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REVEREND MOTHER: originally, a proctor of the Bene Gesserit, one who has transformed an “illuminating poison” within her body, raising herself to a higher state of awareness. Title adopted by Fremen for their own religious leaders who accomplished a similar “illumination.” - Terminology of the Imperium

A Reverend Mother refers to a Bene Gesserit initiate (or other woman) who, by converting an awareness spectrum narcotic within their body, unlocks their genetic memory.

After completing many years of intellectual, physical, and emotional training within Bene Gesserit Schools, sisters deemed qualified by Proctors would be allowed to make the attempt to become Reverend Mothers. This potentially deadly ritual, known as the Spice Agony, involved the ingestion of the Water of Life. The Water of Life entered the sister's body as a poison; it was her task to consciously convert this poison into a substance benign to her. If the sister successfully completed this process, she unlocked the genetic memory of all her female ancestors, resulting in a sudden and immense accumulation of knowledge and abilities. Despite this, the new Reverend Mother did not have access to the memories of her male ancestors.

Within the Bene Gesserit, Reverend Mothers typically had three names: the first was a Latin male name, the second an English female name and the third an Arabic or exotic name. Examples include Gaius Helen Mohiam, Marcus Claire Luyseyal and Tertius Eileen Anteac.

Attempt to Create a Male "Reverend Mother"[]

Desirous of an individual that had access to both their male and female genetic inheritance, the primary goal of the original Bene Gesserit breeding program was the production of the Kwisatz Haderach. This would be a male with access to both their male and female genetic memory, as well as mental powers that bridged space and time. According to the Bene Gesserit, prior to Paul Atreides, the Water of Life ritual had been fatal to every male who had attempted it.

By the original plan of the Bene Gesserit, the Kwisatz Haderach would have been born from the union of a son of House Harkonnen and a daughter of House Atreides. However, Lady Jessica disobeyed the directives of the Bene Gesserit and bore a son, rather than a daughter, resulting in a Kwisatz Haderach appearing one generation earlier than expected.

Wild Reverend Mothers[]

Unbeknown to many in the Imperium, some fringe cultures also produced "wild" (i.e. non-Bene Gesserit) Reverend Mothers. In addition to the lower-ranking priestesses known as Sayyadinas, the Fremen also had their own Reverend Mothers who had undergone the Spice Agony. Fremen Reverend Mothers had access to Other Memory, like their Bene Gesserit counterparts. They did lack training in Voice and other skills of the Bene Gesserit initiate. It should be noted that the existence of Fremen Reverend Mothers was, at least in part, due to Bene Gesserit religious engineering orchestrated by the Missionaria Protectiva.

Another example of a wild Reverend Mother would be Rebecca, a member of a highly clandestine group of Jews located on Gammu. Rebecca demonstrated an important ability of Reverend Mothers: the ability to share Other Memory with another Reverend Mother by touching foreheads.

Risk of Abomination[]

While possession of genetic memory provided enormous advantages to a Reverend Mother, it came with its own set of dangers. Strong ego-memories could inject themselves into a Reverend Mother's consciousness against her will. If such a woman's personality was not strong enough, one or more ego-memories could completely dominate her. If this were to occur, that individual would be considered an Abomination.