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Know Your Lore: Gods and monsters

Azeroth differs from the real world in many, many ways. For example, outside the game, you will rarely find that your wages for completing jobs come in leather form, unless you work in adult entertainment. You will also find it difficult to fit an elephant, a stack of ore, and five large swords into a small brown sack. And in Azeroth, you won't go to pick up a quest only to be told that the Mag'har have decided to go with a more qualified adventurer, nor will your flying mount get repossessed by the bank. But there's one thing Earth and Azeroth have in common: A lot of the violence and conflict is caused by religious differences.

Since Azeroth has no handy televangelism networks or airport pamphleteers, most players don't know too much about the religions and gods of the Warcraft universe. So Know Your Lore has prepared a guide to the major religions, their worshippers, their enemies, and other important information. Read on, lest ye be smited by boils!

The Holy Light

  • Basics: The Holy Light isn't a god in and of itself. Rather, it's a mysterious power that is present in everyone and holds the universe together, and some people can use it to gain great abilities. Hmm, sounds familiar. George Lucas better call his lawyer. Followers of the Holy Light try to be kind and generous to others, in the belief that their actions will have repercussions throughout the universe.
  • Gods: No official gods, as the Holy Light is more of a philosophy. Nevertheless, something has to give priests and paladins their healing powers, and the celestial beings called Naaru serve as emissaries of the Light, and help other species use it.
  • Followers: Humans, dwarves, draenei, priests, paladins, the Scarlet Crusade, the Order of the Silver Hand.
  • Enemies: The Burning Legion, the Scourge, the Illidari (kind of.)
  • Earth analogue: A lot of religions, such as Christianity, Judaism and Buddhism, have philosophies similar to that of the Holy Light, but most also include a supreme being.

The Forgotten Shadow

  • Basics: The Forgotten Shadow is the religion of the Forsaken, although many also practice necromancy and demonology (which we're not going to discuss here, because they're more schools of magic than actual religions.) It's a self-centered twisting of the views of the Holy Light. There is no intrinsic bond between the self and the universe -- rather, followers are encouraged to develop their personal power to enforce their will on the universe.
  • Gods: No divine gods. Rather, followers are encouraged to see all creatures as gods, since their will and emotions can change the universe. The ultimate goal of the religion is to transcend death.
  • Followers: The Forsaken, particularly undead priests, the Cult of the Forgotten Shadow.
  • Enemies: The Scourge, the Holy Light.
  • Earth analogue: A cross between hedonism, humanism and a self-help seminar.

Shamanism

  • Basics: One of the two most popular religions, along with the Holy Light. Shamans are guided by the power of the elements and the spirits of their ancestors. Shamans can call upon nature to assist them in their magics, but they must always strive to keep the natural world in harmony.
  • Gods: Shamans worship the Elemental Spirits, of which there are five: Water, Earth, Air, Fire, and the Wild. The first four are the root of the shaman's spells and totems. The last one represents life, and is rarely called directly as the others are. Tauren shamans also worship the mysterious Earth Mother.
  • Followers: Orcs (most prominently), tauren, trolls, draenei, furbolgs, Wildhammer dwarves.
  • Enemies: Disrupters of nature, which include technomancers like the gnomes, the Burning Legion, and the Scourge.
  • Earth analogue: Shamanism exists on Earth, notably in Native American, African, Inuit and Siberian cultures.

Druidism

  • Basics: Druidism is similar to shamanism, in that followers concern themselves with the balance of nature. However, instead of interacting with the spirit world and the elements, druids immerse themselves in the natural realm of the Emerald Dream, and follow the paths of animals instead of elements. This is why druids can shapeshift.
  • Gods: Druids usually choose a path of worshipping one particular animal form. For example, bear druids are Druids of the Claw, treant druids are Druids of the Grove, and crow druids are Druids of the Talon, although recently some druids have diversified into lots of forms (known as Druids of the Wild.) All druids worship the demigod Cenarius, son of Elune, who first taught druidism to Malfurion Stormrage.
  • Followers: Night elves, tauren, centaur.
  • Enemies: The Burning Legion again, users of arcane magic.
  • Earth analogue: Druidism is also based off of Earth practices, although Celtic druids were a lot more bloodthirsty than the Azeroth version.

