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[OB] The “Pure Intents” of the Known Shards


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Happy New Year, everyone! Best wishes for peace, health, and prosperity!

@Calderis excellent post concludes “the names of the Shards that we know is not the pure intent of the Shards themselves, but the interpretation of that core concept by their Vessel.” I agree with his insight. This post tries to describe those “pure intents” (what I call Mandates) and suggests Mandates together may form a specific pattern.


IMO, Mandates are each Shard’s thematic mechanic, the way mortals get magic from their Shard: “The means of getting powers…are related to the Shard, but not the powers themselves”; and “The 'role' of the Shard has to do with the WAY the magic is obtained, not what it can do.”

As thematic mechanics, “pure” Mandates seem to associate with different stages of life – birth, growth, plateau, decline, and death. I think Mandates together may form a “Wheel of Life” (really), but I’m unsure what that means, if anything. Maybe it’s Brandon’s paean to Jordan? Brandon says Adonalsium could have Shattered differently.

At minimum, the allocation of Adonalsium’s power by life stage seems to ensure the Shards don’t overlap. As Evi says, “We are all different aspects of the One.” (OB, Chapter 36, Kindle p. 372.) Mandates divide the One’s magical aspects into different gods.

Each Shard’s Mandate

I list the Mandates – how IMO a Shard gives its magic to mortals – in order of placement on the Wheel of Life.

Grants Life (Endowment)

Conception/Birth: Endowment’s Mandate gives life (Breaths). Breaths attach to new souls. Each later-acquired Breath gives more life to souls (the Heightenings). Divine Breath gives life to souls by healing them. Awakening’s Breath transfer gives objects life.

Sustains Life (Devotion)

Newborn: Devotion uses the Dor like mother’s milk to sustain Elantrians without other nourishment. Elantrians get the Dor through Aon Rao’s infusion of Elantris. Elantrians lose power as they travel from Elantris and their mother’s Spirit.

Makes Cognitive Connections (Honor)

Infant: Infants begin to form emotional attachments. Surgebinders get Honor’s magic through the Cognitive Connection of the Nahel bond.

Sets Rules (Dominion)

Toddler/Child: As the child’s world expands, authority begins to set rules and boundaries. Dominion’s programmatic forms set the rules by which Sel’s mortals get the Dor.

Transforms (Cultivation)

Teenager: The child transforms to an adult. IMO, Cultivation transforms native spren into potential Radiantspren. I think honorspren are Nahel-bondable windspren; Cryptics are Nahel-bondable creationspren; etc. Surgebinders get their power through these transformed spren.

Grants Self-Sufficiency (Autonomy)

Young Adult: The adult goes out on his/her own. IMO, Autonomy’s users get their magic “living off the land.” The Sand Mastery and Aviar systems give magic through local lifeforms. These systems enable Connected humans to survive hostile environments on their own.

Maintains Stasis (Preservation)

Middle Age: Life plateaus in the middle years. Brandon says,in Preservation's case, the magic is a gift—allowing a person to preserve their own strength, and rely upon the strength granted by the magic.” Allomancy is a magical prosthesis.

Breaks Cognitive Connections (Odium)

Old Age: Adults age, and their Connections to others break down. Odium tries to give Dalinar power, and make Dalinar his Champion, by breaking Dalinar’s human Connections. Dalinar is left “Alone. So Alone.” The Thrill gives power by stripping a mortal’s morality, mercy, and remorse. The Fused have no qualms killing Singers, their own race, for whom they’re supposedly fighting.

Decays (Ruin)

Death: Life ends with death and decomposition, the return of matter and energy to the system. Hemalurgy is a decaying process – what Brandon calls a “net negative” system. Preservation tells Kelsier, “Everything passes, nothing is eternal. That is what Ati always claimed....”

Other Shards

I don’t include Ambition and the unknown Shards. We don’t know how they give their magic to mortals, except for the unplanned magic of Threnody’s Shades. Since the “Wheel” incorporates only 9 of the 16 Shards, there’s ample room for more life stages, particularly between young adult and middle age.

Mandates and Personality – Are Mandates Intrinsic to Power?

Read this section if you like “deep theory.” I believe equally valid theories can explain Mandates without affecting the way cosmere magic works – Mandates exist, regardless of why. These are just some stray thoughts.


A recent WoB (emphasis added) says:



I was just wondering if a Shard's Intent can change over time without changing holders?

Brandon Sanderson

Without changing holders? The holder can have a slight effect on how the -- a big effect on how the Intent is interpreted, but what the Intent is stays the same. So it's gonna be filtered. The way it manifests can change, and you'll see that happening, but it is the same Intent. When it was broken off, it took a certain thing with it.

I speculate the “thing” taken is part of Adonalsium’s mind-soul Connection, one of the internal Connections that link an entity’s three Realmic aspects. IMO, the mind-soul Connection moves thought from the Cognitive Realm into the Spiritual Realm to give power direction.

