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Teal'c is a Jaffa


Origins and Physiology

Symbiote emerging from Jaffa pouch
Hathor's Jaffa-creating device
A priest prepares a child in the implantation ceremony

"There is a tale of a primitive world the Goa'uld discovered millennia ago," Teal'c explained during a debriefing at the SGC. "The Tau'ri, First World, where forms of this type evolved. It is said the Goa'uld harvested among the primitives, some became Goa'uld hosts, others became Jaffa; the rest were taken as slaves and seeded among the stars to serve them. But that world has been lost for centuries." Unbeknownst to Teal'c at the time that he chose to help the prisoners escape from Apophis' prison, he had rediscovered his people's roots, for the First World is Earth. (1.02 "Children of the Gods Part 2", 1.03 "The Enemy Within")

The first Jaffa, however, was not created on Earth, but on Dakara, a planet formerly of the Ancients, but of recent times, under the control of the Goa'uld. It was said that the first implantation ceremony was performed there that created the first Jaffa. The ceremony was still performed in modern times as genetically-altered Jaffa children grew to the age (usually at puberty) when the ceremony of implantation was necessary to their very survival, for a Goa'uld larval symbiote, or prim'ta, acts as the Jaffa's immune system. Without a symbiote implanted into a specially-designed pouch created in the Jaffa's abdomen, the Jaffa would surely die. Modern-day, ordinary humans, just like the original from millennia ago, can also be converted into a Jaffa in adulthood with the use of a special piece of technology the Goa'uld operate to create the pouch and destroy the immune system, such as was done by Hathor to O'Neill. Because he had not yet been implanted with a symbiote, O'Neill was healed of the damage in a sarcophagus. (1.12 "Bloodlines", 1.14 "Hathor", 7.10 "Birthright", 8.16 "Reckoning Part 1")

The reason for the Jaffa's creation goes back to the early times when the Goa'uld were a dying race because they had a very small chance of survival while attempting to blend immediately into a host, usually human. "Prior to the process of incubating Goa'uld symbiotes using Jaffa, the blending between Goa'uld and host had only a one in two chance of success," Teal'c told his teammates. "Jaffa were created for the very reason of improving the ability of the symbiotes to take human hosts." (6.10 "Cure")

While a Jaffa carries a symbiote, he or she is given a longer life, increased strength, and an enhanced ability to recover from illness and wounds. Because of the advantages in strength and healing ability that the symbiote conferred, many of the male Jaffa became warriors serving under a Goa'uld (e.g., Teal'c was in the service of Apophis). The Goa'uld maintained their power over the Jaffa that served them by telling the Jaffa that the Jaffa were bred to serve them as gods. Thus, Jaffa, both male and female, served the Goa'uld by practicing the rituals of worship associated with recognizing the Goa'uld as a god. (1.12 "Bloodlines", 4.04 "Crossroads")

While carrying a symbiote, a Jaffa must engage regularly in kel'no'reem, a type of meditation or hibernation during which the symbiote heals the Jaffa of illness or injury. Teal'c explained the process to O'Neill, "Relax. Concentrate. You must imagine the center of your mind and focus. Allow it to take you into a waking sleep. There you will dream. When you do so, it will be in harmony with the symbiote. Your subconscious minds will be as one. At that moment, you will have achieved kelno'reem. Here the symbiote will receive information necessary to repair your sickness." Normally, there is no communication between the symbiote and the Jaffa, but well-trained Jaffa minds have been able to converse with a symbiote on a conscious level during the exchange of hormones and electrical impulses that connect the two bodies. This touching of the minds was strictly prohibited and could lead to the Jaffa's death once the Goa'uld took a host and could act upon this mental invasion. (2.18 "Holiday", 4.04 "Crossroads")

