Thursday, October 20, 2011
This is a chapter from "The Wolf" © 2011 by Wolf Sullivan. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed without the consent of the author.
The Wolf and Religion
Religion is a collection of institutionalized attitudes, beliefs, practices and worldviews that regulate human spirituality and moral values. Most religions have stories, symbols, traditions and histories that give meaning to life or explain the origin of life and the universe. They tend to derive morality, ethics, laws, and a proper lifestyle from their notions about the cosmos and human nature. Religion is very public, not private. Most religions have rules for behavior, clerical hierarchies, congregations, regular meetings for the worship of a deity or for prayer, holy places, and scriptures. The practice of a religion includes sermons, prayer, meditation, sacrifices, festivals, feasts, initiations, weddings, funeral services, music, art, dance, and other aspects of human culture. Religion has taken different forms in different cultures. Because of its importance in society, a religion's view of the wolf has a profound effect on the animal.
The Ancient Egyptian civilization thrived from the Early Dynastic Period about 3150 B.C. until 30 B.C. The religion was a complex system of polytheistic beliefs and rituals which were an integral part of its society. Religion was focused on a variety of gods and the pharaoh, the king of Egypt thought to be descended from the gods.
Egyptians believed the wolf was a guardian and protector of souls that entered the Underworld and symbolized instinctive knowledge. An ancient wolf funerary deity Wepwawet whose name means "opener of the ways" was one of the earliest of the gods to be worshiped. By the Old Kingdom he was popular throughout Egypt. But as Osiris grew in popularity Anubis took on his funerary role. However, he was not entirely absorbed and eventually was considered his son. He was sometimes the son of Osirus, and as a jackal was also said to be Set's son. As a result, Wepwawet is often confused with Anubis. In later Egyptian art, Wepwawet was depicted as a wolf or a jackal, or as a man with the head of a wolf or a jackal. Even when considered a jackal, Wepwawet was shown with gray or white fur to reflect his wolf origins.
Unlike Anubis, who was a human with a jackal-like black head, Wepwawet was usually shown as a military man with a gray or white head. Wepwawet was the nome god for the 13th nome (an administrative division) of Upper Egypt. The god Wepwawet was the royal wolf of Egypt and the city of Wepwawet in the 13th nome was the centre of his cult and called by the Greeks Lycopolis ("Wolf City"). Wepwawet's role was to protect and lead the dead through the Underworld. Jackals and wolves, according to Ancient Egyptians, are associated with the Underworld, death and regeneration, and symbolize intelligence and intuition. Perhaps the differences are irrelevant because Anubis, in Ancient Egyptian mythology, will probably remain the jackal-headed god. Wepwawet also accompanied the king while hunting and in this capacity was called "the one with the sharp arrow who is more powerful than the gods." Some believe Wepwawet was originally just a symbol of the pharaoh, seeking to associate with wolf-like attributes, that later became deified as a mascot to accompany the pharaoh. He was also thought of as a messenger and the champion of royalty. Like Shu (a primordial god), he was said to be "the one who has separated the sky from the earth."
The Egyptian jackal (Canis aureus lupaster), which may have been the inspiration for the Egyptian gods Wepwawet and Anubis, is actually not a jackal but a wolf. New genetic research finds that the Egyptian jackal belongs to the the grey wolf family. Now called the African wolf, it is most closely related to the Himalayan wolf. In 1880 evolutionary biologist Thomas Huxley said Egyptian golden jackals looked like grey wolves. Several 20th century biologists who studied these canines' skulls concurred. Oxford University's Wildlife Conservation Research Unit's scientists’ genetic research proves this beyond a doubt. However, the Ancient Egyptians clearly identified the jackal as a wolf.
Anubis the jackal god is regarded as being one of the most significant mythological symbols of ancient Egypt. He was a jackal-headed god associated with mummification and the afterlife. According to mythology, Nephthys gave birth to Anubis and his father was either Set or Ra. Anubis was also the "Opener of the Ways", who led the dead along the paths of the Underworld and guided reincarnating beings into the Underworld of physical existence. The black jackal symbolized death and regeneration and was represented in the judgment death scene to differentiate the good from the bad. It represents intelligence, desire to protect family and friends and the need to have time alone. Anubis is associated with the Higher Mind and is the knowledge on planes which leads one where one needs to go. He was the opener of paths of the North and the personification of the Summer Solstice. The discovery that the Egyptian Anubis isn't a golden jackal, but is a member of the grey wolf family is important to scientists because it's a discovery of a new subspecies of the Lupis family. Researchers believe that the discovery must change how the animal is considered in conservation.
One of the oldest religions is called Zoroastrianism, which was founded by Zarathustra, the great prophet and philosopher of ancient Persia. Little is known about Zarathustra, including when and where he lived. Probably he lived in the ancestral home of the Indo-Aryans about the 14th century B.C. According to legend, he believed he had seen Ahura Mazda (the lord of light and wisdom) in visions, and that he had been chosen to teach the true religion of Ahura Mazda. Zoroastrianism is basically monotheistic, but other deities sneaked into the religion later. Zarathustra believed in a "dualistic" universe with two forces fighting for the hearts and minds of humanity, and life in this world is caught up in the struggle between them. A second entity was the evil Angra Mainyu. Our word "anger" is related to his name. Zarathustra preached for ten years and was able to win over a tribal king named Vishtaspa. Eventually his teachings spread when the Indo-Aryans migrated into Persia. In Persian mythology, wolves were a creation of the evil spirit Ahirman. Zarathustra did not invent stories, they came from the culture he lived in. The religion that created these stories had many gods and rituals, but Zarathustra declared that only Ahura Mazda should be worshipped by virtuous acts, not by meaningless ceremonies. He wrote poems, sermons, and hymns known as the Gathas, which rely on stories to support his teachings. Only seventeen of the Gathas survive, but they contain some of the most profound teachings of all the world's religious literature. They emphasize the personal side of religion: individual judgment and personal responsibility are the keynotes of the prophet's teaching.
"The Gathas" (18th - 10th century B.C.) are the seventeen hymns believed to have been composed by Zarathusthra (Zoroaster). According to the Avesta, a collection of sacred texts, the young Zarathushtra was raised by a mother wolf in the wilderness. The Avesta also claims wolves are a creation of the evil spirit Ahriman, and are ranked among the most cruel of animals. The Gathas are hymns, the most sacred texts of the Zoroastrian faith. Zarathushtra tells us of The World Savior, who will stop the cruelty of bloodthirsty and wicked people, renew the world, and end death. From "Pahlavi Rivayat", ch. 48:
"4. Aushedar will purify the religion, he will bring the ritual precepts of Hadamansar into use, and men will act according to Hadamansar.
