World of Warcraft
There are two very distinct belief systems which stem from the worship of nature; Druidism and Shamanism (with Geomancy being a subset.) 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 five fundamental elements of earth, fire, wind, water, and the wilds.
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 inter-connectivity 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 ascendancy 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
Shamanistic Philosophy: 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.
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.
Trolls: 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 (traditions die hard though.) 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 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.
Geomancy is an aggressive practice, the power drawn from the elements used offensively as opposed to defensively. A geomancer has the ability to manipulate the spirits of nature into a devastating power through ritualistic dance and rune-making, often done in the earth itself. These rituals are done in attempts to earn the trust and honor of the earth, not unlike a shaman’s converse with the spirits of the elements, so that a fully-fledged geomantic warrior may effectively call upon these powers.
Geomancy believes that the land is a reflection of the spirit, but the spirit is also a reflection of the land. It is in this belief system that geomancers strive to reform the land to appease both their spirits and the earth’s. The main difference between a geomancer and a shaman is in fighting style and method through which the trust of the elements is gained. A shaman speaks directly with the elemental spirits, whereas a geomancer uses forms of devotion dances and rune-making to impress the elements as a whole.
Many races and factions on Azeroth have geomancers, including pandaren, kobolds, quilboar , troggs, the Grimtotem clan of tauren, and even the Twilight’s Hammer clan.