shawl—oh, they call it giving Aes Sedai answers, but that’s what it amounts to. An institution which practices deception as part of gaining membership…

The Decline in Their Numbers


They suggest that they have culled the ability from mankind by gentling every man they find, but we know this to be inaccurate. From RJ we know that roughly one percent of the modern population have the ability to channel which means there are several hundred thousand channelers in the Westlands alone. Logically it doesn't make sense either--most men don't spark until their mid twenties, which means they likely would already have families. All men who don't have the spark remain in the general genetic pool, as do the vast majority of female channelers.

The ability has indeed declined since the Age of Legends--from 3% to 1% likely as a result of a lack of interbreeding between male and female channelers. We know that in Shara were they specifically breed male and female channelers the numbers have remained higher. That being said, even with that decline, and the decline in the human populace of the westlands since the War of a Hundred Years there is still more than enough female channelers of a strength to gain the shawl--indeed, if all were found and trained they would exceed the Tower at its height by nearly tenfold.

So what are the causes for the decline?

The first is obvious. The introduction of the oaths halved the Aes Sedai's lifespan, which in turn halved the number of Aes Sedai that should be alive. Even so, without the oaths there would only be 2,000 Aes Sedai, still nothing near the 6,000 that the Aes Sedai numbered at their height.

The second reason is more insidious. Following Hawkwings attack the anger and fear the general populace felt for the Aes Sedai increased massively. This disfavour amongst the people continued, spouting misinformation where it went. We see the formation of the Children of the Light in this time, and the increased belief that Aes Sedai are darkfriend who broke the world for the Dark One (and it is increased, we know the people of the past had a much greater degree of knowledge about the nature of Aes Sedai and their intentions for the world, even when these people didn't trust Aes Sedai).

This change in the social perception of the Aes Sedai probably has alot to do with the way Aes Sedai currently hold themselves aloof from the general populace, which in turn likely spread the misinformation. As this increasingly bad opinion spread, naturally less girls sought the Tower. Effectively, the Tower continued on under its old method of letting girls approach, and when they didn't in as great a numbers the Tower concluded that the ability must be declining, when in fact it was simply that the girls desire to approach the Tower had declined. That, combined with the general decline in the westland population resulted in the marked decline witnessed in the Tower.

What is the Future for Aes Sedai



I think it's bright. They have an Amyrlin who by and large escaped the indoctrination process, which is added to by the sudden influx of so many novices including mature women, which means that sooner or later their will be many more Aes Sedai who aren't indoctrinated with the idea of being Aes Sedai. Fresh thought will finally be introduced.

And it is the perfect time for it. They’ve been slapped in the face by the Seanchan and the revelation of the Black Ajah, which should combine to be enough of a wake-up call that even the most idiotic sister will hear, if not act upon. That means that they are in a state of flux, the perfect mentality for new thought to be introduced. Add to that the ability to Travel and I suspect much more prodigious recruitment will begin.

Effectively, they're kind of wankers, but they're on their way out of that, and they have all the tools they need to achieve it.

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#2 Khan

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 07:40 AM

In short: "they're kind of wankers," Very good post, pretty much summed up my thoughts on them, and I guess everyone else's.

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#3 Naffy

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 09:09 AM

Since Ishy is such a rad dude, I'm gonna go ahead and say that the Black Ajah has been instrumental over the years at making Aes Sedai forget their real tasks and become petty, self indulgent wankers. I am sure was of his major order to the BA is to keep the AS squabbling over petty things.

#4 Vicious Circle

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:11 AM

Yes, even the Aiel have been underwhelmed by the vast majority of Aes Sedai they have encountered, but are very pleased with Egwene, and as Amyrlin she is poised to achieve great things with the Wise Ones alliance.
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#5 Kaznen

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 10:32 AM

One thing I'd like to add to your brilliant treatise of AS is how they were never willing to experiment with the OP until the Wondergirls did. They didn't care why a weave worked they just cared that it did.

