Amazon’s The Wheel of Time trailers have already shown off some of the abilities of the Aes Sedai, but their origin story and full powers are difficult to explain in a short space. The series is an adaptation of Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time series which spanned fourteen books and a prequel novel. Much of the narrative is dedicated to explaining the powers and the history of the Aes Sedai.
The Aes Sedai represent a large contingent of the magic users in The Wheel of Time. The history of the group stretches back thousands of years within the mythos of Robert Jordan’s books and is the basis for a lot of the story that takes place throughout the series. Moiraine Damodred (Rosamund Pike), who has been the central focus of The Wheel of Time trailers so far, is an Aes Sedai herself and works to weave her plans around the folks of the Two Rivers throughout the early books in the series.
As Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is so expansive in its setting and history, it is hard to know how much of the Aes Sedai’s specific history and structure will become apparent throughout The Wheel of Time season 1. Evidence suggests that season 1 will draw on “The Eye of the World” and the prequel novel “New Spring,” however the trailer also shows the White Tower of Tar Valon and the head of the Aes Sedai which don’t appear until “The Great Hunt,” so they may be rearranging some events or are highlighting larger parts of “New Spring.” Here’s everything you need to know about the Aes Sedai before The Wheel of Time season 1.
Three thousand years before the main events of The Wheel of Time, there was an era known as the Age of Legends. During this time, both men and women could become a member of the Aes Sedai, an institution of magic users who draw on the One Power with women drawing from the female half, saidar, and men drawing from the male half, saidin. This changed after the War of Power (also known as the War of Shadow) in which the Aes Sedai faced off against the Dark One. The Dark One is a force of evil in The Wheel of Time who is the antithesis of the “Creator” and exists outside of time and creation; however, his prison was breached by Aes Sedai researchers and unleashed him on the world.
While the Aes Sedai were able to reseal the Dark One into his prison, his final act before being trapped was to taint saidin, causing the male Aes Sedai who drew on it to be driven insane. This ushered in the Age of Madness and caused the Breaking of the World as the male Aes Sedai became uncontrollable and used their powers to literally rearrange continents, killing a large percentage of the population. From this time forward, only women were allowed to be Aes Sedai and any men who showed the ability to draw on the One Power (called channeling) were either killed or were cut off from the One Power through a process known as gentling.
The War of Power and the Breaking of the World led many non-channelers in the world of The Wheel of Time to be scared of the Aes Sedai and the power that they could wield. In an attempt to reduce the fear of the Aes Sedai and assuage concerns that they might go insane like the men before them, modern Aes Sedai all take three oaths that they are magically bound to keep to the letter. These oaths forbid them from speaking any word that is not true, from using the One Power to make a weapon that could harm another, and from using the One Power itself as a weapon except against servants of the Dark One or in defense of themselves or others.
However, in The Wheel of Time these oaths have not been entirely successful in gaining the trust of the citizens of the continent. While the oaths are effective in some ways, they can be worked around through interpretation. Most commonly, Aes Sedai have found ways to avoid speaking the truth without actually telling any lie. This has led to a perception that Aes Sedai are weaselly and can not be trusted, as you would think they had said one thing when they had actually meant another. During the main events of The Wheel of Time, many Aes Sedai have become withdrawn from the world, spending their time in the insular society of the White Tower. Out in the world, they tend to travel from place to place, or they serve as advisors behind some of the most powerful figures on the continent.
The main magic system in Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time is divided across the notion of a gender binary—although there are some indications that Amazon’s The Wheel of Time might be making some changes to this to move away from gender essentialism and to acknowledge trans and non-binary people. The Aes Sedai draw their power from saidar and then use threads of different elements to create their magic. This includes drawing Earth, Air, Water, Fire, and Spirit together into different forms or “weaves” to create an intended effect. The results from this process can be wide-ranging to include creating bindings, storms, fire, or even healing others of wounds and exhaustion, as long as their usage of the One Power remains within the rules of the Three Oaths. In The Wheel of Time, extended use of the One Power provides the Aes Sedai with an extended lifespan with some of the eldest Aes Sedai being over three centuries old.
The Aes Sedai are commanded by the Amyrlin Seat, who lives in the White Tower in Tar Valon. At the beginning of The Wheel of Time, this position is held by Siuan Sanche (Sophie Okonedo). Beneath her are several roles that keep the tower running including the Sitters, who serve as council members or legislators for the White Tower and are collectively known as the Hall of the Tower. When arriving at the White Tower in The Wheel of Time, women are tested to see if they have the spark of the One Power or the ability to learn how to channel, both of which are rare. If they show aptitude then they are brought in as novices and after years of training the more talented of them are tested and raised to Accepted. After years more training those Accepted judged worthy can then test to become Aes Sedai.
Within The Wheel of Time, full Aes Sedai are able to bond Warders or Gaidin to themselves with the One Power. These are skilled warriors that are gifted quick healing, extreme endurance, and the ability to detect the Dark One’s taint at a distance, such as if Shadowspawn are nearby. The magical bond also allows Aes Sedai and Warders to share emotional and personal knowledge of themselves without having to directly communicate it verbally. In The Wheel of Time, the Aes Sedai are divided into separate Ajahs that work on their own plans and goals depending on what those Aes Sedai prioritize:
The Blue Ajah value causes and seek to make the world better.
The Brown Ajah are scholars who value knowledge above all else.
The Green Ajah are the battle Ajah who bond additional Warders and prepare for the Last Battle.
The Gray Ajah serve for mediation and political issues.
The Red Ajah seek out any male channelers to gentle them if possible and kill them if necessary.
The White Ajah focus on logic, reason, and philosophy.
The Yellow Ajah are focused on healing others.
There is also a rumored eighth Ajah in The Wheel of Time: the Black Ajah. These Aes Sedai are Darkfriends who serve the Dark One, but the White Tower firmly denies their existence.
While Robert Jordan’s Wheel of Time includes a huge number of Aes Sedai and Warders, relatively few appear in the “New Spring” and “The Eye of the World.” Therefore, casting for Amazon’s The Wheel of Time season 1 sees a limited number appear, though even some of those do not appear in the books until The Great Hunt. Casting for season 2 suggests that Elaida and Verin may join after The Wheel of Time season 1.
Moiraine Damodred: A noble lady of Cairhien, Moiraine became an Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah during the events of “New Spring.” Upon hearing a prophecy that the Dragon Reborn had come she began searching for him as the one hope of defeating the Dark One in the Last Battle.
Siuan Sanche: Siuan grew up on fishing boats but showed great talent as an Aes Sedai and trained alongside Moiraine in the White Tower,also joining the Blue Ajah. She went on to become the Amyrlin Seat.
Leane Sharif: Leane joined the Blue Ajah when she was raised as an Aes Sedai and became the Keeper of the Chronicles under Siuan.
Alanna Mosvani: Alanna is a member of the Green Ajah and is from Arafel which is in the Borderlands.
Liandrin Guirale: Liandrin is a member of the Red Ajah from Arad Doman.
Kerene Nagashi: In The Wheel of Time’s prequel novel, “New Spring” Kerene is a Green Ajah Aes Sedai. She is a high ranking and respected Aes Sedai who was over one hundred years old when Moiraine was in training.
Lan Mandragoran: Lan is Moiraine’s Warder but holds an important lineage all of his own. He is the last surviving member of the Malkieri royal family, a nation that was lost to the Trollocs in the Blight.
Ihvon: One of Alanna Mosvani’s Warders.
Maksim: One of Alanna Mosvani’s Warders.
Stepin: One of Kerene Nagashi’s Warders.