WARNING: CONTAINS SPOILERS FOR A MEMORY OF LIGHT
As well as being used in the arithmetical sense, numbers can have underlying symbolic meaning. Number symbolism is important in art, literature, mythology, and in ancient and medieval thought, and is studied by some Freemasons. Jordan was a Freemason (see Freemasonry essay) and drew much upon folklore, mythology, religion and ancient and medieval history to create the Wheel of Time world, so it is hardly surprising that there is a lot of symbolism, whether of numbers, animals (see Animal Symbolism essay) or inanimate objects, in the series. The most important numbers in the Wheel of Time are One, Two, Three, Five, Seven and Thirteen. All of them apart from One are prime numbers, that is they are evenly divisible by only One and themselves, and even One is often still regarded as a prime. Mathematicians are fond of primes and Jordan, who was a physicist, has included this in his world-building.
Naturally the numbers will be described in numerical order.
One symbolises unity, beginning, the Source (True Source!), the centre from which everything else radiates and, by association, the Sun.
A simple example of One is the Borderlander character with one eye called Uno (One).
In a political sense, One refers to monarchs, especially absolute monarchs. Some of the Wheel of Time leaders’ titles include the word ‘First’ to show this: First of Mayene; First Weaver, First Reasoner and First Selector in the Tower, all queens within their Ajahs; First Gardener of the Seanchan; and First Maid in the Caemlyn Palace. The Empress, the Seanchan’s absolute monarch, is addressed as 'Highest One' or 'Greatest One’ (A Memory of Light, Your Neck In A Cord) by those with enough status to speak to her directly.
However, the ‘monarch’ above all the others to which this solar number refers is the Creator’s champion, Lews Therin/Rand, the Lord of the Morning. Lews Therin was First Among Servants with ultimate power according to Jordan (see Lews Therin essay), and was the originator of the strike which resealed the Dark One and resulted in the corruption of half of the One Power, so that saidar effectively became ‘the’ One Power for over three thousand years.
Rand is often named as ‘the one’ in some way:
And men cried out to the Creator, saying, O Light of the Heavens, Light of the World, let the Promised One be born of the mountain, according to the prophecies...While he is “the world’s only hope,” being ‘the one’ can be very lonely, a fact the Shadow played on in the early books. “The man who channels stands alone”, as a Myrddraal wrote on the walls of the dungeon (The Great Hunt, Blood Calls Blood).
- The Eye of the World, Opening prophecy
ONLY THE CHOSEN ONE CAN DO WHAT MUST BE DONE, IF HE WILL.
- The Eye of the World, Against the Shadow
Yet one shall be born to face the Shadow, born once more as he was born before and shall be born again, time without end.
- The Great Hunt, Opening prophecy
“Sisters from the islands say the Coramoor, their Chosen One, is coming.”
- The Great Hunt, Summoned
“If he is the one,” Bair said, “the Time of Change is upon us.”
- The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone
"The Dragon is one with the land," Thom said, still juggling unconcernedly, "and the land is one with the Dragon."
- The Eye of the World, The Last Village
Both Forsaken and Aes Sedai made the mistake of concentrating on One (Rand) when there are Three (see below). Even Rand makes this mistake:
"All hail Rand al'Thor, King of the World!"and he thinks that everyone should obey him. It is his task to unite the world against the Shadow, having been told by the Aelfinn that:
"All hail the King of the World!"
That had a good sound to it.
- A Crown of Swords, A Crown of Swords
'The north and the east must be as one. The west and the south must be as one. The two must be as one.'but it is not his task to rule it.
- Knife of Dreams, News for the Dragon
A different kind of unity described in the books is the Oneness, the repression of individuality as an aid to concentration and achievement:
Concentrate on a single flame and feed all your passions into it - fear, hate, anger - until your mind became empty. Become one with the void, Tam said, and you could do anything.Wrapped in the Oneness, Rand, the Promised One around whom the events of the late Third Age swirl, finds he can channel. He is of maximum strength in the One Power, yet another example of One, and is developing great skill in it. As such, he could represent the first card of the Tarot, the Magician. The card originally represented an itinerant performer or worker at the fairs, someone of very low social status, but evolved into a magus in the 19th century. Thom, the wandering gleeman-bard who was quite at home in Luca’s menagerie, is one example of the Magician, as is his pupil Rand. On the road to Caemlyn, Rand played the flute for his keep while struggling with the effects of his developing magic powers, and he did so again alone on the road to Tear. For a considerable time now, Rand has been a powerful magician indeed.
- The Eye of the World, An Empty Road
Lan echoes many of Rand’s issues. He is Aan’allein, ‘One Man,’ a hidden monarch who is alone, having lost family, position and nation to the Shadow, but not down:
That one you have tried to kill many times, Rand said, that one who lost his kingdom, that one from whom you took everything . . .Using the Oneness helped Lan stay alive as well as fight brilliantly. Aan’allein was the one to kill Demandred:
Lurching, bloodied from the sword strike to his side, the last king of the Malkieri stumbled to his feet. Lan thrust his hand into the air, holding by its hair the head of Demandred, general of the Shadow's armies.
That man, Rand shouted. That man still fights!
A Memory of Light, Those who Fight
One rider burst from the ranks of their soldiers, galloping toward the Trolloc right flank. Mat would not be happy about that. One man, alone, would die. Loial was surprised that he could feel sorrow for that man's life lost, after all of the death he had seen.Thanks to Nynaeve, Lan united the Borderlands to fight the Shadow’s armies in another example of One:
That man looks familiar, Loial thought. Yes, it was the horse. He'd seen that horse before, many times. Lan, he thought, numb. Lan is the one riding out alone.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
Will Lan Mandragoran ride to the Last Battle alone?"Rand learned the value of unity against the Shadow:
- Knife of Dreams, The Golden Crane
"I'm saying we need to plan," Rand said, "and present a unified attack. That we did poorly last time, and it nearly cost us the war. We each thought we knew the best way to go." He met Egwene's eyes. "In those days, every man and woman considered themselves to be the leader on the field. An army of generals. That is why we nearly lost. That is what left us with the taint, the Breaking, the madness. I was as guilty of it as anyone. Perhaps the most guilty.The One of ego has to be subordinated for the common good.
- A Memory of Light, To Require A Boon
The dark side of ‘One’ is selfishness, egomania and aggression, epitomised by the Dark One. This common euphemism for Shaitan emphasises that he is the origin or source of all evil. The Dark One was discovered by drilling the Bore, the one point through which he could then touch the world, and so the origin as well as singularity of the story. The Bore was drilled to access the True Power, one power source that all channellers could use – the temptation that lured Lanfear (a parallel of Pandora and to a smaller degree Eve) – rather than the dual, ironically named, One Power. The One Power is made up of Two parts that together move Creation. The usage of the One Power was discovered in the consistently named First Age.
The Dark One wants to remake the world in his own image:
WHAT I SHOWED BEFORE IS WHAT MEN EXPECT. IT IS THE EVIL THEY THINK THEY FIGHT. BUT I WILL MAKE A WORLD WHERE THERE IS NOT GOOD OR EVIL.while this seems the ultimate in negative oneness, even worse would be if Rand had made the mistake of killing the Dark One:
THERE IS ONLY ME.
"Do your servants know?" Rand whispered. "The ones you name Chosen? They think they fight to become lords and rulers over a world of their own making. Instead you will give them this. The same world . . . except one without Light."
THERE IS ONLY ME.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
DID YOU THINK THAT REMOVING ME FROM THEIR LIVES WOULD LEAVE THEM UNALTERED?but removing Shaitan from the Pattern to prevent evil and suffering would remove choice and would have been an evil act indeed, rivalling those of the Dark One. Denial of choice is a characteristic of the Dark One. Choice requires Two (or more) and is integral to morality and the Creator’s Pattern. All choices are played out in the Pattern; the Pattern is One and all. Light and Shadow are both necessary in the Pattern. Forever two, not one.
The words thundered through Rand. Aghast, he stepped away as Elayne rose, obviously concerned for him. Yes, he saw it now, the thing behind her eyes. She was not herself . . . because Rand had taken from her the ability to be herself.
I TURN MEN TO ME, Shai'tan said. IT IS TRUE. THEY CANNOT CHOOSE GOOD ONCE I HAVE MADE THEM MINE IN THAT WAY. HOW IS THIS ANY DIFFERENT, ADVERSARY?
IF YOU DO THIS, WE ARE ONE.
"No!" Rand screamed, holding his head in his hand, falling to his knees. "No! The world would be perfect without you!"
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
The conflict between One and Two is a major theme in the Wheel of Time – the One Power and the True Power, saidin and saidar, Creator and Dark One, male and female, and self versus relationships.
Two symbolises equilibrium and conflict, attraction and repulsion, and union yet division. It represents the dynamics of creation and destruction (Jack Tressider, Symbols and their Meanings), and, particularly in Jordan’s world, the necessity of balance.
