Welcome to the innermost study of the Grey Ajah. Every member of the Grey Ajah who leaves the Tower does so as an ambassador of our Ajah, and as such, must be familiar with the laws, cultures and peoples of every land. To this end, we have pooled the fruits of our considerable network of Grey eyes-and-ears who send us reports from almost every corner of the world.
Our agents send us information of particular interest to the Grey, of course, but any who call the Grey Tower home are invited to share our knowledge. You may also wish to visit the Wheel of Time Cultures page for a more general overview.
Aiel men and Maidens of the Spear wear cadin'sor in greys and browns which fade into the ground, with the cut indicating clan and sept, and in the case of the warriors, society as well. Women wear long bulky wool skirts and a wool shawl in grey or brown and a loose white algode blouse.
The Aiel are split into twelve clans, which are split again into septs and in the case of warriors again into societies.
Ji'e'toh is far too complex for our eyes-and-ears to explain, but it is known men and women can be taken gai'shain by another clan, and have to serve humbly for a year and a day. Aiel do not consider them servants and are offended by the concept. Aiel prize water highly and can be angered by the waste of a single drop. They are sharp traders and welcome peddlers into the Threefold Land.
Altara is not a particularly powerful nation. The ruler, who sits on the Throne of Winds, has little power, and many of the Noble Houses have no qualms about ignoring or defying their ruler. Squabbles between the noble houses for power weaken the nation further.
The River Eldar divides the city into two sections. One is home to the upper and middle classes. The other is called the Rahad Quarter and is home to the poor and rough. The Rahad Quarter is avoided by all who value their lives and their money. In Ebou Dari all who work must belong to a guild, indicated by their vest, except beggars who wear a ring of brass on their little finger.
Altara has a reputation for being a violent, unsavoury place, particularly in its capital of Ebou Dar, where pride is taken in duelling scars. Anyone who hasn't fought at least one duel by adulthood is ostracized as a coward. Married or widowed women wear the marriage knife around their necks on a choker. Engaged women wear a choker indicating that they have been promised a knife. The colour and gem settings of the knife and sheath are a "code" of information about the wearer, indicating marital status and the number of sons and daughters.
Ebou Dari law states any woman who kills a man is justified unless proven otherwise.
Many Amadicians have dark hair. The women often wear their hair in long curls to their shoulders. They wear deep bonnets tied with velvet bows, and often have matching bows on their dresses. Men wear long coats to their knees.
The King rules from the Seranda Palace. Until recently he was a puppet of the Children of the Light, who are now reported to have left the country. Male hedge doctors are quite common, due to Amadicia's view of Aes Sedai. It is not known whether the laws refusing entry to channelers on pain of death are still upheld. Other laws have recently changed. Thieves are branded for a first offense, have their right hands cut off for a second, and are hanged for a third, regardless of the value of the stolen items.
Andor is ruled by a Queen who sits on the Lion Throne. Traditionally, the Queen's brother acts as her First Prince of the Sword and Captain-General of her armies. The Queen's Guard keeps the peace in Caemlyn and throughout the countryside, and larger towns are walled and patrolled by a Town Watch. A Governor of the Queen administrates the larger towns.
A class system exists in Andor, with the nobility dominant, but all citizens are treated fairly by that nobility. Class distinctions are displayed through differences in the quality of cut and material of clothing. Most of the smaller villages have a way of distinguishing a mature woman, such as a braid or a bonnet.
The women wear dresses with high necks and long skirts, made of cloth that is barely opaque and cut to cling, tied with a narrow belt. The use of cosmetics and artificial beauty marks is common. Domani women are infamous the world over for their beauty and seductiveness, whereas Domani men are famed for their tempers.
The Domani eat with red-lacquered chopsticks called sursa. Food dishes are vegetables and meats in sharp, sweet sauces. Despite being a coastal nation, most Domani do not like sea travel. A fair number of Domani are merchants. The Sea Folk are a major trading partner, as are Saldaea and Tarabon, despite frequent conflicts with the Taraboners.
The nobility of both sexes wear jewellery marked with the symbols of their Houses.
Most Arafellin have pale skin, and unusually large, dark eyes. Dark hair seems to be common. The men wear their hair plaited into two long braids tied with silver or gold bells on the end. They sometimes also wear bells sewn along their sleeves or the top of their boots. Women also wear bells in their hair. Most Arafellin love their horses like children, often tying bells in their manes.
Arafellin men are skilled swordsmen, but use a unique fighting style. They wear two slender swords strapped to their backs, with one hilt sitting over each shoulder. During combat, they wield both swords at once, one in each hand. The Arafellin are thought to have strange ideas about honour and death.