All the forsaken and LTT sounded like scientists when talking about the OP even Asmodean, a musician, and Sammy, a pro athlete. Six of the thirteen forsaken were scientists as AS. If the "modern" AS had been willing to try to find out the reasons behind the weaves their knowledge in the OP would have been equal to the AoL AS by now (It has been around 3500 years since the breaking).

The AM do experiment with the OP and in less then a year they can do almost as much with the OP as AS. They were better until the wondergirls started teaching new weaves.

But even with the wondergirls contribution the rest of the AS don't care how they figured out the new weaves, just that they did.

I would like to raise an argument about what you said concerning the reds. I don't think they ever thought of cleansing the taint on saidin. The AS doctrine is if it could have been done then the AoL AS would have done so. Early in the WT they tried to find a way to include male channelers and keep them from going mad, but couldn't find a way to do so, so they gave up and gentled every man how could channel right of the bat.

And concerning the 1% population how could learn to channel. If the wetlander gai'shain population is half men, I believe it's 75%, if Grady and Neald started recruiting Soldiers from the refuges they would gain 1000 new channelers in one fell swoop, more then doubling the size of the BT. The men would almost, person for person, equal the number of initiates in the White Tower, novices, accepted and AS.

Edited by Kaznen, 13 September 2010 - 09:43 PM.

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#6 Hybrid

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 11:12 AM

You about summed it up, Luckers.

One thought re: Egwene. While in many ways she is her own person and willing institute change, she still does fall to the typical party thoughts of "I Know Better Than You." Even if we didn't have Foretellings, we'd know there would be a major clash between Egwene and Rand when they next meet. It'll be interesting to see what the future holds for the Aes Sedai and the Asha'man.

On another note, I found this amusing in my reread:

Leane, on the other hand, in true Aes Sedai fashion embraced what had changed.


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#7 Sagacious Lu

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Posted 13 September 2010 - 01:03 PM

I think the fact that the ajahs have been negligent in fulfilling their given mission statements is directly linked to their problems with recruitment, as well as their shoddy reputation- which is the reason the Three Oaths are necessary. If the Yellow Ajah were operating clinics with one or two sisters supported by a team of skilled herbal healers they would be universally loved. Granted there might not be enough sisters to have one in every last town but even if they only had 2-3 in each large city they would very quickly acquire a (well-deserved) reputation for saving lives.
If the Greens had stationed themselves along the Border than the children there would have grown up watching AS save villages from trollocs and Mydraal. Even one or two sisters working with an army makes a huge difference, and they probably had the numbers to station a dozen or more sisters in each of the Border countries. They'd have been heroes all the way from Saldaea to Malkier- which probably wouldn't have fallen under those circumstances.
If the Browns had been setting up and operating schools, universities and research centres (possibly working with the White Ajah, and even maybe the Grey too) students would come from miles around to study there, and afterwards many of them would love their alma mater and respect their teachers.
If the Ajahs actually did the things they pay lip service too they would be revered the world over as great healers, heroic warriors and dedicated scholars. At that point the fact that they didn't recruit wouldn't matter because every little girl would grow up anxiously waiting for the day she could test to see if she could train at the WT. Everyone would have admired them and the novice quarters would have been full. With a golden reputation for performing good works in communities around Randland they might not have needed the Three Oaths in the first place, or at the least might have been able to dispense with them after a time. Their dereliction of duty and the resulting hypocrisy is at the root of the decline of the Tower.
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#8 Cut Strand

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 10:22 AM

There are a lot of things the Aes Sedai could've done, but didn't. And it all stemmed from their isolation from society.

Yellow sisters openly mock the use of herbs in treating people. So having them work with herbal healers for support would probably do more harm than good for the Aes Sedai reputation. Granted it is also possible that seeing herbalists treat multitudes of more people than a single Aes Sedai can might do much to humble them, but I can't say a phrase where humble and Aes Sedai are both used without negatives (e.g. "Aes Sedai are humble.") with a straight face.

Should the Greens have been along the Blightborder? Probably. Figure there were probably 150+ Green sisters, then they could have easily had 10 sisters in each of the four or five borderland nations. Or even 20. So many would allow them to send some off and still be able to respond to emergencies.

