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Tau Ethereal
Ethereal Caste symbol[12]

The Ethereals (or Aun in the T'au Lexicon) are members of the Ethereal Caste, the leaders of Tau society.


Not appearing in the earliest Tau mythos, their arrival is credited with starting the unification process between the various Tau tribes and coincided with the implementation of the concept of the Greater Good. They first appeared during a siege between the Tau of the plains (later known as the Fire Caste) and the Tau of the city of Fio'taun (later known as the Earth Caste). The Ethereals brought the two sides together to negotiate and convinced them to follow the Greater Good.[1]

Ethereals lead the Tau Empire socially and politically, and sometimes lead the Fire Caste into battle to provide inspirational leadership, so the warriors can achieve more. This is a gamble, however, as if the Ethereal falls in combat the remaining Tau are struck with such grief and anger that battle plans fall apart.[4]

As the leaders of the Tau, the Ethereals are enigmatic and studious, yet unfaltering in their authority and their drive to further the Greater Good with few exceptions. They are mystics and philosophers, possessed of knowledge and wisdom not shared by their more practical subjects. As such they had some part to play in the Tau rapid development, and to this day guide their species in its dynamic expansion, or the castes revert to the savagery that once threatened to destroy them.[4]

The power this caste holds over the Tau is such that an Ethereal could tell a Tau to die and that Tau would do so quickly and gladly. Though the obedience of the Tau to Ethereals is held as natural, other races, especially Mankind, have long speculated about this uncommon loyalty. There are many theories, from prenatal indoctrination and pheromonal compulsion to the presence of some veiled psychic gift possessed by the Ethereals, but as yet no confirmed proof of any such power has been secured. Those few Ethereals that have been captured and subjected to interrogation have proven less than forthcoming.[8]

There is strong implication from the similarities between an organ possessed uniquely among Tau by the Ethereals, and an organ which Q'orl queens use in pheromonal communication, that this ability may be due to deliberate engineering in the Ethereals' past, likely by the Aeldari.[1]

On their foreheads resides a small organ, smaller than the ones the other castes have. Imperial studies on the organ show no biological function, but it's suspected that the Ethereal studied is a dud, or that the way the Ethereal control the Tau is more esoteric in nature[4]


As with other members of their species who have obtained a formal position, Ethereals adopt their rank into their personal name. Additionally, some Ethereals are drawn to specialized orders, which when joined bestow alternate titles. If an Ethereal attained the rank of Aun'el and then became a Yasu'aun, for example, they would retain the rank of Aun'el but properly be addressed as Seeker.[13]

Ethereal ranks from lowest to highest are:[11]

Rank Translation
Aun'saal Lord
Aun'la Prince
Aun'ui Prelate
Aun'vre King
Aun'el Holy One
Aun'O Highest of the Holy

Notable Ethereals


See Also



Tau Empire
Allied Races
Notable Characters