The Sea Folk, or the Atha'an Miere, tend to keep to themselves, so little is known about them in the rest of the world. On ship, both men and women wear baggy breeches of dark, oiled cloth, belted at the waist with colourful, narrow sashes, and loose at the ankle. When in sight of the shore, the women wear loose, colourful blouses, otherwise both sexes go bare-chested in good weather.
Men and women both live out most of their lives on the seas. The dead are buried at sea, and women will board a rowboat to ensure their baby is born on water. Marriage vows are taken very seriously and account for differing ranks.
Men and women both wear earrings, necklaces and belt knives. Women also wear nose rings on the left side of their nose. High-ranking women wear a chain joining earring to nose ring, the chain hung with small medallions. The amount and quality of these adornments is an indicator of the status of the wearer.
Each vessel is captained by a Sailmistress. Her second-in-command and navigator is a Windfinder. Both are always women. The Cargomaster is male, often the husband of the Sailmistress. He manages trade affairs and ship defense. The highest authority for Sea Folk and Isles is the Mistress of the Ships. She is chosen by and from the Wavemistresses, who each head a clan. She appoints her Master of the Blades and Windfinder advisor who have authority over all the Swordmasters and Windfinders.
Men and women usually wear coats and dresses of dark hues, relieved by narrow horizontal slashes of color across the chest and body. The number of slashes indicates the rank of the wearer, while their color indicates the House. The men wear their hair long, with flat or bell-shaped velvet caps. The lower classes are free to dress any way they wish.
Cairhien's culture is sharply divided along class lines. Every aspect of life for the nobility, from dress to interior design, is rigidly controlled. Within its walls the Noble Houses vie amongst each other for power and position, and the country's ruler is the head of the most powerful House, whether male or female. The upper classes care little about the lower; commoners are used as pawns or assassins in Daes Dae'mar, the Game of Houses, which is a national obsession.
The commoners seek any information that might be sold to the nobility, but otherwise are more relaxed with each other. The Foregate, a sprawling shanty town that surrounds Cairhien proper, underlines the contrast between classes. The country can no longer produce enough food to support the refugees that still crowd the rebuilt capital, and must import grain from Tear and Andor. Interruption in these imports would likely result in riots.
In Far Madding men wear their hair long, to the waist, held back with clips of silver or gold. Women wear dresses with high collars and floral embroidery, and high waists. The Counsels wear loose, sleeveless gowns of blue silk over their dresses. Far Madding is protected by the "Guardian," an ancient ter'angreal. It is impossible to touch either half of the One Power within the perimeter protected by the Guardian, which can also be used to locate anyone attempting to channel within the perimeters.
Far Madding is a robust commercial centre, which is ruled by the Hall of Counsels, the seat of the government. The cultural and commercial life of Far Madding is dominated by women. The ruling Counsels are exclusively female, men are barred from trade and banking, and the only men of means are those with generous wives. Men are expected to obey women promptly. Inns have a "Women's Room," a separate parlour more luxurious than the outer common room.
The civic order is strictly maintained. Private arms are not allowed within the city, and visiting foreigners must register at the gate-forts, and either agree to store their weapons there, or have them "peace-bound." Fines and floggings may be applied if the seals are broken. The City Guards themselves go armed only at the gates, and must leave their weapons behind when they go off-duty.
The Ghealdanin are leery of foreigners and keep to themselves. Most Ghealdanin towns are walled.
It is known that the ruler sits on the Light Blessed Throne and rules from the capital of Jehenna with the High Crown Council. Our eyes-and-ears have been disturbingly silent since the arrival of the Prophet.
Illian's government is complex. It is ruled by a King, the Council of Nine (Nobles) and the Assemblage (a group chosen by and from the country's merchants and ship owners). The politicians are so busy squabbling amongst themselves that they rarely interfere with the daily lives of citizens. Channelers are feared and despised by most in Illian, and few will handle Tar Valon coins, though there is no law against trading with any of the Towers. Some reports indicate a lessening of this hatred in some areas, as there are rumours that the King has an Aes Sedai advisor.
Fishing and shipping are common occupations along Illian's extensive coastline. Illian's main export goods are finished leather, seafood, rugs and textiles. It is traditional for business people to share profits with employees as a work incentive. The climate is hot and damp, and rains are heavy in the "cooler" season. It seems life moves at a slower pace than in the cooler north.
