The World Between Worlds can be confusing. It's a mystical realm of the Force that's proved to be essential to Ahsoka, but it was first introduced in Rebels season 4, which means, if you haven't seen the animated show, you might not be quite up to speed. Plus, it has some crucial Clone Wars backstory to understand, too.
But that's where we come in. We've got everything you need to know about the World Between Worlds below, with the lowdown on what happens in Rebels, the realm's Clone Wars ties, and what it all means for the live-action show. That means the below contains spoilers for Ahsoka episode 4 and Ahsoka episode 5, so turn back now if you're not up to date!
If you want to get caught up on even more Star Wars lore now that Ahsoka is here, see our guides on everything you need to know about Rebels, as well as what to watch before Ahsoka, and how to watch The Clone Wars in order.
What is the World Between Worlds?
To explain the World Between Worlds, first, we have to explain Mortis – and that's no easy task, so buckle up.
The mysterious realm of Mortis is first introduced in The Clone Wars, when Anakin Skywalker, his Padawan Ahsoka Tano, and Obi-Wan Kenobi are brought there from space together. In Mortis, they discover a family of gods with a curious connection to the Force: the Daughter (the light side), the Son (the dark side), and the Father (the balance).
It turns out that the Father has lured Anakin there to find out if the Jedi really is the Chosen One. To test this, the Father, Son, and Daughter kidnap Obi-Wan and Ahsoka, and try to force Anakin to choose which one to save. Naturally, Anakin uses his tremendous power to make the Son and Daughter release both Ahsoka and Obi-Wan.
This proves to the Father that Anakin is the Chosen One after all, and he asks Anakin to stay and take his place – if Anakin doesn't, he'll be putting the galaxy in grave danger, according to the Father (and we know he's correct, after all). Anakin, though, refuses and leaves Mortis with Ahsoka and Obi-Wan, as the Imperial March ominously plays in the background.
Except, the trio don't actually manage to escape. The Son kidnaps Ahsoka and imprisons her, then attacks the Father. The Daughter gives Obi-Wan the Dagger of Mortis, which can kill these strange beings, but the Son corrupts Ahsoka with the dark side – and Ahsoka gets the Dagger in a fight with Anakin and Obi-Wan. After she hands it over to the Son, he kills her and mortally wounds the Daughter by mistake while trying to kill the Father. The Son flees, and Anakin and the Daughter are able to transfer the Daughter's remaining life force into Ahsoka and bring her back to life. The Padawan awakens with no memory of her ordeal. But, with the Daughter dead, Mortis is succumbing to darkness, which the Father says means the dark side will come out on top in the galaxy, too.
Anakin, on the hunt for the Son, is directed to a sinister place called the Well of the Dark Side by the spirit of Qui-Gon Jinn. The Son gives Anakin a vision of his future as Darth Vader, and, horrified, Anakin agrees to go with the Son in order to prevent these dark events from coming to pass. This means Anakin falls to the dark side, which Obi-Wan discovers when he arrives.
The Father eventually erases Anakin's memory of his vision, which reverts him back to the light side. A fight ensues with the Son, but the Father ends up using the Dagger on himself to take away the Son's power. It works, and the Son and the Father end up reconciling – before Anakin kills the Son. As the Father dies, he tells Anakin that he is the Chosen One since he's brought balance to Mortis, and tells him that he'll bring balance to the galaxy if he stays on the same path.
But, with his dying words, he gives Anakin one disturbing warning: "Beware your heart." The Father then dies, which means the Force powers of Mortis also wane. Ultimately, Ahsoka, Anakin, and Obi-Wan wake up on their ship, in space, with only a moment having passed since they were last there. Weird, huh?
The World Between Worlds in Rebels
Why did we go through all that, you might be asking? Well, that's because the Mortis gods are essential to the World Between Worlds.
In Rebels, Ezra Bridger is lured by Loth-wolves (giant wolves with a mysterious connection to the Force) to his home planet Lothal's Jedi Temple, which has been captured by the Empire. One wolf, named Dume – who could be Ezra's late Jedi Master Kanan Jarrus living on after death, since his real name is Caleb Dume – gives Ezra strange instructions in the form of a painting of hand signals.
On the Jedi Temple wall is a mural of the three Mortis gods, and it turns out the hand signals correspond to one of the Father, Son, and Daughter to open and close a portal. Ezra follows the instructions with help from Sabine Wren, then the Loth-wolves on the painting move and form a circle. Ezra is able to pass through this circle and enters the World Between Worlds itself.
This is a mystical place in a black void with pathways that lead to gateways, each with mysterious markings. As Ezra walks through this strange land, he hears voices from the past and present: Obi-Wan, Anakin, Ahsoka, Rey, Kylo Ren, Yoda, Qui-Gon Jinn, Darth Vader, Kanan, Maz Kanata, Chirrut Îmwe, Jyn Erso, Poe Dameron, the Daughter, and Leia Organa can all be heard. Interestingly enough, Obi-Wan and Qui-Gon Jinn's exchange on Mortis is one of the first things heard in the World Between Worlds: Obi-Wan asks, "what is this place?" and Qui-Gon responds: "a conduit through which the entire Force of the universe flows."