The theology of Jordan’s world is dualistic rather than monotheistic: the Dark One is the equal as well as opposite of the Creator as stated by Jordan at a booksigning:
“the dark counterpart, the dark balance if you will, to the Creator carrying on the theme, the yin yang, light dark, necessity of balance theme that has run through the books...it's somewhat Manichean, I know, but I think it works.”The Pattern is about balance; between male and female and especially good and evil. For most Ages the contention between the Creator and Dark One is played out by their two champions but, for his part, Rand moved beyond that this time:
Moridin laughed, throwing his head back. "Of course it is! Haven't you seen that yet? By the blood falls, Lews Therin! It is about us two. Just as in Ages past, over and over, we fight one another. You and I."The Dark One acknowledges this by naming Rand Adversary. In real world theology, the devil is regarded as the adversary, and he is in the Wheel of Time world. However the Dragon and the Dark One are both adversaries. Or should be. There is the risk that the two collaborate:
"No," Rand said. "Not this time. I'm done with you. I have a greater battle to fight."
"Don't try to—"
Sunlight exploded through the clouds above. There was often no sunlight in the World of Dreams, but now it bathed the area around Rand…… Rand could feel his shock. This was Moridin's dreamshard.
"Tell your master!" Rand commanded. "Tell him this fight is not like the others. Tell him I've tired of minions, that I'm finished with his petty movement of pawns. Tell him that I'm coming for HIM!"
"This is wrong," Moridin said, visibly shaken. "This isn't . . ." He looked at Rand for a moment, standing beneath the blazing sun, then vanished.
A Memory of Light, Advantages to a Bond
He understood. The Dark One was offering a deal. Rand could accept this . . . He could accept nothingness. The two of them dueled for the fate of the world. Rand pushed for peace, glory, love. The Dark One sought the opposite. Pain. Suffering.Such a collaboration would be an evil expression of Two and would result in nothingness, Zero (see below) – if the unholy bargain were kept by the Dark One. Stalemate. Choice, the positive expression of Two, is essential for balance. This is why Rand’s idea of killing the Dark One was so wrong as to be evil. Rand’s link to nihilistic and despairing Moridin, another expression of Two, made him susceptible to this. The link allowed the emotions of one to bleed into the other, as well as making it possible for Rand to draw on the True Power.
This was, in a way, a balance between the two. The Dark One would agree not to reforge the Wheel to suit his grim desires. There would be no enslaving of mankind, no world without love. There would be no world at all.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
In Tel’aran’rhiod, the opposition, yet common ground, between the Dragon and the Dark One was expressed as a convergence:
Perrin continued forward toward Shayol Ghul. He could see it, like a beacon, glowing with light. Strangely, behind, he could make out Dragonmount, though it should have been far too distant to see. As the land between them crumbled, the world seemed to be shrinking.The two mountains are the two centres or axes of the respective opposing powers, and they move together during the duel between Rand and the Dark One, symbolising the destruction of the Land and its people, and the danger that the mountains could merge or annihilate each other if Rand removed choice from the Pattern or the Dark One won.
The two peaks, pulling toward one another, all between shattered and broken.
A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow
The balance and conflict between the two deities is reflected in their respective Powers. Under extreme pressure between the two, the only way Rand could resist the siren call of one, was to sense the other:
The access key had allowed him to tap an unimaginable river, a tempest as vast as the ocean. It had been the greatest thing he had ever experienced.As well as two deities contending for Creation, we have two complementary parts of the One Power, saidin and saidar, working with and against each other to drive the Wheel of Time. If saidin and saidar are used together, as was common in the Second Age, great works can be accomplished:
Until the moment when he had used the unnamed power.
That other force called to him, sang to him, tempted him. So much power, so much divine wonder. But it terrified him. He didn't dare touch it, not again.
And so he carried the key. He was not certain which of the two sources of energy was more dangerous, but as long as both called to him, he was able to resist both. Like two people, both yelling for his attention, they drowned one another out. For the moment.
- The Gathering Storm, Into Bandar Eban
That was the way in the Age of Legends; a man and a woman working together were always ten times as strong as they were apart.For example, Rand and Nynaeve together cleansed saidin by forcing it through its opposite power saidar and filtering off the taint, and used yet another power inimical to the Dark One, that of Shadar Logoth, to annihilate the taint, an action typifying Two.
- The Great Hunt, On the Scent
The balance inherent in the One Power is further expressed in weaves:
That isn't the way it works, she thought. Two sides to every coin. Two halves to the Power. Hot and cold, light and dark, woman and man.and so Egwene was inspired to create a weave that healed the damage to reality caused by balefire (but does not bring the dead back), an example of the stabilising equilibrium of Two.
If a weave exists, so must its opposite.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
Rand started out trying to save the Two Rivers, the region that epitomises the Wheel of Time world in miniature (and saidar is often described as a river). Renowned for the strength of character of its men and women, some of which are also strong channellers, it has a self-contained government in which the power of males and females is in dynamic, if tense, equilibrium: hence its association with Two.
The Amyrlin and Keeper, the two most powerful women among the Aes Sedai, are a duo. Even Elaida, an Amyrlin who tried to be an absolute monarch, or number One, conceded that the Amyrlin can’t work without her Keeper. The Keeper can’t even be in the Hall, and therefore has no official function, without the Amyrlin. The Amyrlin is also in dynamic equilibrium with the Hall. At times in the history of Aes Sedai this delicate balance has been lost, and the government of Aes Sedai suffered much as a result; for example, when there were two Halls and Amyrlins. The High Priestess card in the Tarot is numbered Two; she is a lunar figure, knowledgeable in mysteries and secrets, like the two conflicting Amyrlins, Egwene and Elaida, and she sits between two pillars, one white and one black – equivalents of the Black and White Towers and saidin and saidar. As a sign of the lack of balance in the Wheel of Time world, the usage of saidin has been all but stamped out for over three thousand years.
The only check on the absolute power of the Empress is her consort, the Prince of the Ravens:
Was not the Prince of the Ravens a check upon the Empress, to keep her strong by providing a constant threat?She also acknowledged the Amyrlin as her opposite:
A Memory of Light, To Ignore the Omens
"I needed to meet you," Fortuona said. "You are my opposite.and speaks to her directly (even after learning Egwene had been damane – lower than human), thus granting her some equality.
A Memory of Light, Considerations
A dark example of Two is Slayer, the man with two souls:
Luc tended to be the more accommodating one, Isam the hard one. Well, that was how he saw himself.This double nature allowed Slayer to enter and leave Tel’aran’rhiod in the flesh. Perrin’s psyche is also dual, being both man and wolf, and he too can enter and leave Tel’aran’rhiod physically.
A Memory of Light, Prologue
Rand had two personalities warring within him for much of the series:
”Lews Therin tried to take over. I was two people, fighting over control of myself. And one of them was completely insane."as well as the two taints. It is therefore hardly surprising that this made him unbalanced.
A Memory of Light, Eastward the Wind Blew
While Rand represents the number One, many events are foretold to happen to him Twice:
Twice and twice shall he be marked,Min prophesied that twice Perrin had to be there to save Rand from something really bad (Lord of Chaos, A Threat). The double events represent the extreme effort and sacrifice Rand (and Perrin) make to restore balance to the Land.
twice to live, and twice to die.
Once the heron to set his path.
Twice the heron, to name him true.
Once the Dragon, for remembrance lost
Twice the Dragon, for the price he must pay…
Twice dawns the day when his blood is shed.
Once for mourning, once for birth.
- The Great Hunt, Discord
Prospective Aiel leaders will henceforth make two trips through the glass columns of Rhuidean in future to understand what they were and what they have become – forward and back, back and forward.
The Eye of the World and the One remaining Green Man were shielded so that they could be only found once by any person. Moiraine’s second visit resulted in the destruction of both. This is another example of the conflict between One and Two in the series.
In the Middle East there was a widespread aversion to doing two similar things at the same time, such as marrying two couples on the same day or having two children baptised on the same day in the same church (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). The birth of twins therefore often aroused fear or superstition. Melaine and Elayne each carry twins. Twins can symbolise doubled force or warring spirits. It has been speculated that Elayne's twins are actually Shivan the Hunter and his sister Calian the Chooser, two Heroes of the Horn who are reborn at the end of every Age and:
herald the end of Ages, the destruction of what had been and the birth of what was to be.Whether they are or not, the two babies were nearly cut from her womb and taken to Shayol Ghul to tip the balance of the duel in the Dark One’s favour.
- A Crown of Swords, Swovan Night
In the Wheel of Time world, One has contained Two (e.g. the One Power consists of saidin and saidar), and Two may become One (e.g. only saidar was usable for over 3000 years, and the north and east of the land must unite with the south and west). Another example of Two combined into One is the linked battles in Falme:
Suddenly he knew that the two battles were linked. When he advanced, the heroes called by the Horn drove the Seanchan back; when he fell back, the Seanchan rose up.The Seanchan sul’dam/damane relationship shows the corruption of Two; it is a master/slave relationship, a forced union where the damane feels double what the sul’dam feels.
- The Great Hunt, The Grave is No Bar to My Call.
The Warder bond is another example of Two, but the double bonding of Pevara and Androl resulted in an equal or balanced relationship so close that can exchange thoughts. Pevara thought that the two bonds would somehow cancel each other out, but instead the bonding increased.
Three is the most positive number in symbolism as well as in religious thought, legend, mythology and folklore. It represents harmony, synthesis, strength and productivity. It is probably the most important number in the series. The tension and conflict created by Duality can be resolved by Three (Arthur Douglas, The Tarot). The evils of the Second Age were finally resolved at the end of the Third Age by three ta’veren and with the combination of three Powers.