Kandor has a strong monarchy, ruled by a King or Queen. Traditional titles for the ruler are Protector of the Land and Shield of the North. If a Queen, her husband is called Prince Consort, and is usually her Swordbearer, and commander of her armies. The Swordbearer carries the Power-forged Sword of Kirukan, always near at hand should the ruler need to draw that blade.
Kandor is as famed for trade as for martial prowess, and is the only one of the Borderlands to have formed merchant guilds, denoted by ostentatious earrings. Kandori merchants travel the world plying their trade, and bring much wealth to the country. Kandori stone is famous the world over, and is often exported for important building projects. The Kandori make wondrous jewellery which is prized across the land, particularly the distinctive pattern called snowflakes.
The ruler of Mayene may be male or female, and is called the First. Mayeners of both genders are accustomed to speaking their minds openly, in romantic or other matters.
Mayene preserves its fragile independence by playing Daes Dae'mar and concealing the location of its oilfish shoals. Despite having the support of the Sea Folk, Mayene could never dare to openly anger Tear. Tear sees it as an economic rival, as its oil competes with Tear's olive oil exports.
Murandian men wear curled mustaches and goatees, high-crowned hats, and coats to their ankles. The women wear skirts to just above their ankles, striped or colourful aprons, and bright scarves around their heads.
Murandy does not think of itself as a nation. Citizens' primary allegiance is to a particular town or Noble family. Both commoners and Nobles frequently ignore the dictates of their monarch. The only impetus keeping it anything of a nation at all is fear of being absorbed by Illian, or Andor, with which it has a tense relationship at best after years of border disputes. Murandians tend to be very suspicious of foreigners.
Lugard is an important trade center between the countries to the north, and the nations to the south. Fine wines and delicate lace are both famous exports. It has a tense, volatile atmosphere; the behaviour of Lugarders has earned Murandians as a whole a reputation for being somewhat untrustworthy.
Ogier live in stedding, forested areas where channelers are cut off from the True Source and Shadowspawn fear to enter. If an Ogier spends too long away from their stedding they suffer from the Longing. Ogier society is defined by age; each stedding is governed by a Council of Elders. In women, the amount of embroidery on her dress indicates her rank. Ogier men are guided by their mothers until she arranges a marriage, when his wife will be responsible for caring for him. A male Ogier does not have a say as to who his wife will be. Members of the race younger than 100 years are not considered adults; a typical Ogier's lifespan is at least three times that of a human.
Ogier are usually gentle, careful creatures who abhor violonce. They are slow to anger but fearsome when roused. They prize knowledge and beauty, and are sensitive to the atmosphere of a place.
Ogier use a Talent called Treesinging to strengthen and promote growth of trees or create "sung wood". This Talent was much more common and strong before the Breaking. The Ways were created for Ogier as a gift from the male Aes Sedai before they Breaking so they could travel between stedding without having to go Outside. Waygates are located just outside such stedding. Since the Ways have been taken by the Shadow, Ogier rarely leave their stedding unless it is to maintain the work of their stonemasons.
The highborn are expected to master many skills - poetry, hunting, strategy, music and riding. The army is renowned for its light cavalry and ferocity in battle. The wives of officers and the nobles accompany them on all military campaigns except those in the Blight. Ladies at court have evolved a complex 'language of the fans,' and also the sa'sara, an indecent erotic dance which has been outlawed by numerous Saldaean queens. Timber, furs and ice peppers are the major exports of Saldea, which has a strong economy.
The Empire of Seanchan is ruled by the Empress who sits on the Crystal Throne. Every Seanchan has a place in society, which they are expected to make apparent at a glance and adhere to. The chain of command follows a strict order, which supposedly ensures the safety of the Empire. The High Blood are direct descendants of Paendrag, are superior to the Low Blood. So'jhin are servants of the blood, and carry notable authority, compared to da'covale, which anyone can own. It is forbidden for a person of lesser rank to meet the eyes of a higher. The Seanchan use any number of methods to denote rank, from hairstyles to lacquered nails.
Shara is one of the many names used for the land on the other side of the Aiel Waste. The Sharans are a very secretive people. Our eyes-and-ears have only rumour and travellers tales to pass on to us, many contradicting each other.
Shara's only communication with outsiders is trade, by sea with the Athan'an Miere and by land with the Aiel, which is strictly confined to designated towns or ports. These are surrounded by high walls to keep outsiders from being able to see into the lands beyond. Anyone caught trying to sneak in is never seen again. The merchants are always cloaked and veiled, and the quality of their goods must be carefully checked. We have so many conflicting reports it seems Sharans deliberately mislead foreigners as a matter of course.
