Saturday, July 25, 2020

Three Women - Character Parallels for Elayne, Aviendha and Min



By Linda

"I've seen this," Min said. "I knew it would come the day I first met him. We three, together, here."

- A Memory of Light, Epilogue

Three witches, three empowering women, three lovers of the Dragon. On one level, the witches—two magic users and a seeress—mutually agree to a polyamorous relationship with the Light’s champion. On an archetypal or alchemical level, the Dragon, who is one with the Land, partners with the Goddess of Sovereignty, also known as the Goddess of the Land or the Mother Goddess, in her three-fold aspect to restore order and balance to the Pattern and fertility and health to the Land by fighting off evil. The women and the world need the Dragon to confront the Dark One, sacrificing nearly everything to seal the deity away; Rand needs their support to endure the world’s suffering and reach that confrontation.

Jordan’s original story outline was largely Celto-Arthurian (see Arthurian legend parallels in The Wheel of Time), and the Goddess of the Land is intrinsic to Celtic Mythology. Two of her important guises are the three Guineveres of Arthurian myth and the maiden-mother-crone Morrigan of Irish myth. In later drafts of The Eye of the World and The Great Hunt, Jordan expanded his story to a more global mythos and symbolism. Yet triple goddesses or queens as the archetypal feminine are widespread in Western culture: the three Norns of Norse myth, the three Fates and three Furies of Ancient Greek mythology, and also the three Maries in the New Testament.

You see there are cycles which I think are archetypical. The trinity, trio, the cycle and multiples of three…These are simply things that, numbers that, turn up again in mythologies in a lot of countries. They have a certain significance that resonates to us.

- Robert Jordan, Interview

Three is a number of harmony, strength and productivity, and Rand, the Chosen One, draws comfort from the strength of the three women’s emotional support, and also their harmonious relationship with him and with each other. The triplicity of the Goddess as maiden, mother and crone symbolises the waxing, full and waning phases of the moon, respectively, as they reflect the light of the sun, Rand, Sol Invictus. Each of Rand’s lovers epitomizes one of these roles: Aviendha, former Maiden of the Spear, pregnant Elayne as Mother, and seeress Min as the Crone, since she will age before the others. Yet they are not confined to one role, and as they grow they show aspects of the other phases as is proper for character growth and development.

Three-fold goddesses, demi-goddesses or legendary queens with parallels to Aviendha, Elayne and Min include:


  • Badb-Macha-Nemain who comprise the Morrigan, an Irish sovereignty goddess associated with the fertility, prosperity and protection of the land, fate and war. The sovereignty goddess Macha was called the “sun of womanfolk” and Elayne, queen of two nations, is a very solar character (see below). A couple of legendary Irish women named Macha also have parallels with Elayne (see below). Badb is an active participant in war, using magic to cause fear and confusion among soldiers, as is Aviendha, former Maiden of the Spear. In her harbinger of doom aspect, Badb is like Min, especially when she takes the form of an ugly hag and prophesies someone’s death, and also when she is the washerwoman at the ford cleaning the clothes of the doomed: seeress Min was forced to do laundry in Salidar, notably that of Gareth Bryne, whose doom she foretold, and who was indeed a doomed warrior.
    The Nemain aspect of Morrigan confounds armies, so that friendly bands fall in mutual slaughter. Elayne’s armies were sabotaged in this way by Graendal’s Compulsion of the Great Captains. Elayne accepted Mat’s plan to lose ground to the Shadow while waiting for the right moment to take the victory, after he explained to her that the Shadow would see through any false pretences. Min saved the Seanchan’s contribution from being sabotaged by the Shadow by exposing Moghedien, another Morrigan parallel. Jordan depicted both a Dark (Lanfear-Moghedien-Graendal) and a Light (Aviendha-Elayne-Min) version of the Morrigan triad.


  • Three Guineveres In the Welsh Triad Trioedd Ynys Prydein, King Arthur was said to have three Guineveres as his three Great Queens, as a three-fold Celtic goddess of sovereignty. In the King Arthur tales, Guinevere was prone to being kidnapped and rescued, and was also unfaithful to Arthur, having a long affair with Lancelot and almost marrying Modred. All three of Rand’s loves are entirely faithful to him, although Elayne encourages people to think that her babies are Hanlon’s for their own safety. Aviendha felt that her love-making with Rand in The Fires of Heaven was illicit, since in her eyes he was tied to Elayne at that time. This was also the only time Aviendha was rescued; and occurred because she did not know how to make a gateway back to Cairhien. More typical of the archetype, Elayne was captured and rescued multiple times: in Cairhien, Tear, Amadicia, Caemlyn and during the Last Battle, while Min was abducted and held twice; once by the Seanchan with Egwene at Falme, and once by the Tower embassy with Rand at Cairhien.


  • The three Horae were originally goddesses of the seasons who over time changed to law and order goddesses. They were worshipped in the cities in Ancient Greece and were half-sisters of the Moirae. The goddesses—Dike, Eunomia and Eirene—guarded the gates to Olympus and represented fertility. Dike personified moral justice and fair judgement based on immemorial custom. Aviendha has a strong belief in the strength and value of Aiel customs and diligently follows honour and obligation. Adikia, injustice, was Dike’s opposite. Dike is depicted on the Chest of Cypselus at Olympia throttling an ugly Adikia and beating her with a stick. Aviendha memorably beat the murderous Lady Colavaere and also fought off ugly Graendal.
    Eunomia was the goddess of legislation and good human laws, and is a parallel of Elayne, Queen of Andor, who was brought up to practice good governance and fair judgement. Eirene stood for peace and wealth, and is a parallel of Min, now counsellor to the incredibly wealthy Empress. The Horae provided stability and promoted wealth for mankind. Likewise, the three women provide stability for Rand and as Queen, Wise One and Doomseer are stewards for mankind.


  • Qudshu-Astarte-Anat are the Canaanite triple goddess of fertility, sex, love, and war. Qudshu and Astarte were both goddesses of sexuality and fertility and were associated with the lion and the horse. Astarte was the lion-throned goddess, and Elayne holds the Lion Throne of Andor. Elayne and Min were both close to horses—Birgitte said that Elayne spoiled hers, while Min has worked as a stablehand.
    Anat was a blood thirsty war goddess, and established peace through war. She gave birth to her brother's child, but continued to be described as a maiden and as "virgin Anat". No stranger to battle, Aviendha, a former Maiden, is prophesied to have four children all at once. Pregnant Elayne was made overall leader of the Light’s forces in the Last Battle and even actively fought in battle for a brief time to inspire her troops.
    During the New Kingdom period, Qudshu was adopted into the Ancient Egyptian pantheon as Qadesh, and formed a triad with the deities Min (see below) and Resheph (linked to Anat in some texts). This trio would be the equivalent of Tuon, Min and Semirhage (who used the alias of Anath), since the Seanchan have parallels with Ancient Egypt.

  • Three Fates or Moirae of Ancient Greece: Clotho (spins thread, spinner), Lachesis (draws out thread, allotter), and Atropos (cuts thread, death). Everyone bows to them, except perhaps Zeus, a parallel of Rand. These are minor parallels of the three women and a major parallel of Moiraine in their positive aspect, and Moghedien in their negative.


  • Jordan’s legendary Queens share, rather than bestow, sovereignty. They are not passive, but fight their own battles in the story as well as support the Dragon through his, and earn a champion as much as the Creator’s champion wins them.

    Each of the women has other parallels and they will be discussed in turn. Here is the outline:

    Elayne
    Elaine of Arthurian Legend
    Parvati
    Athena
    Helen
    Áine
    Macha
    Sif
    Sekhmet
    Elizabeth 1
    Empress Tarot Card
    Sun Tarot Card
    Golden Lily
    Silver Keystone
    Lioness
    Sword

    Aviendha
    Queen of the Waste Lands
    Leda
    Athena
    Penthesilea
    Artemis
    Asteria
    Minnehaha
    Börte
    Star Tarot Card
    Spear

    Min
    Cassandra
    Pythia
    Sibyls and the Sibylline books
    Onmyōji and Onmyōdō
    Mary the Prophetess
    Sif
    Frigg
    Metis
    Nephthys
    Wadjet
    Min
    Hildegard of Bingen
    Florence Farr
    Queen Min of Korea
    Moon Tarot Card


    ELAYNE

    When we first see Elayne, she is a sheltered princess who tends sick animals with her first aid kit (a nod to Sekhmet, the Ancient Egyptian lion goddess of healing) and is about to learn to use magic to become one of the few fairy princesses—the few Aes Sedai who are royalty. During her training, Elayne was a runaway and later a captive princess (Tear, Caemlyn). The other immediately obvious thing about Elayne is her name, which is a variant of Helen, meaning 'bright' or 'shining light', and its strong connections with Greek myth and also Arthurian legend.

