Perhaps the most evocative of animals within Paganism, and one that either captures the heart, or leaves it full of dread, is the wolf. For some a symbol of wild power and freedom, for others an agent of darkness and fear. The wolf has played an important role in the formation of mythology and folklore around the world and remains an inspiration to modern Pagans today. And yet this misunderstood animal is hunted for sports and extinct in most of its former territories.
The wolf has been seen as a parental figure or ancestor to some cultures, Romulus and Remus, the founders of Rome were said to have been raised in the wild by a she-wolf. The Mongols and Ainu among other tribal cultures around the world are said to descended from wolf ancestors
While the dog is seen as a companion to mankind, the wolf has often been seen as the antithesis of man’s best friend. The dog is obedient and stays by your side, the wolf is wild, unpredictable and ventures away into the wilderness. A dog waits for you to feed it, a wolf hunts for itself. A dog can be trained and taught tricks, a wolf refuses a master.
Wolves hold a place in various societies within ancient cultures. They sit firmly within the warrior societies of North America, Europe and India where warriors associated with the wolf are said to have powerful shapeshifting abilities. The Ulfednar of Scandinavia are similar to the Berserker (which is associated with the bear) but fight in packs. The Irish hero Cú Chulainn although associated with the hound (Cú) is said to enter a powerful and unstoppable frenzy during battle in which his form changes to that of a wild monster and this has led him to also be associated with the wolf, or more specifically, the werewolf.
The wolf is an important cultural totem for Lithuania, Rome, Chechnya, Serbia, and among some parts of China, Mongolia and Japan. However in Finland, the wolf is seen as an evil being, even the name for wolf, Susi, translates as “Useless thing” as the wolf is seen only in its predatory aspect.
In Scandinavian mythology, at the end of time, the wolf child of Loki, Fenrir will break his chains and devour the Odin the Allfather. Skol and Hati (Scorn and Hate) are two wolves who are said to eat the sun and the moon during Ragnarok. They constantly chase the celestial objects and are part of the reason for the cycle of night and day. Odin himself is accompanied by two wolves, Geri and Frekki (Greedy guts and Gobbler).
Wolves are commonly called upon in various forms of modern Paganism and are taken as personal and grove/coven/circle totems.
To bear a wolf totem is powerful and it can bring a sense of wildness and freedom, however the wolf does not hold its tongue. Wolf does not deal well with authority nor does it stand idly by when something is wrong within its pack. Wolf is a hunter, completely a predator, its senses and instincts have evolved to be a communal being, to watch over and protect its community for the community is the key to a successful hunt. Any weak element in the community can cause a hut to fail. Wolves know their place in a ranking system for feeding, if a wolf oversteps its mark it is quickly punished. In its capacity of hunter it is feared by other animals, however the hunt is necessary, not only for the wolf and pack but also for the environment and the herd. Wolves will seek out the weak and easy prey, thus making the herd stronger. That which we fear may actually be our greatest help. And in keeping herd numbers down, the environment is kept in balance. Wolf is a healer of the natural world, however it is feared and hated for this role. Wolf totem people must be ready to be accept negative criticism for their words and actions, no matter how good the intention of what is said or done, inevitably we cannot please everyone and some will respond negatively. Wolf people must bear this burden.
Wolf people are sociable and very family oriented. They will be protective of friends and family and will often stand out ahead of a group in order to act as a guide in some manner. Wolf people are good leaders and decision makers. Wolf people may also find it difficult to respect authority, especially when their superiors are not fit for the job and their loose tongue can end them up in trouble. That being said, a wolf person will always speak from the heart and will always seek to act in such a way that everybody benefits. This is part of the urge to restore balance in the environment, whether that is a work or home environment or the natural world.
A few of the Deities associated with the wolf are: Bau, Morrigan, Gwydion, Mars, Odin, Set, Veles, Woden, Wepwawet, Xolot.
Wolves are hunted for sport and also because of long standing cultural hatred. Rather than adapt farming practices many farmers kill wolves however this will always have an adverse affect on the landscape. The wolf is extinct in much of its natural territory. However sanctuaries and charities exist to protect wolves and to educate people about this necessary predator. We hope that our readers will consider finding out more about these organisations and help in any way they can. A few links for the UK (we recommend using a search engine to find charities and sanctuaries in your own territory) are:
Wolf Watch UK: https://www.wolfwatch.uk/
The UK Wolf Conservation Trust: https://ukwct.org.uk/
The Wolves and Humans Foundation: http://www.wolvesandhumans.org/