In folklore, a common belief is that something said or heard three times will come true. Many religious rites and magic spells are/were devised on this principle. In the series, Moiraine believed there was a threat to the Eye because she heard of it from three sources:
”Three threads have come together here, each giving a warning: the Eye. It cannot be chance; it is the Pattern."The world rippled three times in Knife of Dreams:
- The Eye of the World, Decisions and Apparitions
A third time the world rippled, harder still, and as it passed through [Faile] she felt as if she might blow away in a breeze, or simply dissipate in a mist.This was probably due to the usage of balefire, which the Dark One requested of Demandred as part of his ‘spell’ for unravelling reality in preparation for the Last Battle.
- Knife of Dreams, Something Strange
Another example of three making a 'spell' is the bloodknives' ter'angreal rings containing three bits of blood-coloured rock that symbolise their dark powers (Towers of Midnight, Foxheads). Three bloodknives gathered to kill Egwene, but Gawyn defeated them (Towers of Midnight, Darkness in the Tower), an example of three to ensure and three as a proof of worthiness. Gawyn used their three rings as triple protection against Demandred; emphasising the difficulty and risk of the duel, and the certainty that Gawyn would die from it. Demandred fought three duels against knightly champions, as did his parallel Melegaunt of Arthurian myth, showing the difficulty of breaking the ‘spell’ of his invincibility. Each of Demandred’s challengers wore a ter’angreal as protection against him.
Perrin found that he has three dreaming states:
Sleep, he thought. I'm falling asleep. Again, he saw the three paths before himself. This time, one led to ordinary sleep, another to the wolf dream while sleeping, the path he usually took.In future, Aiel Wise Ones will visit Rhuidean three times to traverse a ter’angreal before they will know enough to be called ‘wise’.
And between them, a third path. The wolf dream in the flesh.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
For the Seanchan, naming someone as your husband or wife three times before witnesses makes it true:
“You named [Tuon, now Empress – and the third card in the Tarot is the Empress] your wife three times that night in Ebou Dar,” she said slowly. “You really don’t know? A woman says three times that a man is her husband, and he says three times she’s his wife, and they’re married. There are blessings involved, usually, but it’s saying it in front of witnesses that makes it a marriage.”When Perrin affirmed his love for Faile three times in the wolf dream, he broke Lanfear’s Compulsion ( A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow). After killing his third woman, Mat, always revolted by killing women, vows never to do so again:
- Crossroads of Twilight, A Cluster of Rosebuds
And that made three. It hardly seemed to matter that the dice had stopped. That made three. Never again, he thought as Renna floated out of sight around a bend. If I die for it, never again.In this case, after three times he’s determined it won’t happen again. And that is true.
- Crossroads of Twilight, Something Flickers
Aludra insisted her test dragon be re-cast three times until the alloy was in the correct proportions and consistency (Towers of Midnight, A Terrible Feeling).
Another traditional belief is in ‘three chances’ to achieve something, or three wishes. Novices can have three attempts to face their fears within the Accepted ter’angreal, which has to be entered three times in the one session. The Eelfinn grant three requests and the Aelfinn answer three questions. Three champions duelled with Demandred before he was killed. Only three men could possibly achieve the rescue of Moiraine from the *elfinn folk. Any other number was certain failure.
The Dark One punished Graendal after the third Forsaken fell due to her actions:
"Three Chosen, destroyed by your actions. The design builds, a lattice of failure, a framework of incompetence."To paraphrase the saying, one might be an unfortunate accident, two a coincidence, but three is failure or malice and so is damnable.
- Towers of Midnight, Epilogue
Many religions and mythologies have a triad or trinity of three gods, or one god of three aspects. Some triads are male, some female. A few male examples are:
- Father – Son – Holy Spirit of Christianity;
- Brahma (Creator, Perrin) - Vishnu (Preserver, Mat) - Shiva (Destroyer, Rand) of Hinduism; and
- Zeus - Poseidon – Hades of Greek Mythology.
The first hint in the series that the Wheel of Time may also have a powerful (male) triad is:
"In one of you," Moiraine said, "or all three, there is something the Dark One fears."As stated above, Moiraine decided it was One rather than Three that was important. The triad’s true task was explained later when Moiraine said:
- The Eye of the World, A Place of Safety
"Three of them, when I expected one. A great many things have happened that I did not expect…For a time the Pattern does seem to be swirling around all three of you, just as Loial says, and the swirl will grow greater before it becomes less. Sometimes being ta'veren means the Pattern is forced to bend to you, and sometimes it means the Pattern forces you to the needed path. The Web can still be woven many ways, and some of those designs would be disastrous. For you, for the world.”It was not until The Dragon Reborn that Moiraine finally realised the significance of three closely-tied ta’veren and the crucial role the three of them working together would play in the defeat of the Shadow. Ishamael may have worked this out sooner:
- The Eye of the World, Remembrance of Dreams
“You three did not choose; you were chosen by the Pattern. And you are here, where the danger is known. You can step aside, and perhaps doom the world. Running, hiding, will not save you from the weaving of the Pattern. Or you can try. You can go to the Eye of the World, three ta'veren, three centerpoints of the Web, placed where the danger lies. Let the Pattern be woven around you there, and you may save the world from the Shadow. The choice is yours."
- The Eye of the World, Decisions and Apparitions.
“You will not have many chances,” the man said behind him in a hard voice. “Three threads woven together share one another’s doom. When one is cut, all are.”A Myrddraal even referred to the three ta’veren as a tripod:
- The Great Hunt, Shadows Sleeping
“Cut one leg of the tripod,” it said softly, “and all fall down.”A tripod supports, it does not rule. Certainly Perrin and Mat have been most successful when they have avoided trying to rule. Rand became so clumsily tyrannical that Cadsuane feared for his humanity and attempted to restore it.
- The Dragon Reborn, Nightmares Walking
Rand had three requirements of the nations in exchange for his sacrifice (A Memory of LIght, To Require A Booon) and these were all met, although the latter two (the breaking of the seals and the sole command of the armies) were fulfilled differently to the way Rand demanded.
The prophecy that
He shall hold a blade of light in his hands, and the three shall be one.really underlines the importance of Three in defeating the Dark One and restoring the Land. The answer was three Powers:
- The Gathering Storm, Reading the commentary
Saidar from the women.By combining the three powers Rand was able to seal the Dark One away in the most important symbolism of the series.
The True Power from Moridin.
Saidin from Rand.
Moridin's channeling the True Power here threatened to destroy them all, but they buffered it with saidin and saidar, then directed all three at the Dark One.
A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow
The dark side of Three is shown by Moridin and the two mind-trapped women Cyndane and Moghedien, and by the dark triad of Semirhage-Demandred-Mesaana; both triads are a mockery of the three ta’veren.
Rand himself has three loves, Aviendha, Elayne and Min, who are united in their support for him. The three women also represent the Goddess (also known as the Mother, the Goddess of the Land or the Goddess of Sovereignty) in her triple aspect of Maiden (Aviendha), Mother (pregnant Elayne) and Crone (Min will age before the others). The three officiated at the cremation of Rand’s body to lay the Dragon to rest:
"I've seen this," Min said. "I knew it would come the day I first met him. We three, together, here."There were three Seals left at the end for the Sealbreaker to break (A Memory of Light,
A Memory of Light, Epilogue
Three (along with Seven, see below) is a very important number for Aes Sedai. There are three levels of initiation to become Aes Sedai and each Aes Sedai swears Three Oaths when she gains the shawl.
Each Ajah has three Sitters to represent it in the Hall; another example of a triad. They could also be compared to the three fates or three furies since three Sitters sit in judgement at some trials, such as the charge of being a Darkfriend (Knife of Dreams, Outside the Gates). For lesser crimes three Aes Sedai would be the judges at an Aes Sedai’s trial (A Crown of Swords, The First Cup).
The number Three features in the ritual of raising an Amyrlin. Three Aes Sedai formally summon the candidate before the Hall in the same phrases used for a trial. A gong sounds three beats three times within the Hall and the candidate enters with three sponsoring Aes Sedai surrounding her like guards (Lord of Chaos, In the Hall of the Sitters). The prospective Amyrlin and her sponsors make a three-fold oath pledging heart, soul and life for each other. Up to three rounds of voting can take place for the greater consensus to be reached to elect the candidate.
Three Aes Sedai are the usual number in a White Tower embassy to a ruler (Lord of Chaos, Prologue). Rand stilled three sisters when he escaped Elaida’s embassy, symbolically destroying the embassy.
The three seeresses of the White Tower, Elaida, Egwene and Nicola, foretold the fate of the Tower and the world and thus could be linked with the three fates of mythology (Moirae in Greek mythology and Norns in Norse).
The Black Ajah is also based on Threes: the members are arranged in hearts of three with each Black sister knowing the identities of three others, the two in her heart, plus one more; and each sister swore three oaths to the Dark One. In the early books three Accepted, Egwene, Nynaeve and Elayne, hunted Black sisters.
