- This article is about the place. For the episode with a similar name, see "Winter Solstice, Part 1: The Spirit World".
|"In the Spirit World, your emotions become your reality—especially for the Avatar, because you are the bridge between the two worlds."|
|— Iroh to Korra.|
The Spirit World is a parallel plane of reality that coexists alongside the physical world inhabited by humans. It is home to the spirits, a vast range of immortal, supernatural entities that often embody different aspects of life and nature.
Relation to the physical world
Prior to 171 AG and the reopening of the Northern and Southern spirit portals, travel between the physical and Spirit Worlds was very rare. It was extremely difficult for any human other than the Avatar, who was the bridge between the two worlds, to enter the Spirit World, and even then could only their spirit cross over. By the same token, only a handful of spirits were capable of assuming physical forms in the mortal world, and doing so required them to give up their immortality. After Avatar Korra reopened the portals in 171 AG, travel between the two worlds became much easier, as people and spirits could once again physically cross into the other world.
Other than physically crossing through a portal, there are only a few known ways for humans other than the Avatar to enter into the Spirit World: they can be carried in by a spirit as the entity shifts between the worlds, and enlightened individuals can cross over through meditation. Certain locations in the physical world also act as bridges to the Spirit World, such as the Spirit Oasis in the North Pole and the Forgetful Valley outside the Fire Nation village of Hira'a, and are often revered by the cultures living near them. The barrier between the Spirit World and the physical world is weakest during the summer and winter solstices, which made it easier for inhabitants of both worlds to cross over.
Individuals who cross over to the Spirit World cannot use their bending unless they have entered physically through the spirit portals. Despite this, the Avatar is able to use energybending when in the Spirit World, even when they did not enter through a portal, as they are connected to all the spiritual energy when in that world.
When Avatar Korra decided to leave the portals open in 171 AG and accidentally created a third portal in 174 AG, she put the already unsteady balance between humans and spirits in danger; some humans feared the spirits, while others wanted to exploit them and the Spirit World by turning the portal into an amusement park from where they could organize tours and excursions into the Spirit World. Some spirit life, such as vegetation from the Spirit Wilds, was also misused by humans for warfare.
During the era of Raava, the spirit portals at the North and South Pole were open, allowing free passage between the two worlds. However, spirits and mankind lived separately, with the spirits roaming free in the forests and mankind living secluded atop different lion turtles. When they would venture out into the forest to hunt, the lion turtle would temporarily grant the humans bending abilities in order to protect them against violent spirits, who had a tendency to possess and subsequently disfigure people. Wan and the people of living atop the air lion turtle were among the few to not fear and even befriend the spirits. When the tensions between mankind and the spirits reached a climax after Vaatu's escape, resulting in several casualties, Avatar Wan closed the spirit portals following the Harmonic Convergence of 9,829 BG, separating the two worlds and making travel between the two worlds extremely rare, as it was only possible through a few specific locations and methods. Aside from a handful of enlightened individuals, only the Avatar made the journey in spiritual form as the bridge between the two worlds to converse with the spirits and ask them for guidance.
Throughout Avatar Yangchen's lifetime, she often sided with humans when they clashed with spirits in the physical world. Although Yangchen trusted the humans to uphold their ends of the bargain and respect the balance of their surroundings, many did not.
As a direct result of Yangchen's actions, many spirits had turned dark by the lifetime of Avatar Kuruk. Dark spirits made use of newly created passageways to the physical world, attempting to wreak havoc and kill as many humans as possible. Kuruk battled against the dark spirits, but the duels took a harsh toll on his mind, body, and soul. Kuruk eventually decided to hunt down the spirits that could not be saved by tracking them down in the Spirit World, making use of the new passageways so that he could use his bending. Eventually, Kuruk found the source of the cracks between the realms, a malevolent spirit known as Father Glowworm. Though Kuruk managed to grievously wound the spirit, it managed to escape, and the fight took a heavy physical toll on Kuruk.
In 296 BG, Yun was taken to the Spirit World by a weakened Father Glowworm, who wished to feed on his blood and restore his strength. However, Yun managed to resist the spirit and deceived him long enough to overpower Father Glowworm, eating his eyeball and absorbing his essence. After the battle, he dug down until he reached the Xishaan Mountains in the physical world.
During the winter solstice of 99 AG, an enraged Hei Bai took Sokka and a few of inhabitants of Senlin Village to the Spirit World following the Fire Nation's destruction of a forest in the physical world. After Avatar Aang calmed the spirit by showing it that the forest would regrow, Hei Bai returned the humans to the material world. Weeks later, Aang crossed over from the Spirit Oasis to ask Koh about the identity of the Moon and Ocean Spirits.