    Elaine of Arthurian Legend

    There are several Arthurian women named Elaine, and Elayne has parallels with a few of them.

    Elaine, daughter of Pelles the Fisher King of Corbenic Castle, bore the Grail in procession before the knight Sir Perceval. Her father’s kingdom had become a waste land and his plan was that Elayne should bear a child who would become the Grail Hero and save his kingdom. When Sir Lancelot came to Corbenic Castle, he was given a drug that created a glamour that made him think he was making love to Guinevere rather than Elaine. Elaine conceived Galahad, the perfect knight who achieved the Holy Grail. In The Wheel of Time series, the equivalent of the Grail is the Bowl of Winds, which Elaine and Nynaeve, both Grail maidens, located and used to restore the seasons and heal the Land. It was Rand (King Arthur and also the Fisher King) rather than Lan (Lancelot) who Elayne took for a lover after he arrived at her palace disguised by magic. In Winter’s Heart, Elayne decided not to use contraceptives when she and Rand (the world’s saviour) made love in the hope that she would conceive a child for her kingdom. In fact, she conceived the perfect result: a girl to be queen after her, and a boy to be First Prince of the Sword to his sister. The babies may also be Shivan and Calian, reborn Heroes of the Horn.

    The sister of Sir Perceval was also named Elaine. During the quest for the Grail, she met the Arthurian knights Galahad, Perceval and Bors and told them about the significance of the Sword of the Strange Belt, the magical ship, and the Tree of Life. They all then boarded the ship bound for the land where the Grail was. On disembarking, they came to a castle where the Countess chatelaine was afflicted with leprosy. Each virgin maiden travelling through the land was coerced into filling a dish with her blood because it had been foretold that the Countess would be healed of her leprosy by a virgin’s blood. The three knights fought off the castle soldiers that were coming for Elaine, but Elaine decided to donate all her blood to Heal the Countess even though it would mean her death. The Countess was healed successfully by Elaine’s willing sacrifice, whereupon Elaine’s body was placed on a boat and set adrift. When the knights reached the Holy City of Sarras where the Grail was kept, her body arrived and was buried in the city. Elayne was one of the maidens who found and used a Wheel of Time equivalent of the Holy Grail, the Bowl of Winds ter’angreal. Despite being heavily pregnant, she fought for the good of the Land at the Last Battle. Galad is Elayne’s brother rather than son, and for all that she rejects their relationship at times, she has encountered him more often than she has Gawain since leaving Andor. The Sword of the Strange Belt may refer to Laman’s sword, which was originally in a jewel-encrusted scabbard and is now on Rand’s leather belt with its gilded dragon buckle—a strange setting. Elayne did not pass this information on to Rand, but there was an important knife that Elayne gave to Rand—the artham dagger which hid him from the Shadow while he entered Shayol Ghul to make his own willing sacrifice to Heal the Land. The Trees of Life are parallels of the chora trees, Avendesora in Rhuidean and Avendoraldera, which Laman, owner of the Sword of the Strange Belt, had cut down. So far, a magical ship has not featured, but there is an unfulfilled prophecy of Rand and three women—one of them Elayne—in a boat.

    Elaine the Fair, also known as the Lady of Shalott, was the daughter of Bernard of Astolat, and her sigil was a lily. She tried to win the love of Lancelot, and when he rejected her, she died of a broken heart and was brought by boat up the Thames to Arthur's court at Camelot. Elayne’s sigil is a golden lily, but she is in love with Rand (Arthur), not Lan (Lancelot), and is foretold to be on a boat with him and two other women.

    Lastly, there was an Elaine who was the daughter of Igraine, sister of Morgan and Morgause and half-sister of Arthur. She married King Nentres of Garlot. In the Wheel of Time series, Elaine is the daughter of Morgase and Rand is the son of Tigraine, and Rand was relieved to discover that he and Elayne are not related by blood to each other, even though they share a half-brother, Galad.


    Mythic and Religious Parallels

    Parvati

    Rand has parallels to the Hindu god Shiva the Destroyer, as does Lews Therin. Shiva’s first wife Sati, her fiery death, and Shiva’s violent reaction to it, are more typical of Lews Therin and his beloved Ilyena. However, his second wife, the mother goddess Parvati, Sati’s reincarnation, has similarities to Elayne. Parvati is fair, beautiful and benevolent and usually wears a red dress. The voice of encouragement, reason and strength, she encouraged her ascetic husband to participate in the mundane world. The formal dress of the Queen of Andor is red with white lions. She encouraged Rand with her positivity and taught him much about being a leader and ruling.

    Athena

    Athena was the Ancient Greek virginal goddess of handicrafts and warfare and protector of cities. Her birth was unconventional: she sprang fully-formed from the head of Zeus, who is a parallel of Rand. (Athena’s mother, Metis, is a parallel of Min.) As a goddess of war, Athena has parallels to both Elayne and Aviendha, who were directly involved in the fighting in the Last Battle, although they are Rand’s lovers rather than his daughters. Elayne has closer correspondences with Athena’s other attributes: she rules two cities, and rather atypically of royalty, likes making things, notably ter’angreal, and respects and notices craftsmen and craftsmanship. Elayne sews very neatly and is a good cook. Athena is associated with war strategy, and Elayne oversaw the Light’s forces in the Last Battle. One of Athena’s important legends involves devising the strategy that enabled the ancient Greeks to win the Trojan War, which was fought over another of Elayne’s parallels.

    Helen of Troy

    The name Elayne is a variant of Helen. In Geek mythology, Helen of Troy was a child of the Spartan queen Leda and the god Zeus. Zeus disguised himself as a swan and raped—or in some myths, seduced—Leda. That same day, she also made love with her husband Tyndareus. The result was that she laid two eggs, from which hatched Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux. Half these offspring were mortal and half immortal, although the myths are inconsistent as to which of them are which.

    Clytemnestra, with her disastrous marriages, has parallels to Elayne’s mother Morgase. Leda’s quadruple birth is paralleled in the quadruplets that Elayne’s sister-wife Aviendha will carry (see below). From what Aviendha saw in the glass columns, they are of varied appearance due to their mixed heritage (their father, Rand, having changed bodies). Elayne herself is pregnant with twins.

    Helen was abducted by Paris and taken to Troy, which sparked the Trojan War. In Homer's Iliad, Helen looks down from the walls of Troy and wonders why she does not see either of her brothers, Castor or Pollux, among the Greeks who came to take her back. It’s because in Homer’s version of this myth both are dead, ie mortal. Likewise, Elayne’s brothers, being non-channellers, do not have her long lifespan, and Gawyn is already dead.

    Áine

    Áine, the Irish goddess of wealth, sovereignty and summer, also has parallels to Elayne besides a similarity in name. A solar figure, Áine is also associated with love and fertility. In some tales, she is raped by the King of Munster but maims him in return, thus rendering him unfit to rule by Irish law. Goddesses of sovereignty can remove a man from rulership as well as grant it. In County Limerick, Áine is regarded as Queen of the Fae.

    Elayne is a queen who is also Aes Sedai, and the Aes Sedai have strong parallels to the Fae, the Fair or Fairy, Folk. Her considerable strength in saidar ranks her highly among Aes Sedai. Ruler of the wealthy country of Andor, her golden hair indicates her solar nature. She is carrying the twins of Rand, Sol Invictus, who was maimed and, after considerable travails, is now no longer a ruler.

    Macha

    Apart from the Irish sovereignty goddess, there are two women named Macha that feature in Irish legend with parallels to Elayne. Macha Mong Ruad (red haired), daughter of Áed Rúad (meaning red fire or fire lord, a name of the Dagda, the good god of Ireland, who in turn has parallels to Rand), was the only queen in the List of High Kings of Ireland, according to both legend and tradition. The kingship was rotated between Áed and his cousins Díthorba and Cimbáeth, each ruling for seven years at a time. However, after Áed died, Macha claimed the right to the kingship when Ared’s turn to rule came round again, but Díthorba and Cimbáeth refused to allow a woman to take the throne. Macha and her forces went into battle against those of Díthorba and Cimbáeth and won, and Díthorba was killed and his sons driven into Connacht. Macha pursued the sons, and captured them. The Ulstermen recommended they be executed, but she enslaved them instead and set them to work building a fort. Macha married Cimbáeth and shared the rulership with him. They ruled together for seven years until Cimbáeth died and then Macha ruled a further fourteen years alone before being killed. Andoran rulership is by tradition matrilineal, and the Andorans were outraged when Rand, albeit with good intentions—consistent with the Dagda being the good god —declared himself king of Andor and said he would give the throne to Elayne. Since she is entitled to it in her own right by descent, Elayne was unimpressed. Elayne has battled other Andoran claimants to the throne, overcome them, and stripped them of their titles and estates (which would normally be a death sentence, especially with the debts they had incurred), but granted them estates in Cairhien so they kept their status as nobles.

