The Astral Dimension, also referred as the Astral Plane or the Ancestral Plane, is a parallel dimension where the soul exists outside of the body.
The Astral Dimension, much like the Mirror Dimension, coexists alongside the Material Plane. However, to access it, one must successfully be separated from their physical form, existing in a state of pure energy. Time relative to the Material Plane is slowed down to a crawl when one enters the Astral Dimension, to the point that Doctor Strange was able to leave his body, speak with the Ancient One, and return in the time it took his body to fall to the floor. T'Challa and Erik Killmonger, respectively, were able to have lengthy conversations with their fathers when visiting the Astral Dimension and awaken moments after their initial burial.
The Masters of the Mystic Arts are also able to peer into the Astral Dimension without leaving their bodies, as both the Ancient One and Doctor Strange were able to see each other's astral bodies while in the Material Plane. It is also demonstrated that sorcerers can learn to make their astral forms perceivable in the material world, with Strange appearing beside Christine Palmer through a portal from the Mirror Dimension. While speaking to her in his astral form, Strange was also able to see Lucian Aster arrive. The Ancient One was able to project and return Strange's astral form to his body, as well as project Bruce Banner's astral form from Hulk's body and keep him in the Astral Dimension while discussing the Time Heist.
Sorcerers have limited effect on the Material Plane while in the Astral Dimension, as during their Duel on the Astral Plane, Lucian Aster and Doctor Strange were able to cause equipment to move around and lights to burst. Due to the astral form being energy, if a sorcerer's body is exposed to high amounts of energy, such as electricity, their astral form becomes charged to the point that Strange was able to kill Aster by overloading his astral form after Palmer used a defibrillator on him.
One can simultaneously rest their bodies and perform other tasks using the Astral Dimension, as Doctor Strange was shown to be sleeping while studying a book in his astral form. Also, like the Mirror Dimension, the Astral Dimension is accessible without the use of the Sling Ring, as it occupies the same space as the real world while still being imperceptible.
For Black Panthers, after consuming the Heart-Shaped Herb, they are put into a slumber and buried, reawakening in the Astral Dimension by rising from the earth. The experience is shown to be extremely jarring, as both T'Challa and Erik Killmonger awoke from their visit visibly shaken and disoriented.
The Soul Stone is able to affect the Astral Dimension as well, as Thanos used it to disorient Doctor Strange by momentarily separating Strange's astral form from his physical form during the Battle of Titan.
According to Wakandan lore, the Astral Dimension is where the soul settles after death. For Black Panthers, it is where they can go to commune with their ancestors after ingesting the Heart-Shaped Herb.
King T'Chaka's Guidance
In 2016, T'Chaka, the King of Wakanda, was killed in Vienna during a terrorist attack orchestrated by Helmut Zemo. T'Chaka's soul was later transported to the Ancestral Plane, where he reunited with his ancestors and took the form of a panther. In the aftermath of Zemo's attack, Natasha Romanoff went to console his son, T'Challa, who explained that, to Wakandans, death was not the end of a person's journey. Instead, they were brought by Bast and Sekhmet to a green veld where they would roam forever. Romanoff stated that it sounded like a peaceful end, but T'Challa stated that it was a belief held by his father, but not him.
In the week following T'Chaka's death, T'Challa was incoronated as King and, following tradition, was buried in the City of the Dead after ingesting the Heart-Shaped Herb. He awoke in the Ancestral Plane, rising from the earth before the tree where his father and other ancestors rested. T'Chaka went to greet his son, and they embraced as T'Challa mournfully remembered the events of his father's death in Vienna, exclaiming his sorrow for being unable to save him.
T'Chaka, however, exclaimed his pride in his son. As T'Challa confessed that he was unprepared to rule without his father, T'Chaka wistfully replied that a man who hadn't prepared his children for his death has failed them as a father.
Reunion with N'Jobu
Following his success in the fight for control over Wakanda, Erik Killmonger was taken to the City of the Dead, where he consumed the Heart-Shaped Herb and entered the Ancestral Plane. Instead of appearing in the wilds of Africa, however, Killmonger travel into the Astral Plane returned him to his home in Oakland.
There, Killmonger retrieved his father's ring from a book hidden in the apartment when N'Jobu appeared beside him, scolding him for going through his belongings. However, N'Jobu smiled, asking his son what he'd found, and N'Jadaka cheerfully replied that he'd arrived in Wakanda, his father's home. N'Jobu revealed that he'd given Erik a key, in the form of a War Dog tattoo, in hopes that his son would see it someday, but explained that he was afraid that Erik wouldn't be welcomed, due to the Wakandans seeing him as an outsider.