In the spring of the following year, Wan Shi Tong relocated his library to the Spirit World, enraged by Team Avatar using his collection of knowledge to formulate an invasion plan for the Fire Nation.
After being killed by Azula's lightning attack and subsequently revived by Katara, Aang's spirit became trapped in the Spirit World. To heal the Avatar Spirit and preserve his connection to his past lives, he reconnected with his four most recent past lives, learning that all Avatars struggle and make mistakes as they are human. He subsequently awoke in the physical world, not remembering anything since his momentary demise.
In 171 AG, Avatar Korra was tricked and forced into opening the Southern and later the Northern spirit portal, which enabled Unalaq to physically enter the Spirit World again and bring with him "darkness and anger" that threatened to overtake the Spirit World. These negative emotions were amplified during the Harmonic Convergence of 171 AG, when Vaatu used the increased spiritual energy of the event to break free from his prison inside the Tree of Time. After Vaatu was defeated, Avatar Korra decided to leave the spirit portals open, reasoning that humans and spirits were meant to live harmoniously together.
This harmonious coexistence proved to be more of a challenge than anticipated, as the Spirit Wilds partially reemerged in the heart of Republic City. Specifically, spirit vines began to grow destructively throughout the city, prompting citizens to evacuate from boroughs which became virtually uninhabitable. This vegetation became home to spirits that migrated to the physical world. Although the citizens eventually learned to coexist, tension remained. Some people, such as Varrick and Kuvira, took an interest in these plants after witnessing Vaatu's attack and researched them for new technology. Despite the discovery that the vines were made of pure energy that had become unstable by being in the physical world, their raw power made them desirable for mankind as a weapon on mass destruction. As such, Kuvira and her army began to harvest these vines at the base of the banyan-grove tree, causing the Spirit Wilds in Republic City to react violently to its visitors, imprisoning them in vegetative pods that trapped their souls in the Spirit World.
This unsteady balance was put under even more pressure after a third spirit portal was created by accident in the heart of Republic City when the Earth Empire's spirit energy cannon overloaded on Republic City's spirit vines and Korra tried to control the enormous discharge of spiritual energy with her energybending, tearing open a new portal between the physical and Spirit World in the process.
After the conclusion of the invasion of the United Republic of Nations, Korra and Asami used this portal to cross over to the Spirit World, where they traveled around for several days as a vacation. When they returned, however, they discovered that Wonyong Keum, the owner of the land surrounding the spirit portal, intended to turn the area into an amusement park and organize excursions into the Spirit World. Several spirits rebelled against this idea, with the dragon eel spirit even imploring Korra to close the spirit portal in Republic City, as it left the Spirit World vulnerable to be ravaged and exploited by humans.
After the conflict took a violent turn, during which the dragon eel spirit passed through and disfigured Tokuga, the spirits destroyed the flower field to where Republic City's spirit portal led to as a warning to the humans to not step foot in their realm ever again: although the portal remained open and humans could still enter the Spirit World, thorny vines would shoot out of the ground and attack anyone in their vicinity the moment someone touched one of the scorched flowers.
In certain places, the landscape of the Spirit World seems to conform closely to the area of the physical world that functions as its entry point, to the extent that a human crossing over might not immediately notice the difference. In other places, the geography of the Spirit World has no relation to the physical world and the two settings vary considerably.
Realm of Koh
- Main article: Realm of Koh
The lair of the spirit Koh, the Face Stealer, lies below a gigantic, twisted tree. The land surrounding his covert is barren, dark, and scarcely inhabited, except for Koh's faceless victims and at least one gargantuan wolf. For anyone who enters his lair, it is advisable to remain emotionless, as Koh steals the face of anyone who expresses their emotions in front of him.
- Main article: Hai-Riyo Peak
Hai-Riyo Peak is a large mountain located near Iroh's teashop in the Spirit World. Prior to Korra's arrival in 171 AG, the mountain was enveloped by vicious storm clouds and inhabited by numerous dark spirits. Its summit is the nesting site for several dragon bird spirits.
