First Sister Bond
From Tar Valon Library
The first sister bond is a bond amongst the Aiel, somewhat akin to the Warder bond, that links two women, or occasionally two men by use of the One Power. It is a highly ceremonial affair, in which each participant is asked a series of questions about the other, before being told to strike them. Doing so they then have toh according to Aiel values and are forever in each other's debt. Once the ceremony is complete, the weave is performed. Often, the ceremony is not finished, the participants not liking what they hear. This is especially true of men (WH, Prologue). While the weaves are not known, it is reasonable to assume from the highly structured, formality of the ceremony, and all of the Wise Ones knowing what they must do, that it is the same for every bonding. A pregnant woman cannot be part of the ceremony as the babes may inadvertently become part of the bond if they survive. Unborn babes are too weak to for the intensity of the weaves that are used (WH, Prologue).
The ceremony commences at a time, not of the choosing of the participants, but of the Wise Ones. Participants are not to discuss what they are doing with anyone, although it is inferred they can discuss it between themselves. Birgitte, Elayne’s warder, is confused as to what is happening and even asks to come along. This request is denied by Elayne. (WH, Prologue) The steps to the ceremony are:
1) Wise Ones informing the participants that ‘it is time’. It appears that a time is decided by the Wise Ones that is designed to try to push the faults (as seen by the Wise Ones) of the participants to help see if the desire for a sister is stronger than all other desires. Elayne was made to disrobe infront of men to begin her ceremony (WH, Prologue), and hesitation or deflection would have ended the ceremony.
2) Removing of every scrap of clothing and jewellery as the to-be sisters must arrive as a ‘child came to birth’. She must also come ignorant of what is to happen and unknowing of the time of her birth, just as a child is ignorant and cannot choose the time.
3) Meeting more Wise Ones at an (presumably) very secluded and private location. The exact number of Wise Ones required for the ceremony is unknown. Elayne notes that there are over a dozen Wise Ones at her ceremony and they all, bar one, embrace the source.
4) Declaration of Wise Ones who will represent the mothers of the to-be sisters. Although not known, it is reasonable to assume that Wise Ones chose ahead of time who will represent the mothers and that it must be a Wise One, not the biological mothers. This is presumed as the Wise Ones who act as mothers give advice and criticism to the participants that seems highly ceremonial.
5) Declaration of the Wise One who will “suffer the pangs of birth of them” (WH, Prologue). This woman is the Wise One in the ceremony that does not embrace the source at any time during the ceremony.
6) Instruction is given of the forms that are to be observed during the ceremony, if at any time the participants seem hesitant, to be lying, or not participating to their fullest, the ceremony will be ended, never to be attempted again. This is also true if the participants choose to leave, although, they are free to do so at any time.
7) Questions are asked of the participants. Weaves are used that prevent the words spoken being heard at the time of speaking, but are recorded in the weave and responses are replayed at the same time, presumably so that the speaker is not distracted by trying to listen while responding.The questions, are:
a) What is the best you know of the other woman.
They answer, but the other is then told how little value this truly has
b) They are then asked what they find worst in each other.
They are then told how they themselves share something of that trait
c) They are asked of the most childish thing in the other woman.
d) Finally, they are asked what is their greatest jealousy of the other woman.
8) The participants are instructed to strike each other one at a time, with an open hand, as hard as they possibly can, and not to defend themselves when it is their turn to be struck. This is repeated with the other hand.
9) The option to leave is given. If choosing to stay, the participants must embrace.
10) More formality follows, explaining how they are now in each others debt due to the abuse they have inflicted upon each other, and that it will not be the first time they do such, except for the striking.
11) Weaves are then placed over the participants, these weaves seem to mimic the experience of being born, starting with sharing of the womb and hearing the heartbeat of their twin. Sensations are noted as being unknown to the twins, that they are learning again what they are as they are born, to see, physical feelings, emotions etc. The pressure of coming down the birth canal on the body is also experienced, along with knowing the loss and loneliness that came after being separated from the twin during birth. The Wise One who was to experience the birth for the twins also seems to be part of the weaves as she appears to suffer the same fatigue and emotions of a woman who has given birth.
12) The woman who has known the pains of birth announces that her daughters are born, sisters ‘born on the same day, within the same hour’ (WH, Prologue)
It is unknown if there are further steps to the ceremony or if this is the conclusion with the announcement that they are now sisters.
A bond, similar to the warder bond, fainter, yet perhaps more intense emotionally, is formed between the sisters and they now have an awareness of each other.
It is also unknown what effect, if any, these weaves have upon the Wise One who birthed the sisters. She may, or may not also have a bond with the sisters now, as the weaves must have touched her in some way, but are significantly different in the effect they have, so she may have been protected from the bonding.
"The Maidens do not dance the spears with one another even when our clans do, but the Shaarad Aiel and the Goshien Aiel have held blood feud between them over four hundred years, so Chiad and I felt our wedding pledge was not enough. We went to speak the words before the Wise Ones of our clans - she risking her life in my hold, and I in hers - to bond us as first-sisters. As is proper for first-sisters who are Maidens, we guard each other’s backs, and neither will let a man come to her without the other. I would not say we do not care for men.” (Bain; The Shadow Rising, Chapter 38)
“You will know anger at one another again, you will speak harsh words, but you will always remember that you have already struck her. And for no better reason than you were told to. Let those blows pass for all you might wish to give. You have toh toward one another, toh you cannot repay and will not try to, for every woman is always in her first-sister’s debt. You will be born again.” (Monaelle, to Aviendha and Elayne; Winter's Heart, Prologue).
“This is my daughter Aviendha,” Amys said, “and this is my daughter Elayne, born on the same day, within the same hour. May they always guard one another, support one another, love one another.” She laughed softly, tiredly, fondly. (Amys to all present; Winter's Heart, Prologue)