5. The members of the wolf species will all go to one place, and in one place they will be merged, and there will be one wolf whose breadth will be 415 paces and length 433 paces.
6. And on the authority of Aushedar the Mazda-worshippers will muster an army, and they will go to battle with that wolf. First they will perform the yasna, and through their yasna it will not be possible to withstand them.
7. Then Aushedar will say: 'With the sharpest and broadest blades find a means to destroy that demon of great strength'. And then men will slay that demon, with whip and dagger and mace and sword and lance and arrow and other weapons."
It's difficult to take this crap seriously. After three or four thousand years, the "evidence" we now have is the prophet Zarathustra was raised by a she-wolf in the wilderness. This wise and compassionate philosopher repaid the wolf species for its kindness to him by planning to merge them into one gigantic wolf to be destroyed.
Hinduism is the predominant and indigenous religious tradition of the Indian Subcontinent. It is pantheistic. The beliefs and practices of the pre-classical era (1500–500 B.C.) are called the "historical Vedic religion". Modern Hinduism grew out of the Vedas, the oldest of which is the Rig Veda (1700–1100 B.C.). The Vedas center on worship of deities such as Indra, Varuna and Agni, and on the Soma ritual. Prominent themes in Hindu beliefs include Dharma (ethics/duties), Samsāra (the cycle of birth, death and rebirth), Karma (action and reaction), Moksha (liberation from samsara), and the various Yogas (paths or practices). Hindu epics and the Puranas describe the descent of God to Earth in human form. Such an incarnation is called an Avatar. The most prominent avatars are of Vishnu and include Rama (in the Ramayana) and Krishna (in the Mahabharata).
In Hinduism the wolf is a sign of night and is also the mount of terrible deities. "The Rig Veda" (1700–1100 B.C.) (ऋग्वेद) is an ancient Indian collection of sacred Vedic Sanskrit hymns. It is counted among the four canonical sacred texts (œruti) of Hinduism known as the Vedas and is one of the oldest extant texts in any Indo-European language. Some of its verses are still recited as Hindu prayers, putting these among the world's oldest religious texts in continued use. In the Rig Veda, Rijrsava is blinded by his father as punishment for having given 101 of his family's sheep to a she-wolf, who in turn prays to the Ashvins to restore his sight. Bhima, the voracious son of the god Vayu, is described as Vrikodara, meaning "wolf-stomached". Verse 2 of Hymn XLII states: "Drive, Pusan, from our road the wolf, the wicked inasuspicious wolf, Who lies in Wait to injure us." Verse 14 of Hymn CXVI states, "Ye from the wolf's jaws, as ye stood together, set free the quail, O Heroes, O Nasatyas." In 10.127.6-7 we read, "Ward off the she-wolf and the wolf; ward off the thief. O night full of waves, be easy for us to cross over." In the Harivamsa, considered a supplement to the Mahabharata (an epic "history"), Krishna convinces the people of Vraja to migrate to Vrindavan by creating hundreds of wolves from his hairs, which frighten the inhabitants of Vraja into making the journey. It does seem that Hinduism has an ancient negative attitude toward the wolf. However, the Dharma Shastras states, "The killing of living beings is not conducive to heaven", the Yajur Veda states, "Everyone should make offerings to all creatures; thereby one achieves the propitiation of all creatures", the Yoga Sutras state, "When one is established in non-injury, beings give up their mutual animosity in his presence", and verse 321 of the Tirukural reads, "What is virtuous conduct? It is never destroying life, for killing leads to every other sin." Presumably this pacifist non-violence also applies to the persecution of wolves.
Originally thought to be the same gray wolf subspecies as the Iranian wolf (Canis lupus pallipes), the Indian wolf has recently been designated as a separate and distinct species (Canis indica). Recent DNA analysis shows that the Indian wolf's ancestors were isolated on the Indian subcontinent over 800,000 years ago, and then split to form the modern Indian wolf and Himalayan wolf some 400,000 years ago. Though the Indian wolf's range overlaps greatly with its closest relative, the Himalayan wolf, almost no interbreeding has occurred because of behavioral differences. The Indian wolf is one of the world's smallest wolves, measuring only 24-38 inches in height and weighing 40-60 pounds. They are almost always reddish or tawny in color with long legs and narrow muzzles, and have a shorter and thinner coat than northern wolves. Canis indica is only found in the Indian states of Gujarat, Rajasthan, Haryana, Uttar Pradesh, Madhya Pradesh, Maharashtra, Karnataka, and Andhra Pradesh. With 2,000 to 3,000 remaining in the wild, Indians wolves are protected as an endangered species. However, they are still commonly hunted and poisoned by locals because of attacks on livestock. These attacks are far more common in Indian wolves than in other wolf species because nearly all of their large native prey was hunted to extinction by humans.
Buddhism (बौद्ध धर्म) is an atheistic religion and philosophy encompassing traditions, beliefs and practices based on teachings of Siddhartha Gautama, commonly known as the Buddha ("the awakened one"). The Buddha lived and taught in the northeastern Indian subcontinent between the 6th and 4th centuries B.C. According to Gautama Buddha (563 B.C. - 483 B.C.) the wolf was born in such a body and came to a violent end due to correspondingly violent actions in previous lifetimes. Its killing marks the end of that particular karmic episode. For the hunter, on the other hand, whatever short-lived satisfaction might be experienced out of ignorance, such killing plants the seed for acute suffering in future lifetimes.
Buddhist scriptures or Sutras (literally "Peace") are the recorded teachings of the Buddha whose main aim is to enable all sentient beings to listen, understand, practise and benefit from the teachings of the Buddha. Unfortunately for us, there is virtually nothing about the wolf in the Sutras. Furthermore, over thousands of years Buddhism has become fragmented and somewhat transformed into something Gautama Buddha might disapprove of. For example, nowadays there is a trendy form of "Buddhism" called "Green Buddhism" that believes all theology is ecology. Nature is never wrong. The hours of Green Meditation are sometimes referred to as "the hour of the wolf", because this is the time when anxieties, health or financial worries, and other personal problems often come to the fore.
