Author: Kyria d'Oreyn
The Oath Rod is a ter'angreal that makes oaths sworn upon it unbreakable. It is a smooth, ivory-white cylinder, a foot long and wrist-thick with odd, cursive script carved on one flat end. It feels almost like glass, cool to the touch. It is activated by a thin thread of Spirit added to the numeral three that is carved into it (ACoS, Ch. 40).
During the Age of Legends, such ter’angreal were simply called binders (ACoS, Ch. 20), and were used on criminals to stop them from repeating their crimes. It was a severe punishment (TWoRJTWoT), as binding a channeler cuts their life span in half and causes their faces take on an ageless look with the years (WH, Ch. 10; CoT, Ch. 18).
At least two have survived the Breaking: the Oath Rod in the Tower with the numeral three carved on one end (which some believe stands for the Three Oaths), and one in Therava's possession with the numeral one hundred eleven (TPoD, Ch. 11). According to Sammael, these two only work on female channelers (ACoS, Ch. 40). If the rods were numbered according to the order in which they were made, another one hundred nine such rods would exist.
Each oath sworn upon the rod makes the skin feel uncomfortably tight, as if one's flesh is being compressed; the first oath spoken is always the tightest and the feeling will not completely cease for a year, even after Healing (NS, Ch. 11; TPoD, Ch. 26).
A simple promise is enough to make the oath work; unintentional words or lies are disregarded; for example, when Galina swears to obey the Shaido Wise Ones, she tags on the phrase "Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth," even though she believes in neither, and the oath still settles upon her (TPoD, Ch. 11). Any vow must be obeyed; it is physically impossible to do otherwise. If sworn to obey another person absolutely, one carries out that person's every command, willingly or not (TPoD, Ch. 26).
Although it is not common knowledge, any oath sworn on the rod can be removed, but it is a very painful experience; it leaves Pevara and Seaine weeping (TPoD, Ch. 26) and Talene screaming her lungs out (WH, Prologue). Galina asks herself whether it is possible to remove the oath sworn on Therava's binder with the Oath Rod (KoD, Prologue). Additionally, stilling or being burned out forcefully removes the Oaths as well (TFoH, Ch. 26).
If someone is sworn to obey more than one person, only the one who initially gave an order can apparently undo it (TPoD, Ch. 26).
- Uses of a binder
- The Shaido Wise Ones make Galina swear to obey them, Sevanna and Therava most of all (TPoD, Ch. 11).
- Pevara and Seaine have Zerah Dacan swear an oath to obey the two of them absolutely, so that they can be sure she will their questions (TPoD, Ch. 26).
- Pevara, Seaine, Saerin, Doesine and Yukiri have Talene foreswear all oaths that bind her and then reswear the Three Oaths, plus one to obey them; in this way, they find out that she is Black Ajah (WH, Prologue).
The Three Oaths
- "Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will speak no word that is not true."
- "Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will make no weapon for one man to kill another."
- "Under the Light and by my hope of salvation and rebirth, I vow that I will never use the One Power as a weapon except against Shadowspawn, or in the last extreme of defending my life or that of my Warder or another sister."
Before an Accepted can claim the shawl of an Aes Sedai, she has to swear the Three Oaths (NS, Ch. 11). These Oaths are said to make an Aes Sedai what she is, although this was not the case in the Age of Legends. The Breaking of the World, a time when male channelers went mad and destroyed everything around them, made the Three Oaths necessary to gain people's trust again, however. What is the Second Oath today was initially the first to be adapted after the War of the Shadow (TWoRJTWoT).
Every Aes Sedai (except the Black Ajah) is adamant about upholding the Three Oaths despite their disadvantages; even stilled sisters who have been Healed again want to reswear them as soon as possible. According to Siuan, the Oaths make Aes Sedai more than just channelers who meddle in the affairs of the world. They tie every living and dead sister together and help to make people trust them (TPoD, Ch. 15), though this is not always the case, as it is known that Aes Sedai can twist the truth and stand it on its head (ACoS, Ch. 11).
When Egwene proposes to let Aes Sedai forswear the Oaths and retire into the Kin to be able to live much longer and still serve the Tower, Romanda is furious, saying that she had always wanted to be an Aes Sedai and that she will die as one (CoT, Ch. 30). Siuan says that freeing Aes Sedai of the Oaths completely would break the Tower (TPoD, Ch. 15).
It is a widely known fact that the Oaths have faults and offer a lot of leeway in their interpretation, and there are many ways to bend the initial spirit of the Oaths despite their obvious restrictions.
