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Wednesday, February 3, 2010

Na'vi Culture

The Na'vi culture is deep, beautiful, and simple thing. Their lives focus on unity, simplicity, and a strong connection to nature. Here are some insights into the lives of the Na'vi and the Omaticaya as well as the tools and rituals that make up their lives.

more after the jump...

Baby Carriers

The Na'vi call their baby carriers Iveh k'nivi s'dir made of soft sturmbeest leather with fur, cut in strips, tanned and softened. A tight frontal wrap keeps Na'vi infants close to their mother's or father's body. The carrier keeps babies warm and allows the parent to run, climb, and carry out domestic activities. The wrap also helps socialize Na'vi children, who are face-to-face with their parents from their first days and thus learn appropriate facial cues and gestures. Most Na'vi couples have one to three children, although there are exceptions.

Toy Banshee

Su'shiri t'acto sa are toy banshees made by the Na'vi. They are made from flexible sticks decorated with twigs, reeds, and colored twine. Weighing roughly half a kilogram, the size depends on personal choice but no more than 40 centimeters wingspan is made. Every Na'vi child has one and most choose to personalize theirs with shells and twine. The toy reminds children that they will someday bond with a real banshee; this encourages them to hone their hunting skills.

The Bladder Lantern

(Na'vi name: Tmi nat'sey, "food here")

These lanterns are used as light source in Na'vi villages, or whether light is needed.
edit Materials and Construction

Lantern consists of the stomach, or thinskinned internal organs of various animals, dried and sewn with twine and leather. The organ's interior is coated with nectar to attract an indigenous glowing insect similar to a Terran firefly. Those insects, in turn, attract more of their kind, perpetuating and increasing the lantern's glow.
edit Trivia

Though the Na'vi have naturally excellent night vision, they enjoy the calming glow provided by these lanterns inside Hometree.

Hometree Songs

Na'vi Name: Kelutral tirol

The Na'vi people have no indigenous  musical theory; they don not analyze or codify their musical creations. Songs come to the Na'vi through dreams, while wandering along, or while linked with the conciousness of Pandora through their queues. Na'vi do not claim ownership; the songs belong to all.

Unlike aboriginal cultures on Earth, both men and women join in songs that revolve around home and hearth activities, such as weaving, cooking, child-rearing, and playing games with children. They use a ver wide vocal range, often ecompassing three octaves (although they do not use that concept). Many Hometree songs invove overlapping, cascading musical lines, with each performer singing the same basic melody but joining the song at different points, with different tempi and rhythms, a style sometimes referred to as heterophony (commonly found on in Earth in Eastern music tradition).

It mus be noted that the theoretical information given here is the result of observation and analysis by xrenomusicologists. There has been no confirmation of musical theories by the Na'vi themselves. They do not recognize any theoretical basis other than Eywa and are reluctant to discuss their music with outsiders. An Earth-style musicological analysis would make absolutely no sense to them, and they believe the study of music to be a frivolous activity.

The Blue Flute

Na'vi Name: Omati s'ampta
Function: Guardian spirit played only on most sacred occasions
Materials and Construction: Hollowed branch from Hometree, one finger hole drilled near top

It is interesting to note that, although the Omaticaya calls itself "the Clan of the Blue Flute" the instrument referenced is, at least as described by researchers, not actually a flue. (Some researchers attribute this to a lack of nuance on the part of the Terran translator). Nor is it used as a musical instrument. There is only one in existance, kept carefully within the limbs of Hometree. It serves as a guardian spirit and a concrete representation of the connection of the Na'vi with the Hometree. The flute (actually a one-holed trumpet in terms of playing techniques) is of ancient ancestry. Na'vi mythology purports that Eywa plucked a branch from the Hometree, created the Blue Flute, and gave it to the Omaticaya with the intent that it be used as a device to communicate with her or the spirits of ancestors who hav passed on. Xenomusicologists believe that it is heard only on the most sacred of occasions, including the alignment of nearby planets and is played only by the Olo'eyktan (clan leader).


Na'vi Name: Eywa k'sey nivi bri'sta, or "Eywa cradles everyone"
Materials and Construction: rope, twine, strong woven mats usually made from beanstalk palm. A large central mat is woven in a decorative pattern, which is then affixed to a rope support structure. The finished hammock is then fastened to the branches of Hometree.

The Na'vi prefer to sleep in large groups for physical closeness and comfort. This arrangement also acts as an effective early warning system in the event of danger. Families sleep together on larger hammocks, which are decorated and meticulously constructed for flexibility and strength. For everyday use, the family hammock is known simply as nivi, or "us."

