Loa is the troll cultural term for the countless powerful spirits they worship. While many of them are animal spirits, or Wild Gods like those honored by druids of other races, some loa have more mysterious or varied origins and sources. One such example is some Zandalari loa being ascended troll spirits. As a general rule, loa prefer to be the only patron of a mortal and do not like being worshiped at the same time as other loa in some form of pantheon. Troll druids and shadow hunters are the exception to this rule, gaining their unique powers from communing with multiple loa at once. Loa vary in form and power, with some being shapeless and entirely spiritual and others having physical avatars in the form of their respective animal or creature. Loa gain in strength and power the more worshipers, offerings, idols and sacrifices they receive. Many trolls of the Zandalari and Darkspear have personal family loa, and, often times, cities will have civic loa they worship. Only the most powerful loa are recognized by entire troll nations.
Loa shrines in the Dazar'alor, King Rastakhan's Palace, in World of Warcraft
The Wild Gods are primal manifestations of life and nature, generally capable of having physical bodies on Azeroth, but having souls bound to the Emerald Dream, an ethereal realm that guided the evolutionary path of life on Azeroth. Some were given the gift of speech by Titan Keeper Freya as she nurtured growth in the ordering of Azeroth. Many loa are Wild gods, and are often worshiped by trolls living in climates related to the natural habitat of the loa’s animal form. The gifts they bestow on these worshipers is often linked to the powers and virtues associated with that animal, such as strength or cunning. Also, to the confusion of some, there are sometimes more than one loa of a single animal, such as there being two each of bear and tiger loa, as well as three known snake loa.
While some loa are known to more than one troll civilization, many are exclusively worshiped by only one, with the major troll civilizations being the Drakkari of Northrend, the Amani of the northern Eastern Kingdoms, the Gurubashi of the Southern Eastern Kingdoms, and the Zandalari of the island of Zandalar. Other smaller tribes and nations exist as well, but with not nearly as strong an influence in known history and worship.
Notable loa worshiped by the Drakkari include Akali, the Rhino, loa of rhinos; Har'koa, loa of snow leopards; Mam'toth, loa of mammoths; Quetz'lun and Tharon'ja, loa of wind serpents; Rhunok, loa of arctic bears; and Sseratus, god of snakes. During The Lich King's conquest of Northrend, Drakkari prophets like Moorabi grew so desperate that they turned on their loa and scarified them in order to absorb their power and protect themselves from the Scourge, bringing madness and chaos to their region.
The Drakkari loa. From left to right: Har'koa, alter to Mam'toth, Quetz'lun, Tharon'ja, Rhunok, and Sseratus.
Notable loa worshiped by the Amani include Akil'zon, loa of eagles; Halazzi, the Lynx, loa of lynxes; Jan'alai, the Dragonhawk, loa of dragonhawks; and Nalorakk, loa of bears. These four loa also had their worshipers turn on them, but not as badly as the Drakkari loa. Instead of being sacrificed, their spirits were chained to the Amani warlord Zul'jin by Hex Lord Malacrass to empower him during the time of the Burning Crusade in Outland. Angry that his old enemies, the blood elves, had been accepted into the Horde, Zul’jin had declared war on both factions and gained the power to shape-shift into, and use the powers of, the chained loa. However, once Zul’jin was killed by the faction champions in his capital, Zul'Aman, the loa were freed from their chains. They were put through the same ordeal again during the Cataclysm by the new Amani warlord Daakara, who sought to see the trolls rise to reclaim their former dominance of the world, but freed once again by adventures when Daakara was killed.
Akil'zon and Nalorakk
Notable loa worshiped by the Gurubashi include Bethekk, loa of panthers; Shadra, spider loa of spies; Shirvallah, the Tiger, loa of tigers; Hethiss, the snake loa; and Hir'eek, the Bat, Lord of the Midnight Sky. These loa are also worshiped by the Zandalari, and were imprisoned along with their zandalari priests by the Gurubashi when they were enthralled to assist in the summoning of Hakkar, the Soulflayer, loa of blood. These priests included High Priestess Jeklik, who served Hir’eek, and High Priest Thekal, who served Shirvallah. This summoning was stopped by champions of the Horde, but, much like the Amani, the Gurubashi would attempt their mad ritual again during the Cataclysm in an effort to grow their power and have trolls rule the world. All of these efforts of troll aggression were, in fact, organized by the dark Zandalari prophet, Zul, who filled the minds of the other troll leaders with promises of power and the restoration of their old empires. The Gurubashi leader, Jin’do, attempted to bind Hakkar to himself to absorb his power, but his spirit chains were broken by adventures, leaving him to be devoured by Hakkar and the Blood Loa, free to plot his return one day.
Loa of the Gurubashi. From left to right, one of Bethekk's panthers, Shadra, and Hethiss.
As the spiritual leaders of all trolls, the Zandalari share the worship of many loa with the other trolls, but also have additional ones such as Bwonsamdi, the Dead, the loa of graves, Guardian of the Dead, and a prime example of a non-Wild God loa. He was also the patron loa of Vol'jin, leader of the Darkspear tribe and one-time warchief of the Horde. There is also Gonk, the Raptor, loa of shapes and the patron of all troll druids who taught them how to worship multiple loa at once to gain their shape shifting powers. Additional Zandalari loa include Akunda, the thunder lizard loa of new beginnings; Kimbul, the tiger loa of the hunt and King of Cats; Gral, the Shark loa and Lord of the Sea; Jani, the loa of thieves, scavengers and garbage; Sethraliss, patron of the snake-like sethrak people, and Krag'wa, the Frog, the Huge and Terrible.
Zandalari loa. From left to right: Akunda, Kimbul, Jani, and Sethraliss.
Zanza the Restless is a Zandalari toll spirit who rose to become a loa after his death, while Rezan was the devilsaur loa of king and queens and personal loa of King Rastakhan for most of his two-hundred year reign.
Zanza and Rezan
Rezan was slain and raised to undeath by the followers of the dark prophet Zul, who absorbed the loa's power to further their own dark plans for taking over Zandalar. In desperation, Rastakan turned to Bwonsamdi for new power, binding his bloodline to the death loa. When Rastakan was killed by an Alliance invasion of Zandalar during The Blood War, a conflict that arose between the Alliance and Horde in the wake of the discovery of Azerite after the Third Legion Invasion, his bargain cursed his daughter, Princess Talanji, to be bound to Bwonsamdi as well when she became queen.
Rastakhan's Deal with Bwonsamdi
According to stories told in the Hearthstone Tavern, once a generation, trolls travel from all over Azeroth to the Gurubashi Arena in Stranglethorn to partake in a gladiatorial battle for honor and glory. Teams are sponsored and empowered by a patron loa, who embodies their ideals, such as Gonk supporting druids and Bwonsamdi supporting his death priests. The winning troll champion is heralded throughout history as the ultimate champion of that generation, and it may be presumed that the patron loa likely revives a boost in worship and popularity as well, which in turn would increase their power.
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Several images in this post were sourced from Gamepedia and Wowhead.