|"The Air Nomads detached themselves from worldly concerns and found peace and freedom."|
|— Iroh to Zuko on the nature of the Air Nomads.|
Air Nomads is the collective term for the monastic order of men and women who practice the discipline of airbending and their seclusive, theocratic society. One of the four nations, the Air Nomads were wanderers by definition, but had four air temples, one located at each corner of the globe, hidden away atop mountain ranges and under cliffs, in the northern Earth Kingdom and on three remote islands. Unlike the other nations, the people of the Air Nomads were, without any seen exception, all benders due to the high level of spirituality of their people.
The Air Nomads were a peaceful race who were wiped out by the Fire Nation. They lived in large temples and travelled the world on flying bison. They were the most spiritual of all the cultures and lived in harmony with nature. They were also fun-loving and had a strong sense of humour.
The Air Nomads have the smallest population of the four nations in the world. They had a small economy, based entirely on limited agriculture. The population of the Air Nomads was small compared to even the Water Tribe and was far smaller than either of the world's two major powers, the Fire Nation and the Earth Kingdom.
In 0 AG, the Air Nomads were the victims of a genocide at the hands of the Fire Nation. Ironically, the sole known survivor of the massacre was the very person the Fire Nation sought to kill in its quest for supremacy: the twelve-year-old airbender and Avatar, Aang, who had run away from the Southern Air Temple shortly before the Hundred Year War began and became trapped in suspended animation in a globe of ice along with his lifetime friend, Appa. One hundred years later, he was awakened and released by Katara and Sokka, who helped him succeed in his quest to restore balance and peace to the warring nations.
After the Hundred Year War, Aang found several flying bison and ring-tailed winged lemurs. Elsewhere, a group named the Air Acolytes was formed to carry on the teachings, culture, and traditions of the Air Nomads. Having restored the buildings to their former glory, they occupy the air temples, along with the newfound flying bison and ring-tailed winged lemurs. Forming the new 'Air Nation', they also had a representative on the United Republic Council, a spot held by an Air Acolyte and later Tenzin until 171 AG.
In 171 AG, after the Harmonic Convergence, nonbending individuals across the world began manifesting newly acquired airbending abilities. Tenzin began to train a group of Airbender volunteers into a new generation of Air Nomads, in order to fortify a still-recovering Air Nation and to perpetuate the bending traditions of its culture. After the insurrection of the Red Lotus, Tenzin decided that the Air Nation would roam the world, helping people of all nations to stop corruption and disorder. In 174 AG, the new Air Nation continued to prosper, as more and more people who gained airbending abilities were trained in the art on Air Temple Island.
- 1 History
- 2 Appearance
- 3 National emblem
- 4 Geography
- 5 Culture
- 6 Season
- 7 Natural resources and foods
- 8 Government
- 9 Military
- 10 Notable places
- 11 Notable figures
- 12 Trivia
- 13 References
- 14 See also
In the era of Raava, the ancestors of the Air Nomads lived in villages built on the back of the air lion turtles that granted them the element of air upon request through energybending. They could do so whenever they ventured into the Spirit Wilds, to aid in the gathering of food and resources. Unlike people from other lion turtle cities, the ancestors of the Air Nomads coexisted harmoniously with the spirits and demonstrated great respect and understanding of spiritual matters. After Wan became the first Avatar in 9,829 BG, the lion turtles renounced their roles as protectors of mankind, and these people eventually formed the first Air Nomads. At this point, the ancestors of the first Air Nomads left the lion turtle settlements.
As a nation
At some point, the Air Nomads emerged as unified people, building temples as their homes while often traveling the world to interact with other people. Eventually, they concentrated in four main temples in the corners of the globe, although they also maintained other sacred sites. Some Air Nomads remained independent of the temples and continued to live as full nomads, roaming the world as individuals or small groups. Around 3,829 BG, Guru Laghima lived at the Northern Air Temple, before the political establishment of the four nations. His poetry and philosophical works would remain influential in the four nations for thousands of years. Forty years prior to his death, Laghima relinquished his earthly attachments and achieved the power of flight, living the rest of his life untethered from the earth. The feat would not be accomplished again in millennia.
