Many modern humans when asked how did they come to worship the concept of Holy Light will answer that it just came naturally, or maybe even that humans always worshiped it. It couldn’t be further from truth, as some other groups would tell you. While the Church of the Holy Light doesn’t stress mythology to the degree some other religions do, there is a canon regarding the origins of the religion and its founder. Even though some priests would still tell you that humans always worshiped the Light and the prophet just gave the religion a form and canon, but as far as we can tell, there was little religious consensus among early humans. The concept of the Holy Light is very old, but it remained an abstract concept not directly tied to any major religions for thousands of years.
Among the Azotha tribes of the Elwynn Forests about fifteen hundred years ago the most common belief was an ancestral worship. This semi-shamanistic religion was highly decentralized, resulting in hundreds of different idols and “gods”. Although every tribe had their own set of idols, they were not seen as mutually exclusive – it was a common belief that the other tribes are watched over by their own ancestors. Some of these deities were rather similar to each other and obviously originated in the common past of the Azotha. Today it is commonly speculated that these oldest, most powerful ancestors were in fact another facet of the Watchers of Ulduar. However, another belief began spreading across the forests in this time – a group of mystics who originated in Arathi lands and sought to abandon all gods to meditate on the Light to seek salvation through it. It was in this environment that a young human boy named Isas was born.
Isas was the son of an Azotha merchant named Zamwan who was the brother of the local chieftain, Herod. When Isas was very young, his father died to a “fever” and Herod had to, according to Azotha customs, take care of the boy and his mother. According to legends, Herod disliked young Isas and at slighest provocation gave the child under the care of others. Unfortunately for Herod, Isas’s mother died a few years later, leaving him entirely under his uncle’s protection. When Isas was twelve, he accompanied Herod on a trading trip to a nascent Stormwind, still ruled by a Arathi king, descended from an exiled son of a Stromic emperor who lost a war with his brother. In Stormwind, still largely composes of just the fortress, Old Town and what would become the Dwarven District, Isas met an ascetic preacher who saw “great light of promise” in the boy. Herod only became even more embittered against the boy, afraid of him taking over the tribe by treachery.
Prophecy being made by an Arathi preacher in Stormwind was a cause of major contention. Kingdom of Stormwind of that era consisted mostly of fair-skinned and fair-haired, urbanized Arathi people and was ruled by a descendant of Thoradin. Most of the Azotha tribes, dark of complexion and hair, as well as mostly nomadic, lived among the forests of Elwynn, which back then encompassed modern Westfall and Duskwood as well. There was a large rift between the two peoples. The Azotha saw the Arathi as foreign invaders who encroached upon their land and forced alien culture and religion upon them, while the Arathi considered the “greasy-haired” Azotha primitives that need to be civilized or killed. An Azotha boy being prophesied greatness by an Arathi fringe preacher would prove to be the end of this rift.
When Isas grew up, he grew increasingly interested in the cultures and customs of the Arathi. When he turned sixteen, Herod gave the boy command of a small group of traders, in order to see him as little as possible, and hoping for his quick death. Isas made many fruitful trips between his homelands and Stormwind, bringing back home not only goods such as foreign fruits and jewelry, but also books detailing the histories of Arathi lands. In those histories, Isas saw a common root between his people and the Arathi, believing that they are, in fact, one and the same and should be “as one”. But due to his spiritual interests, he did not wish to unite them by force of arms, but by unity of worship.
Between all the various gods and customs practiced in different lands, Isas saw one thing as permeating all aspects of humanity – the Light. The concept was obviously inspired in humanity by the Watcher Tyr, known to Isas as Hallowed Tura, but Isas saw something more in it. Inspired by the practices of the Arathi mystics, he told his men to re-join Herod’s band and isolated himself on the island on the Stone Cairn Lake. There, he allegedly meditated for forty days and forty nights, abstaining from mortal pleasures, seeking only communion with the Light. It is said that at the end of this period, he finally saw a vision of a great being made of Light itself, that took an indescribable form and revealed to him the proper ways humanity should take to truly be enlightened and sinless, so that they one day can become one with the Holy Light itself. Isas emerged from the island a changed man and began his preaching.
The first man Isas visited was his old uncle. When the young man told the chieftain of his visions and the commandment he brought to the people, Herod was finally at rest, knowing the boy was never a threat to him. Herod, now a sick, old man, was miraculously healed by Isas’s newfound powers and as gratitude, he converted to his nephew’s new religion and offered him the hand of his daughter. But Isas refused, citing that he must remain “clean” of carnal pleasures and began preaching to his tribe, demanding that they abandon the old idols, for they are of no consequence to true salvation. His own tribe converted with some difficulty, but the true challenge came from other tribes of Azotha.
This new religion was seen as a foreign corruption of their own customs and another Arathi encroachment on their culture. An alliance of three tribes from southern Elwynn emerged and threatened Isas and Herod to stop spreading their religion. Although Herod offered to fight to protect Isas, the young man refused to spill blood in the name of faith and instead escaped to Stormwind. Herod’s tribe followed the young man which led to a tense stand-off at the city gates where the Arathi king emerged with his own army and ordered the “primitives” to stand back. Isas however went to parlay with the king and offered him conversion to the new religion. The king saw it as an opportunity to protect himself from Stromic claims of supremacy as well as a chance to dominate the Azotha, and agreed. His second son, Wrynn, married Herod’s daughter, resulting in the beginning of the future ruling dynasty of Stormwind.
With the power of Stormwind behind his words, the Church of the Holy Light began to flourish and spread to other tribes. At the behest of the Arathi king, Isas chose a bishop to rule the faithful in the city while he was away and consecrated the grounds for the new cathedral – although not the same cathedral as the current one in Stormwind, it was its direct predecessor. Many Azotha tribes saw the promise of unity with the Arathi, or were afraid of Stormwind’s increasing power, and converted. The three remaining tribes continued to oppose the new faith and finally gathered troll allies from Stranglethorn to strike back at the quickly growing kingdom. Isas lamented the loss of life for a long time, but the Arathi king overruled him and in the great battle of Hushed Bank, the “apostate tribes” were defeated and their chieftains forced to be baptized in the name of the Light.
Isas was slowly growing older and began writing down the teachings he heard from the indescribable being of Light when a group of nobles who remained faithful to the Arathi gods hatched a plot to bring him down. Against his will, Isas was drugged (or inebriated, the Old Arathi word in the scriptures can mean either) and led to carnal relations with three prostitutes hired by the nobles. When Isas woke up and saw the acts he committed, he exiled himself to the Stone Cairn Lake, seeking to regain his spiritual balance. There, one of the nobles, “an evil sorcerer that shall remain nameless” led a mob of disgruntled peasants and tribesmen to stone the prophet to death.
However, the whole ordeal did not end as a disgrace to Isas. The new king of Stormwind, Wrynn I, considered the acts of the nobles treason and ordered them seized and beheaded. The peasants allegedly repented and were let go free, but Isas was from now on considered a martyr of the Light. After his death, the religion stagnated but according to tradition, the spirit of Isas appeared to his priests, telling them to go to the Empire of Strom and spread the faith. In the following centuries, after long years of persecution and controversy, Church of the Holy Light emerged victorious and the old faith was so vigorously cast out that very little remains of it, be it in public consciousness or historical annals.