Sunday, March 24, 2002

Channeller Training Outside the White Tower

By Linda

This article describes the training that non-Aes Sedai channellers receive, both male and female. Training of Aes Sedai is covered in the Novice and Accepted sections of the Aes Sedai Law and Customs articles.

The following groups are covered:

Sea Folk

An apprenticeship program is the normal training method for the Wheel of Time world, and most channellers are also trained in this way.


The ability to channel is regarded by the Seanchan as evil, the cause of the Breaking and perhaps a thing of the Dark One. A dark taint, as Tuon said. The Seanchan believe that women who can channel are dangerous because they will use the Power against others to gain advantage, therefore for the safety of society they must be collared with an a’dam, a ter’angreal that creates an involuntary link between two women with the sul’dam bracelet-wearer in control (see Ter’angreal article for how the ter’angreal works), or else be killed.

But killing them is now regarded as extremely wasteful. Free, these women are too dangerous to be allowed, but collared they are more than useful, they are a cornerstone of Seanchan society and civilization. The prototype was created by Deain, an Aes Sedai in Seanchan, in an attempt to curry favor with Luthair Paendrag. She eventually was collared herself, after it was learned that women who could learn to channel but had not yet learned could wear the bracelet.

The percentages [of channellers] run higher among the Seanchan than among people east of the Aryth Ocean because, although they have been culling men who can channel out of the population as vigorously as is done anywhere, they have not removed any women who can learn from the breeding population. Thus, the number of women who have some ability (inborn or otherwise) runs at something over 1.5%, as opposed to the 0.5% east of the Aryth Ocean…Since the position is one eagerly sought, very few, if any, women who can become sul’dam fail to do so if they can manage it!

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

Only the Blood would reject such a respected position, or a person opposed to channelling.

Female channellers

All women, nobles and sul’dam included, are tested with the collar of an a’dam until they are 25 years old. In newly conquered areas, all women are tested, no matter their age. The collar is placed on their neck and the sul’dam wearing the bracelet sees if she can link with the woman wearing the collar and feel what she feels. Only those women who have channelled or who have the inborn ability to channel without training and are soon to do so respond to the collar. These become damane, and are taken away to be trained by sul’dam.

Once a woman has been tested with the collar, and passed by failing, she is tested with a bracelet, to see if she can link with the damane wearing its collar. Women who can do so become sul’dam, with only a few refusing this position. It is the law to search for sul’dam, even in newly conquered lands where they might not share the Seanchan attitude to enslaving channelers (Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes).


Sul’dam are the women who have the potential to be taught to channel, but who would never channel without being taught.

We don’t see a sul’dam being trained, so we don’t know how this is done. In addition to a sul’dam instructor, a very docile and “helpful” damane probably is required for the early parts of the training, so she can guide the new sul’dam on how to control a damane and to understand how channelling works.

Anyone who captures or collars a marath’damane gains status. We saw this in A Memory of Light where Mat captured a Sharan channeller thanks to his ter’angreal medallion. The sul’dam who collars a damane is customarily in charge of her training The Great Hunt, Damane). A sul’dam acquires further status if her damane has a major talent.

Very experienced sul’dam—women long over the age of 25—can independently sense a damane's presence and know how strong she is, and perhaps sense or even “almost” see the weaves a damane makes, or feel her channelling. Many sul’dam ironically pride themselves on their ability to sense damane, not realising it is due to them being sensitised to channelling and being on the brink of being able to channel if they haven’t blocked themselves. The Seanchan mistakenly believe these abilities are simply skills the sul'dam have picked up through long familiarity with damane.

The Seanchan do not know how to train women who have the ability to learn. They lost this knowledge once they began collaring channellers (part of Jordan’s theme of knowledge being lost or distorted over time) and only a few are aware that there are women who have the ability to be taught. Once they learn that channelling can be taught—and therefore such women can choose whether or not to learn—their dogma of taint or wrongness that justifies enslaving people and using them is undermined. Those who do learn of it no longer trust sul’dam (who shall guard the guards?) since they are potential marath’damane living among them as respected humans, so respected that killing any sul’dam to hide the problem is murder, even for the High Blood (Winter’s Heart, Questions of Treason). They don’t acknowledge the hypocrisy and appalling ethics of collaring women.

