The Oath of the Moon

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THE OATH OF THE MOON

The Uratha are not beholden to the laws of humanity, nor does the spirit world have any code of laws that binds them. Yet creatures of such overpowering fury cannot simply do as they please without repercussion. Every sin against their own nature weakens them, drives them farther down a deepening spiral. Denying their nature — or letting it take control of them — would turn the werewolves into the mindless monsters human legend already believes them to be. The Uratha recognize this potential weakness, and they hold it in check by obeying the taboos attributed to Father Wolf and Mother Luna. The form this vow takes is the Oath of the Moon.

The Oath of the Moon is an oath of many parts, each one of great importance. An Uratha is given the chance to take the Oath during her initiation into a tribe, and therefore into the People. The exact form of the Oath varies between tribes, as each reinforces it with an additional, special law — a vow sworn to their totem to affirm the tribe’s purpose.

The Oath is part religious creed and part code of law, but the most significant aspect is that it helps fight against the rising madness in a werewolf’s soul. By taking the Oath, werewolves swear to abide by the principles that balance their instinct with their rationality, their flesh with their spirit. Each clause of the Oath represents a potential way to lose a bit more of one’s soul. The vow “The People Do Not Murder the People” reminds the Uratha how easy it is to degenerate into a monster by indulging one’s bloodlust against his siblings. The price for ignoring the Oath of the Moon is levied from within.

Not all Forsaken swear by Luna and the Firstborn (and certainly, none of the Pure do). Some reject the notion of the Oath entirely, while others swear to only a portion, choosing certain laws over others. Those who refuse the Oath become Ghost Wolves. Without a pledge of loyalty, the Firstborn will not accept them as children. Some Ghost Wolves still cleave to the tenets of the Oath in spirit without formally vowing to uphold them; others live as they choose, and laws be damned. Those who carelessly transgress against the ways spoken of in the Oath, though, find themselves slipping out of balance, succumbing to their bestial side and forgetting their true nature.


THE WOLF MUST HUNT; Urum Da Takus

In the First Tongue, the first portion of the Oath is phrased Urum Da Takus. Many of the Forsaken see this as the first and foremost clause of the Oath because it represents the duty inherited from their legendary forebear and his First Pack. The Forsaken swear this portion of the Oath first in Father Wolf’s honor, to reaffirm their purpose and that of the Firstborn. The implication is that as the foremost predators of both flesh and spirit, the Forsaken must hunt their sacred prey — spirits escaped into the physical realm, the Hosts, and other threats to a pack’s territory.

However, this clause of the Oath also is at the heart of many clashes between rival packs of Forsaken. If a pack is failing to keep their enemies at bay, another pack might claim that the first pack is “failing to hunt”, and enter their territory with the claimed intention of doing their jobs for them. Frequently this is a quick stab at testing a pack’s defenses or perhaps just a formal way of escalating an already bitter rivalry. But sometimes the intentions are sincere — a pack sees that an infestation of Beshilu, spirits or Ridden has grown beyond their neighbors’ ability to control, and feels it necessary to intervene before the other pack’s negligence causes the situation to deteriorate further. Such an incursion usually results in a blood feud between the two packs, regardless of good intentions. But sometimes a brutal duel between packs is preferable to a greater menace gaining strength when one pack cannot keep it

Ironically, the Pure seem to hold to their own twisted version of this portion of the Oath, though clearly not out of any love for Mother Luna or those who honor her. The Pure hunt as though it is their sacred duty to do so — and the Forsaken their ordained prey.


THE PEOPLE DO NOT MURDER THE PEOPLE; Imru Nu Fir Imru

The specific phrasing of this law goes back even to the First Tongue. It does not say “Uratha do not kill Uratha.” It says “the People” or “the Tribe” or “the Family”. And the verb is “murder” in the oldest form, not “kill”. As a result of this ambiguity, no traveling werewolf can be sure how this tenet is interpreted from territory to territory. Some packs believe that it’s taboo to slay wolf-blooded humans as well as Uratha, even in the heat of battle. Others believe that a werewolf may freely kill another one in open challenge but that secret murder is forbidden. It’s commonly held that slaying an already beaten but not dead foe is a clear violation of the Oath. Once a werewolf is beaten and slowly healing, it is murder to tear out his throat.

Judging by the ballads and oral histories the Cahalith have maintained over thousands of years, this may be the most violated section of the Oath. The epic Mountain and Plain War, which dates back to the first centuries after the fall of Rome, is the best-known piece of art that pertains to this tenet of the Oath. Many of the Elodoth judgments described in Mountain and Plain War serve as precedent even today.

Elodoth argue further regarding the meaning of “the People”, for no Forsaken werewolf is quite certain whether this tenet includes the Pure. Some Pure werewolves seem to adhere to a code of law that prevents them from outright killing Forsaken, but most of them seem to have no qualms whatsoever. Some Forsaken refrain from killing Pure werewolves, just in case; others make a deliberate choice not to include the Pure Tribes in this law.


THE LOW HONOR THE HIGH; THE HIGH RESPECT THE LOW; Sih Sehe Mak; Mak Ne Sih

Werewolves can see more clearly than humans do that humanity has dominance hierarchies of its own. Uratha society is not a democracy. It has never been one, nor can it ever be. To reject the demands of one’s station is to demonstrate a dangerous hubris.

