Why can’t men be Aes Sedai? “The wheel of time” has rules
When Moiraine first entered the Winespring Inn in The wheel of time Opening episode, the room became silent at the sight of an Aes Sedai. While the people of Deux Rivières know all about these women (or at least what the stories tell them about these women), those sitting at home probably don’t know, and they probably have a lot of questions. On the one hand, what is happening with the color code? On the other hand, why was a bunch of them dressed in red chasing a guy? And what are the Aes Sedai which are reserved for women? Why can’t men be Aes Sedai?
Warning: Spoilers follow for The wheel of time Season 1, Episode 1-3, as well as many exhibits explained in the first three books of The wheel of time. The first three episodes of The wheel of time never directly explains the history of the Aes Sedai, but there are clues. A long time ago (3,482 years to be exact) this world was very different. It was a technological marvel with machines that flew, vehicles that could travel leagues in an hour, devices that could communicate vast distances in an instant. Aes Sedai ruled this world, but they were men and women who worked together using both halves of the One Power.
But they have become greedy. The Aes Sedai were looking for ways to increase their power. And in doing so, they accidentally freed the Dark One from his prison. An apocalypse broke out as the Aes Sedai fought to contain and repel him. An Aes Sedai man, known as the Dragon, Lews Therin Talmon, led 100 Sedai men against the Dark One in The Last Battle and won.
But as they beat the Dark One, he touched the male half of the One Power, tainted it. His touch reached the minds of every Aes Sedai male, driving them out of their senses. They ran in the wild, murdering entire villages, draining seas in one place and drowning towns in others, sharing land here, creating volcanoes and mountains there. Known as “The Breaking Up of the World,” this incident didn’t end until the Sedai woman shot all the men down. Since then, no male Aes Sedai has been allowed to survive for fear that it will all happen again.
Let’s break it down a little further:
The unique power
What exactly is the One Power? As Star Wars’ Force or Shadow and Bone little science, this power is the kind of science that is indistinguishable from magic. The ability to touch and exercise the unique power is known as “channeling.” On one level, what the book describes when an Aes Sedai ‘channel’ is molecular manipulation. Aes Sedai takes a droplet from the air and reproduces it until it fills a glass of water or accelerates the molecules until a fire starts. They create a mirror around them to reflect the world and disappear or open a gateway and travel through time and space.
But the way men and women interact with her is different. Men have a kind of power that they could seize by force. Known as Saïdin, he is represented by the black half of the yin-yang, called the Dragon’s Tooth. The polar opposite is the female half, saidar, the white half of yin yang, or “the tear”. To control it, the women surrender to it, allowing it to cross them like a river.
Today’s Aes Sedai
Once upon a time, saidin and saidar were balanced. But with what they say tainted, women have saved the world by “softening” any man who can channel. (“To soften” or “to immobilize” is to cut a man or woman off from power. This usually leads to deep depression and the channeler commits suicide.) Since the breakup, defilement ends up driving every last male channeler. out of their minds – seeing things that are not there, hearing things that are not real, reacting to threats that are not there.
To protect the rest of the world from men who can channel, the Aes Sedai have gone undercover, especially their leader, known as The Amyrlin Seat. Rumors abound about what these women can and cannot do, as the memory of their abilities has faded over the generations. This secrecy engendered fear, and the Aes Sedai themselves changed in response. In the old days, people knew they could trust Aes Sedai. No more. Moiraine mentions that the Aes Sedai adopted the Three Oaths to show the world that they were not a threat. These oaths (not to say any wrong words, not to make any weapon with which one man can kill another, and to never use the One Power as a weapon except against Darkfriends and Shadowspawn) lock an Aes Sedai when she takes them, bind her. And worst of all, they don’t really work, as most people don’t believe the Aes Sedai follow them anyway.
When an Aes Sedai first arrives at the White Tower and has the opportunity to train, she is known as the Novice. (Entering the White Tower is called “signing the novice book.”) Novices are treated little better than servants, being given menial tasks to prove that they understand their role. Aes Sedai, after all, means “Those who serve” in the ancient language.
When a novice is deemed ready, she is taken to a device known as ter’angreal, a tool imbued with the unique power. Known as the Three Rings, she crosses it, seeing visions of the past, present and future that she abandons to join the White Tower. When she emerges, she is considered an Accepted and receives her Aes Sedai ring, the snake eating her tail.
When her accepted studies are completed, she receives the oath staff and takes the oaths, ascending to the rank of full Aes Sedai. He is then also given the choice of which Ajah to join. Each of these companies within the Aes Sedai system has its own code.
- Red Ajah: Warrior Ajah who is dedicated to “softening” any man who can channel
- Green Ajah: Battle Ajah, which is preparing for the coming of the Dragon Reborn
- Gray Ajah: Diplomatic Ajah, who usually gets attached to queens and politicians
- Brown Ajah: historian Ajah, who studies and preserves the past
- Ajah yellow: Healer Ajah, doctors and nurses
- Blue Ajah: Justice-oriented Ajah who also has a huge network of eyes and ears
- White Ajah: Philosopher’s Ajah, more interested in theory than action
Amyrlin’s seat, when raised, leaves her Ajah behind and is considered to belong to both all Ajahs and none. (And if you ask, Black Ajah doesn’t exist, but Darkfriends are everywhere these days.)
Since Aes Sedai cannot use his powers to protect himself, they have developed a system of Guardians. The guards are soldiers dedicated to the protection and service of Aes Sedai. The Aes Sedai binds the Guardian using the unique power, creating a psychic bond between them. Guardians gain physical stamina and strength, the ability to easily spot Darkfriends, and the ability to resist evil. The Aes Sedai wins someone intrinsically related to her to force her (to some extent) to do as she commands.
As Aes Sedai is only female, almost all Guardians are male. There are legendary women who have been Guardians, but they are rare. (The heteronormativity of this world is very deep.)
That doesn’t necessarily make their relationship a heterosexual romance. Although some Aes Seadi sleep with their guardians (the Greens in particular), many see them as employees, friends, or spiritual companions. Some will bind multiple Guardians and have a personal army, while some Aes Sedai will bind none: Reds never have Guardians, for example, and Whites rarely have them.
The wheel of time Season 1 continues with new episodes every Friday on Amazon.