Most of what has been said is very valid.

But no amount of outreach makes up for being mystifying. It is like every Aes Sedai has a special type of OCD that requires them to be cryptic.

The Asha'man don't try to be cryptic. The married ones try to teach their wives how to ignore heat and cold, but they don't want to learn for fear that it has to do with the One Power.

The real problem is that they don't try to make relationships, and I can see a lot of very reasonable causes for that. In reaching out, they may fall in love, and having children may be they have channeling children. And no mother wants to have to hurt/kill her son. It would not be surprising if the current rarity of marriage among Aes Sedai is because they don't want to have to deal with channeling sons. Now there are a variety of legitimate ways to deal with those channeling sons (have each son swear on the binder/Oath Rod to not touch saidin or channel).

But allowing their fear to become a doctrine of non-involvement just widened the gap between Aes Sedai and everyone else.

#9 Torn Shadow

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 11:06 AM

The oath rod doesn't work on men, cut. I believe that would require a "binding chair" but the Aes Sedai have no idea what that even is.

And yes, in the past that may have been a fear, though i suspect that it never even crossed their minds. We know from the books that Aes Sedai can fall in love, Suiane did afterall. But the fact that this happened so rarely in the past indicates that Aes Sedai are used to being isolated, loners. Suiane would never have fallen in love if she wasn't first forced to get to know him.

Hopefully Ewgene will have all the ideas you did, if she does it will make the world a better place after the last battle, (they are going to win, remember some of the books opened and closed with quotes from the 4th age). Perhaps they will even learn to work with the Asha'man.

#10 Arath Faringal

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 11:24 AM

The future may be a little brighter, but that may very well fade over time if Egwene doesn't come to her senses about the 3 oaths. Despite the massive influx of fresh thought into the tower, the oaths will eventually bring them right back to where they were.

I would think the Asha'man would help her come to the decision to abolish the oaths. Seeing them operating unrestricted by that foolishness, having double the lifespan, and probably the same amount of respect from the rest of the world. Of course, she might just stick her nose up, curse that wool-headed Rand for putting his arrogance into the Asha'man, and try to force the oaths on them as well.
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#11 Phelix

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 11:30 AM

First, in response to a reply by Torn Shadow:

The Oath rod works on any channeler, it just needs to be operated by a channeler, either the one being bound or one binding them. The reason Sevanna would have needed a Binding Chair to bind Rand to her will is that she cannot channel. Graendal offered her that bit of information, IIRC.

Secondly, in response to the original post:

One element I think you've mislaid in this treatise, is the fact that during Hawkwing's reign, Aes Sedai served as Governors and Bureaucrats throughout the Empire. It was when Bonwhin tried to manipulate him so bluntly that he ordered all Aes Sedai serving in his Government to swear allegiance to him. At that point, Bonwhin recalled all Aes Sedai to Tar Valon, and Hawkwing besieged the Tower. In that moment, Aes Sedai went from being at the peak of public service and society, to being potential traitors.

Those actions both lead to the masses distrusting Aes Sedai and began the Aes Sedai's period of isolationism. Sure, they still sent out emissaries thrones, tried to resolve wars, and dabbled in world affairs, but they kept themselves mostly to themselves in the Tower, from that point on.
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#12 Kaznen

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 12:20 PM

No, the oath rod only works on women. When Sammy gave the Shaido the "oath rod" he told them it only works on women. The "binding chair" works on anyone. But there are binding rods for men but the AS don't have one.
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#13 Phelix

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 12:37 PM

No, the oath rod only works on women. When Sammy gave the Shaido the "oath rod" he told them it only works on women. The "binding chair" works on anyone. But there are binding rods for men but the AS don't have one.


The Oath Rod makes oaths binding and only works on channellers (Knife of Dreams, Prologue). Sammael told Sevanna that the Oath Rod works only on female channellers, not on male (A Crown of Swords, Spears), but he may have been lying in case she ever captured Rand. Binding male channellers may require touching the Oath Rod numeral with Spirit woven from saidin, or a different Oath Rod, or a different ter’angreal altogether. (Binding non-channellers is apparently done on a binding chair (see Chairs section).

