Cleansing: A Fanon-Addon for Smoke Rituals

((The following is a collection of fanon ideas to add flavor to your RP, combining real-life elements and conjecture from in-game lore. Whether you're looking to flesh out your tauren mystic, spiritual orc, temple clergy, or otherwise; I hope you find some inspiration from this. Like my other posts, this is a WIP that I return to occasionally.))
The following is a list clarifying some terms I use in this post, also with additional notes:

A purely fanon addition, ishamuhale (“stagnation”; lit. “deep teeth”) is a taurahe term describing the state of being for a person or place that is haunted by negative spirits or afflicted with a curse. Many cleansing rituals seek to avoid this state preemptively, as cleansing a stagnant person or area involves heavier exorcism that could lead to violent responses from the spirits in question. The most unique and extreme example of stagnation is the Sha of Pandaria, caused by the “dying breath” of an Old God stagnating the entire continent. Most stagnations take simpler forms, such as a ghost haunting the site of its murder, or a warlock’s curse lingering on a target.

((Note: “Ishamuhale” is also the name of an NPC quest raptor, translated as “Speartooth.” The use of the word here is based on the in-game taurahe reusing the word for “stagnation.” The “literal” translation is a combination of different instances of the words, and it not actually literal to lore.

Taking the idea of teeth from Speartooth’s name, and the word “deep” from the NPC Isha Awak, “deep teeth” can be imagined as a reference to the tauren creation myth “Sorrow of the Earth Mother”, in which the tauren learn of deceit and strife through “dark whispers.” This alludes to the Old Gods, who are associated with body horror motifs, such as excessive teeth and eyes. The entire thing works well as a vague mythological reference that has evolved over time.))

Several herbs are described as being ubiquitous. This is fanon conjecture from them being low-level herbs picked across all the starting zones, which may also make them the most populated of all the herbs available in-game. It’s reasonable to assume most everyone is familiar with the alchemical and metaphorical uses of these beginner herbs, and that they become the basis of rituals.

"Cleansing" is a collective term for any number of rituals that involve purification through smoke. One can cleanse a room by burning incense, cleanse a congregation by wafting a censer, cleanse oneself by smoke bathing, etc. The individual use cases, methods, materials, and terminologies can vary wildly between cultures, but they all share the same concept of utilizing smoke for purification.

The religiosity of cleansing changes from group to group, as well as over time. In some cultures, cleansing is viewed purely as spiritual ritual, centered around exorcising malevolent or stagnant entities in an area, or attracting the attention of ancestors and positive emotions. In other cultures, cleansing is viewed in a purely physical sense, centered around removing body odors or fumigating an area of pests. Despite these differences, the vast majority of cultures combine the spiritual and physical elements of cleansing, with the tauren races having among the widest ranges of individual use cases for smoke rituals.

While there may be common materials used across Azeroth, such as the ubiquitous herb peacebloom, it’s important to note that there few universally accepted rituals. What practices and materials are used by one group may be taboo to another, and what is acceptable is usually determined by two things: geography (what materials are available) and history (what has previously proven effective.)

Herbal Materials

A reagent for a variety of basic potions, silverleaf is one of the most versatile of herbal materials found ubiquitously across Azeroth and can be used as a quick substitute for other materials in basic rituals. As a ritual or potion becomes more exacting in its demands, silverleaf becomes a less effective substitute. It is most commonly substituted for sage, which is not as widely available. Silverleaf can be burned for a great variety of reasons, from healing and defense, to opening oneself to ley magics or enhancing the body and mind.

A reagent for healing and rejuvenating potions, peacebloom is a ubiquitous plant found across most of Azeroth, becoming a universal sign of healing and positivity for nearly every major culture in the world. Burning peacebloom can help heal the emotional wounds of an argument or tragedy, preventing stagnation.

Example Rituals
Smoke Bathing
  • A ritual that best combines both the spiritual and physical ideas of cleansing, smoke bathing is any ritual where smoke is used to cleanse someone’s mind and body.

  • In the spiritual sense, smoke bathing clears the mind of negative emotions, or to attempt to dispel curses and other magical effects that linger about a person.

  • In a physical sense, smoke bathing is a hygenic ritual. Smoke neutralizes odor-causing bacteria, making the practice an effective replacement for bathing. This is particularly common among groups that have limited access access to clean water, such as the desert-dwelling Farraki trolls and nomadic tribes like the Kodohorn.

  • It is also common among hunter-gatherer groups to mask the scent of hunters with smoke bathing, though such a tactic requires the regular burning of the same materials in an area to trick the local wildlife into becoming accustomed to the smell and not associating it with immediate danger.

  • Smoke bathing is commonly performed within a small but well-ventilated space, using materials that produce a fragrant smoke, which is wafted across the body with a feather fan or similar tool. In tauren cultures, it is common to cleanse from snout-to-hoof, starting first with the face, then working smoke into the mane with a fan and comb before continuing down the body.


