COMMON THEMES, EAST & WEST:
Creatures who share their wisdom & power with us
11 April 2009
A colleague of mine, Irish poet, writer, and activist Seamus Cashman, writes:The Irish word for wolf is mactíre (pronounced mac teer a ) which means son (mac) of the earth (tír). The name suggests deep respect for the animal in early times here. But now we have none left in the wild - not for some three hundred years.Mactíre, Son-of-the-earth, a lovely, evocative name, and I am writing today because wolves have been prominent in the news lately as politicians and ranchers again seek their extinction. Alaska's governor Sarah Palin sponsors the slaughter of Alaska's wolves from helicopters; wolf families with young pups are being gassed in their dens; Alaska will pay a bounty of $150 for each left foot of a freshly killed wolf (also see Defenders of Wildlife's page, Eye on Palin for videos and more). Elsewhere in the United States, ranchers, fighting to have wolves "delisted" from environmental protection, have already started killing them in anticipation of success.
Researchers and conservationists are concerned about the numbers of wolves killed in government control actions and both legally and illegally by ranchers. The US Government is attempting to remove Endangered Species Act protection from the wolf in the northern Rocky Mountains and in the Upper Midwest. There is shock and sorrow among researchers as well as among wild animal supporters. Environmental organizations are responding with emails asking activists to sign petitions that will be given to Secretary of the Interior, Ken Salazar. Defenders of Wildlife (also see below in the Activist section) just sent out a plea for letters to President Obama, asking him to instruct Salazar to stop former President Bush's policy of delisting wolves (FYI: when they are delisted, they are no longer a protected species). I and many others have signed growing numbers of petitions, written letters, and done whatever else we can to protect these wild creatures.
Learning of so many butchered wolves has left me unbearably sad. Of some comfort is the fact that in many rural areas, tolerance and understanding still hold sway; in other regions, a tenuous but viable truce exists between ranchers and wolves. In too many places, however, humans kill wolves simply for the sake of killing them. They act out of emotions that are deeply rooted, primal. It's not that ranchers are "evil" people. But they let fear and hatred turn them into exactly what they claim wolves are: savage, brutal, cruel, cold-blooded murderers.
From a Jungian perspective, the wolf represents humanity's Shadow -- that dark side that lies within us but that we deny, shun, repress, ignore. It is our "enemy within," a war we fight against ourselves. Unfortunately, as long as we deny and repress this Shadow, we can never integrate it. Instead, when aroused, we are the ones who become violent, "wolfish." It's not about the wolf. It's about that dark side that we displace onto whatever arouses our hatred or fear, whether it be an animal or a fellow-human.
Take me, for example. Thanks to my paternal grandfather who came straight from Drumcliff in Ireland's County Sligo, I have an Irish temper and have known since childhood what turning into a rabid berserker feels like. When I read a report recently about rabble-rousers who got a group of ranchers to go out and kill as many wolves as they could find, I wanted swift vengeance. Knowing that to be a bankrupt strategy, however, which would only add fuel to the fire, I examined my own shadow-elements instead. What, I asked myself, would be "right action" in this case? For years I've signed letters and petitions and made phone calls to senators and congressmen about protecting wolves, wild horses, seals, whales, dolphins, owls, salmon, and a wide range of other wildlife, humanitarian, and wilderness issues. Realistically, not being famous or well-connected, that's all I have the power to do. But today I decided I could at least create a webpage full of educational resources, as well as lore and kindly beliefs about wolves, that might help to prevent the slaughter of wolves. I could help set the record straight by creating a webpage celebrating the wolf. Even if only a few people gain a better understanding, it will have been worth it. My audience is not so much those who already love wolves (although I would like to inspire them to become more involved). I am directing this more at those who are not sure about wolves, who may be on the fence -- unsure one way or the other. Some will respond best to science, others to psychology, still others to stories, so I am including all those elements on this page.
My decision to go this route was confirmed by something I read a few hours later while going through a backlog of emails: Beyond the Politics of Confrontation, an interview by Sarah van Gelder with Van Jones (President Obama's choice for his administration's special adviser for green jobs):Van Jones: ... So as far as I am concerned, the big contradiction has not been on the right. The big contradiction has been on the left. Allegedly, our politics are the politics of love and redemption, but you sure couldn't tell it coming to our protests. You sure couldn't tell it listening to our radio programs. You sure couldn't tell reading our blogs that we are on the side of love and forgiveness.On that humane and sane note, I begin the rest of this page:
So I hope I don't sound too Pollyanna-ish, but part of a politics of restoration has to do with fixing some of the brokenness inside. Fighting the polluter within, fighting the incarcerator within, fighting the warmonger within - as well as all those things without. That's where I think the new politics is going to take us....
The Wolf in Environmental Science
The Leopold Project
Oregon State UniversityTwo excellent books on the science of why we need wolves and other large carnivores are: Will Stolzenburg, Where the Wild Things Were and Joel Berger, The Better to Eat You With. These fascinating books explain to the lay person how wolves affect ecosystems.Well, okay, first of all, why should we care? Other than the fact that many of us respect the flora and fauna with which we share this planet, why is protecting wolves so important? Perhaps the best answer is the simplest: we need wolves for both spiritual and scientific reasons. Scientists are learning that wolves can change everything in an ecosystem. Wolves and their prey, animals such as elk and deer, evolved together over thousands of years. By removing wolves, we cut off relationships, and can create a situation where ecosystems collapse and lose many of their species. In the next part of this webpage, learn how all this works, how wolves do change ecosystems, and about the many ecological benefits that can be derived from wolves.......
Crucial to the role of wolves and their impact upon interconnected flora and fauna in ecosystems is the study of trophic cascades. This was a new term for me. When I looked up "trophic," I learned that it means "of or concerned with nutrition" (from trophe, Greek for "nourishment"). Trophic cascades (whether or not they use the term) are being extensively studied and documented by doctoral students in The Aldo Leopold Project at Oregon State University's College of Forestry. This webpage introduces past and present doctoral students and their research. The page includes links to scientific articles (mostly in pdf format, whether papers or dissertations) and other wolf-topics of interest. Since the two most recent doctoral students specifically discuss the concept of trophic cascades -- here are some excerpts:Cristina Eisenberg (PhD) Trophic Cascades Involving Wolves, Elk, and Aspen in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem: Predation by wolves (Canis lupus) may be critical for maintaining biodiversity and sustaining aspen (Populus tremoloides) communities. Currently in decline throughout the West, aspen provides key habitat for songbirds and beaver (Castor canadensis), among other species. One of the major controversies in ecology in the past century concerns whether food has a stronger influence on herbivore population regulation than predation. Predation can drive strong lethal and non-lethal effects throughout food webs, referred to as trophic cascades. I am studying trophic cascades involving wolves, elk (Cervus elaphus), and aspen in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem. I am investigating how an apex predator affects aspen communities by influencing abundance and behavior of large herbivore prey. This study is located in Glacier National Park, Montana and Waterton Lakes National Park, Alberta, in the Crown of the Continent Ecosystem, which spans the US/Canada border...Because work on trophic cascades -- which is to say, the role of wolves (or other predators) in ecosystems of which they were once an integral part -- is so critical, but also because relevant indicators about this role are so often lost in the midst of other complex data, I am going to highlight them wherever they appear in citations on this page. [Note: for those interested in exploring more of the science of trophic cascades, click here, on trophic, for some 53,000 google entries.]
My research questions include: (1) Is high wolf abundance positively correlated with sustained aspen overstory recruitment? (2) Do wolf-driven trophic cascades include elk behavior effects due to predation risk? (3) Does plant and herbivore species diversity decrease as wolf abundance decreases?.... Quantifying long-term ecological responses to predation provides a valuable reference point for understanding trophic cascades. My research can help expand ecological knowledge that is changing the way scientists, managers, and lay people view the natural world. My findings could ultimately help create more sustainable wolf populations and aspen communities.
Josh Halofsky (PhD) Trophic cascades and aspen recruitment in the Gallatin range of Southwest Montana: The proposed study will examine the relationship between wolf, elk, and aspen within the framework of trophic cascades inside and outside of the Gallatin elk winter range. The overall goal of this study is to determine if an association exists between current aspen recruitment and historic and current elk browsing activities as affected by the absence or presence of wolf predation. This study will also examine if environmental factors (climate, conifer invasion) may have had a role in aspen recruitment. Through the examination of current and historic elk browsing levels, current and historic browsing effects on aspen recruitment can be addressed. Historic browsing levels will be determined through tree ring analyses and aspen age structures. Current browsing levels will be assessed based on elk pellet counts and plant architecture methods. Current browsing will be assessed based on predation risk and viewshed using a digital elevation model.
[Added 10 February 2010]: This is "Prodigal Dogs: Have gray wolves found a home in Colorado?" It is an insightful, beautifully researched and written 5-page feature story (with a gallery of 8 detailed photos) by Michelle Nijhuis for the February 5, 2010 issue of High Country News (the report has since been picked up by dozens of media outlets, including the LA Times, Denver Post, and the New York Times). The story begins on a remote ranch in NW Colorado where Cristina Eisenberg (see above) and a team of fellow-biologists look for evidence of the wolf's return to Colorado. The story opens with earthy, practical reality:Last April, in a narrow mountain valley in northwestern Colorado, Cristina Eisenberg was searching for scat. The diminutive, dark-haired biologist and two members of her field crew had set up a kilometer-long transect through elk habitat, and the trio was walking slowly along the line. It was a raw day, cold and windy with spells of freezing rain, and the biologists had been moving through meadows for hours, looking for elk poop, deer poop, coyote poop, mountain lion poop. This was old-fashioned wildlife biology -- hardly glamorous work -- but in it lay the story of the landscape, of the pursuers and the pursued, and Eisenberg was absorbed in the tale.In addition to an engrossing story, there is much information here on the reality of trophic cascades (see above and elsewhere on this page) -- it is, in fact, the reason the biologists had been invited to these 300 square miles of remote wilderness by Paul Vahldiek Jr., owner, president, CEO and chairman of the board of High Lonesome Ranch. Here is a quote from Vahldiek, whose concern for his failing aspen trees had prompted the invitation:
Then, on the edge of an aspen grove, one of the biologists saw something unusual: a scat roughly as long and wide as a banana, tapered at the ends, perhaps two months old. When Eisenberg examined it, she saw that it contained hair from deer or elk and shards of bone, some almost as long as a fingernail. It smelled distinctively earthy, like a shady forest floor.
In the course of her research, Eisenberg had seen and handled thousands of scats just like this one, but not here, not in Colorado. Everything about it -- the size, the shape, the smell, the contents -- indicated a creature that had been extirpated from the state more than 70 years ago. Everything about it said wolf....“It seemed logical to me, based on what happened in Yellowstone National Park, thatThe report offers a unique window into a significant world of which few of us are aware. I highly recommend it.
keystone species like wolves might have a positive effect on biodiversity and restoring
the health of aspen groves on this property.”