The Fog of Lost Souls
- Main article: Fog of Lost Souls
The Fog of Lost Souls is a prison for humans in the Spirit World. The fog spirit that is the prison has the ability to drive humans into madness, trapping them within their own darkest memory and subsequently prohibiting them from escaping. After Zhao was pulled to the Spirit World by La, his soul became trapped in the fog, where he continued his self-praising monologue about being a conqueror and a moon-slayer. In 171 AG, Unalaq trapped Jinora in the fog, and Tenzin, Kya, and Bumi also later became imprisoned thereafter setting out to rescue the young airbender. After Tenzin overcame his insecurity about his identity, the fog momentarily cleared and he was able to rescue his family. Sometime later, Zaheer also threw Aiwei's soul inside the prison, condemning him to wander the fog for eternity.
Xai Bau's Grove
- Main article: Xai Bau's Grove
Xai Bau's Grove is located deep in the Spirit World in a canyon densely populated by trees. Grass covers the entirety of the grove and numerous rocks are scattered throughout the area. A single stream with red water runs through the hilly woodland and the sky bears a yellow-orange hue.
- Main article: Avatar
As the natural bridge between the Spirit World and the physical world, the Avatar can use meditation to enter the Spirit World. Other spiritually enlightened humans, like Zaheer and Aiwei, can also meditate into the Spirit World. When doing so, the spirit leaves the physical body, which renders it defenseless. Prolonged separation of spirit and body may also prove to be fatal.
- Main article: Forgetful Valley
Situated outside the Fire Nation village of Hira'a, the Forgetful Valley is comprised of thick wilderness and four mystical, crystal-clear pools of water. On occasion, usually once a season, a wolf spirit will drink from one of the four pools. The valley is home to the Mother of Faces, whose presence can be discerned upon observing the various fauna and flora; they exhibit face-like markings when the spirit is nearby.
- Main article: Solstices
A solstice is an astronomical event that occurs twice a year. During these solstices, the Spirit World and the physical world are significantly closer to each other compared to the rest of the year. Therefore, during one of the solstices, it is somewhat easier for one to cross into the Spirit World. Aang took advantage of this during the winter solstice to talk to Avatar Roku about Sozin's Comet. Avatar Roku also used the winter solstice sun to aid him in entering the Avatar State.
- Main article: Spirit Oasis
The Spirit Oasis is a verdant oasis located in the Northern Water Tribe at the base of a waterfall behind the chief's palace. It is the center of all the spiritual energy in the entire North Pole and, unlike the rest of the region, has a warmer climate able to facilitate the growth of vegetation. Two koi fish swim in a central pool of the oasis and are the mortal forms of Tui and La, the Moon and the Ocean Spirits. Under normal circumstances, if one sets foot in the pool it acts normal. However, sometimes it can open as a portal to the Spirit World, and even be used to drag people nearby it to the Spirit World.
- Main article: Spirit portal
Up until 174 AG, the world had two spirit portals, one located at the South Pole and one at the North Pole. Both poles once had lush forests that were the home to many spirits. However, in 151 AG, Tonraq destroyed the forest in the North while pursuing a group of hostile barbarians, which angered the spirits, causing them to attack the Northern Water Tribe that night.
During the Hundred Year War, the Everstorm started raging over the forest at the South Pole, covering it and the spirit portal located there within a thick layer of ice. The forest was later restored by Avatar Korra when she reopened the portal, restoring the southern lights. This could be done in the South only during the winter solstice. There is also a spirit portal at the North Pole that would not have to be opened during the solstice, due to the North's stronger relationship to the spirits. When both portals are open, spirits and humans can pass from one pole to the other freely. These portals were closed by Wan in order to create and maintain balance between the spirits and humankind, as well as to keep any human from ever physically crossing over to the Spirit World again and risk freeing Vaatu.
Those two portals lead to a field where Raava and Vaatu battled during Harmonic Convergence. The plain consists of streams of water and rocky formations and is enclosed by a chain of mountains. In its center stands the Tree of Time, where Vaatu was imprisoned after his defeat.
After Kuvira attacked Republic City in 174 AG, a third spirit portal was created in the heart of the metropolis. When Kuvira fired her spirit energy cannon from inside the city's Spirit Wilds, the spiritual energy overload tore open a new passage between the two worlds. This portal leads to a meadow surrounded by mountains, and the trees that grow there are similar in appearance to the Tree of Time.
The entities of the Spirit World are affiliated with either light or darkness, usually depending on who, Raava or Vaatu respectively, won the last Harmonic Convergence. Most spirits resemble some aspect of nature and occasionally, humans can transcend the mortal realm after death and become spirits. A special relationship exists between the great light and dark spirits, as one cannot exist without the other, and even if one manages to defeat the other, their counterpart will always reemerge again over time.
