Werewolves gather regularly in moots, events that serve a variety of social, political and religious functions. These gathering are part of what makes them Garou, communal creatures dedicated to common causes and sacred responsibilities. Usually, moots are convened every full moon, although a sept may call smaller gatherings as circumstances warrant. For cliath, these gatherings are vital. When a pack returns from one of its adventures, one among them should tell the events that occurred at the next moot. The various werewolves in the pack can then earn renown. By contrast, Garou who avoid moots regularly are viewed with suspicion, often because of their unwillingness to aid their own kind.
Moots are always held at caerns, and powerful spirits are often summoned as part of the proceedings. Theurges perform great rites, Philodox attend to protocol and the "business" aspects of the gathering, Galliards organize the social and storytelling events, and Ahroun see to the defense of the assembly. Werewolves debate policies, discuss plans, send heroes off to perform great tasks, celebrate heroes who have returned triumphant and revile criminals who violate the Litany. Matters are handled with decorum and weighed by the sept as a whole. When matters become too grim, Ragabash satirize foolish decisions, jape at pretentious elders and taunt those who take themselves far too seriously. The most powerful moon bridges are opened during this time. Most importantly, the spiritual energy expended keeps the caern alive, for as the Garou prosper, so do the sacred sites they attend.
There are many types of moots, varying in size, purpose, grandeur and attendance.
Hearings may be convened at any time, usually when a pack returns from a great adventure. Elders assemble to listen to what the young heroes have found, pressing plans are discussed immediately, and renown is awarded. The sept leader decides which elders are vital to the discussion. As a pack's Galliard relates what has just occurred, his packmates should watch the elders' reactions carefully. Those reactions often reveal volumes about political struggles within the sept. Not everyone in the sept is required to attend a hearing, although many elders hate to receive information after their rivals have.
Sept Moots are the regular monthly meetings of a sept. Any Garou can attend, although those from outside the sept are often regarded with suspicion. This meeting is more than a simple voicing of complaints; it often resolves with a raucous celebration that no cliath would dare miss.
Grand Moots are convened to discuss the weightiest matters, often those that affect an entire tribe. All werewolves of the specific tribe within a reasonable distance are required to attend; others may be invited as well, but only with special permission.
Concolations are the largest moots, and all werewolves nearby are required to attend, regardless of pack, sept or tribe. They are extremely rare and accordingly critical. The gathering is announced during a normal moot, and it always requires at least five elders of five different tribes to support it. Once the decision has been made, messengers are sent out from region to region and caern to caern. The event is held exactly three months later at the exact same site. Legends speak of a few grand concolations where messengers are dispatched to retrieve some of the greatest heroes in the world, but such an event has not occurred in decades.
A tribal moot is a less critical version of a Grand Moot. It is as much a show of solidarity as anything else. Elders believe that these gatherings reinforce a tribe's political power. Once it was rare for one tribe to scheme directly against another, but vengeful elders have increased the conflict between tribes as tensions mount and the End Times approach. Pity the poor wolf who must choose between the needs of his sept and the dictates of his tribe.
Black Furies gather in their most sacred tribal holdings, isolated and idyllic spots untouched by encroaching civilization. Choral chants and sacred hunts are common pursuits, along with tribal rites no man has ever witnessed. As more of their tribal lands fall before their enemies, Black Furies have also begun hosting far less traditional gatherings in the cities, events casually dismissed as innocuous by the uneducated.
Bone Gnawers rarely hold formal moots. Instead, they find solidarity by launching into epic binges. They gather up spare change, stock up on booze, steal some cheap food and then get trashed. Occasionally, a drunken mob of Bone Gnawers may work up their courage to mess with the nastiest urban spirits in the area. Elders call these gatherings "Orkins."
Children of Gaia hold tribal moots based around the concept of community. A few are fairly innocuous affairs where human Kinfolk (or even highly esteemed humans) gather to discuss political activism and environmental issues. Some moots are remarkably peaceful, involving endless meditation, tranquil singing and quiet contemplation. Of course, even the Gaians have a raucous, joyous side. Since ancient times, the tribe has also held a fondness for hallucinogenic reveries and wild musical revels.
