Choose your favorite wolf related saying or quote and you might be right, because there is a little true in each one of them. We use to say wolf changes its fur, but never changes its character.
We also say Homo homini lupus est or ‘man is a wolf to his fellow man’, meaning humans do act savagely from time to time.
People commonly say ‘speaking of a devil and he doth appear’ and this saying in some languages and cultures has a term of wolf instead of that of a devil!
Why do we speak about wolves in such manner? Why are wolves so present in our languages, thoughts, superstitions and beliefs?
Homo homini lupus est is just one of many wolf related sayings and quotes people commonly use to describe peoples’ actions;
It is interesting to think of wolves, wild spirited predators, as creatures so related to humans. Dogs are our best friends, we say, and they indeed have many things in common with their wild relatives, but these animals are not the same.
There is, perhaps, something of wolves’ free spirits that fascinates humans so much. Wolves are featured in some of the world’s greatest and richest mythological systems.
They have been around people since ancient, prehistoric past.
Cultures and mythologies around the planet are abundant in wolf related tales, magnificent stories, superstitions and beliefs, both positive and negative ones;
Wolves are considered powerful spiritual beings, magical creatures, demons and gods, an embodiment of wild, free spirit, pride and bravery. Wolves symbolize hundreds of meanings, ideas and concepts, but some to be emphasized are intelligence, reign, victory, power, as well as cunningness, observance and caution.
There are many paradoxes surrounding people’s conception of wolves.
Wolves and humans
Cultures depending on hunt have always had a high opinion on wolves. These peoples were thinking about wolves as their rivals, equal or even superior ones. They have worshiped them and admired them for their skills, endurance and agility.
Hunter-societies also believed different parts of wolf bodies possess magical and healing properties and that they could get some of wolves’ powers by wearing such talismans (wolf teeth, claw, skin or else).
Many North European names originate from particular society’s term for a wolf and remind us of hunter- cultures wolf worship. These are names such as Wolfgang, Wolf, Wolfhard etc.). There are also equivalents in Slavic names;
Contrary to previously mentioned, sedentary traditions have had completely opposite conception of wolves. They thought of these animals as dangerous and bloodthirsty, in the first place.
How not to think like that, when the truth is wolves had been stealing food, killing domesticated animals and attacking people.
Since medieval times to modern day, our conception of wolves has been transformed from adoration to demonization.
Settlement growth, the development of villages and cities and the habit of keeping farm animals in an open space had lead to great loses of these animals because of predators such as wolves;
Since medieval ages until nineteenth century, when keeping animals such as sheep, horses and cattle in general in open spaces, such as pastures and fields, wolves had killed a great number of these domesticated animals.
Although reports on loses were commonly exaggerated, such damage was indeed important and challenging for people living on countryside, whose lives were dependant on domesticated animals and product derived from them.
History and experience teaches us wolves are clever, dangerous and courageous animals, both our friends and an enemies, the ones that protect us and chase us, at the same time;
Dangerous and endangered
There are numerous reports testifying of wolves attacks on humans, as well. Although there are claims a healthy wolf would never attack human being without proper cause (such as feeling endangered, threatened and scared), the truth is somewhat different.
Reports do tell about wolves that killed old people, children, women, fragile and weak individuals and so on. Many of such historical data originate from Fino-Scandinavia, France, north Italy, Russia, Canada, Alaska and even India.
Such fear of wolves and real damage they did had lead to bloody wolves’ persecutions. Thus, wolves had been exterminated in Great Britain in the first half of eighteenth century, in Denmark during the second half of the same century and in Germany at the beginning of the twentieth century;
We might think of wolves as extraordinary and beautiful creatures that inspire legends and tales of glory and honor, but there are also dark tales about bloodthirsty wolf demons, werewolves and other devilish forces. There is much data about real wolf related tragedies.
These dangerous animals have killed an unbelievable number of people throughout our history.
Today, wolves are still being chased and killed by humans.
However, modern world has been becoming aware these animals do not represent such threat they did before;
Wolves are protected by three international agreements in Europe. These documents forbid any sort of trade of living animals or parts of wolves’ bodies and also stand for wolves’ habitat protection. Wolves are part of our environment and these animals should be protected, international agreements say.
Why do we have so opposing opinions of wolves? Let us see what mysticism lies beyond eyes of these fascinating creatures.
Wolves are by no means some of animals that have prominent place in mythologies throughout human history and all around the globe.
They play significant roles in Roman mythology, Slavic tradition, Nordic and Celtic beliefs and so on.
Wolves are appreciated an adored by Native Americans who would commonly use this animal spirit as their clan totem or somehow include it in their shamanic rituals;
Ambivalent character of wolves and humans relations had been reflected in numerous folktales, fairytales, myths and legends about wolves. Wolf motifs are also present in art and literature.
Different cultures feature wolves in their creation myths and believe they actually originate from these animals.
