Religion and "The Wheel of Time" Part 2

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Author: Valadilene Aldieb

This article was originally published as part of the August 2005 TarValon Times.

Last month we explored some of the religious variety we have here at TarValon.Net. It is a wonder that with so many differing beliefs, we are all able to enjoy the Wheel of Time! In Part II, I asked our members the following question: When reading the Wheel of Time, what symbolism, themes or characters relate to your beliefs? And why/how? Many people where speechless, mostly because they had never sat down and actually thought about this before, while others made connections quite easily. I hope their thoughts and interpretations help you to develop your own and spark some interesting conversations in the future!

'the WoT character that I resonate most strongly with has to be Birgitte, as she is the most willing to see things from a point of view outside what is see as right because it's "always" been right. She holds her own set of beliefs and doesn't give three rotten figs as to what others think of her, nor does she judge others for believing in their own manner whatever they choose to believe. Another facet of WoT that I find resonates with my personal tradition is the balance between the male and the female; I believe very strongly in both the divine Male and the divine Female, and the split Power really connects with that." Sidar Crand - Recruit

"Bah??'s believe that within each of us is the power to do good and the power to do evil. Each of us has the choice, each day and each moment, of how we want to live and how we want to treat our fellow human beings. This is also a theme in WOT. The Aes Sedai, with their oaths, make the choice to guard themselves against doing evil. The Bah??'s use their faith in a similar manner.?" Xaviara al'Nady - Novice

"The idea of Reincarnation is a very Hindu idea. Also the concept of "The Dragon" as both a savior and a destroyer is Hindu. In our theology we have a belief that there will be 10 incarnations of Vishnu (God as the sustainer of life) in periods of time when the World has sunk into adharma, which can be loosely translated as evil. He will save mankind, but also purge it. The Travelling People seem to follow the Hindu principle of ahimsa, which is practicing non-violence in thought and action. The Aes Sedai, as "Servants of All", also relate to Hinduism. As one of the things stressed in the religion is serving all people in whatever manner possible." Zashara Da'sainne - Accepted to the Gray Ajah

"Not really something I think about, but I'll give it a try. Obviously there is the direct connection of Creator and Dark One to the relationship of God and Satan (BTW, RJ did not invent the term Shai''s also used in works such as Dune, but this off topic. Just an interesting fact) Ah...symbolism...I may be wrong but I think that in our teachings (and Dante's Inferno), Hell is split into seven "circles", which is kind of mirrored in the seven seals I guess. Also, typically one thinks of Hell as being "below", which relates in a way to the Pit of Doom. Clearly Rand appears to me as a kind of Jesus figure-in some aspects. He is loved by some and utterly hated by others and (at least according to the prophecy) he must die in order to save the world from the Shadow, much as Christ had to die on the cross to save the world from death." Cursor Wrathwind - Soldier of the Val'Cueran Company

"Well, the only thing that stands out is that there isn't a real belief in an all-powerful thing. Aside from the Light. I can't exactly relate to anything, because it is a fictional thing, but I don't exactly disagree with what they believe. I sort of want to say that it is because they use 'magic' and the Light is just something that pertains to their world, but that isn't right because their world is everyone's world. The Aes Sedai Symbol is just the symbol for Aes Sedai, and Aes Sedai aren't rulers, but they do have a great deal of influence in politics. So they are "Gods" of sorts, but not especially. If any character stands out, it would be a group, the Aes Sedai, they all say, "May the Light shield and protect you" or some such, and they are devoting themselves to the Light when they take the shawl. And in New Spring, Moiraine prays to the Light, so they do have a religion of sorts." Jeffan Caliarthan - Recruit

"Well, I actually see a lot of monasticism in the way the Tower is run. They live by bells, they have degrees of initiation like a monastic life, from Novice, where she is initiated into the life and rule of the monastery, to taking simple vows, where she is more fully a part of the community and has extra duties and privileges which moves on to the fully vowed nun who has become a permanent member of the community, a Sister, which is what we call nuns! Even to the appellations of Mother, Daughter and Child to the different community members are similar. The Way of the Leaf is most definitely Franciscan in flavor. St. Francis was a great believer in peace and part of the charisma or characteristics of Franciscan spirituality have much to do with consciously choosing non-violent solutions, loving and accepting everyone without discrimination. They were also a mendicant order which meant that they lived off what others provided for them or what little they grew for themselves, they take a strict vow of poverty so they only grow or accept what they is very much like the Way of the Leaf. Rand's marks on his hands and side could be symbolism of Christ's wounds...Rand being the savior of the world?" Estalia Walburga - Accepted to the Yellow Ajah

"I am very much like Nynaeve. She doesn't have same kind of duties as Elayne has as the member of the royal family, nor is she deeply bound to the Aes Sedai organization. (Yet.) But she has the will to help, to heal, and to make people feel better. She's a true Healer. I also have tried to make it my principle to spread the happiness, be the healer of a mind. I hate lies. I believe in speaking the truth, even if a lie would be more merciful. And to speak the truth is one of the Aes Sedai oaths." Saminda Meltacia - Accepted to the Gray Ajah

"The thing in the Wheel of Time that connects most deeply with my beliefs is the theme of the infinite, and ever repeating. A large part of the series is what the "Wheel of Time" means. That time is ever repeating. But if you notice, when a wheel moves it doesn't just rotate it also moves forward. So it repeats, yet is always in a different place, ever progressing. This is practically identical to my view of how time and the progress of our society works. I believe we will always repeat the past, but not literally, not exactly. There are certain themes, certain battles, that are endless, doomed (or blessed) to repeat forever, but each time they are different. In a different time, with different people, different stories. But the basics are the same. I have used the Oroborus to symbolize my spiritual beliefs. On how things always loop back on themselves. This is much the same to me as the symbolism of the Wheel. I was very surprised to find the Great Serpent Ring being used in the books, because it is essential an Oroborus, something that has a lot of meaning to me. There is, however, a very large difference in the religion of WOT compared to my own. Robert Jordan created a world with a Creator and the Dark One. There is a clearly defined good side and bad side. This parallels the Christian (and other's, but I'm only familiar with Christian) belief in God and the Devil. I do not share these beliefs in supernatural beings, or in a clear line between good and evil." Bridonna Desini - Accepted

