Normally I do my best to avoid winter. I want to avoid the cold and the wet snow that you endlessly have to battle when you’re out and about taking care of business. I can’t stand the treacherous black ice, which will take your feet from under you and make you break several bones as the ground and several parts of you inevitably meet. I much rather prefer being burned by the midday sun, shining in the sky and the hot sand under my worn out feet. I prefer looking at the red and orange sunsets of the desert, while listening to the bugs and birds chirping away at the dying light. But here I am… early in the morning, grasping the sacred elixir of life normal mortals call “coffee”, looking at my boarding pass, which unforgivingly states my date and destination: Feb 8th - Oslo, Norway. I am on my way to spend a weekend in the bold company of Ulvepels - the Norwegian Werewolf Tribe, whom the dear reader might recall from my account on the German trip.
I am quite used to taking a plane and a bus or train to reach my destination, but when you are instructed to take two trains, walk and then take two boats, you know that perhaps you really will end up in the middle of nowhere. But the efficiency of Norwegian public transport (and the comfort!) have to be complimented as without and ounce of trouble the final boat arrives at the pier and I can see two familiar figures standing in anticipation. It is Marius in his signature cowboy hat and Ulvepels cut with Knibbe with his prospect cut and many tattoos which mask any hint of expression on his face.
Greetings, embraces, chatter ensue as we walk towards Marius’ home. Suddenly he asks me the last question I would have expected from an intimidating looking Werewolf:
“Have you ever been to Moomin Land?”
“Yeah! Moomin Land! It’s in Finland right?”
“Can’t say I have.”
Apparently Marius is a huge fan of Moomin, which is a children's book written by a Swedo-Finnish author Tove Jansson.
“Yeah, the first three books are really for children but then it gets really dark and existential! I once went to a Halloween party with my wife, dressed as Morran and just freaked everyone out by staring at them through the windows from outside!”
As we get to Marius’ home we are greeted by his two pitbull terriers Valkyria (Kiri) and Runa and Marius proceeds to showing me his array of Moomin collectables. We agreed that we should hold a moot in Finland and invade Moomin Land at some point. Several adult men in their biker cuts wandering around what is essentially either a kids’ theme park or a point of attraction for Asian tourists. I could only imagine!
After light chatter and catching up to each other's’ lives with a cup of coffee, Ulvepels’ hangout, Henrik arrives. Young man, with a low voice, stern look in his eyes, bald head and a firm handshake.
“Do you speak Norwegian?” he inquiries with a thick Norwegian accent (if you can imagine one). “I am afraid no…”
We load up Henrik’s car to the brim and take whatever space is left to venture out towards the rented hut that is waiting for us somewhere in the middle of a Norwegian forest. It seems however that there are too few of us.
“Oh, the rest will arrive later tonight. It seems everyone got hit with extra work today.” Marius explains.
We drive for about an hour when the road suddenly just ends. No tracks, no signs. Nothing. It seems the weather played its tricks and the road we were supposed to take is blocked so we turn around to find another route. I find out that none from our party have ever actually been to see where the hut is, so we take an infamous detour, finally arriving at some remote homestead where in the field I see just forest and oxen behind fences.
“Right… It should be this way!” Marius points towards the forest and we take all our hands can carry (still leaving some things in the car for the second trip) and start walking. After walking for 15 minutes we stop as Marius and Henrik look around, slightly confused. We see a hut and walk towards it to see if that is where we need to be. It’s not. The ground is half ice and half water, which didn’t help as we were constantly climbing uphill with each holding several bags and boxes of food, beer, supplies etc. Of course I had a trusty bottle of bourbon on me as well. We stopped once more with no idea where to go next and Marius decides to drop his load in order to scout ahead for any signs of the end destination. Me and Knibbe joke that this is just like a beginning of a bad slasher film. I think it was at this point that we half admitted that we might indeed be lost.
“Alright then… happy thoughts, guys!” I proclaim taking out a bottle of Jim Beam and passing it around.
Marius comes back and bids us to just keep walking. We pass two small and shaky bridges which are built to cross the furious streams. The warming up of weather has made them extremely active and beautiful in fact. I think to myself that there could be worse places to be lost. It’s wet and cold, but the forest is really pretty indeed and we do have food and bourbon with us. It’s not all that bad. But we would have to decide who gets eaten first…
We stop one last time for a confused look around and Marius goes scouting again. Very soon he returns laughing:
“It’s right fucking there!”
We stopped within 25m of our hut, hidden behind the trees and the rocks.
We settled in and started warming up the hut, which was colder than the outside. Smoke has quickly filled all of the rooms but there was nothing we could do to help that but wait for temperature to rise. We drank a few beers and talked, but soon enough and way before our clothes had a chance to dry we had to go out again to get Marius’ wife Julie, Benjamin and Runa, who eagerly came along for this trip.
Just like us they lost their way in the wet and dark forest so our expedition almost turned into a rescue mission as the roads were in such a condition that it would have been easier to skate on them than to walk and certainly a car could not have made it very well without a few pairs of pushing hands behind it.
Again, we loaded ourselves with food and supplies and made another walk through the forest to the hut. It has warmed up a little. Beers, beef stew which was made by Julie, relieved sighs, laughter… all was good.
The next morning after waking up and eating plenty we began training under Benjamin’s wise council, who is in fact a black belt in karate and besides being the most gentle and friendly person, knows at least ten ways how to stop a threat with his bare hands.
