The True Source cannot be used up, any more than the river can be used up by the wheel of the mill. The Source is the river; the Aes Sedai, the waterwheel."
Nature of the True SourceEdit
It can be seen as a source, quite literally, of energy capable of manipulating the universe, which prolongs the lives of its users by a factor of ten or even more, depending on individual strength. It is never used up by someone channeling it, only woven into a purpose temporarily. Each half of the One Power can be used only by people of the associated sex.
The two halves are direct opposites, yet both complement each other, by turning the Wheel of Time through both cooperation and opposition. The essential differences in the nature of the two halves of the Power mean that a woman cannot teach a man to channel, and vice versa.
Not everyone has the ability to "channel," or access, the One Power. Most have none at all, and some only have the ability to be taught, to one degree or another. But a few channelers are born with "the spark," an innate inclination that will lead them to touch the Source whether they wish to or not. These wilders often die without ever gaining control over their innate ability; some research indicates the mortality rate for untrained channelers is 75% or more. Often, this survival comes with a price; wilders may not even know they are using the One Power to do things; they just know that sometimes, "things happen" when they want them badly enough. Wilders are also frequently saddled with a block, an instinctive self-preservation instinct that causes them trouble when they do try to channel purposefully. This can take the form of only being able to channel while angry, or only with one's eyes closed. Those who do not have the spark can go their entire lives without touching the Power or even realizing they can. Within a short period of time after someone first channels without training, they will suffer side effects, of which there are many: fever and chills, taking uncharacteristic risks, etc. These side effects will come closer and closer to the incident of touching the Power until they coincide. At this moment, without the proper training, the channeler will most likely soon die "as though an invisible clock had begun ticking."
Channelers are not born equal, some are stronger in the Power and can handle more of it than others. Men and women are different in this regard and many others when it comes to the One Power.Channelers must always be careful, as the One Power is dangerous. Besides providing an addictive stimulating quality, channelers who draw too much of the Power into themselves can kill themselves or render themselves brain-dead. If they are lucky--relatively speaking--they will only burn the ability out of themselves, leaving themselves unable to channel ever again. Channelers can also be permanently denied the Source by another party. In modern Aes Sedai parlance, this is called "stilling" when done to women, "gentling" when done to men, but archaically it was called "severing" for either gender. Regardless of the circumstances, those who lose the ability permanently also tend to lose the will to live. Very recently, an Aes Sedai named Nynaeve al'Meara, and an Asha'man named Damer Flinn independently discovered how to heal severing, but the process is flawed and still in development. While either gender can heal severing, It has been noted restoration of the ability to channel by someone of the opposite gender is more effective, as those who are restored by someone of the same gender are reduced in strength.
All men and women with the spark come to a point of crisis in which they are in severe danger of dying without training, as the One Power is dangerous to the untrained. Many women who die under mysterious circumstances in their late teenage years are actually wilders who have failed to cope with their abilities. The women who survive invariably develop mental blocks that prevent channeling in the absence of certain conditions; two known blocks required severe anger or thoughts about men before their sufferers could allow themselves to channel. Another is the ability to channel only with one's eyes shut, which can be inconvenient, because a channeler must be able to see flows in order to weave them. Serious and sometimes drastic counseling is often required to overcome blocking.
Strength in the One Power does not indicate only the brute force or raw power that a channeler can use. It also means other abilities linked to it:
- Usually, the stronger the channeler, the more threads one can form and manipulate, and at a higher dexterity. For example, in Knife of Dreams, the powerful Egwene al'Vere is seen easily weaving more than a dozen threads simultaneously, however the very weak Morgase is seen struggling to weave a single faint thread.
- Usually the strongest can learn a new weave with greater ease than the weakest, for example it is enough for Rand and Alivia to have seen the composing of a new weave only once in order to learn how to reproduce it; for Nynaeve, and Elayne it is enough to see it formed a few times; Alternatively, it may take the weakest channelers years of study in order to learn a new weave. This is proved also by the period necessary to gain the shawl in the White Tower: strong Aes Sedai, such as Elaida, Moiraine or Siuan, have spent only 3 years as Novices and 3 as Accepted in the training to learn the very complex weaves required for passing the test for the shawl, medium ranking Aes Sedai usually take a dozen years (6+6), and the weakest Aes Sedai, such as Elin Warrel, remained in training for more than twenty five years before they were able to gain the shawl.
- Usually the strongest channelers, having more ability and proficiency in making weaves, are more skilled in all uses of the One Power, so they also have a propensity for studying and experimenting with it, are more intuitive with its use, and are able to invent new weaves or rediscover those that were considered "lost".