The Fianna are known for two styles of tribal moots. During the holidays of the Celtic calendar - set at each solstice and equinox - they hold solemn affairs where they recite or sing great epics and preserve their bardic history. At other times of the year, they hold wild parties, occasionally inviting, potentially useful allies from other tribes to share in song; dance and drink. Fianna Galliards spend months rehearsing for performances
at both types of events.
When the Get of Fenris gather, the result is an epic contest of endurance, martial prowess, howling, drinking, eating and even more fighting. The event resembles a massive brawl, with gauntlets to be run, ceremonial burning or scarification and inspiring sagas from the skalds. Younger Fenrir usually prefer drinking insane amounts of alcohol, slam-dancing in a mosh pit and beating the crap out of each other.
Glass Walkers hold professional and thoroughly corporate meetings, often with an agenda, minutes and proper rules of order. In abandoned warehouses and corporate offices, they not only discuss tribal goals, but also summon urban spirits to trap in batteries and floppy disks. Younger Walkers are dismissed early, often so that they can go to their own raves, drink strange beverages, ingest stranger chemicals and appreciate music far too cutting edge for the elders to understand.
Red Talons isolate themselves from all other Garou and completely lose track of what they've learned from humans. Hunting, howling and running with the nearest wolf pack are all common pursuits. Unknown to Garou of other tribes, the most extreme Talon moots involve far darker rites, often enacted as a mockery of human rituals. Human sacrifice is common here, such as when Talons feast on an eviscerated human's entrails and string the remains around a "Yuletide tree."
Shadow Lords hold gloomy, brooding, somber affairs high atop mountains beneath stormy skies. Great pomp and circumstance celebrates rank, conspiratorial accomplishments and the latest intricacies of the tribal hierarchy. Thundering drums and majestic Gregorian chants speak of the grandeur of the tribe, sometimes leading to the sacrifice of a weak, hapless human to the tribe's dark god, Grandfather Thunder.
Silent Striders rarely congregate, but they do often gather with other travelers to share stories and songs. Striders invite their trusted traveling companions. One festival may be attended by Gypsies, another by wandering fae and still another by the spirits of the dead. Sometimes the moot takes places deep in the Umbra, but it rarely stays in one place for long. Races, relays and long hikes are all typical activities.
Silver Fang moots are all about tradition, involving ancient, beautiful dances and long recitation! to the spirits. White-robed nobles lead candle-lit processions to isolated, idyllic locales. Tales of great ancestors are spoken with reverence, often to set an example for the latest generation of Silver Fang nobility.
Uktena maintain absolute secrecy, conducting strange rites, summoning great spirits and performing cryptic incantations. Mysticism is celebrated, and Galliards recite lengthy paeans from ancient tomes and occult epics.
Wendigo are distinctly Native American, particularly in the northern septs, and their moots preserve a wealth of traditions. One gathering may involve visionquests and peyote, while another can depend on sacred tobacco, fire dances and ritual combat. Some moots employ Umbral travel, such as when the entire assembly placates a great spirit and hunts it into the Penumbra.
Garou culture has a wide variety of moots. The gatherings can range in size from intimate meetings between a small Stargazer sept to a grand collocation uniting Garou from all the tribes. The methods and procedures of moots vary from tribe to tribe and sept to sept. However, all moots grew from a common ancestry (much like the tribes themselves). As such, moots share certain elements.
A moot has five basic divisions: the Opening Howl, the Inner Sky, Cracking the Bone, Stories and Songs, and the Revel. Septs give some of these sections more weight than others and even add their own variations and subsections. Still, these five components are the core of every moot: The sept must gather, honor totems, recharge the caern, air grievances, affirm Garou history and, finally, release primal passions. These acts are at the heart of every member of the sept and remind all who take part in a moot what it means to be Garou.
