Avatar Tattoos; Aang’s tattoos have always been one of his unique qualities. Like any airbending Avatars, their tattoos would naturally glow, radiating the power of Raava as they enter into the Avatar state.
The tattoos signify more than just a glow spot for immense power.
Avatar Tattoos History for Airbenders
The earliest known ancestors of the Air Nomads lived on top of the air lion turtle during the era of Raava. They were also known to have had similar tattoos along with their bodies. Although theirs had the ends drawn with an upside-down “T” and a dot beneath it. These tattoos were even applied to children.
As at that time, the airbending people only received the power to control air while out of the city. So, the tattoo was not associated with airbending mastery as it became at a later date. This can be seen in the Legend of Korra.
After the early airbenders learned more advanced techniques from the flying bison, they changed the tattoos for airbending masters to emulate the arrow-shaped markings of the bison. It is said that the original Airbenders were the bison.
When an Airbender reaches the level of master by completing all thirty-six tiers of airbending, all Airbenders get their tattoo with about five light blue arrows. There is one extending from the base of the spine to the forehead. Also, another one for each arm pointing to the hands, and as well as for the legs and feet.
Unlike most master airbenders who gain their status later in life, Avatar Aang received his tattoos when he was only twelve following his invention of the air scooter, despite only completing thirty-five tiers. This made him the youngest known airbending master. This was until his granddaughter Jinora received her tattoos at the age of eleven in 171 AG.
Aang’s Air Nomad tattoos glowed as any airbending Avatar when they entered the Avatar State. All his tattoos glow except for the spot on his back where Azula had struck him down, leaving a scar on the tattoo.
What Does Avatar’s Tattoos Mean?
Aang’s tattoos mean more than just a fashion and airbending trend. It is more of an identity as an Airbender that was elaborated upon in Legend of Korra. Avatar’s tattoos are a defining part of his overall appearance and are also a key part of his identity as the Avatar and the Last of the air Nomads. This part of his appearance prompted some very hilarious disguises when they were trying not to be seen.
Avatar’s tattoos have deep cultural significance for the Air Nomads in the Avatar: The Last Airbender sequel comics Aang discovers that he has a fan club, and is shocked and offended to see that they’ve copied his tattoos despite being neither Air Nomads or Airbender.
The Avatar tattoos are quite special to being an Airbender. Despite the flattering nature of being an Airbender, he does not find it pleasant that they have tainted the sacred airbending tradition by bestowing tattoos just casually.
The tattooing tradition was inspired by the first airbenders, the sky bison. Flying bison naturally have arrows in their fur. Air Nomad culture became strongly built around the lessons that they learned from the sky bison. Although the Air Nomads true to their name were originally wanderers.
They established four air temples for their people and the sky bison to gather. They made up the smallest of the other nations and lived a peaceful life in tune with nature. They never had a formal military as they never really cared about much of those details. The Air Nomads are a race of people that are devoted to seeking spiritual enlightenment.
Airbender Mastery Shown In The Avatar Tattoos
In order to achieve airbending mastery, an Air Nomad must go through thirty-six tiers of training. Either this or they create a new airbending technique. This training involves centering oneself and taking the path of least resistance to direct chi through the body. Airbenders fight defensively, using their enemies’ strength against them and quickly maneuvering to avoid attacks. As Bumi told Aang the first time they fought.
“Typical airbender tactics. Avoid and evade.”
Aang’s tattoos just went to show that he had attained a level at a young age which a lot of airbenders did not find easy. For Aang, he was able to create a technique and still mastered thirty-five tiers at the age of twelve.
Another component of airbending mastery is spirituality. To get your tattoos as an Airbender, you will have to have attained a certain level and the Air Nomads value this greatly.
Meditation amongst them is extremely crucial to becoming proficient at airbending. This is mainly because it helps benders focus internally and connect to their spiritual side, with some even capable of entering the Spirit World.
Glowing Avatar Tattoos
Aang uses meditation to speak with Avatar Roku for guidance, and the fact that his tattoos glow while he is in the Avatar state further demonstrates his connection to the Spirit World and his past lives. Jinora also uses meditation to enter the Spirit World and to project her spirit for other characters when she needs to contact them from a distance.
Avatar’s tattoos are somewhat linked to being the Avatar as it shows a level of devotion to either mastery of the elements or spirituality. He had not completely finished his spiritual training but he was able to create the “air scooter,” fulfilling the criteria to become a master and receive his tattoos.
Jinora on the other hand did complete her training and guided Korra into the Spirit World for the first time, demonstrating her mastery and earning her tattoos as well. So, as an Airbender, a technique that will provide usefully or mastery of the spiritual side earns you the tattoos and Avatar Aang just that.
Avatar Tattoos signify their entry into the Avatar state as they begin to glow, unlike other Avatars who just maintain a glow in their eyes for a second or two. Although Aang did show the same level of ease of entering the state and back like a master at the end when he fought Fire Lord Ozai.