The Aiel have existed for many turns of the Wheel.
The "Way of the Leaf" was as follows:
People should live their lives with the leaves as an example. "For the leaf lives its appointed time, and does not struggle against the wind that carries it away. The leaf does no harm, and finally falls to nourish new leaves." No man should harm another for any reason whatsoever!
The Da'shain Aiel were servants to the Aes Sedai. After the Breaking the Aes Sedai could no longer protect the Da'shain. The Aes Sedai gave the Da'shain a great task to take them out of the cities. Solinda Sedai had her Da'shain servant, Jonai, gather his people together. Their task was to take sa'angreal, angreal, and ter'angreal and hide them from male channelers who had lost their sanity. Jonai also had each wagon carrying cuttings of chora trees. It was once said that "a city without choras would seem bleak as wilderness".
Jonai set out with his wife, Alnora, his sons, Willim, Adan, Esole, and tens of thousands of people and their wagons. Traveling through the chaos of the Breaking bestowed many hardships upon the Da'shain. After years of wearisome travel, Jonai lost his wife Alnora, then his daughter Esole, and he had to send his eldest, Willim, away when he had started to channel. One day, Adan came across some Ogier. Adan took his father to talk to them. While learning of the hardships of north from the Ogier, Jonai suffered a heart attack. His dying words to Adan were, "Take the people South. Take the Aiel to safety. Keep the Covenant. Guard what the Aes Sedai gave us until they come for it. The Way of the Leaf."
Adan also suffered great losses. His son Elwin died of hunger at age ten, Sorelle at twenty from fever her dreams told was coming, and Jaren who threw himself off a cliff when he found he could channel. The morning of another raid, his last son, Marind died, and his last daughter Rhea was taken away. His son's children, Maigran and Lewin, and their mother, Saralin, was all the family he had now.
Adan and one of the men in his group Sulwin got into an argument about how to proceed. Adan argued for continuing their mission to take the objects of the One Power to safety. Sulwin wanted to keep the Way of the Leaf, take their group to a safer place, and work on trying to rediscover Singing.
This was the first split among the Da'shain Aiel. Later the people who broke away on their search for the song, became known as the Tuatha'an.
The remaing Aiel continued on. Losing more and more of their people to the raids. One night, a group of young men tracked a group of these raiders. Lewin, Luca, Gearan, Charlin, and Alijha wanted to get back Lewin's sister, Maigran, and Charlin's sister, Colline. They came upon the men's camp when they were sleeping in hopes of whisking away their sisters without being noticed. Unfortunately, when Lewin got to where his sister was, and she was in shock. She just stared at him, unable to move or run away to safety.
Lewin ended up getting in a fight with the raiders, and while trying to defend himself, grabbed a spear and killed one of them. Charlin ended up being killed in the scuffle. While gathering up things from the camp to take back, Lewin decided that a spear would be an acceptable weapon, because it can also be used for hunting, while a sword is unacceptable, because it's only purpose is to kill people.
When they returned and explained what had happened, Saralin, Lewin and Maigran's mother exclaimed, "Who are you that addresses me so? Hide your face from me stranger. I had a son, once, with a face like that. I do not wish to see it on a killer." This was the beginning of the tradition of the Aiel veiling before they kill.
This was the second and last division of the Da'shain Aiel. The young men refused to believe that wanting to protect their family would erase their heritage as Aiel, so they still called themselves that. The people with the wagons were then on known as the Jenn Aiel, or the "True Aiel". The term Da'shain became lost over time.
The young men found themselves, following in the wake of the wagons, always protecting their people, even if their people denied their existence. The Aiel became tough and skilled fighters, living off the land in small tents.
Much later, Jeordam was approached by five Jenn Aiel. A woman named Morin explained that the Jenn had traded with a village, then at night the villagers came and took the traded goods back along with, first-sisters, a sister-mother, and a daughter.
Lewin offered them a place amongst his group, as long as they took spears. Morin became the first Maiden of the Spear. She was bitter about her husband for caring more about the chora trees than his daughter being taken. As she raised her spear, she stated, "This is my husband now." This is how it came to be that the present day Maidens do not marry, or fight while carrying a child. Any child born to a Maiden is given to a family to raise.
The Maiden oath is:
"You may belong to no man, nor any man belong to you, nor any child. The spear is your lover, your child, your life."
One fateful morning, while the Aiel were filling their water skins, the Jenn started moving. Jeordam asked the land owners son which way the wagons were moving. "East, across the Dragonwall", he was told.
"A fitting name," Jeordam replied. The Aiel's own secret name was People of the Dragon.
So this is where the Jenn and the Aiel ended up. The Aiel Waste, as known today. A vast and rugged desert. While the Jenn started to build a city, with the help from Aes Sedai, the Aiel went and made their own villages in the mountains.
The Jenn started dying, even with the Aes Sedai help, and the Aes Sedai soon began to realize that the Aiel that were going to flourish, would be the warriors. The Aiel that had made their homes in the desert knew nothing of their hertiage at this point, but the Aes Sedai were soon going to change all of that.
The Aes Sedai that were left in the city that the Jenn helped build, Rhuidean, started building a type of ter'angreal. The Aes Sedai then called up the Wise Ones in their dreams. There is to be a meeting at Rhuidean for all clan chiefs, if your people want to live.