Each part of the moot also requires various Garou to take on certain roles, described above as the Master of the Howl, the Caller of the Wyld, the Truthcatcher, the Talesinger and the Wyrm Foe. It's a great honor to serve in an official capacity during a moot. Most often, a specific Garou routinely performs a given office for the sept. Still, there are occasions when another Garou may step in and assume the duties of an office. It's not uncommon for a Garou to find herself performing a key function at the next moot in recognition of some noteworthy recent achievement. A Garou who recovered a lost fetish or dispatched a Bane might be honored with the role of Caller of the Wyld, while one who triumphed over Wyrm minions might assume the mantle of Wyrm Foe. In this way, the Garou give individual accomplishments another sort of recognition along with rank and Renown.
Sadly, Garou attendance at moots is seriously diminished compared to times past. Although the declining Garou population is certainly a factor, fewer and fewer join in the howl as time goes on. These Garou become caught up instead in warfare, petty squabbles or simple lack of interest. Many of the traditional secondary offices go vacant, and even some of the primary offices of the moot fall into disuse or require a single Garou to perform multiple roles. It is believed that a great number of other offices used to exist but fell into obscurity due to these very circumstances. Some pessimists even claim that entire sections of the moot itself have been forgotten in much the same way.
The actual decline in ceremony, office and ritual varies with the tribe and the sept. Still, even the most scrupulous followers of Gaia might concede that no truly suitable Garou exist for certain posts. By thus reducing the Garou spirit with squabbling and crass entertainment, the Wyrm tarnishes and corrodes the Garou heritage. This insidious threat poses perhaps a greater danger to Garou than even the most vicious Nexus Crawler.
The Opening Howl
All moots start with the howl. The Opening Howl, led by the Master of the Howl, fills the air with unearthly, atonal modulations. Each sept's howl has a distinctive flavor, the result of that sept's general attitude, particular blending of tribes and recent events. For instance, the howl of a primarily Fianna sept echoes with an almost ethereal beauty; that of a predominantly Shadow Lord sept resonates with a disturbing dissonance; a Red Talon sept cries out with guttural savagery. More diverse septs integrate the various tribes' moods. Thus, a sept with large numbers of Fianna, Shadow Lords and Red Talons generates a beautifully dark keening, as the Fianna's rarefied voices intermingle with the Shadow Lords' lower tones and the Red Talons' sharp punctuations.
While tribe and attitude play a part in the howl, the sept's current status colors the howl just as strongly. These elements blend in the Opening Howl's final moments, when the Galliards, coordinated by the Master of the Howl, lead the rest of the sept in declaring the purpose of the moot. A howl marking the sept's recent triumph is martial in tone and flavored with tribal heritage - Fianna tones reminiscent of Celtic war ballads, Stargazers' of ancient Tibetan songs, Red Talons' of pure, wild bestiality. A moot called to determine the fate of a Garou accused of turning to the Wyrm echoes with howls that are uniformly menacing in tone, whether the subvocal growl of Silver Fangs, the savage snarl of Get of Fenris or the nerve-wracking barks of Bone Gnawers.
The Opening Howl historically has other offices aside from that held by the Master of the Howl. The best known is the role of the Fool (typically a post filled by a Ragabash). The Trickster performing this office routinely questions each assertion made during the Opening Howl. The rest of the sept, led by the Master of the Howl, refutes each of the Fool's claims in turn. This way, all the Garou unite in affirming their heritage.
The Fool's questioning of Garou rites and traditions encourages each member of the sept to reevaluate and reaffirm his loyalty to pack, sept, tribe, tradition and duty. Although the Fool's responsibilities are just as important as those of the Master of the Howl, the Trickster doesn't often attain the same degree of respect the Master of the Howl holds. Many Garou view the Fool as just that, and they usually don't take seriously his yelping dissension during the moot.