This is a PBS-NOVA website on "Wild Wolves," originally telecast on 11 November 1997 but still relevant. The page called "Bringing Wolves Home" is a terrific interview with Ed Bangs, Wolf Recovery Coordinator / U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. He discusses how Canadian wolves were captured and then released in Yellowstone Park; what happens if wolves try to find their way back to their original home; why and how wolves were driven to extinction in the first place; the attitude of ranchers; and much more. Here's an exchange about the period after the last wolf was killed -- an exchange that demonstrates poignantly how important wolves are to their ecosystems:NOVA: How did the ecosystems of the Rocky Mountains adjust to the loss of wolves? Were there any indications that they were out of whack?The data on the page called "What's in a Howl?" is very lively and engaging even if one doesn't have the technology to hear the actual collection of howls themselves. (I have a dialup modem and even the smaller sized howls would take 10 minutes or more to load. [Note: this little page from Yellowstone National Park provides a simpler wolf howl that loads almost immediately. There are others out there but this one is my current favorite.]
EB: Well, I think the most noticeable thing around Yellowstone Park was, every five or 10 years, you'd have these big winter die-outs. You'd have elk herds with very high numbers that contained a lot of old decrepit sick animals. And they would hang on and hang on. So when you got a bad winter, literally thousands of them would just die from starvation. The vegetation was being used by animals that were no longer reproductively active. Coyotes became more widespread. Coyotes and wolves kind of compete for space. As a consequence, I think foxes kind of took it in the shorts. They ended up being persecuted, so to speak, by coyotes....
There's another section, "Wolves and Dogs: Fact and Fiction," that teaches youngsters by means of a 10-question quiz, the answers to which explain significant aspects of the wolf-dog connection. [Note: for more on the wolf-dog connection, see: http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/5006477/ ]. In addition there are resources (books, videos, interactive games, newsgroups, etc) and an excellent Teacher's Guide. Bottomline: this site definitely lives up to NOVA's usual high quality.
"In the Footsteps of Lewis and Clark" is the title of this brief but rich and informative page from the Sierra Club. It is a good way to get a quick overview. Here are excerpts on howls and packs:Few sounds convey "wilderness" as clearly as a wolf's howl. A technique adapted for communication over distances, a howl can travel up to six miles. Serving as a rallying cry before the hunt or a marker of territory boundaries, the howl is indispensable for these social, yet far-roaming animals. A pack howling together, finding different ranges and patterns, can sound much larger than it is, warning off a competing group.http://www.isleroyalewolf.org/wolfhome/home.html
Dominating the pack are one male and one female. Generally this pair is the only one to breed, and the rest of the pack, if it's a small one, is made up of their offspring. Pack size depends on prey: Only 7 wolves might be needed if dinner is deer, while 20 might be necessary to hunt moose.
When a pack takes down an elk or deer, it frequently feeds the whole forest. Ravens trail wolves to their prey, often feasting alongside them. Vultures circle overhead, waiting for an opening. Grizzly bears also take a turn. As Lewis and Clark witnessed with bison herds, wolves serve as an important check on prey populations, keeping them from growing too large. At the time wolves were reintroduced to Yellowstone in 1995, the elk had grown so numerous and hungry they halted the growth of aspen forests by eating the young shoots. Biologists hope the wolves will help reverse these trends.
The pages of this fascinating, well photographed site examine wolves, moose, ravens, foxes, and other wildlife on Isle Royal, a 50 mile by 8 mile island in northwestern Lake Superior. It is thought that the moose first reached the island c. 1900, probably by swimming the 15 miles from the closest land in Canada. Wolves crossed an ice bridge from Canada c. 1950. This site looks at their lives, food, habits, health problems, scat, bones, blood-sucking ticks, and much more. Typically, there are about 24 wolves in three packs and about 1000 moose there, so this protected island-habitat offers unusual opportunities for researchers:The wolves, the moose, and their interactions have been studied continuously and intensively since 1958. This is the longest study of any predator-prey system in the world.Hint: anytime you see: more... -- click on it and it'll take you to a page you might miss otherwise. For example, on one page I read this:When wolves kill a moose, the result is a carcass that is ten times the size of any wolf. Ravens depend importantly on moose carcasses, and wolves lose significant portions of their carcasses to ravens. But the connections between wolves and ravens are much deeper. More...I clicked on the word and went to this page:
..... Here, I found marvelous data on the often mentioned folklore and scientific connection between wolves and ravens, but also an intriguing discussion of why wolves hunt in packs when it seems they'd get more food if they hunted alone. It turns out that ravens can eat up to 2 pounds of food/day. A single wolf competing with, say, two dozen ravens, is at a great disadvantage. Here is how the page starts:The intimate relationship between wolves and ravens has long been appreciated. For example, a pair of wolves and ravens symbolized the attributes of Odin, king of Norse gods. Ravens scavenge from moose that wolves kill. Ravens often consume wolf scats, which contain significant nutrition. Ravens are often seen following wolves along their travels, waiting for the next kill. On Isle Royale, five to twenty ravens are typically present at a kill. Each raven can take a kilogram (about two pounds) of food per day. Some of this is eaten immediately; the rest is cached in trees for later consumption. In total, ravens can consume as much as a third of a moose carcass. / When you catch something big, you must be prepared to deal with scavengers. Some species, like cougars, lions, and cheetahs hide the carcasses of their prey or cache them out of reach from scavengers. Wolves have a different strategy. They eat fast. The faster a carcass is consumed, the less that is given to ravens....The manner in which the rest of the information is revealed, step by step, will definitely hold your attention.
This is a website in the UK with the goal of re-establishing wolves in the Scottish Highlands. It's a marvelous site, very informative, not too high tech, easy to navigate, great photos, and sprinkled throughout with witty and/or thoughtful quotes. All of this makes it quite engrossing. Since, like many of the websites I'm annotating on this page, it doesn't offer a sitemap (and many links are only located within their own specific sections), I'm adding a few below that shouldn't be missed. But first, here is how they introduce themselves:The Wolf Trust stands for the understanding of wolves. We advocate a revival of the natural heritage of the Highlands of Scotland through a reintroduction and recovery of wolves. Research on wolves (Canis lupus) began some decades ago, yet most people still only know the traditional mythical wolf. The Wolf Trust replaces the traditional wolf with the real wolf based on scientific knowledge and rational understanding. Love or hate wolves (and other predators) we must understand and learn to live with them. Not only are they part of our natural heritage, they are a biting test for human morality and toleration for other creatures. We also support a lynx and bear reintroduction to Britain.http://www.wolftrust.org.uk/a-intro.html
This is an index to the Wolf Trust's a sub-section called "Thinking Wolves: Lupine Essays." The essays cover a wide range -- both scientific and traditional (i.e., folklore, attitudes, etc -- I am repeating this link below in the folklore section for those who might be going there first). This particular essay (immediately following) especially caught my eye:
Under the Wolf Trust topic, Wolf Management: Non-lethal Control, comes subsection: "4. Guarding Animals." Whenever I read reports about wolves killing livestock, my first thought (since I grew up on Lassie and all of Albert Payson Terhune's books on collies) is to wonder where the collies or other guard dogs were when wolves attacked. Now I know the answer: they weren't there! Modern ranches have gotten too big to have such dogs. The Navajo still use them, so do small farms in Europe and elsewhere. But many of the ranchers who want wolves exterminated also leave their huge herds free to roam unprotected. This boggles my mind. This invaluable page goes into the pros and cons, problems and risks of guard-animals. Here are some excerpts:...The use of guarding dogs decreased as traditional shepherding declined. Some breeds are now relegated to pet and show dog status while others are rare or extinct. However, conservation organisations began promoting guarding dogs as a means of non-lethal control where killing predators is illegal or arouses strong public criticism. A project in Bulgaria, in the Kraishte and Eastern Rhodopes mountains, started giving the Karakachan, a rare breed of guarding dog, to shepherds. In one go the project is helping to protect sheep, conserve wolves and support the breed.Livestock guarding dogs are making headway even in the US. They were introduced in the 1970's mainly to guard livestock from coyotes, but also from wolves, bears and other predators, and have spread to Canada. Guarding dogs are also making inroads to other countries where they are not traditional, such as Norway, confronting wolves, bears and wolverines, and Namibia, facing cheetahs.How Guarding Dogs Work: The best use of guarding dogs is working in alliance with shepherds. A dog barks an alarm when he spots a predator and one or more shepherds come and deal with the situation. But guarding dogs often work independently when a shepherd leaves a flock unattended. If there are no shepherds about and a guarding dog detects a predator, the dog stands his ground, barks and may force a predator to retreat. If the predator persists, the dog may threaten and charge. As a last resort dog and predator may end up fighting. Shepherds use both methods in the Carpathian Mountains in eastern Europe where five million sheep share their range with over three thousand wolves.I was amazed to learn that donkeys and llamas can also be used as guards:
Do not confuse guarding dogs with herding dogs. Guarding dogs do not generally herd their charges and are often left alone with them. Herding dogs work with a handler, obeying his commands to muster livestock, and are not usually left alone with them.......By the end of the 1980's over a thousand livestock produces in Texas were using guarding donkeys to protect sheep and goats from coyotes and dogs. And guarding donkeys are increasingly popular in Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, California and Oregon. They are beginning to catch on in Europe, too, as a number of farmers in Switzerland employ donkeys to guard their sheep, now that wolves are recolonising the country.......Llamas, like donkeys, are naturally aggressive to canids and like to stay in herds. Fewer sheep were noticed to be taken by coyotes when llamas were pastured with sheep and since the 1980's the use of llamas has spread mainly in the 'guarding donkey' states of Montana, Wyoming, Colorado, California and Oregon. Although llama farms exist in Europe, guarding llamas have not yet caught on there.The essay concludes with information on raising guarding animals and the avantages & disadvantages of using one over the other. I assumed dogs would always be the preferred choice. I was wrong:
How Donkeys & Llamas Work: Unlike a guarding dog-shepherd team, donkeys and llamas usually work solo without human backup. On spotting a predator, a donkey or llama starts braying or snorting loudly, stomps about and then, if need be, rushes in. If the predator has not sped off, they may attack, rearing up on hind legs and striking down with fore-hooves, or while on the move lashing out with one or both hind-hooves. A solid blow to the skull can kill a predator or a kick in the ribs can seriously disable one. Predators as big as wolves can kill guarding animals and sometimes do, so it is not clear why livestock guarding animals deter predators. Perhaps wolves opt to save energy and by avoiding confrontations also avoid the possibility of injury - unless they are highly motivated by hunger to attack.......Donkeys and llamas have several advantageous qualities over dogs. Donkeys and llamas do not need the long period of being raised with sheep nor need to be raised with sheep from a very young age. They eat the same food as sheep, relieving livestock producers of having to find them every day to take them food, as they must with dogs. Guarding dogs may fall victim to baited traps and poisoned carcasses deployed to kill predators; this is not a problem for donkeys and llamas because they are not attracted to meat, being herbivores. It is said that donkeys and llamas are less prone to accidental death than dogs and generally live longer....This will give you a good sense of what a useful site the Wolf Trust is. I hope you'll take the time to explore it more fully.
Just one more from the Wolf Trust -- this is for people considering getting a wolf as a pet. The well-argued page is clearly on the side of not doing this. Two quotes will suffice:Wolves need friends, not owners.and:If you want a wolf, get a dog.