For example, Huns, Uzbeks and ancient Turks believe their nations originate from a wolf. Perhaps one of the most popular wolf related creation myth is the one of Romulus and Remus;
Mystic wolves and mythical wolves figures, deities and spirits in a form of a wolf are present in some of the world’s greatest mythologies. Here are some of the most interesting and inspiring wolf mythical characters or mystical beings.
Nordic mythological wolves
Wolf characters appear in many forms in Nordica mythology. Let us name a few of them: the mighty and dreadful Fenrir, Geri and Freki, Sköll and Hati and Garmr.
Fenrir is the son of trickster god Loki, a dreadful giant wolf that is foretold to murder Odin during Ragnaröck, the Nordic mythological end of the world, the final battle.
Geri and Freki are, on the contrary, Odin’s loyal companions. Sköll and Hati are two warg brothers of which one chases the Sun and other the Moon.
Garm, sometimes represented as a dog, is a mythological creature that guards goddess Hel’s gate.
Turkic she-wolf Asena
Asena is the main she-wolf character of the ethno-creation myth of Turkic nomadic tribes. The legendary story tells about the boy who was found by a she-wolf after he was injured in a battle.
She-wolf Asena took care about him and had been impregnated by the young man.
Later on, she crosses the Western seas and gives birth to ten males. They were human-wolves beings. Turkic people believe she became their ruler and that they built up Ashina clan that reigned over other tribes.
Inuit mystic wolf amarok
Mystic wolf amarok or amaroq is an Inuit mythological wolf creature. Inuit folklore stories tell about a giant wolf that chases and devours people who hunt at night alone.
Amarok is not a name; it is rather a class of mythical beings. Amaroks are scary and they are characteristic because they are lonely hunters, unlike real wolves that hunt in pack.
Well, being so dreadful and giant, amaroks do not need any help to chase down foolish hunters.
Inuit of Greenland are the only people to use this term to describe legendary giant wolf, while Arctic societies simply use this term in the meaning of wolf in general;
Mystic wolf is a powerful Celtic zodiac animal. Celts have always believed in special connection and bonds with the world of spirits, where animals and plant spirits are considered powerful and magical.
Mystic wolf is a zodiac sign for people born between October 28th and November 24th. Celtic wolf is believed to possess great inner strength and wisdom. It symbolizes honor, intensity, persistence and endurance.
It is a symbol of justice and strong will.
Wonderful Celtic wolf motifs, drawn in their characteristic complex ornamental manner are popular even today. These are commonly used in tattoo designs;
Werewolf or a lycanthrope (derived from Greek, meaning wolf-person) is a mythical creature believed to have the ability to change its form from human into a wolf or something in between. In order for this to happen, certain spells must be ongoing.
Thoughts on connection between werewolf shape shifting and full Moon has been present in medieval times, but were not popular until modern literature works started mentioning it.
According to common folk beliefs, you could kill a werewolf by stabbing it through its heart with a hawthorn, by fire, by turning objects upside down (such as crosses), shooting it with silver bullets and similar;
Werewolf legends, superstitions and beliefs have a long and complex history, but those have been mostly popular in Europe. There are also tales about hound-headed humans, in different cultures and societies, which could be associated with these.
Lycanthropy, on the other hand, is actually a medical phenomenon, described by Galen and it refers to a person who shows strangely ravenous appetite and expresses some wolf-like characteristics.
Werewolves have been ‘popular’ since birth of nineteenth century novels and stories, such as Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula’ and Clemence Housman’s ‘Were-wolf’;
Werewolf is usually some sort of a demon wolf creature and there are different ways of becoming one, according to sources from different tradition.
For example, if a woman sleeps outside during the full moon, so moonbeams shine straight to her face, she could become a werewolf. Some other sources simply tell about making a pact with Satan or so. Werewolves or, to be honest, people believed to be werewolves were unlucky at the time.
During period of witch hunts, say around sixteenth to eighteenth century, being a werewolf was quite a ‘popular’ accusation, just as being a witch;
Werewolf symbols – How to tell if a person was a werewolf? According to various sources some of the signs were being unibrow, having hairy palms, x marks or scars somewhere on the body, glowing eyes, being born on 25th December and many more.
Werewolves beliefs are heavily exploited in popular culture series and movies, just as their fellows vampires, so there are numerous depictions and portrayals of how should a werewolf look like.
A symbol of a werewolf, speaking of a picture representing a werewolf is commonly used as a tattoo design, in art and illustration. It is commonly used during Halloween festival or by people who are interested in esoteric practices, gothic subculture or else.
It simply represents night, darkness, dark magic, mystery, mystical forces and does not have to be a negative symbol at all.
What does a wolf symbolize?
We have seen people have been having great variety of thoughts and beliefs about wolves, these amazing animals. It is hard to summarize its symbolism, but there are some main characteristics we could associate with wolves. So far, we have mostly told you about opinions based upon humans’ relations with wolves.
There are some traits important for interpreting wolves’ symbolism that has much less to do with us.
Spirit of the wolf meaning could be interpreted in many ways. This incredible animal is indeed with of admiring, despite all the bad reputation it had gained over the course of human history.