Male and female differencesEdit
When using the One Power one weaves flows of different elements: Earth, Spirit, Water, Air, and Fire, also known as the Five Powers. Men are generally stronger with Fire and Earth, while women are generally stronger with Air and Water; significant strength in Spirit is distributed equally, and relatively rare in either. Great strength in all Five Powers has been unknown since the Age of Legends. Even then it was extremely rare.
Male channelers as a whole are much stronger than individual female channelers in much the same way men are generally stronger than women, but men cannot link to form a circle of multiple channelers working together without a woman's aid. Similarly, women are more dexterous in the actual weaving of the flows, and have the advantage of linking, but cannot increase a circle beyond thirteen without the inclusion of men.
When a male channeler and a female channeler work together they are much stronger than many of the same gender, it is said that this is caused by saidin and saidar resonating.
Female channelers can tell when other women are touching the Source - a white glowing aura appears around their body, only visible to those trained to touch saidar. The ability can also be sensed in any woman capable of channeling, whether they are wilders or Aes Sedai. In the testing to see if one can channel, a woman channels a simple weave and waits. Within five minutes if a woman has the spark, the woman tries to channel the flow, and the test is confirmed. It takes longer for those who only can learn. However, a woman who has the spark can be detected by another female channeler without being tested.
Saidar is described as a gentle, but infinitely powerful river; a force which will do what you wish it to, but requires patience to be "persuaded;" otherwise it will carry you away. A woman must submit to saidar in order to access it, an act universally known as embracing the Power. Weaving for a female channeler consists of guiding the flow of the Power to achieve the desired end.
A man who can channel saidin can detect the nearby channeling of saidar as it raises goosebumps on his flesh. However, a male channeler cannot pinpoint a source from this feeling; he can simply tell that someone nearby has tapped into saidar.
A man can sense when another man is holding saidin, though not in the way women do: a man would describe it as a feeling of awe and menace -- with nothing truly visible -- and not easily pinpointed to a particular location or person. The farther the channeling, the fainter the feel. While a female channeler can sense any woman channeling, sensing for men depends largely on the amount of saidin used in the weave; small weaves cannot be discerned unless one is in extremely close proximity to the weave, whereas something like a gateway can be sensed from a considerable distance.
There is almost no way for a woman to tell when a man is channeling, though the residues of his channeling can be detected using an appropriate weave. Recently an active method was discovered to discern whether or not a man was channeling or holding saidin, but the method is not widely known. Additionally, because it requires saidar to use, it is not possible to employ it covertly.
No man can tell at sight if another man can channel, unless the other man has seized saidin. Testing for men involves channeling a simple flow until a "resonance" is felt from the one being tested. This may often take as long as fifteen to twenty minutes for those with the spark, and much longer for those who can only learn.
Saidin is described as a a raging torrent, just as powerful as saidar but tempestuous: a raw, untamed force that must be "coerced" through strength of will or else it will overwhelm you. In contrast to saidar, a man must make saidin submit to him in order to access it: a process known as seizing the Power. Weaving for a male channeler involves wielding it much like a weapon and directing it to do his bidding.
Aes Sedai was a term that was once used to describe both male and female channelers during the Age of Legends. It was the primary organization of channelers during the time, but membership was by no means mandatory for individuals who could channel. The group was dedicated to using their powers to benefit mankind, and initially had no political power other than the prestige of it's members as extraordinary civil servants. During the War of Power, the organization became the governing body for the military of the Light, and garnered essentially supreme political power over humanity. The contemporary organization is composed of women due to the long-time presence of the Taint on saidin. Their headquarters, the White Tower, is on the island city of Tar Valon near Dragonmount. There are other groups in Randland, but they have either kept themselves totally secret or have been neutralized by the Tower. Some Aes Sedai refer to any female channeler who is not affiliated with the Tower as a "wilder," although this is not strictly correct.
These other groups include the Aiel Wise Ones, the largest known group of channelers anywhere, who have kept secret by being on the other side of the Spine of the World. Five hundred female channelers, with a few dozen apprentices, were described in one clan. This is half the numbers of the White Tower and that figure was not considered abnormal among the other eleven clans. This means that in total can be calculated a number around six thousand channelers among the Aiel, counting also the weakest that usually are not able to gain the shawl in the White Tower. In fact the Aiel maintain their numbers by testing every girl who can channel, and making all of them Wise Ones, though channeling is not a requirement to become one of them. Wise Ones have still retained the talents of Caressing the Child and Dreamwalking, something lost to the modern Aes Sedai.