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I'm not sure I agree, though I shouldn't have stated my opinion as fact. You are right there. Sammael gave Sevanna the Oath Rod and told her that it wouldn't work on Rand, but only on women. Correct, but as Linda mentions, and I agree, he could easily have been lying to Sevanna. We know that there are multiple Binding Rods (the one in the Tower and the one with Therava show at least two, probably more) and we know that at least one male and one female Forsaken was confronted with the concept of being Bound.

We do not know if there are gender exclusive Binding Rods, but I think it more likely that the rods work on either gender and Sammael was simply lying to Sevanna to prevent her from taking Rand for herself, or killing him in her ignorance. Sevanna could easily have given Rand the oaths to obey her and to never lie to her, then ordered him to tell her that he loved her... and we'd have a suffocating Dragon, unable to fulfill the prophecies, and unable to rule as the Lord of Chaos. Telling Sevanna "no" could be, and in my opinion was, a calculated lie.

It does not make sense to make multiple ter'angreal in one form that only work for a single gender while making a second ter'angreal in another form for the opposite gender, especially when these ter'angreal are for a governmental purpose like enforcing justice. Also, with the way complimentary powers interact in the WoT world, it makes less sense to have a binder that only a woman can use on another woman, or a man on a man.

But, again, those are just my opinions taken from what we know. ;)
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#14 Kaznen

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 01:30 PM

One thing to look at is the oath rod(s) we've seen are white. The numbers carved in are white. White is the "color" that represents saidar. Black represents saidin. I don't think it is illogical to have them separated by gender. And all swearing we've seen it was the channeler who did the swearing who used the OP.

The few glimpses we saw of the prebore AoL showed that society wasn't all flowers and lollipops. There was a cold and brutal streak as well.
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#15 Cut Strand

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 01:50 PM

Rand's Fat Man with Sword angreal was dark green.

Graendal's angreal ring is gold (if she is dead, it is probably sitting at the bottom of the crate Rand left, unless angreal aren't immune to balefire if they aren't in use).

I don't think we've seen any men make cuendillar, so we don't know for certain it would default to black.

And the ter'angreal copies Elayne made didn't come out stark white.

I think color isn't as meaninful as you are implying.

Also, we have seen other people activate a rod for someone else.
1. Galina was shielded and forced to swear.
2. The Black Ajah Hunt in the White Tower had tons of forced swearing.

Now, when a sister is raised to the shawl, she activates it herself, but she is complicit in her swearing, she isn't being forced.

#16 Phelix

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 01:57 PM

Cut Strand is correct in that we've seen quite a few examples where people were forced to swear while someone else channeled into the ter'angreal, so that point is moot.

While black does represent saidin and white saidar frequently, those are hardly exclusive. White often represents other things, as does black. The Light, the Shadow, purity, impurity, etc. The rods being white could simply mean that they were meant to represent the purity of the law. Or they could have been made of cuendillar using the form that turns iron white.

For an instrument of justice, it doesn't make sense to differentiate by sex.
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#17 Torn Shadow

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 02:05 PM

We do know that color IS important when it comes to ter'angreal. So it is unlikely the white "coloring" of the rod is a stylistic choice. It may be because it is made to bind women, but we can not know.

And Phelix, just because it doesn't make sense doesn't mean it didn't happen. We know that some ter'angreal can only be used by women and others only be men, so it stands to reason that that may hold true for the oath rod as well. (yet there are others that if they need saidin will draw it themselves, such as the bowl of winds).

#18 Phelix

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 02:17 PM

No, we know that color CAN BE important when it comes to ter'angreal. We do not know that it IS always important. Look at the Choden Kal Access keys, both are white statues, one of a man the other a woman, and each is tied to its own half of the source. We haven't seen as many male ter'angreal or angreal for that matter, but we know Rand's little man ter'angreal wasn't black.