    Macha, daughter of Sainrith mac Imbaith, appeared at the house of the widower farmer Cruinniuc and became his common law wife. She was soon pregnant. Cruinnic’s wealth increased while they were together, although Macha warned him that she would only stay with him as long as he kept her secret. Cruinnic promised to say nothing of her to anyone. However, at a festival held by the king of Ulster, Cruinnic boasted that his wife could run faster than the king’s horses, and the king demanded he prove the truth of his claim or be killed. Despite being heavily pregnant, Macha was summoned to the king’s festival and raced against the horses. She won, but gave birth to boy and girl twins on the finish line and in revenge for their disrespect, cursed the Ulstermen to be overcome with weakness for five days at the time of their greatest need, a curse that would last for nine generations. Elayne tried to keep the identity of the father of her twins quiet for some months, even going to the extent of implying that Hanlon was the father. She fought in the Last Battle while heavily pregnant with boy and girl twins, likely to be the Heroes Calian and Shivan. Elayne tried to be merciful as well as firm when dealing out punishments for those who acted against her, steering a course between the two Macha figures.

    Sif

    Rand is not only Sol Invictus, he is also an analogue of Thor, as his surname al’Thor indicates. Thor had a golden-haired wife named Sif, who was very beautiful. Sif is a minor parallel of both Elayne and Min. Elayne matches Sif’s description, while Sif’s considerable powers of prophecy were given to Min. After Thor grabbed Loki for cutting Sif’s hair, Loki promised to have dwarf artisans craft a gold headpiece to replace her shorn hair. Elayne wears the golden rose crown on her intact locks.

    Sekhmet

    Besides the rose crown, the lion, specifically the white lion, is associated with Andor and Elayne. The ancient Egyptian healing and warrior goddess Sekhmet was depicted as a lioness or as a woman dressed in red with the head of a lioness. Her dress may have rosettes on the chest in imitation of the shoulder hair of lions. A solar deity, she protected the pharaohs and guided them in warfare. She could breathe fire or bring plagues, but also ward off plagues.

    The formal dress of the Andoran queen was red emblazoned with white lions. Elayne’s golden hair and sunny personality indicate her solar nature. This was much in evidence as she led the Light’s forces in the Last Battle to buy time for Rand to confront the Dark One. Sekhmet also has positive parallels with the healing lioness Nynaeve, and her negative aspects are evident in Semirhage. Elayne can channel strongly, but does not have a Talent for Healing. She uses her knowledge of mundane, rather than magical, healing methods to help injured animals.


    Historic Parallels

    Elizabeth 1

    Queen Elizabeth I of England (1533–1603) was one of the longer reigning monarchs of England, ruling for nearly 45 years, providing a period of stability and growth for the kingdom after the short reigns of her half-siblings. Sometimes called the Virgin Queen, Gloriana the faerie queene, or Good Queen Bess, she was very well educated, and set out to rule by good counsel from a group of trusted advisers led by her crafty Lord High Treasurer and Secretary of State William Cecil. She also relied heavily on her spymaster Sir Francis Walsingham and internal spies and overseas agents. Her secret service was essential to uncover and defeat the various conspiracies to assassinate her. Like Elayne, Elizabeth I had an unexpectedly difficult accession to the throne. She was cut out of the succession and, at one stage, imprisoned in a castle. Andoran fashion is “Elizabethan” in style. The faerie are a major source of inspiration for the Aes Sedai. As a strong channeller, Elayne’s life, and therefore rule, is likely to be very long and provide stability to aid in recovery after the Last Battle. It may be looked back upon as a Golden Age, as Elizabeth’s reign was. We see Elayne in council with her secretary and treasurer Norry and palace chamberlain Harfor as they discuss intelligence and set up spies.

    It was Elizabeth’s duty to marry and produce an heir so as to continue the Tudor line, just as it is Elayne’s. However, Elizabeth rejected all her numerous prospective suitors, which kept the reins of her kingdom firmly in her own hands, with no influence or rivalry from a consort, in contrast to her cousin Mary Queen of Scots and her half-sister Mary I of England, both of whom are parallels of Morgase. However, she did have a close relationship with a few favoured men, notably Robert Dudley. Elayne isn't a Virgin Queen, but she is likely to be an unmarried mother. (It is a solution to the problem of producing an heir without risking political interference or ambition from a husband, as happened to her mother Morgase and to Morgase’s parallel Mary Queen of Scots.) Elizabeth also refused to name an heir once she was beyond child-bearing age for fear of them being a focus of plots to usurp her throne. Elayne encouraged the belief that the father of her babies was Hanlon to keep them from being used to strike at Rand. One of the Shadow’s plots was to cut her babies from her body and deliver them to the Dark One.

    France was a threat to England early in Elizabeth’s reign, but then became tied up in civil war. Likewise, Cairhien, which has strong parallels to France (as well as Japan), plummeted into chaos early in the books, as Elayne, Egwene and Nynaeve saw on their journey to Tear. Elayne later pressed her claims on Cairhien and assumed the crown there. This is a parallel of the English monarchs’ battles in the 14th–15th centuries to win back their French estates and take the French throne. Tear is a parallel of Spain, and the Tairen prince Elayne married in one of Rand’s alternative lives shown in the Portal Stone would have been a Spanish prince in Tudor times. Elizabeth’s brother-in-law, married to her sister Mary 1, was King Philip of Spain. He became her enemy later in life.

    Elizabeth’s reign is regarded as a time when the arts flourished, although the achievements of English poets, musicians and dramatists owed little to the queen, who wasn’t a major patron. Elayne showed no appreciation for the new art forms like opera or plays, preferring traditional bards. She did, however found a school, the Rose Academy, and to her dismay, had a Dark School established on her land at the Black Tower. Gresham College (which ultimately became the Royal Society) was founded toward the end of Queen Elizabeth 1’s reign.

    At the end of her life, Elizabeth refused to allow doctors to examine her and also refused to rest in bed, but stood for many hours at a time and occasionally sat in a chair. Elayne was unwilling to consult a midwife during her pregnancy, and also refused bed rest when she overextended herself.


    Symbols

    Empress Tarot Card

    As ruler of two countries and liege lady of a pact, Elayne is the second empress figure in the series. The Empress tarot card stands for such powerful women rulers (see Il Meneghello Naibi di Giovanni Vacchetta Empress card right, and US Games Waite-Smith Empress card below left). Her archetype features in medieval morality plays such as the Dance of Death, thought to be one of the inspirations for the trumps of the Tarot cards:

    As the wife of the Emperor, the Empress partakes in various Dances of Death. “I thought I had a lot of power…Oh, let me live on, I implore you!” she begs the Grim Reaper.

    - Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot

    This reminds us of how Elayne was made complacent by Min’s viewing that her (and Emperor Rand’s) babies would be born healthy and strong and took risks despite Birgitte’s warnings that it was no guarantee. In the Last Battle, Elayne’s power to channel was neutralised and she screamed in horror as the Shadow prepared to rip the babies from her belly and leave her dead on the battlefield.

    The Empress is a fertility figure and Elayne, as we have seen, is the mother aspect of the three-fold goddess of sovereignty goddess and is pregnant with twins. Besides fertility, the Empress card signifies fruitful action, plenty and protection. Andor is a prosperous nation and Elayne has sizeable estates there, and in Cairhien as well. She is careful to establish laws and stable government so her nations flourish.

    Sun Tarot Card

    Rand is the most solar character in the series, and his love Elayne, with her golden hair, is also strongly solar. As Queen of Cairhien, she holds the Sun Throne as the Sun Queen rather than the Sun King (who was Louis XIV of 17th–18th century France, which has strong parallels with Cairhien). The ancient name of Cairhien means Hill of the Golden Dawn. Appropriately, the Sun is one of the higher ranked cards in the ancient game of Tarocco played with Tarot cards. It follows, and forms a trio with, the Star (representing Aviendha) and Moon (representing Min). The Sun and Moon cards together herald the arrival of the Day of Judgment (Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot). In Jordan’s series the Sun and Moon were in the closest conjunction—a total solar eclipse—when Rand entered Shayol Ghul to battle the Dark One.

