The Pact: Spirits and the Garou
Born of flesh and spirit, Garou share equally in both the physical and the spirit world. Without one or the other, a werewolf suffers and languishes. Just as a Garou makes connections with her pack, her sept, her tribe and the Garou Nation, so too does she connect with the spirit world. Spirits provide Garou with more than just energy for fetishes or convenient sources for learning Gifts. Spirits unite a werewolf with her Umbral family, the nation of spirit-folk who manifest the bounty of Gaia and give form and direction to Her boundless energies.
When she undergoes her First Change and enters into her life as a warrior of Gaia, she experiences not only a new set of familial ties and relationships but also a second, spiritual set of ties that bind her inextricably and forever to the spirits that dwell in the Umbra. These bonds represent an ancient pact between the first Garou and the first spirits and provide each Garou with a mystical connection to her spiritual half. Despite the need to act as a warrior of Gaia, ever vigilant for the approach of the foe, each Garou needs to take time to cultivate her connection with the spirit world from which she draws her sttrength and of which she is a part.
The First Pact
In the beginning times, when Gaia found the need to create Her changing children, She hoped that they would find common cause with Her spirit folk. This was not always the case. The spirits sensed that the Garou and the Fera were somehow different from them. Not only did they have part-physical bodies that could adapt more readily to the harshness of material existence, they also demonstrated an independence of thought and purpose that disturbed many of the spirits. For a time, it seemed as if spirits and shapeshifters might come to blows.
Though their names have been lost to memory, legends tell of one spirit and one werewolf who both shared a vision of cooperation. Some say that a spirit of prophecy foresaw the Apocalypse and "saw" that only hope for survival for both the Umbra and the physical world lay in the banding together of spirit and shapeshifter. At the same time, one of the Garou had the same vision and sought out his kindred spirit to see what could be done.
The two devised a method whereby spirit and shapeshifter could reach an accord, by bonding together in a relationship that would be of mutual benefit to both parties. The spirit would provide assistance to Gaia's Changing Breeds by teaching them Gifts, empowering their rrites and granting them knowledge and favors. In return, the Changing Breeds would offer spirits chiminage (see below) or favors, gifting them with Gnosis ,carrying out their wishes and providing places in the physical world where they could gather and refresh themselves. This was the First Pact. The practice soon spread throughout the other Fera, and spirits and shapeshifters learned to work together.
Since then, pact between spirits and the Garou has become a mainstay of Garou society.
Embracing the Spirits: Pacts and Alliances
Garou may form many bonds with different spirits throughout their lives. Each bond to a spirit links a Garou more firmly to the spirit world and increases her closeness to Gaia. Theurges know this as a natural part of their auspice and many of their Gifts reflect their tendency to see dealing with spirits as both useful and desirable. Other Garou, however, also need the spiritual contact derived from relationships with spirits. From the beginning, when a Garou first joins a pack, she builds a relationship with her pack's totem spirit. For some Garou, meeting their pack totem may be their first real experience with the creatures that inhabit the spirit world, but many more such meetings lie in the future of most Gaia's chosen warriors. If a werewolf has the honor of participating in the Rite of Caern Building, she may have the chance to help summon the spirit that becomes the caern's totem. Any Garou who travels in the Umbra (and most do) needs to learn quickly how to form hospitable relationships with the spirits she encounters along her journeys. Some Garou actively seek out spirits for reasons other than binding them into fetishes or learning Gifts from them.
The relationship between spirits and werewolves flows in two directions. The Garou draw spiritual sustenance from their contact with spirits. They reaffirm their commitment to Gaia and to the preservation of the world as a meeting geround for flesh and spirit. Spirits, in turn, draw energy from werewolves who give them Gnosis or who honor them with the appropriate kind of chiminage (see below). Spirits also need contact with the Garou to help anchor them to the physical world and give them a means of manifesting in a realm that grows increasingly difficult for them to reach.
Spirits exist as manifestations of the physical world; as such, they need contact with physical objects to reinforce their essence. When the last animal of a species dies and the species becomes extinct, the spirit of that animal usually fades from the Near Umbra. (Some simply move into further Realms, such as Pangaea; others may retain their hold on existence with the patronage of a more powerful spirit, such as Griffin). Garou act as a bridge between the spiritual and the physical world. Thus, they -- along with other shapeshifters -- provide an ideal channel with the physical world and renew their purpose for existing.
The expression of this symbiotic relationship between the Garou and the spirit world takes the form of pacts -- bonds that link the two together in a spiritual partnership.
