Author: Atarah al'Norahn
There are many laws that govern the actions and behaviour of Aes Sedai, the White Tower, and the city of Tar Valon. Although many of the rules obeyed by initiates of the White Tower are custom and not actually law, to break Tower law brings severe reprisal. To many Sisters, laws that have existed for long periods of time have “attained an aura of holiness” (ACoS, Ch. 9).
Oftentimes, Tower law is not particularly plain on a subject, and is not always well known to everyone. According to Akarrin, there are “more laws than anyone really knew,” and these are often contradictory (CoT, Ch. 19). Despite this, however, Tower law does not allow for excuses (ACoS, Ch. 30).
The Amyrlin Seat
The word of the Amyrlin Seat is law (ACoS, Prologue). However, despite the fact that she can issue any decree, if she does so without the support of the Hall, there might be trouble, as “many decrees required a hundred other things ordered to implement them” (LoC, Ch. 36; ACoS, Prologue).
By law, there are few circumstances in which the Amyrlin Seat is allowed to place herself in danger. This law has existed for over two thousand years. The law reads: “The Amyrlin Seat being valued with the White Tower itself, as the very heart of the White Tower, she must not be endangered without dire necessity, therefore unless the White Tower be at war by declaration of the Hall of the Tower, the Amyrlin Seat shall seek the lesser consensus of the Hall of the Tower before deliberately placing herself in the way of any danger, and she shall abide by the consensus that stands” (ACoS, Ch. 9).
It is either custom or law that the Amyrlin Seat must be informed that the Hall is sitting unless the Hall is sitting to depose her (ACoS, Ch. 12). The full Hall is not required to sit if an Amyrlin is being deposed. This vote is required to be unanimous (TSR, Ch. 47).
A woman cannot refuse a summons to become the Amyrlin Seat. It is very much like a trial, right down to the fact that the summons is worded the same as for a trial (LoC, Ch. 35).
The law never says directly that a woman must be Aes Sedai before becoming Amyrlin, only that the woman who is the Amyrlin Seat is Aes Sedai. This is why it was possible for Egwene al'Vere to be raised to the Amyrlin Seat while only an Accepted, becoming Aes Sedai upon being raised (LoC, Ch. 35; ACoS, Prologue).
The Hall reigns over the Tower between the time of one Amyrlin’s death and the choosing of another. There are, however, “strict measures in the law” to make sure that they do not take advantage of this and to see that a new Amyrlin is chosen in good time (NS, Ch. 14).
When the Hall is called to address a specific matter, that matter must be addressed before any other issue is discussed (CoT, Ch. 19). Once a decision is made in the Hall, by law and custom, none should move to impede it (KoD, Ch. 23).
By law, no one may intrude upon a meeting of the Hall, initiate or not (TPoD, Ch. 19).
By law, the Amyrlin has to be announced into the Hall by the Keeper of the Chronicles (CoT, Ch. 19). She cannot enter without being announced, just as the Keeper cannot enter the Hall without the Amyrlin (KoD, Ch. 23).
Any sister may attend a sitting of the Hall unless it is a closed sitting (KoD, Ch. 23).
The One Power
There is no law barring women who are not Aes Sedai from channeling (TSR, Ch. 20; ACoS, Ch. 23). There is, however, a law against falsely claiming to be Aes Sedai, misusing the One Power or bringing discredit down upon the White Tower (NS, Ch. 3; ACoS, Ch. 23).
According to Tower law, all angreal, sa’angreal and ter’angreal belong to the White Tower, even though objects of the One Power exist in other places, such as the Stone of Tear. It is believed that eventually these will come into the possession of the White Tower as well (ACoS, Ch. 10). Sisters are not supposed to keep angreal or other objects of the One Power unless they have been given permission from the Hall, but some sisters disobey this law. The punishment is rarely very harsh (ACoS, Ch. 32).
The One Power cannot be used in questioning, punishing or setting a penance for any Tower initiate (NS, Ch. 8). See the section on Penances, Punishment and Questioning for more details.
There is no law against two or more women bonding the same man as a Warder; rather, this was not done because of custom (WH, Ch. 12). Rand fears that Elayne, Min and Aviendha will be punished by other Aes Sedai if it is learned that they bonded him, even though it is not against Tower law (WH, Ch. 25). It is not clear to Elayne if, even though not prohibited, such a thing would be permitted (WH, Ch. 26).
There is also no law against passing a Warder’s bond from one Aes Sedai to another, though it has not been done in many years and is considered akin to bonding a man against his will (ACoS, Ch. 12).
There is no law saying that sisters of Ajahs other than the Green may not bond more than one Warder (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 24).
The Law of War
Not all Aes Sedai are familiar with the Law of War, as the White Tower has not declared war since the time of Artur Hawkwing. Even among the librarians in the Tower Library, few know more than that it exists (TPoD, Ch. 19).
When a question of war is put before the Hall of the Tower, it cannot be shelved while other things are dealt with, but must instead be dealt with immediately (TPoD, Ch. 19).