"Obviously, there is the obvious Messiah-like character, Rand al'thor, which appears in a lot of fantasy to save the world from ultimate destruction. Also, the idea of an absolute good force (the Creator) opposing an absolute bad one (the Dark One) is also common themes in the Christian faith, ie.: God versus Satan. Those are the more obvious ones. One might say the way the people of the Two Rivers strive to live a moral and good life is very reflective of common and important characteristics of a Christian lifestyle as outlined by the Christian Bible, for example: not having sex before marriage." Darim Pelegro - Gaidin of the Mahdi'in d'ma Dieb Company

"There is a good deal of Celtic based symbolism within the series itself. Everything from names of people to holidays to hints about deities and other minor figures in the myth cycle of the Celts. For instance, the Portal Stones are a belief of the Celts. The legends of Cairns are that if you were to walk around a cairn three times in a 'sunwise circle' you will find an entrance to the cairn, especially when it was sunrise or sunset. Another example is the name Birgitte: Whose name is similar to Brigit/Brigid, Celtic goddess of fire, poetry, smithery, and/or healing. Bel Tine even is a Holiday practiced on the first of May although the Celts would have it as Beltane." Rowanne al'Maeve - Accepted of the Gray Ajah

"Naturally, the Creator reflects in a very bare-bones sense the Old Testament conception of a supreme being who created the universe and everything in it. The key difference being that the Creator in WoT is more similar to the God in the worldview known as Deism, where the world is created and then the Creator completely retires from any further activities in that universe whatsoever, leaving all to make do on its own. This contrasts with the Christian view of God as both ultimate creator and distinctly personal and active to each individual's life, to the extent that he even enters the world bodily as Jesus. Beyond this, the Whitecloaks also represent to me an apt exaggeration of those individuals who begin with correct knowledge, but then disconnect themselves from reason and further study, and blindly continue to make decisions based on no sound foundation or logic, which only results in a lack of ability to make correct decisions in the end." Rollyn Montagorae - Gaidin of the Dai M'Hael Company

"While reading 'the Wheel of Time', I was struck by the similarity between some of my beliefs and that of the White Tower. If I were an Aes Sedai in the White Tower of the books, to make no weapon for one man to kill another and to refrain from using the One Power as a weapon unless in self defence are definitely two oaths that I could mostly keep, even without the oath rod. The desire not to harm others, of course, brings to mind the Tuatha'an, with one big difference - I don't mind trying to save my own life. I don't like to say which character I think relates most to the Wiccan beliefs because I cannot speak for every Wiccan out there. But I think the character that relates most to my personal beliefs and the way in which I see myself is Perrin Aybara. He truly is a good person at heart, and he seems to very much dislike hurting others - early in the books it mentions how he is always afraid of hurting others because he is such a big person. At the same time, he knows what needs to be done and he will fight if he needs to. One of the Wiccan beliefs is in the Threefold law - what you do will come back to you times three, whether it be good or bad. Therefore, it is not forbidden to cause harm, but there are consequences. I think that Perrin knows that there will be consequences for what he does, but he thinks or knows that the consequences are worth it." Atarah al'Norahn - Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah

"I see Rand as a very Christ-like figure. The whole idea of dying to save the world as part of a larger plan, as well as the wound in his side and the marks on his palms. Of course, the Creator is also a Christian belief, but we definitely don't have a copyright on the idea of God. There are also some apocalyptic themes; Tar'mon Gai'don, if said quickly enough, sounds a lot like "Armageddon." Whoever Rand ends up fighting at the end, whether it's the Dark One or Moridin, will correspond to the Antichrist. Masema bothers me a little, because there are all sorts of warnings about a False Prophet of the Antichrist, who will get lots of folks to believe the wrong things--which we see a little bit with the bands of Dragonsworn, but I'd like to think he really does mean well. And I believe that the story will be able to continue after the Last Battle, because after the final battle between Heaven and Hell on earth, there will be the Kingdom of God to last for a Millennium. Religious scholars talk about this kind of stuff, but I believe it, so there you go." Kyla Sterling - Aes Sedai of the Blue Ajah

"I think the thing that relates most to my belief are the festivals that are carried out within the villages. Most of them are or mirror traditional festivals that mostly come from Pagan cultures. Perrin and Faile's wedding is definitely taken from pagan beliefs as well as Aiel maidens being the ones to propose marriage. (I'm a history so I've studied different culture's religions in depth) The idea of having a female who takes care of people such as a Wisdom or a Wise One is also taken from pagan cultures." Joinyce al'Torani - Novice

For me, it is easy to see the connections between Paganism and WoT. The five elements used in pagan ritual and spells are Earth, Air, Fire, Water, and Spirit. "Weaving" them together to get the results you want is basically what I am doing when I release a spell into the world. I also see the "heroes", like Artur Hawkwing, Brigitte, Rand, etc. as being members of the pantheon of gods and goddesses with the Creator and the Dark One as being the duality within the universal binding power felt by all living things. Having been raised Catholic, I am also able to see much of the symbolism mentioned by the folks above me. I am always impressed by how well Robert Jordan has incorporated so much from so many cultures in a very workable and fairly seamless manner!

Part 1