Sul’dam do not slow in their aging, because they have never touched the Source themselves. If they ever do channel, then their aging will begin to slow.


Once identified and collared, the damane no longer has any rights as a citizen, or even as a human. Traditionally, all her possessions were burned, but current custom is that the clothes she was wearing at the time are burned—as happens with novices and apprentice Wise Ones. The remainder of a damane’s possessions go to the Empress, who redistributes ninety percent of her possessions, in some cases to the family of the woman if the loss of it would cause hardship (Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes).

There is shame for a family in the discovery that a daughter of theirs has the potential, yet this shame is mitigated somewhat by aiding in the discovery. Families act as if the one discovered is no longer of their blood, and those who have the means, especially nobles (no one is exempt from the searching, not even the Imperial family), actually have records changed to erase the existence of the girl.

These women are regarded, in a way, as no longer really human (though no one would put it that way), as if they had suddenly been revealed to actually be vicious leopards. For the safety of everyone such a beast cannot be allowed to run loose in the streets, yet their nature is altered somewhat by being collared. There is still a thrill of terror at being close to a collared woman, yet it is like seeing the leopard in a cage under the control of an animal trainer.

As what the women can do is evil (despite so much in Seanchan society depending on it; perhaps better to say potentially evil if uncontrolled, the true current view), so the women themselves are tainted by evil. Some purists (a scarce handful) believe the women should be killed just as males discovered channelling are, but their usefulness as weapons and in other ways keeps this from being more than a very minority view.

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

Damane are used in military forces, road-building, construction of large structures, mining, and even entertainments, for nobles and the wealthy, at least.

By far most of them are the property of the Imperial family, yet many of the Blood will own several, and non-nobles also are allowed to acquire one. More than one, for a non-noble, would be considered getting above their station. They are quite expensive, though. Like a racehorse.

Among nobles and the wealthy it is a status symbol to own at least one. The more owned, the more status, yet the owners must be careful, since they are powerful weapons, not to own so many that it seems they might be acquiring a stockpile of weapons, which can bring the attentions of the Seekers. To counter their status as weapons, it is the custom among nobles (and those wealthy non-nobles who dare to ape the ways of nobles to some extent) to use the collared women in as many frivolous ways as possible. (Example: giving a ball where the lamps contain no oil (or there are no lamps) but illumination is provided by a collared woman or two. Or having one perform tricks with the One Power for entertainment, mixed in with jugglers and tumblers and musicians, of course, so that it is plain she is no more than a dancing bear or trained leopard.)

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

Damane are property, and exist for the convenience of others. They have no right to possessions, comfort or privacy, or to justice or fairness, or, in fact, even their original name:

The clothes she wears, the food she eats, the bed she sleeps in, are all gifts from the sul’dam. and if a sul’dam chooses that she go naked, eat dirt and sleep in a stable, so it will be. In actual practice, other sul’dam would not allow such long except as punishment; damane are valuable, for one thing. For another, it is viewed in the same way that we would view someone mistreating or abusing a horse or a dog. Threatening these things is part of the training method used by some sul'dam with new damane. The normal attitude of most sul'dam toward damane is that of someone toward a well-trained dog or horse; real affection is often present. Frequently, it is returned.

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

The discovery that they “have a dark taint” and are unnatural to the point of not being human is horrifying to Seanchan damane.

Some would like to die. Most regard what has happened to them as right and proper, almost as a fitting punishment for their “crime and evil” and a chance to expiate same through service. Very few would feel any injustice (or desire to escape), and most of those see it more as fate dealing them an unjust hand than as any injustice on the part of those who picked them out or the [sul’dam] who control them. Most but not all of the rebellious ones are from the nobility, perhaps thinking that their station in life (their former station) should have kept them from this in some way.

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

Damane are kept from suiciding with careful policing of their location and utensils. After a few months they begin to accept their fate and cease to resist or even no longer dream of escape. Since the sul’dam respond to them more favourably than their own families now do, and praise them when they are obedient and hard-working, they begin to want to please the sul’dam as well as enjoy channelling. After all, pleasing the sul’dam is the way to better treatment and less punishment, an example of Stockholm syndrome. Plus, resisting seems futile as well as painful. Even those damane captured from the mainland have begun to feel this way, as Teslyn was horrified to realise.

