The wolf is a fascinating animal, loved by many, feared by others, it is part of the folklore and mythology of different cultures throughout history and all over the world.
In this article we will tell you in depth the meaning attributed to the wolf, its symbolism and its appearance in mythology.
What is the spiritual meaning of the wolf? Its symbolism
The wolf was important in Roman tradition, as it is said that Rome was founded by Romulus and Remus, twin brothers responsible for the foundation of the city of Rome. It is said that both were abandoned at birth and raised by a she-wolf. Romulus later kills Remus, demonstrating the ferocity with which the Wolf is often associated. Throughout the Roman Empire, the Wolf is a symbol of Roman culture and of the Empire itself.
As such, the wolf embodies intelligence and focus, but also the predation that Rome showed in its eagerness to conquer neighboring lands, even to its eventual demise.
Among the meanings of Wolf in the Norse tradition, Fenrir was a powerful wolf brought to Asgard by Odin. Fenrir is said to be one of the sons of the trickster god Loki. Odin intended to tame and tame Fenrir, but this task proved more difficult than he first expected. It is said that Fenrir could not be tamed until enchanted ropes succeeded. This suggests the free spirit of the Wolf and the meaning that the Wolf is an unbridled instinct that cannot be easily repressed.
The Huichol, who live in Mexico, like other indigenous groups, believe that the Wolf is the ancestor from which their ancestors are descended and also believe in the ability to shape-shift between human and Wolf. The Wolf is known as Kumukemai and is an integral figure in their tradition and culture.
The spiritual significance of the wolf can also be seen in the variety of similar stories about this animal. Werewolf stories are found in many cultures and continue to fascinate people today. Pop culture celebrates these creatures in modern books and movies. Why are we fascinated by the idea of people becoming wolves and vice versa? Perhaps because we feel empowered to express our primal, urgent, and wild emotions when we see the Wolf within us. Perhaps we see in the Wolf a safe vehicle to cathartically express our emotions.
The Wolf is also associated with freedom and the rediscovery of Divine Feminine power. Clarissa Pinkola-Estes’ popular book Women Who Run with the Wolves helped generations of women reclaim their own feminine power through the archetype, especially that of the Wolf. The connection is not only to the mother wolf protecting her cubs, but also to the Moon and thus to feminine energy and cycles of transformation.
Although the Wolf is often associated with the shadow side of predation and aggressive energy, the Wolf Spirit Animal is actually quite feminine. In the Tarot, the Moon card is also often associated with the Wolf. The Rider-Waite-Smith deck shows the image of a tame Wolf and a tame dog, separated by a river, both looking at the Full Moon.
The meaning suggests that within all of us is the “civilized” and domesticated version of ourselves juxtaposed with the wild and instinctual aspect of ourselves represented by the Wolf. When we need to be sharp and insightful, protective and fierce, loving and devoted, loyal and caring, we are drawing on the Lupine side of ourselves.
Our cultural fascination with werewolves and the Werewolf monster also suggests our conflicted relationship with our own emotion and instinct. We both want to be free to express ourselves, but we may also fear being “sucked in” and consumed by the Wolf part of our nature.
The spiritual significance of the Wolf suggests that we may have to walk a fine line between honoring our instincts and keeping them in check. You may have to examine whether you are repressing your instinctual nature so far because you fear the depths of your emotional and subconscious nature, although great power and wisdom may await you if you explore these depths.
The wolf in mythology and folklore
Wolf symbolism is ambiguous and ranges from negative associations with darkness, aggressiveness and chthonic powers to positive characteristics such as curiosity, intelligence, playfulness, fierce protection of young, loyalty to the pack, formidable hunting skills and a clearly defined social structure.
Wolves have also fascinated humans since the earliest times because of their resemblance to dogs, man’s best friend. They are closely linked to light, the sun, the moon and the spirit. Wolves also guide the dead and are closely linked to Hades, the god of the underworld.
In America and Europe, the wolf at the door symbolizes the fear of hunger and starvation. The phrase wolf at the door is an attack on the obscene extremes of wealth and poverty.
It evokes images of extreme poverty and starvation during the Great Depression. In the 20th century, the wolf became a symbol of a sexual predator, which could have come from the tale of Little Red Riding Hood.
