Werewolves are a type of lycanthrope that transform into wolves. The social habits of werewolves are probably the most fully described in the series, both because of Anita and Jean-Claude's association with the wolves and because werewolves appear to be the most prevalent type of shapeshifter, particularly in the St. Louis area. One reason for that is that the werewolf strain of the virus is for some reason more contagious than, for example, the weretiger strain.
Dominance is a key element in werewolf social organization. The pack is structured in a clear hierarchy, and pack members move up or down by winning or losing challenges against other pack members.
- Although most dominance battles end when one participant backs down, leadership of the pack is only transferred by a battle to the death.
- A dominant pack member may issue any order to submissive member, provided that the dominant does not order the submissive to do anything anyone even higher in the pack hierarchy hasn't forbidden. In most packs this would exclude anything illegal.
- A pack member may offer or receive "protection" to or from another member. A pack member must accept all challenges on behalf of any person to whom he or she has offered protection.
- Non-werewolves, such as Jean-Claude and Anita Blake may be classified as "dominant" to certain members of the pack, but may not typically be considered "alpha" or full members of the pack. Non-wolves who have been granted some specific role within the pack (usually vargamor) are an exception. Anita is the only known non-wolf who has served as a lupa or a bolverk.
Among themselves, werewolves call themselves the lukoi. The word can hold implications of their culture and traditions that go deeper than the simple physical reality of their species.
Each lukoi pack has a sacred place of power called the Lupanar. The lupanar is their primary gathering place, where meetings are held, traditions observed, formal challenges are made, and succession fights are fought.
An integral part of a lukoi pack is the munin, spirits of their dead. When a pack member dies, the other members consume the body (at least in part), which allows the departed to join the munin and continue to share their experience and power with the pack.
Submissive - Dominant
Pack standing is established by being dominant over other wolves. Dominance is established by challenging and either fighting or backing down other pack members. Dominance fights are rarely to the death and sometimes are psychological battles. If the werewolf being challenged does not wish to fight, they simply acknowledge the challenger's dominance and the confrontation is over. The victor rises in rank and assumes the spot vacated by the defeated.
To ask for protection, a wolf can petition a dominant by brushing up against the dominant. If it is granted, the dominant will touch the submissive which then signals to any other lycanthropes in the area that he or she will protect that petitioner from their enemies/pursuers. When a werewolf asks someone for protection they are admitting the other is dominant to them. If the wolf is given this protection, they are in effect fully under the command of the person giving the protection. All other wolves will either simply acknowledge this protection and move on, or challenge the protection.
Packs usually appoint sponsors to new wolves to teach them about the change, control, and how to walk successfully in the two cultures. Normally the sponsor will teach new wolves about sex as a lukoi. In some cases if the sponsor is unable or unwilling, the Eros or Eranthe may be assigned to act as sexual surrogates.
Sex or in some circumstances lust, can release the beast against the will of the lukoi. Which is why its been referred to as the "Killing Dance". Sex with humans can result in their death when at the moment of orgasm the wolf shifts and tears their partner apart. Older wolves can control and resist this, however not shifting during sex among wolves is considered holding back and is almost like saying it wasn't THAT good.
The typical lycanthrope powers include:
- Enhanced senses, even in human form, such as being able to smell the mood of nearby humans, and enhanced hearing.
- Heightened physical ability including strength, speed, agility, and endurance. They are significantly stronger and faster then normal humans and move with grace.
- Enhanced health and healing. Lycanthropes can't catch diseases. When injured, they heal faster than human normal unless injured with silver.
The following powers are unique to more powerful lycanthropes, but not just to werewolves:
- Rapid shifting. Some strong alphas can return to human form quickly after assuming the animal shape. This often comes at an energy cost, though. Richard can do this.
- Control the shifting of others. The ability to force others to change or stop them. Not common, Richard can do it.
- Partial shifting. The ability to change only certain parts of the body, such as only hands to claws - only the strongest alphas can do this (Raina, Richard, Sylvie, Marcus, Roxanne).
The following powers are so far uniquely seen in werewolves:
- Heal others. A rare ability, Raina had it and often linked it with sex. While this power is uniquely seen in werewolves, a different type of healing ability is seen in wereleopards.
- Share power. The power to share power with/through their blood - a rare gift, Richard has it.
- Thronnos Rokke Clan (Rock Throne Clan), based in St. Louis, Missouri.
- Oak Tree Clan, based in Tennessee.
- Broken Spear Clan, based in Santa Fe, New Mexico.
- San Francisco Bay Pack, based in San Francisco, California.
- Werewolf terminology -- Werewolves have a variety of private terms, primarily borrowed from Norse mythology although a few stem from Greco-Roman myth as well.