The "Jataka Tales" are folklore-like literature native to India concerning the previous births of the Buddha. "Official" Jataka stories date before the 3rd century B.C. It is the most ancient complete collection of folk-lore now extant in any literature in the world. Translations for children include: "The Tricky Wolf and the Rats", "The Cunning Wolf", "The Otters and the Wolf", "The Foolhardy Wolf", and "The Wise Goat and the Wolf". One of these stories is the "Vaka-Jataka" about a wolf who decides to observe the Uposatha fast because he has no food. But when he sees a goat the pious wolf decides to keep the fast on another occasion. If the story were not intended to be satirical it would be an injustice to wolves. The story:
Upasena visits his Master in a monastery, becomes somewhat enlightened and with others throws his old clothes on the floor. The Master notices the rags and says, "Brethren, the practice undertaken by these brothers is short-lived, like the wolf's holy day service." He then tells this tale:
"Once upon a time, when Brahmadatta reigned as king in Benares, the Bodhisattva came to life as Sakka, king of the gods. At that time a wolf lived on a rock by the Ganges bank. The winter floods came up and surrounded the rock. There he lay upon the rock, with no food and no way of getting it. The water rose and rose, and the wolf pondered: "No food here, and no way to get it. Here I lie, with nothing to do. I may as well keep a sabbath fast." Thus resolved to keep a sabbath, as he lay he solemnly resolved to keep the religious precepts. Sakka in his meditations perceived the wolf's weak resolve. He thought, "I'll plague that wolf"; and taking the shape of a wild goat, he stood near, and let the wolf see him.
"I'll keep Sabbath another day!" thought the wolf, as he spied him. He got up and leapt at the creature. But the goat jumped about so much that the wolf could not catch him. When the wolf saw that he could not catch him, he came to a standstill, and went back, thinking to himself as he lay down again, "Well, my Sabbath is not broken after all."
Then Sakka, by his divine power, hovered above in the air. He said, "What have such as you, all unstable, to do with keeping a Sabbath? You didn't know that I was Sakka, and wanted a meal of goat's-flesh!" and thus plaguing and rebuking him, he returned to the world of the gods.
The Jatakas are in the form of 547 poems, and the "Vaka-Jataka" ends with a moral:
"Even so some persons in this world of ours,
That make resolves which are beyond their powers,
Swerve from their purpose, as the wolf did here
As soon as he beheld the goat appear."The ancient indigenous folk religion of Japan is Shinto, based on feelings of awe toward the sacred powers (kami) that brought life to the earth and human community, and a respect for nature and particular sacred sites. Shinto means "the way of the gods" and is practiced by about 90% of the Japanese population today. The Japanese word for wolf means "great god". In ancient Japan, grain farmers once worshiped wolves at shrines and left food offerings near their dens, beseeching them to protect their crops from wild boars and deer. Talismans and charms adorned with images of wolves were thought to protect against fire, disease, and other calamities and brought fertility to agrarian communities and to couples hoping to have children.
The Ainu are the indigenous people of Japan who believe that they were born from the union of a wolf-like creature and a goddess. They are animists, believing that everything in nature has a kamuy (spirit or god) on the inside. There are no priests, and the village chief performs religious ceremonies. The traditional food of the Ainu is the flesh of bear, fox, badger, ox, horse, as well as fish, fowl, millet, vegetables, herbs, and roots. They also eat wolves.
Ancient Greece is the civilization belonging to the period of Greek history lasting from the 8th to 6th centuries B.C. to the end of antiquity and beginning of the Early Middle Ages with the rise of the Byzantine era following Justinian I. Classical Greek culture had a powerful influence on the Roman Empire, which carried a version of it to many parts of the world, which is why Greece is considered to be the culture which provided the foundation of Western civilization. Both the Greeks and Romans believed in the same religious polytheism, with a hierarchy of gods and Goddesses. In books about the ancient Greeks, we learn they first emulated the wolf, then hated and feared it as a sheep killer, and then looked on it with pity, sadness and guilt.
Zeus, Apollo, Hecate, and Artemis were associated with the wolf by the Greeks. Zeus was the "Father of Gods and men", the god of the sky and thunder. Zeus Lykaios or "Wolf Zeus" was the patron deity of Arcadia, a province in the central and eastern part of the Peloponnese peninsula. A king named Lycaon was turned into a wolf by Zeus. Apollo was the god of light and the sun, truth and prophecy, medicine, healing, plague, music, poetry, arts, archery, and more. He was sometimes called Apollo Lykios, the "Wolf Apollo". Apollo was known as Lykegenes "of she-wolf descent" and the wolf was Apollo's sacred animal. In Athens, the land surrounding the temple of Apollo became known as the Lyceum, the Latin word for "Lykeion", meaning the "wolf skin". Artemis, goddess of the hunt, wild animals, wilderness, childbirth, virginity and young girls, was known as the "Wolf Goddess" and had a wolf on her shield. Hecate, the goddess of magic, witchcraft, and Death, was shown as wearing three wolf heads. Charon, the ferryman of Hades who carried souls of the dead across the rivers Styx and Acheron, wore wolf ears.
The Athenians had great respect for the wolf and decreed that any man who killed one had to pay for the funeral of the animal. On the other hand, the Greeks believed that if someone ate meat from a wolf-killed lamb, he or she ran a high risk of becoming a vampire.
The outskirts of the city-state of Sparta in the ancient world was littered with wolf packs because Sparta had an unusual association with the wolf and many characteristics between the two are intertwined. More than any other city-state, Sparta worshiped the god which was most closely associated with the Dorian people, namely Apollo. Almost all the major Spartan religious festivals were in honour of Apollo--including the Carneia, Gymnopaediae and the Hyacinthus. A sanctuary was built just south of Sparta to Apollo in Amyclae which held the important three day festival called the Hyacinthus. Hyacinthus in myth was the adolescent boy whom Apollo loved but unfortunately killed accidentally by casting a discus. One of Apollo's epithets is "Lykegenes", which translates as "wolfish". This is because one of the god's characteristics is that he is often a loner who stays on the outskirts of towns, often described to be "in the company of wolves".
Lycurgus (800 B.C.–730 B.C.) was the legendary lawgiver of Sparta, who established the military-oriented reformation of Spartan society in accordance with the Oracle of Apollo at Delphi. Lycurgus means "wolf-ish". In the opening line from Plutarch's "Lycurgus" he wrote:
"Generally speaking it is impossible to make any undisputed statements about Lycurgus the lawgiver, since conflicting accounts have been given of his ancestry, his travels, his death, and above all his activity with respect to his laws and government; but there is least agreement about the period in which the man lived." This statement pretty much sums up everything we know about Lycurgus now, and even in Plutarch's time nothing was certain about him. There is a connection between the names of Apollo and Lycurgus--both have a connection with the wolf.
After the "First Sacred War" of 585 B.C., the Lacedaemonians marched into Delphi and returned the city to its inhabitants. The Delphins in honour of having the city restored to them commissioned a bronze wolf to be made and engraved into its forehead the record of the Spartan privilege to consult the oracle before others.
