Life Expectancy of Aes Sedai

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Author: Sonea Ilandred

Secrecy about Age

Very little is known about the circumstances surrounding the deaths of Aes Sedai due to their secretive nature. However it is known that the use of the One Power significantly extends the life expectancy of any channeller. At this point I will make the observation that, due to stilling and madness, it is not known if men experience the same phenomenon. Due to their relatively short term use of the One Power, it is not known whether male channelers achieve the ‘ageless look’ of a female Aes Sedai. It is known that as women use the One Power, over time their features slow in showing the progression of time, we assume with increased effect the more the One Power is used. However, this does not stop the aging process completely. Comments are often made throughout the series of ‘Senior’ Aes Sedai and how they have traces of gray hair, one such example is Verin Mathwin of the Brown Ajah (TGH, chapter 7). In order to develop this coloring, an Aes Sedai must have lived an exceptionally long time. In Verin’s case, she is already an Aes Sedai when Moiraine takes her test for the shawl, having herself taken 11 years to achieve it, leaving her fiancé before joining the Tower. It is it deemed rude to ask an Aes Sedai their age, though generally this is suspected, if not exactly known by other members of the Tower.

Cadsuane Melaidhrin is the oldest living Aes Sedai, with ‘iron gray’ hair worn in a bun. It is believed she was born in 705 NE, making her 294. Even in her own view, she expects to die soon. "Over two hundred and seventy years had passed since she last encountered a task she could not perform. Any day now might be her last, but young al'Thor would be a fitting end to it all." (ACOS: Chapter 19). However, the Glossary of ACoS states one birth place, while WH chapter 25 states her place of birth as somewhere else entirely. In ‘New Spring’ it is stated that she is the strongest Aes Sedai to have been born in the past thousand years (chapter 17), though this does not necessarily mean she has used the One Power more than any other Aes Sedai, or that the ageless look would be any more powerful within her. She is known for disappearing, having been thought to have headed into retirement to die, and has done this on two known occasions. The reason for presenting this information is to emphasize that a lot of the information gathered here contains inaccuracies.

Aging of the Knitting Circle

Information about the Knitting Circle adds interesting perspectives on the life expectancy and ages of Aes Sedai. Judging by the information gathered, the average Aes Sedai is expected to live about 300 years (hence Cadsuane expecting not to live a great deal longer). However it has been found that Reanne Corly of the Knitting Circle is 411 years old. Having left the Tower before she was raised to Aes Sedai, this implies that something is done to shorten the life expectancy of an Aes Sedai. The obvious conclusions are that this ‘shortening’ may take place during the raising tests, or caused by the taking of the Three Oaths with the Oath Rod. Moiraine states in New Spring that the Three Oaths are worn close to the skin, trapping Aes Sedai, which suggests this is more than just a physical feeling. Of the Knitting Circle members, none have taken the Three Oaths, and at least one of their members is known to be over 600 years old. Therefore it can be assumed that some part of raising to Aes Sedai and taking the Three Oaths, not only shortens your life expectancy, but might do this by as much as half.

Other examples to suggest the White Tower raising ceremony to Aes Sedai shortens their lifespan includes:

  • Alivia, the former damane, is known to be 414.
  • The Forsaken existed before being locked in the Bore and were thought to be old then.
  • In LOC chapter 15 there is a reference to an ageless Aiel who died at 300 years old, having been bitten by a snake. Had this not have happened, she

may have lived a significantly longer time.

By the end of book 11, our female leads have come to the conclusion that the raising ceremony will shorten their lives. However Egwene chooses to take that risk, despite being seen as not only Aes Sedai but Amyrlin, and take the Three Oaths. One can only assume that her reasons are to show that she too binds herself to the Tower and to provide belief in her words with the inability to lie. The quote for this is as follows:

"'That's madness!' Nynaeve burst out... 'You know what it does; the Kin are proof! How many Aes Sedai live past three hundred? Or reach it? And don't tell me I shouldn't talk about age. That's a ridiculous custom, and you know it. Egwene, Reanne was called Eldest because she was the oldest Kinswoman in Ebou Dar. The oldest anywhere is a woman called Aloisia Nemosni, an oil merchant in Tear. Egwene, she's nearly six...hundred...years...old! When the Hall hears that, I'll wager they'll be ready to put the Oath Rod on a shelf.' "'The Light knows three hundred years is a long time,' Elayne put in, 'but I can't say I'm happy myself at the prospect of perhaps cutting my life in half, Egwene.'" (WH: Chapter 10).

