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Understanding Shamanism
#1
Kretol asked for this one...sorta. Here is a collection of information I've gathered concerning Shamanism. As Blizzard has avoided in-depth discussion on the nature of some magical abilities, I have drawn some information from real-life shamanic beliefs, with the intention of enriching roleplay.

I encourage discussion in all of my articles. If you have something you want to add, feel free to do so.

What are Spirits?

Before we can know who and what shaman are, we have to know what spirits are. If you look up "spirit" in the dictionary, you're likely to come up with more than thirty different definitions. Indeed, discussion what a spirit is can get rather confusing, as spirits are a number of different things.

In the shamanic world-view, all living things have a spirit. This spirit is often what makes us who we are and truly alive. Our spirit selves are usually merged with our physical form until we die. Spirits of living beings that leave the body are the ghosts and spectres that we see commonly in fantasy games.

It's not just animals that have spirits, though. In some views, the trees and plants can also have spirits. Even nonliving things, such as places and objects can have spirits. In most real life cultures, this includes typically "fey" creatures, such as dryads, nymphs, and elves, as well as what in fantasy games have been termed as elementals. For example, a spirit of a given mountain might be an earth elemental, while the spirit of a river could by a water elemental or a nymph. If you ever wondered why shaman have such a strong tie to the elements and elementals, this is why.

As most "fey" creatures do not exist in the World of Warcraft, we'll simply state that, in context, a spirit is most incorporeal undead and elementals, as well as the intangible part of all living beings.

What are Shaman?

A shaman is not just a member of a religion that believes in the spirits of the natural world. A shaman is much more than that. He is like the priest of such a religion, but even that is not quite accurate.

A shaman is one who communicates with, deals with, or controls spirits. The actual nature of the relationship varies from faith to faith, but in the context of WoW the relationship is more one of communication and bargaining.

Shaman act as mediators and communicators. For most, speaking with the spirits (especially the spirits of the dead) may be impossible, but something that some may wish to do. Shaman may be able to see into a "spirit world" where spirits may exist, or they may have other means of communication. How shaman are chosen for this task is varied. For some, there is a sign that the spirits have chosen this person, while another it may involve tests to attain the proper initiation and training.

(An aside I found interesting: in some cultures, there are beliefs of some shaman possessing two spirits, hence possessing a particularly intimate link with the spirit world. Obviously, at times the different spirits would manifest themselves in different ways. Particularly among some Native American tribes, it was not uncommon for such shaman to be a bit more...fluid with their gender identity, if it was believed that the other spirit was of the opposite gender.)

Dealing with Spirits

Dealing with spirits can be a tricky business, because of how spirits generally are. While in many cases spirits can be seen as good or evil, they are more accurately described as being alien in thought and complex in their moods and attitudes.

Spirits almost always hold traits similar to what they represent. The spirit of a fox may be cunning and fanciful, while the spirit of a bear may be characterized by its strength and maternal instinct. The spirit of the earth may be stoic while the spirit of air may be whimsical and chaotic. In all cases, spirits tend to be primarily concerned with what they represent. The spirit of a hawk would only know what the hawk sees and is concerned with. The earth spirit on a mountain would only know (and indeed, only be interested in) what happens on his mountain.

Spirits are often viewed as chaotic, or at least following rules that only they understand. This can lead to some rather strange dealings. Vengeful spirits that wish to kill or destroy something can be suddenly appeased by something as simple as a burned offering of herbs and charms. The opposite is true, and it may be easy to offend a spirit if one is not used to dealing with them.

It's therefore important to know the etiquette of the spirits, which is what many shaman work to perfect their skills in. A shaman's power and purpose is being able to successfully bargain with these beings in order to attain power or favor.

Shaman in WoW: Magic

Shaman in WoW bargain not only for the spirits favor, but for the ability to use their own special powers. However, shamanistic powers are not magic in the traditional sense. Instead of terming their individual powers as "spells" like mages, they instead use "calls."

When a shaman bargains with a spirit, he can call upon that spirit to aid him when he needs it. A shaman is very careful not to abuse this power, however, as it can lead to him losing the spirits' favor. Shamanic power is derived from a positive relationship with the various spirits, especially the elemental spirits that drive the shaman's power.

In Warcraft, magic tends to be a corrupting force, slowly changing those who use it. Shaman, however, get around this by not being in contact with the "magic" that they use. A shaman requests something, and a spirit answers. Indeed, the shaman himself is powerless, and all of the "magical" power that he supposedly unleashes is instead done by the spirits at his or her request.

End

That's it for now. Any comments, reply here!

Parting is such sweet sorrow.
Have you hugged an orc today?
- I am not tech support. Please do not contact me regarding technical issues. -
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#2
With Vor'tok, I used to always RP him as having a very volatile spiritual relationship with Fire. When he would call upon the spirits, he would embrace a meditative state in which he would commune with the spirits, asking for their aid. Afterwards, he felt whatever element he was calling upon completely invade his being. With fire, this often came with personality side affects. Ak'grom, on the other hand, I was thinking he would always feel the elements within him, and had only but to ask to beckon them forth from inside himself, but I like the idea of always seeing the spirit world as well. Perhaps I'll incorporate both.

Thanks for the post, Grakor.
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#3
Bonus points for mentioning the twin-souls.
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#4
Very nice post indeed!
I think i've heard somewhere though, that there's only five kinds of Spirit (Four Elements + Beasts) that the Shamans can communicate with. I also think that each Spirit does not have his or her own mindset, with individual goals or personalities, but something more like all Fire-Spirits being the same.