Dogs are wolves people can live with.
The Wolf and Activism
© Kevin Daniel Black -- all rights reserved
This is the aforementioned Defenders of Wildlife, one of the strongest wolf-allies in the United States. The site includes photos and links to historical background, recovery issues, regional conservation efforts, litigation to protect wolves, and much more. Here is an excerpt that shows how serious and committed this organization is:Working with Ranchers and Communities: As wolf populations continue to grow, incidents of wolves killing livestock will inevitably increase. While these losses are a tiny fraction of the losses that ranchers sustain, we recognize that successful wolf recovery depends on local community acceptance. Defenders is therefore compensating ranchers for wolf-related losses, educating the public to dispel myths and half-truths about wolves, and engaging members of the ranching community as partners to prevent wolf-livestock conflicts.http://wyoming.sierraclub.org/issues/wolves/index.html
The Sierra Club is also a strong supporter of wolves. This page, "Protecting Wolves in the Greater Yellowstone Ecosystem," provides continually updated press releases from the Wyoming chapter of the Sierra Club. Here, for example (14 April 2009), in all its irony, is a summary of their most recent news item (Note: a full press release is available for each breaking story):Feds Announce Yet Another Delisting Rule for Wolves: After yanking a rushed delisting rule in January, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced that it would move ahead with the same flawed delisting rule in March 2009. The rule removes federal protection for wolves in Idaho and Montana and not in Wyoming. It also advocates using artificial means to create genetic diversity and sustainability in the wolf population, rather than relying on natural exchange across protected corridors.http://www.westernwolves.org/
From the Western Wolf Coalition comes "Western Wolves," another site offering updated news and events. Unlike other sites, it also offers in-depth coverage of crucial wolf management plans (plans of individual Western states are even posted online here). This is a high-tech, attractive site worth exploring more deeply. Here it what the Coalition says about itself:We Are Advocates for Sound Management of Wolves: The wolf has been a remarkable wildlife success. In 15 years, pack and breeding pair numbers have approached sustainability. Just as important, we've seen growing acceptance of wolves—example after example of ranchers, farmers, hunters and conservationists learning to live with and appreciate these animals in the same way they would a bear, elk or mule deer. Living with wolves and other wildlife is part of life in the West, and we believe that the citizens of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming can manage wolves in our region by working together.http://wolves.wordpress.com/
Western Wolf Coalition: The member organizations of the Western Wolf Coalition agree with most westerners that the next important step in wolf recovery is to transfer management to the states. To make that happen, though, the people of Idaho, Montana and Wyoming must press for sound management plans—plans based not on rhetoric or politics, but on the volumes of scientific data collected over the past decade and a half. / Toward that end, the Western Wolf Coalition works with biologists, hunters, ranchers, tribal leaders and other citizens to inform the public about wolf behavior and patterns, and reduce wolf-related conflicts. Our goal? To ensure a healthy, sustainable population of wolves managed responsibly by the states in the same way other game species have been managed for decades.
This is "Ralph Maughan's Wildlife News," an exceptional blog covering wolves, elk, bison, bears, and other wildlife in Western states, but also other environmental issues, such as problems with solar energy sites. I wish I had time to really explore this site. Maughan is knowledgeable, sensible, hard-hitting, and clear. Here is what he writes about his blog:This blog replaces my old web site at http://www.forwolves.org/ralph. The old site will remain up because it contains ten years of wolf news I wrote. I see that many people use these old articles. I think they contain valuable data. / I like to write about much more than wolves. I seem to be one of the few bloggers who writes primarily about conservation and politics in the Idaho/Western Montana/Western Wyoming area.And here is some of what he tells us about himself:Dr. Ralph Maughan is a specialist in natural resource and environmental policies and politics. He is not a biologist. He was born and raised in Utah and Idaho. He has many years experience in Western public land and environmental issues.... We real westerners may be disenfranchised by our increasingly corrupt politicians, but I’ll never be quiet about it!.... Note: I became Professor Emeritus of Political Science on July 1, 2007 after teaching 36 years at Idaho State University. So there will be more time for the outdoors and working on behalf of conservation....
The Wolf in Books & a Fascinating Video Game
"In the Company of Wolves"
© Susan Boulet -- all rights reserved
A colleague, who is a wildlife scientist and reads widely on environmenal issues concerning wolves, sent me his personal recommendations when he learned I was creating this page:There are many wonderful wolf books out there where people, who are not scientists, have been able to speak out, and do so in a manner that is well reasoned and respectful, using beautiful writing. Shadow Mountain by Renee Askins, who was the leading environmental activist involved in making the Yellowstone wolf reintroduction happen, is one of my favorites. The Company of Wolves by Peter Steinhart, is an excellent book, about the early years of the wolf reintroduction and recovery. Ninemile Wolves by Rick Bass, is about the early years of the recolonization by the wolves in Glacier National Park. Finally, one more and probably one of the most important books about human relationships with wolves is Of Wolves and Men by Barry Lopez. It is the definitive source on this. [Note: for an excellent review of Barry Lopez's work, see Karen Dawn.]Decade of the Wolf: Returning the Wild to Yellowstone
This is by wolf biologist Douglas W. Smith and nature writer Gary Ferguson. Here is an excerpt from the Publishers Weekly review on amazon.com:...Their book is a detailed look at how the return of the wolves—once among the most numerous of North American predators—has provided scientists with a chance to witness "the dynamic forces of nature that drove this region before the coming of the Europeans" as well as to puzzle out what wolves mean to the area's ecosystem. Smith worked on the project, and the two authors offer hard facts (e.g., the number of elk killed by wolves each year is 9% of the elk population; the average life span of a wolf in Yellowstone is 3.4 years) as well as impressionistic "Portraits" of individual wolves that reveal their "epic lives, full of struggle and conquest"....Women Who Run with Wolves
As a Jungian, Clarissa Pinkola Estes' training and focus are both psychological and it is here that the book's real value lies. Her lore is often inaccurate -- I'm told her science is too -- but the work is nevertheless inspiring because of its powerfully expressed psychological insights. I repeatedly heard from my female graduate students how deeply this book had impacted their lives.
Continuing the feminist theme, this link goes to a teacher's handout on books that was probably not meant for the general public because it's unclear where the passages come from -- whether from herself, the authors, or jacket notes for the books. One would need to be privy to her page's color coding in order to know whose "voice" is speaking in each passage. Here, however, no matter who wrote it, is an interesting passage on Angela Carter's work:In Carter's telling of Little Red Riding Hood, our heroine is not a naïve child, but a sexually-aware teenager, traveling the woods armed with a knife, who brings about the fall of her werewolf foe not by escaping him but by seducing him. In The Werewolf and Wolf-Alice, she explores the manifold myths of werewolves that are the folklore of Central Europe, depicting through her fiction a brutal existence made more perilous by the existence of deceitful, powerful, sexually potent wolf-men.http://onlinebooks.library.upenn.edu/webbin/book/browse?type=lcsubc&key=Wolves%20--%20Folklore
From the University of Pennsylvania comes The Online Books Page for "Wolves --- Folklore." Most of the entries refer to the general folklore category, but at the top of the page there are two books on werewolves dating from 1865 and 1904 and five on wolves dating from 1892 to 1944 (including a non-fiction work on wolf behavior, works of fiction [e.g., Jack London's], and juvenile fiction). The free online books available here make for some engrossing browsing in a long-lost world.
[Added 16 May 2009]: This 7 May 2009 mini-review comes from Alan Robson, a longtime Myth*ing Links reader from Finland. It does indeed sound like a "must-read."...I'd like to recommend a book for your Wolf section. Maybe you've come across it by now, but it doesn't seem to appear anywhere in the text, so... It's Wolf Totem by Jiang Rong (not his real name, China is China), published in 2008 by Penguin, in an excellent translation by Howard Goldblatt. It's about wolves and people and environmental degradation in Inner Mongolia during the Cultural Revolution. Claims to be a Chinese best-seller - which I can believe. It is an 'autobiographical' novel that goes into great detail about the ecology of the wolf in Inner Mongolia, as well as about its spiritual significance to the indigenous people there. Jiang Rong himself tried to bring up a wolf cub - an attempt that ended badly as they usually do - making him what must be a Chinese expert on wolves. A wonderful read and a great source on information on wolves, Inner Mongolia, how to make a dust bowl in a few easy stages, and on all kinds of people. Though the book itself is pessimistic, the fact that it has become a best-seller in China makes me much more hopeful about the future of that country, it involves the reader so much that I don't see how many people cannot become more aware of, and involved in environmental matters. Sorry to make this such a shameless plug for the book, but it really is a must-read for wolf-enthusiasts (and everyone else too).http://www.wolfquest.org/[Note: I am using Alan Robson's name and review with his permission. He is a translator himself and, about Howard Goldblatt's translation of this book, he adds that: "the translation is good, for once it isn't awkward at all, but reads solidly like an English-language original."]
[Added 16 May 2009]: From another longtime Myth*ing Links reader, this time from Kasia Mniszek in Poland on 8 May 2009, comes a mini-review of an amazing educational video game [here too, her name and review are used with her permission]. I'd love to play it but don't have enough space left on my aging computer to download it (and no funds to buy a new one). I went to the wolf website though, as well as to the website of the company that produced the game, and it looks very impressive:I'm Kasia from Poland and I really like visiting your website. I graduated from philosophy department and I'm particularly interested in mythology and philosophy of religion so I look through your sites very often. I've noticed a new section about wolves and that's why I'm writing. There is a wonderful website about wolves called WolfQuest - http://www.wolfquest.org/ There is a free computer game where you can download and feel how it is to be a wolf. It's very realistic and definitely raise people's awarness about these animals and their behaviour. I found it some time ago and maybe you would like to put the information about it on your website.My thanks to both Alan and Kasia for sending me these valuable references.
The Oracular Wolf
© Bill Worthington -- all rights reserved
From The Druid Animal Oracle by Philip & Stephanie Carr-Gomm
Druid Animal Oracle
Oracles have a way of distilling a great deal of lore into a more accessible form. That is why I am including a look at the "Oracular Wolf" on this page.......
In The Druid Animal Oracle, the Wolf, or Faol, card represents three qualities: intuition, learning, and the Shadow. Interestingly, the Wolf-month, or Faoilleach, covers the last two weeks of winter and the first two weeks of spring (roughly corresponding with our February/March). Although the authors don't point this out, this makes the Wolf-month a transitional time, betwixt and between winter and spring, cold and warmth, the cessation of growth and the beginnings of new growth. In the Celtic world, such transitions, or "thin places," like darkness and dawn, sunset and twilight, shore and ocean, have a special sacredness, for this is when the veil between the worlds is thinnest -- and magic can happen. For the Druids to have assigned this period to the wolf indicates a deep understanding of the animal's liminal, or threshold, nature. The strong negatives and equally strong positives we find both in wolf lore and in human attitudes towards wolves are in themselves a further indication of this liminal nature. The authors note that the scene pictured in the card is in a forest near the source of Scotland's Findhorn River -- sadly, this is where the last surviving wolf in Britain is sad to have been killed in 1743. Again, we see that strong undercurrent of liminality -- the peaceful source of the river's life is also the source of a species' extinction.
