Of Light and Shadow
In the beginning there were two opposing forces: the Light, personified by the Creator, and the Shadow, personified by Shai'tan, the Dark One. In the moment of Creation the Creator made the Wheel of Time and the One Power to turn it. He imprisoned the Dark One, trapping him for all eternity. Some say the Dark One is imprisoned in the mountain of Shayol Ghul deep within the Great Blight, but scholars hold that he is in fact imprisoned outside the universe itself.
The Wheel of Time is a great spinning wheel. From the Wheel come an almost infinite number of threads, each thread a life in the universe. The Wheel weaves the threads of life together into a great Pattern of the Creator's devising. The Pattern is the universe and all lives are determined by their place within the Pattern. The Wheel of Time is said to have seven spokes, each spoke marking the end of an Age and the beginning of the next. The shape of the Pattern is determined by the Age. As the Wheel turns Ages come and go and eventually come round again in an eternal cycle. Another, more ancient, symbol for this eternal cycle is the Great Serpent, a vast snake eating its own tail. The Wheel of Time is driven by the One Power. The One Power is divided into a male half, Saidin, and female half, Saidar. The two halves of the Power work together and against each other to turn the Wheel of Time.
From his prison beyond the Pattern the Dark One plots and schemes. The Dark One's goal is his freedom, to kill the Great Serpent, break the Wheel of Time and remake the world in his image.
Of Salvation and Rebirth
As the Wheel of Time turns Ages come and pass and come again. The threads that make up the patterns of those Ages are the lives of those who have lived in them. It is therefore a simple belief that everyone who lives has been born and reborn throughout eternity. Reincarnation is simply a fact of the workings of the Wheel. Many believe that those who serve the Light and the fulfill their role within the Pattern are rewarded by the Creator by having their threads taken up again and re-used throughout the Ages. They are thus saved from the oblivion of death by the constant cycle of rebirth. It is also held that those who turn away from the Light and serve the Shadow are lost. Their threads are not taken up again by the Pattern but rather fall forever under the power of the Dark One, also known as the Lord of the Grave.
There is no organized religion within the world. There is simply no need. The power of the Creator is known to all. It is most clearly seen in the powers of the Aes Sedai, who work miracles through the One Power. The power of the Shadow is equally clear to those who have seen the works of his corruption. This is not to say there is no religion. Many offer prayers to the Creator in the hopes of good fortune or curse the Shadow when ill befalls them. However, with the exception of the Children of the Light and their supporters, it is widely held that a person's relationship with the Light is their own and not a matter for others. On the other hand those who turn from the Light to serve the Shadow, often in return for promises of personal glory and power, are considered criminals under the laws of every nation in the land.
There are those who would argue that the Aes Sedai are a religious organization. They are certainly afforded status above ordinary women and can draw immense power from the driving force of the Wheel itself. They exist as a separate community, composed of women from every nation in the land. These women have certainly been initiated into their rituals, many of which are secrets to any not so initiated. There are those who petition the Aes Sedai for prayers and blessings, believing such women to be closer to the Light than others. However the Aes Sedai, while they do not discourage such behavior, make no such claims about themselves. Furthermore, most people simply do not trust the Aes Sedai. Many hold that they are, in fact, closer to the Shadow than the Light. The Children of Light openly claim that all Aes Sedai serve the Shadow and cite the Sisters use of the One Power as evidence. The Children claim that, in drawing on the One Power, the Aes Sedai seek to usurp the Creator, which is nothing less than the Dark One's own goal.
The Children of Light are another semi-religious organization. Indeed, they are more religious than the Aes Sedai. The Children were originally organized to proselytize against the followers of the Dark One and bring people back to the Light. However over the centuries they evolved into a more and more militant and fanatical organization until finally they became a completely military organization. Their original goal is not forgotten and the Children believe that they serve the Light by battling the followers of the Dark One. Unfortunately they have come to see anyone who does not adhere to their own strict set of ascetic beliefs as a potential follower of the Shadow. Since that encompasses almost everyone else in the world the Children see the Shadow in all things. By and large the people of the world do not appreciate the Children's attitude or methods and very few see them as being genuinely closer to the Light. This is not to say that the Children do not have their supporters, but those who genuinely believe in their message, rather than following out of fear, ignorance or other less noble motives, are few and far between.
The Friends of the Dark, somewhat ironically, have a more organized and ritualistic structure than those who walk in the Light. Organized in secretive groups, called Circles, they have their own rituals, secret codes and gestures. The need for secrecy forces all Darkfriends to meet in secret and many hide their identities even from each other. Little is known of their rites and rituals, but what is known is enough to outlaw them in every land and cause them to be hated and feared by anyone with a sense of decency.
Of Men and Women
In every nation in the World there is a saying among men to the effect of: "You can't understand women." In every nation in the World women reply with words to the effect of: "Don't be absurd, women are perfectly clear. It's men who don't make sense."
At the heart of the matter, neither understand the other.
Understanding the relationship between men and women is difficult. The best model may well be "separate but equal." This is clearly shown in the structure of most small towns, which are governed by a Town Council, made up of men, and a Women's Circle, made up of women. Each group is equal in authority and has control of particular aspects of the administration of the community. Woe be the Town Councilor who interferes in matters of the Women's Circle (though the Women's Circle, in deciding what is or isn't their business, has no problems interfering in what the Council might have considered its business). This model is generally carried into the rest of society. Women have their business, for which they are best qualified and woe betide the man who seeks to interfere. Men have their business, for which they are best qualified, and women allow them to be about it, as long as they don't make a muddle of things. In many cases it becomes unclear what is whose business, and there conflict arises. Society, like the Wheel itself, is driven by male and female halves working together and in conflict.
The Green Man and His Grove It is said that somewhere in the world is a place of beauty and peace that surpasses all others: The Grove of the Green Man, home of Avendesora, the mystical Tree of Life. Legends say that the Green Man has lived since the Age of Legends, protecting his Grove and the Tree from the dangers of the world and offering peace to those who find his hidden home.
The Dragon Reborn According to prophecy and legend the Dragon will be reborn in mankind’s hour of greatest need. It is said that he will both save the world and bring a new Breaking. The details of the Dragon’s Rebirth are presented in the Karaethon Cycle, a set of prophecies which tell of a time when the Dark One will be free once again to touch the world and the Dragon will be born again to face him at Tarmon Gai’don, the Last Battle.
The Horn of Valere An object of legend, the Horn is said to have the power to summon the great heroes of legend back from the Grave to fight against the Shadow. It is said that the Horn of Valere was long ago hidden to protect it and prophacy states that it will be found again, in time for Tarmon Gai’don. Over the centuries since the Trolloc Wars a number of Hunts for the Horn have been called. Many heroes have sought it and though they have not found it, their great deeds in searching have become legends themselves, retold in a great cycle of stories known as the Great Hunt of the Horn.