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A Reverend Mother was a title held by female members of the Bene Gesserit who had completed training to an advanced level. Typically, Reverend Mothers (and Holy Sisters) had three names: The first was a Latin male name, the second an English female name, the third an Arabic or exotic name. Examples of such naming include:
The leader of the Bene Gesserit, the Mother Superior, was always chosen from the Reverend Mother ranks.
Creation of a Reverend Mother Edit
After completing many years of intellectual, physical, and psychological training with the Bene Gesserit Sisterhood, a prospective Reverend Mother underwent a dangerous ritual that involved a significant amount of awareness spectrum narcotics. Specifically, the poison used was the Water of Life - the liquid exhalation of a sandworm produced at the moment of its death by drowning in regular water.
The drug entered her body as a poison, and it was her task to consciously transform the chemical into a benign substance. If the subject survived the process, the physical and mental trauma caused by the Water of Life would cause their genetic memory to emerge, that is, she would gain the memories of all her female ancestors, resulting in great and sudden accumulation of knowledge and power.
Male Bene Gesserits Edit
Until the rise of Paul Atreides, the ritual had been fatal to every male who had attempted it. In an extensive breeding program, the Bene Gesserit had tried to produce a male who could survive the transformation, the so-called Kwisatz Haderach. Paul was the final, though unexpected, result of this strategy.
Wild Reverend Mothers Edit
Unbeknown to many in the Imperium, some fringe cultures produced wild Reverend Mothers who possessed many of the skills of a Bene Gesserit Reverend Mother, but without the official training.
Such groups included the Fremen, who had their own independent tradition that emerged from the Bene Gesserit perspective. Such individuals were called Sayyadina. These Sayyadina went through the spice agony and had access to their ancestral female memories; however, they lacked the other skills (such as the Weirding Way) that the Bene Gesserit had developed.
Another similar group was a sect of traditional Jews located on Gammu. Though they still retained their ancestral traditions, they also learned many Bene Gesserit secrets, and started to produce their own Reverend Mothers. These Jews did not emerge until the time of the Honored Matres.
Limitations of Gender Edit
Typically, when women survived the Water of Life and unlocked genetic memory, only the female line of ancestors were visible to her. It was believed that the male side terrified them, for reasons unknown. The Bene Gesserit breeding program was aimed specifically at breeding a male who could potentially unlock the memories of both the female and the male ancestral lines.
The possession of a multitude of ancestral memories was both a blessing and a curse for those who possessed them. While they provided the individual with immense knowledge from past experiences, the ego-memories of the person's ancestors could sometimes assert themselves, and eventually govern the person's behavior. At times, this would happen to such an extent that the individual was considered possessed. The term the Bene Gesserit used for this condition was Abomination. The only known cure for abomination was death.
Paul Atreides' sister, Alia Atreides, was accidentally transformed into a Reverend Mother while still in her mother's womb. The shock and trauma this brought on to the unborn child was catastrophic. When she was in her early twenties, Alia succumbed to abomination, and became possessed by her maternal grandfather, Baron Vladimir Harkonnen.
The New Sisterhood Edit
During the time of the rise of the Enemy during the advent of Kralizec, the far-seeing plans of Darwi Odrade came to fruition with the combination of the serenity of the Bene Gesserit and the ferocity of the Honored Matres, in her successor, Murbella.
Murbella kept almost all of the aspects of the concept and title of a Reverend Mother in the combined organization. This proved key to the survival of humanity on Chapterhouse during the Omnius Scourge. Only Reverend Mothers could alter their internal body chemistry to render the deally disease harmless. As the Scourge swept over the planet, poisons were rushed out to sisters and acolytes in an attempt to rush the women through the Water of Life ritual. Many failed, including Murbella's own daughter, Gianne Idaho.
After Kralizec Edit
After the far-reaching changes wrought over both Thinking Machines and humans with the realization of Duncan Idaho as the Ultimate Kwisatz Haderach, Reverned Mothers continued to abound. On Synchrony, in Sheeana Brugh's re-founding of a pure Bene Gesserit order, Reverend Mothers were well-established as leaders of the Order. Simultaneously, in the New Sisterhood, now led by Murbella, and her daughter, Janess Idaho, Reverend Mothers continued to have dominant input.