Humans will kill other humans, young or old, for power, wealth, status, or out of fear, rage, and hatred. A wolf kills out of hunger. When there is no other food, wolves will kill livestock. This made them a symbol of cruelty and greed and sometimes, the authors tell us, they were even strung up and hung next to criminals -- "the Saxon word for gallows means 'wolf-tree'." Wolves killed livestock out of hunger. For this, they were exterminated.
Yet the other side of their liminal nature shines forth when they emerge out of the oracular dimension as wise guides. Then, the authors write:Faol brings a strong sense of faithfulness, inner strength and intuition. But the wolf brings learning too. Sometimes you need to cross barriers, to take risks, to go beyond the limited compass of "normal" behavior in order to learn and grow, although crossing these boundaries may seem unattractive, even painful. You need not fear the inner power and strength you feel when you spend time alone. Come to know your deepest self and even in the darkest places you will find courage and spiritual companionship.
Drawn reversed, this card may suggest that you need to come into a new relationship with your sense of aloneness in the world. Behind a fear of loneliness may lie a fear of your own inner strength, fierceness and power. Learn to trust this and to come to know your deeper self. Through dreams and intuitions you may come to learn more of the hidden side of your being which is sometimes called the Shadow....
© Angela Werneke -- all rights reserved
From Medicine Cards by Jamie Sams and David Carson
Moving from the Celtic world to the Native American world, we still find a focus on intuition, but an intriguing shift takes place in that what was called "Learning" in the Druid deck is here called "Teacher." The elements of Shadow and transitional, opposing energies are absent here, for they belong to a white man's world. Native peoples draw their psychological and philosophical boundaries very differently. They are just as sophisticated but ordered along different trajectories.
About the oracular meaning of the wolf, the authors write:...The senses of Wolf are very keen, and the Moon is its power ally. The Moon is the symbol for psychic energy, or the unconscious that holds the secrets of knowledge and wisdom.... Wolf medicine empowers the teacher within us all to come forth....Animal Speak
...If you have drawn Wolf's card, you may be able to share your personal medicine with others. Your intuitive side may also have an answer or teaching for your personal use at this time. As you feel Wolf coming alive within you, you may wish to share your knowledge by writing or lecturing on information that will help others better understand their uniqueness or path in life. It is in the sharing of great truths that the consciousness of humanity will attain new heights. Wolf could also be telling you to seek out lonely places that will allow you to see your teacher within. In the aloneness of a power place, devoid of other humans, you may find the true you. Look for teachings no matter where you are....
If Wolf is reversed, you are being asked to expand your limited view of the present situation. Doing this may entail a great deal of courage and a willingness to look at new ideas. It could also require that you delete some old ideas to make room for the expansiveness that always comes when you are willing to learn....
Although this book by Ted Andrews doesn't come with an oracular deck, his exploration of "Wolf Medicine" fits well into the overall oracular wolf-theme. He writes:...Wolves do not fight unnecessarily. In fact, they will often go out of their way to avoid it.... Often a glance, a posture, a growl is all that is necessary to determine dominance.... This is part of what wolf medicine teaches. The wolf teaches you to know who you are and to develop strength, confidence and surety in that so that you do not have to demonstrate and prove yourself to all.....
...Wolves have extremely keen senses, particularly that of smell. It is said to be one hundred times greater than that of humans. The sense of smell endows it with great discrimination, and the sense of smell has often been associated with spiritual idealism in metaphysical circles.
The wolf also has an excellent hearing sensitivity. Its hunting depends strongly upon its sense of smell and hearing. This would be a reminder to those with this totem to listen to their own inner thoughts and words. The intuition will be strong....
...The wolf can help you to hear the inner and guard you from inappropriate actions.... When wolf shows up, it is time to breathe new life into your life rituals. Find a new path, take a new journey, take control of your life.... Do so with harmony and discipline, and then you will know the true spirit of freedom.Tarot of Northern Shadows
In the two previous decks, the wolf had a card to her/himself -- in the Tarot, the Wolf is just one element among others. Nevertheless, the following six cards by Sylvia Gainsford illustrate both the positive and negative views in which the wolf is held in Nordic mythology. I'll look at the negative views first, since they are the ones with which most people are familiar.
........................XVIII: The Moon.............................................5: Swords......................................XVI: Destruction
First, from the Major Arcana cards, there is the Moon, which is masculine among Norse and Germanic peoples. It is said that Odin assigned a beautiful young boy to guide the moon across the dark sky, but the boy is followed by a wolf (Hati, the offspring of the mighty Fenris Wolf -- see below), who intends to devour the boy at the end of the world (just as the wolf's twin, Sköll, will devour the sun). There is a paradox here because the waters of life spill from the wolf's mouth and yet the wolf is destined to kill the boy. The author of the text, Howard Rodway, comments: "We cannot be sure if the wolf brings the certainty of mortality or the promise of life eternal." It is a card, he continues, "of intuition, psychic sensitivity and the unconscious. It is also a card of delusion, carrying the message that we should not deceive ourselves or be deceived by others."
The next card is the Five of Swords, which the artist has chosen to illustrate with the "Binding of Fenrir," or the Fenris Wolf. This vicious, snarling, world-wolf is the son of the wily trickster god, Loki. When the other gods realize how dangerous Fenrir is, they try to bind him with chains but each time, as the powerful creature strains against them, they snap. Eventually, the gods persuade the dwarves to use magic to create unbreakable bonds -- only then is Fenris securely fettered. The card itself indicates "momentary triumph through the use of strength and severity -- a situation that may become humiliating. Defeat. Loss. Failure. Degradation. Dishonor. The threat of treachery."
The third card is another Major Arcana, Destruction or Ragnarök. The Norse and Germanic peoples had a very dark view of their eventual fate. As already mentioned, the moon and sun will be devoured by Fenrir's wolfish offspring. At the same time, everything else will begin unraveling, brought down by the fire-breathing Fenris Wolf himself (who finally manages to break free of his fetters); his brother (the serpent Jormungand), who sprays venom everywhere; and Surt, a Fire Giant (seen in the lower right corner) who will engulf the world in flames. Only one pair of terrified humans, hiding among the roots of the World Tree (near the top of the card), will survive the destruction to begin anew. Myths, of course, like dreams, tend to exaggerate in order to get our attention. Here is an excerpt from the author's low-key, sensible interpretation of the "Destruction" card: "This card tells us that we must get rid of old habits and outworn ideas which can block our positive progress. If we do not heed the warning, we may be in for a shock."
Tarot cards notwithstanding, it should be noted that, in general, the Fenris Wolf does not represent anyone's personal "shadow." He is the collective shadow of humanity -- which leads me to ask where he is manifesting today. Since crafty, all-consuming, even sociopathic greed is the trademark of the Fenris Wolf, we do not have to look very far to find him: he is gloating over his grip on global banking, unleashed from any regulation over the past too many years and now running amuck, diminishing and destroying lives all over the world. The serpent spewing forth poisons could be seen as the industrial-military complex ("industrial" includes weapons, oil and coal companies, Monsanto and other bio-chemical firms, industrial agriculture, and pharmaceutical firms). Surt, the Fire Giant, could be seen as an ancient, eerie translation of what is known today as Global Warming.
But we do not wish to drown in gloom, for the archetypal wolf, although mythically complicit in our downfall, also remains a liminal, threshold figure, one who can even restore the dead to life. Thus, we turn to the positive views:
......................IV: The Emperor.......................................IX: The Hermit................................................3: RodsFirst, the Major Arcana's Emperor card is depicted as Odin (Woden or Wotan), the god who hanged himself on Yggdrasil (the World Tree) and sacrifced one of his eyes in order to gain access to his psychic powers. Our "Wednesday" is named for him, which is interesting, given what we have seen of the liminal nature of the wolf, for Wednesday stands on the threshold -- three days behind it, three days ahead. Wolves are often paired with ravens, both in lore and science, which we see here in the two ravens, Hugin and Munin (Thought and Memory), perched on his shoulders -- these are his "eyes," for they fly out each morning and return at nightfall to report on what they have seen. At his feet are his two wolves, Geri and Freki (Storm and Wind), who accept food only from him. [Christianity will later demonize Odin's wolves as Greed and Voracity -- see "Wolf" entry in Ad de Vries' Dictionary of Symbols and Imagery]. The other symbols are unrelated to wolves and do not concern us. The author writes: "Odin is the god of battle, shamanism, poetry and inspiration." The wolves too partake of those qualities.
Next comes another Major Arcana card, the Hermit. This depicts a scene following the Destruction card we have already explored above. This hermit is the god Vidar, one of the few survivors of Ragnarök. The author writes:...Vidar, son of Odin and Grid the beautiful giantress, was known as the silent god. He lived in silence and solitude in the midst of an impenetrable forest. Vidar's main feature was a strong thick shoe made of segmented leather and iron which he wore on his right foot. He used this shoe against the jaws of Fenris Wolf during the mighty conflagration of Ragnarok. Vidar survived to rule as a wise and strong leader in the regenerated world.... In the foreground of this card rises the head of a howling wolf. Both the animal and the Norse god Vidar express solitude.Since this is the card of solitude, expressed, as the author writes, by Vidar as well as the wolf, this suggests that the two are reflections of one another, which is to say that there is only one energy here, free to take Vidar's form or the wolf's or both together. There is no separation between the two. As the surviving god destined to guide humanity and a new pantheon of younger gods to a more humane existence than the one that preceded Ragnarök, this is both satisfying and heartening.
The third card is the Three of Rods. It shows an experienced middle-aged warrior, arms raised, kneeling in prayer, asking for help from the spirits of Bear and Wolf. Both animals appear as powerful allies who, we might say, "have his back." There is no mention of whether this scene is pre- or post-Ragnarök, nor does it matter, since opportunities for those walking the warrior-path will probably always be among us. This is no reckless, macho warrior, however. He knows he needs the help of beings wiser and more powerful than he and they readily come to him. Most warriors, of course, seek divine help before battle and many believe they are granted this. Unfortunately, not all use it wisely. This calm, disciplined man will be an exception. As the author points out: "An ethereal light catches his head as his hands are raised in prayer." In discussing the card's meanings, the author includes these: "Help is needed to see plans realised. An influential contact may offer assistance..." Both Wolf and Bear, both often maligned and at risk, nevertheless represent that help and assistance.
The Wolf in Stories and Folklore
Selected Examples from the New World
Wolf Pup Drum
© Joe David, 2000
Cedar and hide, 15"x 3"
Inuit Gallery of Vancouver
This site from the United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation includes a wide range of Native American sacred narratives and lore. From the Squamish of the Pacific Northwest coast comes "How the Wolf Ritual Began." It falls into the well-known, worldwide genre of a woman who takes an animal for her husband, but what makes it memorable is what happens at the end.
