Author: Atarah al'Norahn
All information is from The Great Hunt, Chapter 23 unless otherwise referenced.
The Accepted Test is the test that a novice must pass in order to reach the rank of Accepted within the White Tower. It is a test that forces her to face her greatest fears about what has happened in her life, what might be happening in the present-day, and what might happen in her future. In order to become Accepted, the novice “must want to be Aes Sedai more than anything else in the whole world, enough to face anything, fight free of anything, to achieve it.”
A novice may refuse to take the Accepted test twice. If she refuses a third time, however, she is put out of the Tower. If a novice fails to complete the test once she has begun it, she is also put out of the Tower, with enough silver to support her for a year.
What a woman sees during her testing for Accepted is not required to be shared with anyone, as a woman’s fears are her own.
The ter’angreal used for the Accepted test is in the shape of three round, silver arches that stand on a silver ring, with their edges touching each other. The arches are just tall enough for someone to walk beneath them. During the test, an Aes Sedai sits in front of the ter'angreal at each place where an arch touches the ring, presumably activating the ter'angreal somehow.
The ter'angreal forces the candidate for Acceptance to enter three different visions, or alternate realities (it is not known which), where she must face her fears. While within the ter'angreal, she is not supposed to be able to remember who she is, where she has come from, or that she has the ability to channel. An arch will eventually appear in the vision/reality and the candidate will remember that she must go through it. The way back is only supposed to appear once, but on at least one occasion, during Nynaeve’s Accepted Test, it disappears and she manages to will it back into existence. There is always something that the candidate will encounter that tempts her to stay or distracts her from returning. Some women do not emerge from the ter'angreal, and it is not known what happens to them.
The ter’angreal was found during the Trolloc Wars. The first sister who was sent through the arches to see what it did was warded as strongly as possible with the One Power. This enabled her to remember who she was and where she came from when she entered the arches, and she channelled the One Power when she was threatened by the things she saw. When she came out of the ter’angreal, she was burned out. The same thing happened to the second sister sent into the ter'angreal. The third sister who went through went without wards; because of this, she did not remember who she was and therefore didn’t remember that she had the ability to channel. She came out of the arches completely unharmed.
The ter’angreal is now located in a chamber far below the White Tower. The room is carved out of the bedrock of the island and has a domed shape. The walls are pale, smooth stone. The floor is bare stone. The ter’angreal sits in the center of the room, and light from tall stand-lamps flickers oddly on it; you cannot see what lies inside. During the testing, there is a plain table near the ter'angreal holding three large silver chalices, which are filled with clear water.
Every woman who enters the arches asks whether what she saw was real once she has emerged. The answer to this question is not known for certain; Sheriam believes that the only thing that is real is the danger that the ter’angreal poses. The candidate can be burned out within the ter'angreal, or convinced to stay inside and not return to the real world. Some women leave the ter’angreal with physical wounds, but others who should have wounds after what they encounter do not. Sheriam says that it is different for every woman.
It is not known what happens to women who do not return from the ter’angreal. Some Aes Sedai think that it is possible they have found a happier life within it (TDR, Ch. 22).
The testing ter’angreal is possibly related to dream ter’angreal. When Egwene takes the test, she has a dream ter’angreal given to her by Verin in the pouch that she leaves behind in the chamber. During her third trip through the arches, there is a great disturbance in the testing ter’angreal, and the Aes Sedai think that Egwene came very close to dying. According to Alanna, “The only time I have ever seen anything like it was once years ago when we tried to use a ter'angreal in the same room with another that may have been in some way related to it” (TDR, Ch. 23). Since Egwene’s dream ter’angreal was the only other ter’angreal in the room during her testing, it must be what disturbed the testing ter’angreal.
During the test, three Aes Sedai sit around the ter’angreal where the arches touch the ring that they sit on. Another stands nearby, beside a table holding three silver chalices filled with water.
Upon entering the room, the Mistress of Novices asks the novice if she is ready to face her fears. If she says yes, she is then told two things that no woman hears until she has reached this point.
- If she fails to complete the test once she has begun, she will be put out of the Tower without enough silver to last her a year, and she will never be allowed to return.
- The test is dangerous. Some women have never returned. If the novice is to survive the test, she must be steadfast.
The novice is then given one more chance to refuse to take the test, which she is allowed to do twice before she must either take the test or leave the Tower. If she chooses to go on, she then enters the chamber with the Mistress of Novices.
