The Ancestral Wolf Guardian and Power Spirit
There are few animals that evoke such intense emotions as that of the wolf. Much of the hate and fear comes from not only a misunderstanding of this beautiful, intelligent and shy animal, but a continuing belief in scaremongering stories. Such though was the belief in these wolf 'fairytales' that the animal—even into present times—is still feared. In the UK the wolf, along with other animals such as the bear, was hunted to extinction. Today the wolf is slowly being re-introduced into the UK through the use of wildlife sanctuaries.
“The roaring of lions, the howling of wolves, the raging of the stormy sea, and the destructive sword, are portions of eternity too great for the eye of man.”— William Blake
In a few belief systems and mythologies, the wolf was seen as an omen of destruction, war and death and so was feared and perceived as evil. However, there were many other cultures such as the Celts, who, although retaining the associations of war, destruction, and death, did not view these as evil forces. In particular, death was viewed as positive and necessary for change and rebirth to take place. In addition, the wolf was also revered as a companion to the gods and goddesses.
The wolf also has other functions. Both in the shamanistic traditions and other pagan belief systems. The wolf is viewed as a powerful guide and teacher.
Celtic Mythology and Lore
Within Celtic Mythology the wolf was revered as the companion of Cerridwen, goddess of the Moon and fertility. The wolf was also one of the four sacred animals of the goddess Brighid. Further to this, the wolf has the status of being one of the totem guardians of Britain.
Within Celtic belief, the wolf ruled over the winter quarter of the year. From Samhain (Halloween) to Imbolc, festival of the Goddess, Brighid. This festival takes place in February—this month was known to the Celts as Faoilleach, the month of the wolf. This time of year was equated with death and purification. Death had to occur in order that life could not only continue, but be re-born. Therefore, death did not have the gloomy and hopeless associations that it has for many of us today. People did grieve when they lost a loved one, but there was also joy and celebration that their spirit was free and living a better life.
"The gaze of the wolf reaches into our soul."— Barry Lopez
But the wolf was not only the companion of goddesses. The Celtic gods as well had the wolf as their symbol. In particular the Celtic horned god, Cernunnos, Lord of the Animals. In many Celtic works of art, including the Gundestrup Cauldron, Cernunnos can be seen with one or more wolf companions.
The Arthurian figure Merlin was also associated with wolves. In the period of his life when he was living as a hermit, he took with him as a companion, an old grey wolf. I mention Merlin here due to an interesting association. That Merlin, along with the wolf is, viewed as one of the ancestral guardians of Britain. Not only that, but as with the horned god Cernunnos, Merlin was also called, Lord of the Animals and Lord of the Earth.
Wolf Knowledge and Lore
- The Benign and helpful Werewolf: The Wulver is traditionally associated with Shetland off the North Coast of Scotland. This creature has the body of a man and the head of a wolf. He would most often be seen sitting at the edge of a loch or river catching fish. Later the fish would be left as a gift for the local people.
- Gaelic: The wolf has many names within both Irish and Scottish Gaelic. Some of the most common are - Mac Tire - this means 'son of the earth' or 'son of the countryside'. Madadh Alluidh - means 'wild dog'. It is believed that the Celts may have bred wolves with their own hunting dogs in order to breed a super hound that could be used in battle. The name Conor is anglicised from the name Conchobhar - this means both wolf lover and dog lover and was the name taken by many Kings of Ulster.
- The Talking Wolf: In 1182 a priest was on the road in Ireland, travelling from Ulster to Meath. He suddenly met a wolf and was astonished when it began to speak. The wolf's human ancestors had been cursed and every seven years they were doomed to turn into werewolves. The wolf went onto explain that his wife was now dying and pleaded with the priest to intervene on her behalf. This priest did so and was able to lift the curse. The grateful wolf accompanied the priest and ensured he reached the city of Meath in safety.
- Celtic Hero Cormac mac Airt: This hero of Celtic mythology was raised by wolves and so was able to communicate with them in their language. For the rest of his life, Cormac was always seen accompanied by at least four wolf companions. Whether in battle or at rest, the wolves were never far from his side.