In the story, the woman is deeply in love with her wolf-husband and bears him two sons, half wolf and half man. After the oldest boy has grown to adulthood, he grows curious about his origins since he and his brother don't look like the others. She decides it's time to take him to meet his human family:...So the woman told her husband that their son would like to see his grandfather. He finally agreed, but before they went, as a gift to his wife, the Wolf began to teach the woman about the Klukwana [the wolf ritual], which they had there. It was the Chief of Wolves that the woman had married and all the wolves came to the Chief's house to have Klukwana....Her husband teaches her all he knows and then sends her off [the story no longer mentions the son -- he seems to be simply a plot-device to enable her to bring the Wolf Ritual to her people, which is the deeper focus of the narrative]. She is accompanied by many wolves who take her to her father's house but stay out of sight so as not to frighten anyone. She goes in alone and gently awakens her elderly father. He has grieved many years for his daughter, but does not recognize her in the darkness, nor does she reveal her identity yet. She says she has a Wolf husband and two sons. She mentions a daughter he lost long ago but does not say it was her.....The woman also told her father many things about the Wolves, and that the villagers must not do anything when the Wolves howled, or try to harm them. Instead they must try to learn from them.... But at last [she] had revealed herself to him and told him that now she was going to have a "song" of her own as a sign that the Wolves had brought her back and by which he might know her again. (The father gathered his people and told them of his daughter's return. They heard the wolves outside and began to beat on long boards and sticks. The wolves howled four times and departed.)The gift from the Chief of Wolves is generous and profound. It links wolves to humans in the most sacred of ways -- through ritual.
Then the woman taught her father all about Klukwana, and the secrets she had learned from the Wolves as to their power and strength. After she had taught him all the songs and all the dances, the father began the Klukwana and later taught the rest of the tribe all that his daughter had learned from the Wolves.
(From Alice Ernst, The Wolf Ritual of the Northwest Coast)
Ritual mask made of cedar wood, cedar bark, horsehair, feathers, fur
Artist: Joe David, 2001
(see directly below)
Many tribal peoples have Wolf Rituals, which means that there are many different origin narratives, traditions, and practices connected with them. This page from the Inuit Gallery in Vancouver introduces a few details about the Inuits' ritual -- especially, the winter solstice connection:We are proud to present Wolves at the Door, Joe David's first major solo exhibition. After four years of acquisition and several decades in creating, the time is finally right for this collection to be veiwed and to focus attention on this remarkable artist. We present Wolves at the Door during the winter solstice, which is the most powerful time of year for the Tla-O-Qui-Aht, for it is during this magical time that the secret ceremonies of the Tlukwana, or wolf ceremonies are held. Joe David's work is grounded in this history of ceremony; each work made for a purpose, yet designed with grace. We invite you to explore this exhibition.Note: the drum with an Inuit Wolf Pup design at the top of this "New World" section also comes from this Wolves at the Door exhibition (which ran December 1-31, 2001). I would assume that it is used in the Wolf ritual.
....This is "How Rabbit Fooled Wolf" from an unknown Native American source. It's humorus and very well done -- here is how it starts:Two pretty girls lived not far from Rabbit and Wolf. One day Rabbit called upon Wolf and said, "Let's go and visit those pretty girls up the road."Note: this site's home page has a huge number of stories from many Native American peoples -- it's a fine place for browsing.
"All right," Wolf said, and they started off.
When they got to the girls' house, they were invited in, but both girls took a great liking to Wolf and paid all their attention to him while Rabbit had to sit by and look on. Rabbit of course was not pleased by this, and he soon said, "We had better be going back."....
From the same site comes "Wolf and the Sea," a very brief Haida tale [source : - ~BamaRiver]. Here is how it begins:Once a man found two wolf pups on the beach, he took them to his home and raised them....http://home.online.no/~arnfin/native/lore/leg114.htm
Again from this same site comes a marvelous Shoshoni narrative [no source given], "Wolf tricks the trickster." Here is the story's introduction as well as how it begins:http://home.online.no/~arnfin/native/lore/leg070.htmWouldn't it be great if everybody could live forever? There would be no disease, no accidents. Life would just be sunny days and fun all the time. Native American mythology has lots of stories about a time when there was no death in the world. One community, the Shoshoni people, believe that this happy time was all because of one animal: the Wolf.
The Shoshoni people saw the Wolf as a creator God and they respected him greatly. Long ago, Wolf, and many other animals, walked and talked like man. Coyote could talk, too, but the Shoshoni people kept far away from him because he was a Trickster, somebody who is always up to no good and out to double-cross you....
Finally, the last wolf story from this site, another wonderful one called "Wolves and Coyotes ..or...The First Healer" [source: "Neshoba," tribe unknown]. Here wolves and coyotes are colleagues. From the story's beginning:One day as a man was walking alone he met a coyote. Coyote spoke to the man and said, "How would you like to smoke my pipe?" The man thanked the coyote and said "Sure!"
When the man was finished, the coyote said to him, "You have smoked my pipe so now you are my friend and I will not harm you, but will take you to meet my people. I want my people to know that you have smoked my pipe. They will be glad to see you and will give you great powers...."
© L. David Eveningthunder
[From Heart-7 site directly below]:
This is a busy-looking page with an on-going wolf's howl that soon wears on the nerves (and can get stuck, like an old 78 rpm record with a bad needle), so don't linger too long here. I like some of the art as well as the site's retelling of a touching Shoshone legend about a kind wolf (I wish its source had been noted, however):An old Shoshone legend honors the wolf as the protector of women. It is told that a group of young girls had to be left behind in hiding as the tribe had to pack up and move quickly due to imminent danger. When the girls came out of hiding and went in search of the tribe, they came upon an injured wolf. After nursing the wolf back to health, they became adopted by the entire pack of wolves, who saved them from danger many times as the girls continued their search for the rest of their tribe.http://www.legendsofamerica.com/NA-Wolfman.html
The warrior fathers, upon returning to find the girls, saw the wolves surrounding their daughters from a distance. Not understanding that the wolves were actually protecting their daughters, they slew them one and all. After being told of their grave mistake, they vowed to honor the wolf as protector throughout time. This became tradition and continues today.
From Blackfoot Indians Stories, published by George Bird Grinnell in 1913, comes "Wolf Man," the tale of a Blackfoot man married to two lazy wives who neglect him because they prefer to party with their relatives....The man thought that if he moved away from the big camp and lived alone where there were no other people perhaps he might teach these women to become good; so he moved his lodge far off on the prairie and camped at the foot of a high butte....Things do not turn out as he had hoped. The wives hatch a plot to kill him and, believing they have succeeded, return to their families, pretending to mourn the loss of their husband. But wolves and other animals rescue the man and he becomes one of them. How the story ends, I will not say. Read it for yourself <smile>.
© Susan A. Point, 1994
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
University of Washington, Seattle
This is "The Wolf Ceremony" by Chief Dan George, chief of the Salish Band in Burrard Inlet, B.C. He became well known back in the early seventies because of the role he played in Little Big Man. He and his son Len were friends of an actor-friend of mine and when they came to New York City, we went out for drinks and finished up the evening in my small Allen Street tenement apartment on New York's Lower East Side. Chief Dan George was a gentle, shy, beautiful old man and I felt an immediate fondness for him. He and Len sang Salish songs, beating out the rhythms on pots from my tiny kitchen, and we all laughed a lot. When it was time for them to leave, Len untied an eagle feather from his long hair and shyly handed it to me. He said it was his first eagle feather and he felt it was supposed to be mine. I was stunned. I couldn't possibly accept something so special. I told him that. Both looked hurt, which I couldn't bear, so I ended up accepting it.
Many years later, after I had moved to California, a shaman I barely knew suddenly left the room where we had been talking. He returned a few moments later with an owl's wing. He told me he had performed a sacred ritual over the owl's body after rescuing it from a road kill. He was using one wing in his own shamanic work but he felt the other wing was meant for someone else. Then he handed it to me. Ever since, I have kept the sacred eagle feather and the sacred owl's wing together in a special box. I have no idea why both men felt I was to have them. Until I saw Chief Dan George's name on the above site today (Friday, 17 April 2009), I had even forgotten that it was Len who gave me the feather. He gave me something very precious, I thought to myself, but what was it? Slowly, I "saw" the image of the feather.
In "The Wolf Ceremony," Chief Dan George speaks of his grandson -- that would mean either a son or nephew of Len's. Here is how it begins:I wanted to give something of my past to my grandson. So I took him into the woods, to a quiet spot. Seated at my feet he listened as I told him of the powers that were given to each creature. He moved not a muscle as I explained how the woods had always provided us with food, homes, comfort, and religion. He was awed when I related to him how the wolf became our guardian, and when I told him that I would sing the sacred wolf song over him, he was overjoyed....The story is undated but Chief Dan George died in 1981. The boy would be fully grown by now. He could not hear the song as a child but hopefully he has by now. Just in case he hasn't, I plan to perform a ritual with the feather, asking that it happen for him. Perhaps Eagle is meant to bridge the chasm and reunite him with the wolf guardian of his family. (See the Sacred Texts site below for a Navajo narrative in which Wolf is created -- or "raised" -- from Eagle's feather.)http://www.nativeart-world.com/north-american-native-art-articles.html
The Moon and the Wolf
© Susan A. Point, 1991
Burke Museum of Natural History and Culture
University of Washington, Seattle
From Rod Dagan, an insightful Australian author, comes this overview of "Native American Art and its Spiritual Concept." Here are some excerpts:Native American art, hand-made and performance, is diverse, because there are so many Native American tribes. But certain generalities can be made about this art, because many of their core spiritual and religious beliefs are similar all across the tribes.http://www.wolfsongalaska.org/wolves_in_american_culture.html
One prevalent trait of all Native American art is the use of animistic themes. These are themes that stem both from lore and from shamanic teachings and experiences. Animism asserts that all beings and all things have a dynamic spiritual essence, so that in a sense all things are in unity, as some modern Western physicists have also come to conclude.
Animism does not negate duality, such as good vs. bad, male vs. female, and so forth; but it does transcend dualities to try to get to what it considers the original Source of all matter, energy, objects, and living beings. Animism is likely the oldest spiritual perspective in the world.
...Salish Triad by Joe Wilson
..When animism is depicted in art, there can be found abstract shapes such as spirals and zigzag lines carved or painted on it. There will also be depictions of therianthropes. Now therianthropes are half-man, half-beast images....
...These same therianthropes make their way into the Native American performance art, and that is why the Christian Europeans, when first encountering their ritual mimes and dances were appalled at such irreverent "paganism" that worshiped animals. But it's not animal worship. Native Americans have traditionally been expert hunters, and one of the ways that they mastered the hunting of an animal was to wear its skin and behave like it, so as to "get into" that animal so that they could more successfully hunt it....
...To many Native Americans, the most sacred animal is the wolf, and the wolf is often depicted in all manner of ways and styles in Native American art. The Wolf Tribe supposedly was the most advanced of all the original tribes and brought spiritual teachings to everyone else....
This is Wolf Song of Alaska (also see below under Old World Folklore, etc), one of my favorite sites, and this page is about "Wolves in Native American Culture" by Edwin Wollert, Education Coordinator for the site. Here are some excerpts:The Navajo word for wolf, "mai-coh," also means witch, and a person could transform if he or she donned a wolf skin. So the Europeans were not the only ones with werewolf legends. However, the American tribes have an overwhelming tendency to look upon the wolf in a much more favorable light....
