There are two very distinct belief systems which stem from the worship of nature; Druidism and Shamanism. While different in their effectuation, both belief systems share with each other their most basic concepts of animism, ancestor worship, and spirit guidance. Though both druidism and shamanism seem to be separated by a very fine line, the means by which they reach their ends can be classified in a fairly straightforward manner. Druids worship the spirits through plants, animals, and the fundamental spirit of the wilds. Conversely, shamans worship the spirits through the four fundamental elements of earth, fire, wind, and water.
This essential spark of life is looked upon as a divine force, one more fundamental than the Holy Light worshiped by the Humans. The Orcs, Tauren, Night Elves, Trolls, and Draenei commune with the spirit world in search of knowledge, guidance, and power. Though these races do not discount the humans' study and worship of the Light, they maintain the Light is merely the emergent characteristic of the interconnectivity of the spirit world, not a single person's connection with the universe. The belief that the paladin is a direct agent of the Light is a dismissal of the concept that each shaman is but a mere conduit through which the powers of the spirits flow. Truly, in their rush to embrace the Light, the humans missed the very point of its existence.
The druids live a very spiritual life: firstly acknowledging and honoring each spirit as an individual life; secondly honoring the goddess Elune (known to the Tauren as Mu'sha), the only true deity on Azeroth. The druids seek guidance — or interference — from the spirits, asking the small spirits for small tasks and entreating Elune or one of the other wise and powerful spirits of the forests for more significant tasks. They see their forests as havens for living spirits, and as such are bound to defend them. It has become the highest priority for the Druid's Cenarion Circle to heal the corruption of their precious forests caused by the demonic and undead invasion of the Third War. As the spirits have served them for thousands of years, the druids seek to give back to the spirits by healing the very living woods.
This close proximity to nature imbues the druid directly with the power of the spirits, allowing them to harness the power of nature, and assume the form of the animals they worship. Because of this direct power infusion, the druids can be seen as the purer parent of the humans' paladin. Unlike the traditional paladin, however, druids still view themselves as servants of the divine, rather than agents.
The shaman however, do not worship plant life and nature as the druids do. Instead, they honor the spirits of their own ancestors and the elemental forces. The shaman are not themselves imbued with the ascendency of the spirits, rather they harness it through ceremonial totems. They carve these totems to represent the spirits and animals from which they draw power, and it is within these totems that the true potency of a shaman lies.
Tauren knows their own lineage - some spanning more than ten generations - and has been able to recite it since they were a calf. By learning the great tales of their ancestry, the Tauren will connect to one or two of their forefathers with whom they identify. Their lives therefore, become homages to their ancestors, and all through their life, the living Tauren will seek guidance from and serve in the name of the spirit of that forbearer and the Earth Mother.
Orcs have less dedication to their lineage, and focus more on the raw elements for their power. This can be attributed to the severing of the shamanistic line on Draenor in favor of foul demonic magic. The Burning Legion lured them from the powers of nature, and forced them into an ethnic cleansing against the Draenei. This action so upset the spirits of Oshu'gun, that they severed their connections with the Orcs, stripping them of their shamanistic powers. Now, having recently shaken off their demonic yoke, the Orcs have engaged in a process of rediscovering their old traditions under the guidance of their Warchief Thrall and the Tauren race. The Orcs have traded dark unions for vision quests, summoning rituals with prayer, and defiled citadels for sweat lodges.
Much like the rebirth in Orcish culture, the Darkspear Tribe has found a savior in Thrall and the practices of shamanism. The old ways of voodoo hexes, cannibalism, and non-animal sacrifice are being replaced by a more divine set of beliefs. No longer do these trolls feast upon the corpses of their fallen as the undead do.However, they do still practice voodoo and they taught Hex to their allies. They have brought out a different elemental totem, as well as teaching Orcs and Tauren more about restoration and regeneration. They are finding, under the guidance of the older shamanistic races, more civilized ways to appease their bloodthirsty ancestry. As the Orcs found guidance towards the divine from the Tauren, so now do the Trolls find their path through the Orcs.
The following conversations are from Lord of the Clans, written by Christie Golden, copyright 2001 by Blizzard Entertainment.
Conversation between Thrall and Grom Hellscream
Thrall: Isn't magic magic?
Grom: Yes and no. Sometimes the effect is the same. For instance, if a shaman was to summon lightning to strike his foes, they would be burned to death. If a warlock was to summon hell's flames against an enemy, they would be burned to death.
Thrall: So magic is magic.
Grom: But lightning is a natural phenomenon. You call it by requesting it. With hell's fire, you make a bargain. It costs a little of yourself.
