According to fandom.com Dune wiki, the way a Bene Gesserit trainee becomes a Reverend Mother is by transmuting the Water of Life, being the bile of a young sandworm

which has been drowned in water.

Now, for the Fremen's own use, for their Saydaat, obtaining some worm bile is quite manageable - they live on Arrakis, surrounded by worms and sandtrout. But how do the Bene Gesserit get water-of-life to use themselves? Do they buy it via smugglers? Are they in routine direct contact with Fremen Reverend Mothers? Surely they don't breed sandworms off-planet, right?

3 Answers 3


That wiki page is wrong. The Bene Gesserit didn't use Water of Life; they mainly used something called "the Truthsayer drug". They didn't use spice at all until relatively recently at the time of the start of Dune, and their use of it is still at that point not widely known.

In the confrontation scene at the end of the book, Paul says:

"There are other poisons the Reverend Mothers can use for their tricks, but once they've used the spice liquor, the others no longer work."

The glossary at the end of the book only says this for Reverend Mother:

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".

The Fremen RMs copied the Bene Gesserit ritual, using their own poison, Water of Life. The BG didn't use the spice originally, but adopted because of its greater power.

(Also note that it's repeatedly described as impossible to breed sandworms off-planet; the secret is only discovered at the end of Heretics of Dune.)

  • 2
    Fremen didn't copy the ritual from B.G. All they took was the title of Reverend Mother. And she saw the thread of the past carried by Sayyadina after Sayyadina—first by word of mouth, hidden in the sand chanteys, then refined through their own Reverend Mothers with the discovery of the poison drug on Rossak … and now developed to subtle strength on Arrakis in the discovery of the Water of Life. It's quite possible that those development were in parallel, with Fremen Reverend Mother being a surprise to B.G.
    – AcePL
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:39
  • Spice liqueur is essentially Water of Life extract. Also pre- and post- Jessica may be important. Jessica’s epiphany is that she is able to identify and neutralize the poisonous, life-leeching properties of the Water. I’m not sure if every Bene Gesserit proto-Mother before her has had this same revelation and able to pacify the poison (success means they’re Mother, and failure means death?), or if Paul experienced similar when he drank. It’s presented as Jessica’s revelation being important and special. Nov 3, 2021 at 15:00

It's strongly implied that the Bene Gesserit have a long-standing presence on Arrakis, as they had evidently managed to plant long-standing expectations of the Kwizatz Haderach among the Fremen.

They were also routinely embedded in the other Great Houses, including the Atreides (via Jessia) and even the Harkonnen, who

are revealed to be related to Jessica and Paul because Vladimir Harkonnen is Jessica's father.

That being the case, their position as trusted advisors and even spouses to the Great Houses would have positioned them well to access the resources controlled by the respective Great Houses.

  • 12
    It says that this was "the groundwork laid by the Missionaria Protectiva **thousands of years earlier. **" - myths and prophecies, not routine relations trading sensitive religious items.
    – einpoklum
    Nov 3, 2021 at 13:47
  • @einpoklum I updated. Nov 3, 2021 at 14:16

It really depends on which historic epoch of the timeline one is focused on.

The endgame of the Bene Gesserit is essentially to break the spice monopoly of Dune, so they no longer have to rely on a monopolized supply chain for the basic necessity of their Sisterhood. This endgame was forced upon them when they lost Arrakis.

It was something which they’re on the cusp of achieving by the time of Chapterhouse: Dune. The Bene Gesserit have discovered how to recreate the spice cycle and had had not only begun it on Chapterhouse but had flooded the cosmos with sisters to recreate the spice cycle elsewhere. Yes, they are “breeding sand worms off planet.” This is the entire point of this novel: Dune was lost and sandworms must be bred off-planet by the Bene Gesserit.

Prior to the events of Chapterhouse: Dune, it was more difficult.

For example, when the God Emperor tightly controlled all Spice and the Sisterhood was down to a small stockpile, it was then forced to hoard and ration. During these times, the Bene Gesserit are at the mercy of their bargaining skills, dynastic relationships, and exploiting court drama to obtain the Water of Life.

  • 8
    I believe the question is more about the era of Dune itself.
    – OrangeDog
    Nov 3, 2021 at 14:00

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