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Spirit World (Avatar: The Last Airbender)

The Spirit World is a collective term for a spiritual realm in the fictional universe of the Nickelodeon animated television series Avatar: The Last Airbender. A secondary location accessible only by a few select individuals, the Spirit World is a parallel universe connected to the mortal world. It is home to the spirits of the planet as well as the spirits of past Avatars. Some spirit creatures act as guardians of rivers, mountains, and forests.

Appearance

When a spirit is in the Physical World for a brief period of time, they are seen as a bright sky blue and are slightly transparent, as seen in The Spirit World (Winter Solstice, Part 1). A spirit choosing to reside within the physical world, such as Wan Shi Tong and his assistants or the Moon and Ocean spirits Tui and La, however, appears fully formed and tangible. Some such as Hei Bai exhibit the ability to freely pass or pass others between the two realms. In the Spirit World, though solid and colored as if it was real, everything is cast into a darker light.

Rules of the Realm

If a person crosses over to the Spirit world, he or she is still able to observe and hear the natural world, but cannot be seen or heard themselves. Those in the natural world cannot observe or hear the spirit world, although Iroh seems to be an exception to this rule. Also, if something were to happen to his or her body in the natural world, their spirit may not be able to return to the body.

When a bender is in the Spirit World, he loses the ability to bend. Due to the fact that the Spirit world has no physical form, a bender is incapable of manipulating any of the four physical elements.

Solstices

The solstice is a natural phenomenon that occurs when the sun is at its greatest distance from the Earth's equator. In the Avatar world, as the solstice approaches, the natural world and the Spirit world grow closer together until the line between the two is almost completely blurred. During the solstices, the spirits are able to exert incredible power when within the natural world. This is also the ideal time for people who possess the ability to enter the Spirit world to do so.

Gateways

Many spiritual locations in the Physical Universe are "gateways" that connect with the Spirit World. The ultimate gateway is the Avatar, for he or she is the "Bridge between the Spirit World and the Physical World."

  • Hei Bai's Statue: Hei Bai is the patron spirit of Senlin's Forest, a forest within the Earth Kingdom, with a dedicated statue located within the center. Aang is transported to the Spirit World while his body remained atop the statue in a meditative pose; seen in "The Spirit World (Winter Solstice, Part 1)."
  • The Spirit Oasis: Located in the North Pole, this sacred oasis is the spiritual center of the Northern Water Tribe and is the home to the mortal incarnations of the Ocean and Moon Spirits. After meditating for a period of time in front of the pond in which two koi fish swim, Aang’s tattoos began glowing and he crossed over into the spirit world. He was later able to return to the physical world through the spirit gate that the oasis contained. Seen in the episode "The Siege of the North."
  • Foggy Swamp: A large swamp composed of a single superorganism, the swamp is capable of many mysterious things, including causing mysterious weather patterns and inducing visions of the past and future. The Avatar can use his connection to the spirit world to commune with the tree that envelopes all of Foggy Swamp.
  • Avatar Roku's Temple: A large temple built on a crescent shaped island in the heart of the Fire Nation, it is dedicated to the reincarnations of the Avatar. When the Winter Solstice occurs, Avatar Roku is able to enter the Physical World within this temple. It was destroyed by Roku to allow Aang and his friends to escape Admiral Zhao, who planned to capture the Avatar and his companions within the temple. It was last seen in "Avatar Roku (Winter Solstice, Part 2)."
  • Roku's Island- Aang goes to Roku's home island on the Summer solstice in order to learn of Roku's history.

Locations

A list of locations within the Spirit World.

Realm of Koh

  • A large swamp that seems to exist throughout the entirety of the Spirit World. It is made up of tall trees whose roots spread across the ground, which is covered by clear waters. Enma, along with various other spirit creatures inhabit the region. At the center stands an especially large, gnarled tree whose roots stretch into the sky, rather than the ground. Beneath this tree is Koh’s lair.

Koh's Lair

  • A large tree whose branches spread out at the top. There are pillars of stone set up in front of the tree so people can reach Koh's home. There is nothing set around Koh's home except fog. There is a cave beneath the tree, accessible by stone steps from the gaping hole at the base of the tree.

Notable Spirits

  • Hei Bai, the spirit of a forest.
  • Tui and La, the Moon and Ocean spirits, respectively.
  • Koh, a face-stealing spirit.
  • Wan Shi Tong, a knowledge spirit.
  • Avatars
    • Avatar Aang, Air Nomad
    • Avatar Roku, Fire Nation
    • Avatar Kyoshi, Earth Kingdom - a very old avatar who was in the same situation as Aang was when she was alive (Chin the Great was going to throw the world out of balance, but failed). In Sozin's comet, it's revealed that Aang felt uncomfortable with her because of they're very different personalities.
    • Avatar Kuruk, Water Tribe -A go with the flow Avatar who did not seem to do his job. He didn't become very active until the woman he loved was taken by Koh. His first appearance was in "The Avatar State" and made a full appearance in Sozin's comet
    • Avatar Yangchen, Air Nomad -An air nomad who apparently is a monk. She is very wise and isn't completely bald. Despite her ancestry, she tells Aang that he should kill Ozai. Her first appearance was in "The Avatar state" and made a full appearance in Sozin's comet.

Minor Spiritual Creatures

Enma

A spirit resembling a humanoid langur that resides on a mound of dirt in the swamp of the Spirit World where he meditates. Enma does not like his meditation to be disturbed and is quite cranky on the occasion that he is interrupted. He is dressed like a monk. When Aang was looking for Koh, he asked Enma for directions, but was rudely rebuffed twice. When Aang returned to the real world, Enma vocally expressed his relief.

Enma or Emma is the Japanese name for Yama, the ruler of the underworld in Buddhist and Hindu mythology. Also, the Mystical Monkey meditating beneath a giant tree is an allusion of the Bodhi tree where Siddhartha Gautama sat under and achieved enlightenment in becoming Buddha.

Knowledge Seekers

The servants of Wan Shi Tong that resemble conventional earth foxes. These small creatures scour the world for Wan Shi Tong, bringing back a scroll or book to add to the knowledge spirit's vast library. They are highly intelligent and are willing to work the planetarium and guide visitors to wherever it is that they need to find information. However, they like a reward after assistance. They can understand humans, can stand on their hind legs, and can scale vertical walls, useful for entering and exiting the library.

The Painted Lady

A pale river spirit with flowing robes and black hair, as well as mysterious red markings striped across her face and body. As is the case with several other spirits, only spiritually enlightened people are able to see her. Known for her benevolence and healing abilities, the Painted Lady is the guardian of the river town of Jang Hui, a small fishing village in the Fire Nation, one situated on stilts in the middle of a river. A decade ago, with the construction of a deleterious smelting factory, the once lucid river became extremely polluted, driving the river spirit away and leaving the villagers to fend for themselves.

In "The Painted Lady," the spirit is impersonated by Katara, who heals the sick and helps the villagers drive away the soldiers in charge of the factory. Once the waters have been cleansed, the Painted Lady is able to return once again. When she does, she reveals herself to Katara and thanks her before disappearing into the mists.

See also

References

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