Finally, Aes Sedai follow the Law of Unintended Consequences, which states that:
Whether or not what you do has the effect you want, it will have three at least you never expected, and one of those usually unpleasant.Aiel call the Waste the Three-fold Land because to them it is:
- The Path of Daggers, Stronger than Written Law
“A shaping stone, to make us; a testing ground, to prove our worth; and a punishment for the sin."In the Two Rivers, the Wheel of Time world in miniature, there were three huge stacks of logs for the Bel Tine fires, symbolising the three ta’veren, who can be picked out in the Pattern by those with the Talent by their glow:
- The Great Hunt, A New Thread in the Pattern
Ordinary men may hide in the sweep of the Pattern, but ta'veren stand out like beacon fires on a hill, and you, you stand out as if ten thousand shining arrows stood in the sky to point you out!and the stacks were used to burn the bodies of Trollocs (destroy the Shadow) rather than celebrate Spring.
- The Great Hunt, Kinslayer
Another important symbol, this time of the peace of the Second Age is the Tree of Life, which has a three-pointed leaf. In the Age of Legends those who performed great service were allowed to add a third name to their first two.
In the War of Power, the Shadow’s three top generals each made a major offensive simultaneously which together were probably going to defeat the Light within a matter of months, and this spurred Lews Therin to make his strike on Shayol Ghul.
In the Last Battle, huge armies of Shadowspawn invaded at three locations: Caemlyn, Kandor and Tarwin's Gap (A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It). Kandor has the Three Halls of Trade (A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It).
The Aiel War lasted three years and the Battle of Tar Valon three days. Mat and Elayne agreed she could study Mat's foxhead medallion for three days and Rand wandered for three days when he had his epiphany. The Empress has not had a true reader of the omens for over three centuries (A Memory of Light, Friendly Fire), emphasising the rareness of the ability as well as their good fortune under Fortuona.
The number Four is associated with the earth and is linked with the material world, solidity, organisation, power, omnipotence, will, temporal law and justice (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). There are four seasons, four points of the compass, four ancient elements/humours, four card suits, four Evangelists and four horsemen of the Apocalypse.
There are also four sacred Celtic items of Sovereignty - spear, cauldron, crown and sword - and four treasures of Ancient Ireland - Spear of Lug, Cauldron of Dagda, Stone of Fal and Sword of Nuada. Rand and his followers have acquired or used equivalents of these: the Dragon sceptre and Ashanderei (equivalent to the spear); the Bowl of Winds and Eye of the World (equivalent to the cauldron); the Crown of Swords and Stone of Tear (equivalents of the crown and the Stone of Fal); and the sword Callandor.
In another parallel to the four hallowed objects, Lan was given four gifts in his cradle:
The ring in his hands and the locket that hung around his neck, the sword on his hip and an oath sworn in his name. The locket was the most precious, the oath the heaviest. 'To stand against the Shadow so long as iron is hard and stone abides. To defend the Malkier while one drop of blood remains. To avenge what cannot be defended.'prior to being anointed.
- New Spring
In a ritual symbolising their earthly power and dominion, the High Lords of Tear
must perform what they call the Rite of the Guarding four times a year, claiming that they guard the whole world against the Dragon by holding Callandor.And Callandor is one of the four hallowed objects of the Wheel of Time. This ritual also reminds people of why the Tairens have a law against Aes Sedai.
- The Dragon Reborn, A Trap to Spring
Appropriately, the Seanchan Empire has four degrees of nobility, two of the High Blood and two of the low (Knife of Dreams Glossary); the fourth card in the Tarot is the Emperor. Power in Seanchan may be inherited or earned.
The Queen of Altara is Mistress of the Four Winds (A Crown of Swords, A Touch on the Cheek).
There are four villages in the Two Rivers indicating its solid, well-organised and law-abiding nature and its status as the Wheel of Time world in miniature.
Four of the five who entered Falme returned with the Horn and fought alongside the Heroes of the Horn. Rand’s will and power to defeat the Shadow were made public, and he was revealed as the Dragon (The Great Hunt, Watchers) and thus of High King or Emperor status, and the fourth Tarot card is the Emperor. Rand was bonded to four women until the Last Moment and the bonds helped ground him and gave him strength. Aviendha will have four of Rand's babies in one go. The four Borderland rulers have made a pact to confront the Dragon Reborn about his lack of military presence and organisation in the Borderlands, and test him to see if he is worthy as the Dragon.
The Light’s armies fought the Shadow at four battlefronts: Thakan’dar, Tarwin's Gap, Kandor and Caemlyn.
"Meet it by listening," Elayne said, "and offering your opinion. If we're going to fight on four different fronts at once, we'll need a lot of coordination." She looked at the gathered generals. "It occurs to me. We have four battlefronts, and four great captains . . ."In a time of political dis-organisation, the White Tower had a Year of the Four Amyrlins (The Path of Daggers, Unexpected Absences). Moreover, four times in the history of the Tower the Amyrlin has called for the resignation of the entire Hall and while two of those resulted in the selection of an entirely, or nearly, new Hall, the other two resulted in the resignation and exile of the Amyrlin involved (A Crown of Swords Glossary).
Bashere nodded. "No coincidence, that."
A Memory of Light, Into the Thick of It
Four Wise Ones are required to agree on whether someone can enter Rhuidean (The Shadow Rising, Beyond the Stone) to be tested for leadership.
In the town of Four Kings, the armies of four kings attacked Queen Maragaine of Andor (Lord of Chaos, Connecting Lines). Four clans of Aiel fought the Aiel War to exact justice on Laman Damodred (The Great Hunt, The Hunt Begins).
Due to its association with the five senses, and five digits on the hand, five is the number of humanity (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). It symbolises physical matter given intelligence (especially in Freemasonry), intellect, mental inspiration, creativity, health and integration.
Rand, a Christ-like figure, has been marked with an equivalent of the five stigmata to indicate his sacrifice for humanity. His was the fifth battlefront at the Last Battle: a spiritual battle for the fate of the world and of humankind, whose humanity would have been destroyed had Rand stuck to his plan to kill the Dark One. His sigil is a dragon with five claws (see Animal Symbolism essay). These both support the theory that Rand is strong in all five powers of the One Power.
There are five different threads to the One Power, known as the Five Powers. They are named according to the elements their energies manipulate: Earth, Air (sometimes called Wind), Fire, Water and Spirit.These are four physical plus one spiritual elements. Those with the mental ability use these powers to manipulate matter with their thoughts, typifying Five. Channelling is linked with longer life and better health.
- The World of Robert Jordan’s The Wheel of Time
The five card suits in the Wheel of Time deck (see Chop article) are linked with the Five Powers. The highest ranking cards show four rulers of Wheel of Time nations plus the Amyrlin. The presence of ‘magic’ in the Wheel of Time world accounts for the extra suit. In our world four suits, representing the four classes of medieval society (peasants, merchants, clergy and nobility), are more usual. Five suits also emphasises the intellectual stimulation of the card games.
Five senior Aes Sedai instructed by the Amyrlin Tamra to search for the Dragon Reborn, humanity’s hope to heal the Land, were killed by the Black Ajah. It is apt that five Sitters in the Tower hunted the Black sisters, some of whom probably killed Tamra’s searchers.
Five Emond’s Fielders are leaders in humanity’s fight against the Shadow showing the importance of the Two Rivers as centre of the Wheel of Time world.
There were five damane with Elayne (Crossroads of Twilight, Sea Folk and Kin) and her group was busy ‘humanising’ them. Caemlyn, where they were housed, had five gates.
Five entered Falme to recover the Horn, an important action for humanity’s hope of victory at the Last Battle.
The Seanchan administration has five levels of Hand who manage the affairs of the Empire (Knife of Dreams, A Manufactory).
Five blademasters must unanimously agree on whether a swordsman is fit to become a blademaster (Knife of Dreams, Prologue).
The Aiel take up to a fifth part of the goods (except food) in an area they conquer. They are humane enough to leave sufficient for the conquered people to survive on (The Shadow Rising, Out of the Stone).
The number Five is associated with the Eelfinn (as is Eight, see below) as shown by their five-sided doorways. Certainly bargaining with such non-human creatures successfully requires thought.
On the negative side, the five female Forsaken corrupted the minds of humanity via dreams, Compulsion, torture and education. The Seanchan sent five bloodknives into the White Tower (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon) – their enhanced assassin’s powers come at the cost to their lives.
Six symbolises union (especially of male and female) and achievement, and for Muslims, tension and bondage (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). In Salidar, a group of six women united the rebels and encouraged them to form a rebel Hall. There was tension between the rebel Hall and this group of six over leadership of the rebels. Eventually the six swore a bond of fealty to Egwene. Each rival Hall contained six Ajahs at this time of escalating tension. Six times the rank and file Aes Sedai have united to mutiny against poor leadership and forced their Amyrlin and Hall to resign (A Crown of Swords, A Morning of Victory).
While six linked (one type of union) women can’t capture a strong male channeller, they can hold him once he is shielded. It is Aes Sedai custom to always have six maintaining a shield on a man with all their strength (Lord of Chaos, Weaves of the Power). Six Reds went to the Black Tower seeking to bond (another type of union) Asha’man and found the atmosphere very tense.