- The Morrigan or Morrigan: This is one of the tripartite goddesses of war, death, and destruction. She has three distinct aspects and personalities. She is sometimes known collectively as The Morrigan. Alternatively, she has three separate names; Morrigan, Macha, and Badb. One of the goddesses companion animals was the wolf. In battle, she was often seen as a hooded crow or in wolf form. She would frequently take the form of a red-furred wolf when testing and chasing the Celtic hero Cu-Chulainn.
- Tuatha de Danan: (The approximate pronunciation sounds like Too ha day dah-nan ). The translation basically means 'people of the goddess Danu. But other translations describe them more like a tribe or clan. They were regarded as a clan of deities and superheroes. Dagda is one of the best known. They were skilled in the arts, science, poetry as well as magical and mystical knowledge. After being eventually defeated, the Dananns retreated into the Underworld and the magical 'land of youth' - Tir na n-Og. Through magic, this secret world was kept hidden from the eyes of mortals. The Tuatha de Danan are shapeshifters, able to move between a human-like appearance and a wolf.
Do you believe you have a spirit guide that takes the form of an animal?
The wolf mysteries throughout Europe are very old. Their central theme would revolve around the symbolic death of the initiate and subsequent rebirth. This re-birth took place after a shamanic journey to the Underworld to commune with its Master and Mistress.
"Wolf is the Grand Teacher. Wolf is the sage, who after many winters upon the sacred path and seeking the ways of wisdom, returns to share new knowledge with the tribe. Wolf is both the radical and the traditional in the same breath. When the Wolf walks by you - you will remember."— Robert Ghost Wolf
The shamanic journey or 'wolf trance' involved moulding and releasing the shaman's energy field or hamingia. This would allow for the etheric shield to form into a wolf. This would then carry the shaman's consciousness to the Underworld. In the Underworld, a shaman would commune with the animal soul that lies hidden, deep within the levels of the subconscious.
Here again, we have the association of wolf with death. But this is once more symbolic of cleansing and transition in order to undergo a spiritual re-birth. Through this transformation knowledge and understanding comes.
At the heart of Celtic Shamanism, the main goal was to take on the shape of a particular animal in order to gain knowledge or instructions for a particular need, such as healing. Many animals were invoked and among them was, of course, the wolf. The wolf would often be called upon for guidance in another plain and also for protection as well as knowledge.
Call Of The Wild: Wolf As A Power Animal
The wolf is regarded as one of the Celtic animal allies. Which basically means it is one of the common spirit guides. The wolf was regarded as cunning, intelligent and with the power to out-wit hunters. As such it can teach us how to avoid dangers that would harm us. The wolf is a great teacher and guide and shows us the mysteries of nature as well as the mystery of death and re-birth.
"We have doomed the Wolf not for what it is, but for what we have deliberately and mistakenly perceived it to be.. the mythologized epitome of a savage, ruthless killer.. which is, in reality no more than a reflexed image of yourself."— Farely Mowat
Within Pagan traditions and beliefs the wolf is a common power animal or guide. The colours black, white and red, associated with wolves, connect them to the Moon Goddess whose colours these are.
As a power animal the wolf teaches:
- To learn from your own inner self.
- How to develop your intuition, instincts and psychic abilities.
- With proper development of the above, the wolf will guide you to - knowledge and understanding.
In order to gain this knowledge and understanding, we have to journey to our own personal underworld. Here we learn our weaknesses and our inner darkness. From then we journey with our wolf as guide, guardian, and companion into the light of knowledge and understanding. With this comes the development of our spirit.
In these days of great change, it seems very appropriate that a power animal such as the wolf should be the inner plane guide for many who seek deeper meaning from life and who search for greater understanding. The wolf is after all:
- The teacher,
- The guide for life and spirit journeys
- The transformer
- The opener of the ways.
This beautiful animal has a vital position on both the physical and spiritual planes. As they are the guides and caretakers of our spirit on the astral planes, then it is our duty to care for them on the physical plane. Many people are now moving towards a much better understanding of this extraordinary animal and the more we learn the more we appreciate its abilities.
The wolf stimulates all levels of consciousness. Stirs our spirit to begin the quest and awakens within us the call of the unknown—the call of the wild.
© 2012 Helen Murphy Howell