Wolf is probably one of the most appreciated, respected and admired animals on the planed, but also despised, severely hunted and demonized of by humans. This proud and brave member of Canine family has been our spirit guide and our real enemy, since ancient times until this day.
Many people see something magical and powerful in wolves and, strangely, this merciless predator is also seen somewhat similar to humans in nature.
In various traditions, there are numerous wolf related beliefs, superstitions and sayings.
Humans have been observing wolves’ behavior through ages of our history, noticing patterns that seem inspiring and those that are primal and scary.
One of the most popular Latin sayings goes like Homo homini lupus est, meaning a human is dangerous to another member of its kind. It appears we see wolves as cruel, merciless and unscrupulous beings.
There are also numerous beliefs that consider wolves dark magical creatures who posses special, supernatural powers. In many legends, folktales and popular culture stories, wolves can shape shift, they change into werewolves, they are demoniac hounds and so on.
On a positive side, there are also various beliefs about wolves as powerful spirits, totemic guides and protectors.
In shamanic societies, a wolf could be a powerful totem. People have always wanted to have something of a wolf; for example, both old tribal and contemporary wolf tattoos and other types of decorations are meant to provide some of the Wolf’s magical powers to the carrier.
Free spirit of wolves is, perhaps, what inspires and fascinates is the most.
Wolf symbolism is rich, abundant, ambivalent, controversial, even paradoxical. There are so many opposing conceptions of wolves, all around the world.
In following paragraphs, we will take you on a journey through the magnificent world of symbols and secret meanings, this time those related to these impressive earthly creatures, amazing and beautiful wolves.
Wolf cultural significance
Wolves have a special place in folklore of various peoples throughout human history. How different people think about wolves varies depending on their own way of living. Conceptions of wolves differ upon whether people live sedentary or they are hunting type of societies.
Hunter societies consider wolves’ powerful beings. They see wolves either as competitors in hunt, stronger and more skillful ones or, in certain cases, equal. These people share lands with wolves; they both hunt in order to survive, in the same areas.
Hunter societies appreciate wolves for their incredible skills and, in a way, they are envious of their powers. That envy usually does not have a negative connotation, but just the opposite.
On the contrary, these people would love to posses the speed and the agility of a wolf; its hunting skills and free spirit. They identify wolves with spirits of wilderness. Those societies are commonly shamanic in nature and they believe they could get some of wolves’ powers through shape shifting or wolf talismans.
They would wear a wolf’s claws or teeth, wolf’s skin and fur or something else. Tattoos, wolf carvings and paintings, as well as all other types of personal, house or ritual decorations, are used in order to provide some of wolf’s spirit powers to humans having or wearing them. In
European countries, we clearly see remains of wolf cult in names such as Wolfgang and Wolfhard, or specific local variations of names derived from the term that stands for ‘a wolf’ in particular language.
While hunters’ societies were in favor with wolves, sedentary types of traditions have always been afraid of these merciless predators. No strange at all, for wolves are known to kill peoples’ cattle, fowl and other domestic animals people breed.
For sedentary societies, wolves are an embodiment of the very idea of danger, threat and death. These people see wolves only as bloodthirsty predators.
From the day people settled down and started growing crops and breeding domestic animals, wolves have been demonized.
Unfortunately, that led to severe exterminations of wolves throughout what was considered civilized world. Historical data testifies upon bloody wolf hunts all throughout European countries, particularly Scandinavian lands, Russia, France and parts of Italy.
Such reports are also to be found in Canadian, Alaskan sources, as well as in Russian. There has always been an ongoing debate on whether a healthy wolf would attack a human being.
Statistics claim wolves do attack humans, but the nature of such attacks is unclear. Reports definitely prove wolves did attack weak individuals, such as children, women and old people.
Some scientific sources claim wolves would never attack a human for no reason, which might be feeling endangered by humans. However, these reports make such a claim suspicious. In any case, terrible wolf exterminations are not what we could claim to be good.
From eighteenth to early twentieth century, wolves have been exterminated in some European countries; Britain, Germany and Denmark, in particular. Yes, they definitely are dangerous, but nothing could possibly justify such a terror.
The fear of wolves has grown so big that people invented numerous scary stories about evil, bloodthirsty wolf demons, werewolves. Later on, we will talk more about them.
There are so many myths and legends about wolves. All these beliefs and stories prove how important wolves are to humans, in symbolical sense, in the first place. Perhaps the most widely known wolf related legend is that about the Ancient Roman legendary she-wolf, who has taken care of Romulus and Remus, the mythical founders of the city of Rome.
Ever since old times, this legendary wolf remained the symbol of Rome. The Roman she-wolf is an embodiment of protection, nurture and care. Without her, there would be no Rome, right?
Celtic wolf is another important conception of wolves in mythological terms. This animal takes an important place in Celtic zodiac. In Celtic folklore, mystic wolf is associated with spiritual powers and positive magic. People born between 28th of October and 24th of November are guided and protected by the spirit of the Wolf, according to old Celtic lore.
