Garou tradition is a living thing – scratchings on paper are a recent invention and cannot capture the breadth and depth of the history of Gaia's greatest children. The whole body of legends and cautionary tales is passed in oral tradition from storyteller to storyteller, from judge to judge. No one storyteller knows every single tradition of the Garou, but there is one body of information that every werewolf knows, and every cub is expected to learn – the Litany. In its complete, unabridged form, called the Silver Record, the Litany contains not only the codified laws of the Garou according to the old ways, but poetic examples and morality tales illustrating each legal point. While the Fianna still gather in grand moots to recite the hours-long saga in its entirety, fewer and fewer young werewolves learn the Litany in all its glorious detail. Most are content to make do with the summary that is taught to the cubs and recited at moots – conveniently, the simplified laws are easier to bend than the exhaustive details provided by the full legal epic.
Garou Shall not Mate With Garou
The Law: Werewolves should mate only with humans or wolves. The offspring of two Garou, the metis, are born sterile and defective, physically deformed or even insane. In the worst cases, the mother dies giving birth to her Crinos form cub. These births are obviously cursed, and introducing even the hint of corruption into the Garou race is a crime against Gaia. Werewolves may fall in love – and they often do in the ballads sung by the Galliards – but even the clutches of passion are no excuse for this transgression.
The Reality: The permissive ways of homid society seem to be having an effect on the Garou. More metis are being born now than ever before. While some tribes claim to treat metis with respect, in truth they still face a life of hardship and scorn. Pragmatic Garou point out that, with the number of cubs born to Kinfolk on the decline, the metis might just be needed at the final battle of the Apocalypse.
Combat the Wyrm Wherever it Dwells and Whenever it Breeds
The Law: The Wyrm and its minions are an obvious threat to humanity and to Gaia Destroying that threat is the Garou's very reason for existence. The quickest route to power and respect among werewolves, and the surest way to stall the coming Apocalypse, is to battle against the Wyrm.
The Reality: The Garou are surrounded by enemies: Wyrmspawn, Weaver creations, humanity, even the remnants of the Sanga bent on revenge. And these are only the enemies on the outside. Convinced by the overwhelming certainty of prophecy that the End Times have begun, many werewolves turn their energies to cementing their own positions as best they can or climbing as high as they can before the world crumbles around them.
Respect the Territory of Another
The Law: The traditional Howl of Introduction is required whenever a werewolf approaches another's territory. The holder of the territory may even require additional information before granting acceptance; Silver Fangs, for example, insist on establishing a visitor's degree of pure blood. To properly warn potential interlopers, Garou mark their territory with scent and scratched sigils.
The Reality: While cacophonous howling and pissing on trees may work in rural areas, anywhere near an urban center such behavior may arouse suspicion. Some modern werewolves prefer a cordial phone call or a beeper message. Many others ignore introductions altogether and plead ignorance if caught trespassing.
Accept an Honorable Surrender
The Law: Matters of leadership and honor are often settled by single combat. While this is a proper way to solve such problems, it is important that the combatants not die needless deaths – every warrior is needed. The loser of a duel loses no Renown for showing his throat in surrender to end a fight, and the winner is respected for his restraint.
The Reality: The winner is respected for restraint because that restraint is so hard to exercise. While it may be natural for wolves to end hostilities with a simple bared throat, the Garou are creatures of supernatural rage. Once the fighting begins, anything can happen, and it unfortunately often does. Some Garou earn bad reputations by “accidentally” missing the surrender cues and ripping out a helpless rival's throat.
Submission to Those of Higher Station
The Law: Every leader must have followers. Rank and Renown ease relations within Garou society by outlining everyone's place, with minimal fighting involved. Reasonable requests from higher-ranking Garou are expected to be obeyed.
The Reality: The most useful authority is earned, not granted. While today's cheeky cubs and Cliath may respect their tribal elders, other higher-ranked Garou may find it necessary to reinforce their requests with physical force or some other sort of persuasion, at least until the young ones learn that their betters are above them for a reason. Those werewolves who are unable to back up their rank on occasion might as well get used to running their own errands.
