Umbra

Werewolves are eternally caught between two worlds. Garou hunt in the wilderness, but still defend the cities of mankind; they take the forms of humans, but can run with wolves; they must balance the passion of Rage with the calm enlightenment of Gnosis. This theme of duality permeates every aspect of their lives, and it’s just as prevalent in their spirituality. Quite simply, werewolves are creatures of flesh and spirit. They live in both in the physical world mankind inhabits and a spiritual world ordinary humans can never experience. Balance is an easy word to say, but a perilously difficult goal to achieve, especially for Garou. Their lives are incomplete unless they routinely explore, accept, and return to the Spirit World.

The physical world, the realm of flesh, the “real world” — no matter what you call it, the Earth humans inhabit is only one facet of reality. That said, it suffices for nearly the entirety of the human race. Save for the fortunate or damned who awaken to the endless possibilities of magic and the supernatural, humans are quite content to remain limited to a world defined by seemingly immutable laws. When an object falls, gravity pulls it to the center of the Earth, and when a man dies, his physical body returns to the earth. People have endless variations of philosophy and religion to describe their views of the spiritual world, but in the world of the living, the realm of the here and now, life on Earth is all they will ever experience in their lifetimes.

Those who are aware of occulted forces — the supernatural, magical, and mystical — see evidence of alternatives to this physical world defined by science and reason. Animists see evidence of spirits at work all around them; some gnostics believe our world is corrupted by sin, distracting us from a higher realm that promises salvation. Human shamans and Garou Theurges tell similar tales, describing spirits acting unseen among us in the real world, whispering and watching. These entities must obey their own laws, for otherworldly spirits are not confined to our realm of flesh and matter. They can cross over into other worlds — as the sonnet says, “realms above and realms below.”

Garou don’t need to deal in theories or speculation about the spirit world — they can travel there. Werewolves can easily prove that the most vital, vibrant, living entities in the physical world cast shadows into the “closest” of those alternate worlds: an ephemeral realm inhabited by spirits. Packs who gently stride into that dimension of the spirit world sometimes call it the Velvet Shadow or Penumbra — it’s the closest realm of the Umbra, where limitless alternatives to reality are possible. Exploring it is an endless journey, one that can take a lifetime.

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