Testing for Wise Ones and Clan Chiefs
Author: Alyonne al'Moranne
Amongst the Aiel there are also channelers and senior members of the community, either as clans or Wise Ones. In the rest of Robert Jordan’s world, female channelers are sent to study in the White Tower of Tar Valon and there undergo their training. Those women who may not necessarily channel but are natural healers or leaders are sometimes brought up as apprentices to Wisdoms or their equivalents.
In the Waste Aiel channelers, at least female, and those women who are seen as good figures of leadership, guidance and responsibility, are taken on as Apprentices to Wise Ones. We get some interesting glimpses into their training, mainly through the eyes of Aviendha and Egwene during The Fires of Heaven. Both their training and punishments are strict yet strangely just and turn around the Aiel belief of ji'e'toh.
The Aiel wishing to become either Clan Chief or Wise One must pass a kind of initiation ceremony by entering the ancient city of Rhuidean. They enter in nothing but their skin and must walk to the city through the harsh Waste climate, perhaps as a test of commitment and endurance.
Aiel who entered were tested by using a ter'angreal which would show the history of the Aiel through the eyes of their ancestors from earlier eras, as far back as the Age of Legends. Female Aiel, on their first trip to Rhuidean, instead enter a ter'angreal which shows many possible futures. At the end of book three of the Wheel of Time-The Dragon Reborn-Rhuarc mentions that Wise One "got no mark, at least none that anyone else knew about", perhaps showing the reason for why women were given this second bite of the apple.
Aiel clan chiefs must also undergo this test. They come out marked with an iridescent dragon tattoo around the left forearm---or do not come out at all. Women receive no such marking. Two of three who go, do not return; what happens to them and what is learned in Rhuidean has been a mystery to most Aiel until recently. Eventually, it is told, a man will emerge from Rhuidean at daybreak with two dragons, one on each forearm: the Car'a'carn, Chief of Chiefs, He Who Comes With The Dawn. As the Aiel have sworn: "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."