Windfinders are the navigators on Sea Folk vessels. Most, if not all, at least on larger ships, are able to channel, a fact they have hidden from Aes Sedai for over three thousand years (TSR, Ch. 20). They use this ability to help move the ships faster, manipulating the weather far better than any Aes Sedai is able, and are able to handle much thicker weaves than Aes Sedai are accustomed to (TSR, Ch. 20).
Although respected, they do not have great authority and to Wavemistresses, even the most senior Windifnder is “just a Windfinder”, expected to obey without question (WH, Prologue). Windfinders rise with their Sailmistress and when the Sailmistress dies, they must start again at the bottom, no matter the rank their Sailmistress had risen to (WH, Ch. 11). A Windfinder may rise and fall several times over her lifetime (KoD, Ch. 14).
Among the Sea folk, ability to channel runs in families and often several generations of women are Windfinders. for example, Talaan's mother, aunt, grandmother, great grandmother and her great grandmother's sister are all Windfinders to Wavemistresses, and both her sister and cousin are Windfinders. (WH, Ch. 11). The Sea Folk guard against signs that a family with many Windfinders might gain too much influence, and this can make the training much harder for apprentices (WH, Ch. 11).
Windfinders, as with other Sea Folk, show rank through the number of earrings they wear and the medallions on the chain stretching from the left ear to the nose. Windfinders to a Clan Wavemistress wear four earrings in each ear (CoT, Ch. 12) and Windfinders to a Sailmistress wear six earrings in total (TSR, Ch. 20, CoT, Ch. 12). This does not match the number of earrings worn by the Sailmistresses or Wavemistresses, for example, whereas Coine wears four earrings in each ear, her sister Jorin has just three (TSR, Ch. 20. Apprentices have even fewer, Talaan and Metarra having a single earring in the left ear, with three in the right and no nose ring (ACoS, Ch. 37).
Abilities and Talents
Though they excel in some areas, their general knowledge of channeling and the One Power is low and until the bargain with Elayne and Nynaeve to use the Bowl of the Winds there was much they did not know, including shielding (WH, Ch. 11) and linking (TPoD, Ch. 5).
Relationship to Aes Sedai
The number is unknown, but likely to be in the hundreds, though the Aes Sedai have always believed the talent to channel was weak amongst the Sea Folk (CoT, Ch. 30). It was to hide this fact that no Aes Sedai were allowed on Sea folk ships, at least those whose Windfinders were able to channel (TSR, Ch. 20). To further hide this fact, the Sea Folk would occasionally send girls to the Tower to learn how to channel as Aes Sedai, to give the impression that the ability was weak among the Sea Folk (TSR, Ch. 20). During the Aiel War, there were three such Aes Sedai and one Accepted. Twenty years later, there were three Aes Sedai, all working in the Tower Library. (This passage needs a reference) They were known to be reclusive and close mouthed about Sea folk ways (TGH, Ch. 4).
The bargain between Elayne and Nynaeve on behalf of the Aes Sedai and Nesta din Reas on behalf of the Sea Folk changed this. Windfinders were to be allowed to enter the Tower as they wished, and twenty Aes Sedai, selected by the Amyrlin Seat were to be sent to live among the Sea Folk as teachers (TPoD, Ch. 3). The first two Aes Sedai to agree to act as teachers, though not selected by the Amyrlin Seat, Merilille and Amylia both come to regret their decision, Merilille successfully running away (CoT, Ch. 14) and Amylia trying to do so on several occasions (KoD, Ch. 20). Later, Egwene offers a supplemental bargain, with both the Windfinders and the Wise Ones, that each will send promising apprentices to study with the other groups. She also proposes that the the Windfinders be allowed to keep ter'angreal she had loaned them that allowed access to Tel'aran'rhiod and to release the Sea Folk Aes Sedai, should they wish it, in exchange for rescinding the part of the bargain requiring Aes Sedai teachers. In her new plan, Accepted, and the Sea Folk sisters would fulfil this role (ToM, Ch. 36).
- Main article: Windfinder Character List