I theorize the Vessels found a way to slice Adonalsium’s mind-soul Connection into the 16 Mandates. Each Mandate is like a hanging ganglion a Vessel’s mind needs to plug into. The Vessel’s mind in turn must fit the plug.

IMO, each Mandate coincides with a pattern of thought or habit of mind. Different personalities might share these patterns or habits. IOW, personalities don’t define Mandates. As Calderis says, Shard names reflect the Vessel’s personality, not the Shard’s “pure Intent,” its Mandate.

To show this distinction, I imagine what each Vessel’s occupation might have been pre-Shattering: Endowment – angel investor; Devotion – runs orphanage; Honor – clergyman; Dominion – bureaucrat; Cultivation – psychologist (“prunes minds”); Autonomy – I believe Bavadin is a dragon who lays “dragon eggs” on places like Patji; Preservation – Emergency Room doctor; Odium – lawyer; and Ruin – coroner.

People in these positions have varying personalities, but they share a way of looking at things. Angel investors want to give life to new ideas (and get a good Returned on their Investment). People who care for the young tend to be nurturers. Clergy unite people. Bureaucrats establish rules. Psychologists try to transform people. Dragons…who knows – maybe they want to be left alone? ER doctors stabilize their patients. Lawyers prefer logic to emotion. Coroners think about death. These occupations highlight a Vessel’s thought pattern or habit of mind, not its personality.

Example: Odium is “Divine Hatred” because he is a god and he is hateful. I think his magic, however, breaks Cognitive Connections. That is how users of his magic IMO get their power. Rayse as a hateful person naturally cuts his Connections to other people. But a surgeon, mortician, or executioner with much different personalities might also cut off their emotional Connections to others, just to do their jobs.

I do think the Vessels chose their Shard. Frost tells Hoid that Rayse “is what we made him to be, old friend [Odium’s Mandate]. And that is what he, unfortunately, wished to become [Rayse’s personality].” (WoK, Second Letter, emphasis added.) Rayse apparently chose the “Breaks Cognitive Connections” Shard.

Though Mandates Connect a Vessel’s mind to its Spiritual Realm power, IMO Mandates are not intrinsic to that power, as some theorize. Mandates to me are just a Shards’ thematic mechanic. Brandon says (in the first two WoBs) the powers are unrelated to the Shards. I believe him.

Anyway, these are just my views on where Mandates come from, and I could be completely wrong. But IMO that wouldn’t change how magic systems work.


I’ve tried to define Mandates in terms of mechanics – how Shards give their magic to mortals. It would be cool if Mandates do form a “Wheel of Life,” but that’s more “let’s keep an eye on this” than “theory” at this point. What do you all think?

Edited by Confused
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I like this. I've always thought of Cultivation more as growth than transformation though. I know that's kind of nitpicky as growth is a form of transformation. The word Cultivation connotes time and hard work. Whereas transformation to me seems almost instantaneous. For example if I said the pumpkin transformed into a carriage, that makes it seem like it happened without any work going into it. I swear I'm not trying to be a pain in the neck. I just like this idea and want to help streamline it. If you disagree by all means don't change anything it is after all your theory. :)


I didn't read the first half of your post. I sometimes get ahead of myself. I now realize that you totally meant growth when you said transformation. XD Maybe "Learns" for a possible shard we haven't met yet.



Edited by theuntaintedchild
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@Confused this is beautifully put together, and is a great idea that that the mandates map to different stages of life. I think your analysis is amazing, well reasoned and an incredibly interesting lens to look at the different shards that we know about. The one question I have is, that if this is true, you would need 7 more stages of life for all of the mandates of all the shards to fit in this paradigm. I honestly don't know how you would subdivide a life into 16 stages, but there could be a stage that's a transitional point between stages. Like I think conception/newborn could be broken up into two separate stages. Just something to think about, and like I said, awesome post.

I love you Cosmere Magic Theory post too, by the way. It's one of the posts that I read that made me want to start posting on the Shard.

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I agree, this is very interesting and well-constructed. It opens up some interesting speculation on the remaining shards. Senility? Death? Rebirth? Reincarnation?

But what's missing, for me anyway, is an explanation for why the shards would correspond to a mortal life cycle. Why is that significant to Adonalsium? Without that, this correspondence of shards to life-stages looks like coincidence. Albeit a very interesting coincidence.

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1 hour ago, Belzedar said:

I agree, this is very interesting and well-constructed. It opens up some interesting speculation on the remaining shards. Senility? Death? Rebirth? Reincarnation?

But what's missing, for me anyway, is an explanation for why the shards would correspond to a mortal life cycle. Why is that significant to Adonalsium? Without that, this correspondence of shards to life-stages looks like coincidence. Albeit a very interesting coincidence.

It probably is coincidental. I doubt there's a true pattern to the shards. Brandon himself has even said it that people have a tendency to look for patterns in things, regardless of whether there is a true pattern or not. 

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