The association between the Spartans and the wolf are constantly shown in ancient literature. Spartans saw themselves as best represented by the wolf. Spartan boys lived and belonged in "ageles", which literally means in Greek "a band of wolves". The lone outsiders, who at an early age had to fend for themselves in the wilderness, to scrounge for food where they could get it, were encouraged to use stealth and to steal. The food a Spartan would eat was enough to make citizens of other city-states puke, cooking the worst parts of an animal to make a black broth. All of these are also characteristics of the wolf, who would also consume all parts of its prey, including right down to the hoofs of dead animals. No wonder a Spartan who was part of the Krypteria, who as part of their training had to stalk down a Messenian helot and kill him without being caught, can be compared to the actions of a wolf.
In "Lysistrata" written around 411 B.C by Aristophanes, is the story about the women of Greece withholding sex from their men until they agree to peace between themselves. When the women hole up in the acropolis the leader of the men in his description of the women says "The blandishments of Sparta's wolves believe.." in his description of the women of Sparta in the acropolis.
Ancient Rome was a great civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. The traditional date of the founding Rome is 753 B.C. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded into one of the largest empires in the ancient world. The 500-year-old Roman Republic (starting in 508 B.C.) was weakened and subverted through several civil wars. It was followed by the Roman Empire, characterized by an autocratic government and large territories in Europe and around the Mediterranean. The term is used to describe the Roman state during and after the time of the first emperor, Augustus. This includes from about 44 B.C. to 1453 A.D.
Romulus and Remus, the legendary founders of Rome, were both suckled by a she-wolf according to tradition. They were raised by a she-wolf in the Cave of the Lupercal on the side of the Palatine Hill. A wolf was responsible for the childhood survival of the future founders of Rome. Romulus and Remus were King Numito's grand-children. Numito's brother, Amulius, performed a coup d'etat, after which the king was imprisoned and his daughter, Rea Sylvia, was forced to become a Vestal Virgin so that she would not bear any children. But Sylvia became pregnant and gave birth to twin boys who were called Romulus and Remus. It is said that the god Mars was their father. Their great uncle Amulius wanted the twin babies dead and ordered them to be thrown in the Tiber river. A servant ordered to kill them, however, relented and placed the two into a basket on the banks of the river. The river, which was in flood, rose and gently carried the cradle and the twins downstream, where under the protection of the river deity Tiberinus, they were adopted by a she-wolf known as Lupa in Latin, an animal sacred to Mars. Lupa took care of the babies and breast-fed them. This symbol of the wolf and suckling babies is as linked to Rome as the Colosseum itself. The she-wolf in the act of nurturing the twins can be seen in many buildings as a homage to Rome and is called Lupercale or Natale di Roma (Roman Christmas).
In Roman culture the wolf was sacred to the god Mars, and the cave of the she-wolf at the foot of the Palatine hill became a sacred place. The she-wolf of the Capitol was the emblem of Rome. Wolves were sacred to the Etruscans, the ancestors of Romulus and Remus, and they made many statues of wolves. The Roman light infantry unit called the Velites wore wolf skins over their helmets. Much of southern Italy too saw itself as having links to Sparta including the Sabines, Samnites, and others. The wolf always held a great significance for the ancient Romans and for a society which was initially based on sheep farming it is hardly surprising. As well as farming, the Romans were also devoted to war and the wolf was the animal sacred to the god Mars, the god of war. Seeing a wolf before a battle was a sign of forthcoming victory. The she-wolf became the symbol of Rome. Its most famous image is the sculpture in Etruscan style, dated back to circa 500 B.C.
In ancient Rome, barren women attended the Roman festival Lupercalia (named for the wolf nursery cave of Romulus and Remus) in the hopes of becoming fertile. According to Pliny the Elder, a first-century Greek scholar, wolf teeth could be rubbed on the gums of infants to ease the pain of teething. He also reported that wolf dung could be used to treat both colic and cataracts.
The first animals in ancient Roman history and legend are the wolf and sheep. Roman Plautus used the image of wolves to ponder the cruelty of man as a wolf unto man. All of this background shows it is not surprising that the wolf came to be the subject of a great many popular sayings and mottos such as:
"lupus in fabula", literally meaning "the wolf in the story", used to mean a situation when a person you might be speaking about actually appears on the scene by surprise.
"auribus teneo lupum", meaning "holding the wolf by the ears", i.e. an uncomfortable and embarrassing situation.
"hac urget lupus hac canis", meaning to be stuck in a cross fire: "on the one side threatened by a wolf and on the other by a dog".
Celtic polytheism or Celtic paganism refers to the religion of the Iron Age peoples of Western Europe now known as the Celts, roughly between 500 B.C. and 500 A.D. It was one of a larger group of Iron Age polytheistic religions of the Indo-European family and there was much variation both geographically and chronologically, although there was "a basic religious homogeneity" among the Celts. The Celtic pantheon included Teutatis, Taranis and Lugus. According to the Romans they practiced human sacrifice extensively, and there was a priestly caste known as the druids, although very little is known about them. They left no written accounts about themselves.
Animal worship had declined among the Celts of historic times, and animals were then regarded mainly as symbols of divinities. The older cult had been connected with the pastoral phase in which the animals were divine, or with the agricultural stage in which they represented the spirits. The wolf symbolized learning, loyalty, intuition, cunning, wisdom, searching, dreams, magic, intuition, transformation, death and rebirth, protection and the shadow. The wolf taught people how to learn about the deepest self by imparting spiritual assistance and courage. Totemism, or the belief an animal has sprititual significance, was part of Celtic religion. Celtic names were derived from animals or plants. Clan totemism underlies the stories of the "descendants of the wolf" at Ossory, who became wolves for a time as the result of a saintly curse. Other instances of lycanthropy were associated with some families. The belief in lycanthropy might easily attach itself to existing wolf-clans, the transformation being then explained as the result of a curse. There are stories of Cormac mac Art, suckled by a she-wolf. One is of Cormac carried off in infancy by a she-wolf and reared with her cubs. But a hunter found Cormac and brought him back to his human mother. Achtan then took him to Fiachrae Cassan, who had been Cormac's foster-father. On the way they were attacked by wolves, but wild horses protected them.
Possibly an early wolf-totem may have been associated with the underworld because of the animal's nocturnal wanderings in forests. The Gallo-Roman Silvanus, probably an underworld god, wears a wolf-skin, and may thus be a wolf-god. There were various types of underworld gods, and this wolf-type--perhaps a local wolf-totem ancestor may have been the god of a clan that imposed its mythic wolf origin on other clans. Some Celtic bronzes show a wolf swallowing a man who offers no resistance, probably because he is dead. The wolf is much bigger than the man, and therefore may be a god. These bronzes represent a belief setting forth the return of men to their totem ancestor after death, or to the underworld god connected with the totem ancestor.