Conversely those former damane that have been released from their collars on the mainland who

have gotten used to freedom would still have feelings of near guilt at not being properly collared. Most if not all might well be tempted to turn themselves in to the Seanchan forces given a chance.

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

Damane look upon sul’dam with fear or respect mixed with

gratitude that the sul’dam are guiding and sheltering them and keeping them from doing the awful things that they must surely do if they were allowed to run free. (Good medieval Catholics accepting their penance.)

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

Like animal trainers (and that is how they regard themselves) most sul’dam are not cruel to their charges apart from keeping them constantly kennelled when not being worked. This includes some concern for their emotional welfare and arranging for their sexual needs to be met with double kennelling of damane (see Pillowfriends article).

Bethamin had named Zushi herself, and she felt a special concern. Unclipping the steel-nibbed pen, she dipped it and wrote a suggestion that Zushi be moved from the Palace to somewhere she could be kept in a double kennel with a damane from the Empire, preferably one experienced in becoming heart-friends with newly collared damane. Sooner or later, that always put an end to tears.

- Winter’s Heart, Questions of Treason

Whether happy or miserable in private, a damane must be downcast in public due to her extremely low status. She must never draw attention to herself, especially not that of the Blood (The Great Hunt, Damane) .

"When a damane is punished, it is always her fault, even if she does not know why. A damane must anticipate what her sul'dam wants.”

- The Great Hunt, Damane

Just as with mainland channellers, various Talents occur among the damane, but are not developed unless the Seanchan consider them practical, and few damane would press on this unless they think their talent would lead to better treatment (Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes). There is also the difficulty in channelling without sul’dam control or assent.

Until Tuon led the way, few sul’dam tried to learn any of the weaves that the Aes Sedai damane know. However, a few weaves, such as Healing, have been taught to Seanchan damane, because of their usefulness. (Even though many Seanchan don’t allow the Power to be used on them.) So far, Aes Sedai damane have not been forced to reveal the method of testing for women who can be taught to channel (Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes). (Even if/when the knowledge that sul’dam are women who can be taught to channel becomes known, no sul’dam would want to learn and therefore be collared.)

The trainers of damane (sul’dam) and their owners (the Blood) are aware that damane live long lives and age very slowly.

They accept this as an attribute of those who can channel and take it as a sign of how unnatural they are. The Aes Sedai they faced on reaching Seanchan did not use the Three Oaths, thus did not have curtailed lives: a lifespan of 700‒800 years or more was not uncommon for those Seanchan Aes Sedai who escaped assassination.

While damane do die, and in fact, being used in combat, they are exposed to great risks, there are certainly damane who show considerable age and who are as much as 500, 600 or even possibly 700‒800 years old (i.e. born perhaps as long ago as 200 NE). There will have been damane who had been Aes Sedai when Hawkwing's armies began their conquest of Seanchan who died only 300‒400 years ago.

The result of the long life is that although damane have been recruited in Seanchan exclusively from women born with the spark, there are a very large number of damane, compared to the numbers of Aes Sedai. For the last thousand years, only those women who had the inborn spark, those who would channel without training, have been removed from the gene pool, and for over two thousand years before that, even they were not. As a result, there are many more women among the Seanchan population who either have the spark inborn or who can be taught than there are in the population east of the Aryth Ocean, where for over three thousand years Aes Sedai have cloistered themselves in the White Tower and had children seldom.

- Robert Jordan, Seanchan notes

The Aiel and Sea Folk likewise have higher percentage of channellers, but not as high as the Seanchan.

Male Channellers

Men who can channel are hunted down and killed; the Seanchan do not yet know how to gentle a man. Now that they have a male a’dam, and are comfortable with using a’dam on women, they will likely try to use the male a’dam also. If they do, they will find that the male a’dam is not as successful in controlling a man, and the bracelets have to be shared around and two women used to slow his gain of control as much as possible (see Ter’angreal article). Alternatively, they may break the spirit of every man they collar.


Female channellers

Female channellers have an obligation to the people to become Wise Ones, female leaders. All women with the spark and just over half of those who have the ability to learn to channel are identified and expected to take the test to become an apprentice Wise One. There is no strength or age limit to becoming a Wise One. (Non-channelling women with knowledge, judgment and leadership potential also become Wise Ones.)

Wise Ones avoid Aes Sedai, partly because they have toh to them for abandoning the tasks given them at the end of the Age of Legends, and partly because they don’t want the White Tower to take their channellers and interfere with the Aiel.

