Monday, March 25, 2002

Cadsuane's Ornaments

By Linda

This article describes Cadsuane’s ornaments, lists the function of those we know of, and explains how she came to have them.

In the main series, Cadsuane’s first appearance is in A Crown of Swords, As The Plough Breaks The Earth, and her:

iron grey hair [is] gathered in a bun atop her head and decorated with dangling gold ornaments.

This is exactly the same hairstyle she wore twenty years earlier in New Spring, An Arrival, and probably for many decades before that.

The ornaments are small, golden moons, stars, birds and fish. They feature a great deal in the books, even inspiring several chapter titles. So far, we know of three birds, three moons (two of them intertwined), at least two fish and at least one star. All are ter’angreal except one, which is an angreal, and, like Nynaeve’s jewellery (see The Cache from Ebou Dar article), they are a defence system against other channellers. Those with memories of the Age of Legends know them as a paralis-net (The Gathering Storm, The Last That Could Be Done). They were developed during the Age of Legends but Cadsuane’s was made during the Breaking, since it contains some ter’angreal Rand doesn’t recognise:

Rand smiled. "And you're wearing a full paralis-net in your hair, which includes a Well. I'm certain you keep it full, and that should be enough to create a single gateway."
Cadsuane's face grew expressionless. "I've never heard of a paralis-net."
"Cadsuane Sedai," Rand said softly. "Your net has a few ornaments I don't recognize—I suspect it is a Breaking-era creation. But I was there when the first ones were designed, and I wore the original male version."

- Towers of Midnight, A Testing

Three Birds

  • The shrike is an angreal:

    Without the aid of the angreal that looked a little like a shrike dangling from her bun, she would not have been able to hold the shield up.

    - Winter’s Heart, With The Choedan Kal

    It increases Cadsuane’s strength to the top male level (Wheel of Time Companion).

  • The swallow indicates the direction of someone channelling close enough to threaten—within three miles—whether saidin or saidar:

    A second golden bird, a swallow, hung from her hand by its thin chain.

    “There”, she said, pointing in the direction it seemed to be flying. A pity she could not say how far away the Power had been channelled, or whether by a man or a woman, but the direction would have to do.

    - Winter’s Heart, With the Choedan Kal

    It ignores saidin and saidar being woven in combination (Crossroads of Twilight Prologue ebook Q&A)

  • The hummingbird is a well, a container for saidar, though not a very capacious one:

    Cadsuane drew on her own well, taking in saidar in a measured amount. She had practice; the little golden hummingbird could not hold near so much as Nynaeve’s belt.

    - Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret.

    It stores enough saidar to make a very small gateway:

    "I will have that gateway ready," Cadsuane continued more softly. "But it will be very small. The well will only give me enough to make one we'd have to crawl through.”

    - Towers of Midnight, A Testing

    The well allows Cadsuane to store saidar so that it can be accessed while she is shielded ( Q&A 2003), or in a stedding or a warded place like Far Madding that would otherwise prevent channelling, which would have been important defence against Black sisters.

Two Stars

  • An eight-pointed star with four long and four short rays vibrates when a man who can channel is within thirty or forty paces, even if he is not actively channelling:

    Not a breath of breeze stirred, but the eight-pointed star, like a golden compass rose, seemed to shift against Cadsuane’s hair. Had it been held in her hand, she could have felt it vibrating clearly. But then, she already knew that Jahar was an Asha’man, and the star would not have pointed him out, merely told her that a man who could channel was nearby. The more men who could channel, the harder the star quivered, she had learned.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    No wonder Cadsuane “seems to have a nose” (The Path of Daggers, When The Plough Breaks The Earth) for men who can channel!
  • A six-pointed star covers the skin of the wearer with a thin “armour” when triggered, that reduces the effect of a blow by dissipating it over the whole armour (The Wheel of Time Companion). Only the wearer can see the armour. It protects against a sword or a mace as well as a knife.

Three Moons

  • Two intertwined moons go cool when a woman embraces saidar nearby:

    One of her ornaments, intertwined golden crescents, went cool on her temple

    - A Crown of Swords, New Alliances

    when Alanna embraced saidar. It is similar in function to Mat’s medallion, which goes cold when he is touched with saidar or saidin. Like Mat, Cadsuane even wears the ornament touching her skin, which is as much a necessity for the terangreal to work (as it is for Mat’s) as a way of feeling the temperature change. It dissipates saidin or saidar weaves directed at Cadsuane, just as Mat’s ter’angreal does (The Wheel of Time Companion). Setalle Anan, formerly Martine Janata of the Brown Ajah, had heard a rumour that Cadsuane had a ter’angreal that stopped a direct weave (Knife of Dreams, A Cold Medallion).