Clan members will occasionally sleep singly or with their mates in smaller hammocks. This is socially acceptable as long as the member returns  group sleep, or k'sey nivi, within a short period of time. As attuned as they are to one another, the Na'vi use sleeping arrangements as an accurate barometer of a clan member's emotional health; if a Na'vi is seen to sleep outside the group (sumin'sey hulleh) for an extended period, it is generally considered a sign that the clan member is in some kind of distress.

Because of the fine craftsmanship, hammocks can last for more than 20 terran years. Family elders decide when a new hammock is needed. Construction takes place over a period of months and generates a good deal fo enthusiasm within both the family and the clan as a whole; everyone contributes to the efort. A great deal of time is spent in gathering the correct materials, and it is during this process that most of the familial bonding takes place. The construction itself is a relatively informal and straighforward process.

As the  hammock nears completion, several ceremonies take place to honor and acknoledge the hard work. When the new hammock is finally installed and the old one is removed, there is a ceremony in which the old hammock is burned on a pyre in a serious, respectful manner. At the end of the ceremony, the family puts on a celebration with food and dance in honor of the moment of renewal.

*Hammocks are sensative to the touch, and can curl to form a cocoon like shape for a sleeping Na'vi.
*Banshee aerie is in Hometree near the Na'vi sleeping area.

The Great Loom

Na'vi Name: Ulivi mart'tsey mak'dini'to
Function: weaving items such as cloth, hammocks, mats, hanging decorations

While other Na'vi clans on Pandora organize themselves around carving or pottery, the Omaticaya are renowned for their brilliant textiles. Thus the loom plays a key role in the daily life of the clan. The largest of the Omaticayan looms is more massive than a terran pipe organ. This mas'kit nivi sa'nok, or "mother loom" is given a place of honor in the common area of Hometree.

The Na'vi word for loom, ulivi mar'tsey mak'dini'to, translates roughly into "branches of the tree look to each other for stength," or "many branches together are strong." Depending on the type of textile produced, the loom can also be referred to as Eywa s'ilivi mas'kit nivi (or just mas'kit nivi) which translates to "Eywa's wisdom is revealed to all of us." This evocation of Eywa is a clear indication of the loom's importance in Na'vi culture. It is also a compelling description of Eywa, who, in this context, is depicted as a kind of cosmic weaver who brings the disparate elements of Pandora together into a harmonious whole.

Weavers often sing of these themes while at the loom:

The rhythm of rain and sun,                Tompaya kato, tsakeya kato,
Of night and day,                                 Trra si txona,
The rhythm of the years,                     S(i) ayzista kato,
And the beat of the hearts,                  Si ekong te'lana,
Hearts of the people,                           Te'lana le-Na'vi
Fills me,                                              Oeru teya si
Fills me,                                              Oeru teya si

I weave the rhythm,                            Katot taftxu oel
In yellow and blue,                             Niean nirim
The rhythm of the years,                    Ayzisita kato,
The spiral of the lives,                        Iheyu sireya
The spiral of the lives,                        Iheyu sireya
Lives of the people,                            Sireya le-Na'vi

Fills me,                                             Oeru teya si
Fills me,                                             Oeru teya si

Leaf Plate

Na'vi Name: Sumin jilt'luy, or ulu'tah inib'sey musli
Materials and Construction: Animal shell and bone, leaves, wood, reeds, twigs, and twine are formed into a wide, shallow basket.

Na'vi etiquette and tradtion dictates that these trasy are passed to every participant of a social gathering or ritual. One should not take a bowl, which is used for a mildly intoxicating drink, off the tray for his or her own use. Instead, one must hold the tray and allow another adjacent clan member to take the bowl and place it before the drinker. Only then can one drink from the cup. During festive occasions, children enjoy following the tray around the circle so that they can be the one to place the bowl in front of the tray holder.

Fire Pit

Na'vi Name: Mreki u'lito

Much like the anicent campfires and hearths of old Earth, Na'vi fire pits are centers of clan social life. Na'vi children grow up near the warmth of the fire and hear stories of their ancestors. Not all the discussion is serious. The cooks gossip about potential matings and joke about which hunter brought in the smallest hexapede. According to clan lore, the fire has been kept going, at least at ember level, for several generations. Even if this is not the literal truth, is is considered a lapse to have a fire that is not ready to quickly accomodate a successful hunt; the Na'vi believe that it is vital to honor the animal that gave up its life for the good of the clan. A fire turned to ash might indicate a lack of respect for both animal and hunter.

