An inside look at the heart of a connected community.
Most humans, even on Pandora, only hear about the Tree of Souls.
(And it bears noting at the outset that there may be more than one, still undiscovered. For our purposes, then, we will henceforth be referring to the Tree of Souls of the Omatikaya clan.)
For one thing, it’s quite literally hard to locate, growing as it does in a region that confounds even the best wayfinding technology. And for another, it’s a site of supreme spiritual importance for the local Na’vi, their greatest medium for conversing with Eywa and their ancestors. Despite their (at times, grudging) acceptance of outsiders, there remain some places that are off-limits to all but the most embedded humans, and this is one of them.
Recently, PRF field anthropologists living among the Omatikaya were lucky enough to observe a number of ritual interactions between clanspeople and the Tree. Speaking later to clan elders, they were able to put together this report — which represents the first time an examination of ritual practice at the Tree has ever been prepared for a wide audience.
First, we’ll cover some statistical information. The Tree of Souls is a willow-like tree with long, bioluminescent tendrils and a large, semi-exposed root system. It grows in a caldera within a valley of stone arches, not far from the site of the old Omatikaya Hometree. Arches, of course, indicate unobtanium-rich sites of magnetic field activity, and the region containing the Tree is one of the busiest on the moon. Known as the “flux vortex,” the atmospheric conditions are so unstable that pilots have to operate by sight rather than trust their instruments.
The Na’vi claim that any instability is a result of the Eywa’s energetic regard for her Tree. For it is a site where Eywa forges one of the most direct spiritual connections with her People, using the Tree as a conduit.
Together Before Eywa
In our time with the clan, we observed the Na’vi make multiple addresses to Eywa at the foot of the Tree. The entire clan would gather and, led by their Tsahik (the clan spiritualist and medicine woman), make various exclamations — sometimes expressing routine thanks, as in a Sunday mass, sometimes making specific requests for guidance, and sometimes performing a healing rite.
During these episodes (which could last for hours), the clanspeople would sit arm-in-arm, queued to the exposed roots of the Tree; in this way, every Na’vi child, female and male can experience simultaneous connection to each other — a condition of profound emotional power for them and one that the human brain is barely able to comprehend. According to the Tsahik, clan-wide connection enables members to better see each other (a perpetual goal) and helps to amplify any message for Eywa. As it mimics the interconnected organization of Eywa’s overall creation, clan connection is the strongest statement of purpose the Na’vi can make. So far, the Tree of Souls is the only site where clan-wide connection is known to occur.
Local communication with Eywa is not limited to physical contact with the Tree alone. Like any tree, this one sends out seeds, and the Na’vi believe that each seed — called atokirina (or “woodsprite”) — contains a spirit in pure communion with Eywa.
Atokirina can often be seen drifting, jellyfish-like, through the forest, and the Na’vi interpret their various behaviors — how they drift, where they settle, and whether they cluster or remain solitary — as omens.