A new candidate is sent off to Rhuidean to go through the three-ringed ter’angreal, without any prior training, to determine if she has the resilience to learn and accept the general outline of her future and heed the warnings of major choices she must make. This culling style of initiation is harsher than for other trainee channellers except damane. Nynaeve experienced something similar by being raised to Accepted without being a novice, and Siuan was criticised by other Aes Sedai for ordering this.

If she lacks the mental and emotional skills to be a Wise One, the candidate is unlikely to survive this test (Robert Jordan, Wise Ones notes). Upon successfully completing the test, she watches her clothes burned to sever her from her former life. If she owned weapons (eg former Maidens), the blades are melted down and fashioned into things that are not weapons before being given away as gifts.

The ability to channel is taken by all Aiel as a sign that the women is fated to be a Wise One. Therefore even if she has other failings that make her unsuitable, she is made an apprentice, even if her apprenticeship lasts a very, very long time (Robert Jordan, Wise Ones notes). With training and discipline, however, most women grow and overcome their failings and become Wise Ones, even if only for a small Hold.

Wise Ones use a sort of cautious forcing as their normal training of apprentices, which is undertaken away from public view. Until war dictated otherwise, Wises Ones did not flaunt their ability.

The Wise Ones' teaching of Aviendha where others could see was unusual, done in large part because the Wise Ones know she is potentially very strong, that they needed to train her. Also, although they did not know what she had seen in the rings ter'angreal in Rhuidean (at least at first), they could already see a relationship developing with Rand which they might be able to make use of but which would decrease the time available to give her the very necessary training in private.

- Robert Jordan, Aviendha notes

Many of their weaves are simpler than those of Aes Sedai, but often just as effective. They use fewer gestures when weaving than Aes Sedai do. The Wise Ones have retained some knowledge from the Age of Legends, notably regarding Dreaming and Tel’aran’rhiod, that other women channellers lost.

Leadership training is another area Wise Ones excel in. The worst Aiel female leader was Sevanna, who never underwent Wise One training.

Discipline is strict and the status of an apprentice Wise One is low, lower than any algai'd’siswai. The apprentices won’t be given orders by algai'd’siswai but must show respect to the spears. Each apprentice is apprenticed to a single Wise One (except Egwene, who was apprenticed to three) but must obey them all immediately and diligently. Apprentices and their Wise One often form a close and warm bond.

Towards the end of their apprenticeship, Wise Ones step up the discipline and orders to spur her to rebel and realise that she has learned all that they can teach and no one is making her remain an apprentice. When she eventually announces that she is a Wise One, she is sent to Rhuidean to go through the glass columns ter’angreal, where she will learn the history and origin of her people and their customs. Most women survive this knowledge due to their training and testing.

Since Wise Ones don’t sequester themselves from regular society, and are expected to have children, and even male channellers often father children before they discover they can channel, the Aiel population has a higher percentage of potential channellers (1.5%) compared to the mainland population (0.5%).

Male Channellers

When an Aielman finds out he can channel he believes he has been chosen to go to the Blight and fight the Dark One. In reality, these channellers are captured by the Shadow.


The Tuatha’an reject channelling and neither train channellers nor keep active channellers among them. They take any girl who manifests the channelling spark to Aes Sedai. Those who could be taught are never identified.

She was another rarity for the Tower, one of the Tuatha'an, the Tinkers. The Tuatha'an lived in garishly painted wagons, traveling from village to village, and like the Sea Folk, they wanted no self-taught wilders among them. If a band discovered the spark coming out in one of their girls, they turned their train of wagons and headed for Tar Valon as fast as their horses could move. Verin, a stout Brown who was even shorter than Moiraine, said that Tinker girls never tried to find their way to channeling on their own, that they did not want to channel or become Aes Sedai. It must be so, since Verin had said it, yet Aisling applied herself with just as much determination as Zemaille, and with more success. She had earned the ring in five years, in the same year as Moraine and Siuan, and Moiraine thought she might test for the shawl in another year, perhaps less.

- New Spring, Practice

Note that Moiraine is parroting Aes Sedai faulty knowledge here by linking Sea Folk with Tinkers and saying that the Sea Folk don’t have channellers. Aisling knows that the Tinkers would never have her back; the Sea Folk women would love to return to their people and would have status there. Zemaille was deliberately being a slow learner so that the Aes Sedai continued to believe the Sea Folk are weak in the channelling talent.