Over time, the Air Nomads became increasingly detached from the rest of the world, with many monks as well as nuns focusing on enlightenment and spiritual matters. This rejection of material issues resulted in Air Nomads becoming an ever more rare sight in the Fire Nation and Earth Kingdom. Nevertheless, members of other nations continued to view Air Nomads as bearers of good fortune, and many non-Air Nomads settled in the air temples as pilgrims to seek enlightenment.
Avatar Yangchen of the Western Air Temple was considered one of the greatest Avatars in history. She became revered as a holy figure among the Air Nomads following her death. Her people continued to honor Yangchen's deals with the spirits, most notably keeping the ruins of Lady Tienhai's city free of human civilization to placate the spirit General Old Iron. The Air Nomads organized a ritual to remember this deal, eventually naming the yearly ceremony as "Yangchen's Festival". Over time, the Air Nomads built at least two massive statues of Yangchen: one in the Eastern Air Temple and one in the Western Air Temple. No threats of war occurred for an entire generation after Yangchen's death, ushering a prolonged period of peace across the world.
The Air Nomads also hosted and trained Yangchen's successor Kuruk, although he regularly caused trouble at the air temples. As a result, the prestigious and accomplished monk Kelsang of the Southern Air Temple was appointed to watch over Kuruk; he went on to joined the Avatar's team of companions. Following Kuruk's early death, the world experienced a period of intense crisis, as violent uprisings, political infighting, and banditry grew rapidly, while no new Avatar could be identified for years. The Air Nomads continued to look inwards during this time, resulting in some Earth Kingdom sages accusing them of inactivity and arguing that the Air Nomads' intense detachment of the world had disrupted the Avatar cycle. The Air Nomads disowned Kelsang during this time, as he stole the Avatar relics and killed many Fifth Nation pirates to save Earth Kingdom civilians from a large raid.
As it turned out, the next Avatar, Kyoshi, was in fact half Air Nomad. Her mother Jesa had been a renegade nun from the Eastern Air Temple. Kyoshi herself was raised by Kelsang and formed a close bond with him. After her struggle against Jianzhu, Kyoshi sought sanctuary at the Southern Air Temple. The Air Nomads consequently provided support and shelter to Kyoshi, as she faced great opposition from many Earth Kingdom sages. Before departing the air temple, Monk Jinpa joined the Avatar, acting as her secretary for the next year.
Years after Kyoshi's death, her successor, Roku, learned airbending at the Southern Air Temple, forming a close friendship with Gyatso while there. Roku's successor, Avatar Aang, grew up at this temple and was mentored under the guardianship of Gyatso, who had since become a monk. By his time, the Air Nomads had once again become more mobile.
- Main article: Air Nomad Genocide
Twelve years after the passing of Avatar Roku, Fire Lord Sozin used a comet, later named Sozin's Comet, to enhance his armies' firebending abilities to eliminate the Air Nomads, the next nation in the Avatar Cycle, to achieve his goal of world domination. The high monks anticipated a war coming and the Council of Elders of the Southern Air Temple decided to reveal to Aang his identity as the Avatar prematurely at age twelve as opposed to the standard sixteen. His airbending training was subsequently intensified despite already having earned his mastery tattoos. The revelation made Aang feel that his childhood was taken away from him and everyone suddenly treated him differently. When the monks attempted to separate Aang from his master and father-figure, Gyatso, to complete his airbending training at the Eastern Air Temple, Aang, having overheard the conversation, ran away on his bison, Appa. They accidentally got caught up in a storm and crashed at sea. While sinking, Aang unconsciously entered the Avatar State, freezing himself and Appa in a sphere of ice, which kept him alive for the next century. Meanwhile, the Fire Nation attacked the temples in a preemptive strike and exterminated the airbending population, although they failed to track down the Avatar. Some Air Nomads managed to escape the initial carnage, but they were hunted down, and by the end of Sozin's reign, the Air Nomads were believed to be extinct.