Ezra approaches one particular gateway, which has a green and white bird perched atop it. This is Morai, a convor (which looks a lot like an owl), a bird associated with the Daughter – in fact, she might even be the Daughter herself. Morai is often seen with Ahsoka, and even potentially appeared in The Mandalorian season 2, episode 5, when Ahsoka made her live-action debut.
Through this gateway, Morai shows Ezra the battle between Ahsoka and Vader from the Rebels season 2 finale, which takes place in a Sith Temple. With encouragement from the convor, Ezra reaches through and pulls Ahsoka to safety, meaning she narrowly avoids a killing blow from Vader's lightsaber.
Ezra then thinks he could use the World Between Worlds to save Kanan, but Ahsoka reminds him that, if he did, that would result in the Ghost crew being killed – Kanan sacrificed himself to save them. Instead, Ezra has to learn to let go.
Emperor Palpatine also wants access to the World Between Worlds, though, and tries to reach Ahsoka and Ezra through a gateway. They manage to escape his clutches, and Ahsoka leaves the World Between Worlds and ends up back in the Sith Temple.
When Ezra leaves the Jedi Temple, he once again has to interact with the painting of the Mortis gods to shut the portal. As he does, the Son can be heard saying: "The future, by its nature, can be changed." The gods then move out of view on the mural, and the Temple begins to collapse.
Is the World Between Worlds in Ahsoka?
Thanks to Ahsoka episode 4, we know for a fact that the World Between Worlds is part of the show. In the episode, Ahsoka is knocked into water by Baylan Skoll during a duel, leaving Sabine unprotected. The Mandalorian ends up giving up the map to Baylan and his sinister allies, meaning the bad guys are off to find Grand Admiral Thrawn with Sabine in tow.
Fears about Ahsoka's fate are put to rest when we see her at the end of the episode, however. She's in a very familiar realm, with that glowing blue and white pathway stretching all around her. This is none other than the World Between Worlds, making its live-action debut – and, significantly, Ahsoka sees her old Master Anakin Skywalker waiting for her (you can read about the history between Anakin and Ahsoka through the link).
Then, in Ahsoka episode 5, we dive into the World Between Worlds in earnest. Anakin puts Ahsoka through her paces, fighting her in both his light and dark side modes, and even transporting her back to the Clone Wars era. It's all a lesson meant to give her back her spirit – which works, as, after her trip into the mystical realm, she dons a new, symbolic white outfit.
Before episodes 4 and 5, there were clues that the World Between Worlds would come into play. For one thing, the first logo unveiled for the Ahsoka show appeared to feature the same markings seen on the mural of the Mortis gods. The mural depicts a star map, as does the Ahsoka logo, so the difference might not be too surprising – but it was still close enough for us to speculate.
The markings around the edge of the Ahsoka logo also seemed to match closely to the markings seen around the portal that Ezra used to rescue Ahsoka.
Also, it looked like the showdown between Ahsoka and Baylan could have something to do with the World Between Worlds from the trailer.
Though they're not actually inside the realm, instead inside the hologram of the galaxy first unveiled by Morgan Elsbeth (with what looks to be magick thanks to her ancestors the Nightsisters of Dathomir), the glowing dome bears some resemblance to the pathways and markings within the World Between Worlds. Interestingly enough, these markings are also found within the Ahsoka end-credits (which have been decoded, revealing major planet names).
Is the World Between Worlds time travel in Star Wars?
In theory, yes. We haven't strictly seen it used for time travel purposes just yet, however, as in Rebels Ahsoka returns to the ruined Sith Temple – suggesting she went back to her own timeline. If Ezra had stepped through the portal into the fight with Vader, he would have been time travelling to the past, and if Ahsoka had gone back with Ezra, she would have been time travelling to the future.
Rebels is also clear on the consequences for meddling with time, as Ahsoka warns Ezra against using the World Between Worlds to save Kanan, considering that would have resulted in the deaths of the Ghost crew.
In Ahsoka episode 4, Anakin appears before Ahsoka, but it doesn't look like time travel – instead it seems something like the ghost of her former Master has come to give Ahsoka some words of advice. The Clone Wars era scenes also don't appear to be outright time travel, and more akin to a vision, since Ahsoka is her younger self but has all her older self's memories.
Whether there are Force-related ramifications for time travel remains to be seen, however. We can't help but imagine messing with the timeline could cause some major disturbances to the Force, though, but who's to say at this point.
In the meantime, check out our guide to all the upcoming Star Wars movies and TV shows through the link – or, if you're in the mood for a movie marathon, try our roundup of the best Star Wars movies ranked.