Within the ter’angreal which tests those aspiring to the shawl, a six-pointed star of two interlocked triangles indicates where they must stand to channel while under stress. The six-pointed star is also a sigil of the Sea Folk, an ambitious people. This star is not only the Star of David, it is also the hermetic sign of the microcosm and macrocosm of creation (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers) and an ideogram of the human soul (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).
Just as rolling a six on dice is an important part of many games, so the number six is associated with chance. It is also linked with love, as shown by the belief that if someone is unlucky in games of chance they are lucky in love. It is probably no coincidence that only someone as lucky as Mat, the gambler and lover, is successful in both. (The sixth card in the Tarot is the Lovers.)
Among the Blues, the ‘lucky’ sixth sister welcoming a new Blue sister receives a pie baked by her.
At the Last Batlle there were six Chosen: Moridin, Demandred, Moghedien, Graendal, Lanfear and newcomer M’Hael, a negative expressing of the union, achievement, tension and bondage of six.
Finally, six gholam impervious to magic were created to assassinate Aes Sedai – any of these six can negate the effects of the magical number seven.
Seven is a mystical number symbolising magic, cosmic and spiritual order, and the completion of a natural cycle (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). The performance of magic, the channelling of the One Power, is meant to be spiritual, a responsibility and a privilege of the lucky few. It is no accident that the Aes Sedai organisation is ordered around seven Ajahs, seven different philosophies on the usage of magic. Seven is considered ‘lucky’, just as male channellers seem at first, and certainly the Aes Sedai were unlucky while they were split into rival Halls of six Ajahs.
In Shara, the seemingly natural and cosmically ‘right’ cycle of seven years of absolute rule for each Sharan monarch is actually contrived by the magic-wielding Ayyad.
A real world week has seven days named after the seven ‘planets’ recognised by the ancients (the sun and moon were considered to revolve around the earth). The human lifespan was divided into seven Ages each lasting a decade. The Pattern of the Wheel of Time world has seven Ages – a cosmic week – cycling endlessly. Rand, Mat, Aviendha and Moiraine spent seven days in Rhuidean indicating the magical, spiritual and preordained nature of their ordeal.
The seven Seals on the Dark One’s prison (a parallel with the seven seals of Revelation in the Bible, see Eschatology essay) symbolise both the magic used to contain the Bore and the end of a natural cycle. Their installation heralded the end of the War of Power and the Second Age, and their destruction the end of the Third Age as the Dark One was sealed away.
There were seven Ogier Elders at Stedding Tsofu, perhaps indicating the Ogier’s sensitivity to cosmic order, but unfortunately we don’t know if all Stedding have seven Elders.
There were seven Towers of Malkier, emphasizing the country’s beauty and appreciation of the natural order, and the tragedy of its destruction by the Shadow.
As Four times Two, Eight symbolises justice and cosmic equilibrium (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).
In Emond’s Field there were eight men on the Village Council. A party of eight people left the Two Rivers to fight the Shadow and restore/maintain cosmic equilibrium. There are eight male Forsaken in the series, and they aim to destroy justice and cosmic equilibrium.
Eight is the minimum number of votes required for the lesser consensus to be passed in the Hall of the Tower, and symbolises Law in this instance.
In the main continent of the Wheel of Time world there are considered to be eight corners of the world and eight pillars of heaven. On each Portal Stone is a rectangle containing the signs of the eight worlds used to create the Ways (The Great Hunt, What Might Be).
The Eelfinn are associated with the number Eight (and Five, see above) as shown by their eight pointed stars on the floor and the columns with eight ridges, perhaps indicating the ‘justness’ of their bargains.
Rand senses eight other souls in his head, four male and four female; and his own makes nine.
As the triple triad, Nine is the number of order within order and represents the triple synthesis of mind, body and spirit, or heaven, earth and underworld.
Just as 3, which is in turn more comprehensive than 1, 3 x 3 = 9 can better express and realise humanity’s relationship with God.Nine is also the number of male courage and endurance.
- Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers
The Sea Folk and Aiel consider that there are nine corners of the world (A Crown of Swords, The Bowl of Winds and The Path of Daggers, Questions and an Oath).
As a symbol of order and near-perfection, there were Nine Rods of Dominion in the Age of Legends held by people, according to Jordan. In the Third Age, there is a Council of Nine in Illian, and the sign of the Seanchan Imperial family is nine moons.
Nine was important in sacrificial rites among Germanic peoples: either 9 things were sacrificed or a great sacrificial feast was held during which 9 heads of each male species were offered.The Salidar Aes Sedai consciously sent three times the normal number of Aes Sedai to a ruler in its embassy to Rand (Lord of Chaos, Prologue) as an acknowledgement of his status (and probably to try and control his power). When the first nine Aes Sedai swore fealty to the Dragon Reborn, the world was indeed changed forever; there was a major power shift resulting in a new world order.
- Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers
The motif of nine sacrificial advisors/helpers is continued: Rand chose nine Asha’man to stay with him, nine Windfinders were commanded to remain with Elayne in Andor (Talaan escaped), and there were nine Sitters under a hundred years old in Salidar.
Nicola may have foretold that the Dragon Reborn would do nine impossible things (Crossroads of Twilight, Secrets). Is nine the ‘right’ number? For one, it is a very impressive total. By cleansing saidin, destroying Mashadar, channelling the True Power while wearing an a’dam, breaking a cuendillar a’dam collar while it was on his neck and in operation, making trees re-fruit, singlehandedly destroying an enormous Shadowspawn army, making grass and Great Trees grow, living by dying, and re-sealing the Bore, Rand has apparently done nine impossible things. (He is now no longer the Dragon Reborn, so the prophecy has expired.) The number nine is strongly associated with the dragon in Chinese thought. The dragon is the most yang (active, male) animal and nine is the most yang number. Both the dragon and the number nine were linked with the Chinese emperor. (How apt that Lews Therin, the Dragon, could summon the Nine Rods of Dominion, the nine regional governors in the Age of Legends and that Rand was sent an embassy of nine Aes Sedai). Chinese dragon robes, traditional court dress in Imperial China, had nine dragons on them. The dragon was regarded as a composite of nine animal forms and it had nine offshoots or protruberances from its body and 81 (9 x 9) scales along its back.
According to Annemarie Schimmel, in the The Mystery of Numbers:
in many old folk tales the hero has ninefold strength or has to perform nine major tasks.So yes, nine is an appropriate number for the Dragon and Rand did literally do nine impossible things.
More dangerously, nine Waygates were unwatched as the Last Battle approached (Crossroads of Twilight, A Strengthening Storm – an appropriate chapter name!).
There is also the Nine Rings Inn as a nod to Tolkien and, more amusingly, the Nine Horse Hitch Inn (see Inns article).
There are ten days in the Wheel of Time week. Ten symbolises perfection, completion and unity (the Ten Commandments, for instance).
In 10, multiplicity turns again, on a higher level, into unity, for 10 is the first step toward a new multiplicity that leads to yet another step that begins with 100, and so on. Mystically speaking, 1 and 10 are the same, as are 100 and 1000.There is a saying in the Wheel of Time world that a resolute heart is worth ten arguments (Towers of Midnight, To Make A Stand). It is an order of magnitude stronger. Likewise, a man and woman working together are ten times as strong as they are apart.
- Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers
The Covenant of Ten Nations successfully united the Wheel of Time world against the Shadow for about a thousand (ten cubed, see below) years. On the negative side, the War of Power lasted ten years.
In an Andoran disputed succession, a candidate for the throne needs the backing of ten of the nineteen strong Houses by law (Crossroads of Twilight, Talk of Debts) thus symbolising unity and completion. Similarly ten Tower Sitters formally invited Egwene to be Amyrlin (The Gathering Storm, The Tower Stands).
As a demonstration of Fortuona's might, ten damane and sul'dam attended her in her audience chamber (Towers of Midnight, A Teaching Chamber).
The rebel Hall appear to have sent ten sisters (six Sitters and four other Aes Sedai) to the Black Tower in response to Rand’s permission to bond Asha’man
Most women spend ten years as a novice and ten as Accepted before completing their Aes Sedai training (Lord of Chaos, In the Hall of the Sitters). It was ten years after Morgase won the throne before she ruled independently (Towers of Midnight, An Open Gate). Ten linked (united) Aes Sedai successfully Healed Mat of the Shadar Logoth dagger. Ten rebel Aes Sedai were sent back to the Tower to undermine what little unity was left.
As an expression of completion, ten days – a Wheel of Time week - was the maximum time a person spent in Rhuidean and returned. An Aiel escort of honour is ten warriors (The Shadow Rising, A Breaking in the Three-fold Land). Ten Maidens guarded Faile, Berelain and Alliandre as they walked the camp in Ghealdan (Towers of Midnight, A Terrible Feeling).
Mat agreed with Verin to wait thirty days in Caemlyn or to open Verin’s letter after ten (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon).
In the game of foxes and snakes, which is considered impossible to win (complete successfully) without cheating, the invincible foxes and snakes are each represented by ten discs (Lord of Chaos, Courage to Strengthen).
In the Last Battle, ten dragons were concealed in a cavern and gateways opened for them to suddenly fire on the Shadow’s armies (A Memory of Light, A Smile). A perfect solution to their limited mobility.
Eleven, being one more than the perfect number Ten, symbolises excess, sin, danger, conflict and rebellion (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). It was known as the Devil’s dozen in Europe.