"The caribou feeds the wolf, but it is the wolf who keeps the caribou strong."
-Keewatin Eskimo saying
Native American tribes recognized the wolf for its extreme devotion to its family, and many drew parallels between wolf pack members and the members of the tribe. Also, the wolf's superior and cooperative hunting skills made it the envy of many tribes. Finally, the wolf was known to defend its home against outsiders, a task with which each tribe had to contend as well.Salish Wolf by Susan A. PointThe page includes a myth from the Arikara in which Wolf and Lucky-man need humble creatures like ducks and spiders in order to bring about creation: the details are splendid. Then the author looks at the wolf's role in a number of other tribes:
....Some examples of the wolf appearing throughout Native American religion and mythology include the following. The Eskimos told of an old woman, Qisaruatsiaq, who was abandoned and forced to live by herself, and who eventually turned into a wolf. The Sioux called the wolf "shunk manitu tanka," or "animal that looks like a dog but is a powerful spirit." Cheyenne medicine men rubbed warrior arrows against wolf fur to bring better success in hunting. The Nootka celebrated spiritual ties to the wolf, in a ceremony whereby they pretended to bring back to life the chief's dead son, by wearing wolf clothing. The Cherokee would not kill a wolf, believing the dead wolf's siblings would enact revenge. They also imitated the wolf's walk to help ward off frostbite to their feet. The Crow dressed in wolf skins to hunt. The Mandan displayed on their moccasins wolf tails, signs of success in battle. Women of the Hidatsa tribe rubbed their bellies with wolf skin to alleviate difficult childbirth. The Cree believed divine wolves visited earth when the northern lights would shine during winter. The Ahtena would prop dead wolves up, sometimes feeding them ceremonial meals. Chippewa myths tell of wolves supplying humans with food and hides. The Delaware tribe thought a change in weather might be announced through a wolf's howl. The Hopis include Wolf as one of the Katchinas, the costumed dancers who represent the powers of the universe.......Perhaps the tribe with the closest of all associations with the wolf is the Pawnee, in the lands now known as Nebraska and Kansas. The Pawnee felt such a close kinship that their hand-signal for wolf is the same as the hand-signal for Pawnee. They were known as the Wolf People even by neighboring tribes. The cyclical appearance and disappearance of Sirius, the Wolf Star, indicated the wolf coming and going from the spirit world, running down the trail of the Wolf Road, otherwise known as the Milky Way. The Blackfoot tribe also called our galaxy the Wolf Trail, or the Route to Heaven. The Pawnee, like the Hidatsa and Oto tribes, used wolf bundles, pouches of skins from wolves in which to keep and protect treasured implements used for ceremonies and magic.http://www.answers.com/topic/sirius
A black walnut flute in the key of G with a wolf carved at the base
so that the sounds come out through her mouth -- what a wonderful concept!
(Nighteagle's Jessica tells me: "The end carvings on flutes are traditional in some tribes.
Often they were birds' heads with open beaks.")
From the Nighteagle Flute Company in Colorado
On the subject of Sirius (see directly above), answers.com has a long, fairly technical page on the star but near the end in a section on "Etymology and cultural significance" comes this:...In Chinese astronomy the star is known as the star of the 'celestial wolf.... Farther afield, many nations among the indigenous peoples of North America also associated Sirius with canines; the Seri and Tohono O'odham of the southwest note the star as a dog that follows mountain sheep, while the Blackfoot called it 'Dog-face.' The Cherokee paired Sirius with Antares as a dog-star guardian of either end of the "Path of Souls." The Pawnee of Nebraska had several associations; the Wolf (Skidi) tribe knew it as the 'Wolf Star', while other branches knew it as the 'Coyote Star.' Further north, the Alaskan Inuit of the Bering Strait called it 'Moon Dog.'....http://sacred-texts.com/nam/nav/nol/nol.htm
Artist: Odin Lonning, a Tlingit from Juneau.
A Navajo narrative tells of a time when men separated from their "uppity" wives, who moved across the river and set up their own village. The berdache (men who were considered holy, who dressed as women, and who were even more skilled at women's work than most of the women) elected to remain behind with the men. Because of this, the men dealt with separation far better than the women, who slowly began to starve.
The experience of the humans mirrors another time when wolves were involved, not humans. This is what we find on this page from the Sacred Texts website: Navajo Origin Legend by A. M. Stephen (Journal of American Folk-Lore, vol. 43, 1930, pp. 88-104). Here, about half-way down, we learn how Old Man and Old Woman created animals from bird feathers....from east they brought back eagle feathers; from west, hawk feathers; from south, blue feathers; from north, speckled feathers (of whip-poor-will, night bird). When they got these altogether they laid them before them....
...East feather was for the wolf. The feather and corn and shell were prayed over and a wolf was raised. They prayed over the west objects, and Mountain Lion was raised; they prayed over the south objects and Tabastin, Otter, was raised; they prayed over the north objects, Bud (sic!) Beaver was raised....
Wolf Pendant, 1976
Bill Reid (1920-1998)
22k gold, abalone shell inlay
© Bill Reid Foundation
The narrative then shifts to the life of Great Wolf and his wolf-wife:...Great Wolf was the chief (ruler) of the whole. He gets up at daybreak, stands in the midst of the people’s dwellings and calls to the people to go to work in the fields. He advises them to get early to work planting corn, gardening and irrigating.The detailed separation-story of the male, female, and berdache wolves then follows (or precedes, for time is fluid) that of the humans. [Note: not suitable for younger readers.]
He had a very smart woman for a wife and they had two children. After a time this woman made herself three small sticks for gambling and would go off all day long and leave the children helpless. Late in the afternoon Wolf chief, the man, came home and saw the state of the hogan, untidy, and one of the children lying in the ashes of the fireplace. He did not try to clean up for he was very tired and lay down. At sunset his wife came back with her sticks but she had gambled away everything she had. Then the husband expostulated with her on her conduct. She replied tartly that he could stay and take care of the hogan and children as he had nothing to do. He said he provided food, etc. but she was quarrelsome and continued scolding (like the Navaho women today!). She told her husband she could take care of herself and so continued scolding, etc. until time for the Corn dance. She carried off the corn to grind and make mush for the dance although her own children were crying with hunger. Finally she told her husband to go off and she could easily find another. She said she could do without assistance. The husband avoided replying to her and said nothing....
Inuit Wolf Mask
Artist: Art Thompson, 1072
From the Inuit Gallery of Vancouver
Finally, from the United Cherokee Ani-Yun-Wiya Nation (also see opening of this section) comes a sobering, dark narrative well suited to our times. This is from the Pacific Northwest's Tsimshian people: "Wolf Clan and the Salmon." I am tempted to quote parts of it but this one deserves to be read in its entirety without any further comment.......
The Wolf in Fable, Fairytales and Folklore
Selected Examples from the Old World
Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
This is "Wolves in Aesop's Fables," collected and edited by retired Professor D. L. Ashliman (whose work appears in many other places on my site). There are 26 ancient Greek fables here, covering a wide range of emotions and attitudes connected to wolves. Here are my four favorites:#6 The Wolf, the Mother, and Her ChildI hope you'll read through them and find your own favorites <smile>.
A hungry wolf was prowling about in search of food. By and by, attracted by the cries of a child, he came to a cottage. As he crouched beneath the window, he heard the mother say to the child, "Stop crying, do, or I'll throw you to the wolf!" Thinking she really meant what she said, he waited there a long time in the expectation of satisfying his hunger. In the evening he heard the mother fondling her child and saying, "If the naughty wolf comes, he shan't get my little one. Daddy will kill him." The wolf got up in much disgust and walked away. "As for the people in that house," said he to himself, "you can't believe a word they say."
#9 The Wolf and the Crane
A wolf once got a bone stuck in his throat. So he went to a crane and begged her to put her long bill down his throat and pull it out. "I'll make it worth your while," he added. The crane did as she was asked and got the bone out quite easily. The wolf thanked her warmly and was just turning away, when she cried, "What about that fee of mine?" "Well, what about it?" snapped the wolf, baring his teeth as he spoke. "You can go about boasting that you once put your head into a wolf's mouth and didn't get it bitten off. What more do you want?"
#10 The Wolf and the Sheep
A wolf was worried and badly bitten by dogs, and lay a long time for dead. By and by he began to revive, and, feeling very hungry, called out to a passing sheep and said, "Would you kindly bring me some water from the stream close by? I can manage about meat, if only I could get something to drink." But this sheep was no fool. "I can quite understand," said he, "that if I brought you the water, you would have no difficulty about the meat. Good morning."
#23 The Wolf and His Shadow
A wolf who was roaming about on the plain when the sun was getting low in the sky was much impressed by the size of his shadow, and said to himself, "I had no idea I was so big. Fancy my being afraid of a lion! Why, I, not he, ought to be king of the beasts." And, heedless of danger, he strutted about as if there could be no doubt at all about it. Just then a lion sprang upon him and began to devour him. "Alas," he cried, "had I not lost sight of the facts, I shouldn't have been ruined by my fancies."
This Russian fable is "The Fox and the Wolf," also known as "The Lame Who Carried the Strong." The animals change but the underlying, humorous theme of animal cunning and deception is common worldwide.
This is "The Wolf, the Goat, and the Seven Kids," another Russian fable involving craftiness, but also greed. Marie-Louise von Franz, a long-time colleague of Jung's, spent her life exploring issues raised by folklore and fairytales. In her Shadow and Evil in Fairy Tales (pp.254-258), she looks at wolves and writes:...[I]n Greek mythology the wolf belongs to Apollo, the sun god, the principle of consciousness. The Greek word for wolf is lykos, which is akin to the Latin word lux, light (German licht), possibly because of its eyes, which shine in the dark. In spite of being a nocturnal animal, it is therefore an animal of the light. The real wolf has an amazingly developed intelligence. Probably this, among other things, caused it to carry the projection of the light of nature.
In its negative aspect the wolf is dangerously destructive, representing the principle of evil in its highest form. In old German mythology, the end of the world and of all the gods in the universe will come when the Fenris wolf gets loose at the end of days.... So the wolf is the demon of utter destruction....
...In many mythological connotations the wolf simply represents hunger and greed. In English one speaks of "wolfing" food, eating with a kind of passionate greed. That is why there are many tales and stories in which the fox outwits the wolf by catching him through his greed, for that's the moment where the wolf loses his cunning reflection and gets caught. Greed or hunger brings about his downfall. From our standpoint that's where he gets caught in destructiveness. From our standpoint that is where one can catch him....
In man, the wolf represents that strange indiscriminate desire to eat up everybody and everything, to have everything, which is visible in many neuroses.... Such persons develop a hungry wolf within themselves.... Jung says it is a drivenness which cannot be identified clearly with power or sex. It is even more primitive; it is the desire to have and get everything.... They are completely driven. It is not really that they want it; it wants it. Their "it" is never satisfied, so the wolf also creates in such people a constant resentful dissatisfaction. It stands as a symbol of bitter, cold, constant resentment because of what it never had. It really wants to eat the whole world.
