The Honored Matres were a powerful all-female group who emerge from uncharted space to become formidable rivals of the Bene Gesserit, some two thousand years after the death of the God Emperor Leto Atreides II.
During the departure of countless people during The Scattering, the Bene Gesserit sent out many exploration and colonization teams from within their own ranks. Nothing was heard of the groups again. However, it was later discovered that some did survive, and indeed thrived in numbers and power. However, the experiences of this group, and their interactions with other groups from The Scattering, triggered fundamental changes in their beliefs, customs and objectives.
In the original Dune series by Frank Herbert, it is suggested that the Honored Matres' heritage is an offshoot of the customs of the Bene Gesserit and Fish Speakers, and indeed, the Matres derive their heritage from both.
In God Emperor of Dune, Leto II mentions that the Fish Speakers "bind" males to them. This could be seen as further proof that the Honored Matres do indeed have their beginnings in the Fish Speakers.
"My houris often submit to a form of rape at first only to convert this into a deep and binding mutual dependence." "Dammit! You're. . ." "Binding, Duncan! Binding."
Customs and Ideologies
While some Bene Gesserit ideologies remained a part of the Honored Matre identity, they incorporated outside customs and philosophies that made them very distinct from – and often at odds with – their ancestral origins. Key to these was their general opinion of control. While the Bene Gesserit used subtle and often-deceptive methods to retain their power base within an existing balance of power, the Honored Matres sought to supersede the status quo and gain absolute control over all other groups.
This aggressive strategy required the enslavement or destruction of all other power brokers, and consequently demanded the group possess powerful control mechanisms. The most effective method used by the Honored Matres to infiltrate and overwhelm other groups was a form of "sexual enslavement." During their evolution in uncharted space, the Honored Matres perfected sexual intercourse into a narcotic process.
By using carefully crafted skills, an Honored Matre practitioner learned how to coerce an outsider – typically of the male gender – into total subservience. This action, performed often, and upon the right individuals, allowed them to conquer many other groups in uncharted space, and build a formidable military and resource-base.
The Honored Matres hungered for intimidation and violence, a trait that encompassed their entire culture. Evidence of this was visible in their frequent use of assassination to gain power.
Leadership of the Honored Matres was executed via the absolute control of one member, who typically rose to the top by killing the previous leader and any other colleagues who got in her way. This method was the established rite of ascension. Thus, the title of "leader" changed frequently, and loyalty between Honored Matres was conditional at best.
Seeking Bene Gesserit skills such as cellular-control, which would render the Scourge powerless, the Matres continued on in violence, and destroyed planets and civilizations with their stolen Weapons. The Matres returned to the core of the Old Empire, during the leadership of Bene Gesserit Mother Superior Alma Mavis Taraza. They wrought havoc in an attempt to instill fear and gain absolute power over all. After conquering many planets, they made Junction their capitol in their war of conquest.
Though most groups of the Old Empire were conquered or infiltrated (including the Bene Tleilax), the Bene Gesserit mounted strong resistance, thanks in no small part to their immunity to the Honored Matres' enslavement-skills and the efforts of Miles Teg and one of the Duncan Idaho gholas.
Merger of the Honored Matres and Bene Gesserit
Using their own resources, the Bene Gesserit succeeded in holding the Honored Matres at bay. However, realizing military might would not be enough to succeed long-term, they embarked upon a strategy of infiltration. Thanks to the powers resident within the genetic makeup of their Duncan Idaho ghola (who was largely immune to the sexual talents of the Honored Matres) they captured Murbella, a talented and rapidly-emerging member of the Honored Matres.
Over time, Murbella was coerced into becoming a Bene Gesserit, although she retained partial loyalty to the Honored Matres until completing the Agony. Upon realizing the change in Murbella, the Bene Gesserit Mother Superior Darwi Odrade gave instruction that she should succeed her as leader of the Bene Gesserit.
During the final confrontation between the leadership of the two groups, Odrade was killed, and Murbella killed Logno, the Great Honored Matre. Murbella ascended to the roles of both Mother Superior and Great Honored Matre, and was thus the leader of both groups. She proceeded to unite them in an uneasy alliance, taking the title of Mother Commander of the newly-formed organization.
Behind the Scenes
In the Dune prequels (not considered canonical within the Frank Herbert continuity), the distribution of Amal with Face Dancers by the Tleilaxu Master Hidar Fen Ajidica while occupying Ix was a thread outlined in the novels by Brian Herbert and Kevin J. Anderson.