- This article is about the place. For the episode with a similar name, see "Winter Solstice, Part 1: The Spirit World".
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Prior to 171 AG and the opening of the spirit portals, it was extremely difficult and rare for a human, other than the Avatar, to enter the Spirit World; conversely, only a handful of spirits were capable of existing physically in the mortal world, requiring them to give up their immortality to do so. The Spirit World and the physical world are closest together during the solstices, which made it possible for spirits to manifest in the mortal world and for humans to pass into the Spirit World. There are also certain locations in the physical world which act as bridges to the Spirit World; these locations are often revered by the cultures living near them, such as the Spirit Oasis in the North Pole. The Avatar acted as a spiritual bridge between both worlds and can travel between them freely. Humans who cross over to the Spirit World cannot use their bending, unless they enter physically, such as through the spirit portals. The portals were reopened in 171 AG, and following that year's Harmonic Convergence, Avatar Korra decided to leave them open for good.
There are few known ways for a mortal to enter into the Spirit World, though humans are sometimes carried there by a spirit as the entity shifts between planes. The Avatar is able to pass fully into the Spirit World at times when and locations where the barrier separating the two realities is unusually weak, such as at Avatar Temples on a winter solstice or at the Northern or Southern spirit portals.
After Avatar Wan closed the spirit portals following the Harmonic Convergence of 9,829 BG, the Spirit World and the mortal world became two separate worlds, only connected through a few mediums scattered across the world. As the bridge between the two worlds, the Avatar crossed over several times in a spiritual form in order to converse with the spirits and ask them for guidance. However, after the opening of the Southern spirit portal, humans, such as Unalaq, were able to physically enter once again, and with them, they brought "darkness and anger" that threatened to overtake the Spirit World. These negative feelings were amplified during the Harmonic Convergence of 171 AG, when Vaatu used the increased spiritual energy to break free from his prison inside the Tree of Time. After the Dark Spirit was defeated, Avatar Korra decided to leave the spirit portals open, once again uniting the Spirit and the mortal world.
In certain places, the landscape of the Spirit World seems to conform closely to an area of the physical world, to the extent where a mortal making the transition might not immediately take notice of 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 dialogue 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 there after 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.
- Main article: Forgetful Valley
Situated in the Fire Nation, the Forgetful Valley is comprised of thick wilderness and four mystical, crystal-clear pools of water. Occasionally, a wolf spirit will drink from one of the four pools. The valley is home to the Mother of Faces, whose presence is clear upon observing the various fauna and flora which exhibit face-like markings.
- 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.
The North and South Poles
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 forest at the South Pole was frozen in ice, sealing the spirit portal and subsequently causing the Everstorm. 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.
The 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.
- Main article: Avatar
The Avatar was the natural bridge between the Spirit World and the physical world. The Avatar can use meditation to enter the Spirit World. When doing so, the spirit of the Avatar leaves their physical body defenseless.
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.
- Baboon spirit: A monkey-like spirit that spends his time meditating.
- 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.
- Dragonfly bunny spirits: Bunny-like spirits capable of flight that inhabit the Eastern Air Temple.
- 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 on 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 effect 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.
- 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.
- 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 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.
- Lion dog spirits: Chimerical creatures often found near mountains.
- May-Jim: May-Jim is 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 very 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.
- 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, for ten thousand years, before Wan was tricked into setting him free.
- 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. He and Raava had dueled for ten thousand years 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 treelike characteristics and a hunter took on 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.
- Objects from the physical world can be brought into the Spirit World, such as Wan's teapot.
- 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 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 essentially become more like an essence as time passes, because 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.