Merana worried about conflict and rebellion when Verin and Alanna joined the Salidar embassy, bringing the total to eleven and representing a threat to her authority. Taim insisted to Rand that eleven (Aes Sedai) was a dangerous number (Lord of Chaos, The Black Tower).
In the White Tower, the lesser consensus in the Hall requires a quorum of eleven Sitters, but only two-thirds of those present need stand for an item to pass. The minimum number of votes for the greater consensus is eleven. After a vote is passed, the Aes Sedai then strive to make it unanimous, however long it takes to resolve disagreement.
Eleven Aiel clans declared Rand is He Who Comes With the Dawn and aided him. Rand represented salvation for the Aiel, who were placed in the Three-fold Land to atone for their sin of failing the Aes Sedai and abandoning the Covenant. Presumably any Aiel who don’t follow Rand won’t be saved by him. The Wise Ones interpret the prophecy this way. Most people on the main continent consider the Aiel a danger, particularly the Shaido, who rebelled against the announcement that Rand is He Who Comes With the Dawn, and committed many crimes both by Westlands and Aiel standards until they were removed as a threat in Knife of Dreams.
Moridin had eleven chairs set out for the Forsaken meeting in Knife of Dreams, At the Gardens, even though only eight attended:
The chairs could have been anything, here in Tel'aran'rhiod, so why not something to suit the room, and why eleven when that was surely two more than needed?Aran’gar thinks that nine Forsaken still existed. The excess chairs were part of Moridin’s mind-games to make the other Forsaken uneasy, feel vulnerable, keep them guessing about how much they really know and how much Moridin knows, and remind them of the danger of rebellion against the Naeblis’ orders.
Logain suffered nearly a dozen attempts at Turning; he was starting to crack on the eleventh (A Memory of Light, Doses of Forkroot), so the Asha’aman openly rebelled against Taim, attacked and freed Logain.
The number Twelve has many factors and is therefore popular. It represents cosmic organisation, renewal, salvation and a full cycle of time (twelve calendar months in the real world, twelve signs of the zodiac and twelve hours of day and night) (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Jordan originally intended there to be twelve books in the series. In his eyes, the Wheel of Time is more about the cosmic philosophy, renewal and salvation of the world (Twelve) than it is about the magic and the evil (Thirteen).
As a manifestation of cosmic order, some societies in the Wheel of Time world are organised into twelve groups:
- There are twelve clans and twelve warrior societies of Aiel, parallels of the twelve sons of Jacob in the Bible and therefore the tribes of Israel, and of the twelve disciples of Christ (one of whom betrayed Him, as the Shaido did Rand).
- The First Twelve Wavemistresses of the Sea Folk are the most important women of each of the strongest clans, and the First Twelve Sailmistresses are the most important women of each clan (Knife of Dreams, To Make an Anchor Weep). Note that the Aiel and Sea Folk both serve Rand believing that he is their salvation and will renew their positions.
- Trollocs have twelve main clans.
As a sign of her decadence, Sevanna had twelve servants standing by her bed while she slept in case she woke and wanted something (Knife of Dreams, Something Strange).
The twelve Aes Sedai of Elaida’s embassy to Rand who returned to the Tower were all that could be salvaged of an embassy which by its violation of ethics indicated an organisation in dire need of renewal.
There are twelve publicly known depositories in the Tower library (Knife of Dreams Glossary) to show that the library encompasses all knowledge, or to emphasise how much Aes Sedai have saved from the Age of Legends.
Thirteen is one more than the popular and easily divisible number Twelve. Early lunar-based calendars required the insertion of a thirteenth month, thought to be unfavourable, to keep the calendar in line with the seasons. (The Wheel of Time calendar has thirteen months).
Thirteen is traditionally an unlucky number in real world Western culture, so much so that there is a recognised phobia of thirteen – triskaidekaphobia. As an indication of the sinister reputation of Thirteen, the thirteenth card in the Tarot is Death.
In most Wheel of Time dice games Thirteen is considered unlucky (Lord of Chaos, The Mirror of Mists). Jordan has reverse-engineered an explanation for this, one that is also consistent with the other main association of Thirteen: witchcraft.
Witches’ covens traditionally contain thirteen members. (Another tradition is that Satan was said to be the thirteenth figure at witches’ rites.) Thirteen is much associated with magic in the Wheel of Time world, particularly in an ‘unlucky’ manner. At the Last Battle, a group of thirteen Whitecloaks including Galad hunted Sharan channellers (A Memory of Light, The Last Battle) – their own witchhunt.
The maximum number of women who can link together without a man is thirteen and such a circle can overwhelm and shield or gentle any male channeller. The traditional number for the judicial gentling of a man, resulting in his early death, is twelve sisters and the Amyrlin (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring).
The Tower library contains a secret thirteenth depository of archives.
There are thirteen sisters on the Supreme Council of the Black Ajah. Liandrin’s group also numbered thirteen.
The most notorious example of Thirteen is the thirteen Forsaken, thirteen servants of the Lord of the Grave who wants to kill Time, who were trapped in the Bore at the end of the Second Age and released to promote the Dark One’s return at the end of the Third Age. One of the Forsaken, Semirhage, discovered that thirteen Dreadlords weaving through thirteen Myrddraal can turn any channeller to the Shadow against their will (The Dragon Reborn, The Price of the Ring). If this were publicly known, the populace would trust channellers even less than they already do.
The Knitting Circle of the Kin consists of the thirteen oldest Kinswomen resident in Ebou Dar (Crossroads of Twilight, Glossary). There are thirteen counsels ruling Far Madding (Winter’s Heart, Among the Counsels), a place warded against magic.
In Seanchan, there are thirteen Towers of Midnight, sinister black fortresses which have been empty since the final battle of the Consolidation. In a time of dire need in the future, the Imperial Family will return to “right that which is wrong” according to legend (Towers of Midnight, Glossary). The greatest wrong the Seanchan commit is the leashing of channellers with the spark by those who could learn to channel.
The complex game of sha’rah is played on a board of thirteen by thirteen squares and is most associated with Moridin (death). The unlucky Fisher King, a symbol of Rand, is remorselessly hunted over the board by both sides during the game until he is captured and is then manipulated until the game is won by one player.
The tent where Rand made his demands in exchange for his sacrifice was lit by thirteen glowing globes (A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon).
Fourteen Aes Sedai, two from each Ajah, accompanied Siuan and Leane to Fal Dara (the group nearly consisted of twelve). Interestingly, in medieval Germany fourteen innocent people gave legal protection to whomever they accompanied (Ian Stewart, Number Symbolism). Not that this group was particularly innocent, with at least two of them Darkfriends, but the fourteen were supposed to witness the assassination of either Siuan or Rand as well as the theft of the Horn.
Fourteen channelling Wise Ones and Galina met with Sevanna and twelve men. Galina was declared da’tsang.
The official number of male channellers caught by Aes Sedai since the Aiel War is sixteen; the other eight were gentled illegally. Sixteen symbolises perfect measure and wholeness – the number of gentlings the Tower acknowledges. As Twice Eight, Sixteen is a combination of balance and justice, in this case representing the supremacy of female channellers and the necessity of neutralising male channellers. This could be regarded as a lack of balance and justice, or as justice resulting in imbalance.
In classical mythology 17 appears connected with warfare and heroismso it is appropriate that there were seventeen Generals of Dawn's Gate in the Age of Legends and they kept their oath of fealty to Lews Therin (A Memory of Light, Older, More Weathered).
Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers
There were eighteen Sitters in both the rival Halls. As Three times Six, Eighteen is the triad of union and tension, and in medieval Christian symbolism represented the fulfilment of the Law through grace, and faith in the trinity through pious good works (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). There was a fated quality to the Tower division; it was definitely part of the Pattern, and prevented the Aes Sedai from dominating the three ta’veren. This allowed the three to fulfil their ordained part in the Pattern and inspire people to follow them.
Nineteen Houses in Andor are strong enough that smaller Houses will follow where they lead (Winter’s Heart, Prologue). Nineteen is a sacred number in the Near East (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). At Thakan’dar nineteen channellers destroyed the Shadowforgers.
As Two times Ten, Twenty represents double perfection and completion, or conflict versus completion. Jordan seems to follow the latter, with Twenty being associated with the completion of difficult and dangerous, but vital, tasks.
Moiraine and Siuan searched for the Dragon Reborn for twenty years.
Twenty Windfinders originally left Ebou Dar to help Elayne and Nynaeve restore the weather with the Bowl of Winds and therefore in return twenty Aes Sedai were pledged to teach the Sea Folk for a year.
Twenty Ogier Gardeners were part of the search for Tuon.
Twenty Malkieri soldiers were sent to Shienar as baby Lan’s guard; only five reached it. After Rand said he would meet his toh to the Aiel, twenty Maidens acted as his guard (Towers of Midnight, For What Has Been Wrought).
Tar Valon was besieged by Hawkwing’s forces for twenty years.
The twenty-one Sitters in the normal Hall represent a triad of magic and spiritual and cosmic order (Three times Seven). No wonder the structure worked for over three thousand years.
When male Ayyad reach their twenty-first year or begin to channel, whichever comes first, they are killed and the body cremated.This is the ‘correct’ way to use tainted male channellers to maintain the power and population of female channellers in Shara.