Spirits of the Pack: Totem Spirits
When a pack petitions the greater spiits of the Umbra for a spirit patron, they embark on a commitment that not only unites the pack members with the spirit who answers their call but also strengthens the bond between individuals within the pack. The bond between a pack and its totem spirit becomes one of the strongest and most intimate of spirit pacts possible, transcending even personal pacts that may arise between an individual Garou and a particular spirit.
Totem spirits act as intermediaries between the pack and the spirit world. Each totem spirit belongs to the brood of one of the Incarnae, but its relationship with its chosen pack defines it and distinguishes it from all other similar spirits. It is a fact of its parent Incarna, an aspect or avatar; Great Fenris himself does not personally oversee a pack dedicated to Fenris, but the totem spirit gains prestige in the eyes of other spirits as its pack grows in renown; likewise, a totem spirit suffers loss of face whenever its pack loses Honor, Glory or Wisdom.
Because of this direct correlation, totem spirits tend to let their packs know when they are doing well, or conversely, when they have fallen away from the ideals of the Garou. Totem spirits grant certain benefits to pack members in return for accepting certain limitating or undertaking certain actions (usually referred to as the Ban) when they accept a pack. These benefits however, rely on the pack's ability to keep up their end of the bargain. Packs that break their promise to their totem spirit or act in an unworthy fashion in the eyes of the spirit can lose their totem spirit's benefits until they atone for their shortcomings.
Without a totem spirit, a pack is nothing more than a collection of werewolves. They may work together and achieve great deeds together, but the sense of unity that defines a Garou pack and the recognition of their place in the physical and Umbral worlds are missing.
Spirit of the Sept: Caern Spirits
When a group of Garou discover and build a caern, thus becoming a sept, they receive a spirit patron that becomes the totem spirit of the caern. This spirit, usually a fairly potent that either belongs to an Umbral brood or has its own brood of dependent spirits, becomes physically bound to the caern's locale. Since it willingly limits its ability to traverse the Umbra, the members of the sept must placate the spirit and feed its strength with offerings of their own Gnosis. Rites that honor the caern spirit provide the primary means of maintaing the spirit's health and happiness.
Spirit of the Tribe: Tribal Totems
Some Incarnae serve as totems for the Garou tribes. The pacts formed between each tribe and its totem orginate in the beginning times, when Gaia saw the need to forge a close bond between Her warriors and the spirits that expressed Her many selves. In return for the honor paid them by the tribe, tribal totems lend assistance to their own chosen tribe and watch over it.
Tribal totems do not have the same personal tie with individual members of a tribe that a pack totem has with the members of a pack. Instead, most tribes revere their tribal totems as semi- deities, looking to them for guidance and instruction and honoring them with appropriate rites to maintain the vitality of their pact.
Tribal totems are sensitive to rank and renown. As a Garou rises in rank, her standing with the tribal totem increases and the more likely she is to have her petitions heard by the totem spirit or receive knowledge directly from the tribal totem.
Spirit Friends: Personal Totems
From time to time an individual Garou will enter into a personal pact with a spirit. This pact may arise after numerous associations between the Garou and the spirit have resulted in a closer than usual bond. Whether a Garou deliberately seeks to find a spirit to bond with or whether the association arises spontaneously, personal pacts can prove satisifying to both parties.
Like any relationship between peers, or near-peers, however, personal pacts require constant attention. Spirits may grow jealous of the Garou's relationships with other spirits; likewise a Garou may feel slighted if another Garou courts or petitions her "personal" totem. PActs can sour, with Garou and spirit both turning their backs on the other.
Alienating a spirit with whom you have compacted is not a good idea. If you have a personal totem and find that somehow you have offended your totem spirit, you should do whatever it takes to repair the damage. Spirit enemies are as dangerous to a Garou as spirit allies are helpful.
Pacts don't last indefinitely. Both Garou and spirits occasionally break their pacts with one another. But doing so has consequences, unless pacts come to an end through a mutual agreement between the Garou and the spirit. Problems arise when one party unilaterally breaks the pact.
If a Garou discovers that she must break her pact with a spirit or if she finds out that she cannot keep her part of the bargain with the spirit, she should explain to the spirit that she must renege and give the spirit a reason. Many times, a spirit will suggest compromise or allow the Garou to substitue some other favor that the Garou can achieve. Other times, the spirit will simply consent to the ending of the pack with no hard feelings. Simply falling to complete a task usually does not result in the severing of a pact so long as the Garou as tried to accomplish the deed.