Mandein found himself staring down at Rhuidean in amazement.
"You must agree. I have talked to my sisters in the dream, and we have all dreamed the same dream. The chiefs who do not come, and those who do not agree...Their septs will die. Within three generations they will be dust, and their holds and cattle belong to other septs. Their names will be lost." Sealdre said.
Mandein walked down the slope to meet the Jenn. The Jenn carried two Aes Sedai out on carved chairs. A Jenn man came forward, "I am Dermon. These are Mordaine and Narisse," he said as he gestured to two women standing beside him. "We speak for Rhuidean, and the Jenn Aiel."
"Why have you called us here?" Mandein asked.
Instead of answering, "Why do you not carry a sword?" Dermon replied.
"It is forbidden," Mandein groweled. "Even Jenn should know that." He touched his spears, "These are weapons enough for a warrior."
"You do not know why," Mordaine said, and Narisse added, "There is too much you do not know. Yet you must."
"What do you want?" Mandein demanded.
"You." Dermon ran his eyes across the Aiel, making that one word fit them all. "Whoever would lead among you must come to Rhuidean and learn where we came from, and why you do not carry swords. Who cannot learn, will not live."
"Your Wise Ones have spoken to you," Mordaine said, "or you would not be here. You know the cost to those who refuse."
An Aiel named, Charendin pushed his way to the front. "Just come to you? Whichever of us comes to you will lead the Aiel?"
"No." The word came in a whisper, but strong enough to fill every ear. It was an Aes Sedai that was sitting in one of the chairs. "That one will come later. The stone that never falls will fall to announce his coming. Of the blood, but not raised by the blood, he will come from Rhuidean at dawn, and tie you together with bonds you cannot break. He will take you back, and he will destroy you."
"This is some trick!" Charendin shouted. "You mean to gain control of the septs. Aiel bend knee to no man or woman. No one!"
"We seek no control," Narisse told them.
"Our days dwindle. A day will come when the Jenn are no more, and only you remain to remember the Aiel. You must remain, or all is for nothing, and lost."
The flatness of her voice, the calm sureness, silenced Charendin, but Mandein had one more question, "Why? If you know your doom, why do this?"
"It is our purpose. For long years we searched for this place, and now we prepare it, if not for the purpose we once thought. We do what we must, and keep our faith."
Mandein studied the man's face. There was no fear in it. "You are Aiel," he said. "I will go to the Jenn Aiel."
"You may not come to Rhuidean armed," Dermon said. Mandein shed his weapons and stepped forward, "Take me to Rhuidean, Aiel. I will match your courage."
This was the start of a legacy to come. On that day a permanent truce was declared. The Peace of Rhuidean. All fighting was prohibited in sight of Chaendaer, the mountain slope before Rhuidean. From that day forward, each clan chief was required to enter Rhuidean, and the ter'angreal that the ancient Aes Sedai had constructed to show them their past.
The Aiel refer to their home as the Three Fold Land for the following reasons:
- Shaping Stone to make them
- Testing Ground to prove their worth
- Punishment for their Sin
The Aiel are normally very tall, and fair haired with light color eyes. They warriors dress in cadin'sor, working clothes in the Old Tongue. The coat and breeches are brown and gray to fade into rock, sand, and shadow. They wear a soft, laced knee-high boot for their shoes. They also wear a shoufa, a scarflike garment the color of sand or rock. It is worn wrapped around the neck and the Aiel use it to veil themselves when they are ready to kill. Aiel men who are not warriors also dress in the cadin'sor, they just carry a smaller knife. The Wise Ones wear long skirts, blouses, and shawls, all of light color.
The twelve clans of the present day Aiel are as follows:
And the thirteenth, extinct clan, the Jenn Aiel.
In addition the warriors are divided into twelve separate societies, which are as follows:
- Seia Doon = Black Eyes
- Far Aldazar Din = Brothers of the Eagle
- Rahien Sorei = Dawn Runners
- Sovin Nai = Knife Hands
- Far Dareis Mai = Maidens of the Spear
- Hama N'dore = Mountain Dancers
- Cor Darei = Night Spears
- Aethan Dor = Red Shields
- Shae'en M'taal = Stone Dogs
- Sha'mad Conde = Thunder Walkers
- Tain Shari = True Bloods
- Duadhe Mahdi'in = Water Seekers
Each has its own customs, and sometimes it has specific duties. For example, Red Shields act as a police, Stone Dogs are used as rear guards, and Maidens are usually scouts.
- First-brothers and first-sisters = sister and brother that have the same mother, not neccessarily the same father
- Second-brothers and second-sisters = cousins (kids of mother's first-brother or first-sister)
- Sister-mother and sister-father = aunts and uncles (Mother's first-brother and first-sister)
- Greatmother and greatfather = grandparents (mother's mother and father)
- Near-brother and near-sister = best friends (as close as first-sisters and brothers; near-sisters usually end up formally adpoting each other as first-sisters)
- Near-sisters or first-sisters who marry the same man are called sister-wives
"Till shade is gone, till water is gone, into the shadow with teeth bared, screaming defiance with the last breath, to spit in Sightblinder's eye on the last day."