Personal Belongings Rack

Na'vi Name: P'ah s'ivil chey, or informally, chey
Function: rack for personal belongings, including clothing, jewelry, and tools, etc.
Materials and Construction: carved hardwood, attached with leather strips, often decorated with shells, colored stones.

By tradition, a Na'vi cannot build his or her own rack. Instead, they must be given one as a gift from a friend or family member. The long hours and craftsmanship needed to create the racks are considered powerful symbols of filial and familial love. It is believed that the ritul helps strengthen clan bonding.

Ceremonial Bow

Function: ceremonial, but can be used for hunting
Size and Weight: 2.9 meters long, 3.7 kilograms
Materials and Construction: shaped wood from Hometree, string of animal gut

This ranged bow is primarily designed for ceremony by clan elders, but it is crafted to the peak of Na'vi design and thus functions perfectly in hunt or battle. This bow is fashioned in honor of the direhorse. These exquisite bows are usually handed down from generation to generation and become powerful symbols of survival, continuity, and tradition.

War Drum

Function: accompaniment to pre-battle ritual dance, warning signals
Size and weight: 3 meter in height, 4 meters in diameter, roughtly 75 kilograms
Materials and Construction: structure of branches, covered on both sides with tanned hexapede hides. Filled with water. Beating stick is made from smoothed branch the size of a Terran baseball bat.

The different warning rhythms played on it are associated with specific dangers to the Na'vi and are used to signal for help. Because of its association with danger, the drum is also used to accompany ritual pre-battle dances. The drum is kept accessible at all times in an alcove off the communal area of Hometree. A small branch of Hometree is dropped into the drum as a symbol of the precious resources for which the Na'vi fight.

Amplified by the water inside, this large drum's volume is sufficient to warn all Na'vi within a six-mile radius of approaching danger. When the drum is struck with its large smooth wooden beater, the water sinside sloshes against the taut hexapede hides, amplifying the volume and changing the resonant pitch of the sound

Some of the warning rhythms played on the drum represent different dangers; other rhythms indicate the direction from which the danger approaches. One rhythm is played when a Na'vi is in mortal danger and in need of help. Historically, during pre-battle rituals, if the enemy was know, the Na'vi's used associated warning rhythms during ritual dances. Na'vi children learn the different signals from an early age.

The more recent incursions by humans necessitated the addition of another warning rhythm. It is theorized that the warning rhythm for terrans is based on the Na'vi word skx'awng, a highly derogatory term that is more or less analogous to "moron," or "one who does not see."

Gourd Drums

Function: social music, ritual use, including use during Uniltaron
Materials and Construction: wood, paint, woven materials, leather, rope, gourd, water. Hemispherical floating drum, made from a gourd that has been halved, is inverted into a larger water-filled gourd.

Similar to the jicara de agua from Mexico, the Na'vi gourd drum is created by filling a gourd bowl with water and placing an inverted half gourd in the water. The inverted gourd is stuck with one wooden drumstick.

A unique element of this drum is an additional smaller drum inserted into a hole cute in the side of the large gourd bowl. This drum is covered with a sturmbeest bladder, a material known for its strength and elasticity. While tapping on the inverted gourd, the player pushes on the bladder, which causes the water level in the gourd bowl to rise, causing the pitch of the drum to change subtly.

When used for the Uniltaron ceremony, a constant rapid tapping of the drum (a sound reminiscent of the anicent peyote songs fo Native Americans in the Southwest), while simultaneously pushing the bladder in and out creates a dronelike sound with microtonal fluctuations in pitch. This is related to the microtonal drone heard in the men's part of the Na'vi banquet songs thought to represent the spirit of Eywa.

Banshee Queue Harness

Na'vi Name: Eywa te' (personal name) tan'sey mak'ta
Function: bridle system to hold Na'vi queue and banshee antenna out of the way of rider and weapons

All taronyu (warriors) must construct a personalized harness for their banshee after they have bonded. The harness isused to keep the bonding queues in a rearward direction  for quick and easy access. The banshee antenna is interlaced with the Na'vi queue, which sheathes the Na'vi antenna, to form a neural bond. The Na'vi and banshee are then able to fly in perfect coordination. The harness is called Eywa te' (personal name) tan'sey mak'ta. This roughly translates as "the love of Eywa's embrace is gifted to (the rider's name)." This is an acknowledgment of the beauty of connecting with the conciousness of another living creature such as a banshee or direhorse.

