What Are Werewolves?

The werewolf has many different incarnations through-out human folklore and fiction. There are dozens of explanations for the person that turns into a beast, often contradicting one another. The Garou are like the werewolves of myth in many ways, and unlike them in many others.

Werewolves are the victims of a curse. False. Most werewolves consider their nature to be a blessing, although it’s not without its burdens. Their anger can burn out of control in horrible ways, and by their birthright werewolves are drawn into an ancient and terrible war against an enemy that might never be defeated.

A werewolf’s bite infects its victim with lycanthropy. False. Werewolves have some spiritual powers that allow them to pass on curse-like ill effects with a bite, but they don’t create more of their kind in that way. A werewolf is born, not infected. Some are born to human parents, others to wolves; a few are born to werewolf parents, though such concentration of Garou blood is debilitating. Most werewolves never know what they are until they undergo the First Change, and then the others come to reveal everything.

Werewolves are skinchangers who derive their power from a magical spell or object. False. Werewolves do have a form of animistic magic: their ability to communicate with, combat, and ritually invoke spirits. However, this magic derives from their werewolf nature, not the other way around. They are partly spirit, able to walk into the spirit world and command supernatural powers derived from there.

Werewolves change forms only under the light of a full moon. False. Werewolves can change whenever they want, though some circumstances can force them to change against their will.

Werewolves become savage, mindless beasts during the full moon. Mostly false. Werewolves’ emotions are affected by the full moon, and the most violent of them are on hair triggers during the full moon. It’s very easy for a werewolf to lose control to a bestial fury at this time, but they must be provoked further - the sight of the full moon alone does not take their reason from them.

Werewolves can be killed only by a silver bullet. False. Werewolves heal incredibly quickly in most of their forms, but aren’t immortal. Silver is their weakness, however; wounds inflicted by silver weapons do not heal as quickly.

A silver bullet is as dangerous to a werewolf as a lead slug is to a human. Of course, in neither case is an instant kill guaranteed - but with a good shot through the heart, there’s little a werewolf’s incredible healing ability can do.

Werewolf packs work like wolf packs, with alphas, betas, and omegas. Partially true. Most actual wolf packs in the wild are family units. What people tend to think of as “alpha,” “beta,” and “omega” roles in a wolf pack show up more commonly in wolf packs formed from unrelated wolves, such as in captivity. That said, most werewolf packs are not family units, either, and establishing some form of hierarchy comes naturally to them. When the horrors come boiling up from the ground, it’s good to have a reflexive chain of command.

There are certain “tells” for a werewolf in human form, such as index and middle fingers being the same length or eyebrows that grow together. False. Werewolves are difficult to tell apart from ordinary humans, at least physically. However, a werewolf with high amounts of Rage - the supernatural fury that feeds their might - exudes such predatory malice that ordinary humans will instinctively shun and avoid her.

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