Thrall: But you said that the shamans were disappearing. Doesn't that mean that the warlock's way was better?
Grom: The warlock's way was quicker, more effective, or so it seemed. But there comes a time when a price must be paid, and sometimes, it is dear indeed.
See the Lethargy of the Orcs for the chronicle of the price paid by Orcs for embracing demonic powers.
DREK'THAR: The wolves are not tamed, not as you might understand the word. They have come to be our friends because I invited them. It is a part of being a shaman. We have a bond with the things of the natural world, and strive always to work in harmony with them. Warlocks would term them spells, but we shamans simply term them calls. We ask, the powers we work with answer. Or not, as they will. I can call the snows, and wind, and lightning. The trees may bend to me when I ask. The rivers may flow where I ask them to.
THRALL: If your power is so great, then why do you continue to live in such a harsh place? If what you are saying is true, you could turn this barren mountaintop into a lush garden. Food would never be difficult to come by, your enemies would never find you—
DREK'THAR (angrily): And I would violate the primary agreement with the elements, and nothing of nature would ever respond to me again! Do you understand nothing? Have the humans sunk their greedy talons in you so deeply that you cannot see what lies at the heart of a shaman's power? I am granted these things because I ask, with respect in my heart, and I am willing to offer something in return. I request only the barest needs for myself and my people. At times, I ask great things, but only when the cause is good and just and wholesome. In return, I thank these powers, knowing they are borrowed only, never bought. They come to me because they choose to, not because I demand it! These are not slaves, Thrall. They are powerful entities who come of their own free will, who are companions in my magic, not my servants. Pagh! You will never understand.
Thrall's Monologue from Rise of the Horde
THRALL: I am one of the second wave of shaman, just as I am the leader of the second, and I pray better and wiser incarnation of the Horde. I have spoken with the elements and spirits, and I have felt them working in harmony with me many times, and refusing their aid almost as often. But I have never seen the spirits of the ancestors, not even in my dreams; my soul yearns for such a connection. Until very recently, those who once walked the path of the shaman did not even dream of being able to walk it again, and yet they do. Perhaps one day the barriers between us and the beloved dead, too, will be lifted. Perhaps.
Everything that is, is alive
All shamans gain their power from the Elemental Spirits, so most shamanic philosophy is the same no matter which race practices it. Access to the power of the shaman is borrowed, rather than taken. Unlike the rigid disciplines of the Holy Light which bends the power of the Light to its user through spells, shaman practitioners refer to the act of using their magic as calls, not spells. The power imparted by the elements to the shaman has a wide berth, and encompasses many forces. A shaman can diagnose and cure ailments, harness the power of the elements to defeat their opponents, and enhance the natural power of themselves and other. And these abilities are but a mere fraction of the ability of a shaman. By traversing the axis mundi and forming a special relationship with the spirits, shaman have gained access to divination, dream interpretation, astral projection, control over the weather, and a near innumerable list of abilities.
Shamanism is based on the premise that the visible world is pervaded by the invisible force of spirits that affect the living in a very strong and meaningful way. Shamanism can therefore be seen as the practical application of the concepts of animism through specialized knowledge and abilities. Shamanism is not, however, organized into full-time rituals or spiritual association as priests are. There exists a very distinct chasm between a Priest serving the Earthmother, and a Shaman of the Earthmother.
- Main article: Elemental Spirits
The shamans call upon the Elements in their magic. There are five elements, or Spirits: Earth, Air, Fire, Water and the Wilds. At their simplest, the elements may cause an earthquake, summon a storm, conjure fire or finding water. As their most complex, the elements are the very world we live in.
The Spirit of the Wilds is the most complex and least understood of the elements. This element is tied to life and the living things that grow when the other four elements are in harmony. The Wilds is rarely used by shaman, and lies more in the domain of the druid. It is invoked by the shaman only during the ritual of Ancestral Spirit, a call so powerful it can rewind the mortal coil, bringing life to the dead, and binding the spirit of a being back into their corporeal shell.
Practitioners of Shamanism
Practitioners by Race
- Main article: Shaman races
- A good source of information about Horde shamanism in Warcraft can be found in the book Lord of the Clans. The book discusses their core philosophies of shamanism, as where their power comes from.
- 163, 176, 177, 178, 179, 180
- According to the book Unbroken there is a fifth element. No known shamans have been known to contact it, but this element seems to have connections to the twisting nether, as water told Nobundo it tied the worlds together. This element may rival the other four substantially. This may be the Spirit of the Wilds.