    The Sun card usually depicts one or two children playing, or two young lovers together, under a cloudless sunny sky shining on a fertile, domesticated landscape (see Waite Smith card above right and Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots card below left). The Sun is an immensely positive card, and Rand was impressed with how Elayne, with her bright and sunny nature, would consistently be the only person who immediately saw advantages in situations:

    "And you remember Lews Therin now?" she whispered. "Everything he knew? That is not just an air you put on?"
    "I am him. I always was. I remember it now."
    Elayne breathed out, eyes widening. "What an advantage."
    Of all the people he had told that to, only she had responded in such a way. What a wonderful woman.

    - A Memory of Light, To Die Well

    As the Beatles song says: "Here comes the Sun...." and then absolutely everything will be all right. The downside of the Sun card is glossing over or ignoring possible shadows, something that Elayne has done from time to time.

    Golden Lily

    Elayne’s personal sigil, the golden lily, is a reference to Elaine the Lily Lady of Arthurian myth described above. It also indicates her sunny nature, since yellow lilies symbolise happiness and thankfulness.

    Silver Keystone

    The Trakand house sigil is a silver keystone. The keystone is the apex stone of an arch or vault, the final stone placed in construction that locks all stones into position and allows the building to bear weight. Without it, the feature cannot be self-supporting. Elayne consciously understands the significance of the Trakand sigil as is shown when she thinks that it was more important for her to hold the hearts of Caemlyn’s people than control its bricks and mortar (Winter’s Heart The Streets of Caemlyn). Despite Elayne’s pessimism in Knife of Dreams, The Importance of Dyelin, Trakand was the keystone that held Andor together. Astrologically, the keystone represents the summer solstice, adding further summer and solar symbolism around Elayne.

    Lion/Lioness

    While Elayne holds the Sun throne as Queen of Cairhien, her first throne was the Lion throne of Andor—a lion queen with the Lion banner. For much of the series, she works in partnership with Nynaeve, who also has lioness symbolism. The lion represents vigilance, fortitude, dignity and courage, which both women exemplify. Lionesses are known to be very protective, and this is further emphasised by being coupled with sword symbolism.

    Sword

    Elayne is the lion sword of Nicola’s foretelling:

    "The lion sword, the dedicated spear, she who sees beyond. Three on the boat, and he who is dead yet lives.

    - Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

    Swords are used to represent kingly power and the right to ennoble commoners. They indicate strength, action, aggression, decision-making and justice: leadership in all its forms. They are used in war, in destruction and in defence. We see Queen Elayne dispense justice, change the status of nobles, and make decisions in war and peace.


    AVIENDHA

    We first see Aviendha as a Maiden of the Spear who was unwilling to learn to channel, and had to be reminded of her toh to her people (an insult by Aiel mores). Her former Maiden ties were burned before her eyes and slowly she transitioned into a wise woman and then ultimately to a mother (of four at once). Hers has been a remarkable progression to embrace all three aspects of the three-fold goddess of sovereignty in her journey to be a leader in the Three-fold Land, the Aiel Waste.

    Queen of the Waste Lands in Arthurian Legend

    Aviendha’s role as one of Rand’s three Guineveres was discussed above, but she is also Queen of the Waste Lands. The Wasteland is a Celtic motif wherein the barrenness of a land is due to a curse that must be lifted by a hero. The idea that the health of the land and its ruler are one is common in Celtic folklore. In Irish myth, the land of the High King, Conn of the Hundred Battles, declines into a wasteland when he marries an adulteress. Conn visits the Otherworld for a time, and his wife is exiled while he is away, lifting the curse. In Arthurian myth, the health of the land is linked to a tragic but unexplained wounding of its ruler. Other versions of Arthurian myth emphasise the king’s wound rather than the Wasteland. For instance, in Chrétien de Troyes' Perceval, the Story of the Grail, the Fisher King can be healed only if Sir Perceval asks him to explain the Grail’s features, but he refrains from talking too much and does not. Perceval is instructed on the Quest for the Holy Grail by his aunt, who is named the Queen of the Waste Land. In Malory’s Le Morte d’Arthur, the Queen of the Wasteland is one of the queens who take the mortally wounded Arthur by barge to the island of Avalon after he falls at Camlann.

    It was Rand, the Fisher, already wounded in his side, who asked questions in the Otherworld of the Aelfinn about how to heal the Land, rather than wait for someone to ask him. These answers led him to the Aiel Waste(land) and to finding the access keys to the great sa’angreal (San Greal) statues. Later he realized that "How can I destroy the Dark One?" was the wrong question, because the Dark One needs to exist to provide humanity with the choice of good versus evil (see Aelfinn Answers article). Had he not realised this, he would have doomed all the Lands to be blighted and destroyed.

    The Aiel are cursed to stay in the Waste which is

    “a shaping stone, to make, us; a testing ground, to prove our worth; and a punishment for the sin.” … “It must have been a very great sin if they cannot bring themselves to tell us, but the Creator punishes us well.”

    - The Great Hunt, A New Thread in the Pattern

    Their sin was abandoning their covenants to follow the Way of the Leaf and serve the Aes Sedai. In the Waste, the breaking of Rhuidean’s wards symbolizes the beginning of the lifting of this curse.

    Aviendha’s first trip through the glass columns in the Waste’s holy city of Rhuidean showed her that

    the Aiel did deserve their punishment in the Three-fold Land, and they did have toh—as a people—to the Aes Sedai.

    - Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

    This toh will be met by fighting in the Last Battle. But beyond? Aviendha herself asks the glass columns to show her more and is led through the Aiel’s future of a devastated society and culture, a future it is her responsibility to prevent. The Aiel must become less prejudiced against other nations, develop ways to deal with conflict or aggression that don't involve warfare, follow the spirit of the Dragon’s peace pact, and stay in the promised land of the Wetlands that he led them to rather than isolating themselves in the Waste.


    Mythic Parallels

    Leda

    Aviendha’s predicted fate to have four children is a parallel of Leda, the legendary Spartan queen who was raped by the Ancient Greek god Zeus in the guise of a swan. That night she also made love with her husband Tyndareus. The result was that she laid two eggs, from which hatched Helen, Clytemnestra, Castor and Pollux. Half the offspring were mortal and half immortal, although the myths are inconsistent as to which these are, and they may not necessarily reflect the mortality of their father.

    Rand, a parallel of Zeus, visited his three women in Caemlyn disguised as an incredibly ugly duckling. While he obtained the consent of Elayne and Aviendha before making love to each, he did not do so for Min, and thought he had forced himself upon her. From the glass columns and her memories of the three rings ter’angreal, we see that Aviendha’s quadruplets are likely to be two boys and two girls and that the odd thing about them is that they can channel almost from birth and keep hold of the One Power all the time. They are dissimilar in appearance, as Leda’s offspring are dissimilar. One of Leda’s offspring bears a name, Helen, that is a variant of the name of Aviendha’s sister-wife Elayne. Jordan frequently keeps the names but shifts the relationships around when he makes real-world allusions.

    Athena

    Aviendha and Elayne both have attributes of Athena, the Ancient Greek goddess of warfare and handicrafts, who was the offspring of the chief Greek god, Zeus, and his consort Metis, a parallel of Min. Athena was born from the head of Zeus, and gave him a nasty headache late in her gestation until she sprang from it, fully-armed. Zeus brought this on himself: he found Metis irresistible, but then, after having sex with her, remembered the prophecy that Metis’ children would be very powerful, particularly her second child, a boy, so he swallowed Metis and her newly conceived child to prevent the prophecy. He was successful: Metis was not freed when Athena was freed, and conceived no further children. Aviendha was appalled and angry at her fate to love Rand, when her friend Elayne had a prior claim to his affections, and took it out on Rand. It was Aviendha who was very conscious that Rand had far more status than she and was frustrated at this until Min made her realise she should stand up for herself with the Wise Ones to claim her rightful status. Aviendha was a warrior, a former Maiden of the Spear, and was directly involved in the fighting and military tactics at Thakan’dar. She is determined to prevent the visions she saw in the glass columns of her own children being a leading cause of the decay of the Aiel.

    Penthesilea

    The Maidens of the Spear are an allusion to the Amazons, legendary Ancient Greek women warriors. The Amazonian queen Penthesilea was a daughter of the Greek war god Ares, and was stronger and more skilled than previous queens. She arrived at the Trojan War with 12 Amazonian warriors to fight on the side of Troy and distinguished herself on the battlefield before being killed by the Greek warrior Achilles. In one myth, Penthesilea fought at Troy because she had accidentally killed her sister Hippolyta with a spear when they were hunting deer and felt so much guilt and grief that she wanted to die, but by custom had to fall honourably in battle. Penthesileia is regarded as the last Amazon to be distinguished for her prowess in battle, with the Amazons declining in subsequent generations to the extent that the legends about them were eventually regarded as fictitious.

