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2.3.03: Effects of the Oath Rod: Binding, Agelessness, and Death

[Daniel Rouk, Burr Rutledge, Andrea Leistra, Pam Korda, Leigh Butler]


In the AOL, there were multiple "Oath Rods." They were apparently fairly common devices used to discipline criminals who could channel. The Forsaken refer to them as a type of "binder"; according to Sammael [ACOS: 40, Spears, 631], Oath Rods only work on channelers, and the one he gives to Sevanna only works on female channelers. There are other types of binding devices, such as "binding chairs" that work on anybody.

One of the first references to "binding" is in [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 136]. Graendal is showing off her Sharans. While discussing the Sharan channelers, Sammael asks her if they 'bind themselves like criminals.' Sammael thinks he's revealing something Graendal didn't know, but she thinks about how she found out about the AS use of the Oath Rod from Mesaana [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 138]. We later find out Mesaana is in the White Tower. The only "binding" that we know about that occurs in the White Tower is the bonds willingly taken by Aes Sedai via the Oath Rod.

Next scene: [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 139-143] Semirhage is torturing the Aes Sedai, and thinking on how she was "wronged" because the Age of Legends Servants didn't understand why she gave a little pain with her healing. After all, nobody complained when they owed their life to her. She recollects that she was given two choices, to be severed, or to accept binding. The actual quote is "to be bound never to know her pleasures again, and with that binding be able to see the end of life approach." This illustrates that "binding" is in fact as Sammael said, something done to criminals.

In [Guide: 3, The Age of Legends, 37], we learn about the criminal justice system in the AOL. "When the perpetrators of violent acts were caught, they were not sent to prison. Rather, they were constrained... against repeat offenses. This binding made it impossible for the criminal ever to repeat his crime." In [Guide: 5, The Dark One and the Male Forsaken, 54], we also find out that this binding was done with the OP. Describing Balthamel, ne Eval Ramman, it says, " More than once he supposedly came very close to being bound with the Power against doing violence."

Next, we have [ACOS: 40, Spears, 630-631], in which Sammael gives Sevanna an OR, which he probably got from the Ebou Dar stash. He explains how it works: "'You might call it an Oath Rod,' Caddar said...'It only came into my hands yesterday, and I immediately thought of you.'... 'All you need do is have your AS...or any woman who can channel, hold the rod and speak whatever promises you wish while someone channels a little Spirit into the number. The marks on the end of the rod?'...'It only works on women?' [Sevanna said.] 'Women who can channel, Sevanna,' Caddar said."

Finally, in WH we are introduced to the "Chair of Remorse", a ter'angreal in the Tower that is used to punish criminals, "to experience carefully selected consequences of their crimes" [WH: Prologue, Snow, 17]. Though it doesn't seem as though the Chair is used for any actual binding, the fact that it can be used on non-channelers and channelers alike brings Sammael's mention of "binding chairs" strongly to mind, and Seaine doesn't know if the manner in which modern AS use it is anything like what it was used for in the AOL.

We learn a few other things about the OR and binding:

  1. It can be used to remove Oaths, according to Sammael [ACOS: 40, Spears, 631], and from Pevara and Seaine's experiments described in [TPOD: 26, The Extra Bit, 503]. It makes sense that there should be some way to remove the Oaths, since it was a method of punishing criminals. If the criminal was later proven innocent, or truly reformed, one would want the OR binding removed, considering its unhealthy effects (see below).
  2. It is harder to bind non-channelers than to bind channelers [ACOS: 40, Spears, 631]. This implies that the OR's binding mechanism involves the bound individual's channeling ability.
  3. The OR is NOT a "Rod of Dominion." The way the Nine Rods of Dominion were mentioned in the TEOTW Prologue, they were something special. The OR, OTOH, is referred to as a "binder," lower case. Nothing special. Furthermore, in TPOD, we find out what Sammael meant by "the number" in [ACOS: 40, Spears, 630-631]-- the Oath Rods are numbered. The Tower's Rod is number three, while Sevanna's Rod is number one hundred and eleven [TPOD: 11, Questions and an Oath, 253]. So, it seems like there are way more than nine Oath Rods.


