The Bureau of Occult Affairs
25 Mab Square
25 Mab Square
Were Liaison - Were briefing
Were Briefing 1: Culture & Social Structure
Most “Weres”, to use the familiar term, trace their origins to the various Saxon/Viking or French invasions between the 4th and 11th centuries. Like the predominant host culture they didn’t make much inroad into the so-called “Celtic” lands, possibly because of the retreat of the older British fay culture into those parts. The Were culture (or cultures) has proved remarkably resilient and resistant to change. Given the prevailing public perception of them as little more than monsters to be killed where they were found, Weres carefully concealed their identities until 1660 when – having backed the Stuart cause in the Civil War – they were granted Recognition at the Restoration of the Monarchy. The Declaration to that effect grants rights to land for hunting (a central part of the culture, and a necessary ritual at each full moon) as well as extensive rights to local autonomy. It enables them to live under their own laws, administered by their own local ruling councils and courts, so long as this does not impinge upon the national interest.
In return for this policy of live-and-let-live, Weres promised to obey the laws of England and relinquish a claim to a separate monarch. Recently there have been signs that a young, radical element wishes to restore the Werewolf monarchy, in parallel with the House of Windsor. The Security Service is keeping that development under surveillance.
Since the Recognition, Weres have combined into Moots (see below) to buy land and protect their heritage. However, less than 7% of Weres are employed wholly to work within the Moots or the overall community. All other Weres will have jobs outside the confines of their own community. The stresses of earlier centuries have largely become a thing of the past and the number of mixed marriages have increased substantially over the last 30 years, though never rising to significant levels. This is partly due to the discouragement of submissives associating sexually with humans, and partly with the problems for human mothers in carrying Were children to term, with the dangers to the mother’s health.
The basic social unit of Weres is the Moot. Although this is a term which actually refers to any full meeting of the pack, Weres tend to avoid the word ‘pack’ outside their own culture, as they are very aware that the word can have negative connotations for humans. As is demonstrated, all too often, by certain sections of the tabloid press.
Moots comprise a number of families plus unmarried individuals. Domination/submission is a basic, if unwritten, pattern of behaviour and the pack is subject to strict hierarchy. In the same way, Were family members are subordinate to the alphas. Although this is usually a married couple whose family comprises their children, and older or unmarried relatives, some family groups may be led by siblings or a single individual. When dealing with any kind of Were it is wise never to forget that establishing dominance is the mainspring of their social interactions.
Each Moot is governed by a Thing, which is a council of the most dominant Weres. At the head of the thing is the Thane.
Moots are grouped into administrative areas which have developed haphazardly over the centuries. These areas are the Eorldoms and each one is headed by an Eldorman. There are just over 250 Eldormen, who comprise the Althing. This assembles for up to three days each month, the rest of its time its business is carried out through sub-committees which are overseen by the Witan, which is the executive body of the Althing.
The Senior Political Structure
The Witan comprises 16 of the most senior Eldormen, who are elected to this position by their peers for a term of four years. There is no limit on how many terms an Eldorman can serve. The Halfking (Chairman) of the Witan is therefore the most senior position a Were can hold within this administrative structure. The current holder is Conrad, Eldorman of London, who has held it for over 5 years. It is significant that the chairman is known as ‘halfking’, for the holder of the post is widely regarded as the person likely to be named king if the government ever permit that level of self governance within the Were community. Since the constitutional position of Scotland and Wales was altered under devolution, tentative negotiations have taken place with the relevant Secretary of State around the possibility of such self governance, although, if permitted, there is unlikely to be any agreement to reinstitute the title ‘king’. It is felt that would not be well regarded in certain circles. Neither is there any official recognition by the Althing for the popular movement to reinstitute a kingship.