End of Tradition
- "You were wrong! All of you were wrong! To turn your backs on the rest of the world! We let the fear of discovery stop us from doing what is right. No more! I cannot stay here with you. I cannot rest while he sits on the throne. He is a monster of our own making. I must take the mantle back. I must! I must right these wrongs."
Once again seeing his father, T'Challa questioned him why he'd left behind a Wakandan child to fend for himself after T'Chaka murdered his own brother, Prince N'Jobu. T'Chaka, ashamed, explained that it had been the actions of a king who wanted to bury his actions in the past.
When T'Chaka told his son to stay in the Ancestral Plane with their ancestors, T'Challa adamantly refused, calling out his predecessors for the flaws they've led Wakanda through. As a result of being unable to allow Erik Killmonger to rule the country and provoke a war with the rest of the world, T'Challa denied his place among his ancestors.
Meeting the Ancient One
During Stephen Strange's first encounter with the Ancient One, he initially rejected the idea of souls and multiple universes along with all the other non-scientifically proven statements she made. To silence him, the Ancient One pushed Strange's astral form out from his physical form, effectively forcing Strange briefly into the Astral Dimension.
Upon starting his training in the Mystical Arts, Strange quickly became interested in the use of Astral Projections, despite Wong warning that he was not ready for it. Strange quickly became skilled in entering the Astral Dimension and frequently did so to keep studying while his physical body was sleeping.
When Stephen Strange was injured as a result of his conflict at the New York Sanctum, he stumbled through a portal into the Metro-General Hospital. There, Strange left his physical form by simultaneously assuming the astral form and entering the Astral Dimension, rendering his body unconscious. During this time, he helped Christine Palmer perform surgery on him by re-emerging in the regular universe in his astral form. Palmer was shocked by this stunt and assumed Strange was dead at first. However, he was followed by the astral form of Lucian Aster, one of the enemies he had just overcome.
They battled it out in the Astral Dimension, and some of their actions had weak and muffled effects on the regular dimension. While they fought, Palmer continued her attempts to resuscitate Strange, using duel defibrillators. As it happened, this fact was able to energize Strange's astral form. Strange realized he could use that power against Aster while in the Astral Dimension, so he asked Palmer to keep using the defibrillator. Strange forced the power through Aster's astral form, completely incinerating him in the process.
Death in the Astral Dimension
Having been rushed to a hospital, the Ancient One left her physical body and entered the Astral Dimension, with Stephen Strange quickly following her. In her dying moments, the Ancient One witnessed a lightning strike New York alongside Strange. They stretched her dying moments into minutes in the Astral Dimension together. Her physical body then died, and her astral form faded at the same time.
During the Battle of Titan, Doctor Strange conjured multiple mirror images of himself, proceeding to attempt to restrain Thanos with Eldritch Whips. However, Thanos used the Power and Soul Stones to destroy the duplicates and temporarily separate the sorcerer from his astral form, allowing Thanos the opportunity to capture Strange and retrieve the Eye of Agamotto.
After using the Quantum Tunnel to return in time to 2012 in New York City, Hulk arrived at the New York Sanctum to retrieve the Time Stone from Doctor Strange, but was met by the Ancient One, who said Strange would not become a Masters of the Mystic Arts for years and deduced that Hulk was from a different time period. Explaining that he needed the Time Stone to fix a crisis to come, Hulk attempted to take the Eye of Agamotto from the Ancient One but instead had his astral form pushed from his body.
The Ancient One explained that, if she were to allow Hulk to take the Stone from her time, their reality would be in danger due to the Masters giving up their greatest weapon. However, when Hulk explained that Strange would give the Stone to Thanos in the future, she decided to trust his decision and returned Banner's astral form to his body.
- The Astral Dimension in Black Panther resembles the Djalia, or Great Veldt, from the comics, a place where the consciousness still exists after death in Wakandan lore.
- It's unknown if the Ancient One's soul inhabits the Astral Dimension now since her astral form faded after her clinical death.
- Interestingly, Doctor Strange was shown to be holding a book from the Kamar-Taj Library while in the Astral Dimension, and the book itself is translucent as though it existed in the Astral Plane as well.
- The location experienced when visiting an inhabitant of the Astral Dimension seems to be dependant on where they are buried. T'Chaka was seen with his ancestors in Wakanda, while N'Jobu was still in Oakland.
- N'Jobu's comment of being 'abandoned' in his apartment seems to reflect this fact.