The First Share of the Kill for the Greatest in Station
The Law: The alpha feeds first from the kill. In Garou society, this law of the wild has expanded to include trophies taken from fallen enemies. Garou of greater renown are entitled to demand a greater share of the spoils.
The Reality: In practice, the “first share” too often becomes “the whole pile.” While a pack may grudgingly accept doling out the rewards according to Renown if those of higher rank are earning their keep, an alpha who abuses this privilege will quickly find herself worn down by challenges from her pack mates.
Ye Shall Hot Eat the Flesh of Humans
The Law: During the years of the Impergium, this practice was not unusual. Since the agreement of the Concord, the eating of human flesh has been banned as a violation of the oath to protect humanity. Even worse, this act of near-cannibalism is an invitation to corruption by the Wyrm.
The Reality: Werewolves are carnivores who occasionally lose control of their actions. More than one werewolf has discovered, perhaps to his horror that fat lazy humans taste particularly good. Others, like the Red Talons, make a habit of devouring humans unlucky enough to be found in their territories. Some also note with anger that there is no similar injunction against eating the flesh of wolves, who are as much kin as humans.
Respect for Those Beneath Ye: All Are of Gaia
The Law: Out of respect for Gaia, who created the Garou to protect and in essence serve Her creation, werewolves are expected to treat every creature with the respect due its place in the natural order. Chivalry is a lofty ideal and appropriate behavior worthy of Renown.
The Reality: Garou of rank often use their own judgment to determine the “proper amount of respect” due to those beneath them, and that judgment is not always kind. While they may make life difficult for the unfortunates below them, a combination of wolf instinct and human compassion usually keeps higher-ranked Garou from causing actual harm or death – not that this is much consolation to the tormented.
The Veil Shall Hot Be Lifted
The Law and the Reality: The Garou take this tenet of the Litany very seriously. Much more is at stake than respect for the ages-old pact of the Concord: in a world full of corrupt corporations, religious zealots, vampires and other threats, the Garou must walk carefully or bring down the wrath of countless enemies on their own heads.
Do Hot Suffer Thy People to Tend Thy Sickness
The Law: A dignified death is a private death. This is the way of wild creatures who are mortally injured or simply too old. It preserves the resources of the group for those who can best benefit from them, rather than wasting them to extend a lost life. The Reality: It is difficult to make such a cold step away from life toward death. The Children of Gaia speak out openly against this part of the Litany, preferring to care for their elders and mortally wounded until they expire. Many other Garou compromise by returning to human or wolf society to live out their declining years.
The Leader May Be Challenged at Any Time during Peace
The Law: For the good of the pack, a weak alpha must not be allowed to remain in control. If no danger immediately threatens, any Garou of sufficient rank may challenge the leader for her position. A stare down, duel or game craft challenge results and the alpha must cede her authority if she loses. Inappropriate or frivolous challenges for example, a cub challenging the sept leader – may be rebuffed with no loss of Renown.
The Reality: A particularly powerful leader will be impossible to best in a challenge those below her will have to learn to live with her decisions. Unscrupulous alphas may resist challenges, always insisting that dangers lurk around every corner. Of course, keeping power in this way makes life more difficult when someone else eventually takes over and the paybacks start.
The Leader May Not Be Challenged during Wartime
The Law: The strength of the Garou is the pack. Pack tactics are necessary to bring down the great monsters or hordes of smaller spawn that the werewolves may encounter; even one pack member's lapse in obedience may have dire consequences for the rest of his pack.
The Reality: Garou leaders are just as fallible as any others. A werewolf who violates his alpha's orders with good results may escape punishment for this breach of the Litany. If the results are bad, the alpha's poor tactics won't help the offender's case. Cases involving magical control or Wyrm possession may also be excused – so long as they only happen once.
Ye Shall Take No Action That Causes a Caern to Be Violated
The Law and the Reality: This tenet is even more strictly enforced than the protection of the Veil. Caerns are sacred sites, and to cause the desecration of such a holy place with or without intent to harm is a crime worthy of the severest punishment.