    The theme of knowledge and skills lost over time and history changing to legend and then to myth is very important in the series. Aviendha is a strong channeller and very dexterous in her weaving, as well as an experienced warrior. Despite being pushed mercilessly into becoming a Wise One before the Last Battle, she was nearly too late to divert the Aiel from their disastrous future. Aviendha killed her uncle Rhuarc after Graendal Compelled him, but did not, however, feel that she had toh for her kinslaying. She did feel that she had toh to Elayne for lying with Rand. The Aiel as a whole fought for Rand in the Last Battle to meet their toh to the Aes Seda.

    Artemis

    Aviendha was bathing in a room in Cairhien when Rand unexpectedly walked in, and she fled through a gateway exclaiming that she had not arranged for him to see her nude (The Fires of Heaven, The Far Snows). This is a reference to the Ancient Greek goddess of maidens and the hunt, Artemis, bathing in a pool when the Greek hero Acteon happened upon her. Artemis was furious as well as appalled and turned Acteon into a stag, resulting in him being torn apart by his own hunting dogs. Rand got a better reception from Aviendha when he caught up with her in Seanchan, but after they made love, they had to get past some Seanchan hunting Aviendha down, having sensed her channelling to make the gateway. Morsa, the Seanchan noble with the group, recognised Rand and offered him an “easing of his sufferings” and great honour if he surrendered to her, but he knew that men who could channel were hunted and shot down on sight.

    Asteria

    The Ancient Greek star goddess Asteria was beloved by Zeus, and took quail form and threw herself into the sea to become an island to escape his sexual advances. As well as being associated with falling stars, she was also perhaps the goddess of night-time divinatory techniques such as oneiromancy (divination by dreams) and astrology (divination by stars). She was the mother of Hecate, goddess of witchcraft, by the Titan Perses, god of destruction.

    Aviendha fled to Seanchan via her first gateway to avoid Rand, but he followed after her and they made love. Rand has described himself as a destroyer, and Aviendha’s four children by him are prophesied to be odd, because they are super magic-users—super-witches—being able to channel from birth.

    Aviendha doesn’t have a talent for the World of Dreams, and Jordan’s world does not include divination by the stars, but she found “reading” the glass columns to be a dark experience, a true night-journey, wherein she saw the horrifying future of the Aiel:

    She tried to read ter'angreal as she had done before, but this one was vast. Incomprehensible, like the One Power itself. She inhaled sharply, disoriented by the weight of what she felt. It was as if she had suddenly fallen into a deep, dark pit.

    - Towers of Midnight, Near Avendesora

    It is likely that Aviendha was in Tel’aran’rhiod, the World of Dreams, when she encountered the mysterious Nakomi at night and was gently nudged into re-thinking her parochial attitudes.

    Minnehaha

    Nakomi, bearer of an ancient name, is a parallel of Nokomis, grandmother of Nanabozho/ Manabozho, the trickster figure of the Ojibwe Native Americans. In his poem The Song of Hiawatha, Longfellow called Nanabozho Hiawatha, mistakenly believing they were the same. The historic Hiawatha was a highly skilled orator who aided the Great Peacemaker in forging the Iroquois confederacy. Such alteration of history and myth over time is one of Jordan’s most important themes.

    In The Song of Hiawatha, Minnehaha was Hiawatha’s beloved. Hiawatha was raised by his grandmother Nokomis, after Hiawatha’s mother, Wenonah, was seduced and abandoned by the spirit Mudjekeewis, and died giving birth to him. Nokomis had warned Wenonah against Mudjekeewis, but she succumbed to his seduction.

    Jordan said that he used elements of the Cheyenne and Apache Native Americans, amongst many other peoples, in creating the Aiel. Rand is like the historic Hiawatha in the way he united the Aiel clans and also the Westland nations with his Dragon’s Peace, and also like the fictional Hiawatha with his mother dying while giving birth to him as Wenona also did. Minnehaha, Hiawatha’s wife, would be a parallel of Aviendha. Rand’s mother was warned that the world was doomed unless she went to dwell among the Maidens of the Spear, telling no one of her going. Rand’s beloved, Aviendha encountered Nakomi in the Waste and was given insight from Nakomi’s comments that spurred her to find out more from the glass columns, inadvertently triggering it to show her the Aiel’s likely future, and thereby saving her people from their Trail of Tears. Nakomi is not literally either Rand’s or Aviendha’s grandmother, although she is wise and knowledgeable. (For further description of Nakomi’s parallels to Nokomis see Character Names N article).


    Historic Parallels

    Börte

    Rand as the Car’a’carn has similarities with Genghis Khan, the Khan of Khans, and Aviendha has some parallels with Genghis Khan’s first wife, Börte (c. 1161–1230). Börte was born into the Olkhunut tribe, where her father, Dei Seichen, was a chieftain. This tribe was friendly to the Khiyad tribe, into which Genghis was born. It is probable that her marriage to Genghis was arranged by Genghis' father to solidify relations between their two tribes.

    Shortly after she and Genghis were married, Börte was kidnapped by three members of the Merkit, a rival tribe. Eight months later, Genghis, with his allies Wang Khan and Jamuha, rescued her from her captors. She gave birth to a son, Jochi, after she was rescued, leaving doubt as to who the father of the child was. Genghis accepted him as his son, but his brothers would not accept him as their ruler and Genghis had to choose another son as his successor. Jochi then became a Mongolian army commander. Genghis had other wives, but only Börte's sons were considered to be his heirs. She gave birth to four sons and five daughters, who were the key bloodline which further expanded the Mongol Empire.

    Aviendha is the niece of the chieftain of the Taardad clan. Her fate, as she saw in the oval rings ter’angreal in Rhuidean, is to love Rand, and when the Wise Ones realised their attraction, they pushed Aviendha as close to Rand as he would accept, so she could be a bridge between the two cultures and Rand could understand his Aiel heritage. Rand himself was born and raised outside the Waste, and many Aiel were reluctant to accept him as the Car’a’carn.

    It is one of Rand’s other loves, Elayne, who was kidnapped by the Shadow, and Elayne who spread falsehoods about the parentage of her unborn children. She will have twins, but Aviendha will birth four babies at one time. All are a key bloodline to events in the Fourth Age, as Aviendha saw in the glass columns in Rhuidean. She is determined to improve the outcome of that fate.


    Symbols

    Star Tarot Card

    While Aviendha could be regarded a solar character like Elayne, symbolised by her red-gold hair, she doesn’t have Elayne’s sunny nature, being rather more determined than optimistic. It’s well to remember that the sun is also a star, and the Star tarot card is a good fit for Aviendha. The card offers hope and a glimpse of the future—on a mundane level, it means waiting for dawn and daylight, on a spiritual level, waiting for hopes answered, even salvation.

    The stars in the sky are distant, but they also guide people to their destination. For much of the series, Aviendha had to wait for her time to shine. She was the last main character to reach her station. The hope the Star card offers is eventual success, which must be waited or worked for, so long as the person remains steadfast on their goal. This Aviendha did, if rather grimly at times. Aviendha had glimpses of her future in the three rings ter’angreal, and then in the glass columns in Rhuidean, after she re-tuned them. In that sense she is the only main character, apart from Moiraine, who has been so guided. The Wise Ones advise accepting fate and using the glimpses from the rings to guide your life, but then they never saw the complete corruption and decay of their people until Aviendha informed them of it. Appalled by what she saw in the columns, Aviendha is taking steps to prevent that future from occurring.

    The Star tarot card often depicts a woman pouring water on bare ground and into a pool under the stars (see Marseille Jean Dodal by Flornoy, right). This ties in with the grim doom that the Dragon is prophesied to bring the Aiel:

    He shall spill out the blood of those who call themselves Aiel as water on sand, and he shall break them as dried twigs, yet the remnant of a remnant shall he save, and they shall live.

    - The Shadow Rising, He Who Comes with the Dawn

    Aviendha is set to keep that remnant from withering away in degradation. It’s a warning as well as a guiding hope.

    Spear

    Aviendha is the dedicated spear of Nicola’s foretelling:

    "The lion sword, the dedicated spear, she who sees beyond. Three on the boat, and he who is dead yet lives.

    - Lord of Chaos, Dreams and Nightmares

    The spear symbolises directness and honour, and is appropriately the Aiel weapon of choice. Aviendha is very direct with people and much concerned with earning and keeping honour. She prizes military valour and also strength, both physical and mental, two other attributes of the spear.