The Fire Nation's government went on to spread vicious propaganda about the Air Nomads to justify their act of mass murder. After Aang, the last Air Nomad, reemerged one hundred years after the genocide and ended the Hundred Year War, he tried to find ways to revive and safeguard what was left of the Air Nomads' culture.
The Air Acolytes
- Main article: Air Acolytes
A year after the war, Avatar Aang discovered a group of Earth Kingdom citizens who had built a fan club in his honor. Initially disgusted at seeing the sacred aspects of his culture mimicked, he eventually transformed them into the Air Acolytes, a community of nuns and monks dedicated to upholding Air Nomad culture. Years later, Aang's marriage to Katara blessed him with an airbending son, Tenzin, who was extensively taught by Aang in airbending and Air Nomad culture. The population of the Air Acolytes grew, prompting Aang to spearhead the restoration of the air temples to serve as their new homes. Aang also built a fifth air temple in the newly established United Republic of Nations, which came to be known as Air Temple Island. Tenzin, who became the Air Nation's representative on the United Republic Council, came to reside on the island with his wife, Pema, and their four children, three of whom are known airbenders.
Rebirth of a nation
In 171 AG, the energy shift caused by Harmonic Convergence resulted in several nonbenders obtaining airbending abilities, expanding the world population of airbenders beyond the bloodline of Avatar Aang and speeding up the reformation of the nation by generations. The unexpected possibility of repopulating the air temples within one or two generations suddenly became a reality. This prompted Tenzin and Avatar Korra to travel the world to recruit volunteers to be trained in the ways of the Air Nomads. This proved to be a daunting task, as most of their new prospects rejected the idea of leaving their loved ones and worldly possessions behind. However, they discovered a group of airbenders captured by Earth Queen Hou-Ting, who was conscripting Earth Kingdom airbenders into her army to form a First Airbending Regiment. The new airbenders were rescued and when given the choice to be relocated somewhere safe or join Tenzin at the Northern Air Temple to live in peace and train as Air Nomads, they all decided to train under his tutelage. However, the two sides found it difficult to find a middle ground due to Tenzin's expectations of the volunteers to be identical to the old Air Nomads. Eventually, both parties made amends following a bison rustler attack and resumed training.
Following the insurrection of the Red Lotus and the incapacitation of Avatar Korra, the new Air Nation returned to its nomadic roots, but, unlike their predecessors' reclusive nature, they instead dedicated themselves to bringing peace and balance to the world. By 174 AG, the nation's population had grown, as more new airbenders came to train in the art on Air Temple Island. The Air Nation joined the fight against Kuvira when she invaded the United Republic and laid waste to Republic City. Following Kuvira's arrest, the airbenders joined the relief effort for the homeless evacuees at the evacuation camp while another group gathered around the new spirit portal to meditate and later protect it against intruders. The portal and land surrounding it was eventually given to them by President Zhu Li Moon in hopes that they would continue to thrive and flourish in an area rich with spiritual energy while at the same time keeping it safe from those who wish to exploit it.
During the era of Raava, the predecessors of the Air Nomads symbolized their belief by practicing the same traditions, such as tattooing their bodies, albeit with a different design: They were more polygonal in shape and their ends bore an upside down "T" with a dot beneath it. These markings were applied even on children and they were not associated with airbending mastery at that time. The clothing that men wore consisted of orange cloth at the top and red at the bottom. They also wore long, white leggings underneath their bottoms along with brown shoes. Women donned red full-body garments with a vertical yellow cloth stitched on the abdomen part of the robes, a maroon hood and a brown cloth wrapped around the waist. They also wore brown shoes like the men but did not wear the white leggings.