Temple of the Moon

  • Basics: The goddess Elune is the most powerful being in Azeroth. She protected all living things when Azeroth was young, and today serves as the Moon Goddess and the goddess of peace. She has the power to stop battles with her song, heal the wounded, and send the stars to Earth.
  • Gods: Elune. Although her main worshippers, the night elves, believe in other gods, they see Elune as their patron goddess.
  • Followers: Night elves, tauren (as Mu'sha the moon goddess)
  • Enemies: The Burning Legion, arcane magic, warlocks.
  • Earth analogue: The Greek/Roman pantheon, specifically Artemis/Diana.

Old God worship

  • Basics: The Old Gods controlled Azeroth before the wandering Titans ordered the world. After they were defeated by the Titans, they went into hiding and plotted how to reclaim their lost world.
  • Gods: Of the Old Gods, one was killed in Darkshore, one became the god of an insectoid civilization (C'thun), and three were imprisoned beneath the earth. The three imprisoned gods corrupted Neltharion, helped lure the Burning Legion to Azeroth, and interfered with the timestream. An Old God is probably the driving force behind the Nightmare in the Emerald Dream, another one was most likely killed by Arthas in Northrend, and others may be beneath Tirisfal Glades, Teldrassil, and the Maelstrom.
  • Followers: The Twilight's Hammer cult, the Qiraji, the Silithids.
  • Enemies: Everyone. Especially you.
  • Earth analogue: Interestingly enough, the Titans of Greek mythology are the closest Earth analogue to the Old Gods.

Voodoo

  • Basics: Voodoo is the religion of the troll tribes. It combines shadow magic and ancestor worship with drawing power from nature and spirits, and can be used to curse, hex, and heal.
  • Gods: Voodoo practitioners worship the Loa Spirits. The five primal Loa Gods are the Snake, the Spider, the Panther, the Tiger, and the Bat. They also revere their ancestors, as ancestral spirits that stick around may asend to becoming Loa Spirits. Troll voodoo masters don't use voodoo dolls and create zombies -- and neither do most followers of Earth voodoo, so don't bother buying that hilarious Hilary Clinton/George W. Bush Voodoo Doll for $14.95 at Spencer Gifts. Sorry to burst your bubble.
  • Followers: Trolls, particularly priests.
  • Enemies: The Holy Light frowns on voodoo, believing it to be primitive dark magic.
  • Earth analogue: Haitian voudoun.

Shadow Council/Cult of the Damned:

  • Basics: I'm lumping these together, as there are a lot of cults that worship the bad guys of Azeroth. Specifically, the Shadow Council and its sister cults all worship and serve the demons of the Burning Legion, while the Cult of the Damned worships the Lich King. The old Shadow Council was behind the Old Horde that invaded Azeroth, and is now trying to undermine Thrall's New Horde. The Cult of the Damned runs Naxxramas and serves the Lich King and Kel'Thuzad on Azeroth. Both religions emphasize power, immortality, and unyielding service to evil.
  • Gods: Sargeras and Kil'jaeden for the Shadow Council, the Lich King for the Cult of the Damned,
  • Followers: The Shadow Council is mainly orcs, with a strong undercurrent of satyrs. The Cult of the Damned is almost entirely human with a few high elves.
  • Enemies: Everyone, especially each other. The Shadow Council hates Thrall and the Illidari. The Cult of the Damned hates the Argent Dawn and followers of the Light.
  • Earth analogue: Devil worship for the Shadow Council, death worship for the Cult of the Damned.

Filed under: Lore, Know your Lore

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