Although the Gauntlet is strong enough to separate the worlds of flesh and spirit, it’s not impermeable or impenetrable. In many places, especially where the Gauntlet is weaker (or “lower”), spiritual energy bleeds through into the real world. This residual energy is too weak to really benefit shapechangers, but particularly sensitive humans may notice it, even if they don’t realize what it is. Humans have used many methods to commune with the spirit world or attain a state of expanded consciousness: Occult rituals, religious rapture, psychedelic drugs, artistic reverie, the endorphin high of extreme physical activity, tantric sex, and proficient meditation all hold possibilities. Places on this side of the Gauntlet where spirit energy bleeds through are called the Periphery. When a human being (or other sentient creature) becomes aware of her spiritual side, her consciousness drifts into the Periphery. The effects are highly subjective. Colors become brighter, senses sharpen, intuition brings sparks of unexpected insight, life becomes blissful, or the attuned mind opens to feel a connection with all things in the world. It’s brilliance; it’s madness; it’s a state of reverie cynics call delusional. In this state of ecstasy, seemingly magical events occur. The results depend greatly on the seeker’s state of mind. Artists and spiritualists seek it fervently so they can become familiar with this of rapture. Kinfolk may be vaguely aware of the Periphery’s presence, meditating on its presence to become more sensitive to the world of spirits. In rare cases, Kinfolk have even been able to project their presence immediately beyond the Gauntlet to carry messages to their werewolf relations. Psychically or spiritually sensitive humans can also detect its presence. (Ordinary humans with the Awareness or Occult skill, or a Merit that increases awareness of the spirit world, can use Perception to sense where the Gauntlet is lower, but only under the sympathetic conditions listed above.) Benevolent spirits may attempt limited communion with these spiritual seekers, but Banes also look for opportunities to exploit these people. Tales abound of drugfueled artists, writers, and musicians who sacrificed too much to attain a state of reverie, only to descend into madness and despair. The risk of spiritual and psychic contamination is always present. Most sane minds snap out of this state when it becomes too dangerous. Those dependent on drugs, however, may be unable to leave, even after their minds and souls are incapable of fully processing what they experience. Peripheral imprisonment can cause psychic shock, spiritual emptiness, dissolution, or even psychic scarring and disfigurement visible only to supernatural beings or the spiritually aware. Charismatic cult leaders may lead an entire congregation into what seems like a state of grace, only to plunge them all into communal madness and horror. Only the most disciplined minds practiced in advanced techniques of magic and meditation have a reduced risk of this. The highs and lows of the Periphery take many forms. They’re known by every culture, and as one would expect, Garou who pledge to protect mankind sometimes rescue seekers who have gone astray: visionaries who sought rapture and revelation, only to become victims to forces mankind was not meant to know.
Just beyond the Gauntlet is the closest realm of the Spirit World, a reflection of what we call the “real world.” The Penumbra is the area of the Umbra closest to Earth. It’s the most common spiritual destination of all Garou, one where they not only fight evil spirits bent on corrupting the spirit world, but also get a glimpse behind the realm people call reality. Just as the physical world is made of physical matter, the spirit world is made of spiritual matter called ephemera. The landscape of the Penumbra looks vaguely like the physical world on our side of the Gauntlet — a street still looks like a street, and a park looks like a park — but the only objects that appear solid and enduring correspond to those that have large amounts of spiritual energy. If a pack steps sideways in a city park, for example, the living grass and trees in the physical world will look even more vibrant and alive in their spiritual reflection in the Penumbra. Matter that has endured the passage of time also gains a spiritual representation in the Penumbra. Old trees and buildings have solid counterparts there; most newer buildings, unfinished constructions, and recent vegetation do not. If a new building is visible, it must have serious spiritual significance, such as a factory that churns out creations fueled with the Wyrm’s energy. The forces of the Triat are more obvious in the Penumbra. Wyld-spirits thrive in natural areas where living things are healthy and strong. Weaver-spirits scuttle through places where technology is present, sometimes weaving thin