Celtic wolf is a positive and powerful symbol; it stands for honor, endurance and strength.
In Celtic tradition, wolf motifs were commonly used as decorative images. These are usually painted or carved in an ornamental style, very rich and complex. These amazing Celtic decorations have been popular until the day. It was believed they are protective and that they could actually give you some of wolves’ mysterious energy powers. Today, these wolf
Celtic ornaments are a common tattoo design, along with wolf tribal.
In Nordic mythology, many mythical wolves have special place. There are Geri and Freki, two loyal friends of the almighty Odin. Evil wolf Fenrir is Odin’s enemy, the dreadful creature that was foretold to kill the Father of gods in Ragnaröck, which is the chaotic end of everything, as it was described in Nordic lore. Demon wolf Fenrir’s father was Loki, the powerful god of trickery and deceit.
According to Nordic beliefs, there are two other wolves, Sköll and Hati, actually metaphors for transformations of day to night. They chase the Sun and the Moon and so we have both daylight and nightlight.
Wolves play an important role in Nordic traditions, so we have another one. It is Garmr, the creature that protects gates of the goddess Hel. Garmr is, however, also depicted as a dog, this close relative to wild wolves. Not only Celtic and Norse folktales and myths tell about wolves.
There are other inspiring traditional beliefs, such as Inuit legends about amarok, a mythical wolf-like creature.
According to Inuit folktales, amaroks represent a class of supernatural beings, some kind of spirits that take a form of colossal wolves. Only Greenland Inuit use the term amarok referring to this mythical being, while in other Arctic traditions, the word simply means ‘a wolf’.
Amaroks, seen as legendary creatures, are bloodthirsty and scary; they walk at night and eat people who wander alone.
Turkic nomadic people have a similar story of the legendary she-wolf, to that of Romans.
Turkic nomadic folklore tells about Asena, the mother of Turkic clans and their ruler. In numerous other traditions throughout history of civilization, wolves appear in different stories, beliefs and superstitions. Latin quotes illustrate the importance of wolves as a motif used to describe or represent human behavior.
Now let us go further into the obscure world of dark symbolism. How were legends of werewolves created? Why do we associate wolves with some supernatural, scary and dark creatures?
In addition to the fact that most people are generally afraid of wolves, even those who find them amazing and beautiful, there must be something more to it. Let us find out. How do you become a werewolf?
Lycanthrope, meaning ‘a person that is wolf-like’ (derived from Greek) or a werewolf is a creature that appears in a number of stories, legends and superstitions. Its background is quite complex and not so easy to clear up, but most of those werewolf legends we know originate from European folklore.
However, the term lycanthropy refers to an illness, which Ancient Greeks have known about.
Lycanthropy is a medical condition in which a patient develops unnaturally strong appetite and shows some characteristics that remind people of wolves. A person transforms into a wolf-like creature, in a way, which is a good basis to invent all those dark and bloody werewolf legends.
However, the true popularity of werewolves has been evolving since Victorian era.
The idea of a human transforming into a dreadful wolf-like demon on a full moon was present in medieval era, but the true ‘fame’ werewolves gained through Victorian age novels.
The most notable one are Dracula, from Bram Stoker and Were-wolf, written by Clemence Housman. Werewolf related superstitions and beliefs vary. There are numerous versions of stories on how a person becomes a werewolf, in the first place. Werewolf symbols are common in neo-gothic culture.
You could become a werewolf, if you were a woman and you sleep outside on a full moon. It is also believed that werewolves are people who have made a deal with the devil himself.
Generally speaking, werewolves are believed to be creatures of darkness, strong, deadly and scary and full of negative, dark energy. They symbolize primal instincts, something uncontrolled and unrestrained in us. Werewolf symbolizes our dark side, to say so.
Wolf symbolism and spiritual meaning
Put these scary legends aside, let us get back on track and return to our fellow, the Wolf. What does a wolf symbolize? General wolf symbolism is rich and it originates from all of these cultural conceptions of wolves put and mixed together. Specific meanings depend on particular culture and tradition.
Symbolism of wolves is abundant in different opinions, complex and ambivalent. However, there are several ideas and concepts that keep reoccurring.
Wolves symbolize freedom, bravery, primal forces, intuition, instincts, strength, self-reliance, loneliness, solitude, unity, company and loyalty. On a dark and negative side, wolves represent danger, threat, thirst for blood and killing.
For some people wolves are an incarnation of devilish forces; for others, wolves are inspiring spirit animals. Spirit of the Wolf is a powerful guiding force in some traditions, mostly shamanic ones.
One of the strongest symbolic connections between humans and wolves is to be found in Slavic traditions. In Slavic folklore, wolf was the guardian of forests, ruler and protector of other animals and birds.
Symbolism is clear; wolf represent strength, courage, justice, honor and rule. In old Serbian folktales, wolf is even believed to be the mythical ancestor of Serbian people.
All these stories, legends, historical sources and scientific researches teach us wolves are incredible beings. They are both our friends and our enemies, the ones that chase us, but also the ones that guide us.
