In Avatar: The Last Airbender, Aang’s tattoos – which Air Nomads get when they master airbending – glow when he enters the Avatar State. Here’s why.
For some reason, Aang’s tattoos glow when he enters the Avatar State in Avatar: The Last Airbender, but there’s a particular reason for it (it’s not a goof). In the animated series’ world, only the Avatar can bend all four elements – earth, air, fire, and water – whereas everyone else can only bend one element if they have the power at all. But there’s more to the Avatar than merely being gifted with additional abilities; the power level of those abilities can exceed even the strongest masters in the world.
Much of the Avatar’s history was only hinted at in The Last Airbender animated series, but the sequel show, The Legend of Korra, expanded on it all. Legend of Korra season 2 not only revealed who the first Avatar was but also explained how he came to harness the four elements and what the Avatar’s true purpose is in the world: to maintain a balance between the light and darkness. After Avatar Wan died, his spirit – Raava, the spirit of light – was reborn in another person. And so began the Avatar Cycle, in which the Avatar Spirit is reincarnated in the next element, giving every nation an equal number of Avatars.
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Aang was merely one of several hundred – if not thousands – of airbendering Avatars. But what’s interesting is that whenever an airbender enters the Avatar State – a defense mechanism that amplifies the Avatar’s power, allowing them to utilize cosmic and spiritual energies – their Air Nomad tattoos glow in addition to their eyes. The reason for this is because the Air Nomad tattoos run along the body’s chi path. However, if the tattoos have been scarred, which happened to Aang’s back, then they don’t glow in that particular area.
Chi is an integral aspect of the world of Avatar. It’s a fundamental part of bending, since harnessing the chi within one’s self allows them to channel their energy into controlling the elements. After all, before people were able to bend the elements, they used to bend the energy inside themselves; this was the concept that led to Aang taking away Fire Lord Ozai’s powers with energybending. Knowing this, it makes sense that the Air Nomads’ tattoos would glow as long as they followed the same chi path as the original airbenders (the air bisons). Furthermore, it stands to reason that any other Avatar who has tattoos along their chi path may also see those tattoos glow.
But beyond being the reason for Aang’s tattoos glowing, chi has been manipulated in many ways throughout Avatar: The Last Airbender. Early on, Ty Lee learned to block someone’s chi, which temporarily prevented them from bending, and some waterbenders have learned to influence a person’s chi in order to heal them.
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