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Ji'e'toh is the complex system of honor that the Aiel follow. Ji'e'toh determines all interactions in Aiel life; fighting, housing, even intimate relationships and marriage. The term is from the Old Tongue and means, literally, honor and obligation.
Ji is honor, and toh is obligation. The greatest ji comes from touching an armed enemy in battle without harming him. This incurs a great deal of toh, and the person who is touched usually becomes gai'shain, which in the Old Tongue means "pledged to peace in battle." A gai'shain serves his or her captor for a year and a day, touching no weapon, doing no battle, and wearing only white. A Wise One, blacksmith, woman with a child under the age of ten or a youth (under the age of 16) may not be made gai'shain.
The least amount of ji comes from killing an enemy, as the Aiel believe that killing is easier than leaving an enemy alive.
Under ji'e'toh, any shaming act incurs toh towards someone or even oneself. However if the act is not either seen or acknowledged by others, it might as well have never taken place. Only the one doing such an act can know the worth of one's pride and can claim toh.
As such, meeting toh, through being gai'shain, being beaten, enduring a shamefully trivial punishment, or otherwise paying back the debt of honor, is always somehow self-inflicted as any Aiel can stop it by just saying anytime outright that their toh has been met. It is possible for the one wronged under ji'e'toh to say publicly that the wrongdoer doesn't have any toh toward him, freeing the wrongdoer from any toh.
Once met, the act that generated that toh is supposed to have never happened.
Among the shaming acts, there are:
- Reminding or asking gai'shain of their life before. Being gai'shain is a kind of parenthesis in Aiel life, so reminding gai'shain of their earlier life is like reminding them of the shame that brought them to their station. As gai'shain are considered defenseless as babies, mistreating them in any way (even by recalling their previous life) is shameful, and thus incurs toh. This is one of the rare ways to incur toh toward a gai'shain.
- Asking publicly if you have toh. Asking means that you don't know and as such further means that you were not taught properly. The shame is on the teacher, who has toh towards themselves and whoever told them to teach you in the first place.
- Reminding someone of toh they have already met. After being met, toh is supposed to never have been. Reminding someone of it (by talking of their time as gai'shain for instance) is shameful and incurs toh toward them.
Ji'e'toh is not a monolithic set of rules to be followed blindly. Sometimes, what needs to be done would be against the rules. The wrongdoer would still be following ji'e'toh as long as he's willing to meet the toh later.
Encompassing duty and custom, law and life, all Aiel live by this honor system. Following ji'e'toh is in fact what defines an Aiel, as demonstrated by Egwene al'Vere during her apprenticeship to the Wise Ones in Cairhien. The Wise One Sorilea told her she had the "heart of an Aiel" because she understood ji'e'toh up to the point that she followed and accepted the obligations she had toward the Aiel.
Among the "wetlanders," Sashalle Anderly, also apprenticed to Aiel Wise Ones, might be another one who had understood ji'e'toh.
Apart from those, the ways and workings of the system are convoluted and twisted. Non-Aiel attempting to understand it almost invariably come out little more knowledgeable than before.