The symbol of the wolf became the symbol of male aggressiveness. Later, popular culture gave rise to the concept of the werewolf: a man who turns into a wolf on the night of the full moon.
This could come from the urban legend based on a series of studies indicating that the full moon makes people more violent. Today, the word “werewolf” immediately conjures up images of actor Lon Chaney Jr. in the 1941 film The Wolf Man.
The wolf in Christianity
The Wolf at the Door tells the story of St. Francis of Assisi and how he saved the town of Gubbio from the threat of the wolf. A wolf that had been causing great damage to the town of Gubbio was being hunted by the people of Gubbio.
When St. Francis encountered the wolf, he addressed it as Brother Wolf and protected the creature from its pursuit.
The simple story evokes deep and fundamental themes such as survival, war, hunger, violence, law, justice, fear, greed and predation. It thus becomes a spiritually symbolic parable that shows the power of community and the dazzling force of love.
St. Francis is affectionately known as the Beggar King, who helps the fierce wolf understand that all life is worth preserving and that loving kindness is the greatest of gifts. The wolf is often mentioned directly in the Bible.
References are made to its ferocity. In the Old and New Testaments, the wolf is a special enemy of the sheep. In Luke x.3, Jesus says: Go your ways before I send you out as lambs among wolves.
Likewise, in Genesis 49:27, Benjamin is described as ravenous as the wolf. Thus, the human traits assigned to the symbol of the wolf include intelligence, cunning, sociability and compassion. In the Christian tradition, the wolf represents the devil as a ravager of the flock.
In Eastern folklore
In Japan, the Ainu tribe revered the wolf and used it in their sacred ceremonies. The Ainu chief sacrificed certain animals to expel their divine essences from their earthly bodies.
Many artifacts recovered in the Usu area (Japan) show carved wolf symbols. The wolf is also a sacred animal at the Mitsumine Shinto shrine in Saitama Prefecture.
This centuries-old shrine is located on a remote mountain, high above the clouds. The wolf statue at the site is known as O-inu-Sama, meaning the honorable dog.
In Buddhist and Hindu traditions, the wolf is the vehicle of the deities, and in particular of the Tibetan gods. For Hindus, Lord Krishna created hundreds of wolves with his hair to frighten the inhabitants of Vraja and make them migrate to Vrindavana.
In Hindu Vedic literature, the wolf is associated with night and darkness. The inauspicious symbol vrika is also a wolf-like creature. In northern China, the wolf symbolizes greed, rapacity and cruelty.
But there is also an auspicious meaning of the wolf in China: a wolf in the shape of the star Sirius guarding the Heavenly Palace. In Ancient Egypt, an archaic wolf god named Upuaut (or Wepwawet) was the offspring of Isis/Nephthys.
In Celtic mythology
In Celtic symbolism and mythology, the wolf is considered a symbol of a brave warrior. The symbol of the wolf’s head is a familiar image in heroic poetry and saga, as well as a basis for providing personal names.
The wolf also symbolizes an outlaw who preys on society, but also a warrior who hides in the forest, waiting for an opportunity to carry out acts of revenge.
The celebrated Celtic hero Sigmund and his son Sinfjotli hid in the woods under wolf skins with the voice of a wolf preparing to avenge the dead relatives of King Siggeir.
The identification of young warriors with wolf features is based on the traditions of peoples descended from Indo-Germanic groups, as well as the Celts.
The Scandinavian berserks also howled like wolves. It is estimated that there may once have been a Celtic god of the dead in the form of a wolf. The Roman god was also associated with wolves. Fenrir was a Norse wolf, whom Odin took to Asgard, the home of the gods, in the hope of eventually taming him.
However, Fenrir he grew stronger and fiercer every day, until the gods had to chain him with the strongest chains. Fenrir managed to break each and every one of the chains. Finally, he was bound with a magic rope woven by the dwarves.
In the Native Americans
Native Americans regarded the wolf with respect and reverence. The Cherokee Indians even had a group that called themselves the Wolf Soldiers, an organization that served as a defensive and protective association.
Warriors even went so far as to wrap themselves in wolf skins to seek the strength and power of the anima. The Cherokee and other Indian tribes had many legends, songs and stories about wolves and their medicine.
The largest Cherokee clan is called Aniwaya, which is the literal translation of Wolf Clan. Even after the Cherokee moved to reservations and got government jobs, they continued to draw on the animal powers of the spirit world.