Young werewolves often argue that this law isn’t Luna’s at all, but rather an encoding of their elders’ desire to remain on top and keep the young quiet. Elders, by contrast, feel that they’ve paid their dues. They took their scars when they were young, so they deserve the benefits of their station now. Most elders point out that they give the young (and low) the respect that this law requires.

Ballads that illustrate this tenet follow one of several patterns: Young Uratha rails against his low status, disrespects his elders and is brutally put in his place; or well-respected Uratha mistreats younger werewolves, she begins to fall into madness, she repents and regains her heroic stature. (Firebringer’s Redemption, which ends in the death of the Rahu Firebringer during the third century CE, is the pinnacle of the latter.)

RESPECT YOUR PREY; Ni Daha

The Uratha have sworn to be responsible hunters — not to overtax their territory or any neutral territory in which they hunt. When they chose to supplant Father Wolf as guardians of the two worlds, they vowed to respect their prey in order to show that their intentions were more honorable than those of the spirit tyrants they oppose. The Oath commands them to respect all their prey, and indeed any life or spirit they might end. This includes humans — a truth that reminds young werewolves just how alien a society they have entered.

Many werewolves exhibit no more remorse when they must kill a particular human than when they hunt down and kill a deer. The only real difference, to many werewolves, is that the Oath forbids them to consume the flesh of humans. Uratha pay the spirit of the prey the same degree of respect in either case, and they do not kill unnecessarily. A deer dies to provide food, while a human usually dies for an unwitting violation of werewolf taboos.

Most modern packs give a warning to humans who transgress against them, rather than killing them outright. Such a warning might consist of an anonymous note, spirit haunting, exposure to the Lunacy from the sight of Uratha in Gauru form or terrifying stalking and property damage. Such warnings usually prevent the human from continuing to violate Luna’s law, thus saving the human’s life.


THE URATHA SHALL CLEAVE TO THE HUMAN; Uratha Safal Thil Lu’u

No werewolves can be born of mating with wolves, and one werewolf breeding with another begets a true monster. Violating this tenet is a sin of lust and a failure of self-control. When werewolves — particularly packmates — succumb to physical desire, they forget the true reason that Father Wolf led them into the world. Some Elodoth say that Luna forces her children to breed with humans in order to remind them that breeding is a duty. Allowing love between Uratha, they say, would distract those werewolves from their real purpose.

Other werewolves believe that unihar are “born” to illustrate that no animal should breed too close to its relatives, lest crippling weakness arise. By this reasoning, all Uratha are siblings in the spirit-world. Many young werewolves believe that Luna places no limitation on intercourse, or on non-intercourse sexual activity; more conservative older Forsaken take the opposite tack.

Ballads of tragic love strike a particular chord within the hearts of werewolves. Often, as in The Song of Axebreaker and Tamer, a violation of this tenet is redeemed by the heroic death of one of the violators to save the other. In the eyes of many more modern werewolves, this tenet is a relatively minor one, but almost any female werewolf who has gone through a “spirit pregnancy” stands firmly behind the law.


DO NOT EAT THE FLESH OF MAN OR WOLF; Nu Hu Uzu Eren

The Forsaken do not consume the flesh of either of their closest relatives — or rather, should not, though the temptation exists. Perhaps because humans and wolves are so close to the Uratha, perhaps because they simply retain a fraction more spiritual power, their flesh carries a certain spiritual … nourishment. By devouring human or wolf meat, a werewolf can quickly regain a measure of spiritual energy to fuel his supernatural powers — at a terrible cost to his soul. The People find it frightening and disturbing that such a path to power exists and that lore on the act is more than speculative.

Thankfully, most Forsaken are raised in cultures where cannibalism is taboo, so they are loath to commit what they see as cannibalistic acts. Some tribal elders even refuse to teach new werewolves the reason some might be tempted to violate this law. What the young ones don’t know, they hope, cannot tempt them.

It happens, though. A werewolf who loses himself in the madness of Death Rage might mindlessly devour a portion of his kill. He might even remember the taste and crave more. Also ancient rites of questionable provenance rely on the consumption of human or wolf flesh. Only two years ago, a pack of Mexico City Uratha was discovered to have subsisted on human flesh for weeks at a time. The werewolves were driven into exile, their pack name was stricken from the histories, and their locus was destroyed as they watched.


THE HERD MUST NOT KNOW; Nu Bath Githul

Humans suffer terribly from the Lunacy. The depredations of werewolves in the days leading up to the Sundering and the humans’ forcible separation from the spirit world have strengthened Luna’s curse. Once torn free from their sheltering blanket of ignorance, some humans cannot be pulled back, which makes them pliable vessels for abusive spirits.

In reality, this law isn’t for humans’ protection as much as it is for the werewolves’. Humans have been dangerous in numbers since time out of mind. In the modern day, they’re dangerous even in twos and threes. The Forsaken do not dare give humans any inkling that they exist. Humans know about silver’s effect on werewolves, even if they don’t believe that werewolves exist. The last few times humans went after Uratha in large numbers — something that hasn’t happened since the mid-20th century — the results were terrible and bloody on both sides.

The rise of the Internet during the last decade of the 20th century made this law harder to uphold, but also gave the Uratha a curious sort of protection. All manner of gossip and lunatic “evidence” can be found on the Internet, often doing more to discredit its author than he might expect. Internet werewolf sightings — those few that leak out past the Lunacy — are easily dismissed as more of the same, stuff with no basis in reality. It’s a peculiar sort of blessing, but the Uratha are thankful for it all the same.