Ben taught us to watch and anticipate the movements of the opponent, taught us to use the whole body to punch through walls and through skulls and there was a fair share of laughter as we played Ulvepels’ favorite game in which two people take a sip of water and hold it in their mouths. The rule is that one must not spit or swallow the water, but it must stay inside the mouth as each in turn punches the other into the stomach. Henrik and Knibbe went against each other and I had Marius against myself. In relatively short time Knibbe proved to be the victor of that pair, but me and Marius kept going at it for a good while. Each punch being harder than the previous one and neither wanting to give up. It was getting hard to breathe as I braced for another impact, then loaded my punch and hit Marius straight into his gut. Back and forward, back and forward. Eventually Marius spits out!
“I was just about to stop you guys. This was getting dangerous!” said Ben as our relentless sense of competition drove us to hit each other harder and harder.
After a short break and light chatter Ben’s eyes suddenly lit up and he joyfully said in his sort of British accent: “Right! Let me tell you guys how to neutralize threats!”
For some reason I ended up as being the “dummy” for demonstrations and all the possible techniques you could imagine for incapacitating, maiming, neutralizing and eliminating threats were displayed on me. Ben was graceful enough to let me live, though!
With part of today’s violent practices over we settle for a meal and a discussion about the Wolf Cult.
As time has progressed and I have been witnessing it for over a year now in the European theater, it occured to me how awe-inspiring this cabal really is. Of course as Europeans we all have widely different cultural backgrounds, which are all accompanied by various cultural baggage whether we want it or not and we have all our own personal attitudes towards other European cultures and traditions. All of this shows rather clearly when tribes from different nations congregate. The Scandinavians are reserved and it might be hard for a person outside of that particular culture to understand what do the people actually think, when expressing emotions and deep feelings can almost be called a taboo in the north. And you could contrast that with the southern part of Europe - with the French, the Italians, where fiery tempers and a strong need for debates in order to resolve conflicts (rather than a Scandinavian direct to-the-point point approach) are very much present in the cultural milieu. Mix in the proud and unrelenting British strength, a few people with ingrained Slavic insanity and the ever so practical and humorous Germans to this powder barrel of such virtues as strength and honor, and of course there can be many instances where tiniest spark could set everything into a blazing inferno as it has happened before in the rich European history once or twice… However, as I sit and eat the traditional Norwegian lamb dish while washing it down with lager I feel just as at home as I felt each time on my visit to Italy or on my trip to Germany. One cannot wash away the cultural tradition with which each of us has been born, but as we wear our cuts, as we eat together, drink together, try to speak in each others’ languages, ritualize together and laugh at our common sense of humour, it is not “we, the Norwegians” or “we, the Slavs” or “we, the Germans” etc. etc. etc. It is “We! The Werewolves!”
At night we light the ritual fire and I keep all of these thoughts in my mind as I stand there, smelling the smoke and feeling the ash and blood covering my face. But this ritual has one very particular purpose as Knibbe will not be a prospect after this night. He will be a full Ulvepels member if he passes through three trials that is. All of them violent, but I can almost smell how badly he wants it and nothing would stop him from getting his patch.
Knibbe would have to fight first Marius, then me and finally Benjamin in order to retrieve Runes that were were guarding. If he succeeded and brought them back to the fire, he would pass. After Knibbe took Marius’ Rune it was my turn and I stand there filled with fury, shirtless in the night of Norwegian winter waiting for the incoming attack. Knibbe charges towards me and we wrestle as he tries to get past me. I do my best to stop him, but his hunger and thirst for a new patch on his cut is a force of nature and after a short while he throws me out of his way to retrieve the Rune. Even though I was defeated, this time I am happy that I am, for it is an honor to participate in such a personal part of the ritual for Ulvepels and that is one memory I will treasure for a long time!
Knibbe proceeds to have a violent fist fight with Benjamin, but even the black karate belt was no match this time for the freight train that was giving his all to pass the trials. Knibbe succeeded in getting all of the runes and we congratulate him.
We stand around the fire for a while longer, each drinking mead in turn and saying a few words from our hearts. We make boasts and say praise, we thank each other and express thankfulness for being able to experience all of this.
The night is ending and so is this trip. Only one last evening with final beers, shots of bourbon and mandatory tattoos. Knibbe hand pokes a :RAIDO: rune on my hand and as he does it, Benjamin looks at me and with a cheeky smile asks: “Andy! Shall we sing?”
“Ooooh…. I’m a good old rebel
Now that’s just what I am…”
Indeed it’s been a year since I have been to my first Werewolf moot and after each one as I return home I am overcome with the feeling of sadness and longing that we came to endearingly call “The post-moot blues”. Each of these trips is more than just spending a weekend with some good guys. It is more than just “getting away from it all”. Each of these gatherings is a building block, a strike of the hammer into the monument of our way that we are creating. It is not for everyone and it is not easy. It was never meant to be any of those things. It is an act of rebellion and an act of creation. It is how we fuck their world. And no matter where another person enters the Wolf Cult from, no matter what cultural background and baggage there might be, as long as every last one of us agrees on the basic principle of what all of this stands for - at night, in the forests of Germany, the mountains of Italy, through the fjords of Norway, the fields of Britain and the archipelago of Denmark you will hear the echoes of the howls of men turned into Wolves.