...But we must not forget his connection with the light. The greed, when mastered or directed onto its right goal, is the thing.
The Grey Wolf helping Prince Ivan and Yelena the Fair to escape
Courtesy of Tradestone Gallery
This link goes to the famous Russian tale, "Prince Ivan, the Firebird, and the Grey Wolf," about the many adventures of Prince Ivan, who is the youngest of three brothers.The story goes under many names, including "The Firebird," The Humpbacked Little Pony, and "Ivan and the Grey Wolf." In the above painting, the wolf has rescued Yelena the Fair and now she and Ivan are escaping together, heading for an orchard of magic apples, where the two will fall in love.
[Here, for those in a hurry, is a quick summary of the tale]:
Ivan has done it and he is taking the winnings for all they are worth. He has Yelena the Fair, the Firebird, and the Horse with the Golden Mane. All of this was made possible from help provided by the Gray Wolf. It was the wolf who bit the head off of Ivan's original horse. He felt bad for Ivan and decided to help him find what he was looking for. It was at the palace where the firebird was kept that Ivan got into the most trouble. He accidentally touched the cage, which sounded the alarm. If he would have only grabbed the bird he would have been alright. When the Gray Wolf got him out of that mess and another regarding the Horse with the Golden Mane, Ivan needed one last thing. As Ivan was coming back to his father's kingdom with the horse, the Firebird, and Yelena his brothers ambushed him and killed him in a jealous rage. The wolf, after hearing the news, was able to obtain the water of life and death to revive him so he could return and tell his father what his brothers did to him.
"Ivan and the Grey Wolf"
Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
From the same story comes this scene by A. Shirokov. From the description at Russian Sunbirds:...Ivan is shown carrying Yelena back to his father's kingdom with the Gray Wolf right at his side. However, he is not out of danger yet. His jealous brothers will slay him, but the Gray Wolf will retrieve the waters of life and apples of youth that save him....Returning to Tradestone Gallery, we have yet another scene from this story. In their fine description:
"Ivan and the Grey Wolf"
Courtesy of Tradestone GalleryThe Gray Wolf leaps through the night sky, carrying Ivan, the Princess, and the Firebird on his back. Princess Elena the Fair's legendary beauty seems too much for Ivan to resist. He turns as though to steal a kiss. The practical Wolf turns and smiles at the couple, glad to have helped his friend, Ivan. A full moon lights the way as they leap through the darkened clouds. The scene is beautifully painted, with lively expressions on the characters, even the firebird, who apparently dislikes public displays of affection!http://www.tradestonegallery.com/index.php?content=fairytaleview&fairytaleid=2&fairytale=ivts&length=S
Tradestone Gallery also offers its own versions of "The Tale of Ivan Tsarevich, the Firebird, and the Gray Wolf." These are by Andrew and his Russian wife Tatyana Stonebarger, the owners of Tradestone. The above link goes to the short one...
...and this one goes to a more lengthy, beautifully delineated version, including a marvelous additional scene on the "waters of life" used by the wolf:...The slain Ivan lay for exactly thirty days on the spot where his brothers had left him. Then the gray wolf found him, recognizing the lad by his scent. He wanted to help his friend, but he didn't know what to do. When he saw a mother crow and her two babies circling and hungrily looking at Ivan, he waited until they landed and grabbed one of the babies.
"Please don't harm my child," the crow pleaded. "He's done nothing to you."
"Then go to the Thrice Tenth Kingdom and bring me back some magical life-and-death water. Your child will be safe if you do this," the wolf said. The crow agreed and flew off.
On the third day, the mother crow returned and brought two vials of water. Without warning, the wolf ripped into the flesh of the young crow he was holding, and tore it in two. Then he sprinkled some "water of death" on the young crow and the crow's wounds were healed. Next he sprinkled some "water of life" on him, and the young crow came to life, fluttered his wings, and flew off to his nest!
The wolf repeated the procedure with Ivan. Miraculously, the boy came to life, saying, "Oh, how long I've slept!" "Yes," the wolf said, "and you would have slept much longer had I not found you!" He told Ivan everything that had happened and that today Ivan's brother Vasiliy was about to marry Elena the Fair. The wolf told Ivan to climb on and in a flash they were off for the city.
Ivan arrived as the wedding feast was already in progress. Elena saw Ivan and jumped up from the table. "There is my dear fiance, not this coward sitting next to me!"
The tsar, confused at this turn of events, asked for an explanation and Elena gladly told him everything. The tsar, quite naturally, was furious with the brothers Dmitriy and Vasiliy and threw them in prison.
Ivan and Elena got married themselves and were so happy with each other that they never parted.
Woman petting wolf from Pushkin tale
Courtesy of Tradestone Gallery
This link goes to a biographical overview of Alexander Pushkin. When I saved the above image in October 2001, I simply labeled it "Pushkin Woman Petting Wolf." Unfortunately, I no longer know which Pushkin work was involved. In reading the short biography of Alexander Pushkin at this link, however, it is not difficult to suspect that he, a notorious womanizer and daredevil, may have felt a close connection to the wily wolf he included in one of his tales. Certainly, the artist (identified only as "vagluk" in the image I saved), captured the craftiness brilliantly.Update 4/15/09: I emailed Andrew Stonebarger at Tradestone Gallery in Maryland and he decoded the "vagluk" in the file I'd saved. He writes: "It sounds like it is a work from Maria Vagner, and perhaps the name of it is "At Lukomore", the poem at beginning of the Ruslan and Ludmila story that Pushkin wrote." I googled "At Lukomore," got only 3 links, 2 of which were in Russian. Google's auto-translator made it clear that they weren't Pushkin's poem. If anyone out there has a translation you could e-mail me, I'd be grateful.
Little Red Riding Hood
Courtesy of Tradestone Gallery
For the West's most famous wolf story, "Little Red Riding Hood," see the Specific Tales section near the end of my Myth*ing Links' fairytale page. It will be noted that the Brothers Grimm, well known for expunging sexuality while at the same time racheting-up levels of violence in their tales, created a demonized version of the wolf, thereby contributing heavily to the wolf's on-going demonization in the West....
Wolf shown writing Russian folktales
Courtesy of Russian Sunbirds
...In contrast, as we have seen in the Russian stories, there is no demonization of the wolf. He can be "outfoxed" and "out-goated," but he also functions as a hero, a guide who gives wise advice to Ivan (who consistently, and to his detriment, ignores it, only to be repeatedly rescued by the patient wolf), and a "savior figure" who restores Ivan's life after his brothers have assassinated him.
This is "Werewolf Legends from Germany," again collected, translated, and edited by Professor D. L. Ashliman of the University of Pittsburgh (see Fables). It is a fine collection of human weakness and depravity imputed to wolves.
Wolf Song of Alaska, online since 1988, is an immense site, covering both positive and negative aspects of the wolf (e.g., reports from Afghanistian on hungry wolves attacking and eating humans in desolate areas). Here is how they introduce themselves:For more than 20 years, Wolf Song of Alaska has distinguished itself as a highly visible and internationally respected organization that is committed to an understanding of the wolf, its natural, history, its varied relation to humans throughout the ages, and its role as a major symbol in folklore, myth, legend, art and religion, through education, science and public awareness.Here is a partial list of topics on this site (taken from the folklore page -- see below): Wolves in General, Wolves of Denali, Wolves in the Lower 48, Wolves in Canada, Wolves in Yellowstone, The Mexican Wolf, The Red Wolf, Wolf Tracking, Coyote, Fox, Dingo, Sharing Wolf Habitat, Wolfdogs in Alaska, Canis lupus familiaris, Wolf Poems, Wolf Distribution, Wolves in Afghanistan, Africa, Europe, China, Iran, Japan, Mongolia, Tasmania, South Asia, Scandinavia, Russia, South America, Wolves Where???, Feral Children, Wolf Academy, Wolves & Humans, Predator & Prey, Wolves & Native Americans, Wolves for Kids, Wolves & Folklore, Wolves in Business, Wolves in Religion, Wolves in War, Wolves in Games, Wolves in the Arts, The Wolf in Fiction, Wolves in Medicine.
That's just a partial list -- there are still more on the home page (they have c. 1500 pages in all). All their pages seem longer than they are because the text is confined to a very, very long strip running down the middle of the page. Some pages are Wolf Song of Alaska pages; others link seamlessly to other sites. I looked at the Wolves in Iran page, for example, which is actually offsite -- a very moving page on the Iranian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), a small subspecies living in impoverished, arid regions from the Middle East to India.
This is Wolf Song of Alaska's well-researched, wide-ranging survey of the wolf in Old World fable, folklore, fairytales, and history written by one of their volunteers, Ivy Stanmore in Australia; it includes a fine bibliography. Here are excerpts in which the author depicts dark changes in how the wolf was viewed in medieval times:...The themes of these stories do not portray the wolf as in any way a threatening animal but rather as too trusting, an easily duped creature. It is when considering [...] writers of the medieval period that an important change in the perception of the wolf occurs, for these writers use the wolf as a symbol for various evils in society and the reputation then ascribed to the wolf remained and grew as the years and centuries went by.Then Stanmore also factors in the Church:
Very little is known about Marie de France, we are not even sure of her name. She described herself only by saying, "Marie is my name and I am of France." Most likely she lived in the reign of Henry II of England (1152-1189) and his wife, Eleanor of Aquitaine....
...Marie's contribution to fable was to turn classical stories into a mirror of 12th century society.... In medieval society the predator was essentially noble -the main activities of the nobles were warfare, hunting, raiding etc. - all predatory activities. Therefore, in Marie's world nobles were born to rule, and rule strongly and wisely, so lions, eagles, destriers (war horses) were depicted as kings, lords and other rulers....
...But Marie's ideal society does not reflect actual happenings in the 12th century any more than it does in own. Rulers do not always rule wisely and well, the rich and powerful do not treat others in less influential positions with charity and consideration. Marie had to have a symbol, a noble beast who had fallen from grace. An illustration of bad government, a wicked ruler, murderous, greedy and unscrupulous to represent those of noble birth who did not adhere to the rules of proper conduct and whose standards were far removed from those of an enlightened ruler. The animal Marie, and other writers, chose to fulfill this role was the wolf. The wolf became the symbol of those who were greedy, dissatisfied with their place in society, disruptive and violent. The metaphor for those who had gone astray was the wolf.......It is difficult for us in modern times to realise just how complete was the dominance which the medieval church held over the lives of most people, even those in powerful positions.... It would not have occurred to the medieval peasant or townsman to question the Church's ordinances. And the church said the wolf was evil, both metaphorically and actually. It devoured the flock, the true Christians in the fold of the Church whose shepherd was Christ himself. It devoured the flocks of their domestic animals on which their very livelihood depended. Medieval people saw wolves far more frequently than we do, in the forests and prowling around the small settlements in which most of them lived. Wolves were no use to them either as labouring animals or as food. Even King John (reigned 1199-1216) of Magna Carta fame, not noted as a good example of kingship, placed a bounty of 5 shillings on the head of every wolf, declaring them pests to be exterminated. Church and State were right; wolves were a manifestation of evil and therefore must be destroyed. Thus the pattern was set. It continued down through the centuries with additions from various sources from time to time, almost to the present day.http://www.wolfsongalaska.org/wolves_early_saints.html
This is Wolf Song of Alaska's "Wolves and Early Saints," again by Ivy Stanmore -- it's a rich, fine essay. Here are some excerpts from its opening:Wolves are mentioned many times in both the Old and New Testaments of the Bible, though it is the saints of the early Christian centuries who are most frequently connected with wolves and usually in a sympathetic context. These early saints used wolves as symbols and emblems, and also had them as companions. They treated them with compassion and humanity in spite of the fact that among the laity wolves were often associated with Satan and persons of ill-repute, such as brigands, outlaws and other outcasts of society.The author also includes the famous story of St. Francis and the wolf who was terrorizing the town of Gubbio; she brings in additional data that adds to the interest and richness of the episode.