Towers of Midnight, Glossary
It was on the twenty-second level of the White Tower that Egwene fought the Seanchan and drove them away. Twenty two is twice eleven, a double helping of excess, sin, danger, conflict and rebellion (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings). Quite apt really, considering Egwene’s role in The Gathering Storm and the savagery of the Seanchan raid she repelled.
In Aviendha’s vision in the glass columns ter’angreal, the Aiel formed a Council of Twenty-Two (two representatives, the clan chief and a Wise One, of each clan except the Shaido) which made the disastrous decision of conflict and war with the Seanchan, ultimately resulting in the ruination and extinction of the Aiel (Towers of Midnight, Court of the Sun).
A full sitting of the Hall totals twenty-three – twenty-one Sitters plus the Amyrlin and Keeper. When Rand captured twenty-three Aes Sedai from Elaida’s embassy, he symbolically captured the full Hall. The twenty-three wilders of the Daughters of Silence were seen as rivals to the White Tower’s power and forcibly disbanded.
Egwene dreamt of twenty-three enormous stars shining down on a huge crystal sphere resting on a dark hilltop (Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger). The twenty-three stars could represent the twenty-three major groups at the Last Battle: 1. Saldaea, 2. Kandor, 3. Arafel, 4. Shienar, 5. Malkier, 6. Tar Valon, 7. Arad Doman, 8. Two Rivers (Perrin), 9. Andor, 10. Cairhien, 11. Mayene, 12. Tear, 13. Illian, 14. Ghealdan, 15. Amadicia, 16. Altara, 17. Murandy, 18. Aiel, 19. Sea Folk, 20. Whitecloaks, 21. Seanchan, 22. Black Tower, 23. Ogier.
The actual number of male channellers caught by Aes Sedai since the Aiel War is twenty-four, which as a triad of justice and cosmic equilibrium (Three times Eight) represents great harmony between heaven and earth. The men were a threat to world safety, so they were gentled. Twenty-four is a number of totality, but is here used in a negative sense, since eight of these are unacknowledged due to being performed illegally.
Twenty-six is a double helping of bad luck and magic. Rand was surrounded and shielded by twenty-six sisters– two full circles – in the White Tower (Towers of Midnight, The Amyrlin’s Anger) but the Aes Sedai still felt powerless and therefore threatened.
As three times nine, twenty-seven symbolises triple male courage and endurance.
In Russian folktales, the hero often traverses 3 x 9 countries before eaching his goal.In folk traditions twenty-seven flowers or sprigs of herbs were collected or twenty-seven herbs planted for protection.
Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers
So it is appropriate that a circle of twenty-seven led by Androl brought three lava flows through gateways to destroy a vast army of Trollocs in Cairhien (A Memory of Light, The Way of the Predator) to save the city.
The twenty-eight days in a Wheel of Time month represent cosmic order made manifest in a practical manner (seven times four).
Twenty-nine sul’dam, one less than the triad of perfection, Thirty, were sent to Elayne (Winter’s Heart, Sea folk and Kin) and twenty-nine Chosen have been granted the right to channel the True Power (A Crown of Swords, Mindtrap).
Mat had the choice of opening Verin’s letter after ten days or waiting thirty days, the triad of perfection, before doing as he wills (The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon). He was convinced that thirty days was by far the better offer; she was convinced he would open it after ten days, or even less. For the Pattern, thirty days was the perfect time period.
The total number of sisters who have sworn fealty to Rand is thirty-one – twenty-two from Elaida’s embassy and nine from the rebels. As one more than Thirty, the triad of perfection, Rand probably overstepped the mark. Certainly the Aes Sedai think so.
The number thirty three is important in Freemasonry because it is the number of degrees through which a Mason progresses in self-development.
There are thirty-three pieces to a side in sha’rah, the game which Moridin says reflects all the complexities and subtleties of reality. As Three times Eleven, Thirty-three represents triple danger and uncertainty. The Celts associated it with black magic. In the Christian tradition thirty-three is much more positively regarded, because it is the number of years Christ lived on earth. The centre piece of sha’rah is the Fisher King of Arthurian legend who guarded the Holy Grail and is a parallel of Rand and linked with Christ. The Fisher is hunted by both sides and then manipulated into a losing position. The Fisher is never safe (The Path of Daggers, Deceptive Appearances).
Elaida sent thirty-nine Aes Sedai to capture Rand (Lord of Chaos, The Feast of Lights). As Three times Thirteen, this is three full circles of Aes Sedai, three times the amount of women who can shield any man, and triple bad luck for Rand. What an honour! Galina arranged for most, if not all, of the thirty-nine Aes Sedai to beat Rand (Lord of Chaos, Dumai’s Wells), a parallel of the thirty-nine lashes Christ received before He was crucified.
The number Forty defines a significant period of time in Judeo-Christian and Islamic tradition (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings) and usually signifies birth, rebirth and change; a time of trials, waiting, purification, penance or privation. In the Jewish tradition it is also the utmost limit of acts or sins (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). Mat used Talmanes’ claim to own forty pairs of boots as a metaphor for the unnecessary complications and excesses of a noble's lifestyle (Towers of Midnight, Boots).
According to the Talmud, the soul enters the body of an unborn child forty days after conception. The Flood lasted forty days and nights, the Israelites wandered forty years in the wilderness and Moses spent forty days and nights on Mt Sinai. Christ fasted forty days in the wilderness (Lent), preached for forty months, spent forty hours in the tomb, and ascended to Heaven forty days after His resurrection. Mohammed received the word of God at age forty.
In the Fourteenth century Marseilles imposed a forty day quarantine (the name was derived from quaranta, forty) on ships from ports with the plague.
In ancient times people believed that the souls of the dead took forty days to entirely fade away. Roman funerary banquets were held after forty days (Jack Tressider, Symbols and Their Meanings).
Ishamael is believed to have been freed from the Bore for forty years at intervals of about a millennium and in that time the Land indeed underwent trials and privation as he destroyed the stability of the world. In the millennium between his appearances, the Land was largely quarantined.
Logain had forty Aes Sedai and Asha'man with him battling dangers on the Heights (A Memory of Light, The Last Battle). Shortly after this, the group convinced Logain to help rescue children and so brought about his redemption and healing his trauma after the attempts to Turn him to the Shadow.
Fifty is associated with:
the Jubilee Year (Lev. 25:10), when feud and hatred were to cease in expression of the great sabbath of creationTuon sent fifty pairs of sul’dam and damane on the White Tower raid which aimed to collar as many Aes Sedai as possible to prevent Rand from growing any more powerful. She was conscious that her fear of Rand and the Aes Sedai could lead to an out-and-out feud between Rand and the Seanchan:
- Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers
"We have changed everything," Fortuona said softly. "General Galgan is wrong; this will not give the Dragon Reborn a worse bargaining position. It will turn him against us."In fact Rand nearly committed genocide among the Seanchan because of the way they treat channellers, and he didn’t even know about the raid on the Tower. The Aiel wanted to declare blood feud on the Seanchan for their a’dam and the way they flaunted their damane captives until Aviendha’s visions on the glass columns showed what the outcome could be. All groups had to put aside fear and hatred of any other group and work together to save creation and then for the good of world peace.
"And was he not against us before?" Selucia asked.
"No," Fortuona said. "We were against him."
"And there is a difference?"
"Yes," Fortuona said, watching the cloud of to'raken, just barely visible in the sky. "There is. I fear we shall soon see just how big a difference that is."
- The Gathering Storm, The Death of Tuon
The Band of the Red Hand’s best fifty soldiers guarded the Horn of Valere as it was transferred from Tar Valon to the Hornsounder (A Memory of Light, The Prince’s Tabac) so that the Horn could summon the Heroes to the Last Battle to help save Creation.
Fifty-one is Three times Seventeen, a number associated with warfare, conquest and heroism in the Ancient and Islamic world.
Elaida sent fifty-one Aes Sedai to destroy the Black Tower, but they were bonded by Asha’man.
Fifty-one years after being deposed, the Amyrlin Shein Chunla was smothered.
As Five times Eleven, Fifty-five symbolises thought and humanity in danger or sin. Faile was held by the Shaido for fifty-five days. She and thousands of other captives were in great danger and constantly had to think of their safety and how to avoid further punishment. The Shaido committed crimes and violated Aiel custom by holding them as gai’shain at all, let alone treating them so abominably.
Sixty-eight is Four times Seventeen and is thus associated with justice, power and the earth, conquest, warfare and heroism. There were sixty-eight survivors of the heroic Hundred Companions, who Sealed the Dark One and Forsaken in the Bore, and then went insane immediately saidin was tainted and started Breaking the world.
Seventy-one is one more than Seventy – Seven times Ten, magic and perfection, the human lifespan according to the Psalms. It had been seventy-one years since Verin last made a serious mistake. Numbers that overshoot the mark usually denote misfortune or evil (eg eighty-one.
The largest possible circle of channellers is seventy-two. The number Seventy-two is regarded as auspicious and perfect, and represents plenitude, and different elements combined into a productive whole (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). As the product of Six and Twelve or Eight and Nine, the number symbolism of such a large circle indicates cosmic dimensions, salvation and renewal. Demandred’s circle of seventy-two in The Last Battle was immensely destructive, a plenitude grossly misused. By their own choice the Light’s channellers never made such a circle, and it may be that such a number of linked channellers is considered overly powerful, excessive, and therefore potentially corrupting.