Log Drums

Drums are used as musical accompaniment during all social celebrations and most rituals. Na'vi drums are log drums, usually created out of fallen trees or branches that have been hollowed out by larvae and by the natural decaying processes on Pandora. They are created from a short section of hollow log. Both ends of the log are covered by the skin of a hexapede.

The best of these log drums are said to be from a fallen unidelta tree. During its life, this tree usually serves as a host for a species of insect with glowing larvae that drill elaborate pathways throught the wood of the living tree without affecting the tree's ability to grow. Once the tree (or a branch) has fallen, the larve move to another tree, leaving the fallen log riddled with channels. These channels give the tree an exceptionally resonant quality.

Any combination of sizes of drums may be used to accompany social dances. But the larger drums, those whose wood has been channeled by the larvae, are only used for ritual functions, especially those rituals that form a part of the Uniltaron, or Dream Hunt. These large drums are played by four or five Na'vi warriors at a time, wielding heavy wooden beaters.

Pendulum Drum

Na'vi Name: T'riti so jahmka, also Ganti'a hiru'taya, or "tree that flies"

These drums are exceptionally loud, due to the placement of the drums over hles in the trees. When the drum is struck, the volume is amplified by the hollow structure of the tree to which it is attached.

The performer stands on a trapeze-like swing; the padded end of the sturdy branch on which he stands acts as the drumstick. He propels himself back and forth between two drums, hitting each as he swings from side to side. Just before the beater hits the drum head, the performer jumps up off the swinging beater, allowing it rebound naturally. Numerous drums may be played simultaneously by drummers on trapezes of different lengths, creating a chaotic polyrhythm.

Because fo the inaccuracy of this swinging/playing technique, a steady rhythm is almost impossible to attain, except by a very few skilled players. Therefore these drums are typically not used as accompaniment for dances. They will, however, be used to ornament songs and especially to add excitement to Dream Hunt dancing.

Injuries are sometimes suffered by clan members who attempt to use drums during dances at which Kava, a mild intoxicant, is consumed.

Food Wraps

Na'vi Name: Nikt'chey

The Na'vi, while distinctly hunters, are also talented gatherers. They take advantage of everything the forest has to give. Much of the flora, like the fauna, can grow to colossal size. Fruit growing on a variety of trees near Hometree can provide a valuable source of food for the Na'vi. The fruit is dissected, some of which will be eaten immediately, and some of which is set aside and packaged in leaves for distribution or storage.

The Na'vi pride themselves on their inventive arrangements of Food Wraps. These are convenient for eating while hunting and gathering, but can also be eaten regularly while at Hometree. Fruits, meats, vegetables, seeds, and spices are combined together and wrapped in edible leaves and vines. Different Na'vi clans are known for their unique Nikt'chey, based largely upon local flora and fauna.

Wind Instruments

Na'vi Name: Hufwe, meaning "wind"

Hufwe instruments require a moving column of air to produce a sound. For example, the whizzer is simply a blade of grass of leaf held between the fingers or the teeth. When blown across, the thin strip of vegetation vibrates rapidly to produce a high-pitched whistle.

The cat ear plant is often used. Leaves of vaired sizes can be attaached to a base and then tapped with a stick or blow across, which casues air inside to vibrate and generate musical notes. Water added to a leaf reduces the volume of air and changes the note, much like musical bottles played on Earth. an exceptionally skilled player can produce a basic melody, but most of the time the whizzer is used to enliven social dances with brief but frequent whistles.

As soon as they are able, Na'vi children begin to learn the skills they will need to survive as adults. Many of those skills are taught to them using simplified versions of adult socail songs. In many cases, games with song, chant, or rhythmic accompaniment teach actual skills like hunting, riding, fire-making, weaving, and food preparation.

Many of the songs deal with the plant and animal life of their world. Through these, children learn the ecology of Pandora; which creatures are friendly and which are not, what things to eat and what to avoid, and the need to show respect for all living things. Other song, sung by parents and children during quiet family time, teach the mythology and history of the Na'vi as well as the close connection between the Na'vi and their moon.

Banshee Catcher

Na'vi Name: Mersh'ti cau'pla, or "nothing to see"
Materials: made from the leaves of the razor palm tree, a sinuous and durable plant similar to a Terran palm frond weighted at one end with a stone. The plant's sticky, hairlike underside helps fasten the bola to the animal. Edges of the frond are dulled to avoid cutting

Mastery of the Mersh'ti cau'pla is an indispensable skill for all Na'vi youth who begin training with the device (first as a toy, then more formally) at an early age. A Na'vi will spend years developing the proper technique, first on tree limbs and then on the deerlike hexapede. Without proficient skill, a young hunter will fail during a critical stage of Iknimaya, a profound rite of passage in which a Na'vi captures and bonds with his or her banshee.