    MIN

    When we first see Min, she wears boys’ clothes and is working at an inn. It is unusual for a seeress to work as a stablehand. Most oracles, particularly those who are accurate—and Min’s viewings are never wrong, even if she doesn’t always understand them—are in less obscure positions, and eventually Min will be too. Min is a tomboy compared to Aviendha the warrior, but she actively protected the empress—her body as well as her ethics—and Rand, the Creator’s champion—his body, mind and destiny.

    Min’s burden is that she can’t change tragic viewings, and in her early days found that warning people only made matters worse. Is she always believed, unlike the unfortunate Cassandra of Greek mythology? Not at first. Some of those whose “fortunes” she “told” thought she made them happen, even if only by saying them. These unhappy people had a point: Min did bring about the fulfillment of her own viewings a couple of times. In all kinds of divination, the diviner participates in the divination (see Fate, Free Will and Divining the Pattern essay). In Min’s case, accurately seeing pieces of the pattern led her to study the Wheel of Time world’s philosophy to solve the riddles of prophecy that will enable Rand to win his battle against the Dark One.


    Mythic parallels – Oracular

    Cassandra

    In Greek mythology, Cassandra was a priestess of Apollo who was cursed by the god to utter true prophecies, but never to be believed, after she refused his advances. The daughter of King Priam of Troy, her older brother was Hector, hero of the Greco-Trojan war that was sparked by the abduction of Helen (a parallel of Elayne). Cassandra foresaw that Paris would abduct Helen and cause the war and warned him not to go to Sparta. However, she was considered a liar, or mad, and was disregarded. As Apollo intended, her gift of prophecy caused her grief and frustration.

    When her gift first manifested, Min also was thought a liar for a time, then a witch, or even evil:

    “I was twelve when it started, and I didn’t know to make a secret of it. Everybody thought I was just making things up. Until I said a man on the next street was going to marry a woman I saw him with, only he was already married. When he ran off with her, his wife brought a mob to my aunt’s house claiming I was responsible, that I’d used the One Power on her husband or given the two of them some kind of potion.” Min shook her head. “She wasn’t too clear. She just had to blame somebody. There was talk of me being a Darkfriend, too.”

    - A Crown of Swords, The Butcher’s Yard

    After some years, Min’s viewings were accepted as true, but Min gets little joy from seeing events she would like to prevent. Sometimes speaking up does cause them to be fulfilled, such as when Min warned Rand to stay away from the rebel Aes Sedai in Caemlyn, so he fled to Cairhien, where he was abducted by the Tower Aes Sedai, and Min with him.

    Another Ancient Greek oracle of Apollo reflects Min’s prestigious position with the Seanchan.

    Pythia

    The Pythia was the Oracle of the Temple of Apollo at Delphi and had prestige and authority in Ancient Greece, being consulted prior to important actions or decisions. Oracles were thought to be the vehicles through which the gods spoke to humans, whereas seers in ancient Greece interpreted omens sent by the gods, such as the movements of animals and birds, animal entrails, etc (see Fate, Free Will and Diving the Pattern essay).

    The Oracle of Delphi was believed to be selected from the priestesses at the temple, who were chaste women of good character. There were up to three women serving as Pythia at any one time, two prophesying and one in reserve, perhaps yet another example of the triple goddess. Both the Pythia and Cassandra were described as going into frenzied trances to commune with Apollo, and the Pythia’s life was believed to be shortened by the strain of her service.

    The Pythia’s pronouncements were lucid, but as open to misinterpretation as any of Min’s viewings. A famous example was when Croesus King of Lydia consulted the oracle about attacking Persia and was told “If you cross the river, a great empire will be destroyed.” He believed that this indicated his success in the enterprise and attacked, but it was Croesus’ own empire that was destroyed.

    The Empress was delighted to gain a Doomseer, a Truthspeaker who can directly see pieces of the Pattern, and was even in awe of her ability. Previously the Seanchan were guided by interpreting omens—which also work in Jordan’s world, just not as readily due to their complexity (Knife of Dreams, Dragon’s Eggs). As Doomseer, Min is now sacred to the Seanchan, too holy to be touched:

    Fortuona ignored her, standing. "This woman is my new Soe'feia. Doomseer, Truthspeaker! Holy woman, she who may not be touched. We have been blessed. Let it be known. The Crystal Throne has not had a true reader of the omens for over three centuries!"

    - A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire

    With so much depending on her Doomseer’s reliability and integrity, Tuon tested Min to see whether she would be unjust or untrustworthy. Her viewings do not put Min under physical strain, as the act of foretelling does Elaida:

    As usual, the Foretelling left her [Elaida] trembling, gasping for breath. She forced herself to stand still and straight, to breathe slowly; she never let anyone see weakness.

    - A Crowns of Swords, Prologue

    but Min’s lifespan will be far shorter than that of those who foretell, since she cannot touch the One Power.

    As well as an oracle—a prophetess of sanctity tied to a place—Min is like a sibyl, prophetesses that were often independent of temples, with some wandering from place to place.

    Sibyls and the Sibylline books

    Prior to being co-opted by the Empress, Min was consulted by Moiraine, then Siuan, then Cairhienin noblewomen, and of course, Rand. Min is a sibyl but she also studied books of prophecy—various translations and commentaries on the Karaethon Cycle—more than most people, and more importantly, made far more sense of them than most scholars, with the main aim of helping Rand, which almost no one else was doing.

    The Cumaean Sibyl sold a famous collection of prophecies made by sibyls, the Sibylline books, to the last Ancient Roman king, Tarquinius Superbus. Rather than give foreknowledge of important events, the books advised on the necessary rites for calamities portended by various unusual occurrences or omens such as volcanic eruptions, earthquakes, sieges of cities, birth of hermaphrodites and other extraordinary natural occurrences. The abnormal events were expected to happen during and before times of crises, as expressions of the gods' will. A later, completely separate collection of Sibylline Oracles describes allegorical visions and apocalyptic prophecies.

    The Age of Legends has parallels to Ancient Rome (see Age of Legends article), with Lews Therin, who held ultimate power at the end of the Age, a parallel of Tarquinius the last King of Ancient Rome. Rand and Min studied prophecies for guidance, particularly about Rand’s battle with the Dark One. Rand believed that the Prophecies of the Dragon don’t describe what will happen, only what must if certain other things are to happen. In this sense they are like the Sibylline books which describe how to avert disaster and ameliorate the effects of unusual omens. These omens are the sort of thing the Seanchan would be interested in. It is probable that, like the sayings of the Sibylline books, the actual prophecies of the Karaethon Cycle are in no particular order.

    The Seanchan have strong parallels with Imperial Japan and China, both of which had omen-reading systems of divination. Min herself is a hugely positive omen for the Seanchan, especially at such a dangerous period of history, as Fortuona acknowledged when she said that they were blessed to have a true reader of omens; which means that Fortune herself was blessed with good fortune. Her Doomseer saved her life and also prevented a Forsaken from sabotaging the Seanchan’s contribution to the Last Battle.

    Onmyōji and Onmyōdō

    Onmyōdō was a divination system developed in Japan from the Chinese philosophies of Yin-yang and Wu Xing (Five Agents) that were introduced into Japan at the beginning of the 6th century, and further influenced by Taoism and Buddhism in the 7th century. Jordan drew on all these philosophies when creating the Wheel of Time.

    Auspicious or inauspicious signs present in the natural world were used to predict good or bad fortune in the human world. The Japanese imperial court increasingly adopted this form of divination, and its practitioners, government-controlled onmyōji, came to have great influence over the personal lives of the Emperor and the nobility of the courts from the 7th century to the 19th, when it was prohibited as superstition. Onmyōji performed divination and were believed to divine auspicious or harmful influences in the earth, avert disasters, identify favourable or unfavourable times or directions of travel, and protect the capital from evil spirits, even recommending it be moved. Min protected the empress and her court by identifying unfavourable persons such as Yulan and Moghedien through her viewings and forced the Empress to return her forces to the battlefield at Merrilor. Note that the moment the Empress knew of Min’s ability she co-opted her for her personal seeress to aid her decisions of state and tested her trustworthiness.

    Abe no Seimei (921–1005) was a famous onmyōji who analyzed remarkable or unusual occurrences, conducted exorcisms, warded against evil spirits, and performed geomantic rites. He was noted for divining the sex of foetuses and finding lost objects. The Japanese emperor erected a shrine in honour of Seimei in Kyoto after his death. Min identified the sex of Melaine’s foetuses and that Elaine had twins at an early stage of pregnancy.

    Mary the Prophetess

    Mary the Prophetess was an alchemist that lived at some time in the 1st–3rd centuries AD, probably in Egypt. She was regarded with huge respect for her alchemical experiments, apparatus and textbooks. The alchemist was said to know the preparation of the caput mortuum—the nigredo—and spoke of the union of opposites:

    Join the male and the female, and you will find what is sought; One becomes two, two becomes three, and out of the third comes the one as the fourth.

