The Umbra, also called the Spirit World, the Shadow, or the Velvet Shadow, is a realm existing alongside and yet separate from the material world.

umbra: Latin: shadow. A complete shadow (as of the Moon) within which the source of light (the Sun) is totally hidden from view.werewolves, to refer specifically to the "Spirit Wilds," or Middle Umbra. However, there is more to Umbral cosmology than this.

Some, like the Void Engineers, consider the Umbra an alternate or parallel dimension, universe, or reality, despite it being, technically, occupying the same physical space as the Earth.


The material world, also known to Garou as the Gaia Realm and to wraiths as the Skinlands, is the world of everyday life with which all humans, vampires, mages, hunters, and werewolves are familiar.

Near Umbra

The Near Umbra collectively refers to the three Umbra and the Gauntlet. Though each infinite in scope, they are all contained "within" Earth: the boundary of the system is Earth's atmosphere.


Main article: Gauntlet (WOD)

Separating the Earth from the Umbrae is a metaphysical "membrane" known as the Gauntlet. Some humans almost manage to get close to the Gauntlet in times of bliss, meditation, or creativity; this state is known as the Periphery.

The Gauntlet is thinner in places such as a haunted graveyard or the wilderness, and thicker in places such as laboratories and shopping malls. The relative strength of the Gauntlet determines the ease with which one can cross it, or "step sideways." The Gauntlet is usually treated as a single phenomenon, when it is actually sort of three Gauntlets in one: one separating Earth from the Astral Plane, one protecting it from the Spirit Wilds, and one blocking access to the Underworld and the horrors that lie within. The latter Gauntlet is also referred to as the Shroud by wraiths, and as the Stormwall by agents of the Orpheus Group.

As of 1999, the Avatar Storm has raged within the Gauntlet, composed of jagged shards of souls and Avatars. It does not affect most supernaturals, but the shards are drawn to the Avatars of mages. The more powerful the Avatar (and the higher the mage's enlightenment), the more the shards are drawn to him, and thus the more damage is potentially done when stepping sideways.


Main article: Penumbra

Directly "overlapping" the material world is a portion of the Umbra known as the the Penumbra. The Penumbra mirrors physical reality, but reality as it is "supposed" to be. Though divided, the two were once joined. The spirit world still touches the material one, for were it gone completely, Earth could not sustain life. Powerful actions on the physical plane send emanation into the spirit world. The most powerful of these psychic emanations ripple past the Penumbra into the Near Umbra, where they create whole realms. Such Realms often form based on a single idea or collection of legends. For example, the Nazi camps created hellholes with pits leading to Malfeas or Atrocity Realm, the atomic bombing sent the psychic reflection of dead zones into the Thousand Hells of the Yama Kings.

In the Penumbra, a toxic waste dump site will swarm with malevolent Banes, a city will be covered in cobwebs woven by Pattern Spiders, and a grove of trees will stand taller and wilder. A volcano eruption or a flaming factory could give birth to Fire Elementals.

The appearance of the Penumbra seems to be based on the viewpoint of the viewer. Werewolves will see it in a more animistic fashion, with an immense Moon dominating the sky (the Sun, conversely, tends to be much smaller), and everything represented by a spirit. Some mages may see it more representing ideals and concepts rather than spirits. Other mages (and the rare vampire who makes it here) will see things in a state of decay: a swollen red sun shining on crumbling buildings and rusting husks of cars. An uninformed observer may assume, based on description, that there are three different Penumbrae, one for each Umbra. This is a mistaken assumption, however: if three different travellers arrive in the Penumbra, each viewing a different "facet", they are still able to see and contact each other. Despite the varying perspectives, there is truly only one Penumbra.

For this reason, it is possible that the Shadowlands/Wasteland is simply one aspect of the Penumbra.

Astral Reaches

Main article: Astral Reaches

Although directionality when discussing Umbrae is an exercise in futility, if we were to step and look at the universe from a four-dimensional perspective, then this may apply.

That said, if one were to go "up" from the Penumbra, one would reach the Astral Reaches, also called the Astral Plane, the Astral Umbra, the High Umbra, or the Upper Umbra. The Astral Reaches are the realms of thought, of idea, of concept. This is the Umbra most frequently travelled by mages.

The High Umbra or Astral Umbra is a place that can broadly be considered a reflection of the consciousness of the entirety of humanity. It can be divided into the Vulgate (a region where various common ideas (e.g. invention, love, or hand-to-hand combat) form small microcosmic realms that interact frequently with one another as human ideas and beliefs change), the Spires (a region where major abstract ideas such as War or Love form sizable realms), the Courts (where major societies such as the Mount Olympus of myth and the Court of the Hindu pantheon, gods included, can be found), and the Epiphanies (a realm of ultimate abstraction, unattainable by most mortals). According to the Wraith, while certain afterlives (such as realms that are apparently the Christian Heaven and Hell) seem to play themselves out here, they are not populated by the souls of the dead but instead by beings who exist as a fundamental part of the realm.

Realms found within the High Umbra include:

The Grand Hall (in the Vulgate)The Inventium (in the Spires)The Elemental Courts (in the Courts, nearer the Spires)The Afterworlds (in the Courts, nearer the Epiphanies)The Epiphany (above the spires)

Middle Umbra

Main article: Middle Umbra

Unlike the High Umbra, the Middle Umbra is not organized hierarchically. Instead, it is divided into a series of discrete realms of physical reality divided by gulfs of relative emptiness and pockets of spirit activity. Roads between realms vary considerably (moon paths and trods being two examples). Realms in the Middle Umbra usually have their own Gauntlet and many are apparently infinite in their own private scope. While many realms in the Middle Umbra resemble the abstract realms of the High Umbra, the important distinction is that the realms of the Middle Umbra exist independently from the consciousness of humanity, while the High Umbra does not. The Middle Umbra is also notable for the influence of the Triat and the presence of entire hierarchies of spirits associated with them. While many realms are not controlled by one of the Triat, most realms have also been touched by one or more of them.

Realms found within the Middle Umbra include:

Abyss (also called the Chasm)Aetherial Realm/ReachesAtrocity RealmBattleground (also called the Realm of Fighting Spirits)CyberRealm (also called Dystopia)ErebusFluxHy-Brasil (also called the Arcadia Gateway)Legendary RealmMountains of HeavenPangaea (see Shenti below)ScarSummer Country (also called the Gardens of the First Age)Tiger LandsUmi (also called the Dragon Kingdom of the Sea)Wasteland (see Shenti below)Wolfhome

Spirit Wilds

Main article: Spirit Wilds

When going "out" or "sideways" from the Penumbra, one would attain the Spirit Wilds, or Middle Umbra; hence the term "stepping sideways," so popular among the Garou. This is the Umbra most frequented by werewolves, and is the Umbra of spirit, of essence. In the Middle Kingdom, this Umbra is known as the Yang World.


Main article: Underworld (WOD)

The Underworld is rightly named such, although it is also called the Afterworlds, the Lower Umbra, or Dark Umbra. It is home to the Restless Dead, the wraiths who still cling to the world because of something left undone. Very few have the desire to travel here. This is the Umbra of memory: emotion invested in things which no longer exist. Even wraiths themselves can be said to be creatures of memory and passion – although whether it is the memory of those still alive or of the Wraiths themselves which keeps them alive is unknown. In the Middle Kingdom, this Umbra is known as the Yin World.

There is a gravity of sorts in the Underworld, but it has nothing to do with mass. Instead, all things are drawn inevitably to Oblivion, the end of all things.

Unless otherwise stated, the content of this page is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License