The Umbra, the Shadowland, is a world of the spirit, as the Realm, the Earth upon which humans and wolves breed, roam, and live, is a world of the flesh. Spirits live in the Umbra, humans and wolves in the Realm, and never the twain shall meet...except through those who can go between the two at will, the Changing Breeds. The Umbra is a reflection of the Realm, and the Realm a reflection of the Umbra, two sides of the same coin. The Gauntlet is the barrier between the Realm and the Umbra, through which the Changing Breeds may pass at will, though with difficulty. Only at places which are clean in Umbra and Realm is the crossing easy. In cities and other Weavery places, it is often extremely difficult.
The crossing itself is most often made at reflections large enough to see both eyes in, and you do need a reflective surface, be it mirror or small puddle, to cross over. Moonpaths lead through the Umbra, lit by the moon's light at night. But during the day, there is no light to the Umbra: Helios, the Incarna of the Sun, does not favor the Umbra with his attention and his blessing. To Luna, the Moon, is the Shadow sacred, and only she sheds light there. As she waxes, the light increases; as she wanes, the light vanishes. During the darkest times, when Helios rules the sky or when Luna's light is weak, the Umbra is dangerous beyond belief. Wyrm, Weaver, and Wyld spirits who care nothing for the Garou wader the night, and things that fear light come out in the dark. They feed on the fear and the blood and the strength of those few who brave the dark on urgent errands. Even at full moon the Umbra is dangerous, and wise are the Garou who walk in packs through the Umbra. Foolish are they who travel alone, for the dark seeks, and seeks, and thirsts for their blood. The Tribes each have a Homeland in the Umbra, a realm of the Umbra in which they are welcome, from which other tribes are recommended to stay away. Various other Umbral Realms exist, some near the Realm and some deeper into the Umbra. (see Realms for details.)
The Umbra is a place of rare beauty, too; it is the True World, where all the light and dark of the Earth are mirrored and amplified to extremes. A simple forest becomes a primeval sylvan glade, greener and more real than ever it could be in the Realm. By the same token, a toxic waste dump becomes a festering sore where the land itself seethes with poisons. Only those things of strong spirit and earthly permanence have powerful shadows in the Umbra. A new building will have no shadow, while a well-tended, well-loved home might have a strong Umbral counterpart.
Triumphs in the Umbra have ramifications in the physical world, and, by the same token, changes in the physical world mark changes in the Umbra.
The Changing Breeds are especially deft in the Umbra; they may assume their various shapes without effort, spirits come to their calls easier, and they have the greatest affinity with the denizens and the Umbral landscape. However, only with special magic may the werecreatures bring physical objects or others (non-shapeshifters) through the Gauntlet; things which are not bound with these gifts and rites simply do not cross from Realm to Spirit.
For more information on the Umbra, and for an exhaustive guide on how long it takes to pass through the Gauntlet, please see http://web.garoumush.org/umbra-guide.html.
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