During Iknimaya, a young Na'vi must approach the ikran and snap the front quickly so that it wraps around the creature's snout and eyes. (It is this temporary blinding of the animal that gives the lasso it's name). With the banshee momentarily disabled, the Na'vi is able to leap onto it's back and connect the queues of animal and rider. In that moment, sealed by the subsequent first flight, a lifelong bond is established that allows the Na'vi and banshee to ride through the sky with elegant, seemingly effortless coordination.

It should be noted that an imprecise toss of the Mersh'ti cau'pla has led to the injury or death of many young Na'vi at the hands of an angered banshee.

Hunt Songs

Na’vi Name: Taron tirol

Performance style: Rhythmic group chanting while on the hunt or during puberty rituals. Unison singing for social dances, especially in conjunction with prehunt rituals. Usually accompanied by different sizes of sturmbeest gongs or various drums.

*Song for Uniltaron have a strong driving rhythm and wild, ecstatic style. Sung by adult Na’vi who have attained Tsahaylu with their banshee, during Uniltaron, or during puberty rituals prior to first attempt at Iknimaya.

Hunts songs are often used to accompany rites of passage, including a precursor to the moment when a Na’vi first bonds with his or her banshee. They may be sung in unison, but more often are chanted breathlessly. During Uniltaron, in which Na’vi seek their spirit animal during a chemically induced trance, they express themselves musically as the spirit moves.

Other Hunt songs focus on hunting activities,  the strength of both hunter and hunted, praying for the worthiness of the hunter, speaking to the spirits of the forest creatures, etc. These may be sung in many contexts: before or during a hunt, prior to battle with external forces, and during social events.

Many of the songs for puberty rituals and hunting are performed as non-melodic group chanting in a very forceful, rhythmic grunting style. In this style, the glottal stops and ejective consonants inherent in the Na’vi language are emphasized. It is believed that this chanting or grunting style is the oldest extant of Na’vi expressive style, because of the way the song style incorporates and emphasizes these linguistic elements.

During some rituals, members of the clan will perform agile “hand dancing” in which their long, tendril-like fingers weave a deeply symbolic and poetic narrative. Rapid, controlled shifts of the dancers’ bioluminescent spots often add to the magical beauty of the performance.

Uniltaron, or Dream Hunt, songs are especially interesting. While under the chemically induced effects that mark the Dream Hunt, a Na’vi may utilize any kind of expression: standard social song structures, imitations of domestic cascading vocal style or children’s songs from deep in their memories, wildly improvised songs, or chants. They only type of songs not heard in this context are personal songs or the ritual songs of mourning.

Here is a typical example of hunt song lyrics, which often display great respect for the potential prey.

We are walking your way     Terìran ayoe ayngane
We are coming                      Zera'u
We are singing your way      Rerol ayoe ayngane
So choose                              Ha ftxey
Choose one among you        Awpot set ftxey ayngal a l(u) ayngakip
Who will feed the People     Awpot a Na'viru yomtiying

Chorus (repeated)

Let my arrow strike true           Oeyä swizaw nìngay tivakuk
Let my spear strike the heart     Oeyä tukrul txe'lanit tivakuk
Let the truth strike my heart      Oeri tìngayìl txe'lanit tivakuk
Let my heart be true                  Oeyä txe'lan livu ngay.
You are fast and strong              Lu nga win sì txur
You are wise                              Lu nga txantslusum
I must be fast and strong          Livu win sì txur oe zene
So only                                      Ha n(ì)'aw
Only if I am worthy of you      Pxan livu txo nì'aw oe ngari
Will you feed the People         Awpot a Na'viru yomtiying

Chorus (repeated)

Hunter's Prayer

Oel ngati kameie, ma Tsmukan, ulte ngaru seiyi ireiyo. Ngari hu Eywa saleu tirea, tokx 'ì'awn slu Na'viyä hapxì.

I see you Brother, Thank you. As your journey ends,  your spirit will return to Eywa, but your body will remain here with the people. 

Direhorse Lead
na'hla buk'ne

Paint Containers


  1. Espectacular, hermoso, muy buena información me otorgaste conozco un foro pero esto me ayudo un montón gracias, gracias, gracias. Y que esto llegue a mas manos porque esto seguirá creciendo.

  2. I found this very helpful and Imformative.
    Picked up on alot the Movie couldn't go into.
    Thank You