After the early airbenders learned more advanced techniques from the flying bisons, they changed the tattoos to emulate the arrow-shaped markings of the bison. The Air Nomads wore yellow, orange, and brown clothing. Aang and other young airbenders wore orange shawls over long-sleeved yellow shirts, an orange sash, double-layered pants with brown underneath and a loose yellow layer on top, and high boots that reach just below the knees. Older monks wore long robes in shades of yellow and orange, as well as wooden necklaces with the Air Nomad insignia carved into it. Most Air Nomads have gray or brown eyes and a light complexion.
By 174 AG, the new airbenders from the restored Air Nation had taken to wearing wingsuits, colored primarily red with additional yellow and gray accents, which permitted agile gliding over short distances without the need for staffs or bison.
Young boys to be trained as monks have shaven heads, while monk elders grow beards and mustaches; they had the longest and most prominent facial hair of any nation. Female airbenders do not fully shave their heads, just their foreheads so their arrow is visible. Shaving one's head is voluntary, though was encouraged so the airbender could feel the air around them.
Airbenders who have attained a level of mastery in the art are marked with the arrow tattoos. A primary arrow tattoo is placed on their shaven head that extends down their back, along with four others, one on each limb that terminates in an arrowhead at the hands and feet. The bottom tip of the triangle on the forehead end just between the eyebrows, while the arrows on the hands aim at the middle finger. The arrows mark the paths through which chi travels through the body. Because of this, when an Air Nomad Avatar tattooed in this fashion enters the Avatar State, these tattoos are known to glow, along with the Avatar's eyes and mouth. If the body has received an injury deeper than the tattoo, that spot will no longer glow while in the Avatar State.
The Air Nomad insignia is a stylized, swirling orb. Within the circle, coiling lines illustrate the wind. The symbol can be seen on the design of doors and surfaces in the air temples, as well as on pendants of monks' prayer beads.
The Air Nomad flag is a banner held between two wooden poles. The center of the banner is emblazoned with the Air Nomad insignia.
In the era before the Avatar, the precursors of the Air Nomads lived on top of lion turtles in straw huts that used blue cloth with a single swirl design to cover the entrance. With the rise of the Avatar, the lion turtles renounced their role as protectors of mankind, and the people left the safety of the cities to built large temples on remote mountains. There were four temples in all, one for each direction on the compass; two were run for and by males, and two were run for and by females. The young boys of the Southern Air Temple were known to travel to the Eastern Air Temple in order to choose their own personal sky bison. This was considered an important choice as the intelligent animals would be with the choosing airbenders for the rest of their lives.
After the genocide, all temples showed damage incurred during the Fire Nation attack. However, following the end of the Hundred Year War and the foundation of the Air Acolytes, Aang spearheaded the restoration of all four temples to their former glory. He also built Air Temple Island, located off the coast of Republic City. The island itself has an air temple which is the smaller than the other four temples. However, during the Red Lotus attacks, the Northern Air Temple was destroyed when Ghazan used lavabending to melt its foundations. The other temples are currently housed by the Air Acolytes and the airbenders of the Air Nation.
During the era of Raava, the ancestors of the Air Nomads lived in harmony with the spirits. Even though the spirits returned to their realm after Wan became the first Avatar and closed the spirit portal, the descendants of the first Air Nomads still held the same level of spirituality and were known to travel to the Spirit World through meditation.
While other nations possess royalty and are run by hereditary monarchies, the Air Nomads were led by the senior monks and nuns of the air temples. Due to the peaceful teachings of their leaders, the nature of the people was calm and tranquil. They also believed in equality for all, that people should live without divisions in society. In that spirit, same-sex relationships were completely accepted in Air Nomad culture, as their generally peaceful and open-minded way of life led them to embrace all forms of consenting love. Because of this, Air Nomads had no need to "come out" about their sexual orientations.