Then again, both things might be wrong. It tends to happen from time to time.
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#5
Grelin Wrote:I think i've heard somewhere though, that there's only five kinds of Spirit (Four Elements + Beasts) that the Shamans can communicate with. I also think that each Spirit does not have his or her own mindset, with individual goals or personalities, but something more like all Fire-Spirits being the same.

Like with most mythologies, some things are not so cut and dry, and different people interpret things in different ways. The concept of spirits is/was believed by so many cultures and areas that it's impossible to portray any absolutes beyond some very basics.

However, keep in mind the following, at least as it pertains to WoW:

1. Ragnaros. I shouldn't even have to go further than this, but I think this points out that not all Fire spirits/elementals are the *exactly* the same or even unified by a single cause, though they undoubtedly have some similar personality traits due to their natures.

2. There is, at the very least, the idea of the spirits of the dead in WoW. That much is obvious. Spirits of non-animal living things (such as trees) isn't discussed as far as I can tell, but it's likely that this is one of the areas where shamanism and druidism cross over into one another (which makes sense, as both are forms of nature worship.)
Have you hugged an orc today?
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#6
Hmph, I say this should go in the class guides section instead of site-related!




Move him into the sun—
Gently its touch awoke him once,
At home, whispering of fields half-sown.
Always it woke him, even in France,
Until this morning and this snow.
If anything might rouse him now
The kind old sun will know.

Think how it wakes the seeds,—
Woke, once, the clays of a cold star.
Are limbs, so dear-achieved, are sides,
Full-nerved—still warm—too hard to stir?
Was it for this the clay grew tall?
—O what made fatuous sunbeams toil
To break earth’s sleep at all?
[Image: 62675bf4fd.jpg] [Image: 0e7357dcfe.jpg]
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#7
I was wondering what had happened to it!
I Am the Sea



Need an easy way to host/link files and images? Check this thread!

Try to never just say, "My character isn't interested in that adventure." A lot of people mistake this for good roleplaying, because you are asserting your character's personality. Wrong. Good roleplaying should never bring the game to a screeching halt. One of your jobs as a player is to come up with a reason why your character would be interested in a plot. After all, your personality is entirely in your hands, not the DM's. Come up with a reason why the adventure (or the reward) might appeal to you, no matter how esoteric or roundabout the reasoning. -(Source)
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#8
Since this was revived, I'll remind everyone that this was drawn more from real-life Shamanism ideas, to sort of sketch out what Blizz wasn't telling us before. Some of this is probably out-dated by now, so don't take it as gospel, but something to give you ideas.
Have you hugged an orc today?
- I am not tech support. Please do not contact me regarding technical issues. -
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#9
As I understand it, a Shaman gets his power from the Elements, not from himself at all. It's his standing with the Elements that determines if they respond to his call or not.

So, would there be a difference in power between someone who's been training for only a few years and someone who's been training several times longer?

I wouldn't think so and my reason for that is, as I said before, the power doesn't come from the Shaman. All one would need is a connection to them and a good standing with them and whatever you ask, provided what you're asking isn't an abuse of their power, would be answered to.

Or am I simply misunderstanding?
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#10
I agree with you, Nexi, that it is the Shaman's standing with the Elemental spirits that determines his strength. However, I would think that the training is what allows them to establish and strengthen that bond properly. It shows dedication. These are just my quick random thoughts on it, however. :3
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#11
Ah, I see. I was under the impression that the Shaman either had this bond, or didn't. But it appears there are levels of this bond that strengthen with time and hard work.

Right, that does makes sense.
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#12
Nexi Wrote:As I understand it, a Shaman gets his power from the Elements, not from himself at all. It's his standing with the Elements that determines if they respond to his call or not.

So, would there be a difference in power between someone who's been training for only a few years and someone who's been training several times longer?

I wouldn't think so and my reason for that is, as I said before, the power doesn't come from the Shaman. All one would need is a connection to them and a good standing with them and whatever you ask, provided what you're asking isn't an abuse of their power, would be answered to.

Or am I simply misunderstanding?

To an extent, yes, the shaman himself never actually comes into contact with the power he's wielding (in theory.) The elements/spirits are doing it for him at his request.

I don't think that would mean that experience is a non-factor in the power of shamanic abilities though. If nothing else, an older shaman would have had more time to form a stronger bond with the spirits, and thus would be willing to perform greater feats for him.

Mouse ninja'd me.
Have you hugged an orc today?
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#13
Grakor is correct. The spirit bonding is important, and although you argue that training and experience seems less so, it isn't a free flow through spirit to world using the Shaman as a medium. Their ability to course energy, the amount of elemental power that can be flowed through them from spirit to physical plane is expanded by their amount of practicality and experience from working with the Spirits.
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#14
This is a really great discussion of Shamans and the way they work with the world. However, I only see this applying to Orcs and Draenei, in translating it. Tauren have specific gods that they are prescribed to worship as part of their spiritual consciousness. The Trolls of each tribe have one or many Loa spirits to pay homage to. How do you think they fit in?
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#15
^

I think that is more of the religion behind the spirits than actual what happens. I believe that they all draw powers from the spirits, but they just have different beliefs. I think you could compare it to real life religions, where many of them seems to be the actual same thing, just with different perspectives etc.

I have a question: When a shaman lends the power of the spirits(or the spirits lends the power of the shaman), would the shaman go into a "meditative" state? I was thinking of making a shaman character, who basically trusted the spirits to the level of "sacrificing" his body to them. He'd basically knock out his conciousness, and the elements would "possess" his body, making the power stream through it.
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