- Aye-aye spirit: A lemur-like spirit who guarded a Spirit Oasis in the Spirit Wilds and was friends with Wan.
- Baboon spirit: A monkey-like spirit that spends his time meditating.
- Bum-Ju: A dragonfly bunny spirit who befriended Bumi at the Eastern Air Temple.
- Curly-tailed blue nose: A primate-like spirit whose face was stolen by Koh, the Face Stealer, prior to Aang's arrival in the Spirit World.
- Dark spirits: Unbalanced spirits in whom the darkness has taken over the light.
- Dragon bird spirits: Chimerical creatures often found nesting on top of large mountains.
- Dragon eel spirit: A chimerical spirit who, by 174 AG, came to inhabit the Spirit Wilds of Republic City.
- Dragonfly bunny spirits: Bunny-like spirits capable of flight that inhabit the Eastern Air Temple.
- Father Glowworm: A malevolent spirit with a thirst for blood, Father Glowworm had encountered numerous Avatars and was instrumental in revealing Kyoshi as the true Avatar.
- Fang: Roku's dragon who died along with Roku during the volcanic eruption that destroyed his village. He can now communicate telepathically with people from the mortal world and give them insight into the Spirit World. As a spirit, Fang is intangible and invisible.
- Fog Spirit: A spirit that makes up the Fog of Lost Souls. It possesses the ability to affect the minds of individuals who wander through it, effectively driving them insane by imprisoning them in their own darkest memories.
- Frog spirit: An amphibian-like spirit who inhabited the Spirit Wilds that increased in size when provoked.
- General Old Iron: A giant humanoid spirit who protected Lady Tienhai during the era of Raava while she tended to the seashore of what would later become Earth Kingdom territory. He has the ability to cloak himself in an earth armor to enhance his strength and durability.
- Great Harvest Spirit: Human parents traditionally leave sweets under their children's pillow and claim that they have been left by the Great Harvest Spirit.
- Guardian spirits: Chimerical creatures often found near mountains.
- Heartwalker of Yaoping Mountain: Avatar Yangchen made a deal that this spirit would leave the physical world if humans respected the area, but the humans reneged, causing this spirit to turn dark by the life of Avatar Kuruk.
- Hei Bai: Typically taking the form of a panda bear, he manifests himself as a ferocious monster when provoked. A spirit of a dense forest near Senlin Village, Hei Bai retaliated when the Fire Nation destroyed his home. Later, he aided Aang during his journey in the Spirit World.
- Iroh: Due to his strong connection with the spirits, Iroh was able to leave his mortal body after death to reside in the Spirit World, where he serves tea to numerous spirits in a teashop similar to the one he had in Ba Sing Se.
- Kemurikage: The Kemurikage are spirits that haunted warlords in the Fire Islands centuries prior to the formation of the Fire Nation. They became part of Fire Nation legend after they departed from the mortal realm and are feared by children from the Fire Nation Capital, as they supposedly abduct young individuals who misbehave.
- Kind spirits: A couple spirits who frequented the aye-aye spirit's oasis in the Spirit Wilds. They were the first spirits to sympathize with Wan.
- Knowledge Seekers: Fox-like spirits that assist Wan Shi Tong by gathering old books and parchments to compile more information.
- Koh, the Face Stealer: An ancient, malicious spirit that steals the face of any creature who shows a sign of emotion in his presence. As one of the oldest spirits in existence, he is extremely knowledgeable and possesses the ability to predict future events. Avatar Kuruk holds a grudge against him and attempted to kill him for capturing his fiancée, Ummi.
- Light spirit: a small yellow spirit with two ears resembling leaves on its head. He was one of the many spirits that migrated to the physical world after the Harmonic Convergence of 171 AG.
- May-Jim: May-Jim is a frog spirit with two heads, a female one named May on its left shoulder and a male one named Jim on its right.
- Moth wasps: Moth-like spirits branded by expressive markings that are highly attracted to light.
- Mother of Faces: A giant woman with various blank faces encircling her head, she has the ability to give someone a new face. She appears in the Forgetful Valley after her wolf spirit has drank from one of the pools, and it is there she will give her gift of a new face.
- Painted Lady: The spirit of the Jang Hui River, located in the Fire Nation, where villagers worship and build statues of her in her honor. She was once a human who had a strong connection to the spirits, and upon death, she transcended the mortal plane and became a spirit. She expressed her gratitude to Katara for fulfilling her duties after she fled Jang Hui because of the surrounding river's pollution. The Painted Lady is known to possess healing and spiritual abilities.