When the symbiote matures, it is removed from the Jaffa and placed in a host, usually a human, thereby becoming a Goa'uld who can act and communicate on his own. The Jaffa must then receive a new symbiote or die. If a Jaffa warrior had survived the many battles to become old, his body would eventually be rejected by a symbiote. That is how an old Jaffa dies. Master Bra'tac reached the age of 138 when he had his last symbiote, but he survived the loss with the use of a drug called Tretonin that substituted for his immune system. This drug was first developed by the Pangarans for the use in humans (unsuccessfully) and refined for the Jaffa's use by the Tok'ra so that their dependence on the Goa'uld would end. Teal'c himself has survived over 54 years on Tretonin alone, bringing his age up to well over 158 years. (1.12 "Bloodlines", 4.04 "Crossroads", 5.02 "Threshold", 6.19 "Changeling", 10.20 "Unending")

Jaffa as Slaves

Bra'tac wears gold tattoo as former First Prime of Apophis
Teal'c and Bra'tac led the Jaffa to freedom
Lork Haikon of the Sodan Jaffa wears no tattoo

The Goa'uld branded their Jaffa slaves with tattoos on their foreheads. The majority of these tattoos were black, but if one were a high priest or priestess, or a First Prime in the army, then the tattoo would be made by cutting the skin with a knife and pouring molten gold into it. This process was "tremendously" painful, but was considered a great honor. For thousands of years, the Jaffa served their masters. They fought and died for them in battle. If a Goa'uld was vanquished by another, the defeated Jaffa who survived were absorbed into the victor's domain. Sometimes, the tattoos were changed along with the allegiance, but for the most part, they remained the same throughout the Jaffa's lifetime. (2.10 "Bane", 4.04 "Crossroads", 5.02 "Threshold", 6.08 "The Other Guys", 6.22 "Full Circle")

Jaffa warriors were armed with zats and staff weapons, and were trained to pilot the various spaceships used by the Goa'uld. As the System Lords were threatened by the growing number of Rebel Jaffa, they took various precautions for their own safety. Apophis put recall devices in his ships so that if it was deemed stolen by a traitor Jaffa (shol'va), the ship would take a very long trip back toward Chulak, his stronghold. Jaffa pilots would die in the cold of space before ever setting their eyes on home again. Anubis created an army of Kull Warriors that were programmed to be loyal to him. These Warriors fought to the death and only uttered words of praise for their master. (4.12 "Tangent", 7.11 "Evolution Part 1")

Once more Jaffa realized that the Goa'uld were not gods and rallied under the leadership of Bra'tac and Teal'c, they knew that they could overthrow the powerful System Lords by turning their army. A Goa'uld System Lord had no strength without his Jaffa army, so when Teal'c called the Rebel Jaffa to unite, he used this argument to win them over: "Without us, the Goa'uld are nothing. We are their strength, we are their power … until we choose to serve them no more." The Jaffa Rebellion lasted six long, agonizing years, but eventually, the System Lords were defeated. It was through combining the strength of their own and several allies, including the Tok'ra and Tau'ri, that the Jaffa gained their freedom. (3.01 "Into The Fire Part 2", 8.18 "Threads")

There was another belief system of the Jaffa that went beyond that in the Goa'uld as gods. It was based on the legend of the planet Kheb, where a Jaffa could go after he could no longer carry a symbiote and pass into an incredible afterlife. This afterlife was accomplished through ascension, the shedding of the physical body to live as a form of energy on a higher plane of existence, and was called the Path to Enlightenment. The Sodan Jaffa warriors of 5,000 years ago realized that their master Ishkur was not a god, but found that they were greatly outnumbered, so they fled. They sought Kheb, but found another planet on which to live in isolation. They raided Goa'uld strongholds to obtain prim'tas for their survival and didn't wear forehead tattoos because they were free. The Sodan became a legend among their enslaved brethren, but were never met until after the Jaffa had won their hard-earned freedom. (9.08 "Babylon")

Jaffa as a Free People

Gerak, the first leader of the Free Jaffa Nation
Dakara destroyed by the Ori
Free Jaffa summit terrorized by the Illac Renin