The Tuatha’an failed their covenant to obey and serve the Aes Sedai and abandoned the task the Aes Sedai set them of guarding the ter’angreal and angreal during the Breaking. They didn’t fail the Way of the Leaf, though.

We see a male Da’shain Aiel kill himself when he began channelling early in the Third Age. Tinker men who begin to channel may well do the same, since they are driven out of any band due to the danger they pose and the violence innate to their channelling and are regarded as an abomination (Robert Jordan at a booksigning).

The Tinkers don’t reject channelling or channellers outright, however. For instance, Moiraine had a Tinker agent that reported to her from Almoth Plain in The Dragon Reborn.

Sea Folk


As with Aes Sedai, Windfinders are trained through a three-phase apprenticeship program. Most trainees are identified early, because they start channelling or ask to be tested. The latter are made to ask three times before being accepted (Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes).

Occasionally a woman who is older and has the ability to learn will begin fumbling her way to the ability, whether consciously or unconsciously. When this happens, it is believed that the woman has been chosen out to be a Windfinder ("chosen by wind and current"), and, unlike those who are made to ask three times, she is made an apprentice willy-nilly. There are relatively few such among the Sea Folk, but the fact of it is that even a Wavemistress or Mistress of the Ships who began to manifest the ability would be forced to give up her earrings and nose ring and become a common deckhand again to begin training as a Windfinder.
- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

A new apprentice is promptly transferred to another ship to minimise the amount of her training on the ship where she became an apprentice, probably to avoid any appearance of favouritism, and also to ensure that skills and knowledge are shared around, important on ships that may spend considerable time isolated from contact with others.

In the first part other training, the apprentice must serve with the other deckhands while taking her training with the Windfinder. This is analogous to the novice period in the White Tower. This portion other training usually involves service on at least three ships, at least one year on each though often longer. In the next portion of her training, she is more of a personal apprentice to the Windfinder of the ship she is serving on. This training also normally encompasses service on at least three ships, and corresponds to being an Accepted.

Even after an apprentice is considered qualified to become a Windfinder, she seldom gets the chance immediately since there must be a position open for her. She remains an apprentice, in a position analogous in some ways to an Accepted close to being tested for the shawl. This period also frequently covers service on several ships.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

This waiting is more akin to an apprentice Wise One waiting for a place at a hold.

Favouritism or nepotism is a serious crime among the Sea Folk, and can stymie the careers of Windfinders from families with relatives in positions of influence:

We are very affectionate in private, but she must avoid any sign of favor in public. That is a serious crime, with us. It could have mother stripped of her rank, and both of us hung upside down in the rigging to be flogged."… "Everyone tries to avoid even a hint of favor, but it is worse for me, Nynaeve!"
Really, the girl—woman—young woman—would have to learn not to step on what a sister was saying if she did become a novice. Not that she could, of course. Nynaeve tried to regain the initiative, but words poured out of Talaan in a torrent. "My grandmother is Windfinder to the Wavemistress of Clan Rossaine, my greatgrandmother is Windfinder to Clan Dacan, and her sister to Clan Takana. My family is honored that five of us have risen so high. And everyone watches for signs that Gelyn abuses its influence. Rightly so, I know—favor cannot be allowed—but my sister was kept an apprentice five years longer than normal, and my cousin six! Just so no one can claim they were favored. When I cast the stars and give our position correctly, I am punished for being slow even when I have the answer as fast as Windfinder Ehvon! When I taste the sea and name the coast we are approaching, I am punished because the taste I name is not quite what Windfinder Ehvon tastes! I shielded you twice, but tonight I will hang by my ankles for not doing so sooner! I am punished for flaws ignored in others, for flaws I never make, because I might!

- Winter’s Heart, Ideas of Importance

This injustice has been the Sea Folk’s undoing, with Talaan leaving them to join the White Tower.

Windfinders concentrate a great deal on weather-weaving weaves, particularly those with Air, and outstrip Aes Sedai in these (Towers of Midnight, An Invitation).

