It's all about the colors.
The Wheel of Time introduces an entire fantasy culture in its first three episodes by pushing fans into the world of the Two Rivers and letting them swim. With the release of the first three episode at once, fans can get acclimated pretty quickly; here is an Aes Sedai, there is a Whitecloak; this is a gleeman, that is a darkfriend. But more minor details tell fans a lot that might not be so obvious on the first watch — for instance: the way the Aes Sedai dress. The Aes Sedai Ajah colors in The Wheel Of Time aren’t just a matter of costume design; they signal entire worldviews.
Warning: Spoilers for The Wheel of Time Season 1, Episode 1-3 follow. The first Aes Sedai fans see in the show’s opening scene are multiple women in red chasing down a man who can channel. Their outfits are a little formalized; they look a bit uniform-ish in their dress. One might assume these are soldiers or law enforcement. But then there’s Moiraine, standing above them, out of view. She’s not dressed in red, but blue.
Fans might not pick up on this right away, but Moiraine is dressed head to toe in blue at all times. She’s not in disguise; her Sedai ring with a blue stone is prominent enough for everyone in the Winespring Inn to see. But then there’s the Aes Sedai who the Whitecloak Questioner burns, not unlike what was once done to witches. She’s dressed head to toe in yellow, and when Moiraine later sees her ring in the Questioner’s possession, the stone is topaz to match.
These colors are representative of each of the Aes Sedai’s “Ajah” societies within the White Tower. The word in the Old Tongue meant “a temporary group,” usually working toward a single objective. When the world broke and the Aes Sedai reformed into a society composed entirely of women, they naturally formed Ajahs to manage specific branches within the overall Aes Sedai structure. This format stuck, and there are now seven Ajah societies within the Tower, each with its own rules and internal leadership. When an Aes Sedai ascends from an Accepted to a full sister, she chooses her Ajah.
According to the novels, there were once 12 Ajah altogether, but several merged or were disbanded. There are seven divisions currently recognized within the White Tower.
Here’s what all the colors mean:
Red Ajah: The first division fans meet in the series are the sisters dedicated to “preventing the wrong and dangerous use of the One Power.” This usually means tracking down men who can channel and “gentling” them, aka cutting them off from their abilities. Internally, it means punishing sisters who misuse their powers. As their job is hazardous, they do not bond Warders.
Yellow Ajah: The healer division, these Sisters are rare among their kind. They are pretty condescending to other divisions, as they see themselves as the only Ajah that “does something.” They do bond Warders, as they tend towards pacifism, and being potent in healing almost always means being weak in other areas.
Green Ajah: Known as the “Battle Ajah,” this popular division sees itself standing ready for the return of the Dragon and the Last Battle. They’re a flamboyant group that lives life to the fullest. They bond multiple Warders and usually marry at least one of them.
Blue Ajah: The Social Justice Warriors of the Aes Sedai, Moiraine’s Ajah is pretty exclusive and has the largest eye-and-ears network. The current leader of the Aes Sedai, the Amyrlin Seat, Siuan Sanche, was raised from the Blue Ajah. They do bond Warders but see them as partners in righteousness.
Gray Ajah: The diplomatic corps of the Aes Sedai, these are sisters who put themselves out in the world as ambassadors to the kingdoms across the continent and mediators for medium-sized towns. As wheelers and dealers, their Ajah is pretty popular. They bond Warders, who they use as personal eyes-and-ears.
Brown Ajah: The historians and librarians of the Aes Sedai, these sisters are known for their study and preservation of history. They are also the closest thing to scientists, as they study all the ways Sedai can use the One Power.
White Ajah: The philosopher class of Aes Sedai, these sisters remove themselves from the world to ponder higher thought. This group is the least popular Ajah, both to join and to hang out with, as many of them are socially awkward at best. They rarely bond Warders.
If you ask anyone at the Tower, they will insist there is no Black Ajah, but this is nonsense. There are Black Ajah hidden within every division, waiting for the Dark One to break free.
The Wheel of Time Season 1 continues with new episodes streaming every Friday on Amazon.