By the First Oath, outright lies cannot be spoken; they can still be thought (NS, Ch. 11), but attempting to tell a lie will choke you (NS, Ch. 14). Knowing this, the Aes Sedai have a way of not giving the whole truth or talking around it (ACoS, Ch. 2).
Aes Sedai will also be able to say things they believe true, even if they are not (TFoH, Ch. 3).
The oath against lying leaves room for sarcasm (Robert Jordan’s Blog; Friday, January 20, 2006).
It is possible to use the One Power for punishment; even putting someone to the question does not violate the Oaths, though an Aes Sedai cannot kill with saidar (NS, Ch. 18).
An Aes Sedai cannot harm anyone nor take part in battle, unless they are in danger themselves (ACoS, Ch. 2).
- Some historians believe that the Oath Rod was one of the Nine Rods of Dominion (TWoRJTWoT), but the "Rods" were actually symbols of office (Robert Jordan's Blog; December 19th, 2005).
- Only swearing on the Oath Rod will give an Aes Sedai the ageless face after some years. Channeling frequently will merely result in "slowing," making channelers look years younger than they actually are (WH, Ch. 10; CoT, Ch. 18; Robert Jordan’s Blog; Friday, January 20, 2006).
- The Oaths remain unchanged whatever Ajah the Accepted will choose (NS, Ch. 11). New sisters heading for the Red Ajah usually grimace over the mention of a Warder (TPoD, Ch. 26).
- Accepted and even novices are expected to act as if they are already bound by the Three Oaths (TDR, Ch. 11).
- During her testing for Accepted, Egwene is the Amyrlin Seat, even though she has not taken the Oaths on the Oath Rod (TDR, Ch. 22).
- Elaida dreams of making the rebel leaders swear a Fourth Oath on the Oath Rod, an oath of fealty and obedience to her (ACoS, Ch. 32).
- No woman has become Aes Sedai without being bound to the Three Oaths for about three thousand years until Egwene is raised Amyrlin and raises Faolain, Theodrin, Elayne and Nynaeve to Aes Sedai by decree (TDR, Ch. 22; LoC, Ch. 35).
- The Black Ajah forswears the Three Oaths and replaces them a new trinity (ACoS, Ch. 40). They are most likely also sworn on the Oath Rod, because the effects that forswearing all oaths have on an Aes Sedai are the same as removing one of the Three Oaths (WH, Prologue).
- The Kinswomen who want to become Aes Sedai but are over three hundred years old would likely die if they swore on the Oath Rod, although this has not been proven (WH, Ch. 10).
"The stout white rod that the Accepted held while taking the Three Oaths on being raised to Aes Sedai was a ter’angreal, binding them to the oaths as surely as if they had been bred in the bone." (The Dragon Reborn, Chapter 21)
"Bound by the Oath against lying, Aes Sedai had carried the halftruth, the quarter-truth and the implication to arts. Useful arts, in Egwene's opinion. Especially with Aes Sedai. The Three Oaths did no one any favors, least of all Aes Sedai." (Egwene; Lord of Chaos, Chapter 39)
"Throwing back her head, she screamed. In part that was because it suddenly seemed as if the burning of her skin was being pressed deep into her flesh, but mainly, it was pure despair.
'Be quiet!' Therava said sharply. 'I do not want to listen to you wailing!' Galina’s teeth clicked shut, nearly biting her tongue, and she struggled to swallow her sobs." (Galina and Therava; The Path of Daggers, Chapter 11)
"The Oaths are what make us more than simply a group of women meddling in the affairs of the world. Or seven groups. Or fifty. The Oaths hold us together, a stated set of beliefs that bind us all, a single thread running through every sister, living or dead, back to the first to lay her hands on the Oath Rod. They are what make us Aes Sedai, not saidar. Any wilder can channel. Men may look at what we say from six sides, but when a sister says, 'This is so,' they know it's true, and they trust. Because of the Oaths. Because of the Oaths, no queen fears that sisters will lay waste to her cities. The worst villain knows he's safe in his life with a sister unless he tries to harm her. Oh, the Whitecloaks call them lies, and some people have strange ideas about what the Oaths entail, but there are very few places an Aes Sedai cannot go, and be listened to, because of the Oaths. The Three Oaths are what it is to be Aes Sedai, the heart of being Aes Sedai. Throw that on the rubbish heap, and we'll be sand washing away in the tide." (Siuan to Egwene; The Path of Daggers, Chapter 15)
"Perhaps the Oath Rod in the Tower could lift that oath from her as well as the nearly identical rod in Therava’s possession, yet she could not be sure. The two were not identical. It was only a difference in marking, yet what if that indicated that an oath sworn on one was particular to that rod?" (Galina; Knife of Dreams, Prologue)