- Phoenix-eel spirits: These spirits lived in the caverns underneath Ma'inka Island. Avatar Yangchen made a deal that they would leave the physical world if humans respected the area, but the humans reneged, causing them to turn dark by the life of Avatar Kuruk.
- Princess Yue: After Tui was killed by Admiral Zhao, Princess Yue sacrificed her life to revive the Moon Spirit, consequently gaining waterbending abilities. Because of her father's prior exchange with Tui, she has become the new Moon Spirit.
- Raava: The great spirit of light, peace, and balance in the world. Raava had dueled her counterpart, Vaatu, the spirit of chaos and darkness, since the beginning of time, before Wan was tricked into setting him free.
- Rock spirit: An enormous spirit whose body and limbs are made out of solid rock.
- Lady Tienhai : A giant humanoid spirit, she was a close friend to General Old Iron, who was also her guardian. However, while he viewed humans warily due to tales of their hostile interactions with spirits, she was fascinated with them and became their protector. Unfortunately, the humans actions later on eventually led to her death. To appease Old Iron, the humans were required to take part in a festival that commemorated her memory.
- Tiger-monkey spirit: A popular trickster hero in classical opera.
- Tui and La: Near the beginning of the world's creation, the Moon and Ocean Spirits departed for the mortal world and manifested themselves as two koi fish in the sacred Spirit Oasis of the North Pole. Tui and La were the original waterbenders, with La being the source and Tui being the originator.
- Vaatu: The great spirit of darkness and chaos in the world and the first to break the barrier that separated the mortal world from the Spirit World. He and Raava had dueled since the beginning of time before he tricked Wan into freeing him from Raava's restraint.
- Wan Shi Tong: Wan Shi Tong brought his immense library of knowledge into the mortal world in the hopes of bettering mankind with wisdom. With the use of fox-like animals known as Knowledge Seekers, he seeks out valuable sources of knowledge, varying from scrolls to ancient tomes. The library, originally located in the Si Wong Desert, was freely available to anyone who wished to use it until mortals used the knowledge contained therein to further warfare, prompting Wan Shi Tong to bury the library beneath the sand and make it impossible to find. He typically takes the shape of a gigantic black-and-white barn owl, but when angered becomes a wyvern-like creature.
- Wolf spirit: A giant, ferocious wolf spirit with a prominent image of a face on its chest, which Aang's face morphed into when feeling its presence. This spirit stopped Team Avatar when they attempted to enter Hira'a. It can swallow fire and throw up moth wasps.
- There are no bathrooms in the Spirit World.
- Spirits have the ability to take over a human's body for short periods of time. When this happens, the human takes on some of the spirit's physical characteristics. However, this possession is not without danger for the host; if a spirit stays in the body for too long, the host will die. During Wan's time, Yao was altered to have tree-like characteristics and another hunter had lemur-like traits after being possessed.
- Several spirits are known to have counterparts, including Tui and La, Koh and the Mother of Faces, and Raava and Vaatu.
- A corporeal form is necessary in order to bend in the Spirit World. As such, only humans who enter the Spirit World through the spirit portals will retain their bending abilities.
- Wan is the first known human to enter the Spirit World.
- Gravity works differently in the Spirit World than in the mortal world, as everyone inside Wan Shi Tong's Library could walk normally on the pathways even though the building was oriented upside-down in a tree.
- An incorporeal being can teleport to any location or person they think of within the Spirit World.
- Food in the Spirit World does not affect a person's weight.
- A person's soul can only remain in the Spirit World for a short period of time. A prolonged absence from the body causes strain that inevitably leads to an individual's death; Katara noted that it was amazing that Jinora managed to survive her imprisonment in the Spirit World for a week.
- The creators originally intended for there to be four portals to the Spirit World, but decided that it would be confusing and ultimately reduced the number to two.
- The Spirit World is not primarily an afterlife; however, humans who were naturally imbued with spiritual energy or developed a strong connection to the Spirit World during their lifetimes can transcend the mortal plane following their death and embody some form of energy in the spirit realm. Humans who become spirits through this process become more like an essence with the passage of time, as memories of their corporeal forms become less prominent. This accounts for why the Painted Lady appears ghost-like, whereas Iroh still largely resembles his human form.
- At least some people believe that spirits also exist in outer space.
- By the lifetime of Avatar Kyoshi, some of the elder Air Nomad monks believed that the Spirit World was an austere plane of blankness, mirroring the detachment of the visitor.