The howl of a wolf, which can be heard as far away as ten miles, evokes deep-seated emotions from awe to fear. This call of the wild reminds us of our ancestral past. People have a love/hate relationship with the wolf. We see the good and bad in us in them. The wolf has powers we wish to emulate such as pack loyalty and hunting prowess. Their social and intelligent behavior mirrors our own. The wolf also reminds us of evil, death, darkness and blood lust savagery as depicted by legends of werewolves and childhood tales such as Little Red Riding Hood and Peter and the Wolf.



It is no surprise that wolves were hunted to near extinction. Fortunately, there is a consciousness to save the wolf. >>
In order to dispel fact from fiction we will briefly explore the natural history and behavior of the wolf. You will learn why the wolf went from valued archetype and totem to despised creature of darkness. >>
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Wolflore in Europe: Wolves in European History were once considered powerful totem animals and spirit guides. Once man went from hunter/gatherer to agrarian (farmer) the wolf was no longer admired but rather despised, as he became a threat to livestock. During the Middle Ages numerous negative myths and fables developed about wolves. Wolves were hunted down to near extinction. The last wolf in England was killed in the 1500s. In Scotland the last wolf was killed in the mid-1700s. A few endangered European wolves remain in Northern Italy, parts of Germany and in Eastern Europe as well as Russia.>>
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Wolves in Ancient History: Wolves definitely had a place in the mythos of the ancient world. In the Babylonian Epic of Gilgamesh, the goddess Ishtar had the power to turn enemies into wolves. In Greek mythology, Charon, the ferryman, wore wolf ears. Hecate, the goddess of Death, was shown as wearing three wolf heads. In another Greek myth, a king named Lycaon was turned into a wolf by the god Zeus.



The name Lycaon survives today, in the gray wolf subspecies Canis Lupius Lycoan, the eastern timber wolf.) The Athenians had great respect for the wolf and decreed that any man who killed one had to pay for the funeral for the animal.>>
Rome also had a strong legendary connection with the wolf.





The twins Romulus and Remus were suckled by a she-wolf. Romulus and Remus were sons of Mars, god of war and Rhea Silvia, daughter of King Numitor of Alba Longa. His brother Amulius overthrew King Numitor. The greedy uncle ordered his nephews, Romulus and Remus cast into the Tiber River. They were rescued by a she-wolf who cared for them until a herdsman found and raised them. Romulus and Remus grew and after reclaiming Alba Longa for King Numitor, the brothers began plans for a city near the site of their rescue on the banks of the Tiber. During a quarrel over the city’s name, Romulus killed Remus. He then built the city, giving it his name.>>
It was common to associate the wolf with the birth of great men and people. The legend of Romulus and Remus being suckled by a she-wolf was not unique. In myth Irish King Cormac was suckled by a she-wolf and was always accompanied by wolves. Turkic clans who traversed central Asia, migrated to Asia Minor and conquered Byzantium traced their ancestry to founders suckled and raised by wolves. Today Turks still honor the wolf. A nationalistic political group in modern Turkey calls its members the Gray Wolves. Genghis Khan traced his ancestry back to the Siberian Blue Wolf. He was a great warrior and shaman who identified himself as a wolf. >>
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Norse Mythology and the Wolf: Odin, ruler of the Norse Gods had a special affection for the wolf. After Odin helped create the earth he decided he needed loyal companions, so he made two wolves, Freki (Hungry One) and Geri (Greedy One). Along with his two ravens, Hugin (Thought) and Munin (Memory), the wolves accompanied him everywhere. The ravens located game and the wolves made the kill. Together they would feast on the flesh. Today ravens and wolves are commonly seen together. One hypothesis states that ravens may have encouraged pack behavior in wolves because the fewer wolves to guard the kill the more meat the ravens steal.




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When Odin created the first man and woman, Embla and Ask he told them to learn from the wolf. He explained that the wolf would teach them how to hunt, raise a family and how to protect each other. Once, Odin had children who were both wolf and human. They were called Vosung (Wolf Young) and Wulfsung (Wolfsong). It is said they shape-shifted into mighty wolves during battle. >>
Vikings believed that to be a Wolf Brother, a member of the wolf clan, Ulfhedna was the greatest honor. Viking warriors who died bravely in battle would turn into magnificent wolves after they died. On the Day of Destiny, Ragnarok, a giant wolf named Fenris would devour Odin, thus ending his reign.>>
Norse myth even believed that wolves chasing and devouring the sun and moon caused lunar and solar eclipses. The great wolf Hati is always chasing the moon and Skoll chases the sun.
(Note: I love Norse wolf myths. This is why I had to write my novel, Beast Warrior : Viking Werewolf) Check out my Book Club questions on my blog http://evagordon.blogspot.com
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Wolf as Universal Archetype: Indo European people with origins in the Caucasus region such as the Vikings, Celts, Mycenaeans, Dorians, Anglos, Saxons, and Germanic tribes all practiced various forms of shamanic religions.

The oldest mainland European civilization, the Celts, worshiped the wolves as companions of the gods.





As a hunting people of the forests, mountains and steppes they often encountered the wolf. Watching and learning from wolves helped them learn skills for survival. The wolf became the universal archetype of loyal protector, teacher, and great hunter. It is no wonder that man domesticated the dog as the ultimate companion.>>
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The Wolf Becomes Man’s Foe: Since hunting was the primary focus of the early Europeans history, it is obvious why the wolf, with great hunting skills, strong senses, vocalizations, and a tight knit family bond were respected and admired. So why did the wolf lose its appeal to mankind?



Scholars believe that with the development of farming and domestication of livestock new cycles of belief and traditions pushed out the old hunting archetypes. Humans settled down and now depended on herding their farms for their livelihood. The once admired wolf was now seen as a predator of their livestock. As villages and townships sprung up, the dark forests and cold steep mountains away from the safety of civilization became dangerous. The wilderness became a place where people were ravaged by beasts, evil spirits or killed by the elements. The wolf soon became the symbol of fear and savage death.






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In the New Testament Jesus is a shepherd symbolically protecting his lambs from the savage wolf. Wolves are now also seen as servants of Satan who help carry souls to the Underworld. Wolves killing sheep was now equated with evil. Their images soon took on the look of a snarling drooling lustful beast. The wolf in children’s stories such as Little Red Riding Hood, The Three Little Pigs and Peter and the Wolf now evoke fear. It is no wonder the wolf was nearly wiped out of Europe.



Note: We know that children today often disappear, taken by child molesters and the police are left with cold cases. In the past children were also taken and never heard from again. Wolf stories may have been told to scare the children into not wondering off. Today it's beware of the big bad stranger.



One should note that not all herding people feared the wolf. Reindeer-herders of Siberia and Finland lived side by side with the wolf without any problems.

On Wednesday I will take a brief look at the werewolf as ultimate foe of man.

Optional assignment create a myth about a wolf.