The question is: is the "ageless" look attributed to Aes Sedai in the Third Age something unique to them, or is this appearance attained by all channelers? If it is only found in modern AS, then it seems likely that the look is caused by the Oath Rod-- one of the only major differences between the current Aes Sedai and other channelers.

What is the Ageless Look? It is not mere youthfulness. People looking at AS with the look are unable to put any age at all to them. Here is evidence:

  1. In [TDR: 3, News from the Plain, 23] Perrin describes Moiraine: "She was a slender, dark-haired woman no taller than his shoulder, and pretty, with the ageless quality of all Aes Sedai who had worked with the One Power for a time. He could not put any age at all to her..."

  2. In [LOC: Prologue, The First Message, 25-26], Elayne describes Janya Sedai and Anaiya Sedai: "Janya Sedai was quite neat, every short dark hair tidy around the ageless face that marked Aes Sedai who had worked long with the Power.... "You are making great strides, Elayne," Anaiya said calmly. The bluff-faced woman was always calm. 'Motherly' was the word to describe her, and comforting usually, though Aes Sedai features made putting an age to her impossible."

  3. In [ACOS: 1, High Chasaline, 60] Perrin describes the TAS who were captured, discounting the ones who were stilled: "The others looked ageless, of course, maybe in their twenties, maybe in their forties, changing from one glance to the next, always uncertain. That was what their faces said, though several showed gray in their hair." From this, we know that if an observer can put a definite age to a channeler, then the channeler DOES NOT have the Ageless Look.

Note: the Ageless Look takes some time to manifest itself after a woman is raised to full AS. 1) Elaida's spy in Caemlyn is "'A Red Sister....Newly raised, so she can easily pass for other than AS.' She meant that the woman had not yet taken on the agelessness..." [TFOH: Prologue, The First Sparks Fall, 16] 2) In [ACOS: 24, The Kin, 408], Elayne says, "I don't think anyone has ever reached that [the Ageless Look] until they've worn the shawl at least a year or two, sometimes five or more."

Now, let us look at the descriptions of all other channelers, to see that they do NOT have the Ageless Look.

A Look at non-Aes Sedai channelers

Aiel Wise Ones

Sea Folk Windfinders:

Seanchan Damane and Sul'dam

Forsaken and Other Old-time Aes Sedai

Stilled Aes Sedai

Students in the Tower and the Kin

As noted above, no AS gets the Ageless look until after they've been raised to full AS [ACOS: 24, The Kin, 408]. This is not a matter of time spent channeling, or of strength in the OP, but of passing a certain point-- being raised.

Physical Effects of the Oath Rod

In L:NS and TPOD, we get ample evidence that swearing on an Oath Rod produces a physical effect-- some kind of "tightening" of the skin:

This "tightening of the skin" could be what causes the Ageless Look, kind of like a permanent face lift.

Conclusions on the Ageless Look

Nobody in all of Randland has the Ageless look besides AS raised in the White Tower. Thus, there must be something done to them in the raising ceremony which brings about the Ageless Look. The only such thing of which we know is swearing on the Oath Rod. Given the evidence that we have, it must be the OR which causes agelessness. The only other possibility is that there is something else done in the Raising ceremony which we don't know about and which causes the agelessness. Any such thing would have to involve the woman's channeling ability, in order to explain why the Agelessness vanishes when a person is stilled. There may indeed be other items used in the AS-Raising ceremony besides the Oath Rod, as indicated by this quote: [LOC: 39, Possibilities, 513] "Romanda wanted to use gateways to remove the OR and certain other items...from the Tower so they could make true AS in Salidar while depriving Elaida of the ability." These items may be used in the AS TEST, as opposed to the actual final ceremony, though.

