The Jaffa are an offshoot of humanity, genetically engineered by the Goa’uld. They have an abdominal pouch which serves to incubate larval Goa’uld. The infant Goa’uld provides strength, longevity, and good health, at the cost of supplanting the Jaffa’s natural immune system, making them dependant on the Goa’uld for more symbiotes. The Jaffa have a warrior culture and form the armies of the Goa’uld.
The Jaffa were created from the human slaves taken from Earth by the Goa’uld. They were genetically altered to function as incubators for Goa’uld young. The process ensures compatibility and the success of implantation once the Goa’uld matures and takes a host. Jaffa children are implanted with a larval Goa’uld when they reach the age of implantation, approximately ten-years old. Honored Jaffa are granted a ceremony of Prim’ta during which the implantation is performed. If the implantation is not completed before the Age of Prata (puberty), the Jaffa child will die as a result of a failing immune system.
During the implantation process, an “X” shaped mark is cut on the stomach to create a pouch for the larva. This pouch never completely closes meaning the larval Goa’uld inside can be physically inserted or removed at any time. The symbiote replaces the immune system completely and without one a Jaffa will die a painful death in only a few hours.
The symbiote grants a Jaffa increased physical strength, health, and longevity. They may live in great health for well over a hundred years. Jaffa do not sleep but they must perform Kelno’reem, a deep meditation. This time allows the symbiote to repair any injuries to the Jaffa’s body and is necessary to maintain good health. It is possible for a Jaffa to communicate with the symbiote during kelno’reem, as in the case of the Jaffa priestess Shan’auc.
On the planet Pangar, humans developed a drug made from Goa’uld symbiotes known as Tretonin. The drug functioned much like a symbiote replacing the immune system of the humans who used it and granting them immunity from disease and increased longevity. Once used however, the body became dependent on it. Tretonin proved a successful replacement to symbiotes for the Jaffa, but Jaffa would lose the advanced healing that the symbiote provided. Over time with the absence of the symbiote the pouch also began to disappear. With the help of the Tok’ra the process was refined and several Jaffa, including Teal’c and Bra’tac use the drug until another, more permanent, solution can be found.
The Goa’uld sought to populate the galaxy (and also mine other planets for a rare substance called Naquadah, which is central in all Goa’uld technology), and sent slaves to other planets via the Stargate until 3,000 BC, before a rebellion led to Ra’s retreat from Earth and the burial of Earth’s Stargate.
Some of the slaves who were taken from Earth were implanted with infant Goa’uld, and became known as Jaffa. As reward for carrying infant Goa’uld, the symbiote (or prim’ta) protects the host Jaffa from disease and gives the host Jaffa a long life, along with increased physical capabilities (although it is unclear how much is from the symbiote and how much is a result of their disciplined upbringing). The symbiote is also capable of healing its host of most injuries or ailments.
For thousands of years, Jaffa faithfully served various Goa’uld masters as soldiers in their armies and servants of different kinds, controlled with the indoctrination of the idea of the Goa’uld were gods. Although only men served as warriors, all Jaffa are raised as warriors, with strong emphasis on physical development and discipline. In many ways, they can be fanatical in their devotion, as a result of being taught from birth that dying in the service of their Goa’uld masters results in great rewards in the afterlife. They also believe strongly that their ultimate purpose is Ascension, although it is unknown if this belief is fostered by the Goa’uld or simply ignored.
Several thousand years ago, a group of Jaffa realized the Goa’uld were not gods and went into hiding. They became known as the Sodan. They do not carry the mark of any Goa’uld and are proud of their independence. They still require symbiotes however, and must go on raids of symbiote transports to procure new ones.
The final Jaffa Rebellion did not truly begin until the First Prime of the Goa’uld Apophis, Teal’c betrayed him and joined the Tau’ri. Teal’c began to doubt the Goa’uld were gods but it wasn’t until he came across Colonel Jack O’Neill that the Jaffa finally found the strength and will he needed to abandon his service to the Goa’uld. Teal’c defected from serving the Goa’uld and returned to Earth where he later joined SG-1, believing that they and Stargate Command were the best chance of freeing all Jaffa from Goa’uld control.
The resistance was helped by the return of the Goa’uld Anubis and the subsequent civil war among the System Lords. In addition, the Replicators further weakened the Goa’uld with most of the System Lords being wiped out in the Replicator invasion of the Milky Way. In a series of grand events, Anubis was prevented from completing his goal of galactic destruction by Oma Desala, the Replicators were destroyed by a temporary alliance of Ba’al, Lt. Colonel Samantha Carter and Jacob Carter/Selmak, and the Jaffa struck a major blow to the remaining Goa’uld. This was heightened by the fact that Ba’al fled when rebel Jaffa boarded his ship: it completely shattered the Goa’uld’s image as gods and the Jaffa started abandoning their masters by the droves to flock to the side of the rebellion. After Anubis and his Kull Warriors fell due to the efforts of Doctor Daniel Jackson and Oma Desala, the Goa’uld Empire finally fell and the Jaffa won their freedom.
Jaffa are a society of warriors and bear the mark of their “gods”, a black symbol tattooed on the foreheads. They believed the Goa’uld to be gods and did not see themselves as slaves until the advent of the Jaffa Rebellion. They believed that serving their gods is the highest calling, and to die while performing their tasks leads to great rewards in the afterlife. Without Jaffa, however, the Goa’uld have limited power. The Jaffa fight their wars, oversee their human slaves, and determine their strength and ultimate success.
Jaffa are well known for their courage and strength of will. Despite being treated as disposable by the Goa’uld, they take pride in their skill as warriors and have a great sense of honor and nobility. They can, on occasion, be superstitious and have many legends; some, like the legend of Kheb are based in fact. Most Jaffa believe in an afterlife. The rebel Jaffa believe their souls will be taken to Kheb when they die, a mysterious planet once inhabited by Oma Desala. Some free jaffa will kneel as a sign of respect to ascended beings.
Jaffa were noted for bearing a grudge against their enemies and for their long memories. Jaffa are shown to have little sense of humor, but the jokes they do have are usually at the expense of the Jaffa of a rival Goa’uld.
When it comes to Jaffa romance, at least on Chulak, a dispute between a man and a woman that cannot be resolved necessitates a pledge break. For validity, one of the disputers must request said pledge break, which subsequently needs to be granted by the other. If the dispute is still unsettled, a weapon is required.