webs to show where streets are paved or cables stretch from building to building. Newly-built structures may appear as faint outlines of gossamer webs, waiting for the spirits to solidify them. Cell phones, computers, and traffic lights all have their own distinct signatures. The corruption of the Wyrm is also more obvious, taking many hideous forms. Neglected graveyards fall into decay; pollution stains the spiritual landscape like a blight; places of suffering and misery appear as shadowy mockeries of their physical counterparts. Wyrm-spirits are drawn to these places, feeding and breeding until packs of werewolves cull the population. Since the Penumbra is closer to the physical world than other realms, time and distance are roughly the same here. A Garou in New York who steps sideways into the Penumbra on the west side of Central Park, crosses its spiritual reflection to the other side, and steps sideways back into the physical world will appear on the east side (hopefully taking care not to be seen when he enters and leaves). If he runs across the park for an hour in the Penumbra and returns, an hour will have passed in the physical world. If he does this as night, he’ll see the passage of Luna, the Celestine of the Moon, overhead, and her phase will be the same as the moon’s phase in the physical world. Once in the Penumbra, the lights of the city fade away, and the stars burn with a brilliance unmatched in the physical world. Theurges like to tell cubs that in a way, Penumbral spirits are more real than the physical matter they represent. The spirits representing an object can endure the loss of its physical body in the real world, but a physical body cannot survive the destruction of its spirit essence. If an old oak tree is chopped down in the physical world, its spiritual counterpart may linger for a long time in the Umbra, but if a living tree is destroyed in the Umbra, its physical counterpart will wither and die. Penumbral streets and forests seem eerily empty, since most sentient creatures don’t appear in the Penumbra. Only spiritually advanced people appear here. Mages have highly developed spiritual selves called Awakened Avatars, and their Avatars are visible in the Penumbra (even though each exists in the same realm as its mage). An animal won’t appear visible in the Penumbra, but when many animals live and thrive in one place, an animal-spirit might be drawn to that locale’s reflection in the Penumbra. Spirits and spiritual places become analogies to the places they represent: as the saying goes, “as above, so below.” Garou and other shapechangers interact with this landscape in a far more immediate way: a werewolf can stand in the physical world or its reflection in the Penumbra, but he won’t be visible in both worlds. In fact, if he’s caught in the Gauntlet or passes on to more distant realms of the Spirit World, he’ll be gone from the physical and Penumbral realms entirely.
A Garou in the Penumbra can peer back into the physical world, but it’s not easy, and it’s not without risk. (This requires a Gnosis roll against a difficulty equal to the local Gauntlet.) If the attempt succeeds, the werewolf sees a shadowy, monochromatic version of the physical world. Seeing fine details is difficult (although it’s possible to read newsprint, a computer monitor, or facial expressions with five successes). Noises from the other side have distortion or echoes. Scent, however is unaffected; in fact, some Garou claim their sense of smell is heightened enough that they can even track prey. While a Garou in the Penumbra is peeking into the physical world, however, she is oblivious to her surroundings in the spirit world, unless she starts taking damage (and losing Health Levels). Her pack can’t communicate with her, and her enemies can act unopposed. Her intense concentration is obvious, especially since her eyes will be glowing. Werewolves can also peek from the Earth to the Penumbra, though it’s even more difficult. The Gnosis roll is against a difficulty of the local Gauntlet plus three, up to a difficulty of 9. However, the same dangerous distraction is evident. Fortunately, some supernatural abilities make this easier, such as the Gift: Pulse of the Invisible. Some spirits in the Penumbra may also be able to dimly perceive events in the physical world. This requires the Charm: Peeking, although discerning fine details is as difficult for these spirits as it is for Garou (requiring the same Gnosis roll against a difficulty equal to the strength of the Gauntlet). One of the most useful applications of this is when a werewolf gathers information from a spirit tasked to observe a specific physical person or place. One of the most dangerous situations is when a Bane is tasked to perform this same activity or uses this information to stalk and corrupt an innocent victim.
Source: Werewolf Apocalypse 20th Anniversary Edition.