The Law of War gives a great deal of power to the Amyrlin Seat. If it is passed with at least the lesser consensus standing in the Hall (at least ten Sitters), the Law of War States that “As one set of hands must guide the sword, so the Amyrlin Seat shall direct and prosecute the war by decree. She shall seek the advice of the Hall of the Tower, but the Hall shall carry out her decrees with all possible speed, and for the sake of unity, they shall and must approve any decree of the Amyrlin Seat regarding prosecution of the war with the greater consensus” (TPoD, Ch. 19). The “greater consensus” means that all Sitters must stand in support of any decision the Amyrlin makes regarding the war.
Rebellion is punished harshly by Tower law. The minimum penalty that must be given to rebels is a birching in the Grand Hall before all of the Aes Sedai in addition to at least a year and a day of public penance (ACoS, Prologue).
The leaders of any rebellion face the penalty of stilling, and any woman who falsely claims to be the Amyrlin Seat must be stilled (ACoS, Prologue).
Penance, Punishment and Questioning
Initiates of the White Tower are not allowed to be punished with the use of the One Power, barring a mild flick of the ear or swat on the bottom of a novice or Accepted (NS, Ch. 8; TPoD, Ch. 4). Those who use the One Power to punish an initiate of the White Tower can expect to be strapped to the triangle for birching (NS, Ch. 8).
If a penance must be given, any five sisters can sit in judgment to set it, if asked. The One Power cannot be used in a penance (TPoD, Ch. 4). In addition, the Chair of Remorse, which is used to punish criminals, is forbidden by law to be used on initiates of the Tower. Yukiri claims that if it is found out that she, Seaine, Saerin, Pevara and Doesine have used the Chair of Remorse on Talene, they will be unchaired from the Hall, as well as possibly birched and exiled; if they are wrong about Talene being Black Ajah, they may even be stilled (WH, Prologue).
When an individual is questioned by the Tower, it is forbidden for blood to be shed or bones to be broken. In addition, Healing must be given before any questioning begins. The questioning, if begun after sunrise, must be done before sundown, or if begun after sunset, before sunrise. For initiates of the Tower, the law is even more restrictive; for instance, the One Power is not allowed to be used (TPoD, Ch. 4).
Any runaway novice must be put back in white as soon as possible and must be kept under strict discipline until she can return to the White Tower to be punished (TPoD, Ch. 28). Runaways who are caught are expected to be perfect in basically everything they do; things that might be overlooked in another novice are punished “swiftly and strongly” (WH, Ch. 8).
When a runaway novice is returned to the White Tower, she is publicly birched and closely watched for at least another year (WH, Ch. 8).
What the White Tower knows about the Kin is kept secret by Tower law (ACoS, Ch. 30).
According to Tower law, a man who can channel must be granted a trial in the White Tower before he can be gentled (NS, Ch. 3; LoC, Ch. 54; WH, Prologue). However, this law is not always obeyed. Toveine Gazal, Lirene Doirellin and Tsutama Rath were birched and exiled twenty years ago for being involved with gentling men outside the White Tower (TPoD, Ch. 26) and Siuan Sanche orders that once Mazrim Taim is captured again, he is to be gentled as soon as he is taken (TSR, Ch. 14).
According to Egwene, she cannot even visit Rand without permission from the Hall of the Tower (ACoS, Ch. 10).
- When Ries Gorthanes dresses as a Tower Guard in an attempt to get information about Moiraine’s business from her banker, Ilain Dormaile tells Moiraine that he broke Tower law (NS, Ch. 13).
- By law, equal representation of the Ajahs in the Tower’s bank is required (NS, Ch. 13).
- Neither law nor custom requires that the Keeper of the Chronicles and Mistress of Novices come from the same Ajah as the Amyrlin Seat, even though it is expected (NS, Ch. 14).
- According to Sheriam, the deposal of Siuan and Leane “followed the letter of the law narrowly.” Most of the charges should not have stood, and they should not have been tried without the chance to defend themselves (TFoH, Ch. 27). Elaida came very close to breaking the law in what she did (TPoD, Ch. 16).
- The Thirteenth Depository, containing secret records of the history of the White Tower, is hidden by law. Even the fact that it exists, and the law that conceals it, are hidden (ACoS, Ch. 11).
- When something is “Sealed to the Flame,” it means that by law, it can only be read by the Amyrlin Seat. “Sealed to the Hall” means that it can only be known to Sitters and “Sealed to the Ring” that it can only be known by Aes Sedai. If something is not sealed, it is open for even the newest novice to know (ACoS, Ch. 12).
- According to Seaine, she and the other hunters of the Black Ajah broke a dozen Tower laws when they questioned Talene (WH, Prologue).
- Forcing a sister to swear an oath to obey on the Oath Rod is as far outside of Tower law as murder or treason because it is too close to Compulsion. It is very clearly prohibited, although not really defined within the law (CoT, Prologue).
- Stealing is not permitted. Setalle Anan tells Mat that if Joline were to steal his foxhead medallion ter’angreal, even if he never got it back in the end, Joline would still face a harsh penance (KoD, Ch. 9).
- There is no provision in Tower law for a woman to be demoted from Aes Sedai to Accepted, but there is no prohibition either (KoD, Ch. 24).
- By Tower law, the official histories of the White Tower are unavailable to all but Aes Sedai (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 9).
- No one may enter Tar Valon with more than twenty armed retainers and twenty unarmed retainers (TWoRJTWoT, Ch. 11).