People have their legends. They say that the wolves of the forest are the Devil's children, that they come in the night to steal human babies. They say that the woods are haunted by spirits that can drive men mad. They say that sometimes wolves bite innocent Christians and change them into werewolves, shapeshifters that hunger for human flesh.
The legends are right, in their way. Spirits do haunt the woods, and the wolves that inhabit them are very much aware of the humans that cower in their hovels. But the wolves do not hunt humans for food, nor can they change "innocent Christians" into werewolves.The werewolves have their own legends, their own spirits and their own devils. But unlike the humans, who believe in such things out of fear and tradition, the werewolves have seen the world of the spirits, and they know their place within it.—Werewolf: The Dark Ages
Werewolves refer to themselves as Garou, a term that can refer to individuals or to the Garou Nation as a whole (eg. The Garou). Their tales and legends state that they were created by Gaia, the Mother of All, to protect her from her enemies... and they are perfectly suited to this task. Each and every Garou can become a ruthless killing machine, capable of startling brutality, at will. But they are also deeply spiritual beings. Garou not only believe in Spirits and the Umbra, they have seen them. And they have seen the encroachment of corruption and taint upon both worlds, caused by Gaia's most obvious enemy The Wyrm. Garou may have their differences, but protecting Gaia from the Wyrm's influence is one thing they can all agree upon.. and they will gladly shed blood in pursuit of this goal.
Garou are either born to humans, wolves, or other werewolves. They retain their birth form until puberty and until then, most believe they are just like any other children or cubs. This form is considered their Breed. Human-born Garou are referred to as Homid breed, Wolf-born are Lupus breed, and Garou born of two werewolves are the dreaded Metis breed. The latter are rare in the Middle Ages, as werewolves are forbidden by The Litany from mating with other Garou. Litany Breakers are swiftly slain and more often than not, so is their cursed offspring.
Slightly less obvious than a Garou's breed is their Auspice. The phase of the moon under which a Garou is born affects their connection with the Spirits and determines their general role within Garou society. Each auspice has their own strengths and receives different Gifts from the spirits.
Garou society is broken into a number of different bloodlines, known as Tribes. Each Tribe has their own customs and traditions and exists like an extended family. Legend has it that during the First Times, all Garou were of one Tribe, but this is no longer the case.
There exists a caste system in Garou society, roughly resembling the hierarchy of a wolf pack. A Garou's status within the society is based on deeds done and battles fought. Werewolves gain renown for their deeds and this translates into rank among the Garou.
The basic unit of Garou society is the pack. A pack is usually a group of Garou that experienced their First Change around the same time, belong to the same tribe, and undergo their Rite of Passage together.