Eighty-one is also one more than Eighty, one more than a combination of justice and perfection. In the War of Power Demandred founded the Eighty and One and then went for Lews Therin (Towers of Midnight, A Testing); trying to outdo and then kill the Creator’s Champion as usual.
ONE HUNDRED 100
The number one hundred symbolises ultimate perfection and mastery. Appropriately, a woman must complete one hundred weaves perfectly, in perfect order and without losing composure, while under duress, to qualify as Aes Sedai.
Ogier have to be one hundred years old (or else married) to be eligible to address the Stump.
There were one hundred Deathwatch Guards with Karede, Musenge and Ajimbura on the successful mission to find Tuon, and guarding her during the Last Battle (A Memory of Light, The Loss of a Hill). Elayne had an honour guard of one hundred when she went to take the Sun Throne in Cairhien (Towers of Midnight, Boots).
The Hundred Companions actually numbered 113 – a prime number - and the War of Hundred Years was actually 123 years long. Such numbers rounded to a hundred are made more ‘perfect’ and thus more likely to live on in folk memory.
A hundred dragons were amassed in Caemlyn (A Memory of Light, Prologue). The number was probably rounded to be more ‘perfect’, but considering their devastating effect, this is appropriate.
Rand aimed for a hundred years of peace with his treaty, more if possible (A Memory of Light, To Require a Boon).
ONE HUNDRED AND FOURTEEN 114
The total number of male Aes Sedai who made the strike on Shayol Ghul was one hundred and fourteen (113 Companions plus Lews Therin). One hundred and fourteen is Six times Nineteen. Six symbolises union especially of male and female and achievement. Alas, the Sealing of the Bore, while a great achievement, was done with the express refusal of the female Aes Sedai to unite with the male Aes Sedai. In Islamic numerology 19 is the value of the word Wahid (Arabic: “One”), an important name for God (Encyclopedia Britannica) and it is also the number of the guardians of hell.
SIX HUNDRED 600
Six symbolises union and achievements, one hundred is perfection and mastery. A small forced of six hundred from Hinderstap destroyed the Dreadlords and Shadowspawn Taim set up at the river Mora. A hundred men of the Band of the Red Hand deliberately stayed in Hinderstap after dark so they would be trapped in the wrongness of the Patter n there and be able to fight like undead beserkers alongside the townsfolk (A Memory of Light, Unchangeable Things).
ONE THOUSAND/MILLENNIUM 1000
One thousand is the all-embracing number (Annemarie Schimmel, The Mystery of Numbers). There is about a millennium between Ishamael’s appearances, an ordained age of a thousand years.
The Thousand Lakes of Malkier are a multitude, or effectively numberless.
By saying that:
The Dark One's destruction crawled on him like a thousand crows, picking at his flesh, pulling it from his bones..Rand expressed that it is limitless.
A Memory of Light, The Place That Was Not
Birgitte warned Mat that only one in a thousand successfully escapes the Tower of Ghenjei to emphasise the magnitude of its unlikeliness (Towers of Midnight, The End of a Legend) – an inverse millennium, in a way.
Zero, or nothing, has negative connotations in the series, so much so that the only time it is used in a positive way is describing Rand’s feelings for Cyndane at the end:
There was no love for Lanfear in what he exposed. Not a sliver. He had squelched Lews Therin's loathing of her as well. And so, to him, she really was nothing.It otherwise symbolises the Shadow’s lack of human qualities – the Eyeless (Myrddraal) and the Soulless (Grey Men/Women), for instance. The Soulless are considered fools for giving their soul to the Dark One (The Dragon Reborn, The Grey Man). In some Tarot decks the Fool is numbered zero (in others it is unnumbered).
A Memory of Light, A Shard of a Moment
The Forsaken believed that the Dark One would grant them dominion over the world if he won – give everything, in effect. Ishamael/Moridin started out as a nihilist; he wanted to destroy everything and start again. Then he despaired – had no hope - and just wanted destruction:
Moridin laughed. "Now? Now you beg me to return to the Light? I have been promised oblivion. Finally, nothing, a destruction of my entire being. An end. You will not steal that from me, Lews Therin! By my grave, you will not!"Of all the human characters, he personifies zero: by using the True Power so much he lost his eyes and his mouth, and would have lost his body to it also but Rand killed him first.
A Memory of Light, Quick Fragments
Shai’tan offered Moridin and then also Rand oblivion, or nothingness:
No more Pattern, no more world, nothing.The Dark One made Fools of all those who listened to it; even Rand was nearly fool enough at first to believe that the offer was genuine. Can the Dark One grant nothingness? At the end Rand thought not, not because the Dark One did not have the power to do so, since it ordered the usage of balefire to create nothingness, voids in reality:
A Memory of Light, Prologue
Rand turned. He tried to turn. He had no form or shape.
He tried to speak, but he had no mouth. Finally, he managed to think the words and make them manifest.
SHAI'TAN, Rand projected, WHAT IS THIS?
OUR COVENANT, the Dark One replied. OUR ACCOMMODATION.
OUR ACCOMMODATION IS NOTHING? Rand demanded.
He understood. The Dark One was offering a deal. Rand could accept this . . . He could accept nothingness. The two of them dueled for the fate of the world. Rand pushed for peace, glory, love. The Dark One sought the opposite. Pain. Suffering.
This was, in a way, a balance between the two. The Dark One would agree not to reforge the Wheel to suit his grim desires. There would be no enslaving of mankind, no world without love. There would be no world at all.
IT IS WHAT YOU PROMISED ELAN, Rand said. YOU PROMISED HIM AN END TO EXISTENCE.
I OFFER IT TO YOU, TOO, the Dark One replied. AND TO ALL MEN. YOU WANTED PEACE. I GIVE IT TO YOU. THE PEACE OF THE VOID THAT YOU SO OFTEN SEEK. I GIVE YOU NOTHING AND EVERYTHING...
NO, Rand said. AN END TO EXISTENCE IS NOT PEACE. I MADE THIS CHOICE BEFORE. WE WILL CONTINUE.
A Memory of Light, The Last Battle
They seemed to be cracks into nothingness. They drew the light in, sucked it away. It was as if he was looking at fractures in the nature of reality itself.but because it is constitutionally unable to do so:
A Memory of Light, To Die Well
YOU REALLY ARE NOTHING, Rand said, knowing the Dark Ones secrets completely. YOU WOULD NEVER HAVE GIVEN ME REST AS YOU PROMISED, FATHER OF LIES. YOU WOULD HAVE ENSLAVED ME AS YOU WOULD HAVE ENSLAVED THE OTHERS. YOU CANNOT GIVE OBLIVION. REST IS NOT YOURS. ONLY TORMENT.The Bore provided a restricted access to a cosmic scale nothingness that pulled everything into it, like a black hole does:
A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow
No. It wasn't a pit. Perrin gaped. The entire world seemed to end here, the cavern opening into a vast nothingness. An eternal expanse, like the blackness of the Ways, only this one seemed to be pulling him into it...(The black hole is not right at the Bore, but far enough away that its pull is strong but resistible. The Bore is a conduit to it.)
Looking into that gap, he knew that he'd never understood blackness before, not really. This was blackness. This was nothingness. The absolute end of all. Other darkness was frightening because of what it might hide. This darkness was different; if this engulfed you, you would cease completely.
A Memory of Light, Quick Fragments
It pulled with a powerful force, drawing all that was nearby into it. She feared that if she let go, she would be yanked in. Already, it had stolen her shawl, making it vanish. If that nothingness pulled her in, her life would end. Perhaps her soul as well.
A Memory of Light, Unchangeable Things
Outside of the Pattern is a void:
Rand stood in a place that was not.and the Dark One is a creature of this void – or is the void –and can only touch time and the Pattern while the Bore exists. (Matt Hatch and I discussed the possibility that there is more than one unquiet spirit out there in the void. The Dark One may just be the most powerful of them.) Rand described the Dark One has Lord of Nothing (A Memory of Light, Those Who Fight) which means the Dark One is lord of the void, but, in another way, not lord of anything, unless people allow him to be.
A place outside of time, outside of the Pattern itself.
All around him spread a vast nothingness. Voracious and hungry, it longed to consume. He could actually see the Pattern.
A Memory of Light, Drifting
Nothingness accompanies the Dark One and leaches from it:
"We are close," Aravine agreed. "Soon, we will be near the Dark One, in a land where nothing grows, corrupted or not, where there is no life, not even the nastier things from the Blight."This also could be interpreted two ways; “nothing grows” means there is no fertility or growth in the Land near the Dark One (true), or that the voids in reality increase and the Dark One’s void grows as one gets near it (also true).
A Memory of Light, A Practised Grin
The last mention of zero is:
The blackness in front of Rand hung like a hole, sucking in everything. Slowly, bit by bit, that hole shrank away until it was just a pinprick.The Bore and the Dark One disappeared into nothingness and finally zero largely disappears from the world. For now.
A Memory of Light, Light and Shadow
Written by Linda, December 2007 and updated June 2013