Upon entering the room, the novice and Mistress of Novices are addressed by the Aes Sedai who is next to the table with the chalices.
Aes Sedai: Whom do you bring with you, Sister?
Mistress of Novices: One who comes as a candidate for Acceptance, Sister.
Aes Sedai: Is she ready?
Mistress of Novices: She is ready to leave behind what she was, and, passing through her fears, gain Acceptance.
Aes Sedai: Does she know her fears?
Mistress of Novices: She has never faced them, but now is willing.
Aes Sedai: Then let her face what she fears.
The novice is then required to undress. Before she enters the first arch, the Mistress of Novices tells her: “The first time is for what was. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
In the first arch, the novice must face a fear from her past.
- During her Accepted Test, Nynaeve faces Aginor again. She is tempted to stay because if she does not destroy him now, she is afraid he will continue to chase her.
- During her Accepted Test, Egwene is married to Rand, and they have a daughter named Joiya. Rand is suffering from the sickness that comes with an untrained channeler touching the source, and Egwene must leave him in pain (TDR, Ch. 22).
After a time, an arch will appear, glowing with a silver radiance. The candidate must step back through the arch to return to the chamber.
When she has returned to the chamber, the sister standing beside the table pours one of the chalices of water over the novice and tells her: “You are washed clean of what sin you may have done and of those done against you. You are washed clean of what crime you may have committed, and of those committed against you. You come to us washed clean and pure, in heart and soul.”
She then enters the second arch after the Mistress of Novices has spoken again, saying: “The second time is for what is. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
In the second arch, the novice must face her worst fear of what is happening in the present. The second arch is always worst than the first.
- During her Accepted Test, Nynaeve sees her people in Emond's Field struggling through the evils committed by the new Wisdom. She is tempted to stay to help them. She later tells Sheriam, “I left my friend…I left my people…in the Pit of Doom to come back.”
- During her Accepted Test, Rand asks Egwene to kill him because he is barely holding the madness at bay. She leaves as he is begging her to help him (TDR, Ch. 22).
After a time, the arch will appear, glowing with a silver radiance. She must step back through the arch to return to the chamber.
When the novice has returned to the chamber, the sister standing beside the table pours the second chalice of water over her and says: “You are washed clean of false pride. You are washed clean of false ambition. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul.”
The novice enters the third arch after the Mistress of Novices has told her: “The third time is for what will be. The way back will come but once. Be steadfast.”
What Will Be
In the third arch, the novice must face her fears about the future. The third arch is always the worst of them all.
- During her Accepted Test, Nynaeve sees herself married to Lan in a revived Malkier. Nynaeve thinks to herself that this is the one thing she cannot face. She almost doesn’t leave, but at the last moment remembers Egwene and the boys. Although the arch disappears because she takes too long deciding, she manages to call it back.
- During her Accepted Test, Egwene is the Amyrlin Seat. When a captured Rand is brought before her, and she cannot bring herself to sentence him, Elaida has her taken into custody. Thirteen Dreadlords and thirteen Myrddraal try to turn her to the Shadow, but she manages to get free and then tries to free Rand before he is gentled. She must return before she can do so (TDR, Ch. 22).
After a time, as with the other two parts of the test, an arch will appear, glowing with silver radiance. The novice must step back through the arch and return to the chamber.
Once the novice has passed the Accepted Test, the Amyrlin Seat and one sister from each Ajah, formally garbed in her shawl and arranged to either side of the Amyrlin, now occupy the room as well. The novice kneels before the Amyrlin Seat, who pours the third chalice of water over her. The Amyrlin tells her: “You are washed clean of [name of candidate] from [place of origin]. You are washed clean of all ties that bind you to the world. You come to us washed clean, in heart and soul. You are [name of candidate], Accepted of the White Tower. You are sealed to us now.”
Once this is done, the Amyrlin presents the new Accepted with a Great Serpent ring. She pulls the Accepted to her feet, says, “Welcome, Daughter,” and kisses her on the cheek. When the Accepted dresses again, it is in an Accepted’s banded dress (TDR, Ch. 23).
- Novices who are not strong enough in the One Power are not allowed to take the test for Accepted (TGH, Ch. 24).
- When Egwene sees Elayne after her test, Elayne is crying and says: “I could not be that awful, Egwene. I just couldn’t!” (TDR, Ch. 23).