When a Garou offends a spirit by breaking a pact, the spirit may react in a number of ways. Some spirits take no action but thereafter treat the Garou who spurned it with hostility or resentment. Again, valid excuses offset the severity of the spirit's anger.
If a Garou's actions endanger a spirit, the spirit usually responds with a severe punishment.
A spirit that may decide to haunt the Garou, appearing to her at irregular and inconvenient intervals and badgering her or announcing the Garou's offense to her packmates, thereby shaming the offender. Such spirits may also cause personal items to disappear, reppearing later after they are no longer needed, or may insult a Garou in order to drive her into a frenzy just the wrong time. Spirits can demonstrate unusual investiveness in their methods of revenge, though usually they cause no permanent harm through haunting.
A spirit who feels especially wronged by a Garou may resort to attacking the offending party. Such attacks are usualy meant to warn the Garou that the spirit is angry. Only occasionally will the spirit actually attempt to cause harm to the Garou in order to teach her a painful and memorable lesson.
If, however, a Garou has not only broken her pact with the spirit but also betrayed her purpose -- such as joining the Black Spiral Dancers or otherwise allying herself with the Wyrm -- a spirit may feel justified to slay the Garou. When this happens, a spirit may summon it's allies and brood members to ensure that the Garou does not escape just punishment.
Chiminage: Honoring the Spirits
Chiminage describes the practice of returning a favor for a favor or making an offering to a greater power in the hope of receiving something in return. Garou practice chiminage as a way of honoring spirits and of gaining their favor. Spirits expect to receive payment for the actions they perform, whether they agree to teach a Gift to one of the Garou or provide information on a safe passage through the Umbra.
The act of chiminage, practied by many human tribal cultures as a means of delineating social status and building relationships among tribe members, serves the same purpose in the spirit world. Garou perform acts of chiminage to demonstrate their respect for the spirits and their acknowledgement of the importance of the bond between the Garou and the spirit world.
When a Garou does not offer chiminage, she not only demonstrates her ignorance of the proper means of approaching the spirit, she also runs the risk of commiting a serious offense against the spirit's pride. Refusal to offer chimingae is more than spiritual foot in the mouth; it is a statement that a spirit's aid means nothing, for the offending Garou offers nothing in return for that aid.
A spirit might give the Garou the benefit of the doubt at first, hinting that perhaps the petitoner has forgotten something important. If the Garou does not get the hint, the spirit may provide a stronger impetus, suggesting that the Garou come back later, when she has thought of a more suitable way to phrase her request. Offended spirits may simply refuse to provide the Garou with assistance. Seriously ruffled spirits may attack the Garou or declare lasting enmity against her (and her pack).
Some elder Garou allow the cubs to discover the art of chiminage on their own, feeling that lessons learns with difficulty are best remembered. Other, more empathetic elders take cubs into the Umbra with them when they request a favor from a spirit, using their own offering of chiminage as an object lesson in dealing successfully with spirits.
Chiminage may take many forms, depending on the spirit being petitioned and the request being made. Rites represent the most powerful form of chiminage when performed in the Umbra in honor of the petitioned spirit. Other forms of chiminage may include stories, dedicated tokens, finely crafted objects, songs or riddles. Often spirits enjoy trading information for information, and the exchange itself serves as a form of chiminage. Contests also demonstrate honor to spirits and may be acceptable as chiminage, particularly among those spirits of a highly competitive nature.
Garou may use chiminage to atone for transgressions or accidentally offending the spirits. Spirits while they take umbrage easily, are also easily placated providing the offending Garou takes the right steps and humbles herself with sufficiently. Many a perwsonal pact between a Garou and a spirit has begun with just such a misstep and a resulting satisfactory atonement through the offering of chiminage.
Chiminage may also serve as a means of creating a stronger relationship with a spirit, giving it power and honor ffreely in the hopes that the spirit may look with favor on the Garou in the future but without making an immediate request. Garou who have spirit allies customarily offer chiminage to their spirit friends to reinforoe their friendship, much as friends gift one another with tokens of their affection. Lucky Garou have spirit advisors who help them select proper form of chiminage according to the nature of the sprit.
The practice of chiminage can lead to games of oneupsmanship between Garou and the spirits, as each tries to outdo the other in geneorsity and indebtedness. Such forms of gamesmanship themselves become a sort of chiminage, particularly among Weaver spirits, spirits of chance, competition or hospitality. Spirits associated with the broods of Uktena and Wendingo recognize the similarity between chiminage and the custom of pot-latch and take the practice quite seriously.
Celebrating the Spirits: Rites
... to be continued.