Those born with the spark are people who not only have the ability to channel with experienced guidance but will inevitably begin to channel with or without training. Three out of four women with the spark do not survive this learning process on their own. Most who do not receive formal training (called wilders by Aes Sedai) either die or achieve a rudimentary control, often accompanied by unconscious blocks preventing them from hurting themselves by drawing too much and burning themselves out. In much of the Westlands, a family will readily send a daughter to the White Tower if she shows signs of channeling. This holds true even among those who dislike the Aes Sedai, such as in Tear and Amadicia.
The White Tower would ideally find and train every girl born with the spark in the Westlands both to save the girl from the dangers and to claim her as a part of the tower's dwindling numbers. In practice, the Tower does not succeed in finding very many girls at all - neither those with a spark nor those who have the ability to learn - and many channelers born with the spark become wilders in the Westlands. Nynaeve al'Meara is one such woman; she was born with the spark and began channeling long before the opportunity for training was presented. She and Sharina Melloy are the two most powerful channelers alive as far as Aes Sedai are aware, and the fact that their existence would have eluded the Tower's grasp under normal circumstances speaks to the Tower's failure in finding channelers. Other channelers of notable ability who would not have been found by the Tower under normal circumstances would be Egwene al'Vere, Nicola Treehill and Bodewhin Cauthon; all of these women are more powerful channelers than any Aes Sedai to be seen in years.
Manifesting the spark
A woman born with the spark will unavoidably begin to manifest her ability, which usually happens in her early teen years. After the first touching of the True Source the channeler will experience a reaction less than ten days later. She will experience violent shivers, headaches, bouts of mania, numbness, dizziness, and many other possible symptoms. The next time she channels saidar, the ill effects will occur sooner after the incident, and subsequent times they affect the person closer to the actual time of touching until it happens almost at the same time. At that point the visible symptoms stop, and control must be learned (likely in the form of a block) or death soon follows. In as short a time as one year or as many as five the channeler will fall to the ground screaming and convulsing. Once this happens not even the One Power can save them.
Men can also learn to channel on their own, although they usually manifest this trait later than women. Men may not show any sign until their mid-twenties, such as Mazrim Taim. Until recently, the taint has long been an additional difficulty facing those men who do achieve some degree of control. With the cleansing of saidin and the establishing of the Black Tower, the risks have been alleviated somewhat and are more akin to dangers of touching saidar unguided.
Those who have the spark in them often become very strong channelers. The correlation between strength and possessing the spark (as opposed with only the potential to learn) is dubious, though. In the Age of Legends, possessing the inborn spark was a requirement for becoming an Aes Sedai;[verify] all were tested for it until they were too old to be a possibility. However, the spark has proved NOT to be a prerequisite for relative strength. Neither Nicola Treehill nor Sharina Melloy, who amongst modern White Tower initiates is only matched or outstripped in the Power by Cadsuane Melaidhrin, Egwene al'Vere, Bodewhin Cauthon, Elayne Trakand, and Nynaeve al'Meara, did not have the spark inborn and had to be taught to channel. This proves that having the spark does not necessarily mean stronger channeling ability, as Nicola and Sharina had to be taught to channel and they is more powerful than any Aes Sedai in centuries (except the aforementioned). However, most of the women (except possibly Cadsuane) mentioned to match or be more powerful than Nicola have the spark, indicating that the strongest channelers are almost always born with the spark.
In Seanchan women who are born with the spark are held by an a'dam and made into damane. They are controlled by sul'dam who collar them and treat them like beasts, not knowing that the sul'dam themselves are women who can be taught to channel.