In spiritual realm, wolves symbolize some of the most powerful concepts and ideas we derive our strength from. Wolves symbolize:
- Freedom and spiritual journey
- Instincts and intuition
- Intelligence and wisdom
- Courage and strength
- Unity and community
- Loneliness and self reliance
Apart from numerous mythological and legendary wolf figures, there are also hundreds of interpretations of wolf behavior and appearance. Here are some that might be interesting and inspiring.
White wolf symbolism – White animals usually represent good things and bear luck and positive messages. White wolf is an Arctic wolf.
In symbolical sense, this beautiful animal represents connection with spiritual realm, which is a common belief for all white animals in European traditions.
An interesting story originates from Slavic mythology. Wolf cult was particularly strong in ancient Serbs folklore and white wolf was associated with one of their most powerful deities, Dajbog.
Ancient Serbian deity Dajbog was teriomorphic, as many gods are, and his animals form was a beautiful limping white wolf;
Black wolf symbolism – Black wolf is an evil wolf, we might say, but that is the common case with black animals’ interpretations in general. Black wolf is mystical and powerful symbol and it could represent bad luck and misfortune.
On the other hand, a black wolf could represent something that outstands, that is unique and not easily manipulated. Black wolf thus represents both malice and great courage.
Lone wolf meaning – As you know, wolves are animals that live in packs and have a well-organized life in their unions. They are intelligent and know their strength lies in their unity.
However, a motif of a lone wolf is very common for people to use in their expressions, art, literature and so on. A lone wolf could represent an outcast, a person who is rejected, but proud and courageous.
This kind of life could also be a choice and in that sense we use an expression of a ‘lone wolf’ to describe someone who is strong and very self-reliant.
Lone wolves have always had a special meaning to humans. These are beautiful and incredible creatures worth of every admiration.
They have to be even stronger, more agile, more wise and tactful in order to survive on their own, compared to their follows living in packs.
Wolf pack meaning – Wolf packs are synonym for groups of people with strong bonds, loyal relations, full of love and support. Wolves are extremely social animals, with exceptions of lone wolf phenomena. They are well organized and they use their unity to provide great life.
They hunt together, travel in groups and take care of one another. Wolf pack meaning is simple and positive. It represents great communication, connection, confidence in others, honor and loyalty.
Spirit of the wolf spiritual meaning
Wolf totem is a very powerful one and brings many opportunities to people born under this totem.
Native Americans would often make a wolf their clan totem animal in order to seek guidance and protection from this powerful spirit.
People born under Wolf totem express many qualities and traits making them unique and very clever in their lives.
These are some of their main characteristics..
- Clever and intelligent
- Trustworthy and people you could rely on
- Free spirited and not easily manipulated
- Believe in power of unity, very social
- Sometimes aggressive and intense to work with
- Have special connection with spiritual realm
- Intuitive and wise
Wolf tattoo meaning
Wolf motifs have been used for tattoo designs in many traditional systems, just as in contemporary tattooist workshops.
For example, Mohawk tribe male members wear wolf tattoo in order to emphasize their strength and power. Once male children of Mohawk tribe have reached their puberty, they would get a tattoo of a wolf.
For most of Native American tribes, wolf tattoo means some of the following..
- Superior intelligence
In modern, urban environment, wolf tattoo usually represents qualities people associate with this fascinating animal.
Modern tattoo designs featuring wolves symbolize family love, loyalty, intuition, stability, self-confidence and courage.
Wolf tribal tattoos are one of the most common designs, done in a manner resembling actual tribal tattoo art.
Wolf howling at moon tattoo – This is a very special one. Wolf’s howl represents its call to other members of his pack, while lone wolf howling is interpreted as its call for a mate.
People believe lone wolves howl if they feel, well, lonely. It is so emotional sound that feels your heart with an avalanche of emotions. Wolf howling at moon tattoo could mean different things, depending on what is the story behind it.
However, one thing is certain, it is an image of powerful emotions and abundant with individual symbolism.
Wolf dream meaning
Wolf related dreams could be interpreted in many ways, depending on a context and your particular experience during or after the dream. Seeing a wolf in your dream could bear a positive message.
Since wolves are believed to be strong and intelligent, very intuitive animals, if a wolf appears in your dream, it could mean you should trust yourself and use your strengths in your waking life.
A wolf appearing in a dream comes to remind us how strong and powerful we are and to encourage us to believe in ourselves;
Dreams about wolves, especially a single, lonely one, could simply be a reflection of the loneliness you feel in your waking life. Try to make new connections, widen up your circle of friends or simply engage more with social activities.
You should do this following your intuition, not forcing it. Wolf related dreams could also hide a negative message.
Wolves in dreams could be a warning of some threat or difficulties you will face in your waking life;
Wolf in a dream could also represent feelings for a partner, sexual desire, desire to find a partner. Such dreams also warn you to control your appetites and addictions.
Wolf could represent powerful, overwhelming emotions, passion, but also destructive obsession.
It appears to warn you to control your instincts and think about your behavior.