The world of The Wheel of Time comes with its own kind of magic—magic known as the One Power. It’s not referred to as “magic” in-universe, but that’s definitely what it’s like. Really, it’s kind of like the Force in Star Wars. And many women, but not all, who channel the One Power are Aes Sedai. Like Jedi, the phrase “Aes Sedai” can mean both the individual and the organization as a whole. Aes Sedai play an important role in Robert Jordan’s fantasy novels and will undoubtedly feature heavily in Amazon Prime Video’s television adaptation. Many of them appeared in the show’s first trailer.
If you’d like to learn more about The Wheel of Time’s Aes Sedai without spoilers, you’re in the right place.
Who Are the Aes Sedai?
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Put simply, the Aes Sedai are a group of women (during the events of the book and series) who wield the One Power. Many across the world of The Wheel of Time distrust them. In the Old Tongue, Aes Sedai means “servants of all.”
What Is the One Power?
Aes Sedai channel the One Power, which they pull from the True Source. Honestly, this needs to be a whole other article so I’ll just summarize. The True Source has a female half and a male half, saidar and saidin respectively. During The Wheel of Time‘s events, saidin is tainted. If a man capable of channeling saidin tries to do so, he will eventually lose his mind and probably cause a lot of chaos in the process.
Aes Sedai channel saidar from the True Source, which as one character describes, it is, “the driving force of creation, the force the Creator made to turn the Wheel of Time.” Channelers weave flows from five elements—Earth, Water, Air, Fire, and Spirit—for various affects. Aes Sedai, or any trained female channeler, can see when other women are using the One Power. It glows like an aura around the wielder.
Not everyone is born with the ability to channel, or the spark. Sometimes if a girl unknowingly begins channeling and doesn’t receive training from an Aes Sedai, she will die. Others channel on their own and survive without Aes Sedai training or interference.
Where Do the Aes Sedai Live?
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The Aes Sedai call the island of Tar Valon home. They occupy the White Tower, which sits in a kind of campus. Aes Sedai do not have to permanently reside in the White Tower once they’re full sisters, though many do. Aspiring sisters train in the tower from Novice, to Accepted, to Aes Sedai. Warders also train and live on the grounds.
How Does Someone Become an Aes Sedai?
An Aes Sedai can sense if another women has the ability to channel. Whenever possible, they try to bring these women, usually on the younger side, to the White Tower to receive at least enough training to prevent the women from harming themselves with One Power. Some young women find their own way to Tar Valon too. Those who can channel start as Novices, then after they learn and grow in strength (if they do), they become Accepted. At the Accepted level, the woman receives an Aes Sedai ring—the Great Serpent ring. It depicts a serpent eating its own tail, a symbol of the ever-turning wheel of time. From Accepted, a woman goes on to become full Aes Sedai.
Once a full Aes Sedai, the woman has to take three oaths: to tell no lies, to not make any weapons that be used to harm other beings, and to not wield the One Power as a weapon. At this time they choose which Ajah they would like to join.
Aes Sedai Ajahs
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The Aes Sedai split themselves into one of seven Ajahs: Blue, Red, Yellow, Green, Gray, Brown, and White. Each Ajah has its own purpose and leaders. When Aes Sedai become full sisters, they choose the Ajah they want to join. Aes Sedai often wear a color representing their Ajah, and in the books, they sometimes don vine-embroidered shawls that have fringe of their Ajah’s color.
The Yellow Ajah heals, and the Blue Ajah is about righteous causes and justice. The Red Ajah loathes men and focuses on the misuse of the One Power, especially as it pertains to men channeling. The Green Ajah stands ready for the Last Battle. Grays are all about diplomacy and politics, while Browns put their energy towards gathering and preserving knowledge. And finally the White Ajah homes in on philosophy and logic.
An eighth Ajah exists too: the Black Ajah. Members of this Ajah often have pledged themselves to the Dark One. They largely keep this allegiance secret and operate from the shadows.
Aes Sedai and Warders
With the exception of the Red Ajah, nearly every Aes Sedai bonds a Warder. Members of the Green Ajah often bond more than one and sometimes marry one of their Warders. Aes Sedai use the One Power to bond a Warder (with permission) to serve as a bodyguard. With the bonding, a Warder gains enhanced abilities such as stamina and strength. They form an emotional bond, and a Warder and Aes Sedai can sense each other’s physical locations.
Aes Sedai Politics
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Like any organization, the Aes Sedai have a leader and a council. They call their leader the Amyrlin Seat; the position’s full title is the Amyrlin Seat, Watcher of the Seals, the Flame of Tar Valon. Once sisters raise her to the position, she leaves her Ajah behind and becomes a mother to all Aes Sedai. The Amyrlin Seat wears a stole with seven stripes to represent the seven Ajahs. The Amyrlin Seat’s right hand woman is the Keeper of the Chronicles. The Amyrlin appoints the Keeper with the Hall of the Tower’s support and typically chooses the Keeper from the same Ajah that the Amyrlin once belonged to. Though the Keeper formally leaves that Ajah like the Amyrlin, the Keeper’s stole is the color of her former Ajah.
The Aes Sedai have a council called the Hall of the Tower. Three Sitters from each Ajah sit on the council and implement the Amyrlin’s rules and also create policies for the whole of the organization.
Aes Sedai and the Age of Legends
The events of The Wheel of Time take place in the Third Age, which spans over 3,000 years. But before that was the Second Age, also known as the Age of Legends. During that period, there were more Aes Sedai—male and female—and they were more powerful. The Aes Sedai then could make tools that helped them channel more of the One Power. The Age of Legends comes up repeatedly in the books (and is when that Wheel of Time movie in development is set), so it’s helpful to have this in the back of your heads.
Amy Ratcliffe is the Managing Editor for Nerdist and the author of A Kid’s Guide to Fandom, available now. Follow her on Twitter and Instagram.