As a newly freed people, the Jaffa were without direction. They had been so used to fighting against each other that they couldn't overcome this rivalry overnight. Leaders among them formed a High Council for the new Free Jaffa Nation, the center for which was on Dakara where they had gained that freedom. It was a holy place to them because they began there, and so they saw it fitting that they should enter their new age on that sacred ground. (8.18 "Threads")

It wasn't easy for the Jaffa from all over the galaxy to unite. Having been trained as a warrior race, they valued military assets and saw that those who possessed the greatest of these was one who was considered the greatest leader. The first leader of the Free Jaffa Nation was Gerak, an elderly, but formidable, warrior who felt that the new Nation should be considered and acknowledged by other races in the galaxy as equals. Gerak was strongly suspicious of the Tau'ri, as was Se'tak who followed him after his death. With the threat of the Ori, a group of powerful ascended beings who demanded their worship in exchange for their lives, the Free Jaffa Nation was in turmoil as to whether the Ori were worthy of their devotion or not. After the Ori destroyed Dakara, groups of Jaffa splintered off, citing their right to choose their own paths as a free people. The Illac Renin was a group of Jaffa who chose to worship the Ori, but they also chose to terrorize their opposition and nearly killed Teal'c and Bra'tac during one of their summits. The Free Jaffa Nation was even more divided, and Bra'tac and Teal'c had to start once again to unite their people against another group of false gods. (9.02 "Avalon Part 2", 9.11 "The Fourth Horseman Part 2", 10.07 "Counterstrike", 10.17 "Talion")

For the two years that the Free Jaffa struggled to create their new nation, they also had to fight against the Ori and their followers. But, finally, the Ori were vanquished, and the Free Jaffa were left to resume their work to become a new, united nation. (10.14 "The Shroud", Stargate: The Ark of Truth)

Key Jaffa Articles

Children of the Gods Season One Season Two
Season Three Season Four Season Five
Season Six Season Seven Season Eight


Within the Jaffa themselves:

  • Rebel Jaffa - They combined their forces and eventually won their freedom from the Goa'uld.
  • Free Jaffa Nation - The Rebel Jaffa and those freed from the fall of the System Lords organized into this nation, run by a council until they decided to elect their leaders democratically.
  • Sodan - The Sodan Jaffa were an elite group of warriors who found freedom 5,000 years ago. They were sought out by the Free Jaffa Nation, but all but one of them was killed when the Ori destroyed their homeworld.
  • Illac Renin - A group of Jaffa who followed Origin, the religion of the Ascended Beings known as the Ori.

Outside organizations:

  • Tau'ri - The humans of the First World, Earth, were instrumental in helping the Jaffa gain their freedom from the Goa'uld.
  • Tok'ra - These symbiotes were physically the same as the Goa'uld, but philosophically opposed to them. They were the offspring of Egeria and for about 2000 years, fought the Goa'uld through infiltration. The Tok'ra formulated the drug Tretonin that permitted a Jaffa to live without carrying a symbiote.


  • Goa'uld - The Jaffa were engineered by the Goa'uld to increase their chances of survival before blending with a human host. The Goa'uld created a religion centered around themselves as gods and the Jaffa were enslaved to serve and worship them. With the help of the Tok'ra and Tau'ri, the Jaffa defeated the Goa'uld System Lords and gained their freedom.
  • Ori - These Ascended Beings took advantage in the Jaffa's pursuit of the Path to Enlightenment and targeted the Jaffa strongholds in the Milky Way Galaxy as the first places to conquer in their crusade to convert the whole galaxy into worshippers. With the warriors of the Jaffa, the Ori could have conquered the galaxy much faster, but they were met with outstanding resistance by the Free Jaffa Nation.

Notable Characters





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Further Reading

--DeeKayP 12:57, 29 Jun 2004 (PDT)