  • A full moon disc partly shaded to leave a brightly shining crescent has an unknown function but Cadsuane wears it anyway (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

Three Fish

  • A sleek fish with sharp fins can enable the wearer to pull someone who is holding saidin or saidar into an involuntary circle, with the wearer leading the circle (The Wheel of Time Companion).

  • A leaping fish is one of two fish ornaments of which Cadsuane does not know the function (Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments).

  • A carp is the other fish ornament which has an unknown function.

  • One of Cadsuane’s ornaments can disrupt Illusion a short distance away (Knife of Dreams, A Plain Wooden Box ). This was confirmed by Jordan on his blog:

    One of Cadsuane's ornaments is a ter'angreal that can interfere with weaves. That is how she was able to disrupt Semirhage's use of Illusion.

    It is not known if this is the same ter'angreal that stops a direct weave or another.

    According to Cadsuane, none of her ornaments protects against the influence of ta’veren:

    None of her ornaments protected against ta’veren. Of course, she did not know what two of the fish and one of the moons did, but it seemed unlikely they did that.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    Yet Cadsuane was remarkably unaffected by Rand’s ta’veren influence, so this is probably a foreshadowing that she is mistaken. Protection against ta’veren would be an entirely passive function for an ornament and thus easily pass unnoticed.

    Why Were They Made? What Difference Do They Make?

    Cadsuane believes correctly that her ornaments were made:

    during the Breaking of the World, when an Aes Sedai might find many hands turned against her, most especially those of men who could channel.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    The first ones were made in the Age of Legends, presumably during the War of Power. Rand said he recognised most of Cadsuane’s ornaments. It would be interesting to know if he knew the function of the three ter’angreal that Cadsuane doesn’t know how to use. And of course Aviendha probably could determine them.

    Cadsuane’s ter’angreal have made a tremendous difference to her career, as she herself is aware. Without them:

    it would have been unlikely that she would be in anything approaching her present circumstances.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    They have made her a legend among Aes Sedai and therefore have indirectly inspired sisters to follow her. With their aid, she has located and faced:

    more men who could channel than any four Reds, maybe than any ten

    - A Crown of Swords, As The Plough Breaks The Earth

    even in such unlikely places as on the throne of Arad Doman (A Crown of Swords, Diamonds and Stars).

    Without her ornaments, Cadsuane might well have been killed by Black sisters during the ‘vileness’ after the Aiel War, as so many strong and experienced Aes Sedai were, particularly as she was trying to expose the Black Ajah.

    How Did Cadsuane Come By Her Ornaments?

    When Cadsuane was newly raised to the shawl, she met an old wilder in the Black Hills who was unimpressed with her:

    She herself, full of pride in her new shawl and her own strength, had been taught by a near toothless wilder at a farm in the heart of the Black Hills.

    - Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret

    This wilder set her to earn her ornaments and by all accounts it was not a pleasant experience, worse than being a novice in the White Tower:

    She could not recall the last time she had let shock reach her face. It might have been all those years ago, in the Black Hills, when she began earning the ornaments she now wore.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    And she [Nynaeve] had not been put through the lessons that what must be endured, could be endured…It was a lesson not everyone could learn in the Tower.

    - Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret

    Norla taught Cadsuane caution, patience, endurance and that she was not invincible; harsh lessons that Cadsuane wanted Moiraine to learn in New Spring and would like to see Nynaeve learn.

    Norla was a very old woman indeed if she was “a toothless wilder” (Winter’s Heart, The Hummingbird’s Secret). We have not seen any channellers so decrepit with age, except the Aes Sedai Rand saw in the columns in Rhuidean (The Shadow Rising, The Road to the Spear). It was fortuitous that their paths crossed:

    A pity she herself had not come to the shawl fifty years later than she had, or she would have Bonded one of the men herself… But fifty years would have meant that Norla died in her little house in the Black Hills before Cadsuane Melaidrin ever went to the White Tower.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    Since Cadsuane does not know the function of three of her ornaments, it may well be that Norla died while Cadsuane still had to earn or learn about the last three.

    So Cadsuane acquired those ornaments when newly raised over 250 years ago and has retained them all:

    Quickly touching the ornaments dangling from the bun atop her head to be sure they were all there—she had never lost one, but that was because she was careful of them

    - The Path of Daggers, New Alliances

    And Now?

    The times were so dangerous and uncertain, that:

    she was very aware of them [her ornaments], of late. Aware? Phaw! Of late, she had considered sleeping with them in place.

    - Crossroads of Twilight, Ornaments

    It would have been wise.


    Written by Linda, June 2004 and updated December 2015

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