Male Channellers

The Sea Folk kill male channellers:

"Men who can channel are given a choice," Harine said. "They can either step from the bow of their ship holding a stone which is also tied to their legs, or they can be dropped off on a barren isle with no food or water. The second is considered the more shameful option, but some few do take it, to live for a brief time longer."

- The Gathering Storm, A Tale of Blood

These are punishments inflicted by 17th century pirates (a major inspiration for the Sea Folk): walking the plank, and marooning, respectively.


Female Channellers

There has never been an Amayar Aes Sedai. Windfinders locate those girls born with the spark and train them, though not in Weaving the Winds. These women then serve much the same function as Wisdoms and the like do on the mainland, although each is pledged to give certain services to the Windfinders and to come when called. This calling is almost always a made-up affair. The Windfinders have no use for these women, as they see it, but by their customs there has to be some sort of exchange or else they have lessened the other person. These Amayar women are quite assiduous about performing the services and answering the calls because their culture also requires "repayment" for gifts.

While the Amayar women who can channel are quite capable of finding girls on their own, they do not; or rather, what they do is either lead the girls to the Windfinders or the Windfinders to the girls. This is a part of their tradition, and the Amayar are strongly held by tradition. Their training of the girls after the Windfinders are finished with them is not known even to the Windfinders, but there is such training.

The Amayar are, of course, aware of the slow aging and long lives of women who can channel. It is something that simply is, though.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes

Male Channellers

As might be expected, occasionally men are born among the Amayar who can channel. The method of dealing with them is curiously gentle, in a way, while at the same time being efficient and brutal. The man is shielded, then put into a deep sleep where his dreams and bodily responses are manipulated. He has pleasant dreams—indeed, pleasant dreams of an entire life—and he feels no pain or discomfort, but he sleeps until he dies.

NOTE: This manipulation of dreams is something beyond any Aes Sedai and probably beyond Aiel Wise Ones who are Dreamwalkers.

- Robert Jordan, Sea Folk notes


The Kin are remarkable because they are founded on rejects from another group of channellers. Only the Aes Sedai outcast their “failures”.

After being put out of the Tower or running away, future Kin are contacted in Tar Valon by a recruiter, given money and sent to Ebou Dar. They spend their lives lying low and channelling as little as possible to avoid being found by Aes Sedai or being accused of pretending to be Aes Sedai. Both these things are punished harshly by the White Tower. The Kinswomen also mistakenly think that if they channel frequently they will acquire the ageless look and attract the ire of Aes Sedai. For the same reason, the Kin never tried to learn anything new, and never touched the cache of angreal they hid away.

Most Kin don’t believe they are, or could be, anywhere near Aes Sedai in skills or abilities, even if they have moderate or strong strength in saidar. Many feel shame or resentment at their failure to pass the tests.

Nevertheless, over their long lives, most Kin end up honing their channelling skills. Some might now be able to pass the Tower’s test for Aes Sedai due to their increased skills and also because they have matured or grown stronger in character and confidence over the years. Those Kin who privately wish to be accepted back into the Tower secretly practice their skills but are harshly punished whenever found out.

Aes Sedai who were put out of the Tower when Accepted know how to link, since this knowledge is taught to Accepted, but never teach it or use it because the Kin forbid it and their skill is probably rusty from lack of use (Robert Jordan, Kin notes). However Healing is taught to everyone who can manage to weave it.

The Kin rank themselves by age and are led by the Knitting Circle, the twelve oldest Kin in Ebou Dar. They cycle themselves strictly around the mainland so they don’t remain too long in one place and people notice they don’t age.

The rules against experimentation and education are likely to change once the Kin are again linked with the Tower, but the rules favouring experience (age) rather than channeller strength are likely to remain. Regrettably, those Kin who previously refused the tests and successfully pass them upon their return to the White Tower are likely to be stigmatised in their ranking by other Aes Sedai, just as wilders are.


New recruits are promptly tested for channelling ability and those that fail go to the Legion of the Dragon. Those that pass have harsh, forced training where they must do everything with the Power to develop their ability as fast as possible. As Taim gained power, this was taken to extremes:

A group of young soldiers passed by, saluting Taim. Two bore bruised features, one with an eye swollen shut. Asha'man were beaten brutally for making mistakes in their training, then forbidden Healing.

- Towers of Midnight, Gateways

By this time, Taim had instituted a Dark School at the Black Tower.