Misc. Notes


A final effect of the OR is that it seems to shorten the lifespan of channelers bound by it. It seems to work this way: use of the OP increases one's lifespan by a great deal. The more you channel, the better the anagathic effect. Being bound by the OR decreases one's lifespan, or perhaps lessens the anti-aging benefits of channeling. In any case, the net effect is that OR-bound channelers live longer than non-channelers, but not as long as channelers who are NOT bound by the OR.

Evidence that Oathbound channelers don't live as long as nonbound ones:

From these quotes, we can conclude that the maximum lifespan of modern AS is around 300 years.

Ages of other channelers:

From the evidence that we have, modern-day AS have a shorter maximum lifespan than other channelers. As with the Ageless look, there must be something done in the AS-raising ceremony which causes this. The only such thing of which we are aware is being bound by the OR. Again, there is a possibility that there is some other thing in the ceremony which we don't know about, and which causes this effect. However, there is less chance of this being the case with the shorter lifespan than with the ageless look.

This is because we have independent evidence from Semirhage. In [LOC: 6, Threads Woven of Shadow, 139-143] Semirhage is thinking about how the AOL AS wanted to "bind" her to put an end to her medical malpractice. The actual quote is "to be bound never to know her pleasures again, and with that binding be able to see the end of life approach." Now, we know that "binding" of channelers (esp. female channelers) was done with an OR. Semirhage seems to be thinking that the binding would cut her life short.

Elayne and Nynaeve have certainly come to the same conclusion. Nynaeve and Elayne's reactions to Egwene's announcement that she will swear the Oaths on the OR as soon as they get the Tower back are worth quoting in their entirety:

"'That's madness!' Nynaeve burst out... 'You know what it does; the Kin are proof! How many Aes Sedai live past three hundred? Or reach it? And don't tell me I shouldn't talk about age. That's a ridiculous custom, and you know it. Egwene, Reanne was called Eldest because she was the oldest Kinswoman in Ebou Dar. The oldest anywhere is a woman called Aloisia Nemosni, an oil merchant in Tear. Egwene, she's nearly six...hundred...years...old! When the Hall hears that, I'll wager they'll be ready to put the Oath Rod on a shelf.'

"'The Light knows three hundred years is a long time,' Elayne put in, 'but I can't say I'm happy myself at the prospect of perhaps cutting my life in half, Egwene.'" [WH: 10, A Plan Succeeds, 238]

It doesn't get much clearer than that.

Removing the Oaths

Speaking of that scene, what about Egwene's plan on how to get around the age limitation while still having AS swear the Oaths? Will that actually work?

Egwene's idea is that AS raised to the shawl will swear on the OR as usual, and that when they get close to the upper-age limit on sworn AS of 300, they could be released from the OR and sent to live with the Kin for, presumably, another 300 years or so.

The question, of course, is whether the OR actually makes one age faster, or simply dictates a cutting-off point. Cadsuane, for example, seems to have aged about as much as Reanne - but Reanne is better than a century older. This would seem to argue that the OR makes you age faster, and that removing the Oaths from, say, a 250-year-old AS would not actually help her live past 300.

However, as Amy Gray points out, when Siuan and Leane were stilled, they lost a good twenty years in appearance. All the evidence indicates that the age they look now is the age they would have looked if they had aged (and slowed) naturally (if, say, they had been WOs or Windfinders). We can safely conclude that their rejuvenation was a result of having the Oaths removed. The implication, then, is that Egwene's plan should actually work, and a released AS would revert to whatever age she would have had if she had never been bound.

As a last tidbit for thought, Elayne raises the interesting question of what would happen in reverse - if someone already over the age limit imposed by the OR then swears on it. Hmm...


The primary effect of the OR is to compel obedience to oaths sworn on it. It probably does this by tapping into the oathbound channeler's own channeling ability in some unknown way. (We know this because the binding to the oaths vanishes when the oathbound woman is severed.) It has some secondary effects, in particular 1) it shortens the lifespan of the bound channeler, and 2) it probably causes the bound channeler to develop the "ageless look" unique to modern AS. It is unknown if these secondary effects are deliberate (i.e. a kind of death sentence and a way of marking criminals, respectively) or if they are an inherent side effect of the binding mechanism.

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