Chechens constitute the largest native ethnic group originating in the North Caucasus region. In Chechen lore, wolves are almost always portrayed in a positive light, either as an equivalent for the nation, or as the loving "Wolf Mother". The Chechen people are said to be related to wolves, in an either symbolic or joking manner, probably in relation to the "Wolf Mother" legend. The characteristics of the wolf are often compared to the Chechen people in a poetic sense, including their most famous line that members of the Chechen nation are "free and equal like wolves". This reverence for the wolf makes it the most common symbol used by Chechen nationalists.
Wolf clans are often equated to Chechen teips (nations within a nation). The wolf for Chechens is not only the national animal, but also the national embodiment, and the wolf is frequently used to show pride. It is notable that the equation of "wolves = Chechens" also in some ways relates to the Chechen character, as it reflects the way Chechens see themselves: intelligent, organized in clans, loyal, and brave. Being related to wolves even includes the myth of Turpalo-Noxchuo, the "founder" of the Chechen nation in legend. He was raised by the Wolf Mother. It is also said that Chechens are descended from Turpalo-Noxchuo and the Wolf Mother like "sparks off steel".
The dominance of monotheistic Christianity in history played an important role in the extermination of wolves. Economics became an important reason for eradicating wolves as humans and their animal populations steadily increased. No single factor--mythology, religion, economics, or biology--could have led to the wholesale destruction of the wolf. But three factors formed an argument against the wolf's existence: a destructive mythology combined with religious fervor that was spurred by environmental changes and economics. The Roman Catholic Church used European fables, myths, and biblical interpretations to create the Western hatred for wolves. It used the negative imagery of wolves to create a sense of real devils prowling the real world. Quoting from Leviticus and Deuteronomy, the Malleus Maleficarum states that wolves are either agents of God sent to punish sinners, or agents of the Devil sent with God's blessing to harass true believers to test their faith.
The Roman Catholic Church equated the wolf with the devil. Bestiaries, collections of moralizing descriptions of animals, often tried to incorporate moral imperatives of the growing Christian religion. This attempt to place Christian beliefs into daily life transformed the bestiary from a collection of enjoyable stories into moral allegories. Although bestiaries were in existence even before 300 B.C., the first mention of Canis lupus appears after 600 A.D. Once the wolf appeared in the bestiary, a literary record of feelings toward and thoughts about the wolf began. The wolf of the bestiaries could strike a human dumb with his gaze. ... The wolf of the bestiary was reputed to have only one cervical vertebrae; thus he was unable to turn his head and look behind him. ... The wolf was thought to eat earth in times of great famine. ... The Devil seeks the saintliest to bring down. For the same reason, a sheep picked out of the flock and killed by wolves took on a special significance. A 12th century bestiary gives us a moralization regarding the wolf: "For what can we mean by the wolf but the Devil?" The bestiaries were full of incorrect information about wolves: false biological assumptions, fantastical tales of the wolves' evil nature and religious imperatives regarding the wolf and the Devil filled the pages. Probably the way we are most familiar with the wolf is through those few bestiary tales that have managed a continued existence into the present day.
Angelo Gandolfi is an expert on the history of wolves and wrote: "The wolf was often seen as an outlaw, a bandit, a murderer: killing wolves was felt as an act of justice. From the Middle Ages up to the late Eighteenth century many animals were put on trial. Usually they had committed homicide, perhaps a pig who had eaten an infant, or a horse who had accidentally kicked a girl...Killing the wolf was not only a matter of defending one’s life, or domestic stocks: it was a kind of moral duty. That is the reason why in my novel "Oyèla and the Wolves" one chapter is dedicated to the trial of two wolves by the Inquisition. That may seem rather far-fetched, yet it is historically correct. A bloodthirsty beast was naturally enough a tool of the Devil, but later it became a devourer of man’s soul, and so the Devil himself. In this way wolves were connected with all sorts of witchcraft and sorcery. Witches rode on wolves to reach the Sabbath; witches disguised themselves as wolves; witches had perverted sexual relations with wolves; witches transformed other people into wolves, giving life to werewolves ("Wer" is Old English for "man")."
Not all Christians hated wolves. Legends of Saint Francis of Assisi (1181 – 1226) show him befriending a wolf. According to the Fioretti, the city of Gubbio was besieged by the Wolf of Gubbio, which devoured both livestock and men. Francis of Assisi, who was living in Gubbio at the time took pity on the townsfolk, and went up into the hills to find the wolf. Soon fear of the animal caused all his companions to flee, but the saint pressed on and when he found the wolf he made the sign of the cross and commanded the wolf to come to him and hurt no one. Miraculously the wolf closed his jaws and lay down at the feet of St. Francis. "Brother Wolf, you do much harm in these parts and you have done great evil…" said Francis. "All these people accuse you and curse you… But brother wolf, I would like to make peace between you and the people." Then Francis led the wolf into the town, and surrounded by startled citizens he made a pact between them and the wolf. Because the wolf had "done evil out of hunger" the townsfolk were to feed the wolf regularly, and in return, the wolf would no longer prey upon them or their flocks. In this manner Gubbio was freed from the menace of the predator. Francis, the lover of animals, even made a pact on behalf of the town dogs, that they would not bother the wolf again.
"The Bible" (4th century A.D.) is a collection of sacred scripture of both Judaism and Christianity. The Christian Bible is divided into the Old Testament, 39 books of Hebrew Scripture, and the New Testament, a set of 27 books. It generally portrays the wolf as negative or evil. In Biblical terms, "wolf" does not equate to "evil", it is only the allusion that the wolf stands in a predatory relationship to sheep. Almost every place that "wolf" is used figuratively in the Bible, it is metaphorical with wolves representing false prophets, false religion, false teachers, or "faith for pay" practitioners. They are evil, and do to the faithful what wolves do to sheep. "Flock" represents followers of God and the "Shepherd" represents the "Anointed One" (Jesus). The Bible contains 13 references to wolves, usually as metaphors for falseness, greed and destructiveness. In the New Testament Jesus says, "Behold, I am sending you out as sheep in the midst of wolves, so be wise as serpents and innocent as doves."(Matthew 10:16) and "Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep's clothing but inwardly are ravenous wolves." (Matthew 7:15). The Bible describes Jesus as the shepherd protecting his flock of sheep from the wolf. "Go your way; behold, I am sending you out as lambs in the midst of wolves."(Luke 10:3). "The hired hand is not the shepherd who owns the sheep. So when he sees the wolf coming, he abandons the sheep and runs away. Then the wolf attacks the flock and scatters it." (John 10:12) In Acts 20:29 the Apostle Paul warns that after he is gone, that "grievous wolves" will rise within Christianity itself. In Genesis 49:27 Benjamin is likened to a ravening wolf: "In the morning he shall devour the prey, and at night he shall divide the spoil." In Ezekiel 22:27 the elders of Jerusalem are compared to wolves: "Her princes in her midst are like wolves tearing the prey, shedding blood, destroying lives to get dishonest gain." and in the similar Zephaniah 3:3 is "Her princes within her are roaring lions; her judges are evening wolves; they gnaw not the bones till the morrow." In Jeremiah 5:6 it is a wolf that shall destroy the people of Jerusalem: "Wherefore a lion out of the forest shall slay them, and a wolf of the evenings shall spoil them." In Habakkuk 1:8 the horses of the Chaldeans "are swifter than leopards, and are more fierce than the evening wolves." There are some kind attitudes toward the wolf in the Bible. In Isaiah 11:6 "The wolf also shall dwell with the lamb" and in Isaiah 65:25 "The wolf and the lamb shall feed together". Another very prevalent notion in both the old and new testaments of the Bible is the wolf as a tool of Satan and his henchmen. Wolves in this context are thought of as stealing the souls of men. The wolf naturally preying upon domesticated animals easily transforms into the metaphor of Satan seducing the innocents of the Christian flock. This is probably the most frequent religious wolf allusion to inseminate Christianity and Western culture. The Bible is the best-selling book in history, and the sad fact is that its image of the wolf has little relation to anything based on reality and has had a disastrous effect on this animal and its role in our world.
