The Bonds of Near and First Siblings
Note: Since this article was written the rules regarding near and first siblings have changed.
Author: Jenarra Tikvah
Essay submitted for raising to Aes Sedai
The question of close relationships, and how they are defined among us, is often enough raised here in the Tower to deserve a more meaningful answer than that which our Constitution provides. The Constitution itself, Article 2, Section 10 of the current iteration, does give a definition for both the Near-Sibling and First-Sibling relationships, but what truly defines those relationships are the people themselves, in the relationships they have chosen to adopt.
From the Constitution: "There is currently no law governing the creating of Near-Siblings. Members are requested to remember that this should be a very special relationship, however, and not entered into lightly."
This statement covers the entire governing opinion for the Constitution. However, a Near-Sibling bond is so much more than words on a page. It is more than a line of text to incorporate into a signature, and is not a tag to go around collecting in the manner of "let's see who has the most toys," though there is currently no maximum number of allowed Near-Sibling bonds. Near-Sibling bonds may be made up of same- or different-gender pairs. There are several reasons that members have decided to pledge themselves Near-Siblings. Some members are close, real life friends, before they ever set foot inside our lovely City. They come into our Halls with a special bond that they may have felt for some time before they met the rest of us. Some Near-Siblings meet here, get to know each other, and find they have formed a bond as close as one might in real life. They may have common interests that exceed the Wheel of Time and its world, or they may share common traits and find they work incredibly well together. In either of these cases, the only requirement you must meet to declare yourself Near-Siblings is that of agreement between the two of you, and acceptance by both people. This may be as simple as asking that other person if they would like to be your Near-Sibling, and having them say Yes, or you may make it as formal as you wish, even posting in a Forum such as General to announce your new bond. The announcement is, by no means, necessary. At that point, all that is left is to add your new bond to your Signature, to let everyone else know how proud you are of your new bond.
From the Constitution: "TarValon.Net is not based on the society of the Aiel; however, it recognizes the occasional need for a special same-gender relationship to be recognized. In the event that two members of the same gender wish to become first siblings, they may make a special petition to the Amyrlin Seat. These may not be dissolved, as members will become real life familial relations in the eyes of TarValon.Net and its members. Therefore, only members with very special circumstances may be approved."
The Near-Sibling Bond is a special one, but the First-Sibling Bond supercedes even that in its uniqueness and formality. The Tower holds fewer than six First-Sibling pairs, though there are hundreds of Near-Siblings running around here. First-Siblings must be of the same gender, and must have attained the ranks of Aes Sedai or Gaidin. The reasons for pledging yourself to a First-Sibling go beyond simple affection, or sharing of common interests. The partnership formed in a First-Sibling bond is irrevocable in the eyes of the Tower, as it should be in the eyes of those holding and held by the Bond. A First-Sibling Bond pledges those involved to each other for life, not only in Tower matters, but in real life matters as well. For example, a pair of real life friends might join the Tower, and, having held a close friendship their whole lives, they will feel already like close family, pledged in heart and mind before the Tower ever became a part of their lives. These two might feel the importance of making that Bond known, not only to their friends, but to the world. Two other members may meet here, form a Near-Sibling Bond, then develop it further over time into a closer relationship that can only be defined as a familial bond. They, too, want to share that feeling of their close relationship with the rest of us, to say to us, "This is my Sister, and I love her." They may work closely, they may be of the same Ajah or not, but their First-Sibling Bond is one way of saying that they will be there for each other always, forever, regardless of rank, distance, troubles or sunshine.
A pair is not required to be Near-Siblings before becoming First-Siblings. There are, however, more and stricter requirements for this bond. First, the two of you must be certain this is what you want, and that you have sufficient grounds for requesting this Bond. These requests are never taken lightly. You must petition the Amyrlin Seat herself, which means that you both must e-mail her at email@example.com in order to officially request that your Bond be considered. From there, many other considerations are made, Pre-Bond Counseling through the Gray Ajah is required, and a real-life ceremony must be held. This Bond, once formed, will never be dissolved in the Tower. Therefore, as the Constitution says, "only members with very special circumstances may be approved."
In conclusion, the Tower recognizes many kinds of relationships among its members. From Near-Siblings to the Aes Sedai/Warder Bond, there are many ways to "shout your news from the rooftops" around here. Friends are precious, and True Friends are even more rare. Enjoy your friends, and enjoy your time here in the Tower, as we all learn and grow together.