- Reverend Mother (Dune)
A Reverend Mother is both a
Bene Gesserittitle and a class or level associated with fictional characters from the "Dune" universe created by Frank Herbert. A Reverend Mother is generally a woman of the Bene Gesserit order who has completed her training.
Thus spoke St. Alia-of-the-Knife: "The Reverend Mother must combine the seductive wiles of a
courtesanwith the untouchable majesty of a virgin goddess, holding these attributes in tension so long as the powers of her youth endure. For when youth and beauty have gone, she will find that the place-between, once occupied by tension, has become a wellspring of cunning and resourcefulness." — from " Muad'Dib, Family Commentaries" by the Princess Irulan
At the end of their training, the Bene Gesserit undergoes a
ritualinvolving a significant amount of one of a class of awareness spectrum narcotics. The drug enters her body as a poison. If she survives this, by a conscioustransformation of the drug on a molecularlevel to a non-poisonous substance, she gains the memoriesof all the preceding Reverend Mothers in her line, resulting in great knowledgeand power. The particular narcotic used by the lines of Reverend Mothers on Arrakisis contained in the Water of Life, the liquid exhalation of a sandworm produced at the moment of its death by drowning.
This ritual would be fatal for normal males. In an extensive breeding program, the Bene Gesserit have tried to produce a male who could survive the transformation, the so-called
Kwisatz Haderach. The final, though unexpected result of their program was Paul Atreides.
In "Dune", it is revealed that the
Fremenhave their own independent tradition that produces "wild" Reverend Mothers from the Bene Gesserit perspective, called Sayyadina. These Sayyadina go through the spice agonyand have access to their ancestral female memories; they however lack the other skills that the Bene Gesserit have developed.
Paul Atreides' sister, Alia, was accidentally transformed (or, pre-born) into a Reverend Mother while inside the womb of
Lady Jessica. The consequences of this transformation shape the action in the novels " Dune Messiah" and " Children of Dune".
In the novel "
Chapterhouse Dune", it is discovered that the descendants of the Jews, who have still retained their ancestral traditions, have also learnt the Bene Gesserit secret, and have started to produce their own Reverend Mothers.
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