  • Also called exorcising or hallowing, a censure ritual is the use of smoke to dispel or ward targeted entities and negative emotions from a person or place.
  • Censuring has the widest variation of materials and practices used in a ritual, as it deals almost solely with the esoteric elements of the spirit world and a group’s history. Some groups will custom-craft each censure ritual to target a specific entity based on their knowledge of that spirit, never intending the ritual to be performed in the same manner twice. Other groups will conglomerate successful cases into a single ritual that slowly evolves into a complicated but more universal spell.
  • Censuring can be used to consecrate (or even desecrate) an area, preventing or permitting the passage of specific spirits, even physical bodies if the ritual is powerful enough. A highly unusual example of this is plague blight, which more superstitious tauren interpret as a negative hallowing that wards against living creatures and attracts undeath, by their understanding.
  • Censure can also be used to target emotions. In tauren cultures, it is common practice to burn peacebloom in an area where an argument was had to literally “clear the air” of the negative emotions, warding off spirits that are attracted to these emotions to prevent them from settling in and stagnating the area.
  • While predominantly spiritual, a physical use case of censuring is fumigation, where smoke is filled into an unventilated area to ward off pests, or cleansing sticks are spread in a circle to hamper the passage of insects. Some tauren view both the spirits and insects hedged by a smoke circle or bonfire as one in the same.

Smoke Reading

  • Smoke reading is an adaptation of smoke signaling used to communicate with spirits. Some shamans also use smoke rituals to commune with air elementals.
  • When burning certain materials in an unventilated space, the smoke can be heavy enough to settle and rest upon surfaces. Minor disturbances can manipulate the smoke, which a reader attempts to interpret. If an area is suspected to house an unknown spirit, a mystic can conduct a smoke reading to try and commune with the spirit, which is hopefully just strong enough within the material world to manipulate the smoke. The same ritual can be used to communicate with known spirits, and is one of a plethora of ways to seek their audience.
  • Air elementals, who are sometimes invisible, do not require an unventilated space to be crafted for them, and can manipulate the spoke pluming from an open fire to communicate with a shaman conducting the smoke ritual. If the fragrance is pleasing to the spirits, the elemental may absorb enough of the smoke until it becomes visible to the shaman, or simply twist the smoke into suspended shapes and pictographs. Likewise, more powerful spirits such as loa can also manipulate smoke, if they manifest enough influence within the material world.
Updated 8/11/22

High-quality post.

1 Like

Hello from the Tribes. This is a small thing but an important thing - smudging is a closed practice within indigenous communities and I dont think its appropriate for us, especially as hugely over simplified, if not offensive, caricatures of the indigenous peoples of North America to bring that language in game with us, let alone claim its a taurahe term.

That is not to shoot down the idea of ceremonies and events that involve incense and herb burning or smoke cleansing as it is practiced nearly world wide. We see it used from Europe to Asia, down to Africa. However, the terminology and connotation of smudging itself should probably be removed as it is a very specific, highly ceremonial, and sacred practice for indigenous communities, especially in the Southwest.

I would suggest a more neutral and inoffensive language in your guide such as just smoke rituals, cleansing, or something uniquely created based upon in-game references.


“especially as hugely oversimplified, if not offensive, caricatures”

As opposed to Tauren as a whole? Or any of the other clearly culturally derivative content that is used in this, and other video games. Feels like extreme cherry picking. You even conclude by stating that your point is semantical in nature. You are ok with dirivite content as long as certain words are not used.

Is that a totem on your back?

Nothing cherry picked about it. This is a community created guide, fanon is it was referred to (which I hope was just a fun name and not to give it some authority), that we as community members all have an opportunity to provide feedback on. Something that we can have input on and change because adopting and appropriating smudging isn’t the move for tauren or spiritual RP.

All nations and races in game have some aspect of them that are derived upon our lived world. These derivatives have been done with varying levels of care and respect to those peoples and nations. Smudging, however, is a specific practice considered a sacred closed practice to the indigenous populations largely from the, now, southwestern United States and northwestern Mexico. It has no place in game as a tauren or “spiritual” practice or RP. Again, smoke work has been a world wide practice for thousands of years and I have no issue bringing it in game. We already have toys that burn incense. Smudging, however, is something closed - off limits to those outside of the culture.

The argument is based in semantics, but semantics are not just concepts or ideas that we wave a hand at because they dont really matter. Words and meaning, they provide context, they are cultural. Smudging is not what should be used here because not only is what is described here not actually smudging in physical practice, it lacks the cultural depth and importance from where it is taken from.


Ok so I just want to be clear on what you are posing:
Smudging is a no-go because it’s closed-off as opposed to all other iconography used in game. Ok, can you cite that? or is that just some good old 202X savior complex? On the same coin can you produce proof that ‘smoke work’ as you called it from other cultures -that it was appropriated- from has been approved by… idk - their representative council? Or was the context of those spiritual practices to later be used in a online mmorpg so its ok because the context is preserved.

Similarly, did you get approval that totems are not closed-off, like the one on your back? how about communing with earth spirits? was a permission slip given for that? You know why I think this is cherry picking? because its very obviously cherry picking. I have never even played a tauren. I can’t imagine what other goodies you could find. Don’t they have a giant peace pipe in Thunderbluff? Is the cultural context provided there adequate? You should probably know as a Tauren player. Or is that all original concepts by blizzard, and not appropriated material?

If you want to call a duck a duck, thats cool with me. Want to call Tauren a characature -
sure. But you can’t cherry pick whats ok and whats not based off of your personal feelings on the topics.

Is there some kind of guide on what cultural appropriation is acceptable for tauren players or do you just kind of come up with it on the fly?

Sure, thanks for the input.


Very interesting guide to read over and take inspiration from!


Added two new sections: a Glossary of terms to help keep OOC notes and explanations in one place, and a starting list of in-game Herbal Materials that I’ll continue working on.

I’ve also changed the name of the post from a “guide” to a “fanon-addon.” It’s a bit catchier and more accurately describes the literal intention of the post.