From the above gathered information, it can be seen that very little is known with regards to the life expectancy of an Aes Sedai, or the effects raising to the shawl may have on that persons life.

Reign of the Amyrlin Seat

The data:

Having looked at my list, I started to work out how long each Amyrlin had held her position. Although it initially seemed like pointless maths for the sake of it, a pattern did seem to appear before me. To minimize errors, I found I had to remove all Amyrlin’s who held their positions before the New Era. The reasons are:

  • Elisane Tishar – it is unknown exactly when she was raised to Amyrlin and it is unknown exactly when she died.
  • Bonwhin Meraighdin – the dates again are not exact, also Bonwhin was stripped of the shawl rather than dying.
  • Deane Aryman – she was in the post for 92 years, over twice the figures found once the New Era began. Therefore to minimize the error this data was removed, but should be considered. Also her death was caused by a fall from her horse, not because she died of old age.
  • Selame Necoine – it is unknown what exact year the calendar was reset to the New Era, so we cannot work out how long this Aes Sedai remained as Amyrlin.

I also removed Siuan Sanche on the basis she did not die, but was also stripped of the stole.

Basic maths told me that from 5 NE – 988 NE was 983 years, this divided by the 35 Amyrlins was an average of 28 years. I then sat down and worked out how long each Amyrlin had held their post, and which Ajah they were from. The results surprised me.

The Blue Ajah
The longest serving Amyrlin in this period was of the Blue Ajah with 51 years, however the shortest serving was also Blue at only 4 years. Total number of Years a Blue has held the position: 207 Average length of time as Amyrlin: 25 years

The Red Ajah
Well this was easy, there weren’t any Amyrlins of the Red Ajah.

The Yellow Ajah
Although only three Yellows have held the position in the period, they almost hit the 28 year average spot on. Total number of Years a Yellow has held the position: 82 Average length of time as Amyrlin: 27 years

The Brown Ajah
The Brown Ajah for the most part stayed around the average figure, however it then jumps to 44 years, followed by a mere 20. Total number of Years a Brown has held the position: 145 Average length of time as Amyrlin: 29 years

The Green Ajah
The ladies of the Green seem to vary on a much higher level than most of the other Ajahs. With 6 Amyrlins they hold the highest average of any Ajah. Total number of Years a Green has held the position: 190 Average length of time as Amyrlin: 31 years

The Gray Ajah
The Grays had had the most Amyrlins raised, leading to a high figure with regards to the amount of years the position has been held. However they also hit the average almost dead on. Total number of Years a Gray has held the position: 245 Average length of time as Amyrlin: 27 years

The White Ajah
It seems that the White Amyrlins have not fared too well in their times. Although they have had one more Amyrlin than the Yellow Ajah, they fall far short of the 28 year average and also have the lowest average of all the Ajahs (excepting Red). Total number of Years a White has held the position: 91 Average length of time as Amyrlin: 22 years

I put this in visual form to see if it made things any clearer.

Initial Conclusion

I looked at all the above provided information and decided that there has to be some reason as to why the average reign of the Amyrlin Seat is 28 years. As Aes Sedai keep their exact ages hidden, it may be that the Hall chooses someone of appropriate age, though without knowing the exact answer. It may be that the whole thing is a coincidence, but do these really exist inside the White Tower?

Since the Prophecy of the Dragon and Tamra Ospenya’s reign, the amount of time an Amyrlin has held post has shrunk considerably for unknown reasons. We do not know when the Oath Rod appeared, but there might be a reason that it is no longer possible to reign for 90+ years, and this is the issue surrounding the effects of the Three Oaths.

Further investigation

With further investigation and assistance, other factors have now been built in to this project. Tamra Ospenya was killed by the Black Ajah so her death was not by natural cause. Sierin Vayu was killed by the Red Ajah, but this was incited by Chesmal Emry of the Black Ajah, as Sierin was aware of the presence of the Black Ajah. The exact date of her death is also in question as the BWB claims 894 whilst WH claims 891.

On this basis it suggests that Marith Jaen may also have been ‘disposed’ of rather than reaching her natural age for death. The Hall of the Tower was unaware of the presence of the Black Ajah in its midst, and possibly concluded that the shortening length of time served by Amyrlin’s was being caused by their age on taking up the position. In order to combat this, the Hall raised Siuan to Amyrlin, also hoping to be able to control her due to her youth. This in itself did not work out, possibly aiding the decision to ‘still’ her when the opportunity arose.