The Inner Sky
The moot's second portion devotes itself to strengthening the caern by contacting tribal spirits. The Caller of the Wyld leads the sept in this portion of the moot. Umbral spirits are the source of the caern's continued strength; as such, the Inner Sky is vital to the caern's health. The Caller of the Wyld must contact the spirits and treat them with appropriate honor and deference.
If a sept doesn't maintain the caern's bonds to the Umbra, the caern itself weakens over time, no matter how passionate the Revels that end the moots. This factor is often cited as the cause behind a caern becoming fallow or falling to the Wyrm.
Some tribes, the Red Talons chief among them, claim that losing the connection to Gaia is what precipitates such weakening. They point to the Bone Gnawers' and Glass Walkers' less stringent rites as examples of this failing. In return, the two urban tribes observe that their technology-bound spirits don't need the constant attention that less strictly regimented nature spirits might.
In practice, a sept that goes for more than nine turnings of the moon without the Rite of Totem Binding may lose one level from the caern's power. Starting after the ninth month of neglect, the Storyteller rolls once per lunar month to see whether the caern loses a power level. The Dice Pool rolled equals the caern leader's Wits + Rituals. The difficulty is 5 in the ninth month and increases by one point each month thereafter. As long as the Storyteller rolls at least one success, the caern maintains its current level of power. However, the Storyteller continues to roll each lunar month (at an increasing level of difficulty) until she gets no successes. Once that happens, the caern loses a point of power.
If the caern remains neglected nine months after losing the point, the process begins again. In this fashion the caern slowly dies out or falls dormant. A Rite of Spirit Awakening must be performed to reawaken the caern or to recharge lost points. The difficulty in performing this rite equals the caern's original level plus five. Also, the ritemaster must spend a number of permanent Gnosis points equal to the number of caern levels lost.
Once the sept performs the Inner Sky properly, no rolls are required unless another nine months of neglect should pass. The Storyteller may simply lower a neglected caern's power level instead of going through the rolling process, depending on the circumstances involved.
Cracking the Bone
The business of the moot occurs at this stage. Grievances are aired, sept policy is made and personal conduct addressed. The Truthcatcher heads this part of the moot. As its name implies, Cracking the Bone is no simple task. Much like a hungry wolf cracks a bone to find the sweet marrow hidden inside, the Truthcatcher must cleave into the most challenging dilemma and discover the core of truth that lies within.
All temporal business is conducted at this time. Most tribes allow all Garou who wish to speak to do so. Even in this openness there is a proper procedure, however. The concept of rank is so ingrained in most Garou that lower ranking members inevitably defer to higher ranking individuals. A Garou who speaks out of turn, defying the sept hierarchy, invariably loses Honor. Still, some of the more tolerant septs, usually led by the Bone Gnawers or Children of Gaia, allow their younger members to speak out of turn without harsh penalty.
The Garou system of justice is simpler than that used in the human world, as it has more in common with lupine ways. Judgment and the punishment that follows is swift, blunt and without appeal. Once a decision is made, for good or ill, the matter is usually closed.
Stories and Songs
During this section of a moot, the Talesinger leads the sept in spinning stories of past and present Garou adventures. Ancient heroes are remembered and new ones honored with howls of recognition and rites of praise. A Garou whose deeds have earned a Talesinger's praise gains much glory in the eyes of his peers.
The mood of the Stories and Songs segment is, again, dependent on the sept and its tribal majority. Tales told by Shadow Lords and Silver Fangs are usually serious treatises and heavy-handed ballads howled only by the Talesinger. A Talesinger's personal glory in these long-winded affairs is secondary to his ancestry and connection to the tribe and sept. Stories of past heroes are told as parables that often cite the Garou's superiority over humans and place the particular tribe in the position of guide and mentor to other tribes. Things become very interesting during this phase in septs comprising both Shadow Lords and Silver Fangs, since both tribes not only consider themselves without equal, but view each other as rivals for true supremacy over all other tribes.