    Jordan split Mary the Prophetess between two characters: Mary’s chemical achievements are attributes of Aludra, while her alchemical commentary is similar to prophetic riddles that Min helped Rand to solve.

    He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one…
    “I think the passage refers to some way he has to use Callandor. "
    "I see," Cadsuane said, turning yet another page in her own book. "That is a very unconventional interpretation." Beldeine smiled thinly, turning back to her embroidery. "Of course," Cadsuane added, "you are quite right."

    - The Gathering Storm, Reading the Commentary

    "There's a phrase," Min said, "in the Jendai Prophecy. I wish we knew more of them. Anyway, it says 'and the Blade will bind him by twain.'"
    "Two women," Rand said. "I need to be in a circle with two women to control it." She grimaced.
    "What?" Rand said. "You might as well be out with it, Min. I need to know."
    "There's another phrase, from the Karaethon Cycle. Anyway, I think that Callandor might be flawed beyond that. I think it might . . . Rand, I think it might make you weak, open you to attack, if you use it."

    - Towers of Midnight, A Storm of Light

    The expression in the Jendai Prophecy “bind him by two (twain)” did not mean that Rand would be bound by two women in a circle, but that Moridin would be forcibly brought into the circle by the two women:

    Light is held before the maw of the infinite void, and all that he is can be seized.

    - Towers of Midnight, A Storm of Light

    And the successful solution to these riddles is very like Mary’s alchemical precept.

    This was the most dangerous part of the plan. Min had figured it out…
    "Link!" Rand commanded.
    They fed it to him. Power.
    Saidar from the women.
    The True Power from Moridin.
    Saidin from Rand.

    Moridin's channeling the True Power here threatened to destroy them all, but they buffered it with saidin and saidar, then directed all three at the Dark One.

    Rand punched through the blackness there and created a conduit of light and darkness, turning the Dark One's own essence upon him…

    With a bellow—three Powers coursing through him, blood streaming down his side—the Dragon Reborn raised a hand of power and seized the Dark One through the Bore, like a man reaching through water to grab the prize at the river's bottom.

    - A Memory of Light, Watching the Flow Writhe

    The male and female powers, saidin and saidar, were joined to find what was sought (to trap and seal away the Dark One), the two women forced Moridin to link with them, thus bringing a third power (the True Power) to be added to the two halves of the One Power with Rand as the fourth in the ring. He was the One who sealed away the Dark One and brought the world out of the Third Age into the Fourth Age. The sacred conjunction in triple form enabled the achievement of the Great Work (see Alchemical Symbolism essay).

    Arthurian myth

    Min is likely the “she who sees beyond” in Nicola’s foretelling of three on the boat, a parallel of the three queens in Arthurian myth who take King Arthur to the Otherworld in a funeral barge.

    Sif

    The Norse god Thor’s beautiful wife Sif is described in the Prose Edda as "a prophetess called Sibyl”. Rand al’Thor is a parallel of Thor and Sif is a minor parallel of both Min and Elayne; Elayne matches Sif physically, while Min has her prophetic abilities.

    Another Norse goddess who is a seeress is Frigg, Odin’s wife.

    Frigg

    The god Odin is a parallel of Mat and while Min isn’t married to Mat, she is the Doomseer to Mat’s wife Fortuona and has become close to Mat as the two countryside Andorans adapt to Seanchan ways. Frigg is said to have the power of prophecy, but does not tell others what she sees. Min found out the hard way that telling people who have not consulted her opinion of what she sees around them is often disastrous. Frigg's companion is Eir, a goddess associated with medical skills and a parallel of Nynaeve, who was united with Min to help Rand reach the Last Battle.


    Mythic Parallels – Non-Oracular

    Metis

    In Greek mythology, Metis was one of Zeus’s important consorts. Noted for her wisdom, prudence and counsel, she helped Zeus free his siblings from the belly of his father Cronus after he swallowed them, by providing Zeus with a potion to make Cronus vomit them up. Zeus then dismembered Cronus and threw him into the pit of Tartarus. Zeus made love to Metis, and then remembered that Metis was prophesied to have two very powerful children, particularly the second, a son who would overthrow Zeus. In a case of like-father-like-son, Zeus swallowed Metis, who was pregnant with Athena (who is a parallel of Aviendha and Elayne). While inside Zeus, Metis constructed armour for Athena. The full-armoured Athena gave Zeus nasty headaches, then burst from his head while Metis remained inside Zeus and provided him with advice and wisdom. In this way, Zeus prevented the prophecy from being fulfilled.

    The Dark One is like Cronus in destroying or engulfing souls. Rand became increasingly dark and corrupted by the Shadow, and Min worked hard to save him from this. She studied the prophecies and helped Rand work out how to seal the Dark One away into the Pit of Doom, an analogue of the pit of Tartarus. Min “knew” that Rand would have three women love him. Aviendha struggled against her fate because it was dishonourable, and gave Rand “headaches” with her temper and criticism of him. Min helped Aviendha stand up for herself to the Wise Ones so that she could become a Wise One of great power. While Zeus prevented a prophecy from happening, Rand believed that prophecy only indicates the conditions necessary for certain things to happen. Considering that Min’s viewings always come true, it is ironic that a prophecy regarding Min’s parallel Metis was prevented from happening.

    Nephthys

    Nephthys is an ancient Egyptian goddess whose name means “Lady of the Temple Enclosure” or “Lady of the House”. Like her sister Isis, she is a protector of the dead and of her brother Osiris, the Universal Lord. Nephthys and Isis were sister-wives of the war god Set and the two goddesses brought Osiris back to life after Set trapped him in a box and later killed and dismembered him. Another of Nephthys’ attributes was to be the nurse and guardian of the reigning pharaoh, and she could also appear as one of the goddesses who assisted at childbirth, although in most ancient texts she was considered to be barren herself. Nephthys’ divine power strengthened the souls of the dead and guided them through the afterlife.

    In one sense the pharaoh is Rand, and in another, it is the Empress. The Seanchan have some parallels with Ancient Egypt, notably their clothing—particularly that of their slaves—and also some personal names. Min has physically protected both rulers. Dobraine called Min “my lady Ta’veren,” giving her the title Lady, and Tuon declared Min holy for her powers of prophecy, too holy to touch, as befits someone with the god-like power to see the Pattern so frequently, even if only pieces of it.

    Rand, the Universal Lord, is a parallel of Osiris, and Min witnessed the psychological trauma of his imprisonment in a box and his physical abuse by the Tower Aes Sedai. She was also there at Rand’s parley with a fake Daughter of the Nine Moons (in reality Semirhage), who had a plain wooden box containing male a’dam to bind him and any Asha’man with him. At this latter attack, Rand protected Min, being maimed as he did so. Nynaeve, a parallel of Isis, healed Rand and worked with Min to support him. Min was the only character who consistently aided Rand in what he had to do, rather than pushing him to do something else. She worried about his mental health, and nursed him along, strengthening him for his duty to fight the Dark One as humanity’s champion and die doing so, and helped him to use the prophecies to plan his duel. When he went to the underworld of Shayol Ghul, Min wanted to accompany him, but he took Nynaeve (Isis) instead and Min continued with her important task of advising another Isis, Fortuona.

    Min discussed childbirth with Melaine:

    From there the two of them passed quickly on to childbirth itself. Neither had ever borne a child, but each had helped mid-wives.

    - Lord of Chaos, A Threat

    but Min is “barren” in that she is the only one of Rand’s lovers who continued to take the contraceptive heartleaf tea, and is not pregnant.

    Wadjet

    Another Ancient Egyptian goddess who was protector of the pharaoh and his realm, and of women in childbirth was Wadjet (“green one”). Her temple, Per-Wadjet, was one of the world’s earliest known oracles. It also contained a sanctuary of Horus, the child of the sun deity who was a representation of the pharaoh. Much later, Wadjet became associated with Isis.

    Min protected Rand and then Fortuona, both pharaoh analogues. Rand is a strongly solar character, Sol Invictus, while Fortuona, whom Min joined late—just before the Last Battle—has parallels to Isis. Interestingly, Min was dressed in green by the Seanchan each time she stayed among them (The Great Hunt, Falme and A Memory of Light, The Last Battle).

    Min

    Min’s shortened name is that of a god, a lunar fertility and sexuality god. Like Wadjet, Min was one of the earliest Ancient Egyptian gods. He was usually depicted as a human male with an erect penis (see photo left). Even some war goddesses were depicted with the body of Min (including the phallus). He was worshipped by the men who worked the mines and the men who quarried the stone at Hammamat as "Min, the Male of the Mountain”.