Inuit tribes hunted wolves. They set traps and snares to capture them. Many of these methods of capture were gruesome and cruel. The hunters prayed over the carcass of the trapped wolf, asking the wolf spirit for forgiveness.
The natives also danced the Wolf Dance, a symbol of their culture and beliefs. This sacred dance allowed groups of people to connect in various ways. In the wolf dance, young men would visit nearby houses, dismount from their horses and dance around a particular house, howling like wolves.
In African culture
The limits of the wolf on the African continent are unknown, but it is believed to exist from Morocco eastward to the deserts of Libya and also to extend from the highlands of Abyssinia to the mountains extending inland.
Within these vast boundaries, the wolf has acquired various traits appropriate to that region. One of the most prominent myths surrounding the wolf in African shamanism is that men were the first part of the wolves and lived in darkness without learning to hunt. One day, a deer allowed the Father of the Wolves to hunt him.
While the wolves were devouring him, the Deer Person became peyote, thanks to which the wolves acquired great wisdom. They emerged from the darkness into the sun and had the choice of remaining wolves or becoming men.
The wolves chose the second option and the Father of the Wolves made a temple dedicated to the Arrows of the Wolves. For the Huichol tribes, the wolves represent their ancestors. Many African tales and legends speak of men transforming into wolves.
The concept of werewolf symbolism is also common in this region, where a man bitten by a wolf becomes a werewolf on the night of the full moon.
The Wolf as a Totem and Power Animal
In Native American cultures, animal totems possess the protective powers of the animals they represent. Thus, the wolf totem is a useful symbol for manifesting more protection, better instincts and stronger relationships in your life. In addition, the wolf totem is a useful symbol for freeing you from restrictions in your life, whether physical, creative or financial.
As its name suggests, a power animal can inspire you with its more dynamic traits. So, if you want to transform an area of your life, meditate on the attributes that the power animal represents. The wolf as a power animal can help you when:
- You feel you need to better protect those you love.
- You wish to hone your instincts and intuition to make better decisions.
- You want to improve your social life to attract like-minded people who can inspire and support you.
- You want to improve your relationship with family, friends and colleagues.
- You feel that your life has become too docile and needs to reconnect with your wild, freedom-loving self.
What does it mean to dream of a wolf?
The appearance of the wolf in dreams speaks to us of a time on the horizon when confidence and serenity are essential. You may long to spend some time alone so that you can return to a difficult situation with greater perspective. Taking that time is the means to success if you trust your instincts.
do you feel like your friends or colleagues throw wolves at you? If so, the Wolf may appear in your dreams to represent the feeling of being the center of some kind of scheme or dishonest strategy. The Wolf may also appear as a symbol of someone acting like a “Wolf in sheep’s clothing”. Thus, even through these less flattering depictions, the Wolf is still at work to point out to you that all may not be as it seems.
Wolf can also be synonymous with protection and care for your family or your children. Are you overly concerned about your family or a child about to embark on a new adventure? If so, a Wolf may appear in your dreams to represent your keen, nurturing instincts and desire to protect your loved ones.
The Wolf may also appear if you need to rely on the power of your pack. Are you turning away from those who could help you? Or are you giving your trust and faith to those who want to try to help you?
When the Wolf appears in a dream, it may also indicate that you can rely on your psychic wisdom and that psychic self-defense, as well as protection in the mundane realm, may be warranted at this time.
How do you perceive a situation? Do you see your adversaries as enemies in a seemingly life and death battle? The wolf may appear in dreams to remind you that your interests may not be aligned, but this is no reason to vilify those who are different from you.
Meanings of the wolf in tattoos
Wolf meanings can vary, as you may already know. So when you see someone with a Wolf tattoo, what could it mean? You may have come across a person who understands the importance of Divine Feminine energy or who is fiercely protective of their home and family.
You may also see tattoos depicting Wolves as a symbol of protection, instinct, intuition and intelligence. A Wolf tattoo can remind you to know when and how to exercise your power. Being assertive is another potential meaning of a Wolf tattoo. This tattoo can also represent affiliation with a group or pack known to be protective and powerful.
Your own inner wild nature may be represented in a wolf tattoo, as it reminds you of the power of your instincts and the drive to pursue what you need to survive and thrive.