Some state that Shara is ruled by a monarchy led by the female Sh'boan and male Sh'botay, which die very regularly according to the will of the Pattern. One report claims they are killed by channelers, called the Ayyad, who the author suggested are cut off from society yet somehow manage to rule it. One of the few consistencies between sources tells us that slavery is common.
The nation is ruled by a King who lives in Fal Moran. The nation is divided into regions which are governed and protected by the Noble Houses. The nobility's primary duty is military protection. Many men train as warriors, pledging to one of the Noble protectors. Nobles and their oathmen form cavalries. The ground is cleared for a mile around the city walls, so that none can approach undetected by the guards. Shienaran law states the streets must be lit at night and no man or woman may hide their face, to show they are not one of the Eyeless.
Shienarans have a love of ceremony, including ritual greetings and partings for honoured guests. ‘Peace' is used both as a talisman and an oath. People of all classes are extremely polite, even to their enemies, and men are particularly chivalrous and respectful of women. Detailed customs dictate the behaviour of each gender towards the other. Shienaran women never duel, and do not train with weapons. While there is a class system, all Shienarans are treated fairly and with respect.
Along the Borderlands, keeps are run by two servants, equal in rank, though with different duties, the shambayan and shatayan. The Shambayan has ceremonial duties, acts as the Lord's or Lady's secretary, keeps the keep and lord or lady supplied and generally runs the household. The shatayan is in charge of all the other servants, but their influence goes much further. They rank above the other servants, such that unlike the other servants, it would be an offence to offer one coin for performing their duties. It is generally unwise to offend either.
Both men and women wear a transparent veil across the face. Taraboner men often sport facial hair under the veil in the form of a thick mustache. Lords' coats are usually of finer material and their much more elaborate embroidery is often gold. Noblewomen wear clinging gowns of thin silk that are almost as revealing as those worn by Domani women. Peasant women also prefer thin fabric, though their dresses are made of drab wool, quite coarse in comparison to the wealthier.
Tarabon is ruled by a hereditary King, and a female Panarch selected by the Assembly of Lords. The Panarch and King are equal in authority, each with well-defined areas of responsibility. The Panarch collects taxes, controls the Civil Watch, and manages the lower Courts. The King determines how monies are spent, controls the army and manages the High Court. He is guarded by the King's Life Guard.
The capital is Tanchico, home to the Guild of Illuminators. Trends in leisure activity, clothing and food come and go in Tarabon, where the wealthy and middle classes avidly adopt new fashions and tastes. The economy is based on the production and trade of olive oil, dyes, teas and rugs.
Tar Valon citizens come from such varied cultural backgrounds that the city has no native culture of its own, but is a mixture of many cultures. The city must trade for virtually all raw materials and a wide range of other produce to cater for citizens' varied tastes. There is very little crime in Tar Valon, because of fear of Aes Sedai punishment using the Chair of Remorse.
Tairen lords wear colorful coats and tight breeches, in contrast to common men who wear baggy breeches, usually tied at the ankle and held up by a broad colored sash, and long, dark coats. Sometimes low shoes or boots are worn, but more often bare feet or clogs are preferred for traversing the mud of the poorer quarters; even nobles use clogs for the outer city. The noble ladies of Tear wear long dresses with low necklines, while common women favour chin-high collars and ankle-high hems. Tairen widows wear white.
Tear is governed by a council of its highest Lords, who reside at the Stone of Tear in the capital. The gulf between classes is wide. The nobility cares little for commoners and taxes them outrageously. The legal system barely touches the nobility, but is harsh to commoners. The upper classes live within a walled inner city of fine homes and palaces. Commoners live outside the walls in the port Maule district or the neighbouring warehouse Chalm district. Tairen law states only nobles, soldiers and foreigners may be armed.
Tear is a rich nation, though only the nobles profit from its wealth. Its main exports are olive oil and horses that are renowned the world over. It grows a great deal of grain, most of which is traded to Cairhien. Fishing is another common occupation. Most Tairens loathe anything to do with the One Power, and channelling is forbidden.
They prefer to avoid heavily-populated areas, but often camp near villages to earn some money doing metal work. Rumours that they are thieves who kidnap children and anything not nailed down are common. Many towns and villages will try and chase them off because of those beliefs.
The people are friendly and good-natured, expect music and dancing, although there are moments when they place great value on formal ceremony.
Each band of the Tuatha'an is led by a Mahdi, or Seeker, who determines when and where that band will travel. Their goal in life is to find the Song, which they believe will return the world to how it was before the Breaking.