While it may stand to reason that the idea of gender exclusive ter'angreal "may hold true" for the Binders, I still find it highly unlikely. Just because a thing is possible does not make it likely.

Sure, it could be possible that there are dozens (or more) black rods with AoL numbers inscribed on them floating around the world, they've just never been found or used. But it's unlikely.

What is more likely is that a known liar, a known manipulator, simply followed his established pattern of behavior and gave a lie to someone he was manipulating.
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#19 Cut Strand

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 02:39 PM

We do know that color IS important when it comes to ter'angreal. So it is unlikely the white "coloring" of the rod is a stylistic choice. It may be because it is made to bind women, but we can not know.

And Phelix, just because it doesn't make sense doesn't mean it didn't happen. We know that some ter'angreal can only be used by women and others only be men, so it stands to reason that that may hold true for the oath rod as well. (yet there are others that if they need saidin will draw it themselves, such as the bowl of winds).

Citations please.

I already provided citations that disprove color/gender correlation in ter'angreal/angreal. Please cite evidence that there is correlation.

Yeah, modern Aes Sedai can only make white cuendillar, but Elayne made multicolored dream ter'angreal.

Most of the statuette angreal are ivory OR stone. And while the gender of the statue seems to indicate the power it augments, the color doesn't.

1. Moiraine's "dark ivory carging of a woman in flowing robes."
2. Aviendha's amber turtle
3. Verin's too-many-petaled lily brooch
4. Graendal's Gold Ring
5. Cadsuane's Shrike hair ornament
6. Nyneave's gold hand bracelet-chain thing.
7. Stone figurine of a woman, naked except for her hair. (When I hear "stone" I don't think "white" unless they say "white marble")
8. A small DARK IVORY bracelet in the shape of an acrobat bent backwards so his wrists are tied to his ankles (this is the angreal Moiraine used to piss off the archway and try to take out Lanfear, apparently it was for women to use, one of the few other gender angreal, unless the acrobat is androgynous).

And that is just the saidar angreal so far.

The Choedan Kal sa'angreal (and access keys) are never described as being black and white respectively. Is the White Flute, white? Yeah. Callandor is clear.

And look at all the ter'angreal.

The "Fluted Black Rod" (Balefire Rod) was used by a woman. Guess what, it was black!

The 7 seals on the Dark One's prison were made exclusively by Saidin, they are half white and half black. I think they are that way because the Aes Sedai making them wanted to use a shape that was familiar to them. So they used the symbol of their order.

And the Oath Road (the White Tower's rod has a 3 on it I think) is believed to be one of the "Nine Rods of Domination." The rod Therava had bears a different numeral. I don't know if any binder can remove any Oath or if you need the same binder. The Black Ajah either has its own binder (to remove and create their own oaths) or used the tower's rod.

I am inclined to believe you need to original rod to remove an oath because Verin talked about "trying" to use the vault's Oath Rod to remove her Black Ajah oaths. Her use of "trying" could imply an uncertainty of Binder #3 being able to remove Oaths sword on the Black Ajah's Binder #X. Or her use of "trying" could just be about not being able to find Binder #3 (and not having accept to the Black Ajah binder).

Edited by Cut Strand, 14 September 2010 - 02:45 PM.


#20 Phelix

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Posted 14 September 2010 - 03:23 PM

And the Oath Road (the White Tower's rod has a 3 on it I think) is believed to be one of the "Nine Rods of Domination."



One Point, CS, we know that the Binders aren't the Rods of Dominion.

The OR is NOT a "Rod of Dominion." The way the Nine Rods of Dominion were mentioned in the TEOTW Prologue, they were something special. The OR, OTOH, is referred to as a "binder," lower case. Nothing special. Furthermore, in TPOD, we find out what Sammael meant by "the number" in [ACOS: 40, Spears, 630-631]-- the Oath Rods are numbered. The Tower's Rod is number three, while Sevanna's Rod is number one hundred and eleven [TPOD: 11, Questions and an Oath, 253]. So, it seems like there are way more than nine Oath Rods.

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