Celtic and Northumbrian saints are often portrayed with wolves. St. Patrick is said to have preached to wolves. Another Irish saint, St. Maedoc of Ferns, who died in AD 626, is held to have shared his food with a starving wolf. St. Columban (circa 543-615) yet another Irish-born saint living in the forests, was never molested by wolves and lived amicably among them.... St. Ailbe, a little-known Irish saint of the early 6th century, is reputed to have been suckled by a she-wolf.
The desert fathers and hermits shared the same characteristics of living amicably with and being assisted by wolves. A number of manuscripts tell the story of the visit of St. Anthony the Abbot to St. Paul the Hermit.... According to these manuscripts, St. Anthony journeyed to visit St. Paul through the wilderness of the Egyptian desert. En route he met with a succession of animals: some were helpful in giving directions for his journey, some were not. When St. Anthony became lost a she-wolf appeared who guided him to St. Paul's desert dwelling. The she-wolf stayed with these two saints and a raven brought bread for them to eat, which they shared with the wolf....
This is an index to a sub-section of Wolf Trust called "Thinking Wolves: Lupine Essays." The essays cover a wide range -- both scientific and traditional (I am repeating this link above in the science section for those who might be going there first). This particular essay especially caught my eye:
This is an excellent Wolf Trust overview on "Attitudes to Wolves," opening with this quote from George Bernard Shaw: "When a man wants to murder a tiger, it's called sport; when the tiger wants to murder him it's called ferocity." The question is then asked: "What are our attitudes to wolves, how are they changing and what might the future bring?" My favorite section here is on Japan, at the end of which is my favorite quote:Westerns tend to think of the wolf as a western animal, but wolves lived throughout the northern hemisphere and have made an impression on people globally. John Knight, a British anthropologist, tells of wolf legend in the Kii Peninsula (pronounced Kee'ee), a large region of Japan reaching out into the Pacific Ocean towards the island of Shikoku. In the historic tradition of the Kii Peninsula wolves protected villagers from the misfortunes nature threatened on them. For example, solo travellers walking along lonely mountain tracks at night were sometimes accompanied by a wolf quietly walking a little way behind them until they reached home. The usual benign interpretation for this phenomenon is that wolves are protecting vulnerable sojourners from mountain dangers.The benevolent attitude people had to wolves in the Kii Peninsula may have stemmed from the help of wolves eliminating farm pests, especially wild boar, deer, monkeys and hares. Boar in particular could devastate crops. Wolves were occasionally killed after livestock depredation, but on the whole they were tolerated and someone who killed a wolf was thought to risk spiritual retribution on himself and his family. But such a favourable view about wolves did not stop the extermination of wolves in Japan around the turn of the 20th century, largely by poisoning. As Knight reflects, "Japanese wolf lore tells not of good or bad wolves but of good or bad people."Next, the page looks briefly at Amerindians and then moves to Christianity (including the story of St. Francis and the Gubbio Wolf); the Present; and the Future. Excerpts from the Christianity section:...Even today the wolf is not understood by the Church, exemplified by this quote from a fundamentalist Christian web site:Excerpts from "The Future":
"Though often cowardly when encountered on their own, they attack in packs in the evening, when the light is fading, killing and devouring the shepherd's sheep. Hunting together in large companies, their cries resound far and wide through the night air, instilling fear in the hearts of many with their mournful howls." (Simpson)
The authors of such pomposities are really writing about humans, not wolves. The clergy use the wolf as a symbol of malevolence, contrasting the wicked wolf with the good sheep. But the libel comes at the expense of trying to understand and appreciate the real wolf. "Cowardly" is an emotive description - wolves must be careful and sensible when hunting, they will attack at any time, not just at dusk, and are silent on the hunt.Minnesota is a microcosm and a leading model of what is happening with the blend of wolves and humans. Minnesota wolves are among the most studied wolves in the world. They were severely cut back (they never quit the state altogether, unlike other US states, because of a constant influx of wolves from Canada) but under legal protection in the last few decades their population has increased from a few hundred to least 2,500 individuals. Consequently, more people and livestock are living closer to wolves in Minnesota today than ever before, and the range of wolves is still increasing, particularly into the more populous and agricultural counties.http://www.wolfcountry.net/stories/
...Positions regarding wolf management might polarise more in the future, on the one hand urban pro-wolfers who do not want any wolves killed, no matter the circumstances or the cost, and on the other hand rural anti-wolfers who want to kill off all wolves. Scattered in between will be positions from a concerned public. In the middle will be the decision makers having to act on the issues and cope with imperfect reality.
We can expect our relationship with the wolf to create many challenges ahead for wolf-human harmony. Humanity is by far the biggest destroyer of wolves, so the survival of the wolf depends very much on what humans think and do. In the West, our presently growing benign attitude to wolves could reverse should wolves ever become a bother and a hindrance to too many human aspirations. We have to think and act carefully about how we are to treat wolves. Keep an eye on what is happening in Minnesota.
I found this Wolf Country link when I was looking for sites on wolf lore, not science. Only in grokking it today (19 April 2009) did I discover that it includes both. There is even an intriguing page that looks at the evolutionary origins of the wolf. What attracted me to the page, however, is that in addition to providing legends, fairytales, lore, and online books, it also invites readers to contribute their own stories and poems about wolves. What a wonderful way to involve people, children especially! Here is how the unnamed owner(s) of the site introduce(s) the Stories page:There have [been] many stories and fables written about wolves, some like "little Red Riding Hood", and stories about Werewolves have made the wolf a symbol of evil, a monster to some. The wolf was often portrayed as the Anti-Christ, epitome of evil. There are also many legends of wolves as noble creatures who can teach us many things. The following are some of those stories and myths. Please enjoy them.I originally planned to read the "new" stories and poems and cite passages from those I found most appealing. But there are quite a few, I so easily get "hooked" into a line here, an image there, and it would then be summer before I could finish this page. I took off an intense week to do this page, working 10-12 hours/day, but since I now need to return to earning a living, I am going to take the sensible route and let you discover on your own the treasures awaiting you here <smile>.
Finally, I don't like this site. Since there is neither index nor menu, you have to follow arrows, page by page, without knowing where you are going. The site promises an exploration of positive as well as negative myths and lore, so I kept going, perhaps 10 pages deep, but found only lurid details and lists of werewolves in books, movies, history, etc, etc. Perhaps after many more pages there is a shift to more positive attitudes but I had lost all patience with whatever annoying person had created the site so I exited it. I am placing the link on my own page only because of one succinct and insightful quote:...In many respects, an in-depth and thoughtful exploration of the un-natural rather than natural history of Wolves, becomes a jouney into our own nature, pysche, attitudes .. and, it is to be hoped .. that embarking on such a journey ultimately leads to an appreciation and an understanding more compassionate than human history so far indicates....
With that, I end my Wolf page.
Menu of Common Themes, East & West:
[Note: there are a great many more pages in this category --
please see my HOME page for updates]
Crones & Sages
Dragons & Serpents
Earth Goddesses & Gods
Floods, Storms, Rainbows, & Other Weather Wonders
Food: Sacrality & Lore
Landscape: Sacrality & Lore (Mountains, Wells, Springs, Pools, Lakes, Caves, Labyrinths, Spiral Mounds, Crop Circles, Stone Circles, Feng Shui)
Nature Spirits of the World
Rituals of Puberty
Sacred Theatre, Dance & Ritual
Sky Goddesses & Gods
Star Lore & Astrology
Symbols, Signs, & Runes
Time(Calendars, Clocks, Natural Temporal Cycles, Attitudes toward Time, & Millennium Issues)
Trees & Plant Lore
Tricksters, Clowns, Magicians, Jesters & Fools
Weaving Arts & Lore (Cosmic Webs, Spinning, Spindles, Clothing)
This page created with Netscape 4.7. Colors may appear distorted on Macs.
Text and Design: © 2009 by Kathleen Jenks, Ph.D.
All rights reserved
Page begun 11 April 2009 before I learned certain data was off-limits.
Re-begun, organized, and links grokked and annotated:
10-12 hour days from Monday, 13 April 2009 through Monday, 20 April 2009.
23 April 2009: launched c. 5:45pm, Thursday, the eve of what would have been the 126th birthday of my maternal grandfather, Holly (born 1883, died 1974). Out hunting in his teens with his father, he shot his first deer -- like Aldo Leopold, he watched the life fade out of the deer's eyes. Haunted by the memory, my grandfather refused ever to hunt again. He would have loved this page.
16 May 2009: added two new links recommended by readers in Finland and Poland. I also replaced the cherry-wood Native American wolf-flute with an even more majestic black walnut one (not on their Nighteagle site) that Jessica sent me.
4 June 2009: I never re-launched the page with the May 16th changes because I first needed permission from Kasia and Alan and, by the time I received it, I was immersed in work on the new Insects and Fireflies pages. Finally, those are complete, I have added a brief change requested by Alan, and I am now re-launching this Wolf page.
10 February 2010: added link to Michelle Nijhuis' 2/5/10 Colorado report on the work of Cristina Eisenberg and others.
As many visitors to this site know [see my home page], I have been guiding people through pastlife regressions since the mid-70s. I used to teach a popular 4 week course (4 hours one night/week for 4 weeks) for Community Services at Ventura Community College in Ventura, CA. Near the end of each guided meditation into the past, I'd have my students encounter a Wise One who would take them to a clear pool and ask them to look below the surface and find the face of a significant non-human creature they'd been in an earlier life. Over the years I heard about a wide range of lives as mammals, birds, turtles, dragonflies, frogs, etc, etc (oddly, no snakes that I can recall). The most unforgettable one was a woman who went back to a life as a male wolf. She experienced his life with his mate, their young, what it was like to hunt, run, leap, etc, etc. I never took my students to the creature's death-scene, only to life when the animal was in its prime. Then I brought them back to the Wise One. Afterwards, the woman told us that she'd asked the Wise One why she'd lived as a wolf -- she'd greatly enjoyed it, she said, but what was the point of it? The Wise One said quietly, "That's how you chose to experience the virtue of monogamy." That blew me away -- and the class as well. Such a seemingly quintessential *human* virtue! -- but validly explored as a wolf instead. It opened up a lot of eyes that night.