The Talmud" (תַּלְמוּד) is a central text of monotheistic Judaism in the form of a record of rabbinic discussions pertaining to Jewish law, ethics, philosophy, customs and history. It has two components, the Mishnah (200 A.D) a compendium of Judaism's Oral Law, and the Gemara (500 A.D.), mostly discussions and legal analysis. In the Talmud the main source for understanding the role of the wolf in Judaism is the verse of Jacob's somber blessing to his youngest son Benjamin, whose future tribe is compared to a wolf: "Benjamin is a predatory wolf; in the morning he eats his prey, and in the evening his spoil shall be divided." (Genesis 49:27) The prophecy emphasizes the tribe's military ferocity. Some believe this may be an allusion to Saul, the first king of Israel. If so, there may be a connection here to the Egyptian god Wepwawet, the royal wolf of Egypt. The city of Wepwawet was known as Lycopolis, "Wolf City". Others think that this refers to the Temple that was built on Benjamin's territory and swallowed up the offerings of the people at the altar. Literally, this verse shows the activities of the wolf at two times: dawn and dusk. In his classic work on wolf biology and lore, "Of Wolves And Men" (1979), Barry Lopez notes that this feature of wolf behavior is so striking as to form a basis for its symbolism: "From classical times he had been a symbol of things in transit. He was a twilight hunter, seen at dawn and dusk." In other words, the wolf is a creature that is symbolically related to times of half-light. Barry Lopez wrote: "The link is between the wolf and a period of half-light--either dawn or dusk, though dawn is more widely known as the hour of the wolf. The wolf is a creature of dawn, representing an emergence from darkness into enlightenment. The association is old enough to have been the basis for the Latin idiom for dawn, "inter lupem et canem", between the wolf and the dog. Darkness and savagery are symbolized in the wolf, while enlightenment and civilization are symbolized in the tame wolf, the dog." The wolf is a symbol of transition. It can be either a savage killer or man's best friend. Of the two periods of half-light, Lopez writes that it is dawn that was more widely rated as the hour of the wolf. Scripture, on the other hand, places greater emphasis on dusk: "His horses are swifter than leopards, and quicker than the wolves of dusk." (Habakuk 1:8)
"Its princes were in its midst as roaring lions, its officers were the wolves of dusk, not leaving a bone for the morning." (Tzephaniah 3:2-3)
"Therefore the lion from the forest has struck them, the wolf of the dusks has plundered them." (Jeremiah 5:6)
Rabbi Yaakov Yehoshua ben Tzvi Hirsch (1752-1780) in his Talmudic commentary "Pnei Yehoshua" stated one should only begin one's travels at daybreak when one can ascertain the difference between a dog and a wolf.
Very few mammals have symbiotic relationships with other creatures. One of the few exceptions is the wolf. Barry Lopez wrote: "The wolf seems to have few relationships with other animals that could be termed purely social, though he apparently takes pleasure in the company of ravens. The raven, with a range almost as extensive as the wolf's, one that even includes the tundra, commonly follows hunting wolves to feed on the remains of a kill." The raven is sometimes known as "wolf-bird", and some zoologists speculate that its relationship with wolves may be assisted by their psychological make-up. Ravens can be attracted to wolf-howls. The wolves' howls before they go on the hunt are a signal that the birds learn to heed. Conversely, wolves may respond to certain raven vocalizations or behavior that indicate prey. The raven-wolf association may be close to a symbiosis that benefits the wolves and ravens alike. At a kill site, the birds are more suspicious and alert than wolves, and the ravens serve the wolves as extra eyes and ears. Dr. L. David Mech in "The Wolf: The Ecology and Behaviour of an Endangered Species" (1981) wrote: "It appears that the wolf and the raven have reached an adjustment in their relationships such that each creature is rewarded in some way by the presence of the other and that each is fully aware of the other's capabilities. Both species are extremely social, so they must possess the psychological mechanisms necessary for forming social attachments. Perhaps in some way individuals of each species have included members of the other in their social group and have formed bonds with them."
This unusual partnership also finds expression in Scripture. The only person in Scripture named after the wolf, the Midianite chieftain Ze'ev (זְאֵב Wolf), had a partner named Orev (Raven). "And they captured the two chieftains of Midian, Orev and Ze'ev; and they executed Orev in the Rock of Orev, and they executed Ze'ev at the Winepress of Ze'ev, and they pursued Midian; and they brought the heads of Orev and Ze'ev to Gideon, across the Jordan." (Judges 7:25)
The Hebrew name for raven is orev, comprised of the same letters as the word erev, meaning dusk. Dusk, the time which is so epitomized by wolves that they are repeatedly referred to as "the wolves of dusk". In the Midrash (מדרש commentaries on Tanakh תַּנַ, the Hebrew Bible) is a view that the Egyptian plague of arov was comprised of ravens and other such birds, while another view maintains that it was both wolves and ravens. The Talmud also mentions "Great is the sheep that stands among seventy wolves" and asks, "How can a sheep survive among seventy wolves?"
The mythologies of the Turkic and Mongolic peoples are related. Both groups of peoples qualify as Eurasian nomads and have been in close contact throughout history. The oldest mythological concept that can be reconstructed with any certainty is the sky god Tengri, attested from the Xiong Nu in the 2nd century B.C. The wolf symbolized honour and was also considered the mother of most Turkic peoples. Asena (Ashina Tuwu) is the wolf mother of Bumen, the first Khan of the Göktürks.In Turkic mythology, the she-wolf Asena is associated with a Gِktürk ethnogenic myth "full of shamanic symbolism". The legend tells of how after a battle, only an injured young boy survives. Asena finds the injured child and nurses him back to health. He subsequently impregnates the wolf which then gives birth to ten half-wolf, half-human boys. One of these, Ashina, becomes their leader and founds the Ashina clan that ruled the Gِktürks and other Turkic nomadic empires.