Wolves are not animals that you could domesticate, so, as a metaphor, a wolf always stands for a person that is strong-willed and determined, not manipulated easily and self-reliant.
On the other hand, wolves also symbolize our instincts, primal energy that sleeps deep down inside us.
White wolf symbolism
White wolf carries special wolf symbolism. It represents a mixture of meanings ascribed to white animals and wolves in general. White color symbolizes purity, light, unstained beauty, spirituality, even wisdom and divine powers. White wolf symbolism is always seen through the prism of positive general wolf meanings; thus, a white wolf symbolizes divine strength, inner wisdom, intuition, justice and honor.
In certain traditions, a white wolf is an incarnation of a deity. In ancient pagan Slavic folklore, one of the most powerful gods, Dajbog, can take the form of a divine, incredible wolf. Interestingly, the form is not perfect, because the white wolf Dajbog is a limping one.
However, it does not make him less powerful. Dajbog is associated with the Underworld, blacksmith skills and-wolves.
Lonely wolf symbolism
Lone wolf meaning is special, since wolves are known naturally to live in community. They are social animals and they actually rely on living in a pack, where every member has their task.
Their energy lies in unity. That makes symbolism of a lonely wolf even stronger.
A solitary wolf is a commonly used metaphor. It represents a human being; the one who stays out of the crowd. A lone wolf could represent both a person who is alone and the one who is lonely, which is not the same.
Lone wolf symbolizes self-reliance, courage, bravery, being eccentric, pride and survival. We use to say that a person is ‘a lonely wolf’, if the one is introvert and actually loves to spend time alone.
Sometimes, a lonely wolf metaphor is used to picture someone who is actually really sad and lonely, abandoned and left alone. It could also represent someone who has lost their dear ones, either due to an unfortunate event or his or hers own behavior.
Wolf pack symbolism
Wolf pack meaning is exactly the opposite of the previous one. As we have said, wolves live in packs and they are terribly good organized. In a wolves’ pack, every member has their duties.
Wolves care about other members of the pack; they protect weak ones, old wolves, cubs.
A wolf pack symbolizes the power of unity, sociability, friendship, loyalty, protection, guardianship, guidance, reliance. A wolf pack also stands for good organization, tactics, helpfulness, bonds, communication and confidence.
Wolf totem and spiritual powers
Wolf spirit could be a powerful guiding force. Those who are protected by the Wolf totem are believed to have great qualities. Wolf people are optimistic, courageous and intelligent.
They have great intuition and always listen to their heart, although they have trust in others and believe in the power of bonds. They praise family values above all else and they could be very supportive and reliable ones.
Wolf people could also be loners, dedicated to their own dreams and goals.
These people could be difficult to get along with, if their ‘animalistic’ side prevails. They are sometimes aggressive and intense, but they know when to calm down.
They are never manipulated by others and they always speak their mind aloud. Wolf people would rather keep to themselves then to hurt others, if odds are not in their favor. They know the wisdom lies in patience, but sometimes act out of pure instincts.
They are free-spirited and open-minded.
Wolf tattoo meaning
Wolf tattoos are pretty popular in urban environment, as well as in traditional societies. Wolf tribal is a common motif you could get in a tattoo master’s shop. Wolf tattoo symbolizes bravery, courage, strength and power.
In tribal systems, wolf tattoo motif stands for manhood and masculine energy.
In addition, Native American tribes that commonly use this type of tattoos, identify the practice of tattooing with gaining some of wolves’ ascribed spiritual powers, such as courage, cunningness and intelligence.
There are various types of wolf tattoos designs, in both contemporary tattoo art and traditional systems.
For example, a wolf howling at the Moon tattoo is a common one. It could symbolize different things, which are usually deeply personal. A wolf howling at moon carries special symbolism for a person who gets a tattoo.
The act of howling is something that wolves do in order to call their relatives and members of the pack or to find a mate.
This design could represent deep emotions and reflect someone’s personality. For example, a person wants to express their strength in solitude or their call for others.
This tattoo could stand for bravery and courage, for honesty, justice and many more. It all depends on how you see the image of a wolf howling at the Moon yourself.
Wolf dream meaning
Wolves are fairly common visitors of people’s dreams. Dreams about wolves carry different meanings that, of course, depend on particular dream course of events.
If you dream about a wolf that is friendly, that could mean you are getting in touch with your deepest emotions and with your intuition. You are seeing yourself the way you are and accept that image of you.
Dreams about seeing a wolf is also to remind us of our own strength and courage.
Dreams about wolves could be related to our deepest desires, intuition and instincts. Such dreams have to do something with our emotions, especially the part which we seem to be unable to control; that includes love, anger, sadness, in the first place.
Depending on how the wolf behaves, we could understand our real emotions better or realize what we truly feel about certain situation or people.
If the dream is particularly scary and disturbing, such as if you dream about wolves chasing you, it means you would like to flee from an unpleasant situation or you do not want to face your true emotions. You feel scared and frustrated, but negative feelings haunt you.
The dream comes to remind you such things are unavoidable, but also to suggest you could definitely face and overcome them.