The Air Nomads were considered to be bearers of good fortune throughout the world, and people would often ask them for blessings. Having an Air Nomad say a few words of spiritual blessing over a new barn or baby was considered great luck. When monks and nuns would have to stop at villages across the world along their journeys from temple to temple, most peasants would gladly provide them hospitality in exchange for help with chores, news, and entertaining stories from other parts of the world, or a promise to relay messages to distant relatives.
The Air Nomads are the only nation comprised entirely of benders. Meditation was an important part of the airbenders' daily routines, as it helped them to focus their energies and understand the potency of their element. Due to their high spirituality, the monks believed that hope was only a distraction.
It has been mentioned that they had a good sense of humor, something demonstrated when Monk Gyatso employed a unique teaching method when tutoring Aang with his airbending skills, accurately blowing fruit pies onto other monks' heads as a prank. This activity was useful training and a fun game combined.
The Air Nomads also revered certain events and holidays, such as Yangchen's Festival, which celebrated the Avatar's victory over a dark spirit, General Old Iron. The holiday was marked as one of the highest on the Air Nomad calendar and, according to Aang, was also one of the funniest celebrations of their culture.
The arrow tattoos adorning an Air Nomad's body signifies that he or she has mastered airbending. This is an emulation of the natural arrows on the heads of flying bison, who can naturally airbend and are the original teachers of the art, much like the badgermole is to the earthbenders. Aspiring airbenders have no tattoos and in order to receive the tattoos as well as the title of a master, an airbender must pass the thirty-six levels of airbending or engineer a new technique. In actuality, Aang had only reached the thirty-fifth level before he left the Southern Air Temple, but his invention of the air scooter earned him the tattoos prematurely, making him the youngest airbending master in history until his granddaughter, Jinora, earned her tattoos at the age of eleven. Aang's son, Tenzin, later became the first to master the bending art following the Air Nomad Genocide. After receiving their tattoos, the airbender is anointed a master during a special ceremony.
The Air Nomads also preached against the concept of revenge, viewing it as being akin to a two-headed rat-viper: by destroying your enemy, you poison yourself.
A century later, under the new Air Nation, an oath of nonaggression was to be declared by a new airbender, by which they swore to adopt the more pacifistic ways of the Air Nomads by using direct combat solely as a last resort.
Airbending master anointing ceremony
When an Air Nomad or Air Nation airbender has been deemed a master, they receive their tattoos during a special anointing ceremony. During the time of the Air Nation, this ceremony took place in a temple hall filled with Air Nomadic decorations, including their emblem banners and incense.
Before the ceremony, the hair of the master-to-be is shaven, and their limbs and head are tattooed. For the ceremony, they don a yellow robe with a hood covering their head in order to cover the tattoos. While being presented to the congregated airbenders, Air Acolytes, and other witnesses, the airbending master presiding over the ceremony removes the robe to reveal the tattoos on the new master. During the reveal, other airbenders bend the smoke from the burning incense toward the bells located on the outer part of the hall, ringing them to signal the arrival of a new airbending master.
Each nation of the four nations is influenced by their own distinct, dominant season, in which their bending is at its peak. Autumn, the season where winds blow more frequently and with more power, is the dominant season of the Air Nomad race. Airbenders are thus at their strongest in this season. More Air Nomad children were born during autumn than any other season, all retaining bending abilities.
Natural resources and foods
The Air Nomads were a tranquil people who endeavored to preserve the environment around them. Any industry that they invested in, such as farming or gardening, was sustainable and powered naturally, so as to not disturb the balance of nature.
Air is the main source of power of the Air Nation, as it was for the Air Nomads. Their control over the element means they have no need for industrial machinery, combustion, or electricity, and whatever trades and crafts they engage in are fairly non-polluting. They are also able to ride on their sky bison and glide in the open air for transportation. By 170 AG, however, a radio was located on Air Temple Island for communication purposes.