    Min is the woman with whom Rand has had sex with most often. However, she suppresses her fertility with a contraceptive tea, and is the only one of Rand’s lovers who is not yet pregnant. Min was brought up among the mines in the mountains of Andor and dressed as a boy. Lunar gods tend to be associated with prophecy and dreams, and Min sees auras around people that show their futures.


    Historic Parallels

    Hildegard of Bingen

    Saint Hildegard of Bingen, (1098–1179), the Sibyl of the Rhine, was a German philosopher, Christian mystic, visionary, writer, composer and abbess. She was hugely influential, and also regarded as holy, in her own time and since. From a very young age, Hildegard had visions, although she resisted writing them down until she was in her 40s.

    One of her visions was of falling stars turning black as they plunge into the ocean.

    - Paul Harrison, A History of Pantheism and Panentheism

    In another, Hildegard

    watched a procession of angels innumerable who fought alongside Michael against the dragon and won the victory.

    - Frances Gies, Women in the Middle Ages

    These visions are similar to passages in Revelation in the Bible, which Robert Jordan drew on heavily for inspiration of his end-times (see Eschatology essay). In his series, Jordan reverses the moral alignment of the Dragon and his combatant: the Dragon is good—the Creator’s champion, no less—while the Darkfriend M’hael is an analogue of Michael. M'Hael (a former false Dragon) and his Black Asha’man and Black Sisters fought Logain (another former false Dragon now allied to the Dragon) and his Asha’man and also the Tower Aes Sedai.

    Min had a viewing very similar to the stars going black as they fall:

    "When you’re all in a group? Sparks swirling around you [the three ta’veren, Moiraine, Lan, Egwene and Thom], thousands of them, and a big shadow, darker than midnight…The sparks are trying to fill the shadow, and the shadow is trying to swallow the sparks.”

    - The Eye of the World, The Wisdom

    Both visions of stars going dark as they fall to earth are similar to the visions recounted in Revelation 6:13–4:

    and the stars of the sky fell to the earth like unripe figs dropping from a tree shaken by a great wind. The sky receded like a scroll being rolled up

    and also Isaiah 34:4:

    All the stars of the heavens will be dissolved and the sky rolled up like a scroll; all the starry host will fall like withered leaves from the vine.

    Min’s viewings began when she reached puberty, rather than in early childhood. Her ability is revered by the Empress, who declared that she is holy and that they are blessed to have her services. Apart from using her viewings to help Rand win, she also closely studied all the versions of the Karaethon Cycle and commentary available to her and Herid Fel’s writings on philosophy, which she found enthralling and inspiring.

    Florence Farr

    Min’s surname Farshaw may be derived from Florence Farr (1860–1917), actress and lover of playwright George Bernard Shaw (1856–1950) —Farr-Shaw. Florence Farr was considered shockingly "modern", having left her first husband because he insisted that she stay at home, and she wore her dark curly hair very short. Shaw wanted to mould Farr into his own vision of the "Modern Woman", and was inspired by Farr to write the play Pygmalion (better known as My Fair Lady) in which a man tries to turn a lower-class young woman into a “proper lady”. Min had very short dark curly hair at first and was horrified to find that she was prepared to toss aside her life for a man. She was forced by events to abandon her boy’s clothes and act the part of the feminine and dainty Elmindreda.

    Florence Farr studied esoteric philosophy and was a prominent member of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. She summoned visions to gain hermetic knowledge or revelations, was a medium, and made invocations. Among the articles she wrote was Travelling in the Spirit Vision. Another member was William Butler Yeats, who was very interested in Celtic folklore and was inspired by Farr. In Yeats' The Countess Catherine, Farr played Aleel, a bard and seer who could see into the spirit realm. Min is a seeress who sees auras, not spirits. The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is a tradition of occultism, magic, philosophy, metaphysics and spiritual development. It was influenced by Freemasonry and Jordan stated on his blog that he is a Mason (see Freemasonry and the Wheel of Time article). In contrast to Masonry, women were allowed to participate in the Order in equality with men. Min became Rand's lover in a city named "The Hill of the Golden Dawn". As well as being a seeress, she has been studying, and being entranced by, Herid Fel’s books on philosophy.

    Queen Min of Korea

    Queen Min (1851–1895) was the first official wife of Gojong, the twenty-sixth king of Joseon and the first emperor of the Korean Empire. The queen lost her parents at a young age and went to live with relatives until she married King Gojong. Declining to take a purely social and decorative role as expected, she eschewed parties and spent her time reading politics, philosophy, ancient classics, science and history. The Queen was well-educated and ambitious and ruled alongside her husband. She advocated stronger ties between Korea and Russia in an attempt to block Japanese influence in Korea, for which she was assassinated by the Japanese.

    Min Farshaw lost her parents when she was young and went to live with her aunts. Like Queen Min, she was far more studious than expected and read widely, notably in philosophy and prophecies to help Rand.

    The Seanchan have strong Japanese influences and the Empress commandeered Min as her omen diviner, even though she was the lover of the Dragon Reborn. Min decided to stay with the Empress to build ties between the mainland peoples and the Seanchan to help Rand win the war against the Shadow. It was the Shadow that tried to assassinate the Seanchan Empress and her court, but Min and Mat saved her.


    Symbols

    Moon Tarot Card

    As mentioned above, Min is a lunar character, as indicated by her mysterious prophetic powers and dark hair. The moon tarot card represents visions and illusions, even madness, genius and poetry. It is about inspiration from the unconscious, or from ancient sources, that cannot easily be put into logical sentences. On the positive side, the card can indicate considerable inspiration and accurate intuitive insight, but on the negative, emotions rule the head and the mind is unreliable or is fooled.

    The Moon card usually depicts a full and crescent moon combined shining on a wild landscape with two dogs or wolves and a pool from which a lobster is emerging (see Lo Scarabeo Ancient Italian Tarots, right, and Waite Smith tarot, below left.) Sometimes the sky is quite cloudy. The clouds symbolise the partially obscured insight or vision that often occurs under the Moon card, and the dogs or wolves the wildness or wilderness of the unconscious or ancient memories. Wolfbrother Perrin, who also has dreams and visions in the World of Dreams, is a lunar character like Min. They have a brother or sisterly love for each other.

    Min is described in Nicola’s foretelling as “she who sees beyond”—beyond the present. She does not have conscious control over her viewings, or over knowing what or when. Hers is a passive or receptive ability, not an active one; and thus lunar, not solar. In contrast to how Aviendha looks to be able to prevent the disastrous future of the Aiel she saw in the glass columns, Min is powerless to prevent her viewings from happening.

    Min’s viewings are very accurate, although she doesn’t always know what they mean and sometimes interprets them wrongly, especially if she is emotionally involved with the person she is viewing. She was most unfair to Alivia when she interpreted her viewing that Alivia will help Rand die to mean that Alivia will cause his death and told Cadsuane and Nynaeve her opinion, after which neither would then teach Alivia. In contrast, Rand assessed her viewing more carefully:

    But she [Alivia] is going to kill you.” She [Min] bit off every word.
    “You said she was going to help me die,” he [Rand] said quietly. “Those were your words”… “Helping me die isn’t the same as killing me,” Rand went on. “Unless you’ve changed your mind about what you saw.”
    Min flung up her hands in exasperation. “I saw what I saw and it’s what I told you, but the Pit of Doom swallow me if I can see any difference. And I can’t see why you think there is!”
    “Sooner or later, I have to die, Min,” he said patiently.

    - Winter’s Heart, Bonds

    and trusting Alivia, who had always behaved well to Rand, he got her to gather items needed for travelling in his tent so he could secretly leave if he survived. This ended up being a mundane prophecy and shows how Min’s judgment can be unreliable or swayed by her emotions.

    Mesaana described seeresses as strangely accurate and yet vague at the same time, and this is so typical of the Moon tarot card.

    Some old decks, such as the Vandenborre, right, show a woman spinning yarn under a full moon

    possibly tying in with a folklore belief in the moon as a goddess of destiny

    - Paul Huson, Mystical Origins of the Tarot

    such as Clotho, the spinner, one of the three Fates of Ancient Greek mythology described above that are a parallel of the three women, linking prophecy and destiny closely. And thereby linking Min to the Moon tarot card. Some Baerlon folk believed that Min caused the fulfilment of her own viewings, and she actually did so at least twice in the series.

    The moon appearing with the sun in the sky was a sign of the imminence of that great day of destiny, the Last Judgment. Jordan’s day of judgment, the culmination of his magnum opus, occurred under an eclipse, which is appropriate symbolism logically and also alchemically.

    _________________________________________

    Written by Linda, July 2020


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