The damane and sul'dam of the Seanchan can be considered another group of channelers, though not independent as they are joined to the greater Seanchan Empire. Every girl with the spark is leashed with the a'dam and trained to be damane, and most who can learn are chosen to be sul'dam, although most Seanchan do not know that this is why they can be chosen for the task. The sul'dam and the damane have a relationship much like that of a master and his dog. Not coincidentally, the number who can channel on the Seanchan side of the ocean is much higher than on this side, as the sul'dam remain in the breeding pool.
The Windfinders of the Sea Folk are yet another group of channelers unknown to the Tower, until very recently. Channeling is not actually a requirement of being a Windfinder, however most do. They generally possess remarkable strength in air and water weaves, forming weaves that "cross the sky," but are weak with fire and earth. Their members are of great average strength and quite independent of the Tower, though they send a few of their weakest to be Aes Sedai to allay suspicion. This was considered a great sacrifice by the Sea Folk, because it requires those girls to be largely separated from both their people and the oceans. It is not know the true number of channeler Windfinders, but surely they are thousands; many of them were captured as damane by the Seanchan.
The Kin were known to the Aes Sedai, but their numbers were grossly underestimated. Considered by the Tower to be a grouping of only a few dozen of too weak novices and failed Accepted, with some wilder recruits, they indeed numbered almost two thousand, far outnumbering the Aes Sedai they emulated. A disturbing fact to Aes Sedai is that the Kin seem to live much longer than the average Aes Sedai due to the absence of the Oath Rod's influence.
The Ayyad of Shara are another group of channelers. Like the nation they hail from, very little is known about the Ayyad. They tattoo their faces, and channel at the command of the Sh'boan. Male Ayyad are used as breeding stock and are killed either when they start to channel or turn twenty-one. It is not know the number of the Ayyad but surely they are thousands.
Due to the recent and relatively unknown removal of the taint on saidin, there is only one official organization of male channelers in existence. It's members are known as Asha'man, and their organization's headquarters is known as the Black Tower. Membership in the organization is extremely open; virtually any male who is capable of either channeling or learning is accepted. Unlike contemporary Aes Sedai, Asha'man are trained to be living weapons, whose only function is to kill by whatever means is at their disposal.
The taint on saidinEdit
In the current age, the Dark One's taint on saidin causes male channelers, even those who survive the struggle to learn to channel safely, to inevitably go mad and succumb to a wasting sickness which causes the sufferer to rot alive (these curses may come in either order, or concurrently, at varying speeds for each male channeler). The taint came into being at the end of the Age of Legends, when Lews Therin Telamon and the Hundred Companions (actually 113 male channelers) re-sealed the Dark One into his prison, but in the process, the Dark One unleashed a counterstroke, which caused saidin to become tainted, the taint driving the Hundred Companions and the Dragon immediately and irrevocably insane. Other male Aes Sedai took longer for the taint to affect them, but by the time they understood what had happened, it was too late.
A significant percentage of modern Aes Sedai, most of them Red Ajah, dedicate their lives to hunting down and gentling male channelers before they can cause trouble. Possibly as a result of this, or the White Tower policy of discouraging marriage and childbearing, fewer and fewer people of either gender are born in the Westlands with the talent.
Cleansing of saidinEdit
- Main article: Cleansing of saidin
The process involved the relationship between the Taint of Shadar Logoth and the Taint on saidin. Rand using saidar, granted to him by linking with Nynaeve, wove a conduit of saidar above Shadar Logoth and then channeled a massive amount of saidin into it. As the opposing halves of the source repel, saidin was repulsed away from the walls of the conduit, while the taint on saidin continued on to Shadar Logoth.
The taint of Shadar Logoth, born of hatred as deep as, if not deeper than, the Shadow, reacted to the Dark One's taint resulting in the annihilation of both evils.
The long and complex process destroyed the ruined city of Shadar Logoth and was felt by most, if not all, channelers of both genders in the Westlands. However, some have confessed doubt over the effectiveness of the cleansing. It has not been shown conclusively to all that the cleansing was successful. Regardless, any already induced madness or sickness caused by the taint would not been healed by this cleansing, but merely prevented from worsening.
At least a few Aes Sedai who work in close contact with Asha'man have come to believe, through linking, that saidin is truly clean, although it is still utterly alien to them due to the extreme difference in way they channel.
Confirmation of the Taint being cleansed comes in two forms. Firstly in the fact that Lews Therin states that the Source is "Pure and Clean" again, him being the only man (aside from the Forsaken) that knew the source before it was fouled by the taint. Secondly, conversations between the Forsaken posits that the male among them, may no longer be trustworthy after the cleansing - that is, the female Forsaken turned to the Dark One of their free will, whereas the male Forsaken had to remain with the Shadow due to the protection from the taint that the Dark One provided. With saidin clean, this restriction would no longer be in place.