Believing all life to be precious, the Air Nomads were strict vegetarians, though they did eat eggs and dairy products, as Aang's favorite food was egg custard tarts. The nomads were also known for making sweet dishes such as pies, which were sold for one silver piece each with all profits given to charity. One of their dishes was steamed tofu. This vegetarianism was continued by Tenzin and his family, with a garden located on Air Temple Island for growing vegetables.
- Main article: Politics in the World of Avatar
Council of Elders
Government system: Ecclesiastical senate
Head of state and government: Four Councils of Elders
Most recent known head: Four Councils of Elders
Territorial divisions: Four air temples
Heads of territorial divisions: Head monks, abbots (Northern and Southern Air Temple) and mothers superior (Eastern and Western Air Temple)
Capital: No overall capital
Unlike the other three nations, which were ruled by royal families and structured governments, each of the Air Nomads' temples was led by a respected Council of Elders. Composed of wise airbending masters, they were both the political and religious authority and served as counsel for their citizens and airbending instructors.
Government system: Unitary Pseudo-Ecclesiocracy
Head of state and government: No overall head of state; just certain respected individuals
Most recent known head: Tenzin
Territorial divisions: Five air temples
Heads of territorial divisions: Abbots and abbesses
Capital: No overall capital
To preserve the culture of the extinct Air Nomads, Avatar Aang founded the Air Acolytes, a group consisting of mostly Earth Kingdom nonbenders that would uphold Air Nomad philosophies and traditions. After the acolytes' formation, the air temples were each administered by abbots and abbesses.
Following the abolition of the United Republic Council and the airbender boom in 171 AG, Tenzin, by virtue of being the world's most senior airbending master, continued to have a say in global affairs as the figurehead of the Air Nation. He continued to reside on Air Temple Island as he oversaw the growth of the nation, training an increasing number of new airbenders in their bending art.
Contrary to the propaganda spread in the Fire Nation, the Air Nomads did not have any form of military, as they were firm believers in peace and non-violence. Although the Air Nomads did not have any organized fighting force, they still proved to be formidable opponents, as Gyatso's skeleton was found surrounded by the remains of several comet-enhanced firebenders he had defeated when attacked. Because they were pacifists, Air Nomads led peaceful lives and avoided conflict when possible, though were willing to fight when there was no other option left to take. Aang also mentioned that Fire Lord Sozin defeated the Air Nomads by ambush.
Despite this and their pacifist nature, Tenzin declared, after Avatar Korra was severely physically and psychologically hurt by the Red Lotus' metal poison, that the restored Air Nation adopted the nomadic ways of their predecessors, but with the intention of becoming bringers of peace and balance. Airbender parties scoured the Earth Kingdom after the nation's fall into chaos following Earth Queen Hou-Ting's assassination at the hands of Zaheer in 171 AG. In this capacity, Kai and Opal forcibly halted the escape of three bandits, who were terrorizing the capital of the Earth Kingdom state of Yi, in 174 AG. However, the Air Nation was spread too thin to cover the entirety of the large Earth Kingdom to effectively bring order and balance. They also participated in the defense of Republic City when the Earth Empire invaded it and later acted as guardians of Republic City's spirit portal, protecting the Spirit World from human intervention.
- Air Nomad caves
- Air Temple Island
- Eastern Air Temple
- Laghima's Peak
- Northern Air Temple
- Southern Air Temple
- Western Air Temple
- Whaletail Island
This is a list of known Air Nomads and born airbenders prior to Harmonic Convergence of 171 AG.
Air Temple Island
Eastern Air Temple
Northern Air Temple
Southern Air Temple
Western Air Temple
This is a list of known individuals who obtained airbending abilities after Harmonic Convergence in 171 AG and volunteered to rebuild the Air Nation.
This is a list of Air Acolytes, the monks and nuns from other nations who chose to follow the ways of the Air Nomads after the end of the Hundred Year War.
- The Air Nomad culture closely resembles that of Hindu priests and Tibetan monks.
- The Air Nomads are sometimes addressed as "the wandering nation".