The Uktena and Wendigo tale-telling follows the Native American model, with the greatest warrior braves taking on the roles of victor and vanquished, and a chorus supporting the tale with howls and natural percussion. This portion of the moot can become so charged with energy for these tribes that the remainder of the sept comes forward, dancing and howling in a ring around the Talesinger as he reaches the story's climax.
Of all the tribes, the Silent Striders are most noted for their Stories and Songs. They elevate this portion of the moot to an art form in and of itself by incorporating elaborate and exuberant dance-tales known as Pakiv Swatura. Only those dancers trained extensively in this strenuous and expressive art may participate in such tales. A Garou honored to be part of a Pakiv Swatura often finds himself spun about and tossed in the air repeatedly by the other dancers until he's too dizzy to walk.
The Silent Striders also engage in Darane Swatura, boisterous, overblown comical tales told simply for the joy of the telling. A single Strider usually begins a story, then passes from one Garou to the next. Each builds on the tale in an attempt to surpass the previous speaker's humor until the entire sept is overwhelmed with riotous laughter.
The Revel culminates the moot. The passion of every Garou in the sept builds toward the Revel, finally releasing with tremendous physical, emotional and spiritual intensity. Not only is this section cathartic for the Garou, but it serves to recharge the caern and echoes the reconnection to the Umbra as performed during the Inner Sky.
Both mundane procedures and mystical rites become more impassioned as the moot progresses. The stories and songs kick the Garou assemblage into even higher gear and stir the werewolves' souls to a fever pitch. Once the sept is roused to the greatest possible extent, the Garou chosen for the role of Wyrm Foe changes into wolf form and gives a mighty howl. The Wyrm Foe usually waits for the Master of the Howl to give him this signal, but it's not unknown for the Garou to become so caught up in the building Revel that he leaps forward, giving an ear-splitting call. The rest of the sept joins in the howl, and Garou not already in Lupus make the change, emulating the Wyrm Foe.
Mock battles and other displays of strength and prowess erupt spontaneously throughout the sept, as the Garou prepare for the run. These demonstrations serve to take the Garou past the point of no return, a truly liberating release on every level. Once the sept reaches this degree of excitement, the Wyrm Foe thunders out of the caern proper, leading the entire sept on an exhausting run to clear the area around the caern of all enemies. During the run itself, many Garou eventually transform into their deadly Crinos form, as they fully embrace their Rage.
Although any Garou in the throes of the Revel is a gloriously fearsome sight, the Get of Fenris are renowned for their incredible savagery during the run. The defense of caerns by the Get and other rural septs give rise to many small-town stories of "full moon fever." Similarly, the urban prowls of Bone Gnawer and Glass Walker Revels are often labeled gang warfare or particularly vicious killing sprees by the unsuspecting human populace.
The Garou passion released during the Revel is effectively raw Gnosis that pours back into the caern itself. Such recharging is vital in maintaining the caern's power, just as sustaining the caern's connection to the Umbra is. Every Garou who participates in a Revel must spend at least one point of Gnosis toward recharging the caern.
An active caern must receive five points of Gnosis per power level each lunar month to remain fully replenished. Thus, to replenish a caern with a power level of four, the sept must spend at least 20 Gnosis. These points need not be spent all at once (although they usually are during a Revel), but can be given to the caern at any time during the month.
A caern that doesn't receive the requisite amount of Gnosis lapses into inactive status. Although its potential spiritual energy still exists, the caern must be reconnected to the Umbra and its spirits awakened before Garou may tap its power.
After the Moot
The Garou find their way back to the caern after the end of the frenzy brought on by the Revel. Although exhausted after a moot, the sept brims with a great contentment and feeling of unity.
A regularly performed moot sustains both caem and sept. It strengthens the caern's connection to the Umbra, to the sept's totem spirits and between the Garou themselves. The sept itself draws mystical and psychological strength from the caern in turn. Sept and caern have a symbiotic relationship and sustain each other against the myriad dangers that menace Gaia's defenders.
See also: Sept Offices