Internal Social Differences
Moots used to self identify as Danelaw or Saxon, although any real cultural distinction died out during the 19th century when new moots were formed in the emerging towns and cities created by the industrial revolution. The Danelaw moots lay roughly within that area of Britain which was the 9th century Danelaw i.e. northern England bordered by a line running very roughly from around Chester to Colchester. The cultural differences are now expressed mainly through a very few variant terms and titles, such as some moot leaders within the Danelaw still occasionally using the ancient title of Jarl rather than Thane. Of much more importance is the political split between the “named” moots i.e. those who whose thanes take as their surname the name of the town associated with the moot, and subsidiary moots, whose thanes retain their own family name.
Internal and External Regulation
Moots vary tremendously in their resources. All have the power (most recently given via the Regulation of Moots Act 1934 aka “The Regs”) to levy a subsidiary tax on all Weres falling within their administrative area to provide facilities and services such as housing, education and social services, and to enforce all Were children to attend a moot school. The Education Act 1944 extended this to include the Were children of non-Were parents, and also provided funding for such schools independently of the levy. In general, this means that each moot, in addition to the land it owns for the purposes of hunting, is a self contained community, employing its own teachers, social workers and administrative staff. The Regs also gave moots to authority to employ their own security guards, commonly known as ulfhednar or berserkers, although their official title is that of n the jurisdiction of the moots. Within urban areas this means that many members of moots are not werewolves at all, but can comprise many more exotic species. This has led to a cultural breadth in urban moots which sometimes creates tensions within the wider Were society. In turn, this has given rise to a subsidiary voluntary taxation system by the Althing on all moots to provide funding for areas which may require greater assistance.
Cultural Customs and Social Issues
All moots assemble at least once a month, on the evening closest to the rise of the full moon, in order to hunt and to conduct other moot business requiring a full assembly. Apart from this, the day to day administration of the moot is conducted by the Thing and the thane.
All moots are based on hierarchy which, in turn, is based on the dominant/submissive character of werewolves. Dominants continually fight for position within the moot or rise above it to become Eldormen. Submissives take their lead from the dominants. The change of authority within a Thing or of a thane is conducted by means of an imprecise combination of several factors, including individual ability, personal popularity or dominance and even, in some moots, a limited form of election. Very, very rarely is a thane ousted for unsocial or criminal activity; it is much more likely that they will be forced out of office for physical or mental incapacity.
Although Weres commonly do change shape at full moon, “The Change” is not always irresistible, depending upon the dominance of the individual. However, stress usually weakens the individual’s ability to resist alteration. In human shape, Weres refer to a condition of being “in the skin”. Obversely, when in their animal identity, the equivalent phrase is “in the fur”.
Were religion is embedded in the culture and draws on the traditional Germanic/Scandinavian model. Use of shamans (called ‘saymen’ or ‘saywives’) is endemic, especially at rites of passage. In the past the “Lawspeaker” function was associated with a few shamanic families but the Regs gave the Bureau the sole authority for appointing lawspeakers and, over the years since, we have been able to mainstream the function out and separate it from its religious origins and associations. This has been very useful in maintaining an indigenous peacekeeping force and gaining an acceptance of majority legal processes. We still have some way to go with this as we have yet to find a resolution for the heavy toll imprisonment makes on the Were psyche, and how to deal with “The Change” under prison conditions.
Working within Were Liaison
Dealing with Weres is unusually stressful in itself. Because it is possible to know a Were for years without encountering one “in the fur”, it is easy to forget how different they are from humans (or fayfolk), culturally and psychologically. We have found that some officers need help when this difference presents itself; indeed, some are found not to be suitable for a posting in Were Liaison, which is a specialist section, even within the Bureau. Some never overcome a revulsion, once presented with some of the more apparent forms of difference. It is better to admit this than carry on and possibly create some political embarrassment.
Despite its small size, the Bureau has its own Secretary of State, and successive Secretaries have demonstrated a close interest in Were Liaison. It is wise when dealing with Weres of any political standing to assume that the more senior figures among Weres themselves, such as the Eldormen of certain counties and cities, have access to members of the government beyond our own Secretary.
© Alexa Duir 2006. All Rights Reserved.