There were high “losses” by this method (~10%), but the Asha’man were established to be weapons and accepted the regime due to the imminence of the Last Battle. Later, Rand realised this dehumanising was wrong, and said the Asha'man no longer have to regard themselves as weapons. The Asha’man are likely to go more slowly in their training in the Fourth Age.

Like many other groups, the Black Tower has a tri-level apprenticeship system: soldier, Dedicated and Asha’man.

The Black Tower was established while the taint was still extant. As we see in Androl, its milder forms of mental illness were tolerated, but if the madness showed signs of being a danger to others or incapacitating, the man was killed with drugged wine. There were no new cases of madness after the taint on saidin was cleansed, but any existing madness remained, getting neither better nor worse over time.

Some Asha’man Bonded their wives so each knew how the other was faring when they were separated. The Asha’man Bonded 47 Aes Sedai, and in return Aes Sedai bonded Asha’man. Double bonds were developed, with the Aes Sedai and Asha’man each bonding the other. This establishes an intense, telepathic empathy between the two.


Channellers in Shara are called Ayyad and live separately from the general population in isolated walled villages. Non-Ayyad who enter the villages are killed immediately upon discovery. The Ayyad are marked by distinctive tattoos at birth: the women have a tree on their backs (pers. comm. Harriet Rigney) with curling leafed branches that spread from the nape of their necks across their cheeks, and the men twisted vines

on their backs and shoulders wrapped around their necks, then formed into claws or barbed branches below the chins. Their heads seemed to be held from below by the tattoos.

- River of Souls

To maximise their numbers Ayyad only mate with other Ayyad, with

the records the Ayyad keep of blood lines akin to the records of horse-breeders. Sons are raised communally, rather than by their mothers, as daughters are. (In fact, sons are never referred to as sons among the Ayyad; they are only referred to as "the male.")

- Robert Jordan, Sharan notes

No one with Ayyad tattoos can marry one without:

Sex between Ayyad/non-Ayyad is punishable by death for the latter, and for the former if the Ayyad forced it; any resulting child is killed by exposure.

- Robert Jordan, Sharan notes

If a non-Ayyad person is found to be able to channel, they are

presumed to be the result of a union between one of their ancestors and an Ayyad; they are seized, tattooed, and confined to an Ayyad village for the rest of their lives.

- Robert Jordan, Sharan notes

Such a channeller destroys the illusion of channellers being something separate and special, and able to be controlled, instead of being a natural trait. Jordan shows full spectrum on how channellers see themselves compared to non-channellers: Aes Sedai act like they are a different flesh to normal people, and all are monarchs; Forsaken see themselves as superhuman or demi-urges; and Seanchan see channellers as unnatural rather than supernatural. Plus the Ayyad want a monopoly on channelling for political reasons.

Female Channellers

The female Ayyad are the real power in Shara. We don’t know their training regimen, but it must be extensive since they were scornful of channellers on the mainland, assessing that they reach nothing like their potential.

Nevertheless, the female Ayyad are circumspect, and have convinced the people that they only channel, or leave their villages, with permission from the Sharan monarchs, the Shboan or Shbotay.

With channellers so powerful in Shara, even if only behind the throne, they are similar to how the Seanchan Aes Sedai were prior to the introduction of the a’dam.

Despite their intensive breeding program, designed to increase the inheritance frequency of a recessive trait, there would be female Ayyad that cannot learn to channel. It is not known what happens to these women, but at best they would be servants to the channelling Ayyad and not allowed to breed.

Male Channellers

Male channellers are enslaved as breeding stock only and are uneducated. They are confined to the village until they are 16 and then are

hooded and transported inside a closed wagon to a distant village, thus never even seeing anything outside the villages. There they breed with women who wish children. When males reach 21, or sooner if they show signs of channeling, they are killed and cremated.

- Robert Jordan, Sharan notes

This changed completely when Demandred set the male Ayyad free and trained them to channel.

For the free and easy life, a channeller would need to be born on the continent of the Land of Madmen, where no channeller is restricted and the only rule is survival.


Matthew Walsh said...

Thanks for this article!The information about the Amayar was particularly interesting. I was wondering whether you're planning on reviewing and writing articles about the Wheel of Time Amazon t.v. series when that comes out.

Linda said...

Thank you. I haven't really thought about it one way or the other. And now COVID has forced filming to temporarily halt.