In Altaic mythology of the Turkic and Mongolian peoples, the wolf is a revered animal. The Turks and Mongols believed wolves were the ancestors of their race. The legend of Asena is an old Turkic myth that tells of how the Turkic people were created. In Northern China a small Turkic village was raided by Chinese soldiers, but one small baby was left behind. An old she-wolf with a sky-blue mane named Asena found the baby and nursed him, then the she-wolf gave birth to half wolf, half human cubs therefore the Turkic people were born. Also in Turkic mythology it is believed that a gray wolf showed the Turks the way out of their legendary homeland Ergenekon, which allowed them to spread and conquer their neighbours. In modern Turkey this myth inspired extreme-right nationalist groups known as "Grey Wolves". In Mongolian folk medicine, eating the intestines of a wolf is said to alleviate chronic indigestion, while sprinkling food with powdered wolf rectum is said to cure hemorrhoids. Some Mongolians believe that Genghis Khan was the product of a union by a blue wolf and a deer. Mongol mythology explains the wolf's occasional habit of surplus killing by pointing to their traditional creation story. It states that when God explained to the wolf what it should and should not eat, he told it that it may eat one sheep out of 1,000. The wolf however misunderstood and thought God said kill 1,000 sheep and eat one.
Norse mythology includes the myths, legends, and beliefs about supernatural beings of Norse pagans. It flourished prior to the Christianization of Scandinavia, during the Early Middle Ages, and passed into Nordic folklore. We know almost nothing about pagan religious practices in the Viking Age. Chieftains had some sort of role as priests, and pagan worship involved the sacrifice of horses, but we don't know much more. Wolves in Norse literature indicate the strange envy, hatred, and fear man seems to hold for this animal
In Norse mythology, wolves were portrayed as almost god-like. The wolf Sköll was depicted pursuing the setting sun and the wolf Fenrir was the son of the god Loki. There were three prominent malevolent wolves: the giant Fenrisulfr or Fenrir, eldest child of Loki and Angrboda who was feared and hated by the ئsir, and Fenrisulfr's children, Sköll and Hati. Fenrir is bound by the gods, but is ultimately destined to grow too large for his bonds and devour Odin during the course of Ragnarِk. At that time, he will have grown so large that his upper jaw touches the sky while his lower touches the earth when he gapes. He will be slain by Odin's son, Viًarr, who will either stab him in the heart or rip his jaws asunder according to different accounts. Fenrir's two offspring will according to legend, devour the sun and moon at Ragnarök. Loki was a giant who had three monstrous children by his giantess wife. His daughter Hel became ruler of the underworld. One son, Jormunagund, was a serpent who grew so large that he stretched all the way around the earth. The other son was Fenris, a wolf so powerful that he terrified the gods until they tricked him into allowing himself to be tied up with a magical chain which bound him until the end of time. The völva (witch) Hyndla and the giantess Hyrrokin are both portrayed as using wolves as mounts. Wolves served as mounts for more or less dangerous humanoid creatures. For instance, Gunnr's horse was a kenning for "wolf" on the Rök Runestone, in the poem "Lay of Hyndla" Hyndla rides a wolf, and Hyrrokin arrived on a wolf at Baldr's funeral. On the other hand, the wolves Geri and Freki were the Norse god Odin's faithful pets who were reputed to be "of good omen".
In the Hervarar saga, King Heidrek is asked by Gestumblindi (Odin),
"What is that lamp
which lights up men,
but flame engulfs it,
and wargs grasp after it always."
Heidrek knows the answer is the Sun, explaining, "She lights up every land and shines over all men, and Skoll and Hatti are called wargs. Those are wolves, one going before the sun, the other after the moon."
The Vikings wore wolf skins and drank wolf blood to take on the wolf's spirit in battle. They also viewed real wolves as battle companions or hrægifr (corpse trolls).
According to legend, the establishment of the Lithuanian capital Vilnius began when the grand duke Gediminas dreamt of an iron wolf howling near the hill.In Scandinavia, Finland has the most antipathy for wolves. Unlike the fox and bear, the wolf has always been feared and hated in Finland. The wolf has been the symbol of destruction and desolation, to the extent that the very name of wolf in Finnish language, susi, means also "a useless thingie" and the by-name hukka means perdition and annihilation. While the bear has been the sacred animal of Finns, wolves have always been hunted and killed mercilessly. The wolf has been represented as an implacable and malicious predator, killing more than it manages to eat.
Regarding the monotheistic religion of Islam, wolves are mentioned three times in the holy book Qur'an, specifically in the Sura Yusuf:
12.13: "He said: Surely it grieves me that you should take him off, and I fear lest the wolf devour him while you are heedless of him."
12.14: "They said: Surely if the wolf should devour him notwithstanding that we are a (strong) company, we should then certainly be losers."
12.17: "They said: O our father! Surely we went off racing and left Yusuf by our goods, so the wolf devoured him, and you will not believe us though we are truthful."
"The Qur’an" (القرآن) (632 A.D.) by Muhammad is the religious text of Islam, also known as Quran, Kuran, Koran, Coran or al-Qur’ān. Muslims believe the Qur’an to be the verbal divine guidance and moral direction for mankind and the final revelation of God. One story in this religious book is the Sura Yusuf about the prophet Yusuf (circa 1610 B.C. - 1500 B.C.). Yusuf corresponds to the character from the Jewish texts and the Christian Bible as Joseph and is the Arabic variant of that name. His brothers were jealous of him for his talents and because they thought their father prophet Ya'qub favored him. So they plotted to kill him and falsely tell their father he was eaten by a wolf. Prophet Ya'qub refused to believe his sons realizing it was all a lie which they had prepared.
[12:9] "Let us kill Yusuf, or banish him, that you may get some attention from your father. Afterwards, you can be righteous people."
[12:10] One of them said, "Do not kill Yusuf; let us throw him into the abyss of the well. Perhaps some caravan can pick him up, if this is what you decide to do."
[12:11] They said, "Our father, why do you not trust us with Yusuf? We will take good care of him.
[12:12] "Send him with us tomorrow to run and play. We will protect him."
[12:13] He said, "I worry lest you go away with him, then the wolf may devour him while you are not watching him."
[12:14] They said, "Indeed, if the wolf devours him, with so many of us around, then we are really losers."
(Yusuf is thrown in a well by his brothers, but he survives.)
[12:16] Then they killed a sheep and soaked Yusuf's shirt in its blood. One brother said that they should swear to keep their deed a close secret. All of them took the oath. And they came to their father in the early part of the night weeping.
[12:17] The scene here is dark night, broken by the crying of ten men. The father is sitting in his house when the sons enter, the darkness of night covering the darkness of their hearts and the darkness of their lies struggling to come out. Prophet Ya'qub wondered aloud: "Why this weeping? Has anything happened to our flock?" They answered crying: "O our father! We went racing with one another, and left Yusuf by our belongings and a wolf devoured him; but you will never believe us even when we speak the truth.
[12:18] "We were surprised after returning from the race that Yusuf was in the belly of the wolf."
"We did not see him!"
"You will not believe us even though we are truthful! we are telling you what happened!"
"The wolf has eaten Yusuf!"
"This is Yusuf's shirt. We found it soiled with blood, and did not find Yusuf!"
They brought his shirt stained with false blood. Deep down in the heart Ya'qub knew that his beloved son was still alive and that his other sons were lying. He held the blood stained shirt in his hands, spread it out and remarked: "What a merciful wolf! he ate up my beloved son without tearing his shirt!" Their faces turned red when he demanded more information, but each swore by Allah that he was telling the truth. The brokenhearted father burst into tears: "Nay! But your ownselves have made up a tale. So for me patience is more fitting. It is Allah alone whose help can be sought against that which you assert."
What we can learn from this is the wolf is a convenient scapegoat. Throughout history it has been wrongly blamed for the deaths of countless humans and livestock.
North American native indigenous peoples are composed of numerous distinct tribes and ethnic groups. Their ancestors originally migrated from Eurasia to the Americas by a land bridge which once connected the two continents across what is now the Bering Strait. It happened 12,000 to 60,000 years ago. There are many different Native American religious practices, but most dwell on the supernatural, spirits, visions, shamans, community ceremonies, and a universal force regulating birth, puberty, and death. It is Panentheistic, with a belief that God is greater than the universe and includes it.
Native Americans, like the ancient peoples living under the guidance of the earth goddesses, saw and respected the interconnections between all aspects of the natural environment. Although the wolf, the grizzly bear and other large mammals posed a threat to Native Americans, instead of destroying these animals, they learned to live in harmony with them. Wolf rituals practiced on the northwest coast of the United States are a case in point. These exceedingly complex and sacred rituals were a way of revering the wolf. Native Americans respected and admired the strength and survival skills of the wolf. These ceremonies ensured respect for the wolf, as those participating sought to receive the strength, hunting skills and bravery exhibited by wolves. This evidence of the ability of humans to live in peace with nature and even predators is exemplified by the wolf rituals. Most Native Americans believe the wolf is a teacher and pathfinder to find new ideas. In many Native American traditions, the wolf is considered to be the highest spiritual teacher in the kingdom, even above the hawk and eagle. Furthermore, the war against Native Americans by European immigrants exactly parallels the 19th Century persecution and eradication of wolves by the white man in every way.
Wolves were generally revered by tribes that survived by hunting, but were thought little of by those that survived through agriculture. Some tribes, such as the Nunamiut of northern and northwestern Alaska and the Naskapi of Labrador respected the wolf's hunting skill and tried to emulate the wolf in order to hunt successfully. Others saw the wolf as a guide. The Tanaina of Alaska believed that wolves were once men, and viewed them as brothers.
In the Cardinal directions of the Plains Indians, the wolf represented the west, while for the Pawnee, it represented the southeast. According to the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first creature to experience death. The Wolf Star, enraged at not having been invited to attend a council on how the Earth should be made, sent a wolf to steal the whirlwind bag of The Storm that Comes out of the West, which contained the first humans. Upon being freed from the bag, the humans killed the wolf, thus bringing death into the world. The Pawnee, being both an agricultural and hunting people, associated the wolf with both corn and the bison; the "birth" and "death" of the Wolf Star (Sirius) was to them a reflection of the wolf's coming and going down the path of the Milky Way known as Wolf Road.
Some cultures, such as the Apache, would hunt wolves as a rite of passage. Wolves are usually hunted in heavy brush and are considered especially challenging to hunt, due to their elusive nature and sharp senses. Wolves were not always portrayed positively in Native American cultures. The Netsilik Inuit and Takanaluk-arnaluk believed that the sea-woman Nuliayuk's home was guarded by wolves. The Naskapi's believed that the caribou afterlife is guarded by giant wolves that kill careless hunters who venture too near. In Navajo culture, wolves were feared as witches in wolf's clothing. They called them "Mai-cob". Wolves were feared by the Tsilhqot'in, who believed that contact with wolves would result in nervous illness or death. According to the Pawnee creation myth, the wolf was the first animal to experience death.
Among the Cherokee were seven clans: the Wolf Clan (Ani-Wahya), Panther Clan (Ani-Sahoni), Long Hair Clan (Ani-Gilohi), Bird Clan (Ani-Tsisqua), Deer Clan (Ani-Kawi), Bear Clan (Ani-Gatogewi), and Paint Clan (Ani Wo-di). The Wolf Clan is the largest clan and the most prominent clan, providing most of the war chiefs. The Wolf Clan are keepers of the wolf and the only clan that can kill a wolf. The clan color of the Ani-Wahya Wolf Clan is red. The Cherokee Indians did not hunt wolves because they believed a slain wolves' brothers would take revenge. Furthermore, if a weapon were used to kill a wolf, the weapon would not work properly again.
In his book "Never Cry Wolf" (1963), Farley Mowat comes into contact with wolves and Native Americans. When he began his research of the wolf in the Arctic, he was told by non-native locals what the wolves are like: "Although wolves reputedly devour several hundred people in the Arctic zone every year, they will always refrain from attacking a pregnant Eskimo...every four years wolves are subject to a peculiar disease which causes them to shed their entire skins...wolves were rapidly destroying caribou herds; each wolf killed thousands of caribou a year just out of blood lust…". Mowat subsequently came to see that these myths about wolves as bloodthirsty creatures bore little resemblance to reality. Yet when a culture starts with the assumption that wolves are by nature bad and cruel, all of their actions and interactions with humans take on this highly negative and mythological viewpoint.
On the other hand, Barry Lopez wrote in "Of Wolves and Men" (1978): "It is popularly believed that there is no written record of a healthy wolf ever having killed a person in North America. Those making the claim ignore Eskimos and Indians who have been killed and are careful to rule out rabid wolves." and "Ernest Thompson Seton believed that wolves attacked and killed people before the coming of guns and poisons, especially during the Winter months when food was scarce, and Native American oral history supports this."