Seasonal Rites

Seasonal rites vary from tribe to tribe and sept to sept. Each has its own means of celebrating the turning of the seasons. Some septs celebrate only the major rites of the solstices and equinoxes; others perform a rite at least once per moon.

These rites renew the People’s connection to Gaia as the Earth Mother. Some Garou even believe that were such rites to cease entirely, the balance of the world would tumble out into chaos.

System: Seasonal rites must, obviously, occur at the proper time of year, and at least five Garou must attend.

Rite of the Winter Winds (●●)

On the longest night of the year, Garou enact this rite as a salute to Helios and an encouragement for him to begin lengthening the days again. Some werewolves believe that if this rite is not performed, the nights will continue to lengthen until Gaia has fallen into a terrible twilight state of perpetual pain. Most modern werewolves consider this mere superstition, but even such skeptics participate enthusiastically in the rite.

The Rite of the Winter Winds is rarely the same from sept to sept. European Garou practice a common version that begins with the ritemaster gathering the Garou in a circle around a small bonfire. She then leads the group in an extended howl that begins as a low, rumbling growl and eventually rises to an ululating crescendo. When the ritemaster feels that the tension is at its height, she leaps forward, snatches up a burning branch and runs into the woods. The other Garou follow her, grabbing branches as they go. Running as swiftly as they can, the werewolves make as many frightening and strange noises as possible. This rite is performed both to encourage Gaia’s labor in giving birth to the sun, and to frighten off any minions of the Wyrm that might be lurking about, ready to snatch the newborn sun or harm Gaia as she turns her attention away from the surface world.

The ritemaster finally leads the howling pack back to the bonfire, where they hurl their branches into the conflagration. Once the fire is raging, the Garou celebrate with a revel that lasts until dawn, at which time they greet the newborn sun with one last, triumphant howl.

Rite of Reawakening (●●)

This rite celebrates the vernal equinox, the time of rebirth. The ritemaster begins the rite at sundown by leading the gathered Garou on a quest into the Umbra. Such a quest is sometimes symbolic, but more and more often as the time of the Apocalypse draws near, the questors seek true danger in the Umbral Realms — or it finds them on its own.

The quest always involves seven trials. These trials represent the seven gates that bar the way to the Underworld. Such trials vary dramatically from tribe to tribe, but there are always a variety of challenges presented to the members. One test might involve facing a Bane in combat, while another challenge might consist of finding a fetish lost within the Deep Umbra. Each test requires the participants to relinquish something of themselves, be it a cherished personal fetish, an old grudge or false pride. If the Garou can win their way past these challenge gates, they can renew the Earth, banishing the winter-spirits and paving the way for the green, growing season.

At the end of the rite, the werewolves return to their bodies. At this time many tribes seek out Garou Kinfolk, or other humans and wolves, and reacquaint themselves with the joys of the flesh, celebrating the incredible beauty of life and the necessity of its continuation in future generations. Not surprisingly, this is the night when a large percentage of metis cubs are conceived. Although such couplings are always taboo, the intense drama of the rite sometimes overrides such concerns.

The Great Hunt (●●)

This rite falls on the eve of the summer solstice, or Midsummer, when Helios stays longest in the sky and is thus at the zenith of his influence. The short hours of darkness offer the creatures of the Wyrm little place to hide, and the werewolves respond by holding a sacred hunt.

Exactly at midnight, just at Midsummer begins, the ritemaster calls upon Gaia to bring to the attention of the sept a creature or creatures worthy of the Great Hunt. In preparation, the Garou chant, howl, and tell tales of bravery. Also common is a ritual bloodletting, wherein each Garou cuts herself and sheds some of her blood into a large bowl. The mingled blood is then used to paint pictograms on the forehead or breastbone of each of the hunters. At dawn, Gaia sends the waiting sept a sign proclaiming the target of the Great Hunt. This sign may come in any form, from a vision seen by an entranced Wendigo ritemaster to a news story flashing on the screen of an old television in a Bone Gnawer caern. Although the person or creature chosen by Gaia is almost always associated with the Wyrm, Gaia demands on rare occasions that one of her own be sacrificed in the Great Hunt. Only the greatest warriors are ever chosen as the targets of a Great Hunt, and Gaia demands such a sacrifice from her children only in times of great need, for the freed spirit of such a warrior is said to transform immediately into an avenging angel for Gaia.

The Garou have only until midnight to complete the Great Hunt. If successful, the blood of the fallen creature is spilled onto Gaia’s soil (or into the ether if the Great Hunt takes place on the Umbra) as a sacrifice to Gaia. If the hunters fail to slay their quarry, it is considered a terrible omen for the coming year. Some Theurges say that no sept will succeed at the Great Hunt during the year of the Apocalypse. At the least, a failed Great Hunt means poor luck for the sept in the year to come. Anyone participating in a successful Great Hunt gains Glory. The danger of the particular Great Hunt determines the amount of Glory gained.

System: Characters participating in a successful Great Hunt gain -presuming the target is of average threat level - two Legend Beats. If the Great Hunt is unsuccessful, each participating character two Legend Beats, or one Glory if they do not have enough Legend Beats to lose. In addition, the resistance of all rites performed by the sept increase by one until the next Midsummer.

The Long Vigil (●●●)

This rite marks the autumnal equinox, when the season of long days gives way to the season of long nights. Although summer is the traditional season of war among many human cultures, the Garou know that their shadow war will be all the more difficult during the lengthening hours of darkness. To prepare themselves, they hold the Long Vigil, a rite designed to sharpen their appetite for the battles ahead.

The Long Vigil begins at sundown, around a raging bonfire (some urban caerns make substitutions). The sept spends the day before the Vigil bedecking the caern with trophies of war collected during the previous year. From bent rifles and shredded flak jackets to broken Wyrm-fetishes and strings of teeth, to the skulls of Wyrmish monsters, to smeared blood mixed with the dust of vampires, all manner of mementos adorn the heart of the caern. As the sun slips below the horizon, the ritemaster begins to chant praise to Helios, thanking him for his blessings during the summer, and praying for his safety in the coming winter. The ritemaster then praises Luna and beseeches her aid in the long nights to come.

To aid in the ritemaster’s plea for aid, the Galliards of the sept come forward and begin to recite tales of the most glorious battles of the last year and the deeds done in her name. They point to each trophy in turn to tell the story of how it was won from its owner. Particularly eloquent members of other auspices who distinguished themselves in the previous year are sometimes allowed the honor of being the first to tell their own tales. Once the Galliards have finished, the other members of the sept begin to recount their own versions of the great deeds of the previous year. The tale-telling lasts all night; as dawn approaches, the ritemaster invokes Luna one final time. He dedicates all the deeds of the previous year to Luna, her brother Helios, and her sister Gaia, and he promises that the year to come will be just as glorious with Luna’s blessing. As the rite concludes, the